Posted by: Thomas Richard | November 15, 2014

Righteousness in a Culture of the Lawless

This culture has been called a culture of death, where might makes right, where power – political power, financial power, military or police power – where power makes civil law and power interprets civil law, and where civil law defines what is moral good and what is moral evil, what is truly just and what is truly unjust. In America, we used to have something of a defense against institutional injustice because we had something of a protection against tyranny. We had a democratic republic, with separation of power into three branches of government: a balance of power, with a standard of law set by a constitution.

But as great as was the prudence of the founding fathers, they were unmatched by the cleverness of corrupt men seeking political power for themselves. We are seeing righteousness turn on its head, virtues redefined to be vices, and evil redefined as goodness. We see moral evils made legal and public rights, due a share in public funding through taxes.

We see, in Biblical terminology, the rising among us of “the man of lawlessness.” Darkness is growing, lawlessness is increasing; it will become more so! It could be seen in the days of the early Church – in the days when the conquest of evil was just beginning, when the Name and the Gospel and the power of Christ was being spread among all men. Even then – and before then – the radical division of humanity into two was at work: those of the City of God, and those of the City of Man who would love self “even to the contempt of God,” as Augustine saw. St. Paul wrote prophetically to the church of the Thessalonians, of the “man of lawlessness”, “the son of perdition”, a self-proclaimed “god” for those men who would reject truth to take their pleasure in unrighteousness.

Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition,
who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.
Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you this?
And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time.
For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way.
And then the lawless one will be revealed, and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his appearing and his coming.
The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders,
and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false,
so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thess 2:3-12)

This wisdom from Paul, by the Spirit sent to help him, is a great comfort for me in these lawless times. I hope it can be for you also, if you are grieving as I am to see so many men and women turning to the transient, the trivial and the trite rather than the holy truth of God. The Day of the Lord will not come, unless evil days of a great rebellion come first! The evil one, the lawless one, will supplant God Himself in his own darkened mind and in the minds and hearts of men who refuse to love the truth and so be saved! This will be a profound trial, a time of great tribulation for the people of God who love Him, who live on HIs holy Word, whose hope and faith are in Him alone. In that time the works of the righteous will be made pure – more pure than pure gold could ever be, and glorious with the glory of God’s creation alive in HIs Spirit.

This is the time, as we see the man of lawlessness growing in power and boldness, for the people of God to seek the Holy One of Righteousness with an undivided heart. He is so close to us! He waits in His holy Word, Scripture. He waits in the grace and presence of HIs sacraments. He waits in the quietness and solitude of the prayerful heart, where we can rest with Him and renew our souls. Outside, there may be the noise of carousing and drunkenness, the chasing after all manner of sin and corruption. But within a heart where He dwells and waits, is the sanctuary of peace. Whatever the man of lawlessness will bring upon the world, in his brief moment of apparent victory and power, it will vanish like a vapor. Whatever suffering he will inflict on the righteous, will only refine and make pure that which is holy, that which is of Him. Let us seek Him, as if the days were numbered, and the clock is ticking down, because He is near.

Posted by: Thomas Richard | September 26, 2014

At HPR: “Lest They Receive It in Vain”

I wrote an article for Homiletic & Pastoral Review on-line magazine a while back, which now is published on their site, titled “Lest They Receive It in Vain.”  My hope and intention was to speak to an audience that included priests, deacons and bishops – clerical leadership in our Church – men who can effect change in things in the Church that need change.

Here is a little bit about the magazine:  Homiletic & Pastoral Review is an on-line magazine with the following self-description,

Founded over one hundred years ago, Homiletic & Pastoral Review is one of the most well-respected pastoral magazines in the world. Priests and laymen alike have relied on HPR for decades.
HPR is edited by Father David Vincent Meconi, S.J., professor of patristic theology at St. Louis University. Kenneth Baker, S.J., author of the best-selling Fundamentals of Catholicism and of the popular introduction to the Scriptures, Inside the Bible, served as editor of HPR for almost forty years and is now the magazine’s editor emeritus. His powerful monthly editorials will inform and inspire you. HPR features solid articles on every aspect of pastoral life and eloquent weekly sermons that illuminate through exposition of Scripture.
Faithful to the teachings and tradition of the Church for over a century, our readers know what to expect in each issue. Here are just some of the features of HPR:
~ First-rate articles by great Catholic writers on doctrine, spiritual guidance, morality and authentic pastoral practice
~ Deep insights into pressing pastoral issues of the Church’s life and mission
~ Stimulating homilies for Sundays and Holy Days by today’s outstanding preachers
~ Wise and practical answers to your questions from respected theologian and author Brian T. Mullady, O.P.

My article for HPR points, I hope clearly and strongly, to our need for radical improvement in adult faith formation in our churches.  I hope priests, deacons and bishops will read it!  I hope it will help them see clearly that formation in the Faith is necessary to a ministry that they do rightly consider crucially important: the sacraments and especially Holy Eucharist.

Please read the article – this is the link on HPR directly to the article: Lest They Receive It in Vain. HPR provides a way to leave comments – and of course comments can be left here on the blog as well.

Posted by: Thomas Richard | September 20, 2014

A Pilgrimage of Penance, Prayer and Sacrifice

I want to recommend to all my readers an interview that Michael Voris did with a Catholic lay man, Mark Byerly, on his pilgrimage of prayer and reparation.  First, to introduce Mr. Byerly, this is from an article that LifeSiteNews wrote on him:

TEXAS, January 7, 2014 ( – It can be a temptation living in these dark times to simply throw up one’s hands in despair as the world descends from one blackness into another. But accepting defeat has never been an option for Mark Byerly.

Instead of standing idly by witnessing western civilization become more and more corroded through abortion, the breakdown of marriage and family, and the loss of a sense of sin, the 49-year-old decided on a radical course of action: He would embark on a journey across America on foot, praying for the spiritual needs of his countrymen.

“Ultimately, I just couldn’t stand around and watch this happen anymore,” Byerly told by phone during his brief stop in Odessa, Texas for Christmas.

