Is this really the hill some U.S. Christians want to die on, though? That someone in a place of business is not being allowed to wish people “a blessed day”?
If so, are these same Christians going to take it well, when a cheerful bank teller ends a transaction with a Wiccan “Blessed Be!” (or the Gaelic “beannacht ort” preferred by some); will they be fine hearing a religious Pagan say “May the gods bless you!” or “May Hecate have your back!” as they conclude their deposit? Will they be okay with “May Allah smile upon you” at the drive-through or with hearing a cheerfully atheistic, “Enjoy your godless day!”
This all puts me in mind of Saint Therese, who was fervent in her faith but often as not blessed others by interiorly lifting them up to God in secret, keeping it between God and herself, as it were. This quiet act of asking the Lord to bestow a blessing upon the other would become, then, an intimate exchange between the Bridegroom and the Beloved — quite possibly a more efficacious prayer than one spoken in a business setting, where its reception may be uncertain, or even unwelcome.
Offering a blessing interiorly would certainly keep it real and prevent it from becoming as trite, automatic, mindless and meaningless as “Have a Nice Day!” And too, an interior offering seems to me an altogether more loving, courteous and grace-filled way to bless another because it doesn’t put them on the spot; it does not risk making someone feel awkward, or forced to respond in kind when doing so might not conform to either their nature, or their faith, and thus lead them into an occasion of sin.
This bank teller said, “I don’t think there’s any better kind of day you can have than a blessed day.” Well, neither do I, and a world where everyone is constantly offering blessings, or good wishes, or positive feelings to each other from their religious perspectives actually sounds like it could be a good thing, doesn’t it? Bring on the blessings from Jesus, and from Muhammed and the Goddess and the Buddha and Kwan Yin, because people actively blessing each other are not people actively warring against each other, after all, yes?
But how to then deal with, say, a satanist smilingly wishing something upon you while calling evil “good”? Personally, I don’t need my bank teller to orally bless me, or to ask me to declare myself, or to openly speculate on my sinfulness, gauge the state of my soul or pleasantly proselytize me in any way while I’m trying to make a deposit. If she were to silently ask the Lord to bless me, however, I can only imagine that the Lord would bless her, in return, for the generosity of her spirit, for she would be doing exactly as Jesus had taught: making her prayer in secret, without drawing any attention at all to herself, or in anyway showcasing her own holiness.
She's got more... including links at the end of the piece to that which ought to make the bank teller hang her head in shame.
I had the pleasure of meeting Dan Paris, very briefly, at my parish nearly 3 years ago. I pledged my financial and prayerful support then and have continued that support, praying daily for the young man as he carries out the Lord's work at FOCUS.
“So,” I started, a bit nervously. This was our first real conversation about the faith. “Are there any particular books of the Bible you’d like to learn more about?”
He hesitated for a brief moment, then – with a pensive look – replied, “Actually, I was hoping you could just tell me all about Christianity. How did it begin? What does it mean today?”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I never got questions like these. We spent the next hour going over all of salvation history, from Adam & Eve to Acts of the Apostles, and finished with a powerful discussion on the Mass. It was awesome, in the true sense of the word.
I had met Ling, an international student from Beijing, at a Newman Center event a few weeks prior. New to the States and having befriended several Christians, Ling had many questions about this strange person named Jesus, of whom he had heard only rumors.
Why do I tell this story? Because there was something different about Ling. He was receptive. He asked sincere, humble, curious questions. He wanted to know more. Though I couldn’t quite put my finger on it at first, after meeting with him for several months, it hit me. He had been spared something that the rest of us, those of us who grew up in Post-Christian society, had received in our youth; he hadn’t been inoculated to Christianity.
You know how inoculation works. A weakened version of a disease is injected into your blood. Your immune system, sensing an intruder, goes all crazy and produces antibodies, which then opens up a can on the bad guys, crushing and utterly destroying them.
From then on, any time the real version of the disease tries to enter your body, your immune system is like, “Nah bro, I got this,” and kills it. Thus, inoculations are great at training your body to recognize and fight diseases it has seen before. Obviously, I’m no microbiologist, but you get the point.
