Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Saints and Overcoming Grief

The Saints and Overcoming Grief

The Saints and Overcoming Grief

You will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice;
you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy….
I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice,
and no one will take your joy from you.
John 16:20, 22

A talented painter once gave an unforgettable performance in front of an admiring audience. With rapid strokes of his brush, he quickly and skillfully painted a beautiful country scene, replete with green meadows, golden fields of grain, farm buildings in the distance, peaceful trees, and a friendly blue sky punctuated with soft, white clouds. As he stepped back from his easel, the audience burst into appreciative applause — only to be silenced by the art­ist, who announced, “The picture is not complete.”

He turned and began rapidly covering the canvas with dark, somber paints. The peaceful country scene was replaced with blotches of morose, unappealing colors, all seemingly thrown on the canvas in random disorder; only a patch of the blue sky and the peaceful countryside remained. “Now,” he asserted, “the pic­ture is finished, and it is perfect.” The stunned audience looked on in disbelief; no one understood what had just happened. Then the painter turned the canvas on its side, and the onlookers let out a collective gasp of amazement, for now there appeared before their eyes a stunningly beautiful, dark waterfall, cascading over moss-covered rocks and creating a rich symphony of color.

The artist intended his amazing and unexpected demonstration to be a commentary or reflection on the reality of sorrow: one beau­tiful scene of life was transformed into another, even as observers wrongly believed something wonderful was forever lost. The mean­ing of this story is simple: God is the Artist who created our lives, and who desires to make them into something permanent and glo­rious; and sorrow and loss are often His instruments in bringing about this change. From our limited perspective, we believe that the original picture is fine as it is, and that any change, especially a painful one, can only be for the worse. The Lord, however, sees and understands the possibilities of life and eternity far more com­pletely than we ever will, and if we allow it, He is able to use all the events and experiences of our lives — even the dark and somber ones — to bring about something of lasting and unequaled beauty.

Grief over any serious loss — especially the death of a loved one — is a very heavy cross to bear, and we’re certainly not ex­pected to see right away how the dark colors of our mourning can be transformed into the joyous hues of eternity. The Lord doesn’t ask that we understand, only that we trust. This, too, can be quite difficult. Even some of the saints found their grief to be nearly overwhelming, but they persevered in their faith and eventually found peace and even joy in their sorrow. This is a hope that Jesus offers to us as well.

St. Francis de Sales came from a large family, and although he was often somewhat melancholy, he experienced great happiness in spending time with those he loved. This was especially true in regard to his youngest sister, Jeanne, who was born three days before his Ordination to the priesthood. Hers was the first Bap­tism St. Francis performed, and he always had a special fondness for her, so it was a terrible blow when she died suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of fifteen, while visiting the home of St. Jane Frances de Chantal and her family. Francis, by then a bishop, expressed his profound grief in these words: “I am nothing if not a man. My heart has been broken in a way that I could not have be­lieved possible.”

St. Jane, who understandably felt very guilty over the girl’s death (even though it was in no way her fault), had herself drunk deeply from the cup of sorrow some years earlier. Her beloved husband, Christophe, was shot by a friend in a hunting accident. He was carried home, but there was nothing the doctors could do for him, and after nine painful days, he died. During this no­vena of suffering, Christophe resigned himself to the will of God and freely forgave his friend. Jane, however, was unable to react in such a holy manner. In her desperation she bargained with God: “Take everything I have, my relatives, my belongings, my chil­dren, but leave me my husband!” This prayer, of course, was not answered, and it was many years before the future saint (under the influence of St. Francis de Sales) was able to forgive her husband’s hunting partner from her heart.
The grief St. Jane experienced made it possible for her years later to write this advice to her own daughter, who was herself grieving over the death of a husband: “My greatest wish is that you live like a true Christian widow, unpretentious in your dress and actions, and especially reserved in your relationships. . . . I know very well, darling, of course, that we can’t live in the world with­out enjoying some of its pleasures, but take my word for it, dearest, you won’t find any really lasting joys except in God, in living vir­tuously, in raising your children well, in looking after their affairs, and in managing your household. If you seek happiness elsewhere, you will experience much anguish, as I well know.”

Another saint well acquainted with grief and loss, one we would rightly call a “man of sorrows,” was Alphonsus Rodriguez. He was fourteen when he lost his father; when he was twenty-six, his wife died in childbirth. A few years later, his mother and his young son died, and shortly after this, his business failed. The grieving saint wrote, “I put myself in spirit before our crucified Lord, looking at Him full of sorrow, shedding His Blood and bear­ing great bodily hardships for me. As love is paid for in love, I must imitate Him, sharing in spirit all His sufferings. I must consider how much I owe Him and what He has done for me. Putting these sufferings between God and my soul, I must say, ‘What does it mat­ter, my God, that I should endure for Your love these small hard­ships? For You, Lord, endured so many great hardships for me.’ Amid the hardship and trial itself, I stimulate my heart with this exercise. Thus, I encourage myself to endure for love of the Lord, who is before me, until I make what is bitter sweet.”

