My priest has been a light for me personally since I first met him a number of years ago but he has particularly been a flame for me of late.
He has been no shrinking violet in the wake of the Obergfell SCOTUS decision, in fact, quite the opposite and I took a moment after Mass today to tell him so, something I think we should all be doing for our faithful and prophetic priests, particularly those who are boldly standing up for truth and who are encouraging us all to do the same.
Father Mike's homilies these last two weeks have extolled truth courageously and he hints that he has been taking some heat for it and I trust that he has as does anyone today who proclaims the Church's teachings. The lukewarm and the faithless seem to be particularly loud and passionate these days and are quick to call out those who stand with the Church against the zeitgeist.
I wish there were recordings of Father Mike's homilies, particularly these last two but sadly, there isn't. So instead, I'm posting the homily of Father John Lankeit of the Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix, Arizona, a homily I tripped over yesterday on Facebook.
He too has a prophetic word for us from last week I thought worthy of sharing. Set aside 20 minutes today and listen, really listen, to it:
I thank God for the Fr. Mikes and the Fr. Johns that are out there and hope that in fact there are many more. We need many more.
You may hate me and hate my Christian values; you may despise the Church and all Her teachings; you may be certain that if only the old-fashioned notions of marriage and sex could be jettisoned, and if God could be adapted to your enlightened, modern sensibilities, then “equality” would win the day and everyone would be free and happy.
But I know you are wrong. I know it because nothing good can possibly come from eviscerating marriage of its meaning, or of distorting and twisting human sexuality into a pretzel of fabricated varieties and initials, or of wrenching innocence and modesty from our children in the name of sexual freedom and autonomy. Nothing good will ever, ever come of the brutality of abortion.
Love will never be found in the sexless manufacture of children, or the selfish denial of their right to their mother and father.
Love is “willing the good of the other, as other” the great saint Thomas Aquinas said. If I love you, I will want and do only what is for your good, even if it costs me. If you love me, you will do the same.
The signs all along the road our culture is currently speeding down do not point to love at all. They point to hedonism, nihilism, and despair. When sacrificial love is no longer the guiding principle, we are hopelessly lost.
The plans and vision you wish to bring about in our country are loveless, empty, and hopeless. You may very well be gaining ground, and you may win a few battles, thanks to decades of a lackluster witness and worse, friendly cooperation from Christians who should have known better, and should have done better.
Even so, the Church will survive you. She has watched as every major world empire has ended up on the ash heap of history. She will survive you. But not arrogantly, and not due to any cleverness or merit of Her own, but only because Jesus Christ has promised that the gates of Hell shall not prevail.
Some are saying I provoked this attack. But to kowtow to violent intimidation will only encourage more of it.
Sunday in Garland, Texas, a police officer was wounded in a battle that is part of a longstanding war: the war against the freedom of speech. Some people are blaming me for the Garland shooting — so I want to address that here.
The shooting happened at my American Freedom Defense Initiative Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest, when two Islamic jihadists armed with rifles and explosives drove up to the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland and attempted to gain entry to our event, which was just ending. We were aware of the risk and spent thousands of dollars on security — and it paid off. The jihadis at our free speech event were not able to achieve their objective of replicating the massacre at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine last January — and to go it one better in carnage. They were not able to kill anyone. We provided enormous security, in concert with the superb Garland police department. The men who took the aspiring killers down may have saved hundreds of lives.
And make no mistake: If it weren’t for the free-speech conference, these jihadis would have struck somewhere else — a place where there was less security, like the Lindt cafe in Australia or the Hyper Cacher Kosher supermarket in Paris.
So, why are some people blaming me? They’re saying: “Well, she provoked them! She got what she deserved!” They don’t remember, or care to remember, that as the jihadis were killing the Muhammad cartoonists in Paris, their friend and accomplice was murdering Jews in a nearby kosher supermarket. Were the Jews asking for it? Did they “bait” the jihadis? Were they “provoking” them?