Of course, getting a vaccine to prevent diseases like Chickenpox and Hepatitis B is all well and fine. But what happens when we become inoculated to a worldview? To a belief system? What happens when, coming of age in a culture littered with the shattered remnants of a once robust and holistic Christian culture, we find ourselves immune to, and thus unable to receive, the true, authentic, saving message of Jesus Christ?
What happens when Christianity becomes nothing more than a disease I have seen before?
An Inoculation to Truth
Venerable Fulton Sheen was a boss. He was also right about a lot of stuff, including this:
“There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.”
Sheen understood the tragedy of our inoculation. So many of those who hate or leave the Church do so because they have been tricked into believing a false gospel.
Here are, in my opinion, three of the most insidious “fake versions” of Christianity – lies which, masquerading as truth, eventually lead people to reject Christianity altogether. We must stop them.
Here’s what I’m driving at: all of your instincts are healthy, all of your wants to break out of narrow theological prisons are good, all of your urges to reach out to the world at large are good, and your talents are certainly good, and God wants you to use them for his greater glory. But I do think they can drive you astray if they are not–I’m going to use a bad-sounding word here–bound by a Tradition. Not a tradition. A Tradition. “The life of the Spirit within the Church,” as Vladimir Lossky defined it. The Tradition that liberates us not by giving us all the answers but by putting us on the right path.
What I’m saying, Rob, is that you need to convert to Catholicism.
I know it may sound crazy. Catholicism sounds like the most rigid religion on Earth, with all these dogmatic formulae, this thousand-plus-page catechism that you must not deviate from. And yeah, to some people it’s only that. But the living Tradition of the Church, as Augustine said, is a beauty ever ancient and ever new. It’s the Tradition that leads you to ask new and right questions. It’s the Tradition that got Hans Urs von Balthasar and so many others to find new things to write even though it seemed that everything had been written, and Dorothy Day and Mother Teresa to build outposts of the Kingdom on Earth. The Tradition is less like a straitjacket than an arsenal: it’s all these cool new things at your disposal to, like, blow stuff up. To light a fire.
But see, here’s the even more important thing: if God is who the Bible says he is, then he is nothing if not Emmanuel. He is the God-with-us. And I don’t understand how that works if it’s not God-always-with-us. I’m talking about the Eucharist here. If there’s anything crazier than the idea that God, the all-holy, all-transcendent, who would become and truly become a man and die on the Cross, then it’s the idea that He would become, and truly become bread and wine. Not symbolically become, not abstractly become, not kinda-become, but truly, fully become, which is what the Catholic Church says and what the early Christians believed (see Ignatius of Antioch). If God is Emmanuel, if Jesus is the alpha and the omega, which doesn’t just mean “everything” but “the biggest and the smallest“, then he is not just “spiritually present” the way he is spiritually present in a beautiful sunset or a symphony or this couch, although he is. He is also trulypresent in the Eucharist. Just like he was not just “spiritually present” on the Cross but he was an actual being of flesh and blood, naked, beaten up, deformed, “despised and rejected of men”, utterly abandoned and truly present.
And if Jesus is who he says he is, then all our lives must be about getting closer to him, right? And if the Eucharist is what Jesus says it is (Jn 6, phagein, trogein, etc.) then that’s about the most explosive thing we can imagine, and we need to do everything we can to get it, right?
Swim the Tiber, Rob. I know it sounds crazy. But the Bible also teaches us that right almost always sounds crazy.
The National Organization of Women (NOW) has compiled a list of what they're calling the "Dirty 100" — organizations who have filed suit against the HHS Contraception Mandate. One of the "Dirty 100" organizations that NOW claims is simply "using religion" to discriminate against women, is, in fact, a group of Catholic religious sisters called the Little Sisters of the Poor.
The Little Sisters of the Poor take vows to tend to the needs of the elderly poor. They are opposed to providing contraception to their employees as contraception violates the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. The Little Sisters of the Poor are not considered to be a "religious employer" and exempt from the mandate as they employ and care for people of all faith backgrounds.
Continuing the work of Saint Jeanne Jugan, our MISSION is to offer the neediest elderly of every race and religion a home where they will be welcomed as Christ, cared for as family and accompanied with dignity until God calls them to himself.
Our VISION is to contribute to the Culture of Life by nurturing communities where each person is valued, the solidarity of the human family and the wisdom of age are celebrated, and the compassionate love of Christ is shared with all.