This heroic act of resignation helped St. Alphonsus Rodriguez bear a very heavy cross of grief, although later in life, as a Jesuit lay brother, he still had much to suffer (including spiritual aridity, vio­lent temptations, and even demonic assaults).

A somewhat similar approach was used by St. Teresa of Avila, who was only thirteen when her mother died. Teresa consoled herself by thinking each night of our Lord’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemani. In her grief, she also turned to the Virgin Mary. She later wrote, “When I began to realize what I had lost, I went in my distress to an image of our Lady and with many tears besought her to be mother to me. Although I did this in my simplicity, I believe it was of some avail to me; for whenever I have commended myself to this sovereign Virgin, I have been conscious of her aid; and eventually she brought me back to myself.”
Sorrow is often unavoidable in this life, but our response of faith and hope in eternal life can bring us a measure of peace. God knows everything we feel; no tear is unnoticed, and none need be wasted, for as St. Pio once said to a grieving person, “Your tears were collected by the angels and were placed in a gold chalice, and you will find them when you present yourself before God.”
Nothing of value is permanently lost — especially not our loved ones, and the love we share with them — if we have faith in God. As St. Paulinus of Nola writes, “Granted our love may weep for a time, but our faith must ever rejoice. We should long for those who have been sent before us, but we should not lose hope of gaining them back.”

Our Christian Faith teaches us that the separations from our loved ones caused by death are temporary; we’re also taught that humbly bearing our burdens — including the burden of grief — is a valuable and even heroic way of growing in God’s grace. As St. Teresa of Avila notes, “We always find that those who walked clos­est to Christ, our Lord, were those who had to bear the greatest trials.” Our suffering and grief can lead us to everlasting joy, for as St. John Vianney tells us, “You must accept your cross; if you carry it courageously, it will carry you to Heaven.”

As much as we’d like to when we’re grieving, we cannot undo the past, but the saints assure us that turning to the Lord in our sorrows and placing our hopes in Him can give us strength here and now, and help prepare us for a future of new life and joy.

For Further Reflection

“It is a loving act to show sadness when our dear ones are torn from us, but it is a holy act to be joyful through hope and trust in the promises of God. . . . Thankful joy is more acceptable to God than long and querulous grief.” — St. Paulinus of Nola

“No picture can be drawn with only the brightest colors, nor har­mony created only from treble notes. . . . Our whole life is tem­pered between sweet and sour, and we must look for a mixture of both.” — Bl. Robert Southwell

“The more we are afflicted in this world, the greater is our assur­ance in the next; the more we sorrow in the present, the greater will be our joy in the future.” — St. Isidore of Seville

Something You Might Try

  • Elizabeth of the Trinity advises, “During painful times, when you feel a terrible void, think how God is enlarging the ca­pacity of your soul so that it can receive Him — making it, as it were, infinite as He is infinite. Look upon each pain as a love-token coming directly from God in order to unite you to Him.” We needn’t believe that God causes our grief, but we can be sure that, if we allow it, He uses our sorrow, thereby giving us a greater capacity for the future happiness that awaits us. The Lord doesn’t ask that you stop grieving; He asks only that you trust in Him and believe that the day will come when you will once again rejoice.
  • When her husband died after a long illness, leaving her with five young children, a grieving St. Elizabeth Ann Seton prayed, “I know that these contradictory events are permitted by Your wis­dom, which solely is light. We are in darkness and must be thank­ful that our knowledge is not wanted to perfect Your work.” As your grief begins to pass, look for opportunities to allow God’s light to shine in your life. Consider joining a support group — people with whom you can share tears and laughter. Look for an organization or group (perhaps in your parish) that needs volun­teers; activities of this sort can be a way of finding new meaning and making new friends. Cultivate a deeper relationship with Jesus and with Mary, who knew what it was to grieve, and to remain faithful in spite of grief. Being open to God’s grace in these ways can slowly begin to replace darkness and mourning with light and peace.
Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a chapter in Fr. Esper’s More Saintly Solutionswhich is available from Sophia Institute Press
Fr. Joseph M. Esper


Fr. Joseph Esper studied at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit and at St. John’s Provincial Seminary in Plymouth, Michigan. He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit in 1982. He has lectured at Marian conferences, spoken on Catholic radio, and written more than a dozen articles for This Rock, The Priest, Homiletic, Pastoral Review, and other publications. From his experience as a parish priest, Fr. Esper offers today’s readers practical, encouraging, and inspiring wisdom.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Sum up what Obama has done to destroy America!

