Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Tale of Two Churches---by FRANCIS CARDINAL GEORGE, O.M.I.

A Tale of Two Churches


For many years in America, the state basically kept its original promise to protect all religions and not to become a rival to them, a fake church. That is no longer the case.

Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.

Once upon a time there was a church founded on God's entering into human history in order to give humanity a path to eternal life and happiness with him.  The Savior that God sent, his only-begotten Son, did not write a book but founded a community, a church, upon the witness and ministry of twelve apostles.  He sent this church the gift of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of love between Father and Son, the Spirit of the truth that God had revealed about himself and humanity by breaking into the history of human sinfulness.
This church, a hierarchical communion, continued through history, living among different peoples and cultures, filled with sinners, but always guided in the essentials of her life and teaching by the Holy Spirit.  She called herself "Catholic" because her purpose was to preach a universal faith and a universal morality, encompassing all peoples and cultures.  This claim often invited conflict with the ruling classes of many countries.  About 1,800 years into her often stormy history, this church found herself as a very small group in a new country in Eastern North America that promised to respect all religions because the State would not be confessional; it would not try to play the role of a religion.
This church knew that it was far from socially acceptable in this new country.  One of the reasons the country was established was to protest the king of England's permitting the public celebration of the Catholic Mass on the soil of the British Empire in the newly conquered Catholic territories of Canada.  He had betrayed his coronation oath to combat Catholicism, defined as "America's greatest enemy," and protect Protestantism, bringing the pure religion of the colonists into danger and giving them the moral right to revolt and reject his rule.
Nonetheless, many Catholics in the American colonies thought their life might be better in the new country than under a regime whose ruling class had penalized and persecuted them since the mid-sixteenth century.  They made this new country their own and served her loyally.  The social history was often contentious, but the State basically kept its promise to protect all religions and not become a rival to them, a fake church.  Until recent years.
There was always a quasi-religious element in the public creed of the country.  It lived off the myth of human progress, which had little place for dependence on divine providence.  It tended to exploit the religiosity of the ordinary people by using religious language to co-opt them into the purposes of the ruling class.  Forms of anti-Catholicism were part of its social DNA.  It had encouraged its citizens to think of themselves as the creators of world history and the managers of nature, so that no source of truth outside of themselves needed to be consulted to check their collective purposes and desires.  But it had never explicitly taken upon itself the mantle of a religion and officially told its citizens what they must personally think or what "values" they must personalize in order to deserve to be part of the country.  Until recent years.

In recent years, society has brought social and legislative approval to all types of sexual relationships that used to be considered "sinful."  Since the biblical vision of what it means to be human tells us that not every friendship or love can be expressed in sexual relations, the church's teaching on these issues is now evidence of intolerance for what the civil law upholds and even imposes.  What was once a request to live and let live has now become a demand for approval.  The "ruling class," those who shape public opinion in politics, in education, in communications, in entertainment, is using the civil law to impose its own form of morality on everyone.  We are told that, even in marriage itself, there is no difference between men and women, although nature and our very bodies clearly evidence that men and women are not interchangeable at will in forming a family.  Nevertheless, those who do not conform to the official religion, we are warned, place their citizenship in danger.
When the recent case about religious objection to one provision of the Health Care Act was decided against the State religion, the Huffington Post (June 30, 2014) raised "concerns about the compatibility between being a Catholic and being a good citizen."  This is not the voice of the nativists who first fought against Catholic immigration in the 1830s.  Nor is it the voice of those who burned convents and churches in Boston and Philadelphia a decade later.  Neither is it the voice of the Know-Nothing Party of the 1840s and 1850s, nor of the Ku Klux Klan, which burned crosses before Catholic churches in the Midwest after the civil war.  It is a voice more sophisticated than that of the American Protective Association, whose members promised never to vote for a Catholic for public office.  This is, rather, the self-righteous voice of some members of the American establishment today who regard themselves as "progressive" and "enlightened."
The inevitable result is a crisis of belief for many Catholics.  Throughout history, when Catholics and other believers in revealed religion have been forced to choose between being taught by God or instructed by politicians, professors, editors of major newspapers and entertainers, many have opted to go along with the powers that be.  This reduces a great tension in their lives, although it also brings with it the worship of a false god.  It takes no moral courage to conform to government and social pressure.  It takes a deep faith to "swim against the tide," as Pope Francis recently encouraged young people to do at last summer's World Youth Day.
Swimming against the tide means limiting one's access to positions of prestige and power in society.  It means that those who choose to live by the Catholic faith will not be welcomed as political candidates to national office, will not sit on editorial boards of major newspapers, will not be at home on most university faculties, will not have successful careers as actors and entertainers.  Nor will their children, who will also be suspect.  Since all public institutions, no matter who owns or operates them, will be agents of the government and conform their activities to the demands of the official religion, the practice of medicine and law will become more difficult for faithful Catholics.  It already means in some States that those who run businesses must conform their activities to the official religion or be fined, as Christians and Jews are fined for their religion in countries governed by Sharia law.
A reader of the tale of two churches, an outside observer, might note that American civil law has done much to weaken and destroy what is the basic unit of every human society, the family.  With the weakening of the internal restraints that healthy family life teaches, the State will need to impose more and more external restraints on everyone's activities.  An outside observer might also note that the official religion's imposing whatever its proponents currently desire on all citizens and even on the world at large inevitably generates resentment.  An outside observer might point out that class plays a large role in determining the tenets of the official State religion.  "Same-sex marriage," as a case in point, is not an issue for the poor or those on the margins of society.
How does the tale end?  We don't know.  The actual situation is, of course, far more complex than a story plot, and there are many actors and characters, even among the ruling class, who do not want their beloved country to transform itself into a fake church.  It would be wrong to lose hope, since there are so many good and faithful people.
Catholics do know, with the certainty of faith, that, when Christ returns in glory to judge the living and the dead, the church, in some recognizable shape or form that is both Catholic and Apostolic, will be there to meet him.  There is no such divine guarantee for any country, culture or society of this or any age.
His Eminence Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I. "A Tale of Two Churches." Catholic New World (September 7, 2014.)
Reprinted with permission of the Communications Office of the Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago, Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.
The Catholic New World is the newspaper for the Archdiocese of Chicago.
His Eminence Francis Eugene Cardinal George, O.M.I., is the eighth Archbishop of Chicago. As Archbishop of Chicago, he has issued two pastoral letters: on evangelization, "Becoming an Evangelizing People," (November 21, 1997) and on racism, "Dwell in My Love" (April 4, 2001). His book, The Difference God Makes: A Catholic Vision of Faith, Communion, and Culture, is a collection of essays exploring our relationship with God, the responsibility of communion and the transformation of culture.
Copyright © 2014 Francis Cardinal George, OMI

