Sunday, March 31, 2013

Becoming Peter

But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men."
 -- Matthew 16:23
There is a lot of concern expressed by the "traditionalists" regarding some of the actions of Pope Francis. I don't consider myself to be a "traditionalist", but I do love the traditions of the Church. I also know that one of the tactics of the humanist/atheist/socialist enemies of the Church is to attack tradition as being old-fashioned and out-of-date. The secular news has been abuzz with every small change that Pope Francis makes and they quickly spin the story to suggest that this might be the beginning of bigger changes in the direction of "female priests", "gay marriage", etc.

So there are two major reasons for the Pope to be careful to respect the traditions of the Church.

The first is that this is a historical treasure that could be easily lost. The symbolism of tradition speaks loudly to the mind and the soul. It conveys a sense of the ineffable quality of Christianity. It shows the world the grandeur of the Church. The images of the Vatican during the ceremonies marking the beginning of the papacy of Francis are powerful and moving. A hollywood director would love to have a set like that it his disposal because these are primal images which move the soul. No one can deny their reality and their significance -- whether they like what they represent or not. These images and these traditions are signs to the world and part of what they convey is a history and a tradition which is powerful and relevant.

The second reason that the Pope must be careful to respect tradition is wrapped up in the first. When the enemies of the Church see a slight deviation in tradition, they use this as a weapon to attack other traditions which are more central to the Church. And they use it as a way to paint a portrait of the Pope as one who is unconcerned with upholding tradition and Church teaching.

Benedict described how the media created their own version of Vatican II -- the bad version. And yet this is the version that was communicated most effectively to the Catholic public and this in turn shaped the opinion of the Catholic laity -- and even many members of the Catholic priesthood and hierarchy. The same forces are at work today, which is why Pope Francis needs to be very careful in his words and in his actions.

We can take some solace in the fact that St. Peter himself did not at first seem like a great Pope. He seemed to fail at every task and test that came his way -- for instance at the Transfiguration and at the Crucifixion. Pray for us, St. Peter, and pray for the Holy Father.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Becoming Pope Francis

Then one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, he that was about to betray him, said: Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? Now he said this, not because he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and having the purse, carried the things that were put therein.  Jesus therefore said: Let her alone, that she may keep it against the day of my burial. For the poor you have always with you; but me you have not always.
 -- John 12:4-8
I have to say that the image of two "popes" standing side by side was quite disturbing. I don't think that cameras should have been allowed. This should have been done behind closed doors.

Receiving the keys of the kingdom is very much like getting married. Only it is much more serious. The Pope can never become a normal member of the Body of Christ again.

It is not a position that I would wish on anyone. The Pope is a sort of prisoner of Christ for the rest of his life -- like St. Paul. His life is no longer his own. Benedict has gone into a sort of self-imposed imprisonment, or at least I hope this is his intent. Something like the vow of a nun that includes enclosure. He owes it to himself and the Chair of Peter that he once sat in to do this.

For Pope Francis, I don't believe the gravity of the office has yet fully imposed itself on him. I don't know what it will take for him to come to the realization that he is no longer just another bishop among many. He is the Pope. And he will slowly come to realize just exactly what this means. May the Holy Spirit be his guide. And may we all pray for him.

I see great signs in Pope Francis, but at the same time I am concerned of what seems to be an emphasis of Charity over Truth. This is a mistake that the Church has made in the recent past. Yes, we need to evangelize, but the goal of that evangelization must always be the saving of souls -- not ending poverty or world peace or saving the planet. None of these matter in the end if souls are lost.

Those other goals will be achieved much later -- if at all -- after we have converted our lives from the inside out through the power of Jesus Christ and the Gospel. The Church must have faith in her mission -- which is to save the world. But by that what is meant is to save souls.

Christ did not come to end poverty or to bring peace in the way that the world understands those words. He came to end the spiritual poverty of those who have separated themselves from God and to bring the true peace which is found in the love of God.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Pope Francis and the Virgin Mary

"Hail Holy Queen, Mother of mercy, Our life, our sweetness, and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs..."

This video is of an interview that was conducted 6 months before Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis. What most strikes me about it is the way that the Pope speaks about the faith in the Virgin Mary that is so strong among many Catholics.

It is this great "reservoir" of love for the Virgin which will bring about the rebirth of the Catholic Church. She speaks to our hearts. Even when we begin to separate from Christ himself, still the blessed Virgin is able to reach us. She gave birth to the Church and she is our Holy Mother. We cannot help but love her.



Wednesday, March 20, 2013

St. Joseph, pray for us

When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child, of the Holy Ghost. Whereupon Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing publicly to expose her, was minded to put her away privately. But while he thought on these things, behold the angel of the Lord appeared to him in his sleep, saying: Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Ghost.

 -- Matthew 1:18-20

Today Pope Francis celebrated the Mass inaugurating his Petrine ministry. And today is the day that the Catholic Church celebrates St. Joseph, the father of the Christ child and husband to the Virgin Mary. In his homily, the Pope stressed that St. Joseph who protected the Christ child and the Virgin Mary is now the protector of the whole Church.