Jeff Foxworthy’s ‘idiots’ joke BEST way to sum up what Obama has done to America

Comedian Jeff Foxworthy took a huge swipe at the Obama administration in his own signature style.
Although it’s been out there for a few months, a Foxworthy fan re-posted the dig to the jokester’s Facebook page as a nudge — maybe to get him to officially add it to his stand-up routine.
It goes like this:
If you can get arrested for hunting or fishing without a license, but not for entering and remaining in the country illegally — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots. …
If you have to get your parents’ permission to go on a field trip or to take an aspirin in school, but not to get an abortion — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.
If you MUST show your identification to board an airplane, cash a check, buy liquor, or check out a library book and rent a video, but not to vote for who runs the government — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.
If the government wants to prevent stable, law-abiding citizens from owning gun magazines that hold more than ten rounds, but gives twenty F-16 fighter jets to the crazy new leaders in Egypt — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.
If, in the nation’s largest city, you can buy two 16-ounce sodas, but not one 24-ounce soda, because 24-ounces of a sugary drink might make you fat — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.
If an 80-year-old woman or a three-year-old girl who is confined to a wheelchair can be strip-searched by the TSA at the airport, but a woman in a burka or a hijab is only subject to having her neck and head searched — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.
If your government believes that the best way to eradicate trillions of dollars of debt is to spend trillions more — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.
If a seven-year-old boy can be thrown out of school for saying his teacher is “cute,” but hosting a sexual exploration or diversity class in grade school is perfectly acceptable — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.
If hard work and success are met with higher taxes and more government regulation and intrusion, while not working is rewarded with Food Stamps, WIC checks, Medicaid benefits, subsidized housing, and free cell phones — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.
If the government’s plan for getting people back to work is to provide incentives for not working, by granting 99 weeks of unemployment checks, without any requirement to prove that gainful employment was diligently sought, but couldn’t be found — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.
If you pay your mortgage faithfully, denying yourself the newest big-screen TV, while your neighbor buys iPhones, time shares, a wall-sized do-it-all plasma screen TV and new cars, and the government forgives his debt when he defaults on his mortgage — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.
If being stripped of your Constitutional right to defend yourself makes you more “safe” according to the government — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses but is run by idiots.
What a country!