Friday, September 12, 2014

Do not take pleasure in others’ mistakes

Pope at Santa Marta: Do not take pleasure in others’ mistakes

Pope Francis celebrates Mass in the Santa Marta chapel
(Vatican Radio) True fraternal reprimand is painful because it is done with love, in truth and humility. Moreover it is unchristian to take pleasure when reprimanding someone.  This was the focus of Pope Francis homily Friday during Mass in Santa Marta, on the day when the Church celebrates the Feast Day of the Holy Name of Mary.
Emer McCarthy reports. Listen 
The Pope was reflecting on the Gospel passage where Jesus warns against noticing the splinter in our brother’s eye but failing to see the wooden beam in our own. This inspired him to return to the subject of fraternal reprimand. First, he said, the erring brother should be reprimanded with charity.
"You cannot reprimand a person without love and charity. [Just like] you cannot perform surgery without anesthesia: you cannot, because the patient will die from the pain. And charity is like an anesthetic that helps you to receive treatment and accept reprimand. Take him to one side and talk to him, with gentleness, with love".

Secondly, - he continued - we must speak the truth: "Do not say something that is not true. How often in our community are things said about another person that are not true: they are slander. Or if they are true, they destroy the person’s reputation". "Gossip - the Pope repeated - hurt; gossip are a slap in the face of a person’s reputation, they are an attack on the heart of a person. "Sure - he observed - "when they tell you the truth is not nice to hear, but if it is spoken with charity and love, it is easier to accept". Therefore, "we must speak of other people’s defects" with charity.
Thirdly, we must reprimand with humility: "If you really need to reprimand a little flaw, stop and remember that  you have many more and far bigger!"

"Fraternal reprimand is an act that heals the Body of the Church. There's a tear, there, in the fabric of the Church that we must mend. And like mothers and grandmothers, who mend so gently, so delicately, we must do likewise when we want to reprimand our brother. If you're not able to do this with love, charity, truth and humility, you will offend, you will destroy the heart of that person, you will add to gossip, that hurts, and you will become a blind hypocrite, just as Jesus says. Hypocrite, first take the wooden beam out of your own eye. ...'. Hypocrite! Recognize that you are the more sinful than the other, but you, as a brother must help to reprimand the other".
"A sign that perhaps can help us in this" - said the Pope - is when we feel "a certain delight" when "we see something wrong" and consider it our job to deliver a reprimand: you have to be "careful because that is not coming from the Lord".

"The Cross, the difficulty of doing a good thing is ever present in the Lord; the love that leads us, the meekness is always of the Lord. Do not judge. We Christians tend to behave like doctors: stand on the sidelines of the game between sin and grace as if we were angels ... No! Paul says:' for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified '. And a Christian who, in the community, does not do things - even fraternal reprimand - in love, in truth and humility, is disqualified! He has failed to become a mature Christian. May the Lord help us in this fraternal service, which is as beautiful as it is painful, to help our brothers and sisters to be better and help us to always do it with love, in truth and humility".
(Emer McCarthy)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Falling in Love with God

God Desires Your Love

Some time ago, while on a train from Washington to New York, I became engaged in conversation with a young man. He was a graduate of a Catholic college, proud of the fact, and quite determined that the Faith was to be his guiding star through life.
A friend had recently given him a copy of the autobi­ography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. What surprised him most, he said, was the ease with which this young nun talked of her intimate friendship with God. Oh, he had learned in school that we are in this world to love God, but he had never known that this love could be an inti­mate, personal friendship. In his prayers, he was always most formal with God. He had always believed that he was loving God in the only way expected of him when he tried to observe the Ten Commandments and the precepts of the Church.
His relation to God had been one of duty and honor, like that of a soldier to his country. He found it quite natural to praise God. He enjoyed singing “Holy God, we praise Thy name,” and one of his regular prayers was “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.”
But he had never been taught to love God as a child loves his father. After all, God is a spirit, and it is not easy to think of Him as a Father. Prayers based on filial relationship seemed exaggerated. He had never realized that it is possible to fall in love with God — to think of Him continually, to try to please Him in all one’s actions, as one thinks of and tries to please a person he loves. It had even seemed to him that intimate conversations with God were either expressions of pure sentimentality or pleasures to be enjoyed only in the next world.
I explained that falling in love with God is no mys­tery to those who are schooled in the saints or who are acquainted with some of the more ardent souls in reli­gious life. It is the ideal of priests, brothers, nuns, and many devout laypeople. To say that falling in love with God is impossible is to deny an obvious fact: countless souls have done precisely that.
I ventured to say that perhaps he had never analyzed the full meaning of love. But I learned that he, like most young people, prided himself on knowing something about it. He believed in love, he told me — human love that occupies the whole mind and heart of the lover; love that becomes so much a part of a man that his thoughts turn continually to his beloved; love that tugs at the heartstrings and makes itself felt whenever the mind has a moment to itself.
When I smiled skeptically to show that I was not at all sure he knew what true love was, he quickly added that he was not considering only the emotional kind of love. He knew what true love is. It lasts forever, he said, even after the beauty and freshness of youth have vanished. You can see it in the eyes of the mother who spends sleepless nights watching over her sick child. You can see it in a husband who for years has devoted himself with amazing kindness and patience to an invalid wife. It is written on the haggard face of a young soldier as he drags his wounded comrade back from the front lines.
He had the right idea. He was not confusing love with emotionalism or sentimentality. Love can express itself through the emotions; it may manifest itself in the happiness and joy of a newly wedded couple or in the sadness that shrouds a family that has just lost its mother. It is clearly found in the life of Jesus. When He was told that Lazarus was dead, Jesus wept. And the people, seeing this, said, “Behold how He loved him.” True love can break forth and express itself in deep emotion, but it can also be externally cold — as unemotional as paying the income tax or washing dishes.

