Posted by: Thomas Richard | September 14, 2016

We Need the Holy Spirit!

“Lukewarm” is not a good word, in the Christian lexicon. It is not a good state of the human soul. The alternative – fervor, zeal and whole-hearted commitment – in the heart and soul of a Christian – ought to be the norm! Every Christian church ought to be on fire for Christ and the Gospel, and thus for the mission of the Church:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Mt 28:19-20)

There is not a lot of “Go” from many Catholic churches; even the going to search for the lost sheep – the former Catholics who have drifted away from the Faith – is not a big priority among many of our parishes and dioceses. So much of our activity and concern, in my experience, is directed within – within the parish and for the parishioners.  And sadly only little of that activity is focused on the great need among our adults for catechesis and growing in the life of prayer. We need renewal.

Vatican II called us to renewal, in so many ways! The universal call to holiness was proclaimed by the Church to the Church, in that Council, a call to remember who we are, and what we are to be about. We all, every one of us, have a vocation, a divine calling, to be light in this darkening world. We all have been entrusted with Bread from heaven, in a world hungry for that which finally satisfies. We all have been infused with a share in the divine and eternal life – the Holy Spirit – in a world stumbling toward death. How can we be so quiet?

The Holy Spirit is the great awakener of lukewarm and sleepy souls. We need the arousal of the Holy Spirit.

A New Article in HPR

An essay I wrote recently on this matter has just been published on-line, at the website of Homiletic & Pastoral Review, as an article titled The Church Needs the Holy Spirit!  I hope all my readers here will click on the title-link, and read the article. And as usual, I’d be grateful for your comments either here on the blog or added on the HPR site at the bottom of the article.

Finally, let me recommend to you the encyclical of Pope St. John Paul II on the Holy Spirit, which can be found on the Vatican website.  This document was the foundation of a “Novena” of nine presentations on the Holy Spirit which I presented recently in my home parish.  The title of the encyclical (and the link to it) is Dominum et vivificantem. It is lengthy! But it is worth the “price of admission,” in time.

Posted by: Thomas Richard | August 19, 2016

A Campaign Speech Worth Hearing…

After some dark days of grieving for the state of our country, and even darker days of fearing that “Progressivism” may very well swallow this country whole, in a “Democrat” victory in November, I am encouraged that maybe the catastrophe can actually be averted.  I know that with God, all things are possible, and that He is of great mercy and patience toward us, as foolish and stupid as we so frequently are.

This video I include below is of Donald Trump’s latest campaign speech – Aug 18, 2016, in Charlotte NC – it is worth watching, and listening to, and imagining: is it possible to turn this massive ship around, after all that has been inflicted upon America thus far?  The “progressive” ideology – that the Democrat Party has fallen into – is a dark one, an anti-human one, generating a godless culture of death all the while promising to bring a secular utopia.    I almost was believing that Trump – and a new beginning for America – did not stand a chance!  But I’m seeing some light of possibility at the end of the tunnel.  America is not finished yet.  God has not finished with us yet.

In the video Mr. Trump appeals to the African Americans in America – who have been block-Democrat-voters for decades now, abused and used and taken for granted by that party – that it is time for a change!  The Democrats have brought African Americans changes only for the worse.  The same can be said for many American Catholics!  American Catholics have been largely block-Democrat-voters for a long time also, only to see anti-Christian laws and policies multiply under their administration, to our shame.  Secular ideologues have an agenda, and it is deadly.  We need a change. Please watch the video, and recommend it to others.  America needs a change, a new beginning, a new chance.

 

Posted by: Thomas Richard | August 2, 2016

Catholic Politicians and Public Scandal

Shameless public “Catholic” endorsements of the New Morality take one more bow in the spotlight: our present “Catholic” Vice President, Joe Biden, has now officiated for a “marriage” of a same-sex couple. Yes, Joe Biden “married” two men who are long-time White House aides. The story is HERE.

This, to be heard in the echoes of the recent unveiling of a new insult to the Church and the Faith, new to most of us – the “Catholic” Democrat nominee for our next Vice President, Tim Kaine. Mr. Kaine is solidly in support of the New Morality: pro-abortion, pro-contraception, pro-homosexual equivalence in matters of marriage and child adoption. Indeed, “the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization, hailed Hillary Clinton’s selection of Tim Kaine — who has a solid commitment to LGBTQ equality — as her running mate.”

Tim Kaine thinks that his Catholic foundation was laid for him in his “Jesuit education.” There, he believes, he was taught to be a “man for others” in the mold of his Jesuit education. Here is a summary from an article on the Cardinal Newman Society website:

But for Kaine, being Catholic doesn’t prevent him from ignoring his faith to support redefining marriage to include same-sex couples, the use of  birth control and the ordination of women as priests.  Being “for others” doesn’t include protecting the innocent unborn, who are created in the image and likeness of God. His efforts to “battle for social justice” don’t include seeking justice for those killed in the womb.

