Posted on

Friendship with Jesus

By: Fr. Ed Broom, OMV

Jesus

When I arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1986  shortly after my ordination at the hands of St. Pope John Paul II, I was contemplating a compelling portrait of Jesus. It was an image of His Sacred Heart, with flames of fire radiating from His Heart. However, what seemed to really captivate me most in the moment, were six words in Spanish that have been almost a motto of my life as Catholic, Religious and priest, and follower of Christ. These words were:  “Jesus, el Amigo que nunca falla.”  Translation:    “Jesus, the Friend that never fails!”

Christological names are many:    The Good Shepherd, the Bread of Life, The Way, Truth, and Life, the Alpha and Omega, Lord, God, Savior, Redeemer, as well as Lamb of God, Son of man and Son of God.      Each of these names, like a precious diamond exposed to the sun through a process called refraction, reflects a different glimmer of the majesty, greatness and beauty of Jesus the Son of the living God.

However, there is still another title that has captivated me for many years and hopefully will captivate your heart and it is  Jesus, the Friend.

On Holy Thursday, as Jesus sat at the Last Supper, about to give to all of humanity until the end of time two extraordinary gifts–we call them Sacraments–Holy Orders and the Most Holy Eucharist, He also called the Apostles and us by a special name:    I call you  friends!      In this most important moment in His life, shortly before being crucified for love of you and me He called the Apostles and us His intimate Friends.

Our Christian-Catholic religion has rules, precepts, orders, prohibitions, decrees and commands, this we cannot deny.    The Ten Commandments are part and parcel of our deposit of faith.  Nonetheless, if we limit our Catholic faith to nothing more than a series of rules, precepts, and mere Commandments to obey, then we have missed the boat, missed the mark, and focused on something very important but not most important and essential.

The essence of Catholicism is a  love-affair.      It is a deep, dynamic, and growing relationship with three Divine Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The second Person of the most Blessed Trinity is Jesus, the Son of God become man.    He came into the world to save us. But also, Jesus came into the world to establish a deep, dynamic, and permanent Friendship with us.

The Bible says that to find a true friend indeed is a treasure. We might even call it the pearl of infinite price that we should be willing to give everything else up to acquire.  Of all the friends that could exist in this world, friendship with Jesus is by far the best!    He is the Friend, in the painting of the Sacred Heart, that will never fail us in time and for all eternity.    Even the best of friends are destined to fail each other sooner or later. But Jesus will never fail us. We indeed fail Him, but he will never fail us, never….

For this reason one of the best motivations for us to strive energetically to observe the Ten Commandments is for the simple reason of desiring to establish, cultivate and grow in the dynamism of Friendship with Jesus.

For this reason Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen coined one of the best definitions of sin on the market:    “Sin is hurting the one you love.”  True, sin is breaking one of the Commandments. However, above and beyond the mere breaking of the one of the Ten Commandments, by sinning seriously we are breaking the Heart of God, a God that loved and stills loves us so much that He died on the cross to prove His love and Friendship for all of humanity, but for  you and me.

If you were the only person in the created universe, your Faithful Friend Jesus would have come into the world, preached, taught, exorcised and especially this: he would have suffered all of the torments of His Passion, from the Agony in the Garden, through His crucifixion, up to the shedding of His last drop of Blood when the lance pierced His Sacred Heart. All of this Jesus, your best Friend, willingly suffered for love of  you and me  and so that He would be your Best Friend in time and for all eternity.

Therefore, when we examine our conscience going through the Ten Commandments, why don’t we take a fresh and new approach in preparation for Confession. And it is simply this!    Recognize that your sins, in addition to the breaking of the Commandments, is especially the hurting of the one that loves you and the hurting of the one who wants to be loved by you!

Sin is saying “no” to the love of a God who is madly in love with you and has a burning desire for you to correspond to that love. Still more by sinning I am breaking the Heart of my Best Friend. By making a good confession, I am healing that wounded Sacred Heart and restoring the best of Friendships which will not end at the graveside but will last forever in eternity in heaven.

Therefore, by saying “no” to sin, I am really saying “yes” to the love of God and “yes” to a deep and growing Friendship with Jesus.

Face it, if sinning is simply breaking a series of cold and impersonal set of rules, then chances are we will go back to sinning. However, if we see sin in a personal light of hurting my best friend, wounding His Heart, then I will stop and think and renounce this temptation to sin.

May Our Lady and good Saint Joseph pray for us.

Credit to Fr. Ed Broom, OMV of CatholicExchange.

 

Posted on

The Sound of Silence

By: Br. Isaac Augustine Morales, O.P.

 

The fruit of silence is prayer.
The fruit of prayer is faith.
The fruit of faith is love.
The fruit of love is service.
The fruit of service is peace.

These are the words that appeared  on Blessed Teresa of Calcutta’s “business card” while she still walked the earth, and it deeply shapes the spirituality of the order she founded. Working with the Missionaries of Charity in the Bronx this summer has given me opportunity to reflect on these words. To me the most striking line of the card is the first one. While most Christians who take their faith seriously recognize their need for prayer, faith, love, service, and peace, it is easy to forget the importance of silence.

We live in a world filled with noise: the hum of electronic devices, the incessant sounds of ring tones, music blaring from earphones and radios, the constant chatter of the television. Ours is not a society that places a high premium on silence. Given the constant noise that characterizes our culture, one might expect an order that so values silence to flee from society. Many of the older religious orders did just that, even before the explosion of sound that modern technology has made possible. Whether it’s the Desert Fathers, who staked out their place in the wilderness to wrestle with demons, or orders like the Benedictines, who sought more bucolic settings in which they could live the common life, praying and working for the glory of God, religious orders can sometimes give the impression that the only way to find silence is to retreat to a remote location.

The witness of the Missionaries of Charity suggests otherwise. Following Blessed Teresa’s “vocation within a vocation” to serve God in the poorest of the poor, the sisters establish their houses in the poorest neighborhoods around the world. These areas aren’t exactly the first place one thinks of when one is looking for silence. Queen of Peace Shelter is located in the south Bronx, a crime-ridden neighborhood plagued by drug deals and gang violence. Shootings are not uncommon, and even on “peaceful” days the noise from the street makes attempts to find silence difficult, to put it mildly.

The contrast between the noise of the Bronx and the sisters’ practice of silence is most acute between 2 and 3pm, when the sisters have their daily holy hour. Every day in their simple chapel they kneel before the Blessed Sacrament in silent meditation or praying the rosary in common as noise from the streets — the blaring music of a passing car, the whine of a police siren — wafts into their little sanctuary through the open windows. And yet amidst all the commotion, there they are, day after day, silent in the presence of the Lord.

