I watched Monday night's happenings in Ferguson with the wife. I watched up until the looting and mayhem began in earnest, ironically at or about the same time the President of the United States was finishing his disingenuous and ill-timed call for calm and peace.
As I watched, I felt a welling up within me of my own ugliness in reaction to the ugliness picking up steam on the TV. Overcome by the sense I should instead be praying, I asked my bride to turn off the news and reached intently for my Rosary beads.
There seems to be so much ugliness in the world right now.
So much pettiness and the division that results. So much stubbornness and small-mindedness that leads to a deepening spiral of dysfunction. So much ignorance and presumption that can only end in discord and disagreement. So much arrogance that sees vice while ignoring virtue in others. So much madness that ignores God's maxim to forgive. And, of course, so much of my own inclination to engage in this ugliness, to sink to these depths, to wallow in this muck.
It's all ugly. It's all wrong. It's all sin. It's dragging us down.
What I believe is needed to set things right, to replace all the ugly, if only for the moment, is beauty, tangible beauty. Bear with me for a moment.
When I gaze upon the sleeping face of my granddaughter Amelia, I experience tangible beauty. When I watch the magnificent colors created in the evening sky by the setting sun, I experience tangible beauty. When I look upon a majestic mountain or upon rolling hills covered in green, I experience tangible beauty. Of course, those beautiful things won't save the world in and by themselves nor do they rid us of the world's ugliness by any stretch of the imagination but they do, or at least should, makes us ponder Him who can redeem the ugly, He who came to redeem the most ugly, He who is the source of all beauty.
When I reached Monday night for my Rosary beads, I was reaching for a touch of God's redeeming beauty, the beauty through which the the world is indeed saved, this beauty that Pope Benedict XVI described as "totally pure, humble, free from arrogance and presumption." It is through Mother Mary that a Son was born, a Son who will crush the head of the serpent responsible for all this unsettling ugliness, a Son we should all be embracing if only as a response to His embrace of us.
And so Monday night, in the midst of all that is ugly, knowing there was little else I could do, I prayed once again to Him who is the Source of all Beauty, with the help of His Beautiful Mother, for an end to the Ugliness.
"It is manifestly most unreasonable that intelligent men should be divided upon the absurd modern principle of regarding every clever man who cannot make up his mind as an impartial judge, and regarding every clever man who can make up his mind as a servile fanatic. As it is, we seem to regard it as a positive objection to a reasoner that he has taken one side or the other. We regard it (in other words) as a positive objection to a reasoner that he has contrived to reach the object of his reasoning. We call a man a bigot or a slave of dogma because he is a thinker who has thought thoroughly and to a definite end."
It was at this time that I couldn’t help thinking about St. Pope John Paul II’s brilliant encyclical, Veritatis Splendor (The Splendor of the Truth). The modern world is infatuated with the notion of conscience. We say all sorts of pseudo-enlightened things like, “My conscience is clear.” or “My conscience allows me to sleep at night.” We treat conscience as the infallible guide and final judge of all actions. If we aren’t pricked by our conscience to act otherwise, we can barrel ahead into any number of misadventures.
But John Paul II offers a corrective.
A conscience is a good guide…if it is well-formed. A well-formed conscience is nourished by prayer, engagement in the sacraments and study of God’s word and tradition. A well-formed conscience is wedded to God’s Law and corrects our actions using this infallible Law as its supreme standard. But St. Pope John Paul II warns,
“When God’s truth is obscured, human consciences are also deformed, if sin is denied, God is also denied…Human conscience goes astray if it is neglected and deprived of the truth.”
To repeat, consciences can become blunted and deformed. Starved of prayer, sacraments and study, a deformed conscience can lose sight of Truth and comport itself to Untruth. We can find ourselves unpricked, uncorrected and unaware that our path is going astray. Before long we can find that our ill-formed or deformed conscience is in the service of our self-satisfying appetites while disregarding the God who should be its true master.
“The new compassion that has crept into our courts and into our literature and drama is the compassion for the breakers of the law, for the thieves, the dope fiends, the murderers, the rapists. This false compassion for the criminal and the readiness to blame the law and the police, has passed from the ‘sob-sisters’ to black –robed justices who, fearful of restraining a liberty turned into license, pardon the mugger and ignore the mugged.”
CNN’s Lisa Ling produces specials called This is Life with Lisa Ling on a very wide variety of subjects. Last week they aired Called to the Collar (subtitled “He’s 26 and a Catholic priest”).