Love calls for self-giving

What, then, does loving someone really mean? It means that a person wants good to come to another; it is to will that good may come to him. True love is reason­able; it is not blind. It springs from the recognition of good that is grasped by the intellect and presented to the will as desirable. True love is also effective, demanding action from the lover, who feels driven to do something for the beloved.
Everyone, young or old, strong or weak, can love. But in this world, love is bound up with giving; it entails sac­rifice. The highest kind of love means self-offering. Jesus told us this: “Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
It is easy to see that this is true of human love, but it is also true of love for God. What great love for Christ burned in the heart of St. Peter as he was crucified with his head in the dirt of the earth! Who can doubt the love of Paul for Jesus, as Paul was led outside the walls of Rome to be beheaded! And in our own day, who can help but marvel at the deep love of God that grew stronger day by day in the soul of St. Thérèse, the Little Flower, whose dying words were “My God, I love Thee!”
Some people may not be convinced by these exam­ples. They may argue that they are isolated cases, coming shortly after conversion or accompanied by special help from God. And anyway, they may say, spur-of-the-moment heroism is not uncommon. But what of tender, intimate love of God spread over a whole lifetime? The fact that even busy laypeople can fall deeply in love with God — that is the mystery.
In human love, the lover always seeks his beloved. Sep­aration is something very painful; presence, possession, is an indescribable joy. Lovers talk to one another, even if they do not say much. Words are not weighed and studied with them; even the most insignificant words have a special meaning and are understood. A glance, an embrace, a sigh, a loving phrase — this is the language of lovers. It is true love, deeply felt and capable of raising the lover to the heights of heroism. It does not last for only a day or a week; it can endure for a lifetime — a life­time of joy, or even of sorrow. It expresses itself in fidelity and wholehearted service.
Is such love possible between God and man? How can man be always with God, possessing Him, as the lover must? How can man carry on a loving conversation with God? Is this not merely wishful thinking?
Editor’s note: This article was adapted from Fr. Healy’s book, Awakening Your Soul to the Presence of God, available from Sophia Institute Press. 

Why Homosexuals Think they Are Hated

Why Homosexuals Think they Are Hated

Pope Benedict XVI and others have recently drawn attention to the fact that simply putting forward the Church’s unchanging teachings on marriage and sexual morality puts a person in the position of being accused of “hate.” In particular, GLBT (gay lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered) activists are demanding that Catholics and those of other religions change 4,000-year-old teachings about marriage and sexual morality. When believers answer that they are not authorized to make such changes in what God has revealed, the GLBT  activists accuse them of “hate,” even going so far as to charge them with “hate crimes.”
It doesn’t matter how gently the words are spoken or how carefully the message is phrased, the GLBT activists only hear “hate.”
Although there is no one cause for same-sex attraction (SSA), in many instances it can be linked to childhood gender identity disorder — the failure to identify strongly with one’s own same-sex parent or peers in the first two years of life. Some persons with SSA as children wanted to be other sex or pretended to be the other sex, while others simply felt ‘different’ from their same-sex parent and peers.
Very often the child’s relationship with the father was seriously deficient. Not having a positive, healthy relationship with one’s father affects the way a person deals with authority, rules, and rejection. Often persons with SSA were rejected by peers, who did understand their ‘different’ behavior. Every time the unhealed adult with SSA feels rejection, faces discipline, or is confronted with rules, he remembers the pain of his relationship with his father or peers. He transfers these feelings to those who oppose him and screams in pain “You hate me, you hate me.”
The only real solution in these cases is for persons with SSA to forgive their fathers and to be reconciled with their father God. Until that happens we cannot take their anger personally. We must speak clearly about the need for healing and repentance — but remember that the sexual sin is the fruit of a developmental disorder and often the first sin that must be repented of is the sin of resentment.
I had an opportunity to see this work with a woman who had been involved in lesbian activity. While the healing process was long and difficult, it began when she forgave her parents. From that moment on, she never returned to the same-sex activity.
Persons with SSA are themselves filled with anger and ‘hate’ and they project that on anyone who opposes their demands. They assume we must be as angry as they are. We must constantly remind ourselves that under their anger and their hate, persons with SSA are wounded men and women. As small children they accepted the lie that they were different. They were unable to embrace their true identities as sons and daughters of God. In spite of their anger and false accusations, we must continue to speak the truth. Only by this means can we help them find their way out of the lies in which have been trapped. And most of all we need to pray for them.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