What Blessed Teresa and her daughters have discovered is something that many of the saints throughout history knew: silence is not primarily the absence of sound, but rather an interior silence marked by an awareness of and attentiveness to the presence of God. St. Catherine of Siena speaks of the “interior cell” in which she would pray even in the midst of daily activities of both the mundane and the extraordinary variety. Catherine de Hueck Doherty, the 20th century Russian noblewoman and foundress of Madonna House, puts it this way: “Deserts, silence, solitudes are  not necessarily places but states of mind and heart. These deserts can be found in the midst of the city, and in every day of our lives.” Silence, as the witness of the Missionaries of Charity testifies, can be found even amidst the hustle and bustle of a big city, and it leads to the fulfillment of the two great commandments: love of God and neighbor.

Our Lord tells us, “You will know them by their fruits” (Mt 7:16). One can see the genuine fruits of silence in the depth of the sisters’ prayer life, in the faith with which they reside in dangerous and neglected neighborhoods, in the love that radiates from their countenances and issues forth in their service to the poorest of the poor, and in the peace with which they lead such a radical life. Not everyone is called to such a radical witness to the gospel, but the Missionaries are a testimony to the fruitfulness of silence, as well as a reminder that even in the midst of this noise-filled culture anyone can find moments of silence. If we seek out these moments of silence, God will meet us there and transform our lives, bestowing upon us the peace that the world cannot give.

Credit to Br. Isaac Augustine Morales, O.P. of CatholicExchange.

 

Posted on

A Still Small Voice

By:  Mark Giszczak

nature

A Reading from the first book of Kings, verses 19:9A & 11-13A.

“At the mountain of God, Horeb,
Elijah came to a cave where he took shelter.
Then the LORD said to him,
“Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD;
the LORD will be passing by.”
A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains
and crushing rocks before the LORD–
but the LORD was not in the wind.
After the wind there was an earthquake–
but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake there was fire–
but the LORD was not in the fire.
After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.
When he heard this,
Elijah hid his face in his cloak
and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.”
———————————————————————————————–

What is in a whisper?  When someone whispers, we quiet down, sharpen our ears and pay attention. A whisper conveys often the most important information—whether intimate words of love or secret words that tell of hidden matters. Whispers are usually more significant than shouts, but they also require more of us. If we fail to pay attention, we could miss the last words of a dying man or a key insight that could change the direction of our lives.

Whispers Good and Bad

Think of all the whispers in Scripture–Jesus’ words on the cross (“I thirst!”), the hushed speech of the lovers in the Song of Songs, the whispered exchanged between Jesus and the Beloved Disciple at the Last Supper. Of course, whispering has its dark side. Gossipers speak in a whisper. Conspirators plot in secret. Whispers, which seem designed for lovers, can be perverted into the tools of betrayal.

An Inviting Tone

The power of the whisper lies not in its overpowering thump as with a loud shout, but in its enticing draw, its invitation to draw near and lean closer. One who whispers invites us to share his secrets, to become one with him in a private, shrouded space. In the same way that lovers seek the seclusion of a long walk in the woods or a conversation behind closed doors, away from the bustle of the world, so too do those who seek God seek a kind of seclusion, a secret space away from others where He can be communed with, whispered to. Jesus invites his followers to such a private communion when he tells them to go into their rooms, close their doors and pray to the Father who sees in secret (Matt 6:6). Intimacy with God does not thrive in bluster, bombast and bravado, but in beautiful simplicity, when the soul finally takes to heart the words of Psalm 46: “Be still and know that I am God.” The moments of deepest prayer are usually moments of quiet awe before the throne of God.

Elijah and the Whisper of God

While we come to him with whispers both intimate and desperate, he strikingly comes to us with whispers of his own. In the reading from 1 Kings above, we find Elijah on Mount Horeb waiting for such a whispered revelation from God. The story delivers us a paradox: that God can be expected to do the unexpected. Amazingly and appropriately, Elijah journeys all the way to Horeb to encounter God. The mountain has two names: Horeb and Sinai. It is the place where Moses met God at the burning bush and where God appeared in thunder and lightning to hand down the Ten Commandments. Elijah returns to this special mountain of God’s past revelation to encounter him anew. He goes to a place where he can expect God to show up. But of course, God does not come in the expected fashion. He does not descend in thunder and lightning, nor in fire, nor wind, nor earthquake. This time, he does not shout.

Instead, God speaks to Elijah in a “still, small voice” a whisper. Elijah might have wanted a shout. He was on the run from Ahab and Jezebel who were using their political power to try and kill him. Even though Elijah had just won the showdown with the prophets of Baal, his life was in danger and there was no safe place for him to go. In his moment of desperation, he seeks out the Lord. In the end, the Lord speaks to him and gives him a mission to do.

Is God Hiding?

The story contains an essential lesson for us: God invites, not smites. We like it when God shows up with special effects and smashes rocks before our eyes. Often we want him to talk to us loudly, clearly, with power and authority, but God wants to invite us, to speak to us in an intimate whisper. He is not trying to hide from us, but trying to entice us, to pique our interest, to help us open our hearts to him.

The Secrets of Listening

To me, it is like looking at a masterpiece painting. The uninitiated can often stare and stare without understanding, without “getting it.” Only through detailed study and detailed looking can one unlock the secrets of a masterpiece. It does not give itself away cheaply. In the same way, Jesus warns us against throwing our “pearls before swine.” Finding God and being found by him do not come to those seeking an ostentatious show, but to those willing to listen in secret to words spoken by a whispering voice. Elijah’s patient attention in his moment of need and in the face of fires, earthquakes and other noisy phenomena, reveal the attitude that we want to embrace in prayer. Prayer is often a waiting game, a deep listening, a silent attending.

Much of love lies in listening. The one who can listen to another with patience and sincere attention reveals his love. Whispers invite us to listen more closely. In this case, God’s whispering calls for our attention. Learning to hear his voice is the heart of learning to pray.

Credit to Mark Giszczak of CatholicExchange.

Posted on

Ten Helps to Grow in Prayer

By: Fr. Ed Broom, OMV

bible

The following is a short article to encourage all of us to desire to grow in our prayer life, seek the means to grow, but especially to persevere in this most important of activates–our salvation, the salvation of our families and loved ones, and the salvation of the whole world depends on men and women who have decided to dedicate their lives to prayer, which is the key to heaven.

1.  Desire to pray. We must pray for a firm desire to pray more and to pray better. Augustine says that we follow our hearts desire.    The same saints say: ‘We must choose the object of our desire and then to live with all our heart.” Of course the object of our desire should be God.

2.  Conviction as to the importance of prayer.    “As air is to the lungs, so should prayer be to our soul.”    As gasoline is to the tank of a car, so should prayer be our spiritual energy.” As wings are to the eagle to soar into the heights, so is prayer for the soul that wants to soar on high into the mystical heights.    As food and drink is to the hungry and thirsty body, so should prayer be to the thirsty soul.    The Psalmist expresses it in these beautiful words:    “As the deer yearns for the running streams so my soul yearns for you O God.”