I found it very interesting. Not interesting in understanding the vocational call of the priesthood, but of how the secular (or at least non-Catholic) world sees our spiritual fathers. There are rough edges including awkwardly worded questions and a fascination on how anyone could choose celibacy (called the “ultimate sacrifice” – where do I begin…). The sex abuse scandal is repeatedly featured, of course. While these things elevated my spidey sense a few levels, on reflection I concluded they were representative of questions a non-Catholic audience would have.
Yet, (surprisingly I must admit) this is NOT another priest or Catholic bashing exercise. Ling seems honestly interested, curious and even unexpectedly surprised at what she finds. It is a fair presentation (which I would not believe CNN capable on any genuinely Catholic topic).
Sure, it could be better. They make it seem like this diocese is an anomaly when in fact many similarly orthodox dioceses have strong vocations. Older priests, religious brothers and sisters along with deacons and so many amazing lay people are ignored. The real story is much bigger than that which is told. None-the-less, this is a good start.
A good start indeed. I've not yet watched the whole thing (it's 42 minutes long minus all the commercials) but what I have viewed I find well done and even moving.
I was particularly struck by this baptism segment I'm excerpting from the larger piece. Keep an eye out for the mother's expression and her words as she describes what baptism means to her:
That's simply beautiful and makes me look longingly forward to the baptism of my own granddaughter Amelia.
During his homily last week, Father Mike, my priest, passed along a statistic claiming that only 7% of Catholics are engaged Catholics, passionately active in the faith in and out of their parishes, a statistic gleaned from a book he plans on passing out to all parishioners during Advent. The book, by Matthew Kelly, is called The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic and you can read more about the research behind that 7% statistic here:
The 7% are by no means perfect, but there is something about them that is worth exploring. Most of them are not spiritual champions, and they would be the first to admit that. They are also often quick to point out that it doesn’t take much to be at the top of the heap among Catholics today. The bar is not exactly set very high. But the 7% are the most highly engaged among us.
If I've gleaned one thing since my re-embrace of the Catholic faith roughly four years ago it's this. Catholicism is not for the weak-kneed, not for the dispassionate or the lukewarm, not for those interested solely in feel-goodism and superficiality.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church — that beautiful summation of the truth of all existence — says that “those who are oppressed by poverty are the object of a preferential love on the part of the Church…” (CCC 2448) To be absolutely clear, preference is “the selecting of someone or something over another or others.” The poor, then, are the object of the Church’s love over the Church’s love for others.
The meaty implication is as follows: If the Church’s love for the poor is a preferential love, then we who claim communion with the Catholic Church are similarly obliged to develop a preferential love of the poor. If this freaks us out — for it freaked me ever-so-slightly — it may be because we live in a culture that associates love with equality. Surely to love everyone means to treat everyone identically, to grant them all an equal response of goodwill? How then, are we to love one group of people more than another?
Love as equality, while cute, is false. To love a person is to desire his good. The good for some people is not the same as the good for others. To love an introvert may mean to leave him alone, but this is not the same good proper to the extrovert. Since love is personal, and persons are unique, love is unequal.
St. Thomas Aquinas argues this in regards to God’s love for us. God loves everyone with equal “intensity,” sure, for he loves each of us infinitely. In the language of Aquinas, “He loves all things by an act of the will that is one, simple, and always the same.” And so we should everyone with equal fervor. However, since “to love” is “to will the good for another,” Aquinas goes on to say that “God loves some things more than others. For since God’s love is the cause of goodness in things…no one thing would be better than another, if God did not will greater good for one than for another.” (Summa, First Part, Question 20, Article 3) God loves each of us completely, willing for us the good which fulfills us personally. This does not mean that he loves us equally, for he may will a greater good for you than me.
Obviously, this is radically different than our culture’s blanket conception of love, which usually amounts to a general good feeling towards all people, instead of a personal willing of the good for that particular, unrepeatable old lady at the barber’s shop. The latter is the love commanded by Christ, when he told us to “love our neighbor.” Christian love is not leveling of differences that results in equality. It is precisely a love of people with all their differences, and is thus an unequal love, proper to unequal people.
So we arrive back at the point. The Church loves the poor with a preferential love. The good we should desire for them is a greater good than that which we desire for others. (This is obviously connected to the lack of due goods those oppressed by poverty may have — we must desire greater and more goods for the poor than we desire for those who are already secure in material and spiritual goods.) So the first difference between the Church and the culture is that what the culture claims is a good “addition” to life, or just another way of loving, the Church claims as a priority and a love above other loves.
Read the whole thing and ponder the challenge that comes with digesting its contents particularly if you call yourself Catholic.