It’s time to end New York’s St. Pat’s Parade and the Al Smith Dinner

It’s time to end New York’s St. Pat’s Parade and the Al Smith Dinner

Editor’s Note: The following blog post by Msgr. Charles Pope was originally posted September 4 on the Archdiocese of Washington’s website. Later in the day, the archdiocese removed the post. We are archiving it here for its news value and the benefit of our readers.
The time for happy-clappy, lighthearted engagement of our culture may be nearing an end. Sometimes it takes a while to understand that what used to work no longer works. Let me get more specific.
Decades ago the “Al Smith Dinner” was a time for Republicans and Democrats to bury the hatchet (even if only temporarily) and come together to raise money for the poor and to emphasize what unites us rather than what divides us. But in the old days the death of 50 million infants was not what divided us. We were divided about lesser things such as how much of the budget should go to defense and how much to social spending. Reasonable men might differ over that.
But now we are being asked to raise toasts and to enjoy a night of frivolity with those who think it is acceptable to abort children by the millions each year, with those who think anal sex is to be celebrated as an expression of love and that LGBTQIA… (I=intersexual, A= Asexual)  is actually a form of sanity to which we should tip our hat, and with those who stand four-square against us over religious liberty.
Now the St. Patrick’s Parade is becoming of parade of disorder, chaos, and fake unity. Let’s be honest: St. Patrick’s Day nationally has become a disgraceful display of drunkenness and foolishness in the middle of Lent that more often embarrasses the memory of Patrick than honors it.
In New York City in particular, the “parade” is devolving into a farcical and hateful ridicule of the faith that St. Patrick preached.
Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.
It’s time to cancel the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the Al Smith Dinner and all the other “Catholic” traditions that have been hijacked by the world. Better for Catholics to enter their churches and get down on their knees on St. Patrick’s Day to pray in reparation for the foolishness, and to pray for this confused world to return to its senses. Let’s do adoration and pray the rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet unceasingly for this poor old world.
But don’t go to the parade; stay away from the Al Smith Dinner and all that “old school” stuff that hangs on in a darkened world. And as for St Patrick’s Day, it’s time to stop wearin’ the green and instead take up the purple of Lent and mean it. Enough of the celebration of stupidity, frivolity, and drunkenness that St Paddy’s day has become. We need penance now, not foolishness. We don’t need parades and dinner with people who scoff at our teachings, insist we compromise, use us for publicity, and make money off of us. We’re being played for (and are?) fools.
End the St Patrick’s parade. End the Al Smith Dinner and all other such compromised events. Enough now, back to Church! Wear the purple of Lent and if there is going to be a procession, let it be Eucharistic and penitential for the sins of this age.
For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Are Catholic conservatives turning on Cardinal Timothy Dolan? - YES

Are Catholic conservatives turning on Cardinal Timothy Dolan?

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York greets a New York City firefighter while reviewing the 253rd annual St. Patrick's Day in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York on March 17, 2014. RNS photo by Gregory A. Shemitz
Show caption
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York greets a New York City firefighter while reviewing the 253rd annual St. Patrick’s Day in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on March 17, 2014. RNS photo by Gregory A. Shemitz

This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.
NEW YORK (RNS)  Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s positive reaction to this week’s decision by organizers of New York’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade to allow gay groups to march under their own banners initially drew charitable responses in many Catholic Church circles.
But it didn’t take long for conservative church critics to turn.
After initially signaling his grudging acceptance, William Donohue of the Catholic League came back with a revised view when he realized that more than one gay group could be allowed to march in the future.
“The goal of these activists, supported by the corporate elite, is to neuter the religious element of the parade,” Donohue said. “This is an Irish-Catholic parade, and if what comes after the hyphen is cut, so will the parade’s support, beginning with the Catholic League.”
The St. Patrick’s Day parade is closely identified with Irish-Catholicism but it is not a church-sanctioned event.
In his statement welcoming the decision of parade organizers to accept a gay and lesbian contingent from NBC, which broadcasts the event, Dolan stressed New York’s archbishops have never “determined who would or would not march in this parade.”
Maybe not, but the late Cardinal John O’Connor made it clear in the 1990s that allowing gays to march would be like editing the Apostles’ Creed.
One of the most blistering rips at Dolan and the parade organizers came from a Washington priest, Monsignor Charles Pope, who blogs at the website of the Archdiocese of Washington.
In a column, Pope took aim at the St. Patrick’s Day parade and also the annual Al Smith Dinner hosted by the archbishop of New York and featuring Democratic and Republican presidential nominees.
William Donohue of the Catholic League, who was one of the biggest opponents of gay participation, initially signaled his grudging acceptance: “One would hope that all the new entries will conduct themselves in a manner that honors St. Patrick, lest another round of controversy emerges,” Donohue said.
Show caption
William Donohue of the Catholic League, who was one of the biggest opponents of gay participation, initially signaled his grudging acceptance: “One would hope that all the new entries will conduct themselves in a manner that honors St. Patrick, lest another round of controversy emerges,” Donohue said. Photo by Patrick Novecosky/Legatus, courtesy of Catholic League
Dolan faced sharp conservative attacks in 2012 for following tradition and inviting President Obama as well as Mitt Romney. This latest move by Dolan was too much for Pope:
“It’s time to cancel the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the Al Smith Dinner and all the other ‘Catholic’ traditions that have been hijacked by the world,” he wrote. “Better for Catholics to enter their churches and get down on their knees on St. Patrick’s Day to pray in reparation for the foolishness, and to pray for this confused world to return to its senses.”
The Washington archdiocese took Pope’s post down, though it can still be read at the traditionalist website, Rorate Caeli, which called Dolan’s welcome of gays and lesbians to the parade “The St. Patrick’s Day Massacre.”
Rod Dreher, a writer for The American Conservative and a former Catholic-turned-Orthodox, chimed in with a post titled “You’ve Been Dolanized,” in which he said his Catholic friends in New York are very unhappy.
“I wonder how long it’s going to take before (Dolan) realizes that he will have earned no new friends — the people he’s trying to charm are still going to hate him and make fun of him — and alienated the old ones who would have normally been his most loyal ones?” Dreher wrote.
How much impact this criticism will have is unclear. But Dolan clearly seems to be comfortable with the more inclusive posture adopted by Pope Francis.
The cardinal last month gave a lengthy interview to the Boston Globe’s Vatican expert, John Allen, in which Dolan indicated that the days of the culture wars in the church were coming to a close.
The effort to withhold Communion from pro-choice Catholic pols “is in the past,” he said. And he also said that Francis wants pastoral, social justice-focused bishops “who would not be associated with any one ideological camp.”

