Sunday, November 26, 2017

Dealing with grief, loneliness, and the holidays

Dealing with grief, loneliness, and the holidays 

Larry Peterson | Nov 22, 2017
I write this as a Catholic man, blessed with the gift of Faith. I do (for the most part) attend daily Mass and receive Holy Communion. I do all the things a “devout” and fully practicing Catholic does. I even do some things I do not have to do, like pray a Rosary every day.

What’s the point? The point is, I am not looking forward to the impending, holiday season.

In fact, its approach is becoming somewhat unnerving. I need all that Catholic stuff to kick in and do its “thing” and nothing is happening. When you lose a spouse the grief process takes you into unchartered waters.

I lost my wife last March and there are two things I have learned for sure: first; each and every one of us experiences grief and loneliness in our own unique way and second; my Catholic faith is my Fortress of Solitude (yes, like Superman). It is my place and no one else’s.

If you have suffered a loss this year, you know what I am talking about. We all have our special “alone place(s) – the “fortress” which no one else can see. When I step into mine, I am protected, nurtured and comforted by my Faith. I can even bawl my eyes out in there and no one can see me.

I like my “place,” my Catholic fortress.
Last Thanksgiving Day was the beginning of the end of my wife’s earthly life. A post-surgical staph infection gave way to other infections and things traveled downhill from there. She passed away in March, and now a year has gone by and here comes Thanksgiving, 2017, and I am sad. I am in grief. But I am grateful.
I am grateful for being a Catholic because it has helped me deal with my new reality – the one that began after the funeral, when I came home to an empty house and knew I was truly alone.

I did not like it at all. After years as a care giver, I had become very isolated, and less active than I had been at church. We are all different, so this may not suit you, but for me, for my new reality, it was important that I get right back into church activities.

It was surprisingly hard to do, at first. Going to Sunday Mass was not the same. The passenger seat in the car was empty and the seat next to me in church was empty. “Empty” was different now. It was not just “empty” – it was “forever empty.” That is a powerful reality. I still do not know how I made it through that. But it gets better.

It is still hard to look at the side of the bed she slept on, where she sat on the sofa, and all those other little things: her hair brush, hair curlers, makeup, slippers, shoes, and things, and let in the “forever empty.” Hello Catholic world, I need you now, cries the heart, and she heard me and has been there for me. She is my “Fortress of Solitude.”

The Church can be your “safe-harbor” or “safe-haven” or quiet place for respite. You can hide inside its prayer books and converse with our honored ones, the saints. They have all made it to the mountaintop. They have all experienced great grief and bereavement. They feel your pain and they have your back. They are close to the Christ and His Mom and they can intercede for you. So—talk to your favorite saint or one you do not know very well. They are waiting for you.

Remember this — you must somehow, someway, get out and get going. There are new “friends” and new experiences waiting for you. Put your Rosary in your pocket or in your purse and continue living. The deep wound from grief will heal over – the scar will always be there, but you can move on and forward, because God always has a plan.

Just remember that nothing will ever change the memories and the love for your departed loved one because they will live on within you. But God wants us, the living, to live our lives.


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Living in the Zombie Age

Living in the Zombie Age

The Sutherland Springs shooter, who took the lives of 26 men, women, and children in a small Texas church, was, like scores of others before him, one of the living dead.

Dylan Klebold, James Holmes, Adam Lanza, Stephen Paddock, and Devin Patrick Kelley represent what the apostle Paul warned would characterize the latter days: people who, in the New Revised Standard Version rendering, are “inhuman.” Not inhuman as to “sub-human,” but “counter-human”—individuals who are set against humanity and their own humanness, often to the point of taking their own life after taking the lives of others, beings who are physically alive, but emotionally, socially, and morally dead—zombies.
In 1946 the proto-man of this strain was introduced by Albert Camus in his novel, The Stranger.

The StrangerThe title character of The Stranger is Meursault, a man out of harmony with the society in which he lives, a person for whom there is no rational order to the universe, no transcendent pegs for ultimate significance, and no fixed standards for human conduct; life is merely the sum-total of his autonomous actions, the moment-to-moment procession of sensory inputs.

As the story unfolds, Meursault drifts through life from one experience to the next in zombie-esque detachment until he fatally shoots a man, then fires four more rounds into the lifeless body. He later muses, “it was like knocking four quick times on the door of unhappiness.”

The extent of his “inhumanity” is revealed at his execution when he wishes only for “a large crowd of spectators … [to] greet me with howls of hate.”
Importantly, Meursault’s crime was not the result of mental illness or “going postal,” but of a faulty worldview. Once he accepted the cosmos as uncaring and unsupervised, he was destined to conclude that fellow-creature sentiments were absurd, and that any action, even the choice to kill or not kill, was bereft of moral value—beliefs that would transmogrify him.
Twenty years later, Meursault was enfleshed, with a vengeance.

On July 14, 1966, eight student nurses were brutally murdered in a Chicago townhouse by a zombie. His name was Richard Speck.
In 1988 when asked in a prison interview why he killed the nurses, the middle-aged murderer quipped, “It just wasn’t their night.” When asked how he felt about his crime some 22 years later, Speck paused, then, with a Meursault-like insouciance, shrugged, “Like I always felt … had no feeling. If you’re asking me if I felt sorry, no.” In soulless detachment, he went on to describe the process of strangulation: “It’s not like TV takes over three minutes and you have to have a lot of strength.”

While Speck was not a zombie of popular Hollywood depictions, he was, in a very real sense, like The Stranger, a counter-human, one of the living dead.
The Chicago townhouse murders marked the rise of what NY Times columnist David Brooks calls, the “spectacular rampage murder.” According to Brooks, from 1913 to around 1970, there were no more than two of these types of murders per decade. After that, the number of incidences shot up to nine in the 1980s, eleven in the 1990s and, as tallied by the FBI, 160 between 2000 and 2013.

The rise in such killings could not happen without the rise of a certain type of individual: a socially isolated person whom, psychotherapist Dr. Paul Hannig describes, “can’t feel the normal range of human emotions” and has lost “all sense of normal morality and impulse control”—a zombie.

