When the Barque of Peter is Tossed by Storms… Pray to St Michael Archangel!

From Fr George W. Rutler’s Weekly Column 

Saint Michael Archangel – Guido Reni

Nostalgia is a selective editing of the past. For instance, there are those who wish we had today some of the architects of thirteenth-century cathedrals, but who avoid mentioning thirteenth-century dentists. In recent times, the general conceit has been the opposite of nostalgia. The philosopher Owen Barfield spoke of “chronological snobbery,” defined as the belief that “intellectually, humanity languished for countless generations in the most childish errors on all sorts of crucial subjects, until it was redeemed by some scientific dictum of the last century.”

That snobbery had its heyday in the past generation, which defined itself as mankind finally “come of age.” Were that true, we should now be in the stage of incipient senility. Catholics are suffering from that period’s destructive arrogance. Just look at the circular churches and ugly music that replaced venerable shrines and chants. Characteristic of that polyester period was the underestimation of evil, which Pope Benedict XVI noticed even in some assertions of the Second Vatican Council. Without explanation, the Prayer to Saint Michael was dropped from the liturgical books in 1964. But “Satan and all the evil spirits” have not politely gone away.

That prayer was promulgated by Pope Leo XIII in 1884. Accounts variously claim that he was inspired by a vision of horrors to come in the twentieth century. Its use remained a private option after recitation of the prayer was dropped from the end of Mass, but in 1994 Pope Saint John Paul II, from his experience of travails in his native Poland, was not inclined to underestimate the power of the wickedness and snares of the devil: “I invite everyone not to forget it, but to recite it to obtain help in the battle against the forces of darkness and against the spirit of this world.”

Far from having “come of age,” chronological snobs have learned the hard way that theirs has been a prolonged adolescence. In our present cultural chaos, faced with moral decadence all around, the pope and bishops have asked that the Prayer to Saint Michael be restored at the conclusion of each Mass. In our parish we have not had to reinstate it because we never ceased to offer that prayer after Mass, sometimes to the consternation of a few who thought it retrograde. When the Barque of Peter is tossed by storms, it is time to bring the life jackets out of the storage where some liturgists hid them.

Our church is providentially dedicated to Saint Michael, and a month ago the Catholic News Service published a photograph of our own statue of him, based on the famous painting by Guido Reni. Generations ago, the people of “Hell’s Kitchen” knew that Michael and his sword would be a better defense in battle than liturgical dancers and the balloons of chronological snobs. They also knew, as Baudelaire said, that “The devil’s greatest trick is to persuade us that he does not exist.”

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Reflection for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

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FIRST READING            Deuteronomy 6:2-6

Moses spoke to the people, saying:  “Fear the Lord your God, and keep, throughout the days of your lives, all his statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you, and thus have long life.  Hear then, Israel, and be careful to observe them, that you may grow and prosper the more, in keeping with the promise of the Lord, the God of your fathers, to give you a land flowing with milk and honey.  “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone!  Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.  Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today.”

SECOND READING                  Hebrews 7:23-28

Brothers and sisters:  The levitical priests were many because they were prevented by death from remaining in office, but Jesus, because he remains forever, has a priesthood that does not pass away.  Therefore, he is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them.  It was fitting that we should have such a high priest:  holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, higher than the heavens.  He has no need, as did the high priests, to offer sacrifice day after day, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did that once for all when he offered himself.  For the law appoints men subject to weakness to be high priests, but the word of the oath, which was taken after the law, appoints a son, who has been made perfect forever.

GOSPEL                Mark 12:28b-34

One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?”  Jesus replied, “The first is this:  Hear, O Israel!  The Lord our God is Lord alone!  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.  The second is this:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no other commandment greater than these.”  The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher.  You are right in saying, ‘He is One and there is no other than he.’  And ‘to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”  And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Today the readings invite us to place our love of God before all else in our lives.  Already in the Old Testament, the prophets and many of the writers recognized that God must come first.  When God is first, our lives become ordered and work well.

The first reading is from the Book of Deuteronomy and speaks clearly:  “Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.”  We are perhaps so used to these words that they have become meaningless to us.  We need to listen to them again and let them touch the depths of our hearts.  These words need to be written in our hearts and lived in our lives.  This God who has come in time and history to save us is asking us for our whole lives.

Today many people no longer believe that God exists or that God has spoken.  We are invited to make a choice in our lives:  either God exists and we must serve Him or God does not exist and we should reject the craziness of the teachings about God.  Instead, many of us won’t make a clear choice.  We will stay in doubt but not choose.  We want to believe but are frightened of believing and find it easier not to believe.  The readings today call us to a choice.

The second reading today comes from the Letter to the Hebrews.  This letter is always speaking about Jesus as the High Priest.  Many of us are not so familiar with this image of a High Priest, which comes from the Jewish faith.  The High Priest is an important figure because it is the High Priest who makes sacrifices.  The author of this letter wants us to understand that the High Priests of the Jewish people always changed because they died.  Instead of that kind of High Priest, we have Jesus, who never dies:  “Jesus, because he remains forever, has a priesthood that does not pass away.  Therefore, he is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them.  It was fitting that we should have such a high priest.”

It is Jesus who opens the door to heaven for us.  It is Jesus who shows us how to pray always.  It is Jesus who shows us how to sacrifice ourselves for others.  Because Jesus is God, Jesus opens the door to God for us.

Still we are challenged to believe.  All of this religious language must become our lived experience of God and of His presence in our daily lives.

The Gospel from Saint Mark brings us back once again to this challenge of love for God and love for others.  Only when we live this way, with love for God and others, can we claim to be followers of Jesus.  Even if we talk about Jesus, unless we follow His way of living, we are only talking about Him and not believing in Him with our lives.  Jesus wants us to love Him and to live as He lived, in sacrificial gift for others.  Jesus loves us.  Will we love Him and follow Him?

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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The scandal of the modern Catholic funeral

In this the month of the Holy Souls we look at the one event that none of us can miss and just how much of our Catholic  tradition has been in danger of being eclipsed by a ‘one size fits all’ funeral rite. Thanks be to God more an increasing number of Catholics are realising that the funerary rites that held good for almost 2,000 years are a most important part of the end of our journey on earth.

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From: Life Site News (https://www.lifesitenews.com/)

by Peter Kwasniewski

 

The day before, however, my family and I had gone to a traditional Requiem Mass, sung by a priest friend. The contrast was not just profound, but shocking. Between that day and the following, we were emotionally suspended between two radically different offerings for the dead: one that took death with deadly seriousness, that cared about the fate of the departed soul, and allowed us to suffer; another that shuffled death to the side with platitudes and empty promises. The contrast between Friday’s black vestments, Dies irae, and whispered suffrages and Saturday’s stole-surmounted white chasuble and amplified sentiments of universal goodwill seemed to epitomize the chasm that separates the faith of the saints from the prematurely ageing modernism of yesterday.

I found myself thinking: The greatest miracle of our times is that the Catholic Faith has survived the liturgical reform.

A correspondent once wrote to me about his own similar experiences, and I would like to share his reflections.

I’ve just returned from my grandfather’s funeral. He was a fallen man, whose hope of salvation rests only on God’s infinite mercy and many of our prayers—a reality which was lamentably absent from the prayers and ceremonies of the new order of Christian Burial as I experienced them. I can’t tell whether the priest was selecting only the most sanguine of the options in every case, or whether he was reading the proper prayers constituting the rite, but I was appalled (no pun intended) throughout to hear absolutely no mention of purgatory, atonement for sin, or even the shadow of a doubt that the deceased is already in heaven. Instead, from beginning to end, we were bid to rejoice that the soul of Grandpa stood even now in the light of God’s face.

The overwhelming impression received—even without the tincture of an overly saccharine homily about the sure and certain hope we can have of our salvation—was that N. already sang with the angels, that thus no mourning is necessary, and all prayers for his repose would be superfluous. In fact, the almost off-handed blitheness and platitudinous manner with which the need for tears and mourning was dismissed, in light of his sure salvation, was really quite offensive. As if to say, “Death’s really not such a big deal, after all.”

Of course, the white vestments and pall only added to that impression, so that I was overwhelmed with the sinking and sickening feeling that here, too, the new funeral rite offers us a symbolically denuded, sensitively reconstructed, sterilized and therapeutic experience of Christian mourning that refuses to quake in the face of awesome metaphysical realities, in the face of the fearful judgment seat of Christ (as the Byzantine liturgy puts it).