3.  Texts for Prayer.    St. Teresa of Avila, Doctor of prayer, as beginners we should never go to our prayer time without the help of a good book.    This will help to forms good ideas and eventually ignite the heart with noble and heavenly aspirations.    In other words, we have to be trained and educated in prayer.

4.  What texts to pray with?  Of course, the first and best of all texts should be the Bible, the Word of God. In this God speaks to us directly. Highly to be encouraged would be the Gospels, the very heart of the Bible and the Psalms, the best prayer book ever composed by the Holy Spirit, using as human instrument King David.

5.  Prayer Method.    Methods are helpful to learn any new art. This applies to prayer.    A classical method is that of  Lectio Divina.      These are the steps:  Lectio–read attentively,Meditacio–think/ponder the Word of God,  Contemplacio–use your imagination to enter the scene and be part of it,  Oracio–  pray and talk to the Lord,  Accio–make sure that you put into action the fruits of your prayer.      This method could prove invaluable to help us on the highway of prayer.

6.  Readings on Prayer.        There are many texts written on prayer and we should educate ourselves by reading some of the best. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, part IV, could prove to be an excellent tool as teacher of prayer. Read it and follow its advice!

7.  Retreats.    The prime time and prime place to grow in prayer are retreats.    Ignatian retreats, with a competent director, have proven most efficacious over the centuries. If you have time, a thirty day retreat, or an 8-day retreat, or at least a weekend retreat.      The best way to learn how to pray is simply to pray. Retreats have as their primary purpose to go deeper in prayer.    Set aside some time every year. Jesus Himself invited the Apostles to come apart and rest–to be with Him, which is of course prayer.    This is a good “spiritual tune-up.”

8.  Persevere in the Struggle.    Prayer is not always easy!    The Catechism of the Catholic Church compares prayer to a wrestling match. Actually the Catechism takes as example Jacob wrestling with the angel all-night as model for prayer.    St. Teresa of Avila puts it succinctly:    “We must have a determined determination to never give up prayer.”    The devil will do all he can to trick us into believing that we are wasting our time in prayer and that there are many more noble and worthy pursuits that should override prayer.

9.  Get a little help from your friends.    I find it to be of great help, while engaged in prayer, to beg for a little help from my friends. These friends are God’s faithful friends now and for all eternity: the angels and the saints. They passed the test and are confirmed in grace. They contemplate God face to face. They prove as most powerful intercessors before the throne of God and are patiently waiting for us to invoke them. Their prayers for us can help to enlighten our minds and ignite our wills to connect with God. Then read the lives of the saints.    The saints are all different in the sense that they come from a specific time, place, culture; they are sinners and have their own character and temperament. However, there is one point that all of the saints have in common: PRAYER!  Undoubtedly and universally, in all times and places, the saints were men of women who tenaciously clung to prayer, recognizing it as the breath and life of their souls and the key to success in their apostolic lives.

10.  The Holy Spirit: The Interior Master.    St. Paul reminds us that we really do not know how to pray, but the Holy Spirit intercedes with ineffable groans so that we can say “Abba” Father.    St. Teresa of Avila, was struggling with her prayer life.    A Jesuit priest gave her the advice to pray to the Holy Spirit. From that time on her prayer life improved drastically.    The first Novena in the Church was in preparation for Pentecost and culminated in the descent of the Holy Spirit, transforming the Apostles into great warriors of prayer, warriors of Christ, and great saints. Praise and thanks be to the Holy Spirit–the Interior Master or Teacher. Why not also turn to the newly canonized Saint John XXIII who was presented as a man truly docile to the Holy Spirit and beg for his intercession, too.

In conclusion, let us turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who pondered the word of God in her Immaculate Heart as model for prayer and beg her for the grace to have a growing desire for prayer, love for prayer, growth in our daily prayer life, and perseverance in prayer. St. Augustine encourages us with these closing words: “He who prays well lives well; he who lives well dies well; he who dies well, all is well.”

Credit to Fr. Ed Broom, OMV of CatholicExchange.

 

Posted on

Joan of Arc: Model of Strength

By: Emma Smith

joan of arc

While researching potential confirmation saints, I learned that Joan of Arc had a “notoriously volatile temper.” This caught my attention as, if there is one thing I’ve struggled with, it’s my temper. Thus, learning that Joan of Arc, now my patron in Heaven, had a temper was of some consolation. However, learning that one can get to Heaven  even with  a temper was merely the beginning of what Joan of Arc had to show me about being a saint today.

We all desire the “big call.” People love the romance of leaving everything behind, traveling to foreign lands, abandoning our homes. There is something timelessly romantic in the notion that God could physically call us away from everything that makes us who we are. You can thank Hollywood for that in part, but in part you can thank the human existence. We understand that we were made for greatness and having a “big call” that asks those “huge sacrifices” of us makes us feel as though we’ve attained the greatness we strive for.

In that sense, Joan of Arc speaks to all of us. At a young age, she left all she knew behind to lead an army and was killed for her response to God’s call. That is no small calling. However, Joan also seems very distant from us. None of us (or not many of us!) will be asked to gallivant off across the globe for Christ’s kingdom. Her story is inspiring, yet we are unable to relate to it.

In our glorification of Joan’s work and martyrdom, I believe it becomes a temptation to gloss over the Joan of Arc who was  tried  before being burned at the stake. The Joan who was taken to trial is the Joan we should — and can — aspire to be, because the Joan at trial was incredibly human.

During her trial, Joan’s human weakness and frailty came out in incredibly real ways. The close proximity of evil and the inevitable pain it would cause allowed Joan’s human weakness to overpower her several times. Accounts vary, but one account reflects a time when Joan had to be removed from the court because she was so nervous that she was unable to speak clearly and kept recanting her statements. Further, when faced with burning at the stake on May 24th, Joan signed an abjuration document regarding her male clothing, visions, and call from God.

Her fear is understandable, and makes her less of an icon and more of a person to us. She shows us that trust in God is difficult at any moment in life, but when alone and faced with a torturous death, it is near impossible. Joan’s human weakness, then, points not to our own human existence, but to God’s faithfulness and mercy. On May 28th, Joan recanted her previous abjuration. Having been visited by saints overnight to encourage her, she gained strength from Christ and was able to say “yes” one more time to our Lord. She faced her death with composure and peace on May 30th, 1431.

That is the true romance of Joan’s “big call.” She waged the war, not without, but within, and won. God didn’t merely ask her to lead an army to victory — that was the relatively easy part. Rather, God asked her to abandon herself — her fears, her pains, her human terrors and weaknesses — and place herself squarely and firmly in His care. He was faithful to her, and she  accepted  His love and strength, thus being faithful to Him as well. By overcoming herself and allowing her human frailty to decrease, Joan was able to allow Christ to increase in her, and do the very thing that we celebrate her for today: she died for the glory of God so that His will could be done.