Are the Jews responsible for the Nazis? Are the Christians in the Middle East responsible for being persecuted by Muslims?
Drawing Muhammad offends Islamic jihadists? So does being Jewish. How much accommodation of any kind should we give to murderous savagery? To kowtow to violent intimidation will only encourage more of it.
Not long ago, I received a phone call from my financial advisor. He calls regularly to check in and go over any changes to my portfolio and so I didn’t think too much of it when I first took the call but that changed moments into the conversation.
He said something about having some news to share with me and I knew right away that he was moving on to bigger and better things and my investments would be turned over to someone else in the firm. Immediately I began to think selfishly about who the new person might be, would they be as competent as Alex had been, would we hit it off as well with him or her, would we be as impressed and as confident with his replacement.
But all that changed when Alex answered my question as to what he was going to do next.
“I’m going to join the Seals,” he said.
“The Navy Seals?!” I asked somewhat incredulously.
“Yes, the Navy Seals,” he responded with a grin I could hear over the phone. “It’s something I've thought about doing for some time, something I feel called to do.”
“Whoa dude!” was all I could react with initially but I recovered enough to engage him about his move, talked about staying in touch and I let him know that I was inspired by his decision. I also told him that I’d be praying for him regularly, something I've done daily since.
It was a couple of days later, while praying a Rosary no less that I thought about Alex again. I thought about him and all young men who choose to potentially sacrifice their lives for the sake of others. Men willing to engage an enemy for selfless reasons. Men driven by an internal force purposed in principled good. Men who seek justice at all costs. Men who quietly do what most won’t. Men for whom thinking people are grateful. Men unthinking people too often despise.
I then had an unusual follow-on thought.
My respect and admiration for Alex was high before I took his call and even higher after taking it but the thought that cropped up, seemingly out of nowhere, was how much more respect and admiration I’d have for him if he’d said, “Hey Rick, I’m no longer going to do what I've been doing because… I've decided to join the priesthood”.
Yea… that’s pretty wild I know, particularly when Alex and I had only had surface level discussions about the divine and he had not in any way suggested to me that priesthood was even a possibility but… think on it.
Priests sacrifice their way of life for others. Priests engage the enemy of all enemies for selfless reasons. Priests are driven by the Holy Spirit to bring about principled good. Priests seek justice no matter the cost. Priests quietly do what most men do not. Many of us are most grateful for our priests and yet, many despise them.
I've come to believe firmly that we are all called by God to fulfill His purposes and I believe as firmly that this call can too often and too easily be drowned out by the noise and distractions of the world. I of course can’t say with any certainty that Alex is called to the priesthood nor can I deny that becoming a Navy Seal might be exactly what God desires Alex to do but I am struck by the similarities.
In this life, circumstances are such that Navy Seals are necessary yet we’d be foolish to not recognize the necessity of priests and the battles they fight for us.
God bless and keep Alex and all our Navy Seals. God bless our Catholic priests and grow them.
It was an image that came to symbolise desperation and valour: the desperation of those who will take on the sea – and the men who ferry human cargo across it – to flee the ills that cannot keep them in their own countries. And the valour of those on Europe’s southern shores who rush to save them when tragedy strikes.
Last week on the island of Rhodes, war, repression, dictatorship in distant Eritrea were far from the mind of army sergeant Antonis Deligiorgis. The world inhabited by Wegasi Nebiat, a 24-year-old Eritrean in the cabin of a yacht sailing towards the isle, was still far away.
At 8am on Monday there was nothing that indicated the two would meet. Stationed in Rhodes, the burly soldier accompanied his wife, Theodora, on the school run. “Then we thought we’d grab a coffee,” he told the Observer in an exclusive interview recounting what would soon ensue. “We stopped by a cafe on the seafront.”
Deligiorgis had his back to the sea when the vessel carrying Nebiat struck the jagged rocks fishermen on Rhodes grow up learning to avoid. Within seconds the rickety boat packed with Syrians and Eritreans was listing. The odyssey that had originated six hours earlier at the Turkish port of Marmaris – where thousands of Europe-bound migrants are now said to be amassed – was about to end in the strong currents off Zefyros Beach.