In short, I felt cheated out of a good mourning. If this is all we get at death, is the Christian life really worth living? Is it really so heroic to die in the faith, if our mourning is so prosaic and our fate so predictable? My father and I declared afterwards, in the presence of witnesses, that we are to be given a traditional funeral at any cost!

The primary purpose of the traditional Mass for the Dead is to pray for the soul of the departed, that it may be saved and, if in need of purification (as the vast majority of saved souls will be), may be delivered soon from the fires of Purgatory. Hence the ancient Requiem Mass focuses all of its attention on the faithful departed. There is no homily; gone are blessings of certain objects or of the people; a special Agnus Dei begs for the repose of souls; the Propers are a continuous tapestry of prayers for the dead; and so forth.

The way that modern funerals have been turned towards the emotional relief of the living and the “celebration” of the mortal life of the deceased is, in reality, a double act of uncharity: first, it deprives Christians of the opportunity to go out of themselves in love by praying for the salvation of their loved one’s soul, the opportunity to exercise a great act of spiritual mercy rather than being the passive recipient of an act of spiritual mercy; second, it deprives the departed soul of the power and consolation of collective prayer on its behalf. It is bad for the dead and bad for the living.

Of course, all of this presupposes an orthodox understanding of the Four Last Things, which can seldom be assumed of clergy or laity.

How, how often, and how much we pray for the dead makes a real difference, according to the tradition of the Catholic Church. Prayer, including the offering of the Holy Sacrifice, is a particular human action that takes place in time and space, and therefore has an effect proportionate to the intensity with which it is performed and offered to God. Hence, that we pray intently and frequently for the souls in Purgatory is good for them and good for us.

To be able to do so, we must believe in what we are doing, be reminded of its meaning and its urgency by the very prayers themselves, and have suitable opportunities at our disposal. The postconciliar church has deprived Catholics of all of these things to one degree or another, and it is only now, in the spreading rediscovery of liturgical tradition, that we are beginning to see the return of earnest prayer for the dead at traditional Requiem Masses.

What, then, are we to do? We must restore the Requiem Mass whenever and wherever possible. We should give priests who can celebrate it stipends and intentions. We should make sure our Last Will and Testament includes specific instructions to have a traditional Latin Requiem Mass offered for us, and leave some funds for it. (It should be noted that any Catholic is permitted to ask for and receive an Extraordinary Form Requiem Mass, as this booklet from the Latin Mass Society of England & Wales explains in full.) We should attend Requiem Masses when they are offered in our vicinity and pray earnestly for the dead, as we hope someday our loved ones will do for us.

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Prayer for the Holy Souls by Bl. Cardinal John Henry Newman

O GOD of the Spirits of all flesh, O Jesu, Lover of souls, we recommend unto Thee the souls of all those Thy servants, who have departed with the sign of faith and sleep the sleep of peace. We beseech Thee, O Lord and Saviour, that, as in Thy mercy to them Thou became man, so now Thou would hasten the time, and admit them to Thy presence above. Remember, O Lord, that they are Thy creatures, not made by strange gods, but by Thee, the only Living and True God; for there is no other God but Thou, and none that can equal Thy works. Let their souls rejoice in Thy light, and impute not to them their former iniquities, which they committed through the violence of passion, or the corrupt habits of their fallen nature. For, although they have sinned, yet they always firmly believed in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and before they died, they reconciled themselves to Thee by true contrition and the Sacraments of Thy Church.

O Gracious Lord, we beseech Thee, remember not against them the sins of their youth and their ignorances; but according to Thy great mercy, be mindful of them in Thy heavenly glory. May the heavens be opened to them, and the Angels rejoice with them. May the Archangel St Michael conduct them to Thee. May Thy holy Angels come forth to meet them, and carry them to the city of the heavenly Jerusalem. May St Peter, to whom Thou gave the keys of the kingdom of heaven, receive them. May St Paul, the vessel of election, stand by them. May St John, the beloved disciple, who had the revelation of the secrets of heaven, intercede for them. May all the Holy Apostles, who received from Thee the power of binding and loosing, pray for them. May all the Saints and elect of God, who in this world suffered torments for Thy Name, befriend them; that, being freed from the prison beneath, they may be admitted into the glories of that kingdom, where with the Father and the Holy Ghost Thou lives and reigns one God, world without end.

Come to their assistance, all ye Saints of God; gain for them deliverance from their place of punishment; meet them, all ye Angels; receive these holy souls, and present them before the Lord. Eternal rest give to them, O Lord. And may perpetual light shine on them.

May they rest in peace. Amen.

 

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World Over 2018-11-01 Post Youth Synod Edition

 

Bishop Martin Holley in an exclusive interview, discusses his sudden removal as Bishop of Memphis, and the possible reasons for it. The Youth Synod concludes in Rome. What should Catholics be concerned about in the Synod’s final document? The Papal Posse, Robert Royal and Fr Gerald Murray offer their analysis. An update on the suffering Church in India with Bishop George Palliparambil:

UPDATED:

It seems that Bp. Holley wasn’t the only thing removed; his interview disappeared too. (The same thing happened on Father Z’s blog.) The World Over video we posted yesterday was then replaced with a video that aired one year ago! However, the different segments of the show were later reposted on Youtube. Will they mysteriously diasappear once more?

 

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Pope Benedict (Pope Emeritus): Homily for the Solemnity of All Saints (2006)

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HOLY MASS ON THE SOLEMNITY OF ALL SAINTS

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Vatican Basilica
Wednesday, 1 November 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our Eucharistic celebration began with the exhortation: “Let us all rejoice in the Lord”. The liturgy invites us to share in the heavenly jubilation of the Saints, to taste their joy. The Saints are not a small caste of chosen souls but an innumerable crowd to which the liturgy urges us to raise our eyes. This multitude not only includes the officially recognized Saints, but the baptized of every epoch and nation who sought to carry out the divine will faithfully and lovingly. We are unacquainted with the faces and even the names of many of them, but with the eyes of faith we see them shine in God’s firmament like glorious stars.

Today, the Church is celebrating her dignity as “Mother of the Saints, an image of the Eternal City” (A. Manzoni), and displays her beauty as the immaculate Bride of Christ, source and model of all holiness. She certainly does not lack contentious or even rebellious children, but it is in the Saints that she recognizes her characteristic features and precisely in them savours her deepest joy.

In the first reading, the author of the Book of Revelation describes them as “a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues” (Rv 7: 9).

This people includes the Saints of the Old Testament, starting with the righteous Abel and the faithful Patriarch, Abraham, those of the New Testament, the numerous early Christian Martyrs and the Blesseds and Saints of later centuries, to the witnesses of Christ in this epoch of ours.

They are all brought together by the common desire to incarnate the Gospel in their lives under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, the life-giving spirit of the People of God.

But “why should our praise and glorification, or even the celebration of this Solemnity, mean anything to the Saints?”. A famous homily of St Bernard for All Saints’ Day begins with this question. It could equally well be asked today. And the response the Saint offers us is also timely: “The Saints”, he says, “have no need of honour from us; neither does our devotion add the slightest thing to what is theirs…. But I tell you, when I think of them, I feel myself inflamed by a tremendous yearning” (Disc. 2, Opera Omnia Cisterc. 5, 364ff.).

This, then, is the meaning of today’s Solemnity: looking at the shining example of the Saints to reawaken within us the great longing to be like them; happy to live near God, in his light, in the great family of God’s friends. Being a Saint means living close to God, to live in his family. And this is the vocation of us all, vigorously reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council and solemnly proposed today for our attention.

But how can we become holy, friends of God? We can first give a negative answer to this question: to be a Saint requires neither extraordinary actions or works nor the possession of exceptional charisms. Then comes the positive reply: it is necessary first of all to listen to Jesus and then to follow him without losing heart when faced by difficulties. “If anyone serves me”, he warns us, “he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honour him” (Jn 12: 26).

Like the grain of wheat buried in the earth, those who trust him and love him sincerely accept dying to themselves. Indeed, he knows that whoever seeks to keep his life for himself loses it, and whoever gives himself, loses himself, and in this very way finds life (cf. Jn 12: 24-25).