Joan’s story remains incredibly relevant today. Millennials especially have the unique opportunity to be modern day Joan of Arcs. We are called to wage a war that is, in many ways, very similar to Joan’s. Instead of a physical army of English swarming our lands, we are faced with a cultural war. As radical feminism, gay marriage, and the abortion debate swarm our cultural landscape, we are faced with the call to go out and lead our nation back to greatness.

Just as Joan’s work was only fulfilled in her martyrdom, in her total gift of self to Christ, so too will our cultural war only be won when we truly die to ourselves and leave ourselves solely in the care of Christ. When we die to our fears and temptations, when we decrease our own importance, we allow Christ’s hope and strength to increase. We are called to overcome the temptation of mediocrity and the fear of death (physical, social, or otherwise) by dying to ourselves so He may increase in us. Only when we successfully turn ourselves over to him do we become vessels for His glory, making His will present and witnessing to His goodness, just as Joan was finally capable of on the fateful day 583 years ago.

If we want to win the culture war we must wrestle with the very real possibility that we will be “burned at the stake”. We should look to The Maid of Orléans for guidance in turning to Christ and accepting His mercy and inspiration for those times when we fail to trust in Him. She can help us to win the war within so that our fight for beauty, truth, and goodness may not be lost without. May she be an inspiration to us to accept our fate with the same joy with which she finally bore her own Cross. In seeking her aid and learning to die to self, we may defend ourselves against the same evil Joan faced as it attempts, once again, to take over our land, nation and culture for its own.

Credit to Emma Smith of CatholicExchange.

 

Posted on

The Miracle of Fulton J. Sheen

By: Patricia Treece

miracle

God has friends in places little connected with Him in the public mind.Would you believe an American proposed for official sainthood whose prime time television show brought him an emmy  – for talking about God yet?

TV star Fulton John Sheen’s heroic virtue was recognized with the title Venerable in June 2012. You know well by now that it is God’s approval through a miracle that permits a beatification. In this Cause miracles seem in good supply. So beatification could come soon. When it does Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen may have the distinction of ending up with not just one shrine but two.

Not only a widely read author, the native of El Paso, Illinois, was famous for  Life Is Worth Living, his television show seen by millions when there were only three networks (ABC, NBC, and CBS) in the United States and the whole country seemed to park itself before “the tube” nightly. Although one of television’s biggest stars, full of personal charisma, with a sense of the dramatic that could make viewers weep, as well as wit and a sense of comedy that evoked bubbles of laughter, Sheen was also revered among those, like Apostoli, who looked past the show for his spiritual attributes: primarily his deep love of Christ exemplified, among other ways, by his unfailingly spending an hour a day – he called it a Holy Hour – in prayer before the eucharistic Christ. Apostoli says that when he saw Sheen, he wanted to be like him – not the celebrity aspect but “the man of God.”

It was Billy Graham – no slouch himself at communicating Christ – who said, “Sheen was the greatest communicator of the twentieth century.” Looking at Sheen’s background, this is surprising. When he started his educational path to the priesthood, the successful business-man’s  son’s potential for scholarship, not for communicating to huge groups of ordinary people, was what drew attention. Sent to be educated at some of the world’s foremost schools, the University of Louvain in Belgium, the Sorbonne in Paris, and the Angelicum in Rome, he was the first American at Louvain to win the prestigious Cardinal Mercier Prize for International Philosophy.

He came back to America and, after three years in his home diocese,  began to teach theology and philosophy at Washington DC’s Catholic University as an educationally sophisticated intellectual of proven brilliance. Yet he would become known for the ability – often by coining witty and pithy sayings – “to explain spirituality and the Catholic faith in ways that everyone could understand.” And he did it first on radio – so it wasn’t his striking good looks that had people hang ­ing on his words. That was as early as 1930, when he began a Sunday-night broadcast called  The Catholic Hour. Sponsored by the Church, for twenty years he taught Catholicism that way. From 1951 he “starred” on television.

On TV he taught Life and why it is worth living – a subject which led to God through every topic imaginable. In that anti-Catholic era, 1951 to 1957, there he was before millions, mostly non-Catholics, in full – some would say exaggerated – Catholic regalia: black cleri ­cal garb, a large crucifix on his chest, and a big magenta cape flowing behind him. In down-to-earth, humorous talks about life’s basics, aimed at people of every faith or none, his soft-sell approach won friends for Christ and the Church, his converts too many to detail.

Twenty-four years after his death and burial at St. Patrick’s Ca ­thedral as a bishop of New York, his Cause was opened in September 2003 by the Peoria Diocese.

Already in the summer of 2006, when the Cause for this Servant of God was only open three years, there were two cures of a magnitude to potentially qualify as official miracles – and definitely, in any case, worth sending to Rome. Following ceremonies in Peoria and in Pitts ­burgh, for each of the healings respectively, the Cause’s Rome-based postulator, Andréa Ambrosi, present at both, hand carried them to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

The first healing recipient was Therese Kearney of Champaign, Illi ­nois, then in her early seventies. During a surgery in 1999, Mrs. Kearney suffered a tear in her pulmonary artery. Told his wife would probably not make it, Frank Kearney, a long-time admirer of the media star priest, sought Sheen’s prayer intercession. (Sheen at this time had been dead twenty years.) His wife lived, and this was considered something be ­yond what medicine could have done. The couple died in 2006, seven years later, he in February and she, at age 79, in September. But the healing had already survived the diocesan-level vetting. Details of her cure – over five hundred pages of medical data and testimonies by the witnesses, who included the doctors involved, a nurse, a priest, and fam ­ily members – had been assembled under Msgr. Richard Soseman, as delegate of the bishop of Peoria. Packed and sealed in a witnessed cer ­emony, just five days after Therese Kearney’s death, the records were officially turned over to the postulator for transport to Rome.

Postulator Ambrosi made a second stop for similar ceremonies in Pittsburgh. There he picked up a thousand pages of meticulous testi ­mony and medical records on the cure of a seriously ill infant boy whose family belong to the Ukrainian Diocese of St. Josaphat in Parma, Ohio. The Catholic Ukrainian diocese is small and without either the person ­nel or financial resources to conduct the necessary investigation of a cure. The Pittsburgh diocese took over for them. While details of the infant’s cure were withheld, Fr. Ambrosi said only that the baby was “gravely ill” when his parents sought Archbishop Sheen’s prayer inter ­cession. Vice-postulator Fr. Andrew Apostoli has said the infant had three life-threatening conditions, one of which was the worst form of sepsis. The fact of this being a cure from God, not from medical means, was supported by the main doctors involved in the case. “All of them,” Ambrosi concluded, “recognized that a force superior to their medical science intervened for his [the infant’s] recovery.”