The Counter-Human
The rampage murderer kills, says Dr. Hannig, in the belief that mass murder is “the solution to his problems.” He imagines that the spectacle of his crime will bring wide attention to the injustices he has had to bear. Through mass murder, he will assert his grievances and accomplish what he has failed to accomplish thus far: “to be heard, understood, and accepted.”

Similarly, mass murderers aren’t necessarily “crazed killers” or persons suffering some mental disorder—in fact, most are neither. A study published in The Southwest Journal of Criminal Justicereported that less than one-third of mass killers had any mental health concern.

Dr. Michael Stone, a professor of clinical psychiatry, concurs. After personally examining over 200 mass murderers, Dr. Stone found that “only 25 were ruled clinically insane.” The rest were “social misfits or angry loners” whose rage was triggered by “some event.”

Looking to Technocracy
Nevertheless, in the aftermath of the Texas church shooting there is, yet again, the vocal chorus calling for stricter gun controls and better mental health care. It reflects what Christian commentator, John Stonestreet, calls the technocratic worldview—the belief that:
All human problems and challenges, such as climate change, gun violence, and even terrorism, are problems that can be solved if only we apply the right techniques, which these days are almost always political steps: i.e., passing the right laws or public policies.

In this worldview, the world and all of its complexities can be reduced to mathematical models, and can thus be controlled by our best ideas and efforts. All of our problems, the logic continues, can be, if not eliminated, at least ameliorated.

But it’s a worldview that consistently fails. In the run-up to the financial crisis of 2008, Wall Street honestly believed it had mathematically solved the problem of risk. But it hadn’t. And there’s no reason to believe that the ‘something’ the critics of prayer are advocating will reduce, much less stop, the kind of carnage we continue to see across our nation.

As reported by the New York Times, the correlation between gun ownership and mass shootings suggests that fewer guns would lead to fewer rampage murders. The sad reality is that even if progressive technocrats succeeded in confiscating all firearms and ammunition in the country, it wouldn’t deter the counter-human from unleashing his inhumanity on society with explosives, chemicals, biotoxins, knives, and vehicles (all, of which, he has used).
And that points to a root cause that is neither material nor psychological, but cardiological: “out of the hearts of men come evil thoughts … murder,… malice,… arrogance and folly.”

Message of Meaninglessness
It should strike us, more than coincidental, that the rise in rampage killings began when the vapors of nihilism wafted out of coffee houses and college lecture halls to cover the cultural landscape from sea to shining sea.
Indeed, from the classroom to the art gallery to Friends and Seinfeld, the nihilistic message is clear: We are alone in an indifferent universe with nothing to give meaning to our existence but the sum-total of our personal experiences. And, for the restless soul chasing after the “meaningful” experience, a pop psychology is ready to light the way.

With a lump of Freudian theory, a dash of Kinseyian research, and liberal amounts of Maslow’s hierarchy, modern psychology promises meaning and self-discovery through the satisfaction of felt needs.

However, as psychology professor Dr. Paul Hannig notes in his book, Psychology as Religion, popular selfist theories have “led to large-scale disappointment.” Instead of the sought-after significance and fulfillment, the search-for-self often leads to frustration and failure—the dead-end job, the missed promotion, the layoff, the cancer diagnosis, bankruptcy, divorce, and broken relationships.

Is it any wonder that when these pile up on individuals conditioned to believe that personal happiness is the summum bonum of life, some become “social misfits” and others “angry loners”? And a few, a very few, take out their frustrations in an inhuman way; perhaps, like one of the walking dead?
The Sutherland Springs massacre is the latest reminder that the zombie is here, and he will continue to express his anger in ever more creative and destructive ways until we look beyond his choice of weapon and state of mind to the ideas that shaped him and to the Cardiologist who, alone, can transform his heart of stone to one of flesh.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Many Miracles of Solanus Casey

The Many Miracles of Solanus Casey

The Many Miracles of Solanus Casey

Detroit, Michigan, 1957

Thirty-eight-year-old Gladys Feighan is overjoyed, on a visit to St. John Hospital from her home in Utica, New York, to learn that Fr. Solanus Casey, “the best-loved man in Detroit,” is a patient there. It has been a dream of hers for years to get to Fr. Solanus, revered by so many as a living saint; but for some time his Capuchin Franciscan superiors at St. Bonaventure’s Monastery have made it hard for anyone to see the ailing eighty-six-year-old priest.

Before that, when he was “retired” to a Capuchin house in Huntington, Indiana, she had actually prepared to make a trip there, but both her physician and her pastor advised against travel because of her pregnancy.
Terrified to lose another baby, she had listened to them. And lost another child, she reflects sorrowfully.

Mrs. Feighan is a sufferer from the Rh blood factor. Like most women with this problem, her first pregnancy was normal. But since her first child, she has had one miscarriage and two babies born dead.
An acquaintance with a similar history made that trip to Indiana and has three more living children to show for it.

Now Gladys sees the brown hooded robe of a Capuchin in the corridor. Running after it, she begs the brother who is looking out for Fr. Solanus if she can please see the ill man “for just a few minutes.” Br. Gabriel can make no promises. Frail old Fr. Solanus has been brought in by ambulance, very sick with a skin infection, maybe dying. And people have no consideration. A woman who asked to see him for a minute stayed over half an hour. . . . The more Brother talks, the lower Gladys’s face falls. But in the end, he says he’ll go ask.

What he doesn’t tell Mrs. Feighan is that to ask is an empty formal­ity with Fr. Solanus: in his fifty-three years as a Capuchin priest, he has never said no to seeing anyone, whether it was the middle of the night, the middle of his meal, or the 150th person of a day. The man has abso­lutely no instinct for self-preservation. Because of his great devotion to his vow of obedience, he accepts the restrictions placed on him by supe­riors who know the mobs coming, phoning, and writing for his prayers day after day, year after year, have taken the last drops of the holy old friar’s strength. But he has been heard to groan to himself, “Oh, why must they keep me from seeing the people?” To give himself to God by giving himself to others until there is nothing left is the one desire of his Christlike heart.