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


The “O” Word

Obedience: few words are more likely to make an American shudder.It’s practically a swear word, like “truth,” “humility,” or “hierarchy.” We are a nation that was built upon liberation from a monarchical government, which our forefathers resented for imposing taxes on their tea and playing cards. Yet, as tempting as it might be to focus on the problem of obedience as something peculiar to the United States or even to modernity, we know that it’s nothing new:
The disobedient walk proudly, carrying the head of self-will high. And if they are sometimes forced to obey they do not bow down in humility but pass through the door proudly.
So said Catherine of Siena, referring to religious brothers and sisters in the fourteenth century. The Book of Genesis declares that disobedience was the sin of Adam, the root of original sin, and even the ancient pagans recognized the deadly effects of hubris. It makes sense, then, that obedience is difficult for us, and will continue to be difficult. We might even be tempted to despair and ask, “Why bother trying?”
Obedience is difficult because of what it is: the giving over of our will to another or, put another way, choosing to do what another chooses. Parents expect their children to obey them. Employers expect their employees to follow their directions. Obedience is a fundamental part of human society because it is a necessary part of justice, or giving what is due to others. This does not mean we do absolutely anything our “superiors” ask us to do, but it does mean we obey them in matters over which they have authority, as long as what they ask does not contravene the moral law. We do the extra spreadsheets that seem entirely unnecessary, but which our boss wants done. We follow our teacher’s directions on how to write a paper, even if we prefer another style. We listen to our parents’ life lessons and try to put them into practice, even if we don’t fully understand them.
We can see how obedience is necessary even in a merely human way, for the purposes of a well-ordered society, but it also operates on a much deeper level. Through obedience we can show God that our love for Him is genuine. “I’m going to do what my conceited co-worker is asking me to do on this project, even if he is incredibly annoying, and I’m going to do it for the love of God, who has placed me here at this particular time.” By offering our will to God in situations such as this, we imitate Christ himself, who “learned obedience” (Heb 5:8) in his humanity:
Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, 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. (Phil 2:5–8)
By obedience we become like Christ, who was obedient to His Father’s will, demonstrating in his own body that obedience is our means of sanctification. St. Catherine makes this point multiple times in her Dialogue: “Only the obedient can attain eternal life, for eternal life, which had been locked by Adam’s disobedience, was unlocked by the key of obedience.” The obedience of Christ frees us from sin and death and enables us to participate, by our own act of obedience, in the life of God.
Of course, obedience is not something limited to religious or to Christians, but it should be more evident and profound in those who have been conformed to Christ by Baptism or the profession of vows. Obedience is the path of the saints to perfect love. As St. Catherine writes, “Your entire faith is founded on obedience, for it is by obedience that you show your fidelity.” Obedience is the sign of fidelity, and fidelity is the sign of love. Our love and fidelity show themselves in repeated acts of obedience, over time and in difficult circumstances. This highlights the importance of patient humility: those who believe in, hope for, and love the Word they have heard will be obedient to that Word until the end.
In times of widespread dissent and individualism, we need to cultivate the virtue of obedience and affirm its value once again. Obedience is ultimately about giving what is due to Him who has given us all we have and are, including the power to know and will anything at all. Far from restricting our lives, obedience frees us to love God as He has loved us—unto death.
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Dominicanathe student Dominican blog of the Province of St. Joseph, and is reprinted here with kind permission. 
Br. Tomás Martín Rosado entered the Order of Preachers in 2010. He is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, where he studied theology.