Halloween: Neither A Trick Nor A Treat

Halloween: Neither A Trick Nor A Treat

Halloween: Neither A Trick Nor A Treat

Old and New ExperiencesThere are certain joyful events in our life which are deeply embedded in our memory. Some of those events are associated with particular celebrations or holidays. One such holiday is Halloween which has become part of every American child’s life experience. Interestingly, though, this holiday did not originate in America. It has come to us from Britain and Ireland, where ancient Celtic tribes observed a harvest feast on October 31 to mark the end of their old year, and the beginning of winter, and their new year on November 1. The Celts believed that in the late hours of October 31, the souls of the dead would come back to haunt their former homes, and those who now lived in them. Consequently, people would put on masks and other costumes, so that the dead would not be able to recognize them.
Fixing Things UpThis pagan view of the dead, as menacing ghosts who come to scare the living, was completely foreign to Biblical teaching, and Divine Revelation, as it has come down to us from our Lord through the Apostles in the Catholic Church. With the spread of Christianity, one of the ways to stem such pagan beliefs about the deceased was to move the Feast of All Saints (which had been celebrated on various dates) to November 1 with the commemoration of the souls in Purgatory (All Souls Day) on November 2. This change in the Catholic calendar took place gradually in the second half of the first millennium. Christians have always honored the saints who are in Heaven, and at the same time, have prayed for the souls of the deceased who were not yet in Heaven, but remained in Purgatory for the purpose of their total purification. Nevertheless, even with the Feast of All Saints and All Souls Day firmly established in the Church’s calendar, popular folklore would retain some elements from the pagan Celtic October 31 harvest feast. Moreover, people even started referring to this observance as “All Hallows’ Eve”—the Evening before All Saints. This is how the ancient pagan celebration took on a Catholic name, while never really having anything to do with Catholicism. As time went by, the Celtic harvest feast was transformed into the present children’s version of Halloween: little boys and girls (and sometimes adults) would wear masks and dress up in costumes of devils, goblins, witches, black cats, and vampires to represent evil spirits which—as the Celts believed—would come to haunt people. This way Halloween has simply become nothing more than an expression of children’s imagination, and an occasion for fun and games. So that’s all there is to it. Right? 
Not QuiteEverything which has been said thus far is part of the general knowledge about Halloween which is easily accessible. Even if some people are unaware of the historical background of the holiday, they can look it up in any encyclopedia, or on the Internet. But there is one important source of information about Halloween that very few people tap into. It is called: Exorcists.
Why Exorcists? As soon as a lot of people hear the word “exorcist,” the first thing which comes to their mind is a Hollywood movie with this title, or maybe a thriller they watched somewhere. Even many Catholics do not realize that exorcists are Roman Catholic priests, appointed officially by the Diocesan Bishop to help people who are possessed or infested by the devil. Diabolical possession is something so serious and difficult to overcome, that only a priest-exorcist who has the authority to expel evil spirits can help get rid of it. Exorcisms performed by such priests consist of a series of prayers and blessings whose purpose is to force the devil out of a possessed person’s body. But exorcisms are nothing new: they are well attested to in Scripture. In addition, experience shows that cases of diabolical possession have sky-rocketed in our times all over the world. 
So What Do Exorcisms Have To Do With Halloween?Some priest-exorcists have been sharing their vast experience with the wide public, and have made it known that during exorcisms, Satan usually speaks through the possessed person. The devil makes known certain things which a lot of people would normally not be aware of. One of the important pieces of information which has been gathered during exorcisms has to do with Halloween. As it turns out, the night between October 31 and November 1 is a time when, all over the world, Satanic practice is on the increase, because on that night, the greatest number of satanic rituals are performed, especially so-called demonic “black masses” which are celebrated with the use of animal or even human sacrifice. So someone may say: “Okay, fair enough, but I have nothing to do with it. My children have nothing to do with it. How does this concern me and my children, if what we are doing on Halloween is just a game with my kids wearing all kinds of funny costumes?”
The Core of the Problem Dressing up in costumes that stand for demons, goblins, witches, and vampires is not the same as putting on a mask with the face of J. F. Kennedy, or a shirt similar to the one used by Elvis Presley. Exorcists have been finding out that when we start playing with something that resembles Satan, and his demons, we open ourselves to these malevolent creatures’ influence, which is not just something psychological or intellectual in nature.1 Satan sees such behavior as an invitation on our part: an open door to his evil spiritual influence on the minds and souls of human beings. As exorcists confirm unequivocally, even if we are not consciously seeking demonic influence, it is still possible for us to be dangerously affected by it. Actually, it is a lot easier for the devil to enter into the mind of those who think nothing of things that “innocently” resemble the devil. So while it is true that there is an unhealthy intellectual and psychological aspect which negatively influences children dressing up in costumes of demons, witches, goblins, and vampires, there is an even more serious area which we should be concerned about: the spiritual aspect of demonic activity which appears innocent and harmless. It becomes more dangerous, because the innocent appearance of evil desensitizes us to what we are dealing with. Let us never forget that it is not only members of Satanic cults who enter into a spiritual relationship with Satan. A spiritual relationship with the devil can take place in various degrees. It does not always have to end up in diabolical possession. But, as exorcists warn, exposing kids to something which has some kind of a demonic connotation, draws the risk of entering into a relationship with the devil. It is like a slightly open window that a thief sees from a distance: for him it a signal which he interprets as an invitation to enter into the house. Dressing up children in costumes of all kinds of evil spirits and creatures, hanging pumpkins outside the house with evil faces carved on them, is like sending an invitation card to the devil by express mail. We can be assured that the devil will get interested in the invitation. But once he comes, it will not be that easy to fend him off.
So What Shall We Do?We can try to imagine the following situation. Let’s say we see a freshly baked delicious cake, but we do not know that someone laced it with poison. We start eating it. Will the fact that we are not aware of the poison prevent us from getting sick, or even dying? Of course not. The poisonous effects will take their course regardless of our will or our awareness of what’s inside the cake. This is precisely what happens with Halloween, but with one exception. We are fortunate to have the information which more and more priest-exorcists are sharing about its tremendous danger. Knowing what we know now, who in his right mind would want to dress up his children in costumes of demonic creatures? Parents’ concerns should go in a totally different direction. Have we ever wondered why so many young people start drinking, taking drugs, fall into depression, end up in a bad company, and even commit suicide? Parents often say: “What have we done wrong? We have always tried to give our children a lot of love; we taught them respect and proper behavior. So what went wrong?”
While each situation could be analyzed separately, parents may be wise to ask themselves whether throughout the years that their children were growing up, they might have senselessly and naively exposed them to Satan’s influence which had appeared as something innocent, but was actually infiltrating their kids’ minds and souls more and more. We must never take the devil lightly. Playing with fire is neither a game nor a joke. But knowing this is not enough to protect ourselves from demonic influence. It is also necessary to be in the state of grace, and to be strengthened by the frequent reception of the Sacraments – especially Holy Communion and Confession. It is also important to wear the Miraculous Medal of the Blessed Virgin Mary and to have Holy Water in the house. We know for certain that the devil stays away from homes which have a crucifix in a prominent location on the wall and saints’ images hanging in various places in the house—with a pride of place given to the image of the Divine Mercy, the Sacred Heart, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. All these things are crucially important in order to create an environment where all the members of the household are protected. Exorcists tell us that Satan does not visit homes where family members pray the Rosary together, where the Bible as well as the Catechism are read regularly, and where all in the family practice their faith diligently.
St. Paul’s ReminderSt. Paul writes in his Letter to the Ephesians that:
 …our struggle is not with flesh and blood, but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. (Eph. 6:12-13). 
Let’s face it: the “world” is at war with Christ, but it’s not just the world that we see on TV news reports. There is also an invisible evil world out there that we have to know about, and we cannot be naïve about its impact. Satan exists, but in order to harm us, he first has to create the impression that he exists only in our imagination, as a naughty creature with harmless horns, and a long tail. While it is true that there is no such thing as ghosts, or spirits of dead people coming to haunt us, it is also true that there are demons who are not the souls of the dead, but evil spirits whose only aim is to ruin us spiritually.
Doing The Right ThingIt is good to hear that more and more parishes and Catholic schools in America move away from Halloween for the above reasons, and put a greater emphasis on All Saints Day. On this occasion children are encouraged to dress up as the true heroes of history: saints and biblical figures. Nevertheless, while this is a good idea, it is also important for priests, religious, and parents to remember that this is a separate celebration from Halloween. Unfortunately, when children are exposed to minimum, or no spirituality in the home, it is no wonder that they are going to feel bad, and be surprised when other children, whom they know celebrate Halloween, while their own parents tell them that Halloween is not something good. Children will spontaneously, and more easily understand, that there is something wrong with Halloween when they start praying the Rosary, read the Bible, hear more about their patron saints, as well as guardian angels and, most importantly, when they look at their parents and see how devoutly they practice their Catholic faith. This is how the grace of God will work its way, not only into the child’s mind, but also into the child’s soul.
Teaching by Courageous ExampleOn September 13, 2015, a 43-year-old South African martyr, and a convert to Catholicism, by the name of Benedict Daswa, was declared blessed. He was a husband and a father of eight children. As a teacher and a school principle, he worked hard to spread the Catholic faith primarily through a virtuous life. Known for his opposition to occult practices, which were prevalent in the area where he lived, Benedict risked retaliation from those who insisted on adhering to devil worship. On February 2, 1990, while returning to his house, he was ambushed by a group of such people, who savagely clubbed him to death. As Benedict was dying, they gathered around him, and in an effort to increase his suffering, poured boiling water on his bleeding head, into his ears, nostrils, and mouth.
Sometimes, we may be under a lot of pressure to adhere to practices which have become so common that a mere opposition to them may draw a lot of criticism. All of us would like to have peace of mind, but at what cost? Blessed Benedict Daswa was a layman who would be the first one to remind priests, religious, and parents about the duty to be watchmen who have their eyes open. A good watchman sees danger when it approaches, but also has the courage to speak out, and resist anything that’s unbecoming to our Catholic faith. Let’s be prudent and vigilant. Let’s not be naïve at the face of the slightest semblance of evil. We cannot afford to be so. Our destiny ,and the destiny of our young people, may be at stake, both in this life and in the next.
  1. There are Catholic apologists, and other writers, who often refer to an interview with the Italian exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth, which took place fifteen years ago. At that time, when asked about Halloween, he said that “if English and American children like to dress up as witches and devils on one night of the year—that is not a problem. If it is just a game, there is no harm in that.” While I have not met Father Amorth in person, I know from priests who have met him that he has changed his opinion on this matter. He now insists—on the basis of exorcisms which he has performed—that Halloween is highly esteemed by Satan, because it brings him a great joy. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