Byerly’s journey would be a pilgrimage of penance, prayer, and sacrifice to make amends for his own crimes and the crimes of others committed against God and neighbor.

Michael Voris’s full interview of Mark Byerly can be watched below, but if you don’t have the 22 minutes needed, a shorter video of excerpts of the interview (12 min 20 sec) can be watched HERE:

And now, the complete interview.  I urge you to watch this, because I hear much in this man that echoes the same message, with the same urgency, that I hear in prayer.  I believe that our situation in the West, in this country, is a very dangerous one.  We are near a tipping point, and many still sleep.  Perhaps the Lord is speaking to you in this time, calling you to Himself and to a new obedience to Him, for the good of the Church and of the world, for the good of souls who are now lost, who need Christ Jesus, who need His saving grace.  We all must do our part, in His plan.

This program is from ChurchMilitant.TV

As always, I’d be grateful for your comments and thoughts.  And especially in this time, let’s please pray with one heart and mind for the Church: may God raise up many saints in this time, clergy and laity, to help awaken His people, that His Church might live her vocation, and might bring His light into the darkness of our present culture.

Posted by: Thomas Richard | August 24, 2014

As For Me and My House …

The growing darkness and moral evil in the world today has at least one good effect on us: we are forced to choose. Where are we to go, for shelter from the storm? Where are we to stand, when we are called to declare who we are, and what we believe, and what we live for, and where we draw the line and say to this world, “No! – no further will I go with you – here our paths diverge, and here I make my stand.”

Compromises with the ways of the world often come incrementally, gradually, almost imperceptibly. Conscience suffers in the process, with the shades of gray that don’t seem so bad when taken in small steps, small doses, small denials of clarity and light. But evil can overplay its hand, in this satanic game of deceit. Evil can sometimes get presumptuous, thinking it has us, when it really doesn’t. Sometimes evil drops its masks completely, and its insane horror is so plain that it cannot be denied anymore. The human soul must shout in the face of it, No! No more. “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Josh 24:15)

We need such clarity and insight into the simplicity of truth. All of us face a choice every day, to decide who we are, where we live, what “citizenship” do we hold. Are we members and citizens of the City of Man, or are we members and citizens of the City of God? Yes we must live in this world – but no we must not be of this world. Persons in Christ have citizenship beyond this passing world, in the eternal, where He is Lord and King. Persons in Christ are aliens and exiles as in a foreign land, in this passing world. Peter wrote for us:

1Pet 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
1Pet 2:10 Once you were no people but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy.
1Pet 2:11 Beloved, I beseech you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh that wage war against your soul.

The radical jihadist group ISIS – now calling itself the Islamic State – is terrorizing Syria and Iraq, and explicitly threatening the U.S. as well. They are sending a chill into the hearts of innocents all around them, with a message – to convert or die – being broadcast with examples of beheadings, crucifixions and mass executions to horrify and terrify. Their hatred for Western civilization goes beyond a mere desire to replace it – they want to obliterate it. At this moment America seems to be stirring into action – but very, very reluctantly and half-heartedly: hardly a response that troubles or concerns such zealous and committed fanatics.

What is now known as Western civilization is no longer what it used to be. What was once a sanctuary for Christianity has morphed into its “post-Christian” phase. The West is no longer a friend of Christianity, but has become a secularist culture resentful of its Christian beginnings, detached from the moral anchor of its Judeo-Christian roots, whose tolerance of a truly Christian world-view has worn thin. Western culture has become “free” of God, and free to be whatever she chooses. And her choices are now made with no regard for or remembrance of the God of her fathers. She has become, in other words, unashamedly the City of Man.

The strange result we have, in these days, is this: Radical Islamism is the enemy of Western culture (the City of Man); the City of Man (modern secularism) is the enemy of the City of God. If “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” were to hold for Christians today, then a Christian might conclude that “the enemy (radical Islamism) of my enemy (the secularist City of Man, modern Western culture) would be my friend.” But ISIS is no friend of Christianity! ISIS seeks to obliterate Christianity along with Western culture.

The book of Revelation suggests an explanation for this strange alignment of hostilities and hatreds. To understand this chapter of Scripture, in this difficult book, we must understand the “great harlot” who has seduced kings and commoners with her pleasures – the harlot “Babylon the great, mother of harlots and of earth’s abominations” – as that City of Man that has opposed the City of God from the beginning of mankind outside of the Garden. The City of Man was given a name, in the Genesis account of the building of the Tower of Babel. (Gen 11:1-9) The City of Man thus has the name, through salvation history, as the city Babylon.

Rev 17:1 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who is seated upon many waters,
Rev 17:2 with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and with the wine of whose fornication the dwellers on earth have become drunk.”
Rev 17:3 And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns.
Rev 17:4 The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and bedecked with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her fornication;
Rev 17:5 and on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of harlots and of earth’s abominations.”
Rev 17:6 And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. When I saw her I marveled greatly.
Rev 17:7 But the angel said to me, “Why marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her.
Rev 17:8 The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is to ascend from the bottomless pit and go to perdition; and the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will marvel to behold the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.
Rev 17:9 This calls for a mind with wisdom: ….
Rev 17:12 And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast.
Rev 17:13 These are of one mind and give over their power and authority to the beast;
Rev 17:14 they will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”
Rev 17:15 And he said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the harlot is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.
Rev 17:16 And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the harlot; they will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire,
Rev 17:17 for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and giving over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.
Rev 17:18 And the woman that you saw is the great city which has dominion over the kings of the earth.”

The harlot city Babylon represents the seducer of mankind: man led to forsake his vocation to the City of God, to instead build a city for himself, glorifying himself – a city for man “free of God” – a secular and godless city. Secularism is the driving force of the West today, in this “enlightened, post-Christian” era.

One might think that the harlot Babylon – the secular West, the godless City of Man typified by such actual cities as New York City, Chicago, London or Amsterdam, for some examples – would be a great friend of satan! Secularism seduces men away from God! That ought to delight satan; he ought to be well-pleased to see the dominance of godless secularism over Christianity in the modern West! But Scripture reveals a different response, in the satanic “beast” on which Babylon rides – for this beast she rides upon is of the evil one. Scripture reveals this strange turn of events (and note the “horns” of the beast are particular leaders of the earth):

Rev 17:16 And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the harlot; they will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire,
Rev 17:17 for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and giving over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.