The Heart of a Mystic

The Heart of a Mystic

When we consider the concept of mysticism, most of us assume mystics are somehow set apart from the rest of humanity as mysterious and highly intuitive people who participate in an exceptional relationship with God.  Mysticism is easily translated across multiple religions, and even within Christianity, there is some debate as to what defines a mystic.  As a lifelong Catholic, I have always been drawn to the notable mystical saints: St. Padre Pio, St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila.  Their extraordinary ability to sense and recognize God in vast mysteries has fascinated and lured me into the supernatural realm of knowing and being.
I was exposed to St. John of the Cross four years ago during a time of uncertainty and crossroads in my spiritual life; I had long wrestled with questions of my purpose and existence, lamenting to God incessantly and yet receiving no direct or clear answer.  My spiritual director at the time recommended that I become acquainted with John of the Cross, and so I dared to delve into the worn pages of his collective works.  The words were as I anticipated: mysterious, hidden, intuitive.  Most people had warned me that his writings were, at best, difficult to comprehend, and so I should not expect much of myself as I read them.  I was prepared for this, but I was also open to the possibility that perhaps God might permit me to understand even an iota of wisdom or truth that might be contained in the pages of that tattered volume I owned.
I believe it was in this openness of heart where God spoke to me through the fluid, perceptive and artistic wisdom of this Spanish saint; I was enthralled at the gaping distance between epochs – his and mine – and yet the relevance of his message as it pertained to my own life and personal spiritual journey.  I felt as if I were reading a letter from an old friend, one who knew me perhaps more intimately than I knew myself, and one who offered a message of great hope in the midst of contradiction.  It was during this time in my life when I realized that darkness does not always entail despair or despondency.  Darkness is not always interpreted as unholy or sacrilegious.  It is not a punishment, but rather a blessing and grace from our Heavenly Father.
St. John of the Cross so succinctly defined the difference between unholy darkness and the “dark night of the soul,” in which a soul is purposefully, for a time, not illuminated to the inner workings of God; the senses, will and intellect are all often darkened so that the person is incapable of viewing the good taking place within his or her heart and soul.  People who have entered this “dark night” tend to express a sort of “desert” spirituality: dryness in prayer, without consolations or adulations.  They feel an intense longing to feel God’s presence, for a deeper union with Him, and in their emptiness, they believe they are abandoned and forsaken by Him instead.
The mystical saints have spoken to my heart, because I have the heart of a mystic.  I do not approach mystical writings of the saints with trepidation or apprehension, because I know that there are others in this modern age who experience similar movements of their hearts and souls, similar to those of the saints who lived perhaps hundreds of years ago.  This occurs, I believe, because God longs to reconnect the hearts of His people with His Sacred and Eucharistic Heart in a unitive fusion of two hearts into one: a spiritual, mystical marriage, a communion.
Unbeknownst to many, mysticism does not necessarily entail spiritual ecstasies, visions, revelations, and locutions.  It is not an experience exclusive to an elite and holy few, but rather it appeals to many hearts who – right now, in this moment – are convicted with zeal, a hunger, a pining for the unitive love between God and the souls of all of humanity.  Mysticism unites the soul of one who actively engages in solitary and disciplined prayer with God’s own heart, but it also expands into the realm of a desire to suffer with and for all souls who are afflicted with the plight of the human condition resulting from sin and strife.
The modern mystic is one who is open to contemplation, in which God innocuously and spontaneously draws a soul into a deeper union with Him for a time – perhaps a fleeting moment or several hours.  Contemplation is a gift, an invitation from God to engage in an experience of His suffering for the sake of love.  It occurs when and how God wills it.  A mystical soul also meditates deeply on the mysteries of faith: the Trinity, the Eucharist, redemptive suffering, the consequences of original sin.  A mystic does not have to be a theologian and yet must remain true to the teachings of the Church, submitting oneself in full obedience and humility to the Magisterium and doctrines and dogma of our faith.
Ultimately, the heart of a mystic is transformed by Love Himself: from a heart of fear, anxiety, and vice into a heart that naturally loves with abundance and self-sacrifice.  Our once-stony hearts become hearts of flesh, alive and vibrant, ready and willing to be and do all that God asks of us in every facet of our lives.  A mystical heart is one that is moved to quiet and solitude when necessary, but also action and service when it is warranted.  It is a heart that is in waiting – waiting for God’s beckoning and discerning His will for us to respond, sometimes boldly and sometimes gently.  It is a heart that is not afraid of the periods of aridity in prayer, but one that also does not seek exuberance in spiritual experiences.  It is content with a holy indifference, always quietly waiting and yet simultaneously seeking God.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Taking Offense: An Enemy of Truth