VIDEO: Cardinal Arinze: People in objectively sinful situation can’t receive Communion ‘in good conscience’

VIDEO: Cardinal Arinze: People in objectively sinful situation can’t receive Communion ‘in good conscience’

Arinze, who is the prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, was reacting to an argument made last week by a Synod Father that the divorced and remarried, and even homosexual couples, should be permitted to receive Holy Communion, if they have "come to a decision" to do so "in good conscience.”
Arinze said that one’s conscience must to be trained in the ways of the Lord to make correct judgements.
“Conscience, according to Catholic teaching, is the dictate — immediate — of what is to be done or not to be done. Conscience directs the individual. Nevertheless, conscience has to be educated to see the ways of God, the Commandments of God, as authentically interpreted by the Church, which means conscience has to be educated, has to be trained,” he said.
Arinze went on to quote portions from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) that deals with conscience and to provide commentary on what the passages mean.
CCC Paragraph 1790: “A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself. Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.”
Arinze: “Which means, conscience does not make objective right and wrong, but only directs the person in what the person should do or not do. That conscience has to be educated, trained, if you wish,” he said.
CCC Paragraph 1791: “This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case when a man ‘takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin.’ In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits.”
Arinze: “That means it isn't enough that conscience says, ‘I can do this’ if that conscience has been made blind by repeated acts that are evil. Then the person is responsible for that erroneous conscience. That is also clear,” he said.
CCC Paragraph 1792: “Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example given by others, enslavement to one's passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church's authority and her teaching, lack of conversion and of charity: these can be at the source of errors of judgment in moral conduct.”
Arinze: “You can see then, if a person is always stealing, if a person is always telling lies, if a person is always committing acts against chastity, the person may begin to get accustomed to such acts and no longer call them by their names. But a priest or bishop has to help them, to call good ‘good’ and evil ‘evil.’ Which means, although conscience should be followed, conscience should be educated,” he said.
Arinze said that there are “objective norms of right and wrong,” no matter what the personal conscience may dictate to an individual.
“Suppose I say in my conscience, ‘I follow what conscience says.’ And I see that car and I'd like it. And my conscience tells me it would be nice for me to take that car. And I go and take it. Or, I go to the bank and take a big swipe of money. Is it enough that I say, ‘My conscience is right, it didn't blame me?’”
“The police would not be amused and the judge would clap you in prison, you and your conscience. You see? Conscience has to be educated. The objective norm of right and wrong is God's eternal wisdom, inserted in human nature, which we call natural law,” he said.
When asked what a minister of the sacrament of Holy Communion should do when approached by people living in an objectively sinful situation who say they feel right in their consciences to approach the sacrament, Arinze responded that such people need help to “realize their condition.”
“There is such a thing as objective evil and objective good. Christ said he who [divorces his wife] and marries another, Christ has one word for that action, ‘adultery.’ That's not my word. It is Christ's word himself, who is humble and meek in heart, who is eternal truth. So, he knows what he's saying.”
“Now, the best way we can help a person is with truth. So, it will be necessary in some charitable way, nice way, to help such people to realize their condition. It is not enough to leave them with their conscience,” he said.
The cardinal used the analogy of a medical doctor aiding a wounded patient to make his point.
“A good doctor who receives a patient with a big wound, a sore, knows what is to be done. Maybe clean some parts. Maybe some injections. Maybe medicines are to be administered.”
“But if the doctor says, ‘the patient says he doesn't like these measures, he's happier with a bandage’ and gets a nice bandage and bandages the wound, is he a good doctor? Does the wound get healed because the patient's conscience tells him that this is the nicest way to approach it?
“You see, reality does not respect what [a person and his conscience] thinks. So the doctor should treat that wound with the best medical science.”
“That's the way the doctor will show mercy to the patient,” he said. 