Our VALUES REVERENCE for the sacredness of human life and for the uniqueness of each person, especially those who are poorest and/or weakest. This is reflected in care that is holistic and person-centered.
FAMILY SPIRIT: a spirit of joyful hospitality embracing all with open arms, hearts and minds; fostering participation in the life of the home and rejecting all forms of discrimination.
HUMBLE SERVICE: the desire to raise others up and to put their needs before our own; an appreciation of simple, everyday tasks and experiences and humble means in accomplishing our work.
COMPASSION: empathy for sharing the weaknesses and sufferings of others; eagerness to relieve pain in all its forms and to make the elderly happy.
STEWARDSHIP: the recognition that life and all other goods are gifts from God and should therefore be used responsibly for the good of all; trust in God’s Providence and the generosity of others to provide for our needs; just compensation for our collaborators; a spirit of gratitude and sharing.
If you're one who continues to support N.O.W., perhaps you'll want to reconsider that support.
Allow me to be the first of hopefully many questioning your ability to think rationally.
Since Pope Francis began speaking in public about the Christian view on economic matters, opponents have engaged in what often feels like a McCarthy-era smear campaign, accusing the Pope of things like Marxism, communism, and Leninism.
It was Rush Limbaugh on his radio show that first leveled charges of Marxism after the publication of Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium; he later doubled down on the accusations:
Pope Francis called today for governments to redistribute wealth to the poor in a new spirit of generosity to help curb the economy of exclusion that is taking hold today…That's Marxism, that's socialism. That's not charity.
Following suit, an Economist blogger diagnosed Pope Francis' recognition of a link between capitalism and violence as Leninism. "Francis may not be offering all the right answers," the piece opines, dripping with patronizing conceit, "or getting the diagnosis exactly right, but he is asking the right questions. Like a little boy who observes the emperor's nakedness."
The pattern is always the same: dismiss Pope Francis, with the greatest respect for his office or the most genteel admiration of his character, by labeling his ministry more political than theological. And the motives attributed to Pope Francis are never neutral; rather, they're mere metonymy, short for larger arguments.
Identifying Pope Francis' theological analyses with the boogeymen political ideologies of yesteryear denies, however implicitly, that what he is doing is strictly Christian. This is accomplished by conflating what is religious with what is secular, and in part through selecting ideologies that have been defamed in American culture for their anti-Christian tendencies.
It will likely never matter to these critics that Pope Francis himself has emphatically denied any association with Marxism or Marxist ideology. And so in a recent interview, he took another tack: Rather than making another attempt to roundly decry a set of ideologies no one seriously suspects him of adhering to, Pope Francis turned the criticisms around on the critics:
"I can only say that the communists have stolen our flag. The flag of the poor is Christian. Poverty is at the center of the Gospel," he said, citing Biblical passages about the need to help the poor, the sick and the needy. "Communists say that all this is communism. Sure, twenty centuries later. So when they speak, one can say to them: 'but then you are Christian'." [Pope Francis, via Reuters]
In other words, since his concern for the poor causes critics to accuse him of Marxism, Pope Francis reversed their accusations: rather than Christianity looking suspiciously communist over its concern for the poor, perhaps communism looks suspiciously Christian. After all, justice for the poor is hardly a communist invention; as Pope Francis points out, a focus on helping the poor was native to Christianity long before the 19th century.
But Pope Francis' reversal has another effect: namely, it calls into question why our political narratives immediately categorize any demand for justice for the poor as anti-Christian communism. In fact, it would seem rather impossible to practice any legitimate form of Christianitywithout seeking justice for the poor. If we immediately identify support for impoverished people as evidence of some anti-Christian impulse, then we've built up a political narrative that can't sustain the truth about Christianity.
I've been following the news on what's happening at our southern borders.
Tons of people pouring into the country, many of them children, overwhelming our porous border security and the communities that are now charged with caring for them all. I find myself in a struggle of conscience, on the one hand abhorring the fact that they're coming into the country illegally while on the other hand understanding my obligation to care, as Christ commands, for the least of these.
This morning at Mass, Father Mike quoted these familiar words of Emma Lazarus' sonnet "The New Colossus":
"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Students of history will know that these words and the totality of the Lazarus' poem are emblazoned on a plaque on the inner wall of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, the gateway for the immigrant to the freedom offered by America.