Soon Gladys is in his room. Let her tell it as she related the experi­ence for the book The Porter of Saint Bonaventure’s:
When I entered . . . Father Solanus was sitting at a little table. He welcomed me, asking me to sit down. “What is your name?” he asked.
“Mrs. Feighan.”
“No — your given name?”
“What, Gladys, do you want from God?”
“I want a baby. Another baby.”
“A baby! For a woman to want a baby — how blessed. To hold God’s own creation in your own hands.”
I told him about my Rh factor; that I was well toward my middle thirties; that I feared it wouldn’t be long before I might be too old to bear children.
“I do so want another child,” I told him. “Perhaps I am selfish.”
“No,” he answered me, “you are not selfish. For a woman to want children is normal and blessed. Motherhood entails so many responsibilities — bringing up a child as it should be brought up is doing God’s work. One doesn’t always meet women who want children.”
[Gladys expressed concern about her children who had died before they could be baptized.]
“That’s not for you to concern yourself about,” he answered. “Just have confidence in our dear Lord’s infinite love.”

Father Solanus’s mind seemed above earthly things. He was ecstatic — so much so that I could hardly ask him a question. Af­ter answering my first few questions, he did nearly all the talking. His words to me were of God’s infinite love for us, and of how we should place all our confidence in that divine, all-embracing love. As he spoke, he was trembling with emotion. Finally he said, “Kneel down, and I will bless you, and your husband and all your family.”
The other Capuchin was there, and a Sister of St. Joseph [who was] one of the hospital sisters, and they knelt too.

Then he said to me, “You will have another child, Gladys. Your Blessed Mother will give you another child. You must be­lieve this with all your heart and soul. You must believe this so strongly that before your baby is born you will get down on your knees and thank the Blessed Mother [for her intercession]. Be­cause once you ask her, and thank her, there’s nothing she can do but go to her own Son and ask Him to grant your prayer that you have a baby.”
Tears were in his eyes.
When I reached home, I was shaken for a couple of days but uplifted. I felt confident, happy.

Not long after, on July 31, 1957, the mystic Franciscan, conscious to the last, died peacefully. He was buried in the small Franciscan graveyard next to St. Bonaventure’s. There, several years later, Gladys came with her children. She had become pregnant in 1962. Her doctors feared another dead child. But she was jubilant and confident. That confidence was rewarded — with twins.
Others had similar tales of graces received. The mother of Capuchin missionary Bishop Cuthbert Gumbinger told her son in 1959 that she attributed her recovery from a heart attack to the intercession of Solanus. Bishop Gumbinger was no doubter: Fr. Solanus had appeared to him in a dream and immediately afterward obtained several things the missionary needed.

Gladys Redfern was another grateful individual. In 1964 three examinations and x-rays showing a tumor in her breast, she entered High­land Park General Hospital in Detroit for surgery May 22, the following morning. In her prayers she was asking Father Solanus’s intercession that the lump might prove benign. That night the doctor stopped by her room and made his last examination before the operation. The lump was gone.

The Wonderworker of the Soup Kitchen

Solanus Casey
This article is from “Nothing Short of a Miracle.” Click image to learn about how other modern saints have brought miracles to many.
Because of his special love for the poor, Fr. Solanus loved to help out at the Capuchins’ soup kitchen whenever his callers gave him a free hour. Capuchin author Michael H. Crosby reports the two following incidents: Ray McDonough was a soup kitchen volunteer whose daughter Rita gave birth to a little girl with a clubfoot. Ray asked Fr. Solanus to visit the baby. The Franciscan did. Holding the little foot in one hand, he blessed it in the name of the Trinity. On the next viewing, the same doctor who had pointed out the clubfoot to the mother scratched his head and said that the foot was perfect. Baby Carol grew up to become a mother herself without ever having any foot trouble.

Arthur Rutledge, who worked for the fire department, was another soup kitchen volunteer. He was being rolled into the operating room in a Detroit hospital one day when Fr. Solanus happened by.
“Hey, Art, what’s up?”
Art explained he had a tumor.
“Where is it?”
“In my abdomen — my stomach.”
Solanus put his hand on the area.
“Have the doctors give you a last check before they operate,” he said a minute later before continuing down the hall.
Art did. The tumor was gone.

Restoring Sight

When he was “retired” to Indiana, Fr. Solanus also gave a helping hand to Fr. Elmer Stoffel, with whom he helped care for the Capuchins’ beehives. One day around 1950 Fr. Elmer was stung by several bees. When Solanus saw his confrere on the ground rolling in pain, he immediately blessed him. Elmer at that time was blind to Solanus’s holiness and, in fact, disliked him so much that he sent many a barbed comment the healer’s way. Yet, to his chagrin, he had to admit that the second he was blessed, the pain vanished.

William King of Detroit, the son of a Protestant clergyman, had se­rious eye trouble. His Catholic boss at the Grand Trunk Railway sug­gested he see Fr. Solanus. King demurred until his doctor said one of his eyes would have to be removed to try to save the sight in the other one. So dim was his vision that his wife had to lead him into the porter’s of­fice. Fr. Solanus urged the couple, since they wanted a favor from God, to do something for Him in return. He suggested they begin attending their Protestant church every Sunday instead of just whenever they felt like it. King’s eyes were cured.

So were many other sick or weak eyes — like those of John J. Regan of the Detroit News. In 1929 hot casting lead (used in newspaper pro­duction) blew up in his face. When Mrs. Regan got to Harper Hospital, she saw her husband’s chart and the diagnosis “permanently blinded.” She passed out. Coming to, she rushed to Fr. Solanus, who promised her John would see. Back she ran to the physician who had just operated on her husband. He assured her gravely that was impossible: the best her husband could hope for would be to tell light from dark. Two weeks later, when John Regan’s eyes were unbandaged and he said, “I see you,” to the physician, the man declared it a miracle. Regan’s vision tested excellent.