Evil leaders of men, in the spirit of satan, will turn against the secular city to hate it and to destroy it, because “God has put it into their hearts to carry out His purpose.” The beast will not destroy the Lamb! God will not abandon His people! But God has purposed to allow hatred into the hearts of evil leaders (“horns of the beast”), hatred for secular Babylon, the harlot enemy of God’s City. God has purposed to use the hatred and evil desires of agents of the evil one, to destroy the evil City, the harlot City Babylon. Thus the kingdom of evil will be divided against itself; thus will its kingdom fall. (Lk 11:17-18)

ISIS hates the West, the secular City of Man. The secular City of Man hates the call of God into His City of God. Is God now beginning the fulfillment of this prophecy of Rev. 17? Is God about to use ISIS, driven by their hatred, to destroy satan’s rider, the harlot city Babylon? Will He thus allow ISIS – or some equivalent group – to turn the secular West into a burning rubble – to “make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire”? In this nuclear age, it is physically possible.

But the literal destruction of the West is not inevitable! It is not necessary! Prophecy can predict what can happen, if man does not repent, and return to God. Can the secular West ever repent, and return to God? Is that possible? Yes it is possible! But before the West can repent, first the Church must do so. First the Church must find herself, she must come to herself, and must again know whose she is, and why she is, and rediscover her vocation in Christ.

We who are called into Christ are citizens of the City of God – and thus we are strangers and aliens in the culture of the secular West. We are outsiders, and we are not loved by them. But we have something that God wants them to see, and hear, and come to know. He has given us of Himself. He has given us His light, His truth, His love – for them! We must become who we are, and work and pray for the world. God does not delight in the death of any man, but desires the salvation of all. Church! Stop your slumbering, and taking of your ease! Wake up! The day is coming to its close.

Posted by: Thomas Richard | July 30, 2014

Can a Catholic Receive Grace in Vain?

Recently I’ve written two articles for on-line magazines, on the matter of receiving sacramental grace fruitfully. The importance of this matter continues to burn in my heart anyway – so here I go: I’ll try to say it again. For a sacrament to be fully fruitful – that is, effective – in the soul and life of a Christian, that sacrament must be valid, obviously, and also it must be received with “right disposition.” It must be received, in the interior of the soul, in the right way. Most Catholics are given only valid sacraments – so that is not the problem. But a question exists in the matter of how the valid sacraments are received, in the soul. Do most Catholics receive the sacraments – and Eucharist in particular – with the right interior disposition for the plentitude of grace given in the Eucharist, so that it may be fruitful and effective in their personal souls and lives? And what is this “right disposition,” and how does one come into it so as to have it?

First, let me establish the need for right disposition in the matter of sacramental grace. The Catechism has this:

Catechism 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.

Note that sacraments do not bear fruit all by themselves, as potent as they are! “They bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions.” So – what is, and how do we come into, “required dispositions”? The disposition that is needed is effected by the work of the Holy Spirit in the souls of human persons, and the cooperation of those persons with His work.

Catechism 1098 The assembly should prepare itself to encounter its Lord and to become “a people well disposed.” The preparation of hearts is the joint work of the Holy Spirit and the assembly, especially of its ministers. The grace of the Holy Spirit seeks to awaken faith, conversion of heart, and adherence to the Father’s will. These dispositions are the precondition both for the reception of other graces conferred in the celebration itself and the fruits of new life which the celebration is intended to produce afterward.

Note especially the last sentence. The required dispositions just listed (“faith, conversion of heart, and adherence to the Father’s will”) are the “precondition” for the graces conferred and the fruits of the new life that is the intended result of the sacramental grace conferred. It is worthwhile to look at this list of necessary dispositions:

  • an awakened faith in God, in Jesus His Son, in all He has given His Church
  • a heart awakened to conversion from this world, to the things of God
  • an awakened obedience to the Father’s will over my own will.

Is it possible for a Catholic to go forward to receive Eucharist without such an “awakened” and properly disposed soul? Is it possible for a Catholic to receive a holy sacrament such as Eucharist with little consciousness of believing that this Eucharist is what the Church teaches that it is: Jesus Christ Himself – Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity? Certainly it is possible.

Is it possible for the Catholic to have little to no conscious “awakened” intention of the radical personal conversion of heart that defines a believer – a disciple – a follower of Jesus Christ? Is it possible for such a Catholic to receive Eucharist having little to no “awakened” thought of changing his life today to become fully obedient to all the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ – such as for example her teachings on total sexual chastity and against contraception?  Is it possible for a Catholic to go forward for Eucharist with no “awakened” conscious intention even to know – not to mention to obey – more and more of the Father’s will for him or her in this life?

Is it possible for an adult Catholic to go forward for Eucharist without even knowing that there is such a thing as “right disposition” – as receiving Eucharist in the right way – and that it matters? Lacking right disposition, what exactly is happening in this Catholic’s soul, in receiving the sacrament of Holy Eucharist? What is not happening is “the fruit of new life.”

Coming into Right Disposition

The three elements of right interior disposition are simple enough: faith, conversion, obedience. They are simple – and they are elements of true discipleship, true whole-hearted following of Jesus as Lord and Savior. They are impossible without grace, and they are unattainable without the right disposition to receive them in grace! A true disciple wants to grow in faith, in conversion, and in obedience! A true disciple wants to be and to remain “awakened” to Him all day, every day, and certainly and especially in Holy Mass, and in the line to receive Him in the Eucharist.

Such discipleship is not only possible – it is the norm, it is “normal” (no matter how common or uncommon it might be) – and it is intended by our Lord. What a happy day it is, when a man or a woman is “awakened” to realize why he or she exists, and discovers life – life – in Jesus Christ. Catholics, let the infinite and potent grace of Holy Eucharist not be wasted in any of us! Let us open our hearts and minds in completeness, to the fullness of Him, in Holy Eucharist. Let us receive Him as He deserves, and as our own soul requires, that He may be fruitful in us - and through us, in the Church and in the whole world. Church, let us be Church – and only in Him, with Him in us, can we be His Church, and thus be His light in this darkening and starving world.
note: the related article Don’t Neglect the Word is now in the on-line magazine Catholic Exchange. A different article/title on the same subject is to be published in September or October in Homiletic & Pastoral Review on-line.