Despite the hard teaching, I still desire to be amongst the 7% and in fact, it's the hard teachings that seem to spur me on to be a better Catholic.
The Way is indeed narrow but, in my view, oh so worthy.
A video of an emotional Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn decrying community activists on the night a 5-year-old girl was shot in her home is being drawn into a social media argument about crime and race with some describing Flynn as a “hero cop”... and others blasting that characterization.
The recording garnered nearly 600,000 views Wednesday on YouTube and hundreds of thousands since as bloggers tied the racial disparities described by Flynn to the race-related tensions revealed by the August police shooting in Ferguson, Mo.
Journal Sentinel reporter Ashley Luthern recorded the video earlier this month at the first meeting of a police oversight panel after Flynn fired police officer Christopher Manney, who shot and killed Dontre Hamilton in April. The night of the meeting, a 5-year-old girl was shot and killed in a Milwaukee house while sitting on her grandfather's lap.
At one point during the meeting, members of the audience criticized Flynn for looking at his phone. Flynn said he was trying to keep up with developments in the girl’s shooting and later took on those critics in a press conference recorded by Luthern.
Police departments across the country have been under increasing scrutiny, some of it arguably justified, most of it nothing more than the result of community agitators doing what community agitators do to keep themselves relevant and in power. Police Chief Flynn is seeing through the charade.
Each Catholic should be able to provide a solid, well-thought answer to the question "Why are you a Catholic?" Granted, for each individual the answer is very personal and may be somewhat different from other people's answers. Hopefully none of us who are adults and confirmed would simply state, "Well, my parents baptized me Catholic," or "I was raised Catholic," or "My family has always been Catholic." No, for each of us the answer must be personal, heart-felt and full of conviction. Therefore, I will give you my answer to the question.
First, I would say I am a Catholic because this is the Church that Jesus Christ founded. Any good historian worth his salt must admit that the first Christian church existing since the time of Christ is the Roman Catholic Church. The first major rupture in Christianity does not occur until 1054, when the patriarch of Constantinople had a dispute with the pope over who had more authority. The patriarch excommunicated the pope, who returned the favor, and the "Orthodox" Churches were born. Then, in 1517, Martin Luther sparked the Protestant movement, and he was followed by Calvin, Zwingli and Henry VIII. Since then, Protestantism has splintered into many other Christian churches.
Nevertheless, the one Church that Christ founded is the Catholic Church. This statement does not mean that goodness does not exist in other Christian churches. It does not mean that other Christians cannot go to heaven. However, it does mean that there is something special about the Catholic Church. The Second Vatican Council, in the "Dogmatic Constitution on the Church," states that the fullness of the means of salvation subsists within the Catholic Church because it is the Church Christ founded (No. 8).
The second reason I am a Catholic is because of Apostolic succession. Jesus entrusted His authority to His Apostles. He gave a special authority to Peter, whom He called "rock" and to whom He entrusted the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Since the time of the Apostles, this authority has been handed down through the sacrament of Holy Orders from bishop to bishop, and then extended to priests and deacons.
If possible, our own Bishop John R. Keating could trace his authority as a bishop back to the Apostles. Just this past May, we had the priesthood ordinations at our cathedral. In that sacred ordination, Bishop Keating imposed his hands on the heads of the men to be ordained. In the quiet of the moment, the Apostolic succession was handed on. In the vision of faith, one could see not just Bishop Keating, but Sts. Peter and Paul, even Jesus Himself, conferring the Holy Orders. No bishop, priest or deacon in our Church is self-ordained or self-proclaimed. The authority comes from Jesus Himself and is guarded by the Church.
The third reason I am a Catholic is because we believe in truth, an absolute, God-given truth. Christ identified Himself as "the way and the truth and the life" (Jn 14:6). He gave us the Holy Spirit, whom He called the Spirit of truth (Jn 14:17), who would instruct us in everything and remind us of all that He taught (Jn 14:26). The truth of Christ has been preserved in Sacred Scripture , the Bible. Vatican II, in the "Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation," stated that "that which has been asserted by the human authors of Sacred Scripture must be said to have been asserted by the Holy Spirit so that the words of Sacred Scripture teach firmly, faithfully and without error that truth Christ wanted put into Sacred Scripture for our salvation" (No. 11).
This truth is guarded and applied to a particular time and culture by the magisterium, the teaching authority of the Church. As we face issues like bioethics or euthanasia—issues that the Bible never specifically addressed—how fortunate we are to have a Church that says, "This way of life is right or this way is wrong in accordance with the truth of Christ." No wonder the Catholic Church makes that headlines of the <Washington Post> or <New York Times>. We are the only Church to take a stand and say, "This teaching is in accord with the mind of Christ."