St. Teresa of Avila had a great devotion to St. Joseph as demonstrated by the following passage.
"I took for my advocate and lord the glorious Saint Joseph and commended myself earnestly to him; and I found that this my father and lord delivered me both from this trouble and also from other and greater troubles concerning my honor and the loss of my soul, and that he gave me greater blessings than I could ask of him. I do not remember even now that I have ever asked anything of him which he has failed to grant. I am astonished at the great favors which God has bestowed on me through this blessed saint, and at the perils from which He has freed me, both in body and in soul. To other saints the Lord seems to have given grace to succor us in some of our necessities but of this glorious saint my experience is that he succors us in them all and that the Lord wishes to teach us that as He was Himself subject to him on earth (for, being His guardian and being called His father, he could command Him) just so in Heaven He still does all that he asks. This has also been the experience of other persons whom I have advised to commend themselves to him; and even to-day there are many who have great devotion to him through having newly experienced this truth."

-- "The Autobiography of St. Teresa" Ch. 6

Pope Francis shares in that devotion. What a blessing that he begins his new life as Pope of the Roman Catholic Church on this day.

Another sign of the devotion of our Pope to the Holy Family is the new pontiff's papal coat of arms which is the same as he used as bishop.

The shield has a bright blue background, at the centre top of which is a yellow radiant sun with the IHS christogram on it representing Jesus (it is also the Jesuit logo). The IHS monogram, as well as a cross that pierces the H, are in red with three black nails directly under them. Under that, to the left, is a star representing Mary, Mother of Christ and the Church. To the right of the star is a nard flower representing Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church. With these symbols the Pope demonstrates his love for the Holy Family.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Pope Francis: "Protect life, protect the family"

"I am the way, the truth and the life."
 -- John 14:6

Pope Francis continues his crusade for life and the family.

This report is from Vatican Information Service (VIS):
The thousands of people who spent a sleepless night in the main square of Buenos Aires, Plaza de Mayo, to watch the Mass inaugurating former Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio's Petrine ministry had a pleasant surprise. At 7:32am Rome time—that is, 3:32am in Argentina—the speakers placed outside the cathedral in the square began to carry the voice of Pope Francis. He was calling, from the Vatican, to greet them.

As reported by the Argentine newspaper, Clarin, the Pope had called the cell phone of one of his aides, Fr. Alejandro Russo, rector of the cathedral. From the archdiocesan television centre they were then able to connect the call to Plaza de Mayo, so that the pontiff might say hello to his parishioners. Shortly afterwards, the rector announced that he had a special surprise and those gathered began to hear Francis' voice. “Dear sons and daughters, I know you have gathered in the square. I know that you are saying prayers, I need them very much. It is beautiful to pray because we look to heaven and know that we have a good Father who is God.”

A huge wave of applause greeted the Pope's words and he continued: “I want to ask a favour of you. I want to ask for us to walk together, to care for one another, for you to care for each other. Do not cause harm. Protect life. Protect the family; protect nature; protect the young; protect the elderly. Let there not be hatred or fighting. Put aside envy.” And, in the city's slang, he added: “No le saquen el cuero a nadie [literally, “don't flay or skin anyone alive”, that is, don't gossip, don't criticize one another]. Talk with one another so that this desire to protect each other might grow in your hearts. And draw near to God. God is good. He always forgives and understands. Do not be afraid of him. Draw near to him and may the Virgin bless you. May she, as a mother, protect you. Please do not forget this bishop who is far away but who loves you very much. Pray for me!”

“Through the intercession of Mary, ever Virgin, and each of your guardian angels, the glorious patriarch St. Joseph, St. Therese of the Child Jesus, and each of your protector saints, may God All-mighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, bless you,” Francis concluded, imparting the papal blessing to all present before closing the connection.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Pope Francis speaks of Our Lady of Fatima

"O my Jesus, forgive us our sins. Save us from the fires of Hell. Lead all souls to Heaven -- especially those in most need of thy mercy."

Statue of Our Lady of Fatima

In his first Angelus Pope Francis spoke fondly of Our Lady of Fatima.
I remember when, just after I was made bishop, in 1992, the Madonna of Fatima came to Buenos Aires and a large Mass for the sick was celebrated.
And he preached about God's mercy -- just like in the Fatima prayer: "Forgive us our sins... especially those in most need of thy mercy."
I went to hear confessions at that Mass. Near the end of the Mass I got up because I had to administer a confirmation. An over 80-year-old woman came up to me, humbly, very humbly. I asked her: 'Nonna [grandmother]—because that's how we address our elderly—Nonna, you want to confess?' 'Yes', she told me. 'But if you haven't sinned...' And she said to me: 'We have all sinned...' 'But perhaps the Lord will not forgive you...' 'The Lord forgives everyone', she told me, with certainy. 'But how do you know that, ma'am?' 'If the Lord didn't forgive everyone, the world would not exist.' I wanted to ask her: 'Tell me, have you studied at the Gregorian [Pontifical University]?', because that is the wisdom that the Holy Spirit gives: the inner wisdom of God's mercy. Let us not forget this word: God never tires of forgiving us, never! 'So, Father, what is the problem?' Well, the problem is that we get tired, we don't want to, we get tired of asking forgiveness. Let us never get tired. Let us never get tired. He is the loving Father who always forgives, who has that heart of mercy for all of us. And let us also learn to be merciful with everyone. Let us call upon the intercession of the Madonna who has held in her arms the Mercy of God made human.”

Saturday, March 16, 2013

St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us!

"Turn, then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus."