Taking Offense: An Enemy of Truth

Taking offense certifies the modern man as one who cares. If we take offense on behalf of another we can number ourselves among the sensitive and loving. If we take offense personally we can brandish a stop sign declaring to all that the offense must cease. In either case the offending words must stop and the conversation must end. For the modern lover never offends. Instead he unfailingly affirms. He affirms us with an “okay” that builds our self-esteem, engenders good feelings, and requires nothing of us beyond self-affirmation.
But can people who love one another do so by simply remaining inoffensive? Is the purpose of love to enhance good feelings and discourage bad feelings? WWJD? What would Jesus do? Frequently, we find a modern interpretation of Jesus that would indeed prioritize feelings, one that asserts “I gotta be me” and “you gotta be you” because, after all, God made us that way and He wouldn’t want to offend us. The fact that the “I” that one has to be frequently walks over the “you” that somebody else must be seems largely irrelevant to the modern man. Jesus would certainly love. But what does that mean?
Because we are imperfect humans with our hidden biases, discerning what Jesus would do is more difficult that it seems. However, we can begin with the most basic assumption of love: we do not hurt others. But is being offended equal to being hurt? Certainly, some people offend with the intent to hurt and this is certainly contrary to love. The subjective act of one’s being offended, however, does not necessarily impugn the love of the one offending. Nobody offends the average teenager more than his parents, the ones who love him the most. A parent who does not offend his or her child’s sensibilities either has the perfect child or has decided that good feelings are more important than challenging the child. Children growing into adults get things wrong before they get them right, whether it be math or morals. The problem is not that the child needs correcting. Correction is the simple give and take of learning that every child requires. The problem is a childlike pride or inflated self-esteem which makes the process offensive to the child. A mother and father do not intend to offend but to engender the greater good of the child. It is a parent’s job to expose the falsehood in both poor arithmetic and the purloined lollipop. A child who sees love in correction will grow up understanding the contradiction between taking offense and seeking truth. A child unable to move beyond personal affront will always find the truth elusive.
Returning to “What would Jesus do?” the gospels clearly tell us that to love and not offend are certainly not synonymous. Whether you believe in Jesus’s divinity or you think Him simply a wonderful man, He set a standard by which love is judged across religions and across cultures. The modern world loves to claim the Jesus of the Beatitudes as the very essence of caring and love, forgetting that the same Jesus died lonely and forsaken on the cross, not to the crowd’s acclaim but to its disdain. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen in his Life of Christ makes clear that there is no disconnect between the two. Living the Beatitudes leads to the cross. In his introduction to the chapter on the Beatitudes, he wrote, “But let any man put these Beatitudes into practice in his own life, and he too will draw down upon himself the wrath of the world.” Innocent people who do not offend are not crucified. But an innocent man who speaks the truth with his life and with his words regardless of personal cost will offend those challenged by that truth. Not only do we see in Jesus that one who loves may offend, but that offense is in the very nature of love. In the very act of loving, Jesus called out the deceptions of those they seduced. Those offended demanded not a conversation but a crucifixion.
If it is the truth we seek we must pursue a conversation and not a crucifixion. A society that elevates disagreement to offense will not remain free. By its very nature the false promise demands approval. It cannot stand eye to eye with the truth but must dissemble and discredit it by other means. By its very nature it shuts the conversation down and demands the truth be crucified. Because a falsehood exposed quickly dies, the best deceptions cloak themselves in the guise of love. They are truth distorted, wolves in sheep’s clothing. They appeal to our goodness, telling us what we want to hear and blinding us to things we prefer unseen. Their cunning deceptions offer us a new truth, painting real truth as antiquated and outdated, something for another time, another place, and another people. However, all false promises destroy love. Love and truth go hand in hand. In Jesus love and truth are inseparable. To see one is to see the other. Destroy one and you destroy the other.
Destroying truth requires guile. Great deceptions appear as goodness to those seduced. Assuming the pain of one offended throws a defensive wall around one’s beliefs, immediately calling the love of the offender into question and placing the one aggrieved on high ground. But is it really high ground to demean the intentions of the other and condemn them as hateful? Frequently, the very person who has so judged and condemned another as less loving than himself is the first—when his behavior has been called into question—to declare, “do not judge.” To take offense and to condemn the offender shuts down the conversation and declares the other unworthy. The party that fears it is losing the argument is more likely to shut down the conversation. Reasoned debate often leads to uncomfortable truths.
No one is more likely to shut down a conversation than a man with a chip on his shoulder. Men in every age ably find chips to put on their own shoulders. Our age produces chips in industrial quantities and offers them gratuitously to all comers. A man no longer needs to find and cultivate his own chip. Today’s “reformers” will seek him out and give him one fully grown. But every chip placed invites offense. Every chip placed gives its recipient a reason to feel cheated and offended. Every chip placed shuts down, a little bit more, the conversation that leads to truth. This is the antithesis of love. Each chip centers a man on himself. The man placing the chip on the shoulder of another can marvel at his own goodness while actually giving nothing of his own. The man receiving the chip sees only the invoice due, not the gift to be given.
Love begins with each man freely removing the chip from his own shoulder. The rich man removes the chip that tells him, “I owe nothing to nobody.” The poor man removes the chip that proclaims to the rich man, “You owe me.” Only with both chips freely removed can the rich man and poor man enter into a conversation, a conversation that leads them to a relationship based on the gift each has to offer. Only when all men, male or female, black or white, rich or poor, or any given x and opposing y, have freely removed the chips from their own shoulders can we truly begin to see good people seeking good in a world of false propositions. Only then can a real conversation begin.
Conversations seeking truth require free speech. But truth is not only threatened when speech is restricted. Even silence offends those enslaved by deception. The ascendant lie, the one whose power reaches into a culture’s very core, cannot be ameliorated by silence. Pervasive deceptions require approval, not simple acquiescence. The distortions of Henry VIII required the life of his friend Thomas More, whose conscientious silence Henry refused to accept, demanding instead More’s public approval. In the twentieth century the falsehood that men could be forcefully molded into more perfect men assumed form in communism and fascism. These hubristic barbarisms raised the art of oppression to new levels of inhumanity as nations turned in on themselves, slaughtered large parts of their own populations, and forcefully “re-educated” those remaining. Those still standing were required to live the lie, to goose-step in unison to it, and to turn on neighbors who did not bow to it. There is no sanctuary in what is false, not even in silence.
Good deceptions sedate us before they enslave us. However, it is the very nature of truth to offend, to elicit the cry, “Crucify him!” But, unlike deception, truth cannot take offense without belying itself. Truth sees both the deception and the tragedy of love deceived. That tragedy permits no offense, only sorrow. Truth will die and triumph on a cross before it takes offense. Even though He was the one without sin, the one truly qualified to take offense and to throw stones, Jesus accepted the cross with all its loneliness: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) Contrarily, the unrepentant criminal repudiated the cross and cried, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39)
Truth is not a blunt weapon wielded to bludgeon the deceived. Truth offers more love to those who love incompletely. It rescues good people caught in great deceits. We offer truth, one fellow traveler to another, not to strike one down but to raise the fallen up and to help them on their way. Once embraced, truth is a gift that must be offered. To grasp it as ours alone transforms it into something false. Following Pentecost, the Apostles went forth bearing gifts, not swords. The gift was a truth so compelling they could not contain it. They must pass it on. Doing so brought the wrath of the world on their heads, with each martyred in turn.
The gift of the Apostles is the same gift we must seek and then pass on. To see a fellow traveler mired in a mud of deception he cannot see and not offer him the light he needs extinguishes the very light one carries. To offer a light expecting gratitude is to misunderstand the blindness of the mired traveler. Only when the falsehood is killed will he see and understand. If it is truly truth that is offered, the untruth will rage before it dies. One who carries the truth will not see an enemy to be conquered but a man enslaved. He will meet the fury of a lie exposed with the patience of Jesus carrying the cross.
Every age has a false promise with a conversation to shut down. The twentieth century holocausts burned through humanity on the false promise that some men could remake other men. The deceptive promise of the twenty-first century proposes that each man can remake himself into whatever he wants. This is the pernicious promise of the Sexual Revolution with its deceptive allure of “love” and “freedom.” Nothing offends like a critique of modern sexuality. Suggesting error in any of its various facets, whether it be contraception, abortion, gay marriage or the now ever multiplying number of genders, elicits cries of hate, bigotry or homophobia.
The Sexual Revolution tells us that we can destroy our own progeny in the womb and call it good, that a man or woman can “find” his or herself at the expense of others, and that the life-denying act of sodomy is equal to the life creating sexual act. Against Humanae Vitae it has raged and railed, declaring it offensive to the newly understood sexuality, effectively removing it from discussion even in Catholic churches. But a deception’s defense through taking offense is simply a beginning. The Sexual Revolution now seeks the participation of all through mandated insurance policies that have clothed the wolf of moral choices with a sheep’s clothing of medical need. Its advocates declare all objections as religion writ large, as superstition properly banished behind church doors, unworthy of a hearing in the public square. The Revolution insists itself triumphant. It demands the conversation end.
Truth requires conversation. There is no freedom without the free pursuit of truth. And without freedom, there is no love. Love requires choices freely made. Love requires truth because truth leads us to love. When we deny truth we deny love. As love cannot compel, neither does truth. Truth proposes and never demands. It sees the love we strive for and points us to even greater love. Its pursuit requires a conversation where offense is neither intended nor taken. Ultimately, truth tells us who we are and where we are going. Strangely, in a time when every man declares the right to define himself, we are on the verge of closing that conversation down. In a world seeking truth, that is truly offensive.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Failing to 'see' the Supernatural in Life is Insanity