About four years later, in 2010, another infant is also said to have received a miracle, this one in Peoria. The facts actually made public, with the cooperation of the family, when Sheen was named Venerable in 2012 show the devotion Sheen can inspire.

Bonnie Engstrom and her family live in a small central-Illinois town not that far from El Paso, Illinois, the little town where Sheen was born. Bonnie had a special feeling for then Servant of God Sheen, she ex ­plains, precisely because he was “born in this small insignificant town, El Paso, followed God’s will in his life, and became a great instrument of the Lord.” To Bonnie, this showed “it doesn’t matter where you’re from.” She and her husband, Travis, agreed that the child of her current pregnancy would be James Fulton, the middle name honoring Sheen. Throughout this pregnancy, as she went about her daily chores as wife and mother, Bonnie also sought the prayer support of the dead TV-star evangelist.

But during James Fulton’s birth at the family home that Septem ­ber (2010), Fulton Sheen did not actually seem to be proving much of a friend: a previously undetected knot in the umbilical cord became so tight during delivery that the baby was born blue, without pulse or breath. Mother and the stillborn baby were rushed by ambulance to St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria.

Engstrom remembers chanting Fulton Sheen’s name over and over as a team of doctors and nurses worked on the baby. It seemed fruit ­less, and the ER group prepared to pronounce the Engstrom infant dead when suddenly his heart began to beat.

Today, apparently no worse for his harrowing birth because he is developing normally, James – along with his mother – is now a kind of star himself since mother and child are playing a role in their heavenly friend’s ascent to official sainthood. On the other hand, the small-town tyke is also, to his family’s joy, just like his older siblings.

As for Bonnie Engstrom, she finds her faith affirmed that God does work miracles. “Every milestone [in development] he has crossed was a milestone we thought he wouldn’t achieve,” she says with a kind of awe. The miracle of her stillborn baby’s not only returning to life but being undamaged has touched her in other ways too. One is that the mother of what today is considered a large family appreciates her vocation “a lot more.” She says when she sees her children do something, such as James, who should be dead, shaking toys at her, trying to be cute, she is able “to appreciate all those little moments more.”

Time will tell which of the cures being studied in Rome, this one, the two others, or one yet to come, proves the beatification miracle. There are other cures not chosen for Rome, apparently. Vice-postulator Fr. Andrew Apostoli notes that an extraordinary number of cases where people report the archbishop’s intercession involve infants.

Thinking about these and the elderly woman’s or the Ohio infant’s cures, if neither of the latter becomes the beatification miracle, two physician-proclaimed miracles that took place in our time and maybe not that far away from where you live may just fade away. Will the day ever come, for instance, in this new climate in which miracle recipients often have to be or choose to be protected, when you and I learn the details that caused more than one doctor to credit something beyond what medical skill can do for saving the seriously ill Ohio baby? Even James’s survival – in spite of being in the news – could one day soon be remembered by those close to him alone. Only one thing is sure: each of these events is an example of the miracles most of us will never be aware of and yet, as miracle “middleman” Zbig Chojnowski puts it, are going on all around us.

Credit to Patricia Treece of CatholicExchange.  

Posted on

St. Benedict and St. Therese: The Father and the Child

By: Fr. Dwight Longenecker

St Theresia

C.S. Lewis once observed,  ‘How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different are the saints.’ In his little biographies of Thomas Aquinas and Saint Francis of Assisi, G.K.Chesterton revelled in the sparkling individuality of both saints.   Aquinas was the greatest philosopher of his time while Francis was a troubadour for Christ. Thomas a great bull of a man; Francis a scraggy fool of a man. Thomas was a restrained logician; Francis an extravagant poet. In their uniqueness, Aquinas and Francis display the magnificent full blooded humanity which every saint exhibits.

Chesterton and Lewis weren’t the only ones to be delighted by the variety of the saints. Writing to her prioress Thérèse of Lisieux said, ‘How different are the variety of ways through which the Lord leads souls!’ ‘Souls are more different than faces.’

Take three women who share her name: Theresa of Avila, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) and Teresa of Calcutta. They all wear a dull uniform and submit to a regime which seems designed to obliterate their individuality, yet each of them emerge as feisty, formidable and utterly unique individuals.

The saints are unique because they are ordinary people who have allowed an extraordinary power to bring them to their full potential. The saint is fascinating because she is the person she was created to be; and the more we become who we are, the less we will be like anybody else. The saint has no time for role models. She cannot spend time pretending to be someone else because she realises it is the work of a lifetime to become oneself.

While the saints are unique, they also complement one another. Threading through the life of every saint is a strand that links them to every other saint. Chesterton shows how Aquinas and Francis, despite their differences,   complement one another and reflect the light of Christ back and forth. Thérèse makes a charming observation about how saints depend on one another spiritually. In heaven, she says,

‘all the Saints will be indebted to each other……who knows the joy we shall experience in beholding the glory of the great saints, and knowing that by a secret disposition of Providence we have  contributed there unto…and do you not think that on their side the great saints, seeing what they owe to quite little souls, will love them  with an incomparable love? Delightful and surprising will be the  friendships found there–I am sure of it. The favoured companion of an Apostle or a great Doctor of the Church will perhaps be a young  shepherd lad; and a simple little child may be the intimate friend of a

In the divine drama God creates a cast of heroes and children. The thought is echoed in the words of Pope Pius XI about Thérèse, ‘God created such giants of zeal and holiness as Ignatius Loyola and Francis Xavier. Behind these, on the far horizon, we catch a glimpse of Peter and Paul, of Athanasius, Chrysostom, and Ambrose. But behold! The same heavenly Artist has secretly fashioned, with a love well nigh infinite, this maiden so modest, so humble–this child.’

Benedict also hints at the surprising complementarity in the communion of saints. For him the magnificent community of heaven is reflected in the monastic community on earth. The monks are not ranked according to social privilege, ability or age, but in a celestial sort of egalitarianism,   they ‘take their places according to the time of their coming to the monastery, for example, one who has entered the monastery at the second hour is to know that he is junior to him who entered at the first, whatever his age or dignity.’ As in Thérèse’s picture, the young and old respect one another, so Benedict expects the younger monks to show an oriental type of courtesy to their elders: ‘Whenever the brethren meet one another,   the junior should rise and seek a blessing of the elder.’ However the older monks should respect the younger because ‘the youthful Samuel and Daniel acted as judges over their elders,’ and in his chapter on summoning the brethren for counsel the older monks must listen respectfully to even the youngest monk for, ‘it is often to the youngest brother that the Lord reveals the best course.’