Posted by: Thomas Richard | July 1, 2014

Contraception, Priesthood and Sexual Abuse (Parts 1 & 2)

Contraception, Priesthood and Sexual abuse, Part I


The Common Priesthood and Marital Love

Every Christian lay man and woman, by virtue of Baptism, shares in the priesthood of Christ.  This is called the common priesthood, in contrast to the ministerial priesthood received through the Sacrament of Ordination.  As a priest in the common priesthood of the laity, we are called to offer sacrifice.  Ours, in Him, is described for example by Paul in the Book of Romans: ”… present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Rom 12:1)

This common priesthood can be exercised in many ways in the daily life of a Catholic man or woman, in ordinary living of ordinary tasks – doing them well, with holy charity, as a prayer-offering to God in reparation, for example, for the sins of the world in union with Christ. In particular, for a couple married in Christ, in the marital act, a most holy offering can be made.  In the marital union, the couple presents a living image of the love-exchange of Christ on the Cross.

In the conjugal union of love, the spouses re-present to one another and to God and to the angels, their imaging of Christ’s Sacrifice on the Cross. Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved His Church: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, ….” (Eph 5:25) How did He love her? In the complete gift of Himself, holding back nothing, even unto death. The husband, in his priesthood in Christ, owes his wife his all – including his fertility. To withhold his all is to betray his priesthood, and his obligation to both wife and the God who tells him, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”


For the husband to do otherwise – as Onan did – is sexual abuse of his wife.  The Genesis account of Onan describes the act of contraception brought into salvation history, amid the children of Abraham, and God’s response to it.  Judah, son of Israel, married a woman outside of Abraham’s line: a Canaanite.  She bore Judah a son Er, and another son Onan.  Judah took a wife for his son Er, but Er was wicked before God, and God killed him before any children were born of the marriage.  So Judah told his other son Onan to go into Er’s widow – Tamar – to raise up children for the inheritance due to the dead son Er.  This is what happened next:

Gen 38:9  But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife he spilled the semen on the ground, lest he should give offspring to his brother.
Gen 38:10  And what he did was displeasing in the sight of the LORD, and he slew him also.

This simple account of a primitive form of contraception was enough to convince the early Church of the grave sinfulness of contraception.  The Catholic Church has consistently condemned contraception, from the beginning.  The early Protestant Reformers also saw contraception as gravely sinful.  Martin Luther, for example, not only saw this sinfulness of contraception in the Onan account established by God’s immediate response: He killed Onan for it!  Luther said, ”[T]he exceedingly foul deed of Onan, the basest of wretches . . . is a most disgraceful sin.”  But Luther could see more.  He could see the grave disorder in Onan’s act not only because God condemned it explicitly, but also because Onan’s act violated the Natural Moral Law – that law inscribed on the hearts of men in their creation.  Luther said of Onan, ”Surely at such a time the order of nature established by God in procreation should be followed. Accordingly, it was a most disgraceful crime.”

The man, in the conjugal act, is not to withhold his all, in the self-gift to his wife.  The conjugal union holds a place of sacred honor before God, and it is not to be dishonored.  The husband and his wife portray for one another, before God and the angels, the most sacred union of Christ and His Church.  That union must not be counterfeited, it must not be betrayed or mis-represented, lied about, overlaid by deception.  The full self-gift is owed, the act deserves nothing else.

So also the wife, in that moment of mutual priesthood in conjugal love, must hold back nothing of herself. She too is called to the complete self-gift, in imitation of Christ. She too is called to love God in faithful obedience without limit, withholding nothing of herself. The Church owes her Lord her all – and so also the wife, her husband. In the complete gift of herself – including her fertility as God has designed it in her – she offers herself to him.

For the wife to do otherwise is, for her part, also sexual abuse of her husband. For the husband and for the wife, to deny the full self-gift that the conjugal act is intended to be, is to one another a betrayal of the union of marriage, and of their mutual priesthood before God. Contraception is a deception and a lie to God, Who made of the marriage bed a sign of God’s perfect love.  The perfection of the love is testified to in the innate potency of the act.  God gave the gift of fertility to the man and to the woman, and in their conjugal union, their mutual divine image is most beautifully expressed and shown, in the possible conception and creation of a new human person, a new divine image, brought forth through the enabling hand of God Himself.

The Imperative of Openness to Life

For a conjugal union to be in accord with the truth that God designed into it, there must be – in the mutual exchange of true and holy love – a mutual openness to life.  God put there, in the conjugal act, a meeting place of life and love.  The Church refers to this as the essential aspects of the act: the unitive and the procreative.

2369 “By safeguarding both these essential aspects, the unitive and the procreative, the conjugal act preserves in its fullness the sense of true mutual love and its orientation toward man’s exalted vocation to parenthood.”  [Cf. HV 12 ]

God also has revealed to His Church the beautiful way that He has designed the woman’s body, so that through the responsible working with her cycles of fertility, the couple can regulate the growth of their family in a truly human way, with both holy love and reason.  The Catechism continues:

2370 Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self- observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality.  [HV 16 ]  These methods [ for example, Natural Family Planning (NFP)] respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom. In contrast, [for example with contraception,] “every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible” is intrinsically evil:  [HV 14 ]

Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality.…  [FC 32 ]

Contraception is an expression of a culture of death, of the sin of this world that seeks ever to counterfeit and replace the things and works of God with man’s own works and ways.  Against this idolatry, Scripture says to the People of God,

Rom 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Christians are called to repent of and reject the ways and loves of this world, in particular the way of contraception.  We are called to come into the mind of Christ.  Deadly is the love of convenience at the cost of fidelity; deadly is the desire for instant gratification at the cost of holy agape love; deadly is the turning away from the example of Christ and His Cross, the light of Christ and His total Self-gift.