The Church’s experience shows that every form of holiness, even if it follows different paths, always passes through the Way of the Cross, the way of self-denial. The Saints’ biographies describe men and women who, docile to the divine plan, sometimes faced unspeakable trials and suffering, persecution and martyrdom. They persevered in their commitment: “they… have come out of the great tribulation”, one reads in Revelation, “they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rv 7: 14). Their names are written in the book of life (cf. Rv 20: 12) and Heaven is their eternal dwelling-place.

The example of the Saints encourages us to follow in their same footsteps and to experience the joy of those who trust in God, for the one true cause of sorrow and unhappiness for men and women is to live far from him.

Holiness demands a constant effort, but it is possible for everyone because, rather than a human effort, it is first and foremost a gift of God, thrice Holy (cf. Is 6: 3). In the second reading, the Apostle John remarks: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (I Jn 3: 1).

It is God, therefore, who loved us first and made us his adoptive sons in Jesus. Everything in our lives is a gift of his love: how can we be indifferent before such a great mystery? How can we not respond to the Heavenly Father’s love by living as grateful children? In Christ, he gave us the gift of his entire self and calls us to a personal and profound relationship with him.

Consequently, the more we imitate Jesus and remain united to him the more we enter into the mystery of his divine holiness. We discover that he loves us infinitely, and this prompts us in turn to love our brethren. Loving always entails an act of self-denial, “losing ourselves”, and it is precisely this that makes us happy.

Thus, we have come to the Gospel of this feast, the proclamation of the Beatitudes which we have just heard resound in this Basilica.

Jesus says: Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed those who mourn, the meek; blessed those who hunger and thirst for justice, the merciful; blessed the pure in heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted for the sake of justice (cf. Mt 5: 3-10).

In truth, the blessed par excellence is only Jesus. He is, in fact, the true poor in spirit, the one afflicted, the meek one, the one hungering and thirsting for justice, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemaker. He is the one persecuted for the sake of justice.

The Beatitudes show us the spiritual features of Jesus and thus express his mystery, the mystery of his death and Resurrection, of his passion and of the joy of his Resurrection. This mystery, which is the mystery of true blessedness, invites us to follow Jesus and thus to walk toward it.

To the extent that we accept his proposal and set out to follow him – each one in his own circumstances – we too can participate in his blessedness. With him, the impossible becomes possible and even a camel can pass through the eye of a needle (cf. Mk 10: 25); with his help, only with his help, can we become perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect (cf. Mt 5: 48).

Dear brothers and sisters, we are now entering the heart of the Eucharistic celebration that encourages and nourishes holiness. In a little while, Christ will make himself present in the most exalted way, Christ the true Vine to whom the faithful on earth and the Saints in Heaven are united like branches.

Thus, the communion of the pilgrim Church in the world with the Church triumphant in glory will increase.

In the Preface we will proclaim that the Saints are friends and models of life for us. Let us invoke them so that they may help us to imitate them and strive to respond generously, as they did, to the divine call.

In particular, let us invoke Mary, Mother of the Lord and mirror of all holiness. May she, the All Holy, make us faithful disciples of her Son Jesus Christ! Amen.

 

© Copyright 2006 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Young Men: You Can Only Truly Lead If You Are Willing To Imitate Christ In His Suffering

The following talk was given by Fr Anthony Pillari to young men at the Voice of the Family conference Created for heaven: the mission of Catholic young adults in today’s world that was held in Rome on 20 October 2018.

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From VOICE OF THE FAMILY on 28 October 2018

For my power is made perfect in weakness”

Fr Anthony Pillari

“When you become willing to suffer for the sake of unborn children, your witness on their behalf becomes much more powerful.” A pro-life leader uttered these words to me many years ago, speaking of those in Operation Rescue.¹

Are you willing to suffer arrest and imprisonment, ridicule and hatred, in order to give witness to the Truth of Christ, in order to work for the salvation of souls? What are you willing to suffer, as a man, to help save souls? Because Christ is calling each one of you to take up arms in the spiritual battle that is raging all around us. So many, many souls do not even know that they are in the midst of a battle; do not know that demons are trying to drag them down to hell. And so God turns to you, young men who have at least some awareness of the gravity of what is taking place today in the Church and in the world. And He asks you: “Are you willing to fight for Me, to defend souls, to help win souls for Me? Are you willing to suffer, even to the point of losing your life?” “For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”²

None of us chose to be born at this time. But God chose you to be born in this time, to live in the midst of this great crisis. God is offering you all the graces necessary to live heroically these years, to take up your role as leaders, as men. And a man can only lead in Christ’s army, whether as a priest, a religious, a head of a family, or a celibate man in the midst of the world — a man can only truly lead if he is willing to imitate Christ in His suffering, if he is willing to lay down his life. Because make no mistake, if you bear faithful witness to the truth of Christ, the world will hate you. As St Paul declares: “…all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”³ And for those of you called to be priests, the devil, the prince of this world (cf. Jn 12:31), will hate you with a special intensity. Because you will be called, as a priest, to bear courageous witness, in your preaching, in your celebration of the Sacraments, and in your life, to the truth of Christ and the reality of sin.

To take just one example: as a priest, I am called to proclaim to every man, including those ensnared in the sins of homosexual acts, the teaching of Christ, the teaching of the Church: such acts are gravely sinful. Such acts violate the natural moral law; such acts are sins so grave that they cry out to Heaven for vengeance (as Bishop Morlino of Madison Wisconsin recently reiterated). And the world will hate you for proclaiming this truth. As Christ declared: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

And the hatred of the world might include not only being ridiculed, sidelined, or caricatured as a bigot, but might well come to include fines, imprisonment or even death. In early 16th century England priests did not expect that in just a few short years they would only be able to celebrate the Sacraments in secret, at the risk of being hung, drawn, and quartered if caught. They did not anticipate that their own bishops would betray the faith, would abandon them. Fathers of families did not anticipate that in just a few years they would only be able to attend the Holy Mass, and to refuse attendance at heretical services, at the risk of crippling fines, of imprisonment, and of the loss of all their possessions. And yet that is exactly what priests and fathers of families faced. But though they did not choose to live in a time calling for heroic witness, God chose them for that time, and God offered them all the graces necessary to be faithful to the Truth that comes from God, faithful until death.

Why did the prince of this world orchestrate such severe punishments for priests caught celebrating the Holy Mass? Because the devil is terribly afraid of losing a great multitude of souls through the apostolate of a priest. When God calls a young man to take up the spiritual arms of the priesthood, that young man is called forward to kneel before his bishop, who anoints his hands with sacred chrism, praying: “May it please you, O Lord, to consecrate and sanctify these hands by this anointing and our blessing. That whatever they bless may be blessed, and whatever they consecrate may be consecrated in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”4 “Receive the power to offer sacrifice to God, and to celebrate Masses for the living and the dead.”5 From that moment, the young man’s hands become capable of washing souls with the blood of Christ. No matter where the priest may be, men will always be able to receive from him absolution for their sins. And no matter where the priest may be, every day of his life, his hands will be capable of offering the Holy Sacrifice upon the altar — of rendering present Christ’s redeeming sacrifice of Calvary.

The greatness of the priesthood is enough to make some young men say: “I would never be capable or worthy of such a vocation. I’m so weak, so imperfect, so sinful.” It is quite true that you are unworthy of being consecrated a priest of Jesus Christ, that you are weak — most likely far weaker than you know, and that you are imperfect and sinful. But whom did Christ choose as His first priests, His first bishops? He chose weak, incapable men who had just shown all of Jerusalem how sinful and cowardly they were. All of Jerusalem knew that Christ’s closest friends, the apostles — except for one — had abandoned Him, had run away and hidden themselves during the Passion. Peter had even publicly denied that he knew Him. And yet God chose these weak, sinful men to become the foundation of His Church, to be the first men to embrace what the Church has always taught to be a superior state of life.6 As the Church reiterated in the encyclical Sacra Virginitas: “This doctrine of the excellence of virginity and of celibacy and of their superiority over the married state was, as we have already said, revealed by our Divine Redeemer and by the Apostle of the Gentiles; so too, it was solemnly defined as a dogma of divine faith by the holy council of Trent, and explained in the same way by all the holy Fathers and Doctors of the Church.”7

One aspect of this superiority is, at times, overlooked: celibacy is a superior way of life in part because celibacy provides far more assistance for weak, sinful men — assistance in growing in holiness — than the married state. For several years I helped lead a youth group for the spiritual formation of young men. I met with them weekly during the year and then helped lead summer camps lasting from one to three weeks. It was striking to see the difference in the young men during those camps. Their personalities, with their combination of good intentions and inclinations to sin, were essentially the same during the summer camp and during the year. They were the same young men. But when they were at the summer camp, with a schedule that included daily Mass, the rosary, Eucharistic Adoration, and hard work calling for physical sacrifice; when they had the support of priests and other like-minded young men, conferences for spiritual formation, and so forth; they did much better in their struggle to abandon vice and embrace virtue, in their struggle to love Christ with all of their heart, mind and strength. Whereas back in the world, after a few weeks, they would often fall back into old habits.