Father Mike reminded us of the similarity of those words and, in part, the words found in today's gospel:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
It's interesting that this weekend, particularly when Americans are celebrating freedom and when the focus is on those crossing the border in hope, arguably, of seeking the very freedoms Americans are celebrating, the gospel speaks of taking on Christ's yoke. It's the Christian paradox so hard to even comprehend, much more to embrace. Not many of us are able to equate freedom with taking on a yoke.
Into that struggle steps Pope Benedict XVI, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who once wrote prophetically:
“Jesus Christ is the lodestar of human freedom. Without him, freedom loses its focus, for without the knowledge of truth, freedom becomes debased, alienated, and reduced to empty caprice. With him, freedom finds itself”
We can argue till the cows come home about the problems facing our southern borders and likely will but I'm of the mindset that sees this quest for freedom, however flawed the manifestation might be, as the driving force of those who are crossing the border. Oh sure, there are exceptions. There are criminal elements who have other purposes. There are those seeking something less pure, no doubt but in the end, for every one of them and for every one of us, it is that seeking of true freedom, of God's rest described in the Gospel, that is humanity's goal.
So, as I enjoy the freedom I've found in Christ, as I do that which this freedom allows me to do on this commemorative weekend, as I recognize and come to grips with this odd notion that becoming a slave to Christ is the only real way to God's rest, I am obligated to see "the huddled masses yearning to breathe free" in a different, yet historical, light, an obligation I believe I must extend to those making the news at our borders.
I think Emma Lazarus would approve. I believe Christ would too.
I don’t know if we sufficiently understand how weird and strange, how historically unparalleled, this presidency has become. We’ve got a sitting president who was just judged in a major poll to be the worst since World War II. The worst president in 70 years! Quinnipiac University’s respondents also said, by 54% to 44%, that the Obama administration is not competent to run the government. A Zogby Analytics survey asked if respondents are proud or ashamed of the president. Those under 50 were proud, while those over 50, who have of course the longest experienced sense of American history, were ashamed.
We all know the reasons behind the numbers. The scandals that suggest poor stewardship and, in the case of the IRS, destructive political mischief. The president’s signature legislation, which popularly bears his name and contains within it the heart of his political meaning, continues to wreak havoc in marketplaces and to be unpopular with the public. He is incapable of working with Congress, the worst at this crucial aspect of the job since Jimmy Carter, though Mr. Carter at least could work with the Mideast and produced the Camp David Accords. Mr. Obama has no regard for Republicans and doesn’t like to be with Democrats. Internationally, small states that have traditionally been the locus of trouble (the Mideast) are producing more of it, while large states that have been more stable in their actions (Russia, China) are newly, starkly aggressive.
In a truly stunning piece in early June, Politico’s Carrie Budoff Brown and Jennifer Epstein interviewed many around the president and reported a general feeling that events have left him – well, changed. He is “taking fuller advantage of the perquisites of office,” such as hosting “star-studded dinners that sometimes go on well past midnight.” He travels, leaving the White House more in the first half of 2014 than any other time of his presidency except his re-election year. He enjoys talking to athletes and celebrities, not grubby politicians, even members of his own party. He is above it all.
On his state trip to Italy in the spring, he asked to spend time with “interesting Italians.” They were wealthy, famous. The dinner went for four hours. The next morning his staff were briefing him for a “60 Minutes” interview about Ukraine and health care. “One aide paraphrased Obama’s response: ‘Just last night I was talking about life and art, big interesting things, and now we’re back to the minuscule things on politics.’”
Minuscule? Politics is his job.
When the crisis in Ukraine escalated in March, White House aides wondered if Mr. Obama should cancel a planned weekend golf getaway in Florida. He went. At the “lush Ocean Reef Club,” he reportedly told his dinner companions: “I needed this. I needed the golf. I needed to laugh. I needed to spend time with friends.”
You get the impression his needs are pretty important in his hierarchy of concerns.
He’s like someone who’s constantly running the movie “Lincoln” in his head. It made a great impression on him, that movie. He told Time magazine, and Mr. Remnick, how much it struck him. President Lincoln of course had been badly abused in his time. Now his greatness is universally acknowledged. But if Mr. Obama read more of Lincoln, he might notice Lincoln’s modesty, his plain ways, his willingness every day to work and negotiate with all who opposed him, from radical abolitionists who thought him too slow to supporters of a negotiated peace who thought him too martial. Lincoln showed respect for others. Those who loved him and worked for him thought he showed too much. He was witty and comical but not frivolous and never shallow. He didn’t say, “So sue me.” He never gave up trying to reach agreement and resolution.