"Eia ergo, advocata nostra,
illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte.
Et Iesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui,
nobis post hoc exsilium ostende. "




This morning Pope Francis addressed the world media. Here is some of what he said to them.
“Some people didn't know why the Bishop of Rome wanted to call himself 'Francis'. Some though of Francis Xavier, Francis de Sales, even Francis of Assisi. I will tell you the story. At the election I had the archbishop emeritus of Sao Paulo next to me. He is also prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes [O.F.M.]: a dear, dear friend. When things were getting a little 'dangerous', he comforted me. And then, when the votes reached the two-thirds, there was the usual applause because the Pope had been elected. He hugged me and said: 'Do not forget the poor.' And that word stuck here [tapping his forehead]; the poor, the poor. Then, immediately in relation to the poor I thought of Francis of Assisi. Then I thought of war, while the voting continued, until all the votes [were counted]. And so the name came to my heart:: Francis of Assisi. For me he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who love and safeguards Creation. In this moment when our relationship with Creation is not so good—right?—He is the man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man … Oh, how I wish for a Church that is poor and for the poor!”

“I wish the best for you, I thank you for everything that you have done. And I think of your work: I wish you to work fruitfully and with serenity and to always know better the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the reality of the Church. I entrust you to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of evangelization. I I wish the best for you and your families, for each of your families, and I wholeheartedly impart to all of you the blessing.”

After personally greeting some of the journalists present, Pope Francis, in Spanish, concluded: “I told you I wholeheartedly imparted my blessing. Many of you don't belong to the Catholic Church, others are not believers. From my heart I impart this blessing, in silence, to each of you, respecting the conscience of each one, but knowing that each of you is a child of God: May God bless you.”

Friday, March 15, 2013

Pope Francis: pray for the family

"Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus"

Pope Francis offering flowers to the Virgin Mary
[I have translated this letter from Spanish. I chose at times to not use a literal translation in order to convey the deeper message.]

Letter of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, to the Carmelite Nuns of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires (June 22, 2010)

Dear Sisters,

I write this letter to each one of you in the four Monasteries of Buenos Aires. The Argentine people must confront, in the next few weeks, a situation whose result may gravely harm the family. It is the bill on "homosexual marriage".

The definition of the family, and its very existence, is at risk -- father, mother, son, daughter. At risk are the lives of so many children who will be made to suffer prematurely by depriving them of the opportunity to become the fully developed human beings that God desires them to be by having a father and a mother. At risk is the total rejection of natural law given to us by God, which is nonetheless engraved in our hearts.

I recall an expression of Saint Thérèse [the beloved French Carmelite nun] when she described the illnesses of her childhood. She says that the Devil was jealous and wished to make her family pay a high price because her older sister had become a Carmelite nun.

Here too we see how the jealousy of the Devil, through which sin entered into the world, cunningly seeks to destroy what was made in the image of God -- man and woman who received the commandment to be fruitful, multiply and rule the earth. Let us not be naive -- this is not just a political struggle -- its ultimate goal is to destroy God's plan. We are dealing with much more than a legislative project (this is merely the chosen instrument) but rather a "move" on the part of the father of lies who wishes to confuse and deceive the children of God.

Jesus tells us that, in order to defend us from this lying accuser, he will send us the Spirit of Truth. Today, the nation, confronted by this situation, needs the special assistance of the Holy Spirit to shine the light of Truth on these errors which hide in the darkness. We need this Advocate which will defend us from the wicked spells of so many deceptive arguments which are used to justify this bill, and that confuse and deceive even those who are of good will.

That is why I turn to you and I ask you for your prayers and sacrifices -- the two invincible weapons that St. Thérèse possessed. Pray to God to send his Spirit to those Senators who are about to vote. That they may be motivated not by false statements nor political circumstances, but by what the natural law and God's law reveals to them. Pray for them and for their families, that the Lord may come to them in order to strengthen and comfort them. Pray that they will do what is best for the good of the country.

This bill will come before the Senate sometime after July 13th. We turn our gaze towards St. Joseph, the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child and fervently ask them to come to the aid of the Argentine people in this moment of need. Let us recall what God himself said to his people in a time of great anguish, "this battle is not yours but God's" Pray that they may rescue us, defend us, and accompany us in this holy battle.

Thank you for the part you are about to play in this struggle for the soul of our nation. I also ask you to please pray for me. May Jesus Christ bless you and the Virgin Mary offer you her protection.

With sincere affection,

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio S.J., Archbishop of Buenos Aires

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Catholic Pope

"Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope."
"Salve, Regina, mater misericordiae; vita, dulcedo et spes nostra, salve."

I think the liberals that are so happy today that we have a "latin american Pope" are going to be quite unhappy when they realize that what they really have is a Catholic Pope.

In his first sermon Pope Francis said all that there is to say. He can just repeat this same sermon for the rest of his pontificate and it will be as fresh and relevant as it is today. I can sum it up in just a few words, "Jesus Christ is Lord!"



In his first homily as Pope, and speaking in Italian without a text, Francis noted that the three readings have something in common: “Movement. In the first reading the movement is the journey; in the second the movement is the building of the Church; in the Gospel the movement is in the witness. To walk, to build, to witness.”

The pontiff recalled that the first thing God said to Abraham was: “'Walk in my presence and be blameless.' Our life is a path. When we stop walking there is something that isn't right. To walk always in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, seeking to live the blamelessness that God asks of Abraham in His promise.”