When a young man enters the novitiate or seminary, when he is ordained a priest, if he lives faithfully according to what the Church asks of him, he experiences a transformation that is not just the result of a few weeks of a different style of life, in the course of a summer camp, but that is the result of years — of the rest of his life — of receiving the special helps offered by the constant training of a celibate priestly life well-lived.

But the devil is terribly afraid of what even one good priest can do. And so the devil is today trying desperately to obscure this truth, to proclaim — as loudly as he can, using newspapers, TV, the internet — that becoming a celibate, Catholic priest will make you weaker and more prone to sin than if you were to get married. Nothing could be further from the truth! But the devil’s lie might appear convincing because of the current clerical scandals. For several decades the true nature of priestly life has, in many seminaries, not been adequately taught. Many young men have come through a seminary without receiving the necessary training — you could say without going through the necessary “spiritual boot camp”, without being equipped with the necessary spiritual armour, with the much-needed habits and daily disciplines that priests have embraced for centuries; without the training in how to make sure their souls would receive regular spiritual nourishment throughout their priestly life. And so, many young men then found themselves, as priests, quite vulnerable to sin.

Of course, ever since Judas there have been bishops and priests who committed serious sins, and Judas had the best formation possible, the formation given by Our Lord Himself. So even with the best seminary formation in the world there will always be the possibility of priests choosing to sin. But the seminary formation of these past few decades has left priests vulnerable, without the spiritual armor necessary to protect them in the midst of the world. So it can be good to recall, even very briefly, the immense treasures and helps Our Lord offers His priests through the Church.

In an orthodox seminary formation a young man learns to embrace and cherish the precious treasure of priestly celibacy. As St Paul declares: “The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided… I say this for your own benefit… to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.”8 If you were engaged to a young woman and you told her: “Sophie, I’m so looking forward to marrying you in three months. I wanted to let you know though, that I’ve decided to also marry Elizabeth, that same day. But don’t worry. The fact that I will be married to both of you will not diminish in the slightest my love, attention, and devotion to you.” How would Sophie respond? “You’re crazy! A man is only capable of giving his heart to one wife. You must be out of your mind if you think that having a second spouse will not greatly harm your love, attention, and devotion to me.” As a man, you can only give your heart to one spouse. For those of you whom God will call to become priests, you will be called to give your heart to Him alone, to the exclusion of any earthly spouse.

It is difficult to put into words the greatness of the blessings the priest receives by having God alone. The saints and mystics, in attempting to say something of the intimate relationship between the soul of a celibate and his God have used the language of the Song of Songs. They have used poetry and music to give some hint of the blessings God has in store for those who choose Him alone as their portion, yet, in the end, they confess that “eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Cor. 2:9)

In a healthy marriage, where a man is truly devoted to his spouse, or, to take a different example, where a man has a best friend for many years — perhaps a teenager who spends extended time, over several years, with a best friend — the man is greatly influenced by his spouse, or the teenager by his friend. Because the man’s spouse or friend occupies a major place in his heart, the spouse or friend has a profound influence on his thoughts, his emotions, his way of acting, how he lives his life. If this is the case even in a human relationship, how much more so for the man who choses God alone as his portion; God, who has promised in the Gospel to give a hundredfold in return for whatever we sacrifice for Him?  The priest will therefore, to the degree that he lives his time of formation and his priesthood well, experience the hundredfold of blessings — blessing that help him become more and more like Christ — in his thoughts, his emotions, his way of acting, in his entire life.

Even with poor sinners — and I say this as one who, sadly, is still terribly far from fully embracing the gift of the priesthood; as one who is still, unfortunately, in so many ways lukewarm — even with poor sinful men God takes what we offer Him and grants the hundredfold. The Church, as a good mother, knows the weakness of her children and offers us many practical helps and safeguards so that, on a daily basis, we might be strengthened and protected in our priestly life. Though much of these helps have not been sufficiently taught in recent decades, and have therefore, not been truly embraced and put into practice in priestly life, they are still available and are an invaluable help for young men called to become priests.

A priest is called to nourish his spiritual life:

  • through the daily celebration of the Holy Mass, in which he offers the Holy Sacrifice on behalf of the living and the dead, and leaves aside earthly things in order to be face to face with His God;
  • through the Divine Office, during which the words of the psalms, prayers of the Church, and readings from Scripture and the saints constantly teach and guide him in his relationship with God;
  • through the daily rosary, in which the priest is brought ever closer to Our Lord and Our Lady;
  • through daily meditation — by spending at least 30 minutes a day in quiet conversation with God — or by making a Holy Hour;
  • through spiritual reading;
  • through regular fasting and Confession — from their days at the seminary priests used to learn the practice of confessing once every 15 days;
  • through his annual retreat: once a year a priest is required to make an annual 5-day retreat. When made well, these five days of silence for more intense prayer and formation help the priest come more fully face to face with his God, in order to be renewed and blessed in ways that only God can grant.

There are many other ways that a priest is strengthened for the spiritual battle. For example, wearing the cassock on a daily basis — so that all who encounter you, whether on the street, in a shop, on the plane, or elsewhere will know that you are a priest — makes it easier for others to seek his help. But even when not in public, for example even when the priest is going about various duties within the rectory, the cassock helps the priest himself remember that he is consecrated to God, that he is called to serve God and His people all throughout his day — that the priesthood is not “a job” but a consecration to God of all that he is, of his entire life. The priest also lives in a presbytery, a place that should be set aside and decorated in such a way as to help the priest remember that he is in the presence of God, normally with a small chapel in the rectory or with the church close at hand. The priest also has the fraternal support of other priests striving for holiness. This is true today, even in the midst of the current scandals. The friendship and support of brother priests is very real.

The priest also has the invaluable help of knowing that what he has received — if he has been given in his formation what Christ Himself confided to the Church, what has been safeguarded by her for 2,000 years — that the truths he has been formed in will never change, and cannot change, because they are the truths that God Himself has revealed. They are a firm bedrock upon which his life and apostolate can be built. As St Alphonsus Liguori declares: “From the time of the Apostles down to our own days our Faith has continued unaltered… Accordingly, the Catholic Church has remained the same in all ages and in all climes. The doctrines she teaches today are the same that were taught and believed in the first ages of the Church.”9 Our Lord gave this solemn command to the apostles: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…”10 St John exhorts us all, but in a particular way the priest: “Let that which you have heard from the beginning abide in you.”(1 Jn 2:24) Or as St Jude writes: “I beseech you, dearly beloved, to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints.”(Jude 3)

To contend, to fight “for the faith that was once delivered to the saints.” Such is the great mission to which every priest is called. God turns to you, young men who have at least some knowledge of the greatness of our Faith, some awareness of the battle raging all around us, and He asks you: “Are you willing to fight for Me, to defend souls, to help win souls for Me? Are you willing to suffer, even to the point of losing your life?” “For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”11

Are you willing to suffer arrest and imprisonment, ridicule and hatred, in order to give witness to the Truth of Christ, in order to work for the salvation of souls? As young men, Christ is calling each one of you, right now, to take up arms in the spiritual battle that is raging around us. So many, many souls do not even know that they are in the midst of a spiritual battle, do not even know that demons are trying to drag them down to Hell.

For those of you whom Christ is calling to become His priests, and who accept this call to suffer with Him, you will experience the truth of His words: “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.”12 God will accomplish much more than the hundredfold through your priestly apostolate: your hands will become capable of absolving souls, of presenting again and again the Holy Sacrifice of Calvary to the Father, of distributing God’s graces, every day of your life, to poor sinners throughout the world. You will discover the truth of His words: “My power is made perfect in weakness.”13 And in your own relationship with God you will discover a treasure that surpasses human understanding: what God grants who choose Him alone as their portion, to the exclusion of any earthly spouse.