As the 1940s opened, real-estate man Luke Leonard saw himself as “an alcoholic bum.” Living in a seedy hotel, he decided one day he was getting nowhere “tapering off.” Without any hope of success, he mustered the courage to quit cold turkey.
At once he plunged into the nightmare of delirium tremens, hallucinating monsters and trembling uncontrollably. Walking the streets hour after hour, he bought a soft drink, only to find he shook too badly to get it to his mouth unaided.
Low-voiced Fr. Solanus usually saw everyone in one room, but he took Leonard behind closed doors and let him pour out his fear, self-loathing, and near despair. Two or three times another friar peered in, saying, “Fr. Solanus, others are waiting, some from out of town.”
“Ask them to wait a little longer,” and the white-bearded priest went on listening.
Finally Leonard ran down. Fr. Solanus leaned toward him. “When did you get over your sickness?”
“You mean my drunk, Father?” Leonard replied, doubly astounded. In that era alcoholism was not considered an illness, nor could anyone consider Luke Leonard free of addiction. Then Fr. Solanus laughed, a laugh Leonard says was “gentle and encouraging.”
A few minutes later the drinker was back on the street, but now he felt, he says, “strengthened and with a free, elevated spirit.”
He never took another drink.

Fr. Solanus Casey Continues His Work

After Fr. Solanus’s death, some of his lay friends got the Capuchin’s’ permission to form the Father Solanus Guild. To them, Fr. Solanus’s life was a model for followers of Christ. To make that life known and promote his Cause, they collected both his writings — mainly letters — and testimonies about him from those he converted, counseled, and / or healed. In the twenty-first century, the Guild stocks biographies and other materials to help others know Fr. Solanus. It also continues to accept prayer requests for his intercession. The Guild’s own publication, like a visit with him, gives spiritual inspiration through Fr. Solanus’s words and reports healings and favors people are still ascribing to the humble Capuchin’s prayers.

As early as 1966, reports of twenty-four important cures after his death were sent to Rome, although his Cause was not formally opened until 1982. His heroic virtues have been recognized by the title Venerable since 1995.

The following sampling of reported cures testifies that Fr. Solanus after death is still as compassionate and willing to bring others’ needs to God as he was when he gently greeted the troubled and sick in places like New York and Detroit.

An Illinois woman writes: “When I was five months pregnant, I was hospitalized for an undiagnosed illness. For two to three weeks I had bouts of fever with extremely elevated heart rates. When no cure could be found, my aunt enrolled me in the Father Solanus Guild without my knowing it. The fever suddenly broke that very same day and did not return.” The letter next tells how the baby she bore was healed from the undeveloped-lungs syndrome that can menace infant lives.

Someone’s son, who has had a heart attack five years earlier, suffers cardiac arrest. His mother begs Fr. Solanus’s prayers. Twenty-four days later, the son is back at work. Best, tests show no damage to the heart.

A December 2008 report from England is another heart healing. “You [The Capuchins] kindly promised prayers for my heart . . . [They] were heard in a most unexpected way. When I saw the cardiology sur­geon before Christmas, I was told that my enlarged heart was now nor­mal size. It was hard to take in as I had never been told that this was possible.”

In 2009 Fr. Solanus’s prayers are sought that no one be hurt during work on a rickety old barn. The eighteen-year-old helper of the person praying suddenly plunges eight feet through an upper floor to land on rocks, just laughs, and walks away!

A person disabled for over twenty years but able to function independently becomes ashamed to go out because of drooling from a shaking mouth / chin. To the doctor’s surprise, after a month’s persistent prayers for Fr. Solanus’s intercession, the unsightly symptom vanishes.

A young husband sends his thanks. His wife had been in a Connecti­cut hospital where extensive tests reviewed by three doctors revealed lymphoma tumors in the kidney and pelvis. The man added his wife to those seeking the dead Capuchin’s intercessory prayers. Exploratory sur­gery found no malignancy — and no tumors. The letter ends, “I honestly think that Fr. Solanus’s intercession resulted in a clean bill of health.”

From New York, a 2006 report: “A chest x-ray revealed something suspicious on one lung. A CT scan was ordered. Cancer was suspected so a PET scan followed. Turning to Solanus’ prayers, the patient four days later received good news: all negative, probably just a scar from childhood pneumonia.”

From New England, the grateful parent of a fifteen-year-old boy writes:
My son, age 15, was diagnosed as having lymphoma [cancer of the lymph-node system]. Two biopsies were done. The surgeon told us that he was quite sure the biopsies would be malignant and that we should not even consider that they would be benign. We were devastated, but we told the surgeon that we believed in miracles. We asked for the intercession of Fr. Solanus.
Praise be to God, the biopsies were benign and the surgeon was amazed. My son had further testing with an oncologist and all was fine. I thank Fr. Solanus for his intercession and I praise the Holy Name of God. Fr. Solanus’s intercession must be so powerful before the throne of God.
Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a chapter in Patricia Treece’s Nothing Short of a Miracle: God’s Healing Power in Modern Saintswhich is available through Sophia Institute Press
image: By Mahatma Gandhi (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Purgatory and the Communion of Saints

Purgatory and the Communion of Saints

Purgatory and the Communion of Saints
“No man is an island,” so Pope Benedict XVI reminds us in his encyclical letter Spe Salvi (“Saved in Hope”).  We are each bound to one another “through innumerable interactions” so that: “No one lives alone.  No one sins alone.  No one is saved alone.”  Pope Benedict exhorts us to ask, “what can I do in order that others may be saved? . . . Then I will have done my utmost for my own personal salvation as well.”  Salvation is a social reality.  The letter to the Hebrews speaks of the community of believers coming together in a city. Heaven, as a city full of people, is a place of communal salvation. Sin, on the other hand, introduced the “destruction of the unity of the human race.” While man’s original unity was torn apart by sin, the work of redemption aims to heal that disintegration, as Benedict discerns, “redemption appears as the reestablishment of unity.”

Each believer is an interconnected cell in the Mystical Body of Christ.  We are a band of brothers and sisters, bound together in hope and love, in a confraternal exchange of supernatural charity.  Even now, the saints of Church Militant on earth, are surrounded by “so great a cloud of witnesses” – Church Penitent (or Church Suffering) in purgatory and Church Triumphant in heaven.  The Communion of Saints live in a symbiotic relationship: the saints in heaven and purgatory interceding for those on the earth, while the believers on the earth ask for their heavenly intercession.  And, in this month of November, dedicated to the souls in purgatory, we recall our special role in this symbiotic relationship while still alive: to pray, sacrifice and intercede for the dearly departed souls in purgatory.