“To build,” he continued, “to construct the Church. This means stones. Stones are solid but these are living stones, stones that are anointed by the Holy Spirit. To build the Church, the Bride of Christ, on the cornerstone that is the Lord himself.”

“To witness … We can walk when we want to, we can build many things, but if we do not witness to Jesus Christ then it doesn't matter. We might become a philanthropic NGO but we wouldn't be the Church, the Bride of the Lord. When we don't go forward we stop...we go backwards. When we don't build on rock, what happens? The same thing that happens to children when they build sandcastles at the beach. They wind up falling down because they have no solidity.” Then, citing Leon Bloy, the Holy Father affirmed: “Whoever does not pray to God, prays to the devil” because “when we don't witness to Jesus Christ, we witness to the worldliness of the devil.”

“To walk, to build, to witness. But this is not so easy because when we walk, when we build, when we witness, at times there are upsets, there are movements that aren't proper to the journey. They are movements that pull us back.”

“In the Gospel,” the Pope continued, “even Peter who confessed Jesus as Christ, says to Him: 'You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. I will follow you but let's not talk about the Cross. That doesn't have anything to do with it. … I'll follow you, without the Cross.” But, “when we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, when we profess a Christ without the Cross … we aren't disciples of the Lord. We are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.”

“And I wish that all of us, after these grace-filled days, might have the courage, yes, the courage to walk in the Lord's presence with the Cross of the Lord, to build the Church on the blood of the Lord that is poured out on the Cross and to witness to the sole glory: to the crucified Christ. And thus the Church will move forward.”

“I wish for us all that the Holy Spirit, through the intercession of Mary, our Mother, grant us this grace: to walk, to build, and to witness to Jesus Christ.”

After the homily, the Prayers of the Faithful prayed for the new pontiff and also for His Holiness Benedict XVI, “that he may serve the Church while hidden to the world, in a life dedicated to prayer and meditation.”

  ------

When the Holy Father says "caminare, edificare, confesare" (to walk, to build, to witness) it reminds me of Julius Caesar's famous quote "veni, vidi, vici" (I came, I saw, I conquered). Let us then conquer through our witness to Christ the whole world.
Though he was in the form of God,
he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant,
being born in the likeness of men.
And being found in human form he humbled himself,
and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.

Therefore God has highly exalted him,
and bestowed on him the name which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that JESUS CHRIST IS LORD!

Philippians 2:6-11

Pope Francis blesses an unborn child

"Holy Mary, Mother of God"

One of Pope Francis' first acts as pope this morning was to visit the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, where he greeted and blessed the unborn child of a woman who is five months pregnant.




It was no secret. Like one who has no cares that everyone knows what he intended to do, at 8:24pm last night in his first public appearance he stated: “Tomorrow I am going to pray to the Virgin, for the safekeeping of all of Rome.” Then at 8:05 this morning, leaving the Vatican for the first time as pontiff, the newly elected Pope took one of the Gendarmerie's simple service cars to the papal basilica of St. Mary Major, the oldest and largest church dedicated to the Virgin in Rome. It is also one of the four largest in Rome and claims the King of Spain as its proto-canon. The new pontiff of the Catholic Church chose to enter through one of the basilica's side doors.

Upon entering the basilica the Pope headed toward the venerated icon of Our Lady “Salus Populi Romani" (Protectress of the Roman People) accompanied by, among others, Cardinal Santos Abril y Castello, archpriest of the basilica and Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar general of the Diocese of Rome.

The Holy Father, after leaving the Virgin a bouquet of flowers on the altar, prayed silently for about 10 minutes before the main altar that is directly above the crypt containing relics of the crib or manger of the Nativity of Jesus.

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Mother Mary, the blessing of an unborn child (just 5 months old), the relics of the manger of the baby Jesus. The Madonna, the child.

We have a new Pope who has said "abortion is never a solution", and we have new hope. Easter is coming! The Resurrection of the Church is almost here!

Pray for the Pope! Thank you Benedict for your prayers for the Church! It is like we have two Holy Popes at once. It is too much to hope for or to ask God for. God is merciful!

The future Pope Francis greeting Pope Benedict

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pope Francis asks for our prayers

Give praise, O ye heavens, and rejoice, O earth, ye mountains, give praise with jubilation: because the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy on his poor ones.

And Sion said: The Lord hath forsaken me, and the Lord hath forgotten me.

Can a woman forget her infant, so as not to have pity on the son of her womb? and if she should forget, yet will not I forget thee.


 -- Isaiah 49:13-15
In his first words, Pope Francis asked for our prayers...
And now I would like to give you my blessing. But before I do, I would like to ask you a favor: before the bishop blesses the people, I ask you to pray to the Lord that He bless me…. the prayer of the people for a blessing upon their bishop. Let us take a moment of silence for you to offer your prayer for me.”
In the readings for today's Mass we have a reminder from the book of Isaiah that "the Lord hath comforted his people". And we also have a reminder of the primary importance of the family and the child in the womb, "Can a woman forget her infant, so as not to have pity on the son of her womb?"

May this be a sign from Heaven that the Holy Father will place the protection of life and the family foremost in his papacy. This is where the battle between Heaven and Hell is raging in today's world. This is a battle that must be won by the His Holy Church at all cost.

All the angels and saints, pray for us!

Pray for the Pope!

"O my Jesus, forgive us our sins. Save us from the fires of Hell -- especially those in most need of thy mercy!"