May God grant, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, each one of us, as men, to be willing to lay down our lives for Him, to be willing to suffer and sacrifice for the salvation of souls, and for the consolation of Our Lord’s Sacred Heart. And for those of you called to be priests, may the Blessed Virgin be by your side to help you embrace wholeheartedly the incomparable treasure of choosing God alone as your portion, and of becoming an alter Christus.

*****

Endnotes:

¹ Operation Rescue, founded in 1986, was a pro-life movement in the United States. A group of people would peacefully sit in front of an abortion clinic, praying and physically blocking the entrance to the clinic for some hours while police came and carried them away to jail. “Operation rescuers” were willing to spend days in jail and face the consequences of arrest for the sake of preventing innocent children from being killed that morning at an abortion clinic, and in the hope that mothers who arrived and saw them there might reconsider their decision.

² Matt. 16:25.

³ 2 Tim. 3:12.

From the traditional rite of ordination.

Ibid.

Note: a well-established tradition in the Church is that the apostles, after being ordained priests, chose to live celibate lives. See https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=7052

Sacra Virginitas, Encyclical Pope Pius XII, March 25th 1954, no. 32.

1 Cor. 7:32–35. New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.

St Alphonsus Liguori, The 12 Steps to Holiness and Salvation, Tan Books 2012, pp. 12-13.

10 Matt. 28:19–20.

11 Matt. 16:25.

12 Mk. 10:29–30.

13 2 Cor. 12:9.

—————-

There was another inspiring talk at the Voice of the Family conference given by Professor Roberto de Mattei:

To the youth: there is only one way to be happy: be holy!

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BREAKING – Asia Bibi: Pakistan acquits Christian woman on death row

Good news from the Pakistan High Court, at last! Catholics the world over have been praying for the release of Asia Bibi, imprisoned on a trumped up charge by radical Muslim women.

From the BBC

Asia Bibi’s case had been hugely divisive in religiously conservative Pakistan

A Pakistani court has overturned the death sentence of a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy, a case that has polarised the nation.

Asia Bibi was convicted in 2010 after being accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a row with her neighbours.

She always maintained her innocence, but has spent most of the past eight years in solitary confinement.

The landmark ruling has already set off protests by hardliners who support strong blasphemy laws.

There was a heavy police presence at the Supreme Court in Islamabad as many feared violence could break out.

People have also been gathering for protests against the verdict in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar, and hundreds blocked a road between Rawalpindi and Islamabad, Dawn newspaper reported.

Chief Justice Saqib Nisarm, who read out the ruling, said Asia Bibi could walk free from jail in Sheikupura, near Lahore, immediately if not wanted in connection with any other case.

She was not in court to hear the ruling, but reacted to the verdict from prison with apparent disbelief.

“I can’t believe what I am hearing, will I go out now? Will they let me out, really?” AFP news agency quoted her as saying by phone.

What was Asia Bibi accused of?

The trial stems from an argument Asia Bibi, whose full name is Asia Noreen, had with a group of women in June 2009.

They were harvesting fruit when a row broke out about a bucket of water. The women said that because she had used a cup, they could no longer touch it, as her faith had made it unclean.

Prosecutors alleged that in the row which followed, the women said Asia Bibi should convert to Islam and that she made three offensive comments about the Prophet Muhammad in response.

She was later beaten up at her home, during which her accusers say she confessed to blasphemy. She was arrested after a police investigation.

Continue reading

—————

UPDATE

 From CHRISTIANITY TODAY

Pakistan Frees Asia Bibi from Blasphemy Death Sentence

Jailed Christian mother acquitted by Supreme Court after eight years. Violent protests erupt in major cities.
[…]

“We are breathing a sigh of relief today,” stated David Curry, CEO of Open Doors USA, “… as these charges stemmed from her Christian identity as well as false accusations against her. We are hopeful that Pakistan will now take additional steps to offer religious freedom and basic human rights throughout the country.” Pakistan ranks No. 5 on the 2018 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it’s hardest to be a Christian.

————-

SECOND UPDATE

By Samuel Smith , CP Reporter |

Angered Muslims in Pakistan protest the release of Christian mother Asia Bibi after she spent eight years on death row on Oct. 31, 2018.

Muslim radicals in Pakistan have taken to the streets and are calling for the deaths of the Supreme Court justices responsible for releasing Christian mother Asia Bibi from death row.

Reuters reports that supporters of the Islamist political party Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) have not taken too kindly to the Supreme Court’s announcement Wednesday that it has acquitted Bibi (also known as Aasiya Noreen).

[…]

According to Reuters, the size of the protests grew and by mid-afternoon, had paralyzed parts of major cities like Islamabad and Lahore.

CNN reports that the demonstrators blocked a roadway in Lahore and forced a major road that links Islamabad and Rawalpindi to be closed off.

At a rally in Lahore, a city about 30 miles from where Bibi grew up and worked as a farmhand, TLP co-founder Muhammad Afzal Qadri is said to have called for the death of Supreme Court Chief Justice Saqib Nisar and the two other justices on the panel.

“They all three deserve to be killed,” Qadri was quoted as saying. “Either their security should kill them, their driver kill them, or their cook kill them.”

Qadri asserted that whoever has “access” to the justices should “kill them before the evening.”

Qadri’s call for the justices to be killed should be taken seriously as there has been a history of violence against politicians who speak against the Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and defend blasphemy victims.

In January 2011, Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was assassinated by his bodyguard Mumtaz Qadri, who disagreed with Taseer’s desire to reform the blasphemy law. Taseer even filed a mercy petition on behalf of Bibi.

Two months later, Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian politician and elected member of the national assembly who voiced opposition to the blasphemy laws, was assassinated by Pakistan’s Taliban.

Continue reading 

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EWTN Live: Pat Kenny on the Life of Father Willie Doyle, SJ

This is a MUST SEE video for all! Having been a longtime devotee of the once little known Jesuit priest, Fr Willie Doyle, I am delighted to discover that he is finally moving into the limelight. Many Catholics are hoping and praying that one day the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will open the path to sainthood for this holy Irish priest.

We have so much to learn from Fr Willie’s deep piety, rock-hard faith, natural humility and Christ-like charity. An enchanting sense of humour and talent to remain always positive even under great duress are further traits that endear Fr Willie Doyle to people everywhere. Sent as a Catholic Chaplain to the Western Front of the Great War in 1915, and after many months of selfless spiritual and physical care for his men and others under appalling conditions, Fr Willie died in a bomb explosion in 1917 whilst once again seeking out fallen comrades.

In the video below, starting at 4’35 minutes, ‘EWTN Live’ host, Fr Mitch Pacwa, interviews Patrick Kenny, author of the excellent Remembering Fr Wiilie Doyle SJ blog, on the life and virtues of this heroic Catholic WW1 chaplain.

Fr Willie Doyle, martyr of charity, pray for us!

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Shunning Romanità

Fr. Mark D. White

Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure or greedy person, that is, an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God… So do not be associated with them… Live as children of light. (Ephesians 5:5-8)

Impurity and greed involve idolatry. The Catechism explains:

Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and serves a creature in place of God [2113]. In his original sin, man preferred himself to God. He chose himself over against God, against the requirements of being a creature of God… Man wanted to ‘be like God,’ but without God, before God, not in accordance with God. [358].

Do not be associated with such idolatry, insists St. Paul. In other words: shun sin; shun sinners; preserve the integrity of your witness to God.

Two points on this:

1. I could shun wrongly. That would involve idolatrously worshiping my own self-righteousness. So when it comes to shunning anything or anyone, let me always preserve romanità.

What does that mean? Romanità means having a universal, cosmopolitan outlook. Always give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Assume I have fellowship in Christ with everyone. Never interest myself in another person’s sins unless I absolutely have to.

2. Today Fr. Boniface Ramsey—the original Theodore McCarrick whistleblower—published a lucid summary of what he knew about McCarrick and when, and what he did about it.

One thing in particular that moved Fr. Ramsey to action: Seeing other bishops—men who knew that McCarrick had preyed on seminarians–seeing them graciously and fraternally interact with McCarrick at the altar at major Masses, like big funerals, etc—seeing them interact with McCarrick and not shun him.