Arinze rebuts cardinal’s claim that Catholic faith is unrealistic: ‘Who do you think you are? Greater than Christ?’

Arinze rebuts cardinal’s claim that Catholic faith is unrealistic: ‘Who do you think you are? Greater than Christ?’

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Berlin and a leading advisor to Pope Francis, had said such activity should be judged according to “lived context,” and that such persons should be able to receive Holy Communion.
However, Cardinal Arinze told LifeSiteNews in a video interview on Saturday, “The Ten Commandments are given to us by God. Have we any authority to say it is ‘unrealistic’ to expect people to keep any of the Ten Commandments, not only number six and number nine, also number five – abortion, killing of innocent people, number seven – stealing, whether small sums of money or big?”
“We cannot go on the reasoning that it is ‘unrealistic,’” added the cardinal, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.  “You can say it is not easy. I accept that. Christ never promised us that it is easy to follow him. He said those who want to be his disciples must ‘take up their cross daily and follow me.’”
Last week Cardinal Marx told bishops from around the world gathered at the Synod on the Family in Rome that “we should seriously consider” admitting to the sacrament of Holy Communion civilly divorced and remarried Catholics who have chosen to leave a “canonically valid” marriage.
“The advice to refrain from sexual acts in the new relationship not only appears unrealistic to many. It is also questionable whether sexual actions can be judged independent of the lived context,” he stated in his address. LifeSiteNews asked Arinze to respond to this statement, without telling him whose mouth it came from.
Arinze said the position ultimately amounts to allowing people to reject God’s laws outright. If we can tell the divorced and remarried that they no longer have to follow the commandment about not committing adultery, then why should we not tell other people that they no longer have to follow the remaining commandments, he said.
“You might as well tell the man who is walking in the office, and his secretary is a lady, that it is unreasonable to expect them to be chaste,” he said. “Likewise, it would be ‘unreasonable’ to expect people to be honest when they see a chance to take government money, or to take another person's property.”
“If you say, we cannot expect people to be chaste in that situation — to refrain from sexual relations — then you are challenging the fundamental teaching that sexual relations are correct only between husband and wife in a proper marriage, and that between any other two people, it is wrong, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual. It is wrong because it is against the order established by God the Creator.”

God invented marriage

The cardinal said that the Catholic position on marriage and the moral norm against adultery is not a human invention that can be amended, but is a “divine law” that comes from God and therefore cannot be changed.
“You cannot name a situation which Christ did not foresee, nor can you tell us that you are wiser than Christ and that you can modify what he has said. We will then ask you, ‘who do think you are? Greater than Christ?’ He is the way the truth and the life,” he said.
Arinze said that nobody, not even the pope, has the power to change the Church’s teaching on marriage and adultery.
“Marriage is not a human invention. God created Adam, and God said, ‘it is not good for man to be alone.’ So, he created Eve. The first man and woman were created by God, which means marriage comes from the creating hands of God. It isn’t the pope who made it; it isn't the United Nations; it isn't the parliament of any nation — no matter how powerful — which means that nobody has the right, or even the power, to reinvent marriage.”