To study two saints together is to perceive three things: their unique personalities, their similarity to one another and the way their lives and teachings complement each other. When Saint Benedict and Saint Thérèse of Lisieux are studied together the contrast between their personalities is striking. One is an Italian patriarch of the sixth century, the other a bourgeois French girl at the end of the nineteenth. Benedict writes from the edge of the middle age. Thérèse writes from the edge of the modern age. Benedict writes a monastic rule, founds monasteries, rules as an abbot, is visited by royalty and dies an old man. Like a French Emily Dickinson, Thérèse hardly moves beyond her provincial family circle. She has a pious father, lives an enclosed life, writes poetry and a quaint biography, and dies a painful death at the age of twenty four. Like Aquinas and Francis, Benedict and Thérèse are radically different personalities; also like Aquinas and Francis, they complement one another in surprising and profound ways. Augustine wrote about the Scriptures that ‘the New Testament is hidden in the Old and the Old made manifest in the New.’   So it is with the writings of Thérèse and Benedict;   the remarkable insights of Thérèse are hidden within Benedict’s simple monastic rule, and the universal wisdom of Benedict is made fully manifest in the writings of Thérèse. In the two of them Thérèse’s picture of the saints in heaven comes true, for in Thérèse and Benedict ‘a simple little child becomes the intimate friend of a patriarch.’

In ‘studying’ a saint one is never drawn only to their writings. The first attraction to any saint is to their unusual life. The saint’s teachings are nothing without their life because their writings and their life are one. As Gregory the Great said of Benedict, ‘he could not have written what he did not live’ and Hans Urs Von Balthasar says ‘Thérèse protected herself from ever writing any statement that she herself had not tested and that she was not translating into deeds as she was writing.’

Hagiograpny and biography are not the same thing. We do not study the life of a saint as we might read the story of a dead celebrity. We can’t study the story of a dead saint because there’s no such thing.   The saint’s life is dynamic because in Christ the saint is still alive. Thérèse is famous for anticipating the great work she would do after her death, ‘I will spend my heaven doing good on earth,’   she said.   We venerate the saints and ask for their intercession not because they have written fine words, nor because we think them especially powerful in heaven. Neither do we venerate the saints and ask for their intercession simply because they are holy and good. We venerate saints and ask for their help because they have become our friends. They may be friends, but they are exalted friends. We relate to the saints as we might to a member of the royal family who has come to call. We are fascinated by them because they are greater than us, but we’re more fascinated because they’re not greater than us. They might wear satin breeches, but they step into them one leg at a time. Because the saints are like us and unlike us they not only show us what we are but what we could be. Studying a saint therefore, is a work of devotion not diligence. It is a relationship, not a report. We study a saint not for the love of knowledge but for the knowledge of love.

Credit to  Fr. Dwight Longenecker of CatholicExchange.

 

Posted on

Yes Straight Out: Halpin and the Compiegne Martyrs

By: Richard Becker

martyrs

“Baba O’Riley” is my favorite song by The Who,  but “Who Are You?” is a close second, mainly because of the drums. It came on the radio recently and I turned up the volume. “Listen to this,” I told my son, an aspiring drummer. “Keith Moon is amazing.”

And he was, a great drummer and a great performer…when he was sober. Unfortunately, he was frequently under the influence of various substances, and Moon literally passed out on stage on more than one occasion.

Such was the case on November 20, 1973, when The Who appeared at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. Moon actually passed out twice that night, and after the second time, guitarist Pete Townshend, utterly exasperated, turned to the assembled crowd for help. “Can anybody play the drums?” he pleaded. “I mean somebody  good.”

Scot Halpin  was a drummer and present at the concert.He’d just moved to California from Iowa and had gone to see The Who with his buddy, Mike. The two of them ended up at the side of the stage near the event’s promoter, Bill Graham, who was trying to salvage the concert after Moon’s exit. Here’s how Halpin described what happened next in an  NPR interview:

My friend, Mike Deniseph, basically was pushing me forward to do this, and really interfacing with Bill Graham once he got there, nose to nose. And so he looks to me square in the eye and says, Can you do it? And I said yes, straight out.

“Yes, straight out.” That’s so great.  Here’s a kid from Muscatine, Iowa, barely out of high school, and he’s put on the spot to back up one of the greatest rock bands of all time. Without hesitation, without it seems even a second thought, Halpin rose to the occasion. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that came suddenly and out of the blue, yet he  took it on  and, the story goes, acquitted himself pretty well.

How?

The bare outline of Halpin’s story gives us a clue. First, he practiced — not because he thought he’d be a big star someday, but because he wanted to get better at what he loved. Second, he had people around him — Mike in particular — who believed in him, even more than he believed in himself.

And finally, Halpin found the courage to say “yes, straight out” at a critical juncture, despite the lack of warning or preparation. The key there is the word “found,” for it doesn’t appear to be the case that Scot was spectacularly courageous by nature. Still, at an historic moment, a now-or-never crossroads, he found enough courage — reckless courage, some would say — and he followed through.

Playing drums in a rock concert is one thing; martyrdom is quite another.But I think there are some parallels with how ordinary people manage to hang on to their faith when thrust into the most trying circumstances. Like the  Blessed Carmelites of Compiègne  whose feast we celebrate today.

Flash back to 1794 and the French Revolution in full swing.  The Carmelites of Compiègne in northern France were feeling the brunt of the Reign of Terror, having been deprived of their habits and dispersed by the government two years before. Still, they’d made adjustments, donning simple attire and living together in several groups. Despite the open persecution and social disintegration, the eleven nuns and their five lay associates were attempting to maintain their communal life of prayer as best they could.

These were women who’d entered religious life with an expectation of an orderly rhythm of quiet prayer and piety. They weren’t escaping the world, nor were they insulating a refined way of life against the  hoi polloi  — most of them came from working class families, and only one had upper class connections. Nevertheless, they hadn’t signed up to be heroes, and the only martyrdom they had anticipated was the ordinary day-to-day martyrdom associated with celibacy and the cloister.

Here’s the deal with heroism though: Once you throw in your lot with ordinary heroics, you open yourself up for the most extreme forms, which is what we Christians ought to expect in any case.

Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves…. Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name (Mt. 10.16, 21-22).

We fall in love with Jesus and embrace the Cross because we want to be like him and follow him as closely as possible; we receive the Sacraments, pray, and carry out our daily responsibilities; we strive to avoid sin and to grow in holiness. Is that the end of it? Do we get to coast then all the way to heaven?

The Compiègne Carmelites found out otherwise. The authorities had convicted the 16 women on trumped up charges and transferred them to Paris. On July 17, 1794, the women, now back in their religious garb, were paraded through the streets and brought to the place of execution. At first accompanied by the assembled crowd’s jeers and cheers, the women sang hymns as they were beheaded one by one — a horror captured so movingly in François Poulenc’s opera  Le Dialogue des Carmélites (The Dialogue of the Carmelites).  The dignity and bravery of the nuns and their companions was such that the raucous crowd was silenced — a silence and sobriety that persisted beyond the events of that day and that some believe contributed to the sudden termination of the Reign of Terror a short time later.