How can you men of God and successors of the Apostles not shun this man, knowing what you know? That thought moved Fr. Ramsey to act, to write, to pester the hierarchy. May God reward him for it.

In sum, then: Without romanità, we risk becoming unkind and self-righteous. But too much romanità, and we become: Compromised in our integrity.

Lord, help us to know when not to shun. And when to shun.

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How to gain the 1-8 November plenary indulgence

From a reader…

QUAERITUR:

Thanks to you and your blog, I am intending to receive a plenary indulgence or three (aim high!) for the souls in purgatory over Nov 1 – Nov 8. Reading through the Manual of Indulgences, from the fourth edition (1999) of Enchiridion Indulgentiarum: Normae et Concessiones, N23 states:
“To gain an indulgence it is sufficient to recite the prayer
alternately with a companion or to follow it mentally while it is
being recited by another”.
To me this reads as though an indulgence cannot be granted if I only say the prayer silently to myself; that the prayer(s) need to be said with someone or recite them mentally when someone else is saying the prayer out loud. Have I interpreted this correctly? Can you please clarify?

At the Vatican site HERE we find the current text.

29
Pro fidelibus defunctis

§ 1. Plenaria indulgentia, animabus in Purgatorio detentis tantummodo applicabilis, conceditur christifideli qui

1° singulis diebus, a primo usque ad octavum novembris, coemeterium devote visitaverit et, vel mente tantum, pro defunctis exoraverit;

2° die Commemorationis omnium fidelium defunctorum (vel, de consensu Ordinarii, die Dominico antecedenti aut subsequenti aut die sollemnitatis Omnium Sanctorum) ecclesiam aut oratorium pie visitaverit ibique recitaverit Pater et Credo.

There is no mention of having to pray with someone else.  Also, it says that the prayer can be offered “mentally”, so it doesn’t have to be aloud.

You can go to the cemetery each day and gain the indulgence from 1-8 November by praying for the dead.   On All Souls (and other days determined by the bishop) you can gain the indulgence by visiting the church and praying the Our Father and Creed.

The usual conditions apply for a plenary indulgence.

The Church is pretty flexible with these grants.  While it is good to be in a group, sometimes that’s not possible.  Other people can’t get to church, so they can pray at home. We should try for the idea: at church or with others.  But the important thing is the get the indulgence!

I hope that people will pray for me when I die.

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Youth Synod Final Document: Five Areas of Concern

It is exactly as we feared: a final document full of flawed Catholicism and gravely amiss in guidelines for the young in living a truly Christian life full of meaning 

Pope Francis and synod fathers on the final day of the Youth Synod, Oct. 27, 2018. (Daniel Ibanez/CNA)

Synodality, sexual abuse, homosexuality, women in the Church, and a flawed but seemingly invincible working document are a few parts of the final text giving some bishops heartburn.

The Vatican released the final document of the Youth Synod on Saturday evening, and although the 249 synod fathers who voted on the document gave it a sustained round of applause after the voting ended, various paragraphs are causing concern, even if all obtained the requisite two-thirds majority. These passages can be summed up as follows:

 

1. Instrumentum Laboris: 

According to paragraph no. 4, the document is to be read “in continuity” with the Instrumentum laboris (working document) for the synod. This is causing concern because the working document was widely criticized before and during the synod for numerous reasons, the main one being that it was too sociological in nature. It also contained the loaded acronym “LGBT” used by the homosexual lobby, but this term didn’t make it into the final document. One synod father was said to speak for many when he said he hoped the working document would “die” so that a new one would “germinate and grow.” Now that both documents are to be read in the light of each other, the concern is that these and various other weaknesses and errors in the working document will continue to have validity, which would be especially problematic if Pope Francis decides to make the final document part of the papal magisterium (the Vatican says the Pope hasn’t decided on this yet, only that the Church “will ponder and pray over the document and then move forward”).

 

2. Synodality:

Despite considerable opposition by some synod fathers in the final days of the synod, all the paragraphs on synodality passed with a two-thirds majority — but they also attracted the most votes against. Many synod fathers were uneasy with the inclusion of the term as it had hardly figured in the synod debates, was inserted into the document at the very end of the assembly, wasn’t in the working document, and, in their judgment, deserves a synod of its own given its importance. Some were apprehensive about such an emphasis on the subject (it dominates Part III of the final document) as they saw it as a means of decentralizing and democratizing the Church and the magisterium away from the papacy and the Vatican to local churches. By doing so, they believe it makes it easier to introduce heterodox teachings into the Church. Pope Francis and others, however, say it creates a more “listening” Church which promotes involvement of all the faithful in Church governance. (See a more detailed analysis of the pros and cons of including synodality in the document here).

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said many felt that synodality was not a “natural fit” in a gathering “themed to young people” and deserves “serious theological reflection” and discussion among the bishops. “That didn’t happen, which doesn’t seem consistent with a coming-together of Pope and bishops in a spirit of collegiality,” he said.

 

3. Homosexuality:

Within the synodality section, paragraph 150 — the most unpopular passage with 65 synod fathers voting against it — is being criticized for vague language that can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Although more problematic elements of the paragraph were removed from the draft (e.g. three references to sexual orientation — a  term never used before in Church documents — were replaced by just one, in quotation marks), it still speaks of sexuality requiring “a deeper anthropological, theological and pastoral elaboration” in multiple but “appropriate ways.” As mentioned earlier in the week, the German-language group has been trying to introduce similar terms to replace the loaded acronym “LGBT’” used by the homosexual lobby, but with the same end in mind: softening the Church’s teaching on homosexuality. Archbishop Chaput said this need for “deepening” or “developing” our understanding of anthropological issues is one of the most “subtle and concerning” problems in the text. “Obviously we can, and should, always bring more prayer and reflection to complicated human issues,” he said, but added that the Church “already has a clear, rich, and articulate Christian anthropology. It’s unhelpful to create doubt or ambiguity around issues of human identity, purpose, and sexuality, unless one is setting the stage to change what the Church believes and teaches about all three, starting with sexuality.”

A further concern is that the paragraph also speaks of a Church commitment “against all discrimination and violence on a sexual basis,” words at variance with no. 2358 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which opposes “unjust discrimination” in this regard, not “all discrimination.” Some are now wondering if, for example, it might now no longer be possible to dismiss someone from a Catholic institution if they perpetrate acts opposed to Church teaching in this area. Informed sources close to the process have told the Register that “many proposed and requested” an amendment to ensure it would say “unjust discrimination” but this was ignored.

Some synod fathers, probably mostly from Africa, managed to insert a reference to a 1986 letter to bishops from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, which reasserts the Church’s pastoral teaching on the issue of homosexuality. But paragraph 150 goes on to speak of encouraging the accompaniment “in the faith of homosexual people,” remaining unclear how that should be carried out (it could be in the controversial manner of Jesuit Father James Martin who appears to wish to normalize homosexual practice in the Church, or the Courage apostolate that counsels men and women with same-sex attractions to live chaste lives in “fellowship, truth and love”). The paragraph makes no explicit mention of chastity. Despite this, sources say the paragraph is much better than it could have been: “Kudos to those synod fathers who successfully worked to get the worst parts out,” said a source close to the process. (See a translation of the full text of no. 150 below, and its draft version).

 

4. Women in the Church:

The role of women in the Church, while certainly important, figures far more than any were expecting, even compared to the draft report, and features in paragraph nos. 55, 148, and 163. The gist of all these paragraphs, said synod spokesman Paolo Ruffini, is to give “greater recognition of role of women at all ecclesial levels, including decision-making processes,” while “fully respecting” the “ordained ministry which reflects way Jesus interacted with men and women in his time.” Critics say this “excessive emphasis” on the issue that the document calls “unavoidable change” is merely a means of paving the way towards the acceptance of women deacons (a Vatican commission begun in 2016 is continuing to examine the possibility). The ultimate goal, they argue, is women’s ordination, although Pope Francis has definitively ruled that out. During the synod, various protests were made about the fact that two religious male superiors were allowed to vote but not their female counterparts, despite their participation in the synod. Some are now speculating that was done deliberately to provoke the protests and thereby justify this emphasis for greater participation of women in the Church at “all ecclesial levels.”