Divorced and remarried Catholics living in sin

Those Catholics who are civilly divorced and remarried are “technically in a state of sin, even if their conscience excuses them,” he said.
“There is such a thing as a state of mortal sin. Mortal sin is a total turning away from God. It is a terrible thing. It can be in reference to any of the Commandments, not only the sixth and the ninth,” he said.
Someone who is in the state of mortal sin is not worthy of receiving Jesus in Holy Communion, he said.
“In that case, the person disqualifies himself or herself from receiving Holy Communion because the person is in a state of mortal sin. The simple catechism says the first condition for receiving Holy Communion fruitfully is to be in the state of grace.”
“If the person is in the state of mortal sin, and receives Holy Communion, the person indeed receives Christ, but no grace…Not only no grace, but the person commits sacrilege on top of the sins the person had before.”
“That's the case where St. Paul said, ‘let the person examine  himself; he who receives unworthily receives judgment against himself.’ That is very severe,” he said.

Coming out of sin

Arinze said that receiving Jesus in Holy Communion when in the state of mortal sin can never be an occasion for helping someone come out of sin.
“To come out of sin the sacrament needed is penance, the one we popularly call confession. You go to the priest; you accept you did evil; you say it is through your fault; and you have determined, with God’s grace, to change. Then you get God's forgiveness. That helps."
“But if a person is in mortal sin and has no intention of leaving that action, then receiving Holy Communion does not help that person to become better, because sacrilege [has now been added] on top of the sin the person had before,” he said.
The cardinal said that living the Catholic faith authentically is not about “how we appear to other people,” but about “what God thinks of us.”
“All we have said now is about objective right and wrong,” he said, adding that only God alone can judge whether a person is culpable for the sins he or she has committed.
“Not even half a dozen Cardinals will judge that. God doesn't need our help to judge that. So you can see [the Catholic religion] is all about honesty and openness before God, not about what people think of us,” he said.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

“God, or Nothing!”: Exclusive Interview with Cardinal Robert Sarah

“God, or Nothing!”: Exclusive Interview with Cardinal Robert Sarah

Talking about mercy, sin, participation in the Church, and the urgent need to respect the Holy Eucharist

ROME — The prodigal son left home in order to say, “I’m independent, I’m autonomous from my father,” and his father wants to forgive him. But if he doesn’t return home, he can’t be forgiven. And returning home means leaving sin behind.
This was just one thought shared by Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, who spoke exclusively to Aleteia at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia last week.

Appointed Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in 2014, he was one of the first priests to be ordained in the West African nation of Guinea, and attributes his own faith to the generosity of the Spiritan missionaries, who came to his village in 1912.

Cardinal Sarah was one of the keynote speakers at last weeks World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. He delivered a well received address entitled: The Light of the Family in a Dark World.

In this interview, he discusses his new book God or Nothing, the scope of papal authority, and why authentic mercy depends on a “break” from evil, and repentance of sin.

 Your Eminence, your new book is entitled ‘God or Nothing’. Why did you choose this title, and what is the heart of the message of your book?

As you know, from the time just before the Second Vatican Council until now, God has been disappearing more and more; [for many] he no longer exists. No one is interested in Him, especially in the West. Already at the Council, they wanted to help the world to rediscover God.

The main idea of my book is how do we give God the first place in our thoughts, in our daily actions, and in our being, so that God truly returns to being our Father.

The economy is important, politics are important, many things are important, but if we lose God we are like a tree without roots: it dies. And therefore, the heart of the book is to put God first in my mind, in my daily actions, and in my being. In this way, man will not lose his roots.

Already in the Western culture, they say: “We don’t have Christian roots.” This is illogical. The culture, the architecture, the art: It’s all Christian. To deny what is clearly obvious is suicide.

I came to know God through the missionaries. Many of them died after one year on mission, or two, or three. They never survived longer than three years. They died of malaria, or some other illness. They sacrificed so much to proclaim God. And so I thought: If so many of them died, and if still today there are so many martyrs, it means that God is important in life.

Therefore, the heart of my book is this: How do we find God in what we are, in what we do, and in what we think?

But I also touch upon many issues and problems in the world today: issues and problems in the Church, issues in marriage, in the priesthood. All current issues that affect the life of the Church: mission, the Pope …

The Pope? In what sense?

I examine the role of the Pope. There is a chapter in which I talk about Pope Pius XII until Francis. The Pope’s role is to be the one to whom the Lord has entrusted the keys and the Church. “You are rock, Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church.”

Therefore, the Pope must be “Christ on earth” and protect the faith of Christians. He must help to preserve the faith, to safeguard and preserve what the Church has always lived from the beginning until now. He is the rock. If the rock isn’t solid, it can be difficult for Christians because they don’t have any protection. Until now, all of the popes have sought to secure and safeguard the faith of Christians.

Pope Francis often speaks about the economy, the environment, immigration, etc. How should the faithful rightly understand a pope’s statements on these matters?

If the Pope speaks about the economy or politics, it is not his field of expertise. He can offer his vision or opinion, but it’s not dogma. He can err. But what he says about Christ, about the Sacraments, about the faith must be considered as sure.

If he speaks about the environment, the climate, the economy, immigrants, etc., he is working from information that may be correct, or mistaken, but [in these cases] he is speaking as Obama speaks, or another president. It doesn’t mean that what he says on the economy is dogma, something we need to follow. It’s an opinion.