Is Bill Gates Insane?

Over the last few days Catholic radar screens have picked up an interview Bill Gates had with Rolling Stone magazine. Here are the questions and answers that have some Catholics talking:
RS: You’re a technologist, but a lot of your work now with the foundation has a moral dimension. Has your thinking about the value of religion changed over the years?
BG: The moral systems of religion, I think, are super-important. We’ve raised our kids in a religious way; they’ve gone to the Catholic church that Melinda goes to and I participate in. I’ve been very lucky, and therefore I owe it to try and reduce the inequity in the world. And that’s kind of a religious belief. I mean, it’s at least a moral belief.
RS: Do you believe in God?
BG: I agree with people like Richard Dawkins that mankind felt the need for creation myths. Before we really began to understand disease and the weather and things like that, we sought false explanations for them. Now science has filled in some of the realm—not all—that religion used to fill. But the mystery and the beauty of the world is overwhelmingly amazing, and there’s no scientific explanation of how it came about. To say that it was generated by random numbers, that does seem, you know, sort of an uncharitable view [laughs]. I think it makes sense to believe in God, but exactly what decision in your life you make differently because of it, I don’t know.
. . . . .
So what do we have here?
The Gates’s children go the Catholic parish that Melinda Gates attends. Bill sometimes attends too, but apparently not out of conviction. He subscribes to the myth (that’s what it is) that ancient man took up religion because he was afraid of things he saw around him in nature and that science largely has supplanted religion because science can explain just about everything (though Gates admits that science can’t explain “the mystery and beauty of the world”).
I think there is less substance here than some Catholic bloggers are finding. If you think about it, the wealthiest man in the world doesn’t have any more insight into that world than does the random man on the street—perhaps even less, if, like so many people wrapped up in technology, his mind is occupied with gadgets rather than with The Meaning of Things.
We do know that, while Melinda Gates is a Catholic, she hardly can be termed a solid Catholic. The foundation that she and Bill run is a major underwriter of abortion and abortion propaganda. So long as Bill and Melinda Gates send their money in that direction, we can be sure that their hearts and minds are not yet close to the heart and mind of the Church, even if they pass through a church door every Sunday.
The problem, at least with Bill Gates—perhaps also with Melinda, but she wasn’t interviewed so it’s harder to tell—is that he isn’t quite sane. Before you mistake what I’m saying, let me say that I’m making use of something Frank Sheed said in what I think was his best book, Theology and Sanity.
His very first sentence reads, “My concern in this book is not with the will but with the intellect, not with sanctity but with sanity.” A few pages later he says, “To overlook God’s presence is not simply to be irreligious; it is a kind of insanity, like overlooking anything else that is actually there. . . . God is not only a fact of religion: he is a fact. Not to see him is to be wrong about everything, which includes being wrong about one’s self.”
Sheed goes on to note that modern man, who thinks himself supremely sane, is ignorant of or actually rejects half of reality: the supernatural half. In this sense modern man can be said to be insane, and Bill Gates is a supremely modern man.
While he may tag along with his family to church, Gates seems to have no real appreciation of the supernatural. For him, the natural seems super enough. In this he is like many people, so this is not to lay special blame on him.
In the way Sheed was using the term, and in the way that I’m using the term, we can say that many people we run across are insane: They see and accept the natural or the visible; they don’t see and so reject the supernatural or the invisible. Because they reject half of reality, they end up having to live myths of their own making.
This article is reprinted with permission from our friends at Catholic Answers.
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