LifeSiteNews notes that Kaine “has a perfect pro-abortion record in the Senate and supports Planned Parenthood. Kaine is also a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act, a bill that would undermine pro-life laws across the country.” The news service also recently highlighted abortion giant Planned Parenthood’s excitement about Kaine as the Democrat vice presidential nominee, calling Kaine a man who has “dedicated his life to serving others.”

More broadly, Kaine betrays his service “for others” as a Catholic by purposefully causing scandal with his public statements and political positions against Church teaching that could confuse both Catholics and others about the importance of defending innocent life.

Sadly there are many other prominent, well-known figures in our government who are Catholic, and who bring only shame to the Church and confusion to many. Our Church is called to be light in this darkening world! Yet many in the Church seek to aid and further empower the darkness. Many – who are called to be evangelizers for the Faith – instead are sources of grave scandal, leading people away from Truth and into sin.

Scandal is a grave matter – Catholics in prominent, responsible positions of leadership in government – and thus positions of power in society – have a grave responsibility to care for those subject to their authority, their leadership and their example. The Catechism teaches, concerning scandal:

Respect for the souls of others: scandal

2284 Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor’s tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.

2285 Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized. It prompted our Lord to utter this curse: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” [Mt 18:6; Cf. 1 Cor 8:10-13] Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others. Jesus reproaches the scribes and Pharisees on this account: he likens them to wolves in sheep’s clothing. [Cf. Mt 7:15]

2286 Scandal can be provoked by laws or institutions, by fashion or opinion.
Therefore, they are guilty of scandal who establish laws or social structures leading to the decline of morals and the corruption of religious practice, or to “social conditions that, intentionally or not, make Christian conduct and obedience to the Commandments difficult and practically impossible.” [Pius XII, Discourse, June 1, 1941] This is also true of business leaders who make rules encouraging fraud, teachers who provoke their children to anger, [Cf. Eph 6:4; Col. 3:21] or manipulators of public opinion who turn it away from moral values.

2287 Anyone who uses the power at his disposal in such a way that it leads others to do wrong becomes guilty of scandal and responsible for the evil that he has directly or indirectly encouraged. “Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come!” [Lk 17:1]

At least two bishops have spoken out concerning such public scandal:

Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo of Kaine’s home diocese of Richmond, Virginia released a statement regarding Catholics in public office July 22.
“The Catholic Church makes its position very clear as it pertains to the protection of human life, social justice initiatives, and the importance of family life,” he said.
“From the very beginning, Catholic teaching informs us that every human life is sacred from conception until natural death. The right to life is a fundamental, human right for the unborn and any law denying the unborn the right to life is unequivocally unjust.”

Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island also commented on the subject, mentioning Kaine by name and lamenting that “apparently, and unfortunately, his faith isn’t central to his public, political life.”

Kaine has been described as a devout Catholic and has attended St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in Richmond for decades.

Yes, here I go again. The coming election is haunting me – stalking me – tempting me to grief and worry about the horrors that could come upon us. The country is at the brink of crisis, and people are angry. We are left with two major candidates who are both flawed, both provoking fears and uncertainty about what exactly they would do, and not do, as president. I am left with the resolution that if I cannot in confidence advance the good by my vote, at least I can seek to lessen the evil that could come. And with my primary concern being the right to life, my lot is cast with the Republicans.

I’ve written here several blogs on the concern that our Church is asleep, while our country is adrift and in danger. She sleeps while the world is very busy at work, building its city of deceit, and of death. Some examples –
1. Catholics: It is Time to Awaken! 
2. What Time Is It?
3. Acedia: Spiritual Sloth and the Church of Laodicea, U.S.A 
4. Church as Babysitter in a Culture of Death

I’ll close with this quote from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI:

… Across the centuries, it is the drowsiness of the disciples that opens up possibilities for the power of the evil one. Such drowsiness deadens the soul, so that it remains undisturbed by the power of the evil one at work in the world, and by all the injustice and suffering ravaging the earth. In its state of numbness, the soul prefers not to see all this; it is easily persuaded that all things cannot be so bad, so as to continue in the self-satisfaction of its own comfortable existence. Yet this deadening of souls, this lack of vigilance regarding both God’s closeness and the looming forces of darkness is what gives the evil one power in this world. On beholding the drowsy disciples, so disinclined to rouse themselves the Lord says, “My soul is very sorrowful, even unto death.” (Mk 14:34)
(Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI)

Posted by: Thomas Richard | July 13, 2016

When God Dies

A profound crisis has come upon our country and now is settled into the depths of the very core of the nation – a crisis that continues to degrade us, bringing us to the point of spiritual and moral bankruptcy. I have a short one-word solution to the crisis: God. We need to return to God. As a country we have abandoned God. Remember the Pledge of Allegiance? It includes the phrase, “One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” It is only under God that a nation can be indivisible! The only secure basis for unity, for peace and concord, for liberty, for justice, is God! And God is systematically revoked, “repealed and replaced,” throughout the nation. Replaced with what? Replaced with man – replaced with the thoughts, opinions, ambitions, judgements, political