Another reason I am a Catholic is because of our sacraments. We believe in seven sacraments, which Jesus gave to the Church. Each sacrament captures an important element of Christ's life and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, gives us a share in the divine life of God. For example, just think what a precious gift we have to receive the Holy Eucharist, the Body and Blood of our Lord, or to know that our sins truly are forgiven and our soul is healed each time we receive absolution in the sacrament of penance.
Finally, I am a Catholic because of the people who make up the Church. I think back to so many saints: Sts. Peter and Paul kept the Gospel alive in the earliest times. During the Roman persecution, the early martyrs of the Church—like Sts. Anastasia, Lucy, Justin or Ignatius, who in the year 100 called the Church "Catholic"—defended the faith and suffered torturous deaths for it.
In the Dark Ages, when things were truly "dark," there were the great lights of Sts. Francis, Dominic and Catherine of Siena. During the Protestant movement, when heresy was ripping the Church apart, the Church was defended by Sts. Robert Bellarmine or Ignatius of Loyola, genuine reformers. I think of living saints like Mother Teresa or Pope John Paul II, who day in and day out do God's work. There are so many saints that inspire each of us to be good members of the Church.
But there are others too. At Mass, look around your church. See married couples who strive to live the sacrament of marriage in an age of self-indulgence and infidelity. See the parents who want to hand on their faith to their children. See the young people who struggle to live the faith despite a world of temptations. See the elderly who have remained faithful despite the changes in the world and the Church. See the priests and religious who have dedicated their lives to the service of the Lord and His Church.
Yes, none of us are perfect. We sin. That is why one of the most beautiful prayers in the Mass occurs before the sign of peace, when we pray, "Lord, look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church." Yes, despite human frailty, the Church, as that institution founded by Christ, continues to carry on His mission in this world.
In a nutshell, these are the reasons I am a Catholic and a member of the Roman Catholic Church. The reasons are not flippant. Rather, they reflect much careful thought and struggle, having been baptized Catholic, having attended St. Bernadette School, having graduated from West Springfield High School and having really wrestled with the faith through my college days at William and Mary and then in the seminary. I hope that each Catholic can proudly provide a solid, clear answer to the question, "Why are you a Catholic?"
Why do weddings still move us? We do not become emotional when business partners strike a deal. We shed no tears at a friendly handshake. We feel no such joy to hear of “casual” mating.
A wedding is different. Here stand a man and woman, entering together into a new life.
And yet it is more than this. They are about to enter the generations. Their union proclaims life: their parents and grandparents still live within them. Humankind lives within them. The cultures and creeds of the world live within them. They are there—in the blood. Those bearing witness know this truth. They too have been born from a union of man and woman.
See the grandmother who looks on, now frail. She was once that bride, and the memory of her own mother and father dwells within her still.
See the brother who welcomes guests—he will one day be that bridegroom, and he too will enter in a new way the long history into which he was born.
See their friends and neighbors. They are more essential than any might guess. For it is they who will help make this marriage flourish. Their investment will return to them, for marriage is a cup that runs over.
See the mother of the bridegroom, hugging her son amid smiles and tears. He was once a helpless baby whom she nursed at the breast. Now he stands tall above her, and his voice is deep, and his shoulders broad. She remembers his birth. He who was once her child will one day be a father.
See the father of the bride, holding her by the hand. He recalls when her mother bore her, and he envisions in her what is so hard to believe, the mother-to-be. She is the bearer of a future. She is irreplaceable.
See man and woman together. They are not just two people. He is for her, and she for him; it is inscribed in their bodies. Their union will bring life that binds and mingles families, encourages faith to flourish, and brings humankind and the world’s diverse cultures to flower again.
Both are eager to undertake their new responsibilities—their gift of self to the other—and think little about what is owed them. They know nothing yet of the difficulty of the years ahead, only of their desire to travel it together.
It is hard now to speak of such obvious and beautiful things, but they are there. All the witnesses know it. It is the music of man and of woman. Man with woman brings out the finest in him, directing his blood and his mind toward what makes life possible; and woman with man brings out the finest in her, directing her love and her care toward what makes life sweet.
Today, however, the homes that marriage makes are exposed to an army of distractions, and to the thief and the enemy who comes to steal and destroy. Weddings are rarer and children fewer. Where poverty erodes, marriage feels out of reach. Where war afflicts, families are crushed. Anywhere marriage recedes, we lose the transcendent and material goods that all human beings should enjoy.