All of these women could have avoided the scaffold by renouncing their faith,  but they didn’t. So how is it that a group of women given over to prayer and a quiet life hidden from the world could rise to such a height of fortitude and heroism. I think it’s the same pattern on display in Scot Halpin’s little brush with history — a pattern we do well to emulate as well.

  1. Regular practice: It’s funny to talk about “practicing” our faith the way Halpin practiced the drums, but that’s exactly what we do — because we never are quite finished polishing our skills. In fact, the Catechism directly associates the word “practice” with the idea of “heroic virtue” (CCC 828), which implies that the kind of heroism the Compiègne martyrs demonstrated is rooted in the ordinary heroics we perform every day.The Carmelites  practiced  through prayer and penance in the cloister, but we’re called to practice in a similar way out in the world, which includes carrying out the duties associated with our state in life — single, married with family, whatever. Such matters might not seem like the stuff of sainthood, but God can create saints out of very little — as the Carmelite St. Thérèse of Lisieux observed in her writing about the “little way.” We measure bigness on a different scale than God does.
  1. Communal support: Heroes, in real life, are not loners, and they always have people rooting for them from the sidelines. That’s true for martyrs as well, and we see it at work even in the brief records we have of what happened in Compiègne. Although the sisters had anticipated the guillotine, it was undoubtedly a shock to find themselves actually facing execution as an imminent reality.In their case, it was one of their own that provided the fortifying support, their youngest member who started off the singing, giving courage to the rest of her community. Plus, the silenced crowd gave an almost implicit form of support, and, of course, the sisters were surrounded by an invisible “cloud of witnesses” as the Scriptures attest (Heb. 12.1). We must not forget, as we go about our days, that we’re surrounded by that cloud as well.
  1. Reckless courage: On this point, we have the words of two Pope Benedicts to guide us. In the 18th  century, Benedict XIV  wrote  that heroic virtue enables one “to perform virtuous actions with uncommon promptitude, ease, and pleasure, from supernatural motives and without human reasoning.” Certainly that was the case with the Carmelite martyrs who, as one body, gave themselves over to their fate with confidence and a song on their lips.But what of us? How do we live out reckless courage in our humdrum lives with no guillotines on the horizon? Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI pointed the way when he  said  that “heroic virtue does not mean that the saint performs a type of ‘gymnastics’ of holiness, something that normal people do not dare to do. It means rather that in the life of a person God’s presence is revealed….”

Practice of our faith. Mutual support and encouragement. Reckless courage in the ordinary activities of life. This is how people like you and me become saints. This is how we become martyrs when it comes down to it.

In other words, saying yes, straight out, on the scaffold means that we’ve together been saying yes, straight out, over and over and over again every day. And if we haven’t, it’s never too late to start.

Credit to  Richard Becker of CatholicExchange.

 

Posted on

Don't Neglect the Word

By: R. Thomas Richard

trinity

If the evil one were looking for a way to quietly render infertile  the Catholic Church, by effecting a decline of faith from within, I’d guess he would work for reduction at the source of faith: namely, the hearing of the Word of God.  Paul left the clue in Scripture: “Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ.”   (Rom 10:17)   “So let this be,” the evil one might say, “the strategy of our battle against the Church: we will diminish and weaken the preaching of Christ, we will dilute the proclamation of God’s Truth, we will degrade the sacred to the level of the secular — we will stifle the potency and strangle the effects of the Gospel.   We will bring the Church to impotence.”

The words of the Word nourish the very life of the Church: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”   (Mt 4:4)   Therefore, withholding the food of faith from human persons by withdrawing the Word from among them, contracepting new conversions and impeding continuing conversions, the evil one could starve the supernatural life of the Church.   He would twist the wisdom of the Word in Paul to his own dark purposes:

Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Eph 6:13-17)

The Word — and faith effected by the Word — arm us both defensively and offensively, to guard our souls from his evil lies, and to forge the sword to defeat him.   “Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ.”   But deprived of that Word, what are we left with?   I repeat the question:   Deprived of His Holy Word, what are we and the Church left with?   You might answer, “We have the sacraments!   We have Christ!”   This will be addressed below, but for now, let’s consider the effects in a Church deprived of the food of the words of the Word of God.

Persons left with malnourished faith, the uncertainties of poor understanding, impotent against the assaults of evil, too weak to look beyond our own narrowed horizons, and having no bread to offer the starving world — what do we have left, more than blind loyalty of habit — and I use the word carefully — superstition?   Will this convert the world?   Will this “make disciples of all the nations”?   Indeed, will this save us, in the coming of “the evil day”?

Superstition: the Counterfeit of Faith

Whether or not such a plan ever existed in the dark mind of the evil one, such an impoverishment is taking place in the Church today:   we are suffering from feeding from the Table of the Word increasingly thin and watered-down, having little substance, little meat, little to fortify and grow us into the fullness of the stature of Christ, our destiny.   This must be discussed more fully, and will be, God willing.   But first let us consider more carefully this troubling word: “superstition.”   Can such a thing as “superstition” be appropriate here, discussing results of an impoverishment of the saving words of truth and of life?   Could superstition exist today among Catholics, in our devotional and sacramental lives?   Yes, and especially in souls malnourished or starved of the bread that proceeds from the mouth of God, His holy Word.

Secularists commonly charge believers with superstition.   Secularists have no basis for understanding the difference between faith and superstition, so they easily confuse the two.   Both faith and superstition are, to them, irrational — without substance.   The two are the same thing to secularists, both seen as relics of an uneducated and unscientific past.   There is a radical difference, however, between faith and superstition — sadly, the superstitious can be present among the company of faithful people.   Superstition is very close to faith, outwardly, but there is a radical distinction inwardly.   The Catechism gives a brief but helpful teaching:

2111 Superstition is the deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes. It can even affect the worship we offer the true God, e.g., when one attributes an importance in some way magical to certain practices otherwise lawful or necessary. To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand, is to fall into superstition.

Yes, the fruitful reception of any sacrament requires faith, and proper interior disposition.   This must be heard alongside with the intrinsic efficacy of a sacrament.   From the Catechism:

1127 Celebrated worthily in faith, the sacraments confer the grace that they signify. …

1128 This is the meaning of the Church’s affirmation that the sacraments act  ex opere operato  (literally: “by the very fact of the action’s being performed”), i.e., by virtue of the saving work of Christ, accomplished once for all. It follows that “the sacrament is not wrought by the righteousness of either the celebrant or the recipient, but by the power of God.” From the moment that a sacrament is celebrated in accordance with the intention of the Church, the power of Christ and his Spirit acts in and through it, independently of the personal holiness of the minister. Nevertheless, the fruits of the sacraments also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them.