Pray for Pope Francis, from the time you rise to the time you go to sleep. Pray for Our Holy Father! He will need all of our prayers to protect from the satanic attacks that will be unleashed against him for daring to speak the truth to the world.

Remember, the message of Fatima. Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta told us that we must pray for the Holy Father. I have a very strong feeling that he will be visiting Fatima soon!

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

Habemus Papam! -- Pope Francis

"St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle."

"Qui sibi nomen imposuit Franciscum"
"Who has taken the name Francis"

The symbology is perfect. St. Francis, who heard the call from Jesus to rebuild the Church!

LifeSiteNews reports that the new Pope had this to say about "homosexual marriage":
"Let's not be naive, we're not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God," wrote Cardinal Bergoglio in a letter sent to the monasteries of Buenos Aires. "We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God."
Dear readers, this could be a quote from the PublicVigil blog! These words brought tears of joy to my eyes. Thank you Holy Spirit! We do not deserve such a Pope! God is abundantly merciful!

Today I got my car back from the mechanic. It was broken and now it is fixed. It feels like I have a new car.

And now we have a "holy mechanic" at the head of the universal Church! Blessed be God forever! And just as in the times of St. Francis, the church is in dire need of fixing -- both physically and spiritually. All of creation is rejoicing. The angels in Heaven are singing alleluias.

Today the symbology of the Rosary was also perfect. It was the glorious mysteries. Beginning with the Resurrection of Our Lord! I had just received the news of the new Pope Francis when I began reciting the glorious mysteries. First the Resurrection, then the Ascension, then the coming of the Holy Spirit, then the Assumption of Mary into Heaven, and finally the Crowning of Mary -- Queen of Heaven!

Oh dear sweet Virgin Mary, pray for us! Protect Christ's Holy Church.

St Teresa: "We should gather in secret because this kind of talk is no longer in fashion"

"Deliver us from all evil."

These words appear to have been written by St. Teresa of Avila while she was in a spiritual ecstasy.
Nor since this morning when I received Communion do I think that it is I who am speaking. It seems that what I see is a dream... I beg ... that we may all be mad for love of Him who for love of us was called mad....

I should like the five of us who at present love each other in Christ to make a kind of pact that since others in these times gather together in secret against His Majesty to prepare wicked deeds and heresies, we might seek to gather together some time to free each other from illusion and to speak about how we might mend our ways and please God more...

I say we should gather in secret because this kind of talk is no longer in fashion. Even preachers are composing their sermons so as not to displease. They may have good intentions, and the good deeds may follow; but the result is that few try to amend!

 -- The Book of Her Life -- Ch. 16 (from Sections 6 and 7)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A smaller Church

"Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death."

Michael Voris has been warning us for some time about the crisis in the Church. We seem to be at a pivotal moment with the current papal conclave. Will our prayers be answered by God? Or perhaps I should ask, what will be God's answer to our prayers?

One of the main points that Michael V. has been consistently hammering home is that the Church needs to confront the culture rather than trying to accommodate it by being "nice" or "charitable". This point never really hit home for me until I came upon the interpretation that the post Vatican II crisis is due to a reversal of Truth and Charity. (See my article on "Iota unum".) The leadership of the Church of today often sacrifices Truth in the name of Charity. The result is what Michael V. often describes as "the Church of Nice".

But in sacrificing the Truth, they are nailing Christ to the Cross again -- whether it is their intention or not. Because Christ is the Truth.

The "smaller Church" which Michael mentions in this Vortex episode below would be welcome if it is also a Church that is totally dedicated to the Truth of Jesus Christ.

 

Today I happened to hear some secular news reports about the papal conclave. (Normally, I don't get any of the news from secular sources.) The report was fixated on pushing for "women priests". Do you think that this is being pushed for the good of the Church/ I doubt that the ones preparing these reports have any interest in the good of the Church. They are simply pushing their social agenda and if this results in the total collapse of the Church, so much the better.

What good is a Church that looks exactly like secular society? The Church then becomes useless and is quickly discarded. The role of the Church is to transform secular society, not to conform to secular society.

Without the Church to guide her, society loses its moral compass as we have seen. And this is just the beginning. We are approaching a state of total moral anarchy -- this is what the poll numbers which Michael V. quoted reveal.

Our bishops need to impose their moral authority on priests and the laity in conformance with the Church's timeless teachings. We can only hope and pray for a Pope that will begin this process of moral imposition in the name of the Holy Spirit -- in the name of a truly new Catholic evangelization. Certainly this will immediately result in a "smaller Church", but the resulting Church will be more vibrant and full of the Holy Spirit.

It is time to clear the Church of the "smoke of Satan" which Pope Paul VI referred to.

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One last thought. It is interesting that the papal conclave is happening with the backdrop of the report of the Vatileaks scandal which was submitted to Benedict before he abdicated. He ordered that the report be locked up and only revealed to the next pope. During the prelude to the conclave there were a number of cardinals that were calling publicly for the release of the report to them. It seems as if the American cardinals were particularly vocal in this matter. But this was not done. It would seem that this leaves the 3 cardinals that prepared the report with a sort of veto power over possible candidates. They would not have to give any specifics, but would only need to suggest that certain candidates might not be appropriate.