And we too are at fault, for when marriages are exposed to the wind and the rain, we have paid little attention. When the needs of children succumb to the wishes of adults, we have often remained silent. Love is reduced to a consumer item, an airbrushed image, or a slogan to export. It will not work. We will not flourish.
For marriage is no mere symbol of achievement, but the very foundation—a base from which to build a family and from there a community. For on earth marriage binds us across the ages in the flesh, across families in the flesh, and across the fearful and wonderful divide of man and woman, in the flesh. This is not ours to alter. It is ours, however, to encourage and celebrate.
And so it is that we rejoice at weddings.
This we affirm.
This is a powerful, dare I say counter-cultural, statement of affirmation, one that will not likely get much air time, much exposure unless you dear reader do your part to share and disseminate it.
“Hatred is weakness, for it refuses to see that collective selfishness is just as wrong as individual selfishness; it is the weakness of the man who is not self-possessed, who uses his fist instead of his mind, who resorts to violence for the same reason the ignorant man resorts to blasphemy; namely, because he has not sufficient intellectual strength to express himself otherwise.”
~Archbishop Fulton Sheen (The Cross and the Beatitudes)
Are angels really those sweet, blonde-haired frilly-dressed young women with feathery wings that we set on our mantels or place on our Christmas trees? Uh. No. Angels are pure spirit and have no physical bodies. They are neither male nor female. They aren’t like us. Most of our ideas of angels come from religious art over the centuries. Because they’re so different from us, artists have had to use familiar ideas and themes to depict angels. How do you paint a pure spirit? The word “angel” means “messenger” and in Scripture angels deliver messages to us from God. So artists have shown them with wings. Often, angels would tell folks to not be afraid of them. This is understandable if an other- worldly being suddenly appears in front of you saying that they have a message for you from God Almighty. So artists have often “tamed” angels to be more human in size and dress. They were often depicted as glowing heavenly light and having haloes. It was the Victorian era that really sapped the power out of angels, giving us the soft, feminized angels we see in modern culture. Too bad for us, because angels are so much more than that.
Catholics believe that each one of us has a guardian angel who was given to us by God before we were born. They remain at our sides throughout our lives and accompany us at the time of our death. They’re with us for protection and for guidance, but we have to ask them to help us. Like God, the angels respect our free will and they won’t force themselves on us if we don’t invite them. Each angel is a unique individual with great intelligence and free will of their own. Angels are immortal and powerful beyond our imagining. We don’t worship the angels or see them as some kind of “junior” God. We ask them to help and protect us and our loved ones, just like we ask the saints in heaven for their prayers and protection. Every angel has a name, but most are known only to God, Who created them. We know only about four by name: Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and…wait for it…Lucifer. Yep, remember that the devil is an angel who rejected God. He took a lot of other angels with him when God expelled them from heaven. Lucifer uses his free will to do evil. And he’s out to get us, if we allow him. But God is more powerful than all the agents of darkness. Nevertheless, remember that not all angels are good.
Children have the right to be raised by a mother and a father, Pope Francis said, emphasizing that “the family is the foundation of co-existence and a remedy against social fragmentation.”
The Pope made these remarks on Nov. 17 at the opening of the three-day international, interfaith colloquium entitled The Complementarity of Man and Woman, currently underway in the Vatican.
Also referred to as the “Humanum” conference, the gathering is being sponsored by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in collaboration with the Pontifical Council for the Family, the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.
“To reflect upon 'complementarity' is nothing less than to ponder the dynamic harmonies at the heart of all creation,” he said. “All complementarities were made by our creator, so the author of harmony achieves this harmony.”
Complementarity, which is at the core of this gathering, “is a root of marriage and family,” the Pope said. “For the family grounded in marriage is the first school where we learn to appreciate our own and others' gifts, and where we begin to acquire the arts of cooperative living.”
Although the family often leads to tensions – “egoism and altruism, reason and passion, immediate desires and long-range goals” – it also provides “frameworks for resolving such tensions.”
Pope Francis warned against confusing complementarity with the notion that “all the roles and relations of the two sexes are fixed in a single, static pattern.” Rather, he said, “complementarity will take many forms as each man and woman brings his or her distinctive contributions to their marriage and to the formation of their children – his or her personal richness, personal charisma.”
“Marriage and family are in crisis,” he said, with the “culture of the temporary” dissuading people from making the “public commitment” of marriage.
“This revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.”
Pope Francis noted the evidence pointing too the correlation between “the decline of marriage culture” and the increase of poverty and other “social ills”. It is women, children, and elderly persons who suffer the most from this crisis, he said.