 

5. Sexual Abuse:

The passages on clergy sexual abuse were largely unsatisfactory for those synod fathers from countries hardest hit by the crisis. Other bishops, however, thought there was too much of it in the document, and it was best left for the meeting in February. Archbishop Chaput said the passages were “inadequate and disappointing on the abuse matter” and that Church leaders outside abuse crisis-hit countries “clearly don’t understand its scope and gravity.” There’s “very little sense of heartfelt apology in the text,” he said, and clericalism “is part of the abuse problem, but it’s by no means the central issue for many laypeople, especially parents.”

 

Despite these concerns, much of the document is to be commended. Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney said it has “some inspiring even lyrical passages” while acknowledging some passages “are turgid and repetitive.” Overall, he said, it is “far too long to be read by many young people, youth ministers or clergy” and so “summaries and study guides” will be needed. Others have said it does not matter how worthy the good parts are if the document’s ambiguous passages could be used to present the appearance of a change in Church teaching. “Vagueness is always going to be interpreted in the worst way,” said a source close to the synod process.

Further concerns were related to procedure: many bishops were frustrated by the lack of advance translations, especially as they were to vote on the text of a document that could, under new rules, end up as part of the papal magisterium. In a departure from the regulations, the first two parts of the document were read out in the morning with simultaneous audio translations and voted on after lunch. The third part was then read out in the same way, and then immediately voted on, without any time for the synod fathers to reflect on the text. “All paragraphs of the document as presented were passed,” Archbishop Fisher said, “though not all with equal enthusiasm.”

The English translation of the document is expected to be published in a few weeks’ time.

***

English Translation of Paragraph 150, Final Document. 

150. There are questions relating to the body, affectivity and sexuality which require a deeper anthropological, theological and pastoral elaboration, to be carried out in the most appropriate ways and at the most appropriate levels, from the local to the universal. Among these, emerge those relating in particular to the difference and harmony between male and female identity and sexual inclinations. In this regard, the Synod reaffirms that God loves every person and so does the Church, renewing her commitment against all discrimination and violence on a sexual basis. She also reaffirms the decisive anthropological relevance of the difference and reciprocity between man and woman and considers it reductive to define the identity of people starting only from their “sexual orientation” (CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, October 1, 1986, no. 16). In many Christian communities there are already paths of accompaniment in the faith of homosexual people: the Synod recommends encouraging such paths. These paths help people to understand their own [personal] history; to recognize freely and responsibly their own baptismal call; to recognize the desire to belong to and contribute to the life of the community; to discern the best ways to achieve it. In this way, we help every young person, excluding no one, to integrate the sexual dimension more and more into their personality, growing in the quality of relationships and walking towards the gift of self.

Draft Version of Paragraph 150:

150. There are questions relating to the body, affectivity and sexuality which need a deeper anthropological, theological and pastoral elaboration, to be carried out in a synodal style, as the young people themselves require. Among these emerge those relating in particular to the difference and harmony between male and female identity and sexual orientation. In this regard, the Synod reaffirms that God loves every person and so does the Church, renewing its commitment against all discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation. It also reaffirms the decisive anthropological relevance of the difference and reciprocity between man and woman and considers it inappropriate to define the identity of people solely from their sexuality. The Synod also manifest the need to encourage and strengthen, within the communities, paths of accompaniment in the faith of people who live different sexual orientations. These paths can help to understand their own [personal] history, to recognize the desire to belong and contribute to the life of the community, to discern the best ways to achieve it. In this way we help every young person, excluding no one, to integrate the sexual dimension more and more into the unity of their personality, growing in the quality of relationships and walking towards the gift of self.

[ See for further reading: https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/smuggling-lgbt-into-the-youth-synod-doc

https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/vatican-youth-synod-final-doc-approved.-the-most-controversial-points ]

 

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Reflection for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

Image result for jesus heals bartimaeus

FIRST READING            Jeremiah 31:7-9

Thus says the Lord:  Shout with joy for Jacob, exult at the head of the nations; proclaim your praise and say:  The Lord has delivered his people, the remnant of Israel.  Behold, I will bring them back from the land of the north; I will gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst, the mothers and those with child; they shall return as an immense throng.  They departed in tears, but I will console them and guide them; I will lead them to brooks of water, on a level road, so that none shall stumble.  For I am a father to Israel, Ephraim is my first-born.

SECOND READING                  Hebrews 5:1-6

Brothers and sisters:  Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.  He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness and so, for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people.  No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.  In the same way, it was not Christ who glorified himself in becoming high priest, but rather the one who said to him:  You are my son:  this day I have begotten you; just as he says in another place:  You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

GOSPEL                Mark 10:46-52

As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging.  On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”  And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.  But he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me.”  Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”  So they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”  He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.  Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?”  The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.”  Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”  Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

“The Lord has delivered his people.”  The Prophet [Jeremiah] tells us clearly about the love that God has for His people.  God will do all things for His people.  God will reach out into time and history to draw us to Himself.  Yes, God can be tough and God at times seems to treat His people poorly—but the truth is that God always acts out of love.  We don’t always act of love and so when our actions are tough or seemingly hurtful to others, they might be.  With God, His actions are never hurtful to others, but only an expression of His complete love.

The first reading today is from the Prophet Jeremiah.  This prophet wants us to shout with joy because we recognize that God is always with His people, drawing us to Himself, bringing us out of darkness into light, drawing us from slavery to freedom and finally, drawing us to Himself in every way possible.  Perhaps this is not how we understand our lives yet.  Perhaps for some of us, there is a sense that God cannot possibly love us.  Perhaps for others there is a sort of absence of God.  On the other hand, the Scripture is God’s own revealed word, and God is telling us today:  “I love you and I have always loved you.  I will draw you to myself.”

The second reading is from the Letter to the Hebrews.  This letter, today, continues the teaching of the first reading:  I love you and have always loved you!  The Letter to the Hebrews tells us that “He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness.”  It is Jesus who deals patiently with the ignorant and the erring.  It is Jesus who has taken on our human flesh, our human reality, and so can understand completely our human condition.  Jesus can offer Himself for us because He became one of us, like us in everything except for sin.

The Gospel of Mark today tells us about a blind man who was strong enough to keep calling out to Jesus until he was heard.  So many of us give up on our praying and our asking God because we don’t get what we want when we want it.  Instead, this blind man can teach us to pray always, to keep insisting with God that He must hear us.

So we have the teachings given us by Jesus:  Through Jeremiah that God always loves us and wants us to come to Him; through the Letter to the Hebrews that God in Jesus carries us with Him and helps the ignorant and those who go astray, which means that God in Jesus is loving us right now; and through today’s Gospel that we must keep crying out to the Lord and insisting that the Lord hear us.

What a God of love we have.  He is always seeking us, always helping us and always inviting us to keep calling out to Him.  He will come to save us!

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Fascinating Story of Our Lady of Fatima’s International Traveling Statue

A man who accompanied Our Lady of Fatima Pilgrim Statue on its travels across the globe for over two decades tells the fascinating story.

Because everyone cannot get to Fatima, Our Lady of Fatima has been traveling the world since 1947. She does is through the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue which has visited most every country in the world.

In The Fatima Century – How the Pilgrim Virgin Is Changing Our Generation, Thomas McKenna brings to light fascinating facets and stories of these travels, sparkling like diamonds in the crown of Our Lady. He also shares many insights into Our Lady of Fatima which enhance for us the meaning and message that Our Lady brought to the world through the children and events at Fatima in 1917, and which she continues to bring as she travels the world in the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue.

McKenna certainly knows. For over 25 years he was one of the custodians accompanying the statue on her international travels. And during this time he worked very closely with John Haffert, the founder of the Blue Army which is now called the World Apostolate of Fatima. Haffert was the originator of the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue. For good measure, McKenna also worked with Professor Plinio Correa de Oliveira, an ardent supporter and promoter of Catholic culture. McKenna calls both men the two great apostles of Our Lady.

The real story is the sheer numbers of people who come to see the statue and experience a conversion and return the Church and sacraments because the Fatima message and statue are inseparable. McKenna makes that clear. “What sets the Pilgrim Virgin Statue apart from other images is her unique, inspiring gaze.”

“Something in this statue exerts a special attraction upon souls,” he writes. “It is not something physical or sensible; it is more like Our Lady speaks to each one through the expression on the statue’s features. The statue’s presence is always an occasion for unique graces.”