CORRECTION: The names of the cardinals that prepared the report are Julián Herranz, Salvatore De Giorgi and Jozef Tomko. They are all non-voting cardinals. As best as I can figure out, non-voting cardinals do not even participate in the conclave. (Do any readers know for sure?) That means that if they were going to somehow influence the conclave, they would have had to have done it through their interactions with their fellow cardinals prior to the conclave. Which is still not beyond the realm of possibility.

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UPDATE; As I was searching for information on the conclave I came across the homily that Cardinal Sodano gave  at the Mass at St. Peter's in preparation for the conclave. The title given to the homily in the Vatican Information Service (VIS) press release was “May God grant us a Pontiff who will embrace charity”. But what we really need is "a Pontiff who will embrace Truth". (...and true Charity, but not the false charity that is so abundant in the Church today.)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Losing then finding Christ

"Give us this day our daily bread."

Today as I was praying the Rosary, I found myself especially drawn to the 5th joyful mystery -- the losing, then finding of Jesus in the temple.

Sometimes it feels as if the Church has lost Christ. How can we find Him again?

I imagined how Mary and Joseph must have felt when they realized that Jesus was not among those who were on there way home from Jerusalem. They frantically went back to Jerusalem and searched everywhere for him. Finally, they found him in the temple. And the young Christ's reply was that they should have known that they would find him in his Father's house.

Then I remembered how the Apostles in a boat on the Sea of Galilee were caught in a storm. Perhaps they thought that this would be their last day. But then Jesus appeared, walking on the water. And the waves calmed and the winds blew no more.

Finally I recalled the Passion of Our Lord -- the darkest days in the history of the Church and of the world. How must the disciples of Christ have felt when He was crucified? They must have felt like everything was lost and God had abandoned them.

As I meditated on the mystery of Joseph and Mary losing the young Jesus, I realized that the Church has passed through crisis before. But miraculously, God has always saved the Church so that we could continue to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Lent is a time when we are called to sacrifice. It is a time of reflection. It begins with Ash Wednesday when we are reminded that we will all face the Day of Judgement. It ends with Easter Sunday and the Resurrection.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Hermeneutics

"Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with you."

"Hermeneutics" is a word that I learned from Pope Benedict XVI. Judging from the way that Benedict uses this word I have come to understand that it refers to how something within Catholicism is "interpreted". For instance how one interprets a particular one of the parables of Jesus will depend on the "hermeneutic" that one uses.

I have come to think of a hermeneutic as a lens through which one views not only sacred scripture, but everything regarding our Catholic faith. I imagine it as looking through a sort of telescope at some object. Depending on the angle of perspective and depending on the magnification and what filters are used the view changes. One could even add lenses that distort the image for whatever reason -- whether  to try to improve some aspect of the image or simply to shift the image to make it conform to our own selfish desires.

It is a fancy word and it seems unnecessarily academic, but words express ideas. And Benedict is introducing us to a new idea which is difficult to grasp, but which he personally found to be extremely useful. I'm sure that I don't fully grasp the concept, but nonetheless I will try to explain what I understand with regards to the useful applications of this idea.

The most frequent -- and I think important -- use of this term by Benedict is the "hermeneutic of continuity" with regards to Vatican II. This is in contrast to the "hermeneutic of rupture". I'll get into what this means a little later, but first I'd like to explore other "hermeneutics".

I suppose that you could say that each Protestant denomination has its own "hermeneutic" through which it views the Bible and various Church teachings. That could extend to even its view of the Catholic Church. This sounds similar to what secularists refer to as a "world view". And that is probably pretty close to the idea of a hermeneutic, although I think a hermeneutic is more closely tied to interpretation as I mentioned at the beginning.

So I think a better example is the way that radical feminists attempt to re-interpret the Bible. Benedict might say that they employ a "hermeneutic of radical feminism". Again, going back to the telescope idea they employ certain filters which makes certain concepts stand out more than others and de-emphasizes other features.

Think for example of a telescope with a red filter. Regardless of whether that filter simply emphasizes all red objects, this creates a distortion in the real image. For instance, this causes blue objects to fade into the background. This could be useful as long as one is mindful that such a filter is in place and is aware of the distortion of the image, but it can also lead to misinterpretations if the resulting image is taken to be the "real" and "correct" one.

But this discovering the "real and correct" image seems to be the purpose of a hermeneutic. And so the radical feminist will say that they have found the real meaning of the women that are found in the Gospels. They may claim that this "truth" was hidden by cultural and historical realities at the time of Christ, and that by removing those cultural and historical barriers they have been able to reveal these previously hidden meanings of the Gospel.

The end result is a sort of gospel of radical feminism, which seems to bear little or no relationship to the true Gospel that was taught from the time of the Resurrection until the present day. This contrasts for example with the Gospel which St. Paul taught to the early Christians in the Greek speaking parts of the Roman Empire.

What then does Pope Benedict mean when he refers to the "hermeneutic of continuity" with regards to Vatican II vs. the "hermeneutic of rupture". "Continuity"refers to the principle that the doctrines of the Church prior to Vatican II remain valid and have only been re-clarified and expanded upon to fit the needs of the present day. While "rupture" refers to a view that Vatican II represents a significant departure from the pre-council Church and that it invalidates many prior Church teachings.

For the most part I would say that the Catholic Church in America has been acting as if the correct hermeneutic is the one of "rupture".  It seems to reject or ignore pre-council teachings that violate even the "spirit" of Vatican II.