Those in purgatory have died in God’s grace and friendship and are “assured of their eternal salvation,” however, they are “still imperfectly purified” and must necessarily “undergo purification” to enter into heaven (CCC 1030), for nothing unclean enters into it. (Rev. 21:27)  Jesus spoke of purgatory, alluding to it as a “prison,” in which we pay for our sins down to “the very last penny”:
“Thus, when you go with your accuser before a magistrate, on the way make an effort to settle the case, or you may be dragged before the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer throw you in prison. I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.” (Lk. 12:58-59)
St. Paul similarly tells the Corinthians that we all will stand before the judgment seat of Christ and are subject to a “purifying fire;” they “will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1 Cor. 3:15)  The encounter with Christ is one of grace and judgment.  Benedict describes this eloquently:
“Grace does not cancel out justice.  It does not make wrong into right.  It is not a sponge which wipes everything away, so that whatever someone has done on earth ends up being of equal value. . . . Evildoers, in the end, do not sit at table at the eternal banquet beside their victims without distinction, as though nothing had happened.” (Spe Salvi, 44)  Even after Confession, we must still make penance.

The departed faithful souls in purgatory do have to make recompense for their sins to satisfy the perfect justice of God.  We can, however, assist them in that.  The Catechism (CCC 1032) quotes an example from Scripture saying, “Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.” (2 Macc. 12:45)  And so, how do we as Christians make atonement for the dead?  The Catechism clarifies this:
“From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.  The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead.”
We are called to be intercessors, for both the living and the dead.  We can offer up our prayers, sacrifices and sufferings on behalf of the poor souls in purgatory, for they can no longer merit for themselves.  But, God has deigned through the Communion of the Saints that we can make up for others what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.  For, we are “God’s fellow workers” (1 Cor. 3:9), contributing to the salvation of souls.  We can do this through our prayers, such as praying the rosary for those in purgatory.  We can offer penances, and sacrifices.  We can give alms, and do acts of charity on behalf of the deceased person.

Benedict also recommends a particular devotion for everyday life, that is, “offering up” all the minor daily hardships of the day.  We can “insert these little annoyances into Christ’s great ‘com-passion’ so that they somehow became part of the treasury of compassion so greatly needed by the human race.”  We can offer up those petty annoyances throughout the day whatever they might be, slow traffic, the heat, the pestering co-worker, etc.  “In this way, even the small inconveniences of daily life could acquire meaning.” (Spe Salvi, 40)  We can be assured that our efforts, prayers and sacrifices are efficacious and capable of mitigating the suffering of those in purgatory. (CCC 958)

Most importantly, we can offer the sacrifice of the Mass, and indulgences granted by the Church, for souls in purgatory.  You can contact your Church and have a mass offered for your beloved deceased.  Another beautiful gift is the tradition going back to Pope Gregory the Great of offering “Gregorian Masses” for deceased persons on thirty consecutive days.  These are generally not done now in parishes, but in monasteries, seminaries, and other religious institutions.

The efficaciousness of intercession for those in purgatory has received mystical confirmation too.  One such mystic was St. Faustina.  She wrote in her Divine Mercy diary about a soul, a recently deceased nun, who visited her from purgatory requesting her prayers.  Upon first visiting her, the sister was in “terrible condition,” but after some undisclosed amount of time of praying for her, the nun eventually returned and “her face was radiant, her eyes beaming with joy.”  She would soon be released from purgatory and conveyed to her that many souls had “profited from my prayers.”  Similarly, in the Divine Mercy Novena, dictated to St. Faustina by Jesus, He asks us to offer the eighth day for the souls in purgatory.  He told St. Faustina, “It is in your power to bring them relief.  Draw all the indulgences from the treasury of My Church and offer them on their behalf.  Oh, if you only knew the torments they suffer, you would continually offer for them the alms of the spirit and pay off their debt to My justice.” (Diary, 1226)  Memorializing a person is nice, but prayer for the deceased may be what they truly need.

Thus, it is within our power as members of the Communion of Saints to assist the poor souls in purgatory in the process of their purification and sanctification.  Our prayers and sacrifices can help pay off their debts.  In turn, in gratefulness for the merit we win for them, they will surely pray and intercede for us, until, at last, in heaven we will meet all those who we have helped, undoubtedly to our surprise.  Also, lest we put our earthly time limits upon God, we should remember to pray even for those who have died long ago.  God, who exists outside of time in eternity, receives all of our prayers and sacrifices in the eternal present, and can merit a soul whether long since dead or in purgatory.  So, out of love for our family and friends, let us do our part in supernatural charity for the souls in purgatory, who may be most in need of our help.
image: By Lorenzo di Niccolò Italian, Florentine, documented 1393-1412 – Artist (Italian, Florentine)Details of artist on Google Art Project [Public domain], 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Cdl. Sarah: Some people ‘exploit the Word of God’ to promote multiculturalism, immigration

Cdl. Sarah: Some people ‘exploit the Word of God’ to promote multiculturalism, immigration

Featured Image
Cardinal Robert Sarah John-Henry Westen/LifeSIte

Fri Oct 27, 2017 - 10:59 am EST
WARSAW, Poland, October 27, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Cardinal Robert Sarah has affirmed a nation’s right to distinguish between refugees and economic migrants.
According to Polish newsmagazine and other Polish publications, the African cardinal supported Poland’s resistance to a certain “logic” of migration that outside forces are trying to impose on the nation.

“In what manner is it possible to remove the rights of the nation to distinguish between a political or religious refugee, who must flee from his homeland, and the economic migrant, who wants to change his address without adapting himself, identifying with, and accepting the culture of the country in which he will live?” Sarah asked.

“Even more so (how is this possible), if this migrant is of another religion and culture and serves as a pretext for the relativization of the absolute value which is the common good of the nation?”