The Pope likened the crisis in the family to threats against the environment. Although there has been a growing awareness of ecological concerns, mankind has “been slower to recognize that our fragile social environments are under threat as well, slower in our culture, and also in our Catholic Church.”
“We must foster a new human ecology,” he said.
“The family is the foundation of co-existence and a remedy against social fragmentation,” the Holy Father continued, stressing the importance of marriage in the raising of children.
“Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child's development and emotional maturity,” he said.
Here's a trailer giving us more on the Vatican's Humanum conference. Good stuff:
ED HENRY, FOX NEWS: At your Burma townhall a couple of days ago, you tried to inspire young leaders by saying, "governments need to be held accountable, need to be responsive to the people." I wonder how you square that with your former adviser, Jonathan Gruber claiming you were not transparent about the health law because in his words the American people, the voters are stupid. Did you mislead Americans about the taxes, about keeping your plan in order to get the bill passed?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: No, I did not. I just heard about this. I get well-briefed before I come out here. The fact that some adviser who never worked on our staff expressed an opinion that I completely disagree with in terms of the voters, is no reflection on the actual process that was run. We had a year-long debate, Ed. I mean, go back and look at your stories. The one thing we can't is that we did not have a lengthy debate about health care in the United States of America. Or that it was not adequately covered. I would just advise -- every press outlet here, go back and pull up every clip, every story, and I think it will -- it's fair to say there was not a provision in the health care law that was not extensively debated and was fully transparent. Now, there were folks who disagreed with some of the various positions. It was a tough debate.
3) A comet scientist who has just helped to land a probe on to a comet is unlikely think think, “oh, I’m going to be interviewed, so I’d better take off this inappropriate-but-geeky shirt full of sexy-women- with-guns on it, which was designed by a female friend.”
5) Because techno/science geeks rarely-unto-never set out to demand attention, declare victimhood for themselves or deliberately offend their fellow humans, they don’t really understand that there are some people in the world who live to take umbrage, find things to be offended about, and make people cry.
6) These umbrage-taking, offense-seeking people mewling about the travesty of shirts bearing sexy-women-with-guns tend to be the same sorts of people who believe that when Kim Kardashian props herself up as a plasticine-nude cocktail shelf, she has offered conclusive and empowering proof that mothers can be sexy, or something. For the sake of the world.
Pope Francis has told a group of Catholic doctors that “playing with life” in ways like abortion and euthanasia is sinful, and he stressed that each human life, no matter the condition, is sacred.
“We're are living in a time of experimentation with life. But a bad experiment… (we’re) playing with life,” the Pope told an audience of 4,000 Catholic doctors gathered in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall on Nov. 15.
“Be careful, because this is a sin against the Creator: against God the Creator.”
Pope Francis offered his words in an address given to members of the Italian Catholic Doctors Association in celebration of their 70th anniversary.
He recalled that many times in his years as a priest he heard people object to the Church’s position on life issues, specifically asking why the Church is against abortion.
After explaining to the inquirer that the Church is not against abortion because it is simply a religious or philosophical issue, he said it’s also because abortion “is a scientific problem, because there is a human life and it's not lawful to take a human life to solve a problem.”
Regardless of the many objections he has heard saying that modern thought has evolved on the issue, the Pope stressed that “in ancient thought and in modern thought, the word ‘kill’ means the same!”
“(And) the same goes for euthanasia,” he explained, observing that as a result of “this culture of waste, a hidden euthanasia is practiced on the elderly.”
This, he said, is like telling God: “’at the end of life I do it, like I want.’ It's a sin against God. Think well about this.”
The belief that abortion is helpful for women, that euthanasia is “an act of dignity,” or that it’s “a scientific breakthrough to ‘produce’ a child (who is) considered a right instead of accepted as a gift” are all part of conventional wisdom that offers a false sense of compassion, he said.
And this includes “(the) use of human life as laboratory mice supposedly to save others,” the Pope continued, saying that on the contrary, the Gospel provides a true image of compassion in the figure of the Good Samaritan, who sees a man suffering, has mercy on him, goes close and offers concrete help.
With today’s rapid scientific and technological advancements the possibility of physical healing has drastically increased, the Pope observed. However, the ability to truly care for the person has almost gone in the opposite direction.
Some aspects of medical science “seem to diminish the ability to ‘take care’ of the person, especially when they are suffering, fragile and defenseless,” he said, explaining that advancements in science and medicine can only enhance human life if they maintain their ethical roots.