Both Catholics and non-Catholic Christians have been lured and enticed into this highly popular sin of the world, contraception. The difference is, Catholics are disobeying the Church when they do so; Protestants are not. Protestant churches generally are fully at peace with the culture of contraception.  Both Catholics and Protestants who contracept, however, are disobeying God in engaging in this contradiction – this deceit – this lie to one another and to God.

The Conjugal Union; Christ and His Church

Where will the next Great Renewal begin? I suggest that it will begin in the bedrooms of America, when Christian men and women begin to take their priesthood in Christ seriously enough to live it there, and then in the home, and then in their parishes, and then in the secular life of the nation.

Why would I put such a focus on the private ways of married couples in their own bedrooms, as to say that the renewal of the Church, the nation and indeed the world would start there?  And why would I suggest that it will be the crucial issue of contraception, upon which will hinge a turn from the culture of death to a culture of life?  Because God put there, in the marriage bed, the nexus of life and love.  It is there where that nexus is broken and the divine union of life and love is shattered by contraception, erupting into disorder and a culture of death – or – the nexus is embraced and the fecundity of the divine union of life and love in the marital embrace flowers into persons and a culture of life and love.


Contraception, Priesthood and Sexual abuse, Part II

Consequences in a Society due to Contraception

Pope Paul VI, in Humanae Vitae, included a section on the expected consequences in a society accepting artificial methods for the control or regulation of human conception and birth.  To paraphrase, he warned about the following dangers and harms to a society that welcomes a contraceptive approach to sexual intercourse, within or outside of marriage:

1. increasing marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards,
2. weakening of moral fortitude especially of the young,
3. weakening of the sense of reverence and care due to a woman, reducing her to a mere sexual object for men, and
4. empowerment of governments and public authorities with tools for the control of the most intimate and personal aspects of human life under their authority.

I think it is beyond dispute that all of these foreseen consequences have indeed come upon this country.  I want to focus for the moment on the third consequence, that of a diminished sense of reverence and care due to a woman, reducing her to a mere sexual object for men.  Our country is seeing a growing defeminization, and in some a masculization, in women, while at the same time an emasculation and feminization of many men.  The growing homosexual movement in the country – indeed in Western civilization – shows this, as well as the many other changes in socially accepted behavior in women and in men.

The rejection by women of the traditional female roles – the supportive wife and companion for her husband, the devoted mother attending full-time to the needs of her children – is exchanged now for the new woman who can have it all and do it all, in any role that a man can do.  Femininity itself is devalued, and seen as weakness by many – an obstacle to attaining all that the woman-person wants.  Even the female body is devalued – her breasts, given as a source of life-providing nourishment for her children, are crudely and commonly re-named “boobs,” a word previously used to label foolish or stupid persons!  The female body is robbed of its truly precious values, while becoming a mere object for lust.  Indeed, to be “lusted” for is no longer an insult but considered a great compliment.  The mysterious physical interiority of woman is no longer recognized as a holy place where God can create new life, but is merely inconvenient “plumbing” to be joked about.

This change in our culture is a devastating one.  “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle Is the Hand That Rules the World,” a 1865 poem by William Ross Wallace, praises motherhood which plays a crucial role in the life of a nation.  A South African proverb is similar: “”The hand that rocks the cradle rules the nation and its destiny.”  Our country has become one in which most of the “rocking” is done in private or public day-care stations, which merge seamlessly into government run schools, extending up to the age of leaving home in adulthood.  This transfer of “motherhood” to the state or other professional agencies, allows the mother to work, and “be all she can be.”  The child, meanwhile has been robbed of something precious.  And the nation?  What is, indeed, our destiny now – where are we headed?

The transfer of motherhood is not always done freely and willingly by the woman.  In many cases today, because of the irresponsibility and immorality of the age, many young men and women did not plan to be parents, when they did.  This too, is a consequence of the devaluing of conjugal love, marriage and women brought on with contraception.  Women are reduced to objects, men are reduced to boys, children are reduced to expensive and inconvenient burdens.  And that is something that cannot be hidden from a child: who is a child, if he is not wanted?  Contraception is a poison that wounds men and women, that destroys cultures, that abuses women first, then men, and then children.

A woman is due reverence and care because of the way God designed her.  Weaker physically, she is due the care of her husband who will love and protect and care for her until death do they part.  Strong in ways unique to her femininity, she can provide the support, companionship and nurturing her husband and children need from her.  Mysteriously and beautifully designed, she provides a unique spiritual and religious center in the home.  Her mind, her heart and her very body provide a meeting place for God and the family.  Thus she is due reverence: she is a living tabernacle for the home, a place of meeting with God.  In her body, God can create a new and unique human soul fitted to the fruit of the conjugal union with her husband.

She is owed reverence.  The Catechism has a paragraph that teaches a beautiful meaning for women, in this creation – gift representing God our helper:

1605 Holy Scripture affirms that man and woman were created for one another: “It is not good that the man should be alone.” [Gen 2:18]  The woman, “flesh of his flesh,” his equal, his nearest in all things, is given to him by God as a “helpmate”; she thus represents God from whom comes our help. [Cf. Gen 2:18-25]  “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.” [Gen 2:24]  The Lord himself shows that this signifies an unbreakable union of their two lives by recalling what the plan of the Creator had been “in the beginning”: “So they are no longer two, but one flesh.” [Mt 19:6]

In this coarse and often brutal culture, women have been “redefined”, their meaning distorted, and their feminine and civilizing gifts meant for human cultures rejected.  Pope Francis recently alluded to one aspect of this loss – that to the Church herself:

Without an understanding of femininity, the Pope said, one “cannot understand the Church herself.” Women “are the most beautiful thing God has made. The Church is a woman.” He said that in doing theology, one must take account of this “femininity,” and that the Church must continue to work on and develop a “theology of the woman.” (Interview with Pope Francis, article in June 30, 2014 (


Where will the next Great Renewal begin? I suggest that it will begin in the bedrooms of America, when Christian men and women begin to take their priesthood in Christ seriously enough to live it there, and then in the home, and then in their parishes, and then in the secular life of the nation.  How can it begin, until the true dignity of man and of woman be realized, as revealed in Jesus Christ?  And how will the realization be found, except in the Holy Gospel of Christ, proclaimed in its fullness, with the unction and zeal and power that truth deserves.