Sarah stated that the ideology of liberal individualism promotes a “blending” that erases the natural borders of homelands and cultures. He warned that this could lead to a ”post-national, one-dimensional world” in which “the only criteria are consumption and production.”

While upholding the human dignity of every human being, Sarah stressed the rights of peoples to their own home nations:

“I say again that we must work together to rebuild the nations that have fallen victim to war, corruption and injustice, but this does not mean encouraging the uprooting of peoples and the destruction of nations. Some people exploit the Word of God to justify the promotion of multiculturalism and gaily take advantage of the excuse of hospitality to justify the admission of immigrants.”

Sarah made his remarks while speaking at Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw this past Sunday. The cardinal was addressing the International Congress of the “Europa Christi” movement, a group dedicated to rebuilding a Christian philosophy of Europe.

The conference, which took place in three Polish cities between October 19 and October 23, was attended by 40 guests from Poland and abroad, among them Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the great friend of St John Paul II. The theme of the conference was “Open the doors to Christ”.

According to wPolityce, the goal of the conference was to promote the realization that Europe is a Christian legacy and that the identity of the continent was “built on Greek philosophy, Roman law, and the Gospel.”  

Will We Know Each Other in Heaven?

Will We Know Each Other in Heaven?

Will We Know Each Other in Heaven?
All the blessed, admitted into heaven, know each other perfectly, even before the general resurrection. This is proved by Scripture as well as by tradition.
I shall confine myself to quoting the New Testament to you; I shall content myself, too, with the parable of the rich man, and with some words that have reference to the Last Judgment.
This parable is so fine that I cannot resist the pleasure of placing some of its leading points before you.
There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen, and feasted sumptuously every day; and there was a certain beggar named Lazarus who lay at his gate, full of sores, desiring to be filled with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table — but none were given to him; moreover, the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died, and he was buried in hell. And, when he was in torments, lifting up his eyes, he saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom, and he cried and said: “Father, Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame.”
And Abraham said to him: “Son, remember that thou didst receive good things in thy lifetime, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. . . .
And the rich man said: “Father, I beseech thee that thou wouldst send him to my father’s house, for I have five brethren, that he may testify unto them, lest they come also in this place of torment.” (Luke 16:19-31)
In the eighth century, the Venerable Bede put this question to himself: “Do the good know each other in the kingdom of heaven, and do the bad know the bad in hell?” He answered in the affirmative:

This article is from the book “In Heaven We’ll Meet Again.” Click image to preview or order.
I see a proof of it, clearer than day, in the parable of the bad rich man. Does not our Lord there openly declare that the good know each other, and the wicked also? For if Abraham did not know Lazarus, how could he speak of his past misfortunes to the bad rich man who is in the midst of torments? And how could this rich man not know those who are present, since he is mindful to pray for those who are absent? We see, besides, that the good know the wicked, and the wicked the good. In fact, the rich man is known to Abraham; and Lazarus, in the ranks of the elect, is recognized by the rich man, who is among the number of the reprobate.
This knowledge fills up the measure of what each shall receive; it causes the just to rejoice the more, because they see those they have loved rejoice with them; it makes the wicked suffer not only their own pains, but also in some sort the pains of others, since they are tormented in company with those whom they loved in this world to the exclusion of God. There is, even for the blessed, something more admirable still. Beyond the recognition of those whom they have known in this world they recognize also, as if they had seen them and previously known them, the good whom they never saw. For of what can they be ignorant in heaven, since all there behold, in the plenitude of light, the God who knows all?
On the Last Judgment, we have these words of Jesus Christ to his disciples: “Amen, I say to you, that you who have followed me in the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit in the seat of his majesty, you also shall sit on twelve seats judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28). We have these words of St. Paul to the Corinthians: “Know you not that the saints shall judge this world? Know you not that we shall judge angels?” (1 Cor. 6:2, 3).
Such is the basis of the argument of St. Theodore Studites (d. 826), in a discourse that he composed at the end of the eighth or the commencement of the ninth century, to refute the error that we are here combating. He said:
Some deceive their hearers by maintaining that the men who rise again will not recognize each other when the Son of God comes to judge us all. How, they exclaim, when from perishable we become incorruptible and immortal — when there will no longer be Greek or Jew, barbarian or Scythian, slave or freeman, husband or wife — when we shall all be as spirits, how could we recognize each other?
Let us, in the first place, reply that that which is impossible to man is possible to God; otherwise, blinded by human reasons, we should even disbelieve the resurrection. How, in fact, can a body already in a state of corruption — perhaps devoured by wild beasts, by birds, or by fishes, themselves devoured by others — and that in several ways and at various times successively, be reunited or gathered together on the last day? It will be thus, however, and the hidden power of God will reunite all its scattered parts and raise it up. Then each soul will recognize the body in which it lived.
But will every soul recognize also the body of its neighbor? We cannot doubt it, unless, at the same time, we doubt the general judgment. For no one can be summoned to judgment without being known, and a person must be known to be judged, according to this expression of Scripture: “I will reprove thee and set [thy own transgressions] before thy face” (Ps. 49:21 [RSV = Ps. 50:21]).
The value of this reasoning depends upon the following distinction: in the private judgment, we are judged by God alone, but in the general judgment we shall be, in some measure, judged by one another. Whilst the former will manifest the justice of God only to the soul that is judged, the latter will make it evident to every creature. Therefore, all await that great day for “the revelation of the sons of God” (Rom. 8:19), which will alter all the estimations of men.
The saint continues in these terms:
This is why, if we do not recognize one another, we shall not be judged; if we are not judged, we shall not be rewarded or punished for that which we shall have done and suffered while we were of the number of the living. If the apostles are not to recognize those whom they will judge, will they see the accomplishment of this promise of the Lord: “You shall sit on twelve seats, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28)? If he is not to recognize them in the kingdom of heaven, will the blessed Job be able to receive twice as many children (Job 42:10-13)? For here below he received only a part, and in order that the promise made to him may be fully accomplished, is it not a necessity that he should receive the remainder in the life to come? Besides, from these words: “No brother can redeem, nor shall man redeem” (Ps. 48:8 [RSV = Ps. 49:7]), does not the holy king David suppose a brother to know his brother? 
From all quarters we can collect arguments and authorities against those who assert that we do not recognize one another in heaven — a senseless assertion, whose impiety may be compared to the fables of Origen. For us, my brethren, let us believe still and ever that we shall rise again, we shall be incorruptible, and that we shall know one another, as our first parents knew each other in the earthly paradise, before the existence of sin, when they were yet exempt from all corruption. Yes, it must be believed — the brother will know his brother, the father his children, the wife her husband, the friend his friend. I will even add, the religious will know the religious, the confessor will know the confessor, the martyr his fellow soldier, the apostle his colleague in the apostleship — we shall all know one another, in order that the habitation of all in God may be rendered more joyous by this blessing, added to so many others — the blessing of mutual recognition!
The light thrown by Catholic tradition upon this sub­ject is so vivid and constant that it dissipates all the clouds of sophistry and prejudice.
The testimonies from tradition may be divided into two classes — those that simply affirm the fact and those that draw consolation from it.
Among the works commonly attributed to St. Athanasius (c. 297-373), that pure glory of the fourth century, is one that has for its title Necessary Questions of Which No Christian Should Be Ignorant. Now, in reply to the twenty-second question we read, “To the souls of the just in heaven God grants a great gift, which is mutual recognition.”
In the seventh century Pope St. Gregory the Great (c. 540-604), after having related that a religious saw, when dying, the prophets come toward him, and that he addressed them by their names, added: “This example makes us clearly understand how great will be the knowledge which we shall have of one another in the incorruptible life of heaven, since this religious, though still in a corruptible flesh, seemed to recognize the holy prophets, whom, however, he had never seen.”
The most illustrious of the abbots of Clairvaux, St. Bernard (1090-1153), also said in the twelfth century: “The blessed are united among themselves by a charity which is so much the greater as they are the nearer to God, who is charity. No envy can throw suspicion into their ranks, for there is nothing in one which is concealed from the other; the all-pervading light of truth permits it not.”