“Attention to human life, particularly to those in the greatest difficulty, that is, the sick, the elderly, children, deeply affects the mission of the Church,” the Bishop of Rome continued, saying that often times modern society tends to attach one’s quality of life to economic possibilities.
Frequently the quality of a person’s life is measured by their physical beauty and well-being, he observed, noting how the more important interpersonal, spiritual and religious dimensions of human life are often forgotten.
“In reality, in the light of faith and of right reason, human life is always sacred and always ‘of quality’,” he said.
“No human life exists that is more sacred that the other, just like there is no human life qualitatively more significant than another solely in virtue of resources, rights, economic opportunities and higher social status.”
Pope Francis told the group that as Catholic doctors, it is their mission to affirm the sacredness and inviolability of human life, which “must be loved, defended and cared for,” through word and example, each in their own personal style.
He encouraged them to collaborate with others, including those with different religions, in seeking to promote the dignity of the human being as a basic criterion of their work, and to follow the Gospel’s instruction to love at all times, especially when there is a special need.
Pope Francis usually gets lots of attention from mainstream media outlets but I'm willing to bet his words here will be largely ignored.
Raymond Ibrahim (born in 1973) is an American research librarian, translator, author and columnist. His focus is Arabic history and language, and current events. He is the author of two books, Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians (Regnery, 2013) and The Al Qaeda Reader (Doubleday, 2007).
Ibrahim was born in the United States to Egyptian Coptic immigrants. He is fluent in Arabic and English. Ibrahim studied at California State University, Fresno, where he wrote a Master's thesis under Victor Davis Hanson on an early military encounter between Islam and Byzantium based on medieval Arabic and Greek texts. Ibrahim also took graduate courses at Georgetown University's Center of Contemporary Arab Studies and is studying toward a PhD in medieval Islamic history at Catholic University.
We need more Americans of Arab descent like Mr. Ibrahim.
And so it is with us. Through the cage of our sin, we can see the mercy of Christ. Through the bondage of our fallibility, we can grasp the liberating hand of God. And though in confession we burn and hurt when we are honest about our shortcomings, we can still see the God who is in search of us, the Father who embraces us so fiercely and so tenderly, the God who weeps for joy at our return.
My daughter’s First Reconciliation will be extraordinary. I know so. And I pray that she will get a glimpse, even if only a brief glimpse…of the sweetest mercy of Christ. A glimpse of an Absolute Beauty.
Printed in our church bulletin this week, some more toe-stepping words from Pope Francis, this taken from Evangelii Gaudium, his Apostolic Exhortation released last year:
“All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization, and it would be insufficient to envisage a plan of evangelization to be carried out by professionals while the rest of the faithful would simply be passive recipients. The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love. Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are ‘disciples’ and ‘missionaries’, but rather that we are always ‘missionary disciples’" (Evangelii Gaudium, n. 120).”
I've witnessed the complete dismissal of this Papal call for personal evangelization by people who extol the virtue (and the implied high-mindedness) of not proselytizing, these same people in fact quoting Pope Francis to defend that passivity.
A convenient excuse (and a damnable lie) used to not only justify their silence on faith matters but also a blunt instrument of sorts purposed in ridiculing and even silencing the faithful who are more public about their beliefs.
There are many who equate proselytization, the act of using coercion or force to convert someone to the faith, with evangelism, in which clearly the Pope is saying every Christian has a responsibility to engage. Equating the two does a couple of things. 1) Absolves one of the responsibility to evangelize and 2) shuts down public expressions of faith.
The former giving aid and comfort to cultural Christians interested more in leveraging claims to being faithful and interested less in the challenges that come with exercizing and living the faith; the latter giving aid and comfort to those who find the publicly religious to be anathema and who would rather they simply shut up or go away.
I'm reminded of how often the following St. Francis of Assisi quote; "Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words" is bandied about as a hammer by those engaged in the spirit of the age, that spirit that suggests strongly that faith matters should be relegated to anything but the public square. The problem however is that St. Francis never uttered the words. In fact, history shows that the man's meek and mild persona is a false one. I've read of an early biographer writing of St. Francis openly rebuking those living a life of sin. Others write of the man's preaching, clearly using both word and deed to convey the gospel message effectively.
There is of course merit to the idea that the faithful should live lives of virtue and that hypocrisy should be shunned as the faith killer that it is. But we also need to remind ourselves that we are each sinners, flawed messengers in a flawed world who make mistakes steeped in overzealousness at times but an overzealousness that does not substantively, unless we're listening to that aforementioned spirit of the age, minimize the importance of the message.
The take-away here is simple.