Teachers in the Church, live your vocation!  A famine has come upon the land – a famine of the living and lived Word of God.  Teachers, preach the Word, in season and out – the time of harvest is surely near.



Posted by: Thomas Richard | June 21, 2014

Eucharist is Not “Cannibalism”!

The soon-upon-us Feast of Corpus Christi invites us to enter ever more deeply into the mystery of Holy Eucharist. A charge that has been leveled against the Church from very early in our history, and one that continues today as well, is that we Catholics practice cannibalism.  Justin Martyr defended the Church against this charge in about the year 150.  He wrote (First Apology, ch.66) describing the Eucharist in the Mass:

And this food is called among us Eukaristia [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined.

For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.

In a simple and beautiful way, Justin did not discount the Eucharist as mere symbolic eating of bread and wine.  No, he pointed to the mystery: “the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.”

The Eucharist is a precious mystery of our Faith no better understood today than then by the world – or by many Protestants (but not all).  Even today we are charged with “cannibalism” by some non-Catholic Christians.

The best response to the charge of cannibalism that I know of, especially for Christians who believe Scripture and in the Resurrection of the Dead is this: Yes we consume the body and blood of Jesus!  But we do not consume the mortal body and blood of Jesus – if we did, that would be cannibalism. Instead, we consume (substantially, sacramentally) the body, blood, soul and divinity of the living Jesus as He IS now in resurrected glory. That is, we consume the resurrected and glorified Lord.

The body of one risen from the grave is the same body of the same person, but it is changed.  St. Paul writes in 1 Cor 15 of the “spiritual body” appropriate to a person risen from the dead. The risen body is spiritual, AND it is a body.  It is not pure spirit – as an angelic being, for example.  It is not a mortal, material body either.  It is a “spiritual body.”  Paul wrote:

1Cor 15:42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable.
1Cor 15:43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.
1Cor 15:44 It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.

The Catechism discusses – with many Scriptural references – some of the mystery of this risen body:

645 By means of touch and the sharing of a meal, the risen Jesus establishes direct contact with his disciples. He invites them in this way to recognize that he is not a ghost and above all to verify that the risen body in which he appears to them is the same body that had been tortured and crucified, for it still bears the traces of his Passion.[Cf. Lk 24:30,39-40, 41-43; Jn 20:20, 27; 21:9,13-15] Yet at the same time this authentic, real body possesses the new properties of a glorious body: not limited by space and time but able to be present how and when he wills; for Christ’s humanity can no longer be confined to earth, and belongs henceforth only to the Father’s divine realm.[Cf. Mt 28:9, 16-17; Lk 24:15, 36; Jn 20:14, 17, 19, 26; 21:4] For this reason too the risen Jesus enjoys the sovereign freedom of appearing as he wishes: in the guise of a gardener or in other forms familiar to his disciples, precisely to awaken their faith.[Cf. Mk 16:12; Jn 20:14-16; 21:4, 7]

The supernatural freedom for His body now glorified can help explain the radical difference between our Holy Communion in the Eucharist, and cannibalism, I think.  Jesus has great freedom in His resurrected body – which is a “spiritual body” – to be substantially present in a place, in heaven, and to appear as He wishes under the guise of other things and places.  He – even in His body – is “not limited by space and time but able to be present how and when he wills,” as the Catechism teaches.  In resurrection glory, His body is both spiritual, and a body.

Eucharist is no less a mystery now than ever!  But it is not “cannibalism”!

This teaching also helps explain one of the great values of the Eucharist for us today.  As Justin wrote, “our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished,” by this sacred mystery of Holy Eucharist.  Because Eucharist is the resurrected and glorified body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus, it is supernatural food preparing us for our supernatural lives in glory with Him.  Eucharist – the resurrected Jesus – is truly food for our resurrection as well.  John 6 points to resurrection, in his “Bread of Life” discourse, four times (6:39, 6:40, 6:44, 6:54).  This portion of the discourse links Eucharist very tightly to resurrection for us:

Jn 6:53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you;
Jn 6:54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
Jn 6:55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.

John closes the Bread of Life discourse with this teaching:

Jn 6:57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.
Jn 6:58 This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.”

Jesus lives because of the life of the Father: the Son receives all from the Father, all that He has is from Him.   Jesus lives because of the Father; Christians live because of Jesus.  His resurrected body, blood, soul and divinity is living Bread to nourish and give life to our bodies for both our journey to Him now, and our resurrected life in Him in eternity.  This is the Bread come down from heaven; this is the Bread of eternal life.

Thanks be to God.



Posted by: Deborah | June 13, 2014

Trinity Sunday and Mary



The Feast of the Holy Trinity is an opportunity to ponder Mary living the great joy of Pentecost. Her relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit continued to grow after Pentecost – as did that of all the disciples.  They had received “power from on high”,  and Mary was to care for the young Church,  as she had cared for Jesus!

The Indwelling of the Trinity had been infused into the soul of Mary from her Immaculate Conception, and Mary continued growing in her fullness of Grace. When the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary and Jesus became flesh in her womb, what a wonder! How humbly and lovingly her “Yes” continued, and now she continues to “mother” Him in every soul who receives Him!

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 260, we read:

The ultimate end of the divine economy is the entry of God’s creatures into the perfect unity of the Blessed Trinity. (cf John 17:21-23).  But even now we are called to be a dwelling for the Most Holy Trinity:  “If a man loves me”, says the Lord, “he will keep my word, and my Father will love him and we will come to him and make our home with him”…

Too few Catholics, it seems to me, are aware of our call into the perfect unity of the Blessed Trinity.  Too few have been taught or remember what the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us in paragraph 265:

By the grace of  Baptism, “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” we are called to share in the life of the Blessed Trinity, here on earth in the obscurity of faith, and after death in eternal life…

The picture I’ve included in this blog entry is an artist’s conception of Mary.  The artist has captured something of the reality of God at work in  Mary from the first moment of her conception.  As Jesus hung on the Cross, He said to the beloved disciple John, “Behold your Mother”, giving her not only to John but to us all.  I believe Jesus wants us to behold in our Mother the work of the Holy Spirit.