Have you lost a brother or a sister? Console yourself, then, as St. Ambrose (c. 340-397) did:
Brother, since you have preceded me thither, prepare for me a place in that common abode of all, which is for me henceforward the most desirable; and as, here below, everything was in common between us, so in heaven let us remain ignorant of any law of division. I conjure you, keep me not waiting long, so pressing is the desire I experience of rejoining you, help me who am hastening forward, and if I seem to you still to tarry, make me advance; we have never been long separated, but it is you who were in the habit of returning to me. Now that you can no longer return, I will go to you. O my brother! What comfort remains to me but the hope of soon meeting you again? Yes, I comfort myself with the hope that the separation that your departure has caused will not be of long duration, and that by your prayers you will obtain the grace to hasten the coming of him whose regrets for you are so bitter.
Have you lost a son or a daughter? Receive the consolations of a patriarch of Constantinople addressed to a bereft father. This patriarch, Photius, can no more be counted among great men than among saints, as he was the author of the cruel schism that separates the East and the West. Nevertheless, his opinions only prove the better that, on this point, the Greeks and the Latins entertain the same views. Photius says:
If your daughter were to appear to you, and, placing her face, resplendent with glory, against your face and her hand within yours, thus were to speak to you, would it not be to describe the joys of heaven? Then she would add: “Why do you grieve, father? I am in paradise, where felicity is unbounded. You will come someday with my beloved mother, and then you will find that I have not exaggerated the delights of this place, so far will the reality exceed my description. O dearly beloved father, detain me no longer in your arms, but be pleased to permit me to return whither the intensity of my love attracts me.” Let us then banish sorrow, for now your daughter is happy in Abraham’s bosom. Let us banish sorrow; for it is there that, after a very little time, we shall see her in the ecstasy of joy and delight.
Have you lost your husband? Alas! The mourning gar­ments you so constantly wear show plainly the misfortune that you have sustained; they show, also, how affection has survived the tie broken by death. Seek aid, then, in the consolations so frequently presented by the Church to Christian widows.
St. Jerome (c. 347-420) wrote to a widow:
Regret your Lucinius as a brother; but rejoice that he reigns with Christ. Victorious and secure of his glory, he looks down upon you from the heights of heaven; he is your support in your works and woes, and he prepares for you a place by his side, ever preserving for you the same love and charity that, making him forget the names of husband and of wife, compelled him, during his life, to love you as his sister, and to live with you as a brother. For, in the pure union that chastity forms between two hearts, the difference of sex that constitutes marriage is unknown.
St. John Chrysostom (c. 349-407), in a homily on St. Matthew, said, as if to each of his hearers individually:
Do you wish to behold him whom death has snatched from you? Lead, then, the same life as he in the path of virtue, and you will soon enjoy that blessed sight. But you would wish to see him even here. Ah! Who prevents you? It is both easy and allowable, if you are virtuous; for the hope of future goods is clearer than the possession itself.
This sublime orator found, in his own history, all that could make him sympathize with the sorrows of the wife who has lost her husband. The only son of a young woman, weak alike from her age and her sex, and early left a widow to struggle with the world, he had been the confidant of her tears and of her grief, when he made her as though a second time a widow, by escaping from her love to plunge into solitude. He has himself related to us that the pagan rhetorician Libanius, learning that his mother had been bereft of her husband from the age of twenty, and would never be induced to contract another marriage, exclaimed, turning toward his idolatrous hearers: “O ye gods of Greece! What women there are among those Christians!”
Divine Providence found means to supply Chrysostom with an opportunity of exercising the compassionate feelings of his heart toward the widowed, by consoling another young woman who had passed only five years of her life with her husband, Therasius, one of the principal personages of his time. He wrote two treatises for her, and they are among his most remarkable productions. He says to her, among other comforting things:
If you desire to see your husband, if you wish to enjoy each other’s presence, let your life shine with purity like his, and be assured that you will thus enter into the same angelic choir that he has already reached. You will abide with him, not only during five years, as on earth — not only during twenty, a hundred, a thousand, two thousand, ten thousand, or many more years, but during ages without end. Then you will once more find your husband, no longer with that corporal beauty with which he was gifted when he departed, but with a different splendor — beauty of another sort, which will surpass in brilliancy the rays of the sun.
If it had been promised to you that the empire of the whole earth should be given to your husband, on condition that during twenty years you should be separated from him, and if, in addition, you had received a pledge that after those twenty years, your Therasius should be restored to you, adorned with the diadem and the purple, and you yourself placed in the same rank of honor as he, would you not have resigned yourself to this separation, and easily have preserved continence? You would even have seen in this offer a signal favor, and something worthy of all your desires. Now, therefore, bear with patience the separation which gives your husband the kingdom, not of earth, but of heaven; bear it, that you may find him among the blessed inhabitants of paradise, clad, not with a vesture of gold, but with one of glory and immortality.
This is why, in thinking of the honors that Therasius enjoys in heaven, you must cease to weep and lament. Live as he lived, and even with more perfection. By this means, after having practiced the same virtues, you will be received into the same tabernacles, and you can once more be united to him in the eternal ages, not by the tie of marriage, but by another and a better tie. The first unites bod­ies only, while the second, more pure, more blissful, and more holy, unites soul to soul.
image: © José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro / , via Wikimedia Commons
Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a chapter from In Heaven We’ll Meet Again: The Saints and Scripture on our Heavenly Reunionwhich is available through Sophia Institute Press.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