For Nebiat, whose journey to Europe began in early March – her parents paid $10,000 for a voyage that would see her walk, bus and fly her way to “freedom” – the reef was her first contact with the continent she had prayed to reach. Soon she was in the water clinging to a rubber buoy.
“The boat disintegrated in a matter of minutes,” the father-of-two recalled. “It was as if it was made of paper. By the time I left the café at 10 past 10, a lot of people had rushed to the scene. The coastguard was there, a Super Puma [helicopter] was in the air, the ambulance brigade had come, fishermen had gathered in their caiques. Without really giving it a second’s thought, I did what I had to do. By 10:15 I had taken off my shirt and was in the water.”
Deligiorgis brought 20 of the 93 migrants to shore singlehandedly. “At first I wore my shoes but soon had to take them off,” he said, speaking by telephone from Rhodes. “The water was full of oil from the boat and was very bitter and the rocks were slippery and very sharp. I cut myself quite badly on my hands and feet, but all I could think of was saving those poor people.”
A riveting video of an interview with a brother of two of the Coptic Christians killed by ISIS last week has surfaced. From the video liner:
The brother of two of the 21 Coptic Christians murdered in Libya, last night used live television to thank their killers for including the men's declaration of faith in the video of their execution. Christian channel SAT-7 ARABIC has become a mouthpiece for the families of the young men over the last six weeks since they were first abducted.
Beshir called into SAT-7's weekly live worship and prayer programme, We Will Sing, on Tuesday night (17 February).
Programme host Maher Fayez was visibly moved as Beshir told viewers he was proud of his brothers, Bishoy Estafanos Kamel (25) and Samuel Estafanos Kamel (23), because they are "a badge of honour to Christianity".
Beshir thanked Islamic State for not editing out the men's declaration of belief in Christ because he said this had strengthened his own faith. He added that the families of the ex-patriate workers are "congratulating one another" and not in despair: "We are proud to have this number of people from our village who have become martyrs," he told the programme.
When Eve Tushnet converted to Catholicism in 1998, she thought she might be the world’s first celibate Catholic lesbian.
Having grown up in a liberal, upper Northwest Washington home before moving on to Yale University, the then-19-year-old knew no other gay Catholics who embraced the church’s ban on sex outside heterosexual marriage. Her decision to abstain made her an outlier.
“Everyone I knew totally rejected it,” she said of the church’s teaching on gay sexuality.
Today, Tushnet is a leader in a small but growing movement of celibate gay Christians who find it easier than before to be out of the closet in their traditional churches because they’re celibate.
Josh Gonnerman, 29, a theology PhD student at Catholic University, writes for the spiritualfriendship site and speaks easily about embracing his gayness. When he came out in the mid-2000s, Gonnerman says, church leaders weren’t speaking about celibacy because they had “sort of thrown their lot in with the Republican Party” and wouldn’t talk inclusively in any way about LGBT people. The LGBT group he and Tushnet are part of at Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, he said, has gone from more of a “support group” to something more upbeat that organizes social and spiritual activities for members — not all of whom accept church teaching on celibacy.
“There is this shift from the more negative to the more positive,” he said. “In the past, the Catholic approach was: ‘Oh, sucks for you’ [that you’re gay]. The emphasis was on the difficulty. Celibacy is being reimagined.”
More times than not, I'll read or hear about nominal Catholics who struggle with the Church's teachings on a variety of issues. Attending Mass regularly, the Eucharist, gay marriage, you name it. The only authority many of them are willing to yield to is the authority that guides them on what to have for breakfast or what to tape on the DVR.
It's refreshing to read about people like Ms. Tushnet and Mr. Gonnerman who embrace the faith and attempt to bend to the Church's teachings rather than succumb to the authority of self.
God bless 'em. God give the faithful and those attempting to be faithful the same courage and strength.