When we behold our Mother Mary, we see how a simple human person can say, “Yes”  to His Word, and truly be a “dwelling place for God”. Our Baptism was the beginning of our supernatural life.  Though we were not immaculately conceived as Mary was, we were cleansed of sin and infused with Sanctifying Grace which is a participation in the very life of God the Trinity.  God the Holy Spirit continues to sanctify us, as we listen — as Mary did, and do the Truth we hear.

God intends us to grow in His life, to be nourished as Mary was by His Word, by the Sacrament of His Body and Blood, by every encounter with Him as He continues to work within us.  The Holy Spirit is given to us to bring us into the complete Truth of Jesus, to sanctify us as He sanctified Mary and all the saints who have gone before us. When we behold our Mother we see in her  His Truth: “nothing is impossible with God”.

As we celebrate Trinity Sunday, let us gratefully renew our Baptism and begin anew — growing, answering God’s “call to be a Dwelling of the Most Holy Trinity” (cf. CCC 260).  Each day, may His Light shine more brightly in His Church as He did in Mary.   By His Grace let us behold our Mother by faith now, until we behold her in eternity with God, the Holy Trinity,  Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Posted by: Thomas Richard | June 2, 2014

Adam, where are you?

Pope at the Western Wall. AP Photo/L’Osservatore Romano,

Modern man has become so lost – so confused – so fallen from his original intention, purpose, vocation. Recently (May 26, 2014) Pope Francis, at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem gave the following reflection. It pierces to the heart:

”Adam, where are you?” (cf. Gen 3:9). Where are you, o man? What have you come to? In this place, this memorial of the Shoah, we hear God’s question echo once more: “Adam, where are you?”

This question is charged with all the sorrow of a Father who has lost his child. The Father knew the risk of freedom; he knew that his children could be lost. yet perhaps not even the Father could imagine so great a fall, so profound an abyss! Here, before the boundless tragedy of the Holocaust,

That cry – “Where are you?” – echoes like a faint voice in an unfathomable abyss.

Adam, who are you? I no longer recognize you. Who are you, o man? What have you become? Of what horror have you been capable? What made you fall to such depths?

Certainly it is not the dust of the earth from which you were made. The dust of the earth is something good, the work of my hands.

Certainly it is not the breath of life which I breathed into you. That breath comes from me, and it is something good (cf. Gen 2:7).

No, this abyss is not merely the work of your own hands, your own heart. Who corrupted you? 

Who disfigured you? Who led you to presume that you are the master of good and evil? Who convinced you that you were god? Not only did you torture and kill your brothers and sisters, but you sacrificed them to yourself, because you made yourself a god.

Today, in this place, we hear once more the voice of God: “Adam, where are you?”

From the ground there rises up a soft cry: “Have mercy on us, O Lord!”

To you, O Lord our God, belongs righteousness; but to us confusion of face and shame (cf. Bar 1:15).

A great evil has befallen us, such as never happened under the heavens (cf. Bar 2:2). Now, Lord, hear our prayer, hear our plea, save us in your mercy. Save us from this horror.

Almighty Lord, a soul in anguish cries out to you. Hear, Lord, and have mercy! We have sinned against you. You reign for ever (cf. Bar 3:1-2).

Remember us in your mercy. 

Grant us the grace to be ashamed of what we men have done, to be ashamed of this massive idolatry, of having despised and destroyed our own flesh which you formed from the earth, to which you gave life with your own breath of life. Never again, Lord, never again! 

”Adam, where are you?” Here we are, Lord, shamed by what man, created in your own image and likeness, was capable of doing.  

Remember us in your mercy.

Such horrors in our world can harden us, tempt us to retreat from it all. Who wants to remember such things? Who wants to recognize that it happened, and that it therefore could happen again? But we must remember, lest it will happen again. Man, who is called to beatitude, can turn to the demonic. He who is called to be defined by love, can respond with a cruelty and injustice that ought to shame even the demons of hell. We must remember.

Do we Catholics remember where we came from, and where we are called to return? Do we know the God who made us, do we hear His call in our hearts, do we see His sign made on our souls – His signature, His Cross? The world, dear friends, is forgetting! The world is running away from Him – away from God! The world is seeking food, drink and merriment – power and license – pleasures and entertainment – escape. The world is running away from God, working to evict Him from every corner of the culture, from all conversation, from all relevance, from all memory. The world is working to make God “unnecessary,” a relic of the past, a crutch for the feeble in mind and heart and strength.

I see His Church too busy, too entangled, too afraid, too much a child of these times and too little a child of the eternal God who made us. I see a famine of the living Word, I see harsh desert where there ought to be flowing streams of living water, I see a smoldering wick where there ought to be flames of holy fire.

I see a Church with too many on their knees but not in prayer! No, too many are on their knees before the idols of these times. I see a Church in need of Renewal! Reform! Life! I see too few crying to God for His saving Spirit who alone can bring us life.

Come Holy Spirit!
Kindle in us the fire of your love!

Posted by: Thomas Richard | April 20, 2014

Priesthood, and the Call to Holiness

Many years ago, a priest for whom I have great respect said to me during a conversation about vocations, “We don’t need more priests.  We have too many priests.”  I was so stunned that I did not know how to understand his comment, nor how to respond.

I think I understand now.  We don’t need more priests; we need more holy priests.  My friend was a holy priest, and thanks be to God for making our paths cross.  There are other kinds of priests, who cause great grief to the Church.  Thanks be to God also for Pope Francis, who has made public his awareness of the need for holy priests – priests who live the holy vocation, who serve in the name of Christ our Lord.  Pope Francis recently received in audience Monday seminarians from a Pontifical College at the Vatican.  In his comments to the seminarians, he included this:

You, dear seminarians, are not preparing to engage in a profession, to become employees of a company or of a bureaucratic organization. We have so many, so many half way priests. It is a sorrow, that they do not succeed in reaching the fullness: they have something about them of employees, a bureaucratic dimension and this does no good to the Church. I advise you, be careful that you do not fall into this! You are becoming pastors in the image of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, to be like Him and in His person in the midst of his flock, to feed his sheep.