2 November – All Souls, Indulgences, and YOU!

2 November – All Souls, Indulgences, and YOU!

Let’s have a review of the indulgences available for All Souls and the days that follow, so that you can plan your own action.  Don’t let these days slip by.
From the Handbook of Indulgences:
Visiting a Church or an Oratory on All Souls Day
A plenary (“full”) indulgence, which is applicable only to the souls in Purgatory is granted to the Christian faithful who devoutly visit a church or an oratory on (November 2nd,) All Souls Day.
Requirements for Obtaining a Plenary Indulgence on All Souls Day (2 Nov)
  • Visit a church and pray for souls in Purgatory
  • Say one “Our Father” and the “Apostles Creed” in the visit to the church
  • Say one “Our Father” and one “Hail Mary” for the Holy Father’s intentions (that is, the intentions designated by the Holy Father each month)
  • Worthily receive Holy Communion (ideally on the same day if you can get to Mass)
  • Make a sacramental confession within 20 days of All Souls Day
  • For a plenary indulgence be  free from all attachment to sin, even venial sin (otherwise, the indulgence is partial, not plenary, “full”).
You can acquire one plenary indulgence a day.
A partial indulgence can be obtained by visiting a cemetery and praying for the departed.  You can gain a plenary indulgence visiting a cemetery each day between 1 November and 8 November. These indulgences are applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory.
A plenary indulgence, applicable only the Souls in Purgatory, is also granted when you visit a church or a public oratory on 2 November. While visiting the church or oratory say one Our Father and the Apostles Creed.
A partial indulgence, applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory, can be obtained when saying the “Eternal rest … Requiem aeternam…” prayer.
Do you know this prayer?
Requiem aeternam dona ei [pl.eis], Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei [eis]. Requiescat [-ant] in pace Amen.
Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
It is customary to add the second half of the “Eternal Rest” prayer after the prayer recited at the conclusion of a meal.
Gratias agimus tibi, omnipotens Deus, pro universis beneficiis tuis, qui vivis et regnas in saecula saeculorum.
Fidelium animae, per misericordiam Dei, requiescant in pace. Amen.
We give Thee thanks, almighty God, for all Thy benefits, Who livest and reignest, world without end.
May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
My friend Fr. Finigan has a good explanation of being detached from sin and the disposition you need to gain indulgences.  HERE
Keep in mind that having high standards is a good thing.
Shouldn’t we be free from attachment to sin?  To what degree is being attached to sin okay?
In the final analysis, perhaps we have to admit that gaining plenary indulgences is rarer than we would like.
That said, it is not impossible to gain them.
I don’t think we have to be a hermit living on top of a tree beating his head with a rock to be free of attachment to sin so as to gain this plenary or “full” indulgence.
Also, we do not know the degree to which a “partial” indulgence is “partial”.  It could be a lot.  That in itself is something which should spur us on!
Generally, if someone is motivated to obtain an indulgence, he does so from true piety, desire to please God and to help oneself and others.
When it comes to complete detachment from sin, even venial, few of us live in that state all the time.
Nevertheless, there are times when we have been moved to sorrow for sin after examination of conscience, perhaps after an encounter with God as mystery in liturgical worship or in the presence of human suffering, that we come to a present horror and shame of sin that moves us to reject sin entirely.  That doesn’t mean that we, in some Pelagian sense, have chosen to remain perfect from that point on or that by force of will we can chosen never to sin again.  God is helping us with graces at that point, of course.  But we do remain frail and weak.
But God reads our hearts.
Holy Church offers us many opportunities for indulgences.  The presupposition is that Holy Church knows we can actually attain them.
They can be partial (and we don’t know to what extent that is) and full or plenary.  But they can be obtained by the faithful.
Holy Church is a good mother.  She wouldn’t dangle before our eyes something that is impossible for us to attain.
That doesn’t mean that a full indulgence is an easy thing.  It does mean that we can do it.  In fact, beatifications and canonizations have been more common in the last few decades and in previous centuries.  The Church is showing us that it is possible for ordinary people to live a life of heroic virtue.
Therefore, keep your eyes fixed on the prize of indulgences.   Never think that it is useless to try to get any indulgence, partial or full, just because
Perhaps you are not sure you can attain complete detachment from all sin, even venial.  Before you perform the indulgenced work, ask God explicitly to take away any affection for sin you might be treasuring.  Do this often and, over your lifetime, and you may find it easier and easier. Support your good project with good confessions and good communions.  You need those graces.
A person does not become expert in worldly pursuits overnight or without effort.  Why would not the same apply to spiritual pursuits? It takes time and practice to develop skills and virtues.  It takes time to develop habits of the spirit as well.
We can do this.  And when we fall short, we still have the joy of obtaining the partial indulgence and that’s not nothing.
So… take that, Luther!