This is disconcerting because it means that the Church was wrong about many things for nearly 2000 years. And using the same logic, couldn't the Church be wrong about many of its current teachings as well? And in fact this is the logic that enables some within the Church to push for "women priests" or "homosexual marriage".

Benedict proposes a "hermeneutic of continuity" to resolve this problem. But even this hermeneutic presupposes that when there is a conflict between pre-council and post-council teaching that the Vatican II interpretation is the one that takes precedence. The problem is that there are many, many very fundamental conflicts to resolve. So this hermeneutic still implies that for nearly 2000 years some fundamental Church teachings were severely flawed -- if not downright just plain wrong. And this applies especially to the Popes of the 100 or so years before the council who have consistently taught that "modernism" contained errors which were totally contrary to the Catholic faith.

And once again if the Church and the popes got it wrong for so long, how do we know that we've got it right now? Shouldn't we be constantly "reforming" the Church just like the Church of England does? After all the Anglicans have "women priests" and are OK with contraception and "homosexual priests" and abortion in many cases, etc,

All of this leads one to the question: What is the correct hermeneutic for understanding Vatican II? Is it "continuity", "rupture" or perhaps something else?

This is not just an academic exercise given that the post-council Church is a mere shadow of her pre-council self. And in these "modern" times more than ever we need a Catholic Church that will stand up to the forces that are transforming the global society by destroying every hint of 2000 years of Christian culture.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

"Charity in Truth" and "Iota unum"

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel -- not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.

But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, If any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.

Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ. For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not man's gospel. For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.


 -- Galatians 1:6-12
"Charity in Truth" is the name of the 3rd and last encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI. The key to unlocking the fullness of its meaning is a book called "Iota unum" by the theologian Romano Amerio.

Sandro Magister wrote an article in 2009 -- soon after the publication of the Pope's encyclical -- that gives us the key to understanding "Charity in Truth" by means of "Iota unum". Without this key, much of what the Pope writes remains cryptic and the truth that it proclaims is easily lost.

The key that Magister provides is this quote from the theologian and mystic Don Divo Barsotti:
"Amerio essentially says that the gravest evils present today in Western thought, including Catholic thought, are mainly due to a general mental disorder according to which 'caritas' is put before 'veritas', without considering that this disorder also overturns the proper conception that we should have of the Most Holy Trinity."
 Magister follows this up with his own thoughts:
In effect, Amerio saw precisely in this overturning of the primacy of Logos over love – or in a charity separated from truth – the root of many of the "variations of the Catholic Church in the 20th century": the variations that he described and subjected to criticism in the first and more commanding of the two volumes cited: "Iota unum," written between 1935 and 1985; the variations that led him to question whether with them, the Church had not become something other than itself.
The simplest way to restate this is that Truth must come before Love. St John the Evangelist begins his Gospel with:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The Word, the Logos, the Truth came first and has primacy over everything else -- including Love. Love flows from the Truth.

When the order is inverted and Truth becomes subjugated to Love, we end up with a false charity. And this is the state of the Church today. Social justice (Charity/Love) takes precedence over propagating the faith (Truth/Logos). In many instances the Church does not even teach the fullness of faith to its own members.

In the introduction to "Charity in Truth", Pope Benedict says:
Only in truth does charity shine forth, only in truth can charity be authentically lived. Truth is the light that gives meaning and value to charity. That light is both the light of reason and the light of faith, through which the intellect attains to the natural and supernatural truth of charity: it grasps its meaning as gift, acceptance, and communion. Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way. In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love. It falls prey to contingent subjective emotions and opinions, the word “love” is abused and distorted, to the point where it comes to mean the opposite.
The Pope echoes Amerio.

Amerio attended the 2nd Vatican Council, and his book is a response to the "aggiornamento" -- which I understand to mean the "modernization" of the Church that Vatican II attempted to bring about.

One of the ways that Vatican II gave precedence to Charity over Truth is at once subtle and blatant. It is the novel language that is used in the documents of Vatican II. This is called "pastoral language" and is the source of much of the ambiguity in its documents.

The Council deliberately chose not to use the traditional "dogmatic" language of the Church in order to be more "modern" and more "charitable". Rather than clearly condemning errors as was done by the Church in the past, the Council chose to attempt to find common ground with those who were opposed to the faith. But in so doing, it relegated the Truth to a lower level.

In case you were wondering, the term "iota unum" refers to Matthew Ch. 5:17-19...

"Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. "
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One final note. I suspect that some of the Pope's final actions were done in preparation for his stepping down -- in particular, the motu propio "On the Service of Charity" (November 11, 2012) where he specifically stated that Catholic charities must act in complete compliance with Catholic teaching.

One would think that such a statement would be totally unnecessary. However, there has been an ongoing scandal of Catholic charities that support organizations that promote abortion, or contraception, or homosexual marriage in violation of Church teaching.

One would think that the encyclical "Charity in Truth" would then have sufficiently clarified the position of the Church. But the pleadings of the Pope in this encyclical were largely ignored by the bureaucracy of the Church's charitable organization.

Therefore the Pope was forced to issue a "motu propio" which according to my understanding has the power of canon law. Pope Benedict wished to be a moral leader -- a papa, a father to his bishops and to his flock. But his hand was forced, and he had to impose new legislation on the Church bureaucracy. And even this continues to be effectively ignored by some prominent Catholic charities.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Benedict XVI and Vatican Council II

"Thy will be done."