1131 The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament. They bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions.

The sacraments confer grace, because of Christ!   Their outward signs “signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament.”   But that same paragraph adds: “They bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions.”   This same crucial factor is found also in #1128: “From the moment that a sacrament is celebrated in accordance with the intention of the Church, the power of Christ and his Spirit acts in and through it, independently of the personal holiness of the minister.  Nevertheless, the fruits of the sacraments also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them.”

That proper disposition is formed through the power of the Word, and specifically, the words of the Word: revealed Truth, the Gospel, received and embraced personally in the heart of the believer.   The Catechism teaches, “The Holy Spirit prepares the faithful for the sacraments by the Word of God and the faith which welcomes that word in well-disposed hearts.” (#1133)

To Summarize

Proper reception of the sacraments requires faith — which comes by hearing and receiving the words of the Word, holy Truth.   Fruitful reception of the sacraments requires right disposition — a fully human reception, an act of mind and heart, a personal presence and participation, a conscious, willing, free reception of God’s grace in the sacrament.

But what happens when the potent words of the Word, the truths of the Gospel, are neglected in the life of a fully initiated Catholic?   What happens to faith in a young adult, or an older adult, who has received no catechesis and growth in the Catholic Faith since eighth grade confirmation, who has no real life of prayer or the frequent companionship of Holy Scripture?   What happens to faith after years of insipid homilies that avoid the hard moral challenges and full presentation of the faith of our Church?   What happens after years of sweet platitudes from the ambo, droning weekly and weakly a gospel of “be nice to one another”?   What happens to the authentic Gospel having power to save, transform, raise up, give life to a human person?   What happens when living faith is starved, leaving mere habit and superstitious loyalty?   What happens is that the potent sacrament is made barren, to the delight of the evil one: grace is wasted, grace is received in vain.

In a previous article, I gave some reflections on the contemporary abandonment of the Catholic Faith by about 1/3 of the “Cradle Catholics” in the U.S., from the results of  a recent Pew Forum study.   The Church has not been faithful to her mission: “make disciples!”   Indeed the total membership would be shrinking today in the U.S., were it not for immigration.   We continue to rely on sacramentalizing, while neglecting evangelizing and catechizing.

The result is for many in the pews weak faith, loyalty due to history or habit, and maybe even for some, superstition.   They deserve better.   He deserves better.   Others in the Church may have faith, yet a blind faith, a faith in spite of poor formation and teaching we have given them!   These members are gifts of God for us, because He remains faithful even though we continue to slumber and sleep.   We need to recognize the crucial need for a potent ministry of the Word, proclaimed and taught with power and unction.   A famine has come upon us, even while the storehouse is full to overflowing!

Credit to R. Thomas Richard of CatholicExchange.

 

Posted on

Feeling Guilty

By: Br. John Dominic Bouck, OP

 

p son

Ashlyn Blocker is in many respects a normal American teenage girl.  She lives with her family, has fun with her friends, watches TV and sings pop music. But there is something different about her, something very different. After she was born she hardly ever cried. For instance, once she nearly chewed off her tongue while her teeth were coming in, but she didn’t cry or complain. It turns out she has a genetic disorder which blocks the electrical transmissions of painful events from reaching her brain. She has a congenital insensitivity to pain.

On the surface, that sounds like a problem that we would all like to have. Imagine the amazing things we would be able to do, and yet, not feel the painful consequences. It seems that congenital insensitivity to pain is a lot like a superpower. In reality though, it is really a super-disability.

In an  article  in the New York Times Magazine about Ashlyn and her situation, Dr. Geoffrey Woods, the geneticist who discovered the mutation, says about pain:

It is an extraordinary disorder. It’s quite interesting, because it makes you realize pain is there for a number of reasons, and one of them is to use your body correctly without damaging it and modulating what you do.

For Ashlyn, what comes as second nature to us, like pulling a hand away when it is getting burned, has been acquired through a lifetime of damaging trial and error. All those who share her condition know the benefits of pain and the danger of not experiencing pain.

It doesn’t take much searching to encounter someone who decries “Catholic Guilt.” It is portrayed as the experience of feeling bad for doing things that should be natural to us. It prevents us from being fully alive. It is a prison which rational adults should cast off as soon as they realize they suffer from it. I concede that many times, people feel guilty when they shouldn’t. This should indeed be cast off. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.

As people of faith, we believe that each person is composed of body  and  soul. Just as dangerous things cause our bodies to feel healthy pain, so too does healthy guilt alert us to the fact that we are endangering our soul.

If we experience pain in our bodies, we ought to cease doing the action which causes that pain. If we set our hand on a burner, we pull it off. We are free to decide not to, but then our hand will be destroyed. If we experience guilt in an action we commit, then most likely we should stop doing it. Otherwise our soul will suffer.

Recall Dr. Woods’ finding, and substitute “guilt” for “pain” and “soul” for “body”:

It’s quite interesting, because it makes you realize  guilt  is there for a number of reasons, and one of them is to use your  soul  correctly without damaging it and modulating what you do.

Minor pains from cuts and bruises can be healed easily at home, just as minor venial sins simply need to be taken care of by an act of charity, devotion, or a simple expression of sorrow. But big pains–lost limbs, cancer, heart attacks–these need to be taken care of by a professional physician. So too, grave sins need to be taken care of by a spiritual physician. This physician is Jesus Christ himself, acting through the priest as his sacramental representative.

Often the healing regimens in the spiritual life are difficult, and they may involve cutting off activities and relationships that are dangerous. But we can have confidence that the Divine Physician knows exactly what he is doing, even if we don’t. His healing is our salvation. The prescriptions he gives out are remedies of love. They heal us and those around us. If we don’t take the medicine the doctor prescribes, then our health will get worse. If we don’t live out the life that Jesus Christ has shown to us through the Church, our soul will feel worse. The pain will still be there, but how will we treat it? Most forms of self-medication just mask the pain: alcoholism, careerism, living a double life, etc.

Often we can think of the life of sin vs. the life of the spirit as a legal drama. We want to do certain things, but there are laws that we try to avoid breaking because of various punishments that are imposed on us as a result. This is a poor way of looking at our lives.

On the contrary, in the life of the soul (and in the life of the body) our goal is to be  happy. That is how we are made. We commit sin, though, when we search for happiness in the wrong places. We try to be happy, yet we hurt ourselves, and we hurt others. Just think, when we are not feeling our best—a cold, a stomach-ache—we can be crabby, we can want our alone time. When we are sick in our soul we suffer from similarly isolating behaviors. However, we can recognize the pain that we feel, be healed, and learn more about what activities cause us pain. All we have to do is make an appointment.

Credit to  Br. John Dominic Bouck, OP of CatholicExchange.