Don't allow yourself to be silenced. Don't allow the zitgeist to rule the day.
Pray, pray unceasingly, seek out others who are faithful for wisdom, guidance and direction but do speak up about faith. Let people know what God is doing in your life. Let others hear you talk about the comfort, and yes, the challenges, a faithful life brings. Choose the venue prudently certainly but do choose. You may just be the catalyst for someone's life changing experience, one steeped in need and your willingness to meet that need. You might just be the broken instrument God uses to heal someone's brokenness.
It's so worth the pain, the ridicule, the chastisements and the crap that being vocal will bring.
There are times when — all too innocently, because we have not been mindful of what is before us — we give too much license to a dead past that cannot be changed, and then we lose our handle on things.
Like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, we conjure from the ether of our past a solitary-but-sharply-outlined idea, and then suddenly, one after another, memories begin to fall upon us, like bright orbs called from galaxies far beyond, and much better kept in the distance. Our disappointing families and imperfect parents, our closely held secrets and sins and sorrows and regrets, given too much free reign, begin to dominate us. They wreak havoc on our emotions and then begin to drain our spirits until we are depleted and depressed — all trust, all hope diminished.
When we get to that place, we begin to hate everyone — or to imagine that we do — and to wonder about that Being people call “God”; we think if that Being exists, it’s probably worth hating too, for creating so much that is warped and destructive; for allowing death and devastation such as we are seeing in the wake of Haiyan; for permitting innocence to be stolen, and hearts to be broken, and evil to flourish all-too-widely.
When we reach the point where God seems worth hating, we have also unavoidably entered into self-hatred. We can’t help it; we are fallen and the same instincts to idolatry that cause us to make godlings of the things and circumstances and people we love are also at work when everything becomes about our hatred and our hurts and where our darker feelings may safely be projected.
How do we protect ourselves from falling into this accidental deterioration of our spiritual and emotional health?
Read on and find out. Ms. Scalia has a way of reaching deep down inside her readers and pulling out that which leaves us wanting more. It's a gift.
A lot of Catholics I know, myself included, enjoy Protestant devotions and writers now and then. It occurred to me that I have a pattern, though. They never hold my attention for very long. Something is missing. I don't speak here of theological error, for there is plenty written that is solid and in agreement with the tenets of Catholicism. What is missing is that dimension beyond -- beyond the Bible, beyond the physical, beyond a "good word" given to a preacher, no matter how wonderful of a man he is. I'm always left wanting because they don't include, nay, can't include, any mention of the power and enormity of The Real Presence. Even as I read an article or devotional that is just smashing in its style and right on target in its theme, by an author whose writing makes mine look like a high school entrance essay, I find myself wanting to edit it to include The Eucharist somehow. I'm not so interested in asking 'What would Jesus Do?' I want to talk about and hear about what Jesus IS doing right now, and that iswaiting. Waiting in the Tabernacle for you and for me. And offering. Offering Himself to us, to participate in his singular and world-altering sacrifice again and again. Humbling. Humbling Himself, the King of the Universe, Being Itself, That and Whom Upon Which Everything else sits and hangs and depends, and He is THERE waiting for you, available DAILY not just to sit with and pray before and talk to and cry to, but there for you to consume. He will become a part of you, body and soul, heart and voice, in your bloodstream.
If you are a Catholic who has forgotten or somehow lost your sense of the absolute and mind-blowing phenomenon of The Real Presence, remember it's never too late. Jesus is not limited by time or by your vagaries. He is there, and will continue to be there as long as there is a Catholic Church, and that, my friends, will be forever, because the gates of Hell will not prevail against our Church. Do you want to know Jesus better? Have a better relationship with Jesus? One that is more personal? Do you want to know what He would do? How He would act in your life if He could? Joining with Him, flesh to flesh, blood to blood, soul to soul, is the way He has given us to do just that. Don't wait another day.
I cannot fathom missing Mass today and in fact, I long for the time when my schedule will allow going to daily Mass.
The Eucharist, and the Real Presence in that Eucharist, has come to mean that much to me. Absent its meaning, I doubt that I'd be as faithful each week in going to Mass. In fact, I know that I would not be. Sad but true.
In the end, the secret I believe in becoming a faithful Catholic, a devotee to the Church who will not miss Mass, is believing in the Real Presence of Christ. Once that belief is achieved, and God can help you in your unbelief, there'll be no turning back, no turning away.
Casper Milquetoast Jesus will then, by necessity, be taking a hike.
A much needed hike.
Here's to saying goodbye to Casper and hello to the Eucharist.
It truly has become the source and summit of my faith.