Shortly before Benedict XVI resigned as Pope of the Holy Catholic Church he addressed the priests of Rome -- his priests, since he was the Bishop of Rome. To everyone's surprise he gave an impromptu talk on Vatican II.

I have come to think of this as a final and public confession of Benedict as Pope. And who better to confess to than a room full of priests.

Vatican Council II has hung like a cloud over his papacy and even over his whole life as a priest. His priestly life seems to begin and end with the Council. And his time in the Chair of Peter is bookmarked by speeches regarding the Council.

In this speech he confesses that the Council produced some very bad fruit, but he draws a distinction between two councils. The good council and the bad council; or the true council and the false council.

This allows him to continue to praise the council while criticizing its bad fruit. But historically and in reality there was only one council. So this is a problem.

Ratzinger was part of the Rhine Alliance which according to my current understanding dominated the council. And in fact that is what the Pope tells his priests in his address. And the first and foremost objective of the Rhine Alliance was to "reform" the liturgy. In other words to institute the Novus Ordo Mass.

How interesting then that as Pope he became so closely associated with reviving the Traditional Latin Mass.

The problem with reform is that it is like opening Pandora's box. How can you stop the reform once it begins? Is it possible to institute a reform and then exactly control the extent and nature of that reform?

I made a similar criticism of the sexual liberation movement of the 60s. Perhaps there was a moment of perfect equilibrium between sexual freedom and traditional morality regarding sexuality. But once the sexual revolution had begun it did not stop at that point of equilibrium, but continued in a radical direction.

I'm convinced that this is no accident. There are huge societal forces that must be manipulated in order to create such changes. Remember that people and societies are naturally resistant to change. And so in order to continue to change society requires a constant force that will overcome this natural inertia and friction.

And these same societal forces worked to push the reforms of the Catholic Church's liturgy further and further from those that Ratzinger had imagined at the time of the opening of the 2nd Vatican Council.

So perhaps his speech was a warning to his young priests to be wary of change.

Our last two popes both participated actively in the council and tried to steer the interpretation of the  council afterwards. What will be the relationship of the next pope to the council?

This will be one of the key questions that the next pope will need to answer early on in his papacy. And he will need to continually re-address this issue throughout his papacy, just as Benedict had to.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Worried about the future of the Church

"Forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us."

St. Teresa of Avila says that, "distress over the public sins of the Congregation -- if they should become a common practice -- or about the harm that comes to the Church from these heresies that give rise to the loss of so many souls.... is very good; and since it is very good, it does not disquiet." (Collected Works Vol. I; The Book of Her Life Ch. 13.10)

So if you are worried about the future of the Church as I am in the wake of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, then rest assured that this form of distress is good.

One wonders if St. Teresa would even recognize the Catholic Church in its current form. She might come to the conclusion that the Protestants which she formed her order of Discalced Carmelites specifically to do spiritual combat with, had in the end won the battle. But rest assured that the final triumph will belong to the Immaculate Heart of Mary as Our Lady of Fatima has promised us.

It is like when Our Lady showed Hell to the children of Fatima. They said that if she had not already promised them that they were to go to Heaven that they might have died of the fright. So we may take comfort in the dark days ahead, that the gates of Hell will never prevail over the Church that Christ has founded. It will truly be a glorious time for those willing to face persecution rather than abandon the true faith of the one holy, Catholic and apostolic Church.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Dear God

"Our Father who art in Heaven,
Hallowed by Thy name."

Dear God,

I don't think it's working out between us. You always seem angry and I can never seem to satisfy you. It seems like we've been fighting a lot lately and I don't know why. I just want to be able to do whatever I want and that seems to bother you.

Like the other day I was talking to this other guy and you got so jealous. It didn't mean anything. He was just being nice but it seemed to bother you so much. I have to say he is much more cool about things than you are. He turned me on to some new music which has a great beat for dancing. So what if the lyrics are kind of weird. I just don't pay attention to them.

Anyway, I think I need some space and want to try new things. I hope you aren't too hurt, but I have to tell you that it's over between me and you. I thing you're a really nice guy and I hope you can find someone else that will understand you better than I did. We can still be friends. Right?

Your friend,
Cathy Catolica

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Dear Cathy,

I know that it is not easy to love me. I know that I am very demanding. But it is because I want you to be the best person that you can be. I want you to know what it is like to be truly free and not be afraid of anyone or anything.

I will always love you and I will always be there for you. You can always come back to me and I will forgive you for everything as long as you are sincerely sorry for the bad things that you have done.

And although I share this same love for everyone, I have a special place in my heart for you. I love you so much that I would die for you. I would sacrifice everything for you -- even my only son.

Yes, I am very jealous and I will not share you with others. If you love me, you must give up all others and be willing to follow me wherever I lead. You know I will never lead you astray and that I will always comfort you and protect you.

This new guy that you met is a liar. Eventually you will realize this. He promises happiness and freedom, but in the end he will make you hate yourself and you will become his slave. But you must always remember that he has no real power over you -- only the power that you give him. He will tell you that you are not good enough to come back to me after all the things he will lead you to do, but this is just another one of his lies. I will be happier than ever to see you come back and turn away from him.

I am praying for you. And all the angels and saints are praying for you. Remember that I chose you; I created you for a purpose... to love me.

Love,
God