“We have so many, so many half way priests.”  Half way priests.  This is one way to describe the many who seemed to begin a response to a holy calling, but who chose a “compromise” along the way.  Men who perhaps really heard, at the first, a call to leave the world and follow Jesus with all their heart, mind, soul and strength – but they wanted a compromise with the world, half way.  It does not work.  Half way does not work, in one’s relationship with God.

Do we need more priests?  We might say we need fewer half way priests, and more whole-hearted, wholly consecrated, wholly committed – holy – priests.  We don’t need employees of a [religious] “company”, or CEOs of one either.  We need pastors of souls, for the Kingdom of God.

St. Augustine saw, discerned and wrote of the irreconcilable clash of the two loves that vie for the heart of a man, the two gods, the two callings in the souls of men.  Every man must choose and choose definitively: I will follow God, or I will follow men and this world.  I will seek His will, or I will pander to theirs.  Augustine said it this way (City of God, Bk XIV Ch 28):

Accordingly, two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self. The former, in a word, glories in itself, the latter in the Lord. For the one seeks glory from men; but the greatest glory of the other is God, the witness of conscience.

There is no compromise!  But through the ages men have tried to make a compromise with God, to find a middle ground, to have it both ways – indeed to have both cities, the City of Man and the City of God.  Men and women are tempted to this impossible compromise – laity, clergy, religious and secular.   There is no compromise.  “Unfaithful creatures! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4)

This leads to a thought that ought to be very troubling.  Yes, among the Catholic laity are citizens of the City of God, thanks be to God.  These are Catholics seeking holiness, seeking sanctity, seeking to be faithful to God and to His intentions for us – willing to say “no!” to anything but God and His will.  But there are also among the lay members of the Church, citizens of the City of Man who are trying to work an impossible compromise, trying to be acceptable to God while still following the loves, ambitions, and values of the secular world.  They can be active in all the social events, fund raisers, committees and boards of the parish, but they are lukewarm spectators during the Mass.

Among the clergy, and the consecrated religious – those who are religious leaders – there are, as well, citizens of the City of God, and others who are citizens of the City of Man, seeking to work the easy but impossible compromise with God.  These, who wear the titles and clothing of the City of God, are in their hearts citizens of the world, of the City of Man – “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”  For the clergy and consecrated religious, the burden and responsibility before God are great, and thus the moral imperative is grave.  Jesus was strong in His warnings and judgement against the scribes, and the Pharisees.  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in.” (Mt 23:13)

Yes, the result of religious leaders loving the world and seeking a middle ground – and thus avoiding the cross, promised by Jesus – is hypocrisy within themselves and grave scandal to those who innocently follow them.  Their Gospel is not of life, but of the world, and it is received and loved by men who love their sins.  But Jesus warned, in fact to His disciples, “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung round his neck and he were cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.” (Lk 17:2)  A religious leader, a guide for others seeking God, must – must – be true to God and seek His approval in all things, and not pander to or seek the approval of men.  He must seek to please God, and not be a man-pleaser.  He can do good for men truly, only if he is true to God.  The religious leader can be a blessing for men only if he seeks the blessings of God in all things.  He must be a man of prayer, in communion with God, before he can speak a helpful word to others.  Pope Francis urged those seminarians to the path of holiness:

And this path means to meditate every day on the Gospel, to transmit it with your life and your preaching; it means to experience the mercy of God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And never leave this! Go to confession, always! And in this way you will become generous and merciful ministers because you will feel the mercy of God upon you. It means to nourish yourselves with faith and with love of the Eucharist, to nourish the Christian people with it; it means to be men of prayer, to become the voice of Christ that praises the Father and intercedes continually for brothers (cf. Hebrews 7:25).

The advice that the Pope is giving the seminarians should seem obvious.  Be men of prayer!  Be men close to the mind and heart of Christ, the Good Shepherd!  Use time every day to reflect and meditate on the Gospel!

We might add some advice along the same lines.  Do not be seekers of the praise and glory of men!  Jesus said, “How can you believe, who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (Jn 5:44) Do not pander to their desires, making light of the Gospel with easy truths and funny stories, making short the holy sacrifice of Mass to keep from offending their schedules, catering to the comfort of parish contributors while ignoring the mission of the Church, and the true spiritual needs of the sheep.  Take precious time with the Lord – before the Blessed Sacrament, in His Holy Word.  Meditate upon and pray the Scripture Readings personally, in quiet and solitude, before the Lord.   Be the man who unfolds His words to reveal Jesus the Word for the people in Holy Mass.  Be the man who “trembles” at His Word!  (Is 66:2) Be the man who finds his life in His Word, Jesus!

We need to pray for the Church!  We need to pray for holy bishops, and priests, and deacons, and religious sisters and brothers – and all lay Catholics!  All are called to holiness!  None are called to mediocrity, to lukewarmness, to half-heartedness in the things of God.  All are called to holiness.  All are called to His Cross, and are given a cross of their own, to carry and to follow behind Him.  All are called to offer their lives as a living sacrifice, in union with His, which is our spiritual worship. (Rom 12:1)

The priestly vocation deserves to be lived faithfully, generously and heroically.  The Pope challenged the seminarians whom he addressed to take a sober assessment of themselves, and their personal response to the call of God.  He said,

If you – but I say this from my heart, without offending! – if you, if one of you, is not willing to follow this way, with these attitudes and these experiences, it is better that you have the courage to look for another way. There are many ways in the Church of giving Christian witness and so many ways that lead to sanctity. In the ministerial following of Jesus there is no room for mediocrity, that mediocrity that leads always to use the holy People of God for one’s own advantage. But Heaven help evil pastors, because the Seminary, let’s say the truth, is not a refuge for the many limitations we might have, a refuge from psychological lacks or a refuge because I don’t have the courage to go forward in life and I seek there a place that defends me. No, it’s not this.

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