But, if what he says is illustrated and illumined by the Gospel, then we ought to regard it seriously. “God wills this; this is what the Bible says”. Or “God wills that; this is what the Gospel says”. Thus politics is illumined, the economy is illumined by the Gospel. That, too, has some surety because it is not his own thought. It is the thinking of the Bible, the mind of God.

For me, it’s clear that the Pope cannot not speak about these issues. But when he does, he is saying what any Head of State can say without it being the Word of God. We need to distinguish.

Here at the World Meeting of Families, you delivered a keynote address entitled ‘The Light of the Family in a Dark World’. You spoke about the threats the family faces, from both outside and within the Church. Regarding the latter, you said: “Even members of the Church can be tempted to soften Christ’s teaching on marriage and the family, and to curious and varying degrees the idea that would consist in placing the Magisterium in a pretty box and separating it from pastoral practice, which could involve, according to circumstances, fashions and impulses is a form of heresy, a dangerous schizophrenic pathology.” Can you clarify what you mean?

For example, some bishops say that — regarding marriage — when two people have separated, we need to see if we can give them Holy Communion even if, for example, they have entered into a second marriage. This isn’t possible, because God has said there can be only one marriage. If they are separated, they can’t enter into another marriage. If they do so, they cannot receive Communion.

But now, some are saying, that this may be done in order “to care for them pastorally, to heal them …,” but we can’t heal someone without truly curing him, without reconciling him with God.

If someone has already entered into a second marriage, it’s difficult to cure him. We cannot abandon him; certainly we can accompany him, saying: you should continue to pray and go to Mass; you must form your children in the Christian faith; you can participate in parish activities and charitable service. But you can’t receive Communion.

That is why I say we mustn’t separate doctrine from pastoral practice, thereby claiming to bring healing, because one can’t bring healing in this way.

Some prelates argue that allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion would be an act of mercy. Why in your view would allowing those who are divorced and remarried to receive Holy Communion not be an act of mercy?

Because mercy requires repentance. If I’ve done something wrong, I repent. If I did something wrong, in order to repent I have to break with the evil I’ve done. This is mercy.
Take the prodigal son, for example. He left home in order to say, “I’m independent, I’m autonomous from my father”. The father wants to forgive him, but if the prodigal son doesn’t return home, he can’t be forgiven. To be forgiven, he has to renounce his life and return home. This is mercy. If he remains far from home, he can’t receive mercy. Therefore, in order to receive mercy, one has to break with sin.

And why can’t the father go out and live with the son where he is?

Because the house is here; not somewhere out there. The son has to return home. If he returns home, he has left his independence, his sin. In the Gospel, the son returns home, saying: “I am your son, I am not worthy, but take me as a servant.” This is repentance. If there’s no repentance, there’s no mercy.

The same is true when Jesus went to the house of Zaccheus. He was a tax collector for the Romans. Jesus goes to his house, because he was there and wanted to see Jesus, and he humbled himself, climbing a tree. Jesus sees him. He sees that Zaccheus is looking for something, not only money. And Jesus says to him: “Come down, for today I want to come and stay in your home”.

The people say: “What? he’s going to stay in the house of a sinner,” but Zaccheus responds: “Yes, I stole lots of money, but today what I stole I’ll give back three and fourfold.” He repented. He doesn’t steal anymore, and that’s not all: he gave back what he’d stolen. This is mercy. The same is true for the Samaritan.

Jesus entered into Zaccheus’ home because he knew he had repented, and he thereby confirmed his repentance. What Zaccheus did wasn’t insignificant. Only children climb trees; he humbled himself in climbing the tree.

If we wish to analyze this more deeply, he climbed the tree of the Cross; that is, the tree that destroys sin.

Zaccheus ascended the tree of the Cross?

Yes, he ascended the Cross, because he was seeking a Savior. He didn’t need to climb the tree to see Jesus. It’s said he was short in stature, well and good. But symbolically, this point is very significant. He climbed the tree of salvation, and Jesus went to his house in order to confirm this.

Zaccheus repented. Then Jesus entered into his home. May we also say then, in a similar way, that before receiving Holy Communion, we have to repent, and then the Lord enters into us?

Yes. If we don’t leave behind our sin, how can we receive Communion? God and sin cannot abide together. It’s not harsh. It’s for the sake of bringing true healing. We need to truly help people. If someone is wounded, it’s not enough to put a salve on his hand. He needs to be cured.

And if someone does receive Holy Communion in a state of grave sin?

St. Paul says that he eats unto his own condemnation. If he does so knowingly, and does it of his own will, he eats unto his own condemnation.

We are all sinners, but we go to Confession and we don’t want to remain in sin. A marriage is something firmly established. If I have entered into a second marriage, and I’m there for life, it’s a firmly established sin. I can’t then claim to be able to receive Holy Communion.

****Diane Montagna is Rome correspondent for Aleteia’s English edition.