The book has us marvel at fascinating facts such as when the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue entered the United States on Dec. 8, 1947 (no coincidence because of the solemnity celebrated on that date) coming from Canada through Niagara Falls — which few people knew was consecrated in 1861 to Our Lady Queen of Peace —  because she was denied a visit to New York first! Really. The book tells you why.  Immediately going to Buffalo, Our Lady was greeted by over 200,000 people who came to see her.

That same day as Our Lady was being carried into the Buffalo Cathedral a man who had run two miles from work arrived to ask her for help for his wife who was in the hospital, dying. He later wrote “It seemed as if it were just the two of us. Our Lady and me. I looked at her and she looked at me… and smiled. I had a feeling at that moment, a feeling of certainty that my dying wife had been healed. A feeling of new life and exaltation came over my body and soul.” He ran to the hospital to find commotion in the room because a bit earlier his wife had been “instantaneously and totally cured.” She was filled with joy, telling everyone, “I just had a miracle!” More was to come because from her injuries and subsequent fatal infections, doctors said she would never bear more children. But she went on to have another two.

That year other healings followed as Our Lady traveled.  A priest blind in one eye regained his sight; a nun, like the woman who touched the tassel of Jesus’ cloak, was cured of a 21-year lip infection no doctor could treat successfully.

McKenna also discloses healings of the soul. And what wonderful scenes of people enthralled and moved by the statue of Our Lady during the many airplane flights the author took with her. He has a way of bringing the reader right into the moment and visualizing the reactions of the people, including flight crews who were simply amazed at Our Lady, their most illustrious passenger ever. She traveled on a seat next to the custodian on all travels.

Always, something amazing happened that smoothed out obstacles, high hurdles and hitches like McKenna’s first trip after a woman saw the statue and came back with a friend who turned out to be… well, you’ll have to read the book to find that answer. Or the time officials in Communist-controlled Poland wouldn’t let Our Lady leave the plane, and what happened to turn the tables on them, and then some.

When it comes to some plain but necessary historic details for our better understanding, such as when and how the statue of Our Lady of Fatima was made in 1947, and why by the end of the year there were necessarily four of them, McKenna weaves the facts together in a way that keeps us absorbed and wanted to learn each new detail. Such as how one of the Pilgrim Virgin Statues got into Russia in 1950 and remained there! Impossible if not for the hand of heaven steering the course.

Each incident underlines why the custodians’ motto is, “With Our Lady everything works out in the end.”

A welcome bonus is a multipage photo section of the Pilgrim Virgin Statue on her travels at different times. Most photos are in color, including some with the flight crews who always insisted on being photographed together with her. There’s even one of Jose Ferreira Thedim, called the Michelangelo of Portugal, who sculpted not only the original statue of Our Lady of Fatima but all four of the Pilgrim Virgin ones. This is the first photo I’ve ever come across picturing Thedim.

In some beautifully clear and inspirational sections, the author reminds us of Fatima’s clear message and prompts us to learn, heed and follow to accomplish what Our Lady asks.

“Our Lady’s concern for the outrages, sacrileges, and indifference which offend God has not diminished in the least,” McKenna writes. “In fact, now that the errors of Russia have spread throughout the entire world, Her invitation to us to become the antidote to these offences has only become more urgent. Her goal is nothing less than to reverse the revolution of Satan. But is our generation listening to her plea?”

This book will help our generation listen once again.

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Our Lady Instructs St. Dominic to Preach the Rosary

The month of October, dedicated in a special way to the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is drawing to a close. So let us listen to the wise words of St. Louis de Montfort on the importance of preaching this holy prayer at all times since “all kinds of sin and disorder have spread far and wide”,  but the Rosary is the weapon we need to combat this evil.

————

The miraculous way in which the devotion to the holy Rosary was established is analogous to the way in which God gave His Law to the world on Mount Sinai, and it obviously proves its value and importance.

Our Lady gives St. Dominic the Rosary

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, instructed by the Blessed Virgin as well as by his own experience, St. Dominic preached the Rosary for the rest of his life. He preached it by his example as well as by his sermons, in cities and in country places, to people of high station and low, before scholars and the uneducated, to Catholics and to heretics.

The Rosary, which he said every day, was his preparation for every sermon and his little tryst with Our Lady immediately after preaching.

One day he had to preach at Notre Dame in Paris, and it happened to be the feast of St. John the Evangelist. He was in a little chapel behind the high altar prayerfully preparing his sermon by saying the Rosary, as he always did, when Our Lady appeared to him and said:

“Dominic, even though what you have planned to say may be very good, I am bringing you a much better sermon.” St. Dominic took in his hands the book Our Lady proffered, read the sermon carefully and, when he had understood it and meditated on it, he gave thanks to her.

When the time came, he went up into the pulpit and, in spite of the feast day, made no mention of St. John other than to say that he had been found worthy to be the guardian of the Queen of Heaven. The congregation was made up of theologians and other eminent people, who were used to hearing unusual and polished discourses.

But St. Dominic told them that it was not his desire to give them a learned discourse, wise in the eyes of the world, but that he would speak in the simplicity of the Holy Spirit and with His forcefulness.

The pulpit of Notre Dame of Paris

So he began preaching the Rosary and explained the Hail Mary word by word as he would to a group of children, and used the very simple illustrations which were in the book given him by Our Lady. …

Carthagena, the great scholar, quoting Blessed Alan de la Roche in De Dignitate Psalterii, describes how this took place. … He goes on to say:

“Then St. Dominic explained the Angelic Salutation to them, using simple comparisons and examples from everyday life.”

Blessed Alan, according to Carthagena, mentioned several other occasions when Our Lord and Our Lady appeared to St. Dominic to urge him and inspire him to preach the Rosary more and more in order to wipe out sin and convert sinners and heretics.

In another passage Carthagena says:

“Blessed Alan said Our Lady revealed to him that, after she had appeared to St. Dominic, her Divine Son appeared to him and affirmed:

“Dominic, I rejoice to see that you are not relying on your own wisdom and that, rather than seek the empty praise of men, you are working with great humility for the salvation of souls.

“But many priests want to preach thunderously against the worst kinds of sin at the very outset, failing to realize that before a sick person is given bitter medicine, he needs to be prepared by being put into the right frame of mind to really benefit from it.

“That is why, before doing anything else, priests should try to kindle a love of prayer in people’s hearts and especially a love of my Angelic Psalter. If only they would all start saying it and would really persevere, God in His mercy could hardly refuse to give them His grace. So, I want you to preach my Rosary. ” (2)

In another place Blessed Alan says:

St. Dominic takes the instruction of Our Lady on the Rosary and reaps its fruits for his preaching

All priests should say a Hail Mary with the faithful before preaching, to ask for God’s grace. (3) They do this because of a revelation that St. Dominic had from Our Lady.

“My Son,” she said one day, “do not be surprised that your sermons fail to bear the results you had hoped for. You are trying to cultivate a piece of ground that has not had any rain. Now, when God planned to renew the face of the earth, He started by sending down rain from heaven – and this was the Angelic Salutation. In this way God reformed the world.

“So when you give a sermon, urge people to say my Rosary, and in this way your words will bear much fruit for souls.”

St. Dominic lost no time in obeying, and from then on he exerted great influence by his sermons.” (4)

I have been very pleased to quote these well-known authors word for word for the benefit of those who might otherwise have doubts as to the marvelous power of the Rosary. As long as priests followed St. Dominic’s example and preached devotion to the Holy Rosary, piety and fervor thrived throughout the Christian world and in those religious orders which were devoted to the Rosary. But since people have neglected this gift from Heaven, all kinds of sin and disorder have spread far and wide.

*****

  1. Alan de la Roche, De dignit. Psalt., ch. 18; quoted by Carthagena in De Sacris Arcanis Deiparae, bk. 16, hom. 1.
  2. Alan de la Roche, De Dignit. Psal., ch. 17; Carthagena, De Sacris Arcanis, bk. 16, hom. 1.
  3. St. Antoninus, Part 4, Tit. 15, ch. 14, quoted by P. A. Spinelli in Maria Deipara Thronus Dei, ch. 29, No. 38.
  4. This last quotation is from “The Book of Miracles of the Holy Rosary,” written in Italian, also found in Justin’s works, Sermon 143 in P. A. Spinelli, ibid., who quotes a text borrowed from Alan de la Roche.
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