It is weird to have a president who has given up. So many young journalists diligently covering this White House, especially those for whom it is their first, think what they’re seeing is normal.
It is not. It is unprecedented and deeply strange. And, because the world is watching and calculating, unbelievably dangerous.
It is, quite literally, a depressing read. How in hell did this man get elected? What have we wrought?
Well, don’t despair; to despair is to sin against hope. But what shall we hope for? That somehow a golden past may be recaptured? That is an unrealistic hope; even if the past is prologue, the thrust of narrative is always, relentlessly, forward. The forces in power have begun as they mean to continue, and even if genies could be put back into bottles we are too divided, too distracted and too self-interested to chase and subdue them.
The good news is, since politics has become pointless, we will now get to talk about human conscience, and philosophy and the stuff of the soul, and to fight for what is True — the Reality beyond all of these overwhelming illusions — and to therefore begin to bring on Apocalypse; not an end, but an uncovering; a revelation. And then the winning begins.
The things of the spirit foment and grow a most subversive freedom. So, Happy Independence Day, indeed.
“You cannot attend such an event—even if one does so merely out of curiosity, and not with any firm desire to worship Satan—without being adversely affected,” the exorcist cautioned, in an exclusive interview with Aleteia. “The mere fact that this black mass in Oklahoma City will be public lends it a certain legitimacy, and I suspect that some people will go simply to be entertained. What they may not realize immediately is that simply by going, they will open themselves to the power of the demonic.”
The event is planned for a 92-seat auditorium Sept. 21 at the Oklahoma City Civic Center. Tickets went on sale Wednesday. As of today, about 10 have been sold.
Encyclopaedia Britannica defines a black mass as "a blasphemous and usually obscene burlesque of the true mass performed by Satanic cults. The naked back of a woman often serves as an altar, and a validly consecrated host is generally used to intensify the mockery. The rite commonly incorporates other elements of Satanic magic."
"The Black Mass has been a feared ritual, and now it's being brought into the light!” trumpted a promotional on the civic center’s website. “This will be not only enlightening but educational as well. This Black Mass will [be] conducted for the public to attend with certain adaptations to allow for a legal celebration."
That includes clothing the "female altar," Adam Daniels, head of Dakhma of Angra Mainyu, the satanic church in Oklahoma City behind the event, explained in an interview earlier this week.
Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul Coakley has called on community leaders to reconsider whether it is an appropriate use of public space.
“For more than 1 billion Catholics worldwide and more than 200,000 Catholics in Oklahoma, the Mass is the most sacred of religious rituals,” the archbishop said in a statement. “It is the center of Catholic worship and celebrates Jesus Christ’s redemption of the world by his death and resurrection. In particular, the Eucharist—which we believe to be the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ – is the source and summit of our faith.
“That’s why we’re astonished and grieved that the Civic Center would promote as entertainment and sell tickets for an event that is very transparently a blasphemous mockery of the Mass,” he continued. “The ‘Black Mass’ that is scheduled for the Civic Center in September is a satanic inversion and distortion of the most sacred beliefs not only of Catholics, but of all Christians."
“As Judeo-Christian values are eschewed by an increasing number of people in our country, and contrary values are upheld as something to be protected and even celebrated (e.g., abortion, so-called gay marriage), the enemy does grow bolder,” he said. “The devil is gaining ground in the hearts of many, and he knows it.
“My fear is that, as our country as a whole drifts further and further away from authentic Christian values, we are going to see more and more things like this in the future,” he continued. “What most people don't fully realize is that there is truly a spiritual battle going on for the soul of our country. By legalizing and embracing things like abortion, euthanasia, and gay ‘marriage’ that are so antithetical to authentic Gospel values, we are unleashing the power of evil into our society. Confusion about moral issues is being introduced into the minds and hearts of many. There very literally will be hell to pay for many."
I can see many laughing at this and it's heartbreaking.
The piece finishes with what Catholics can do to fight this sort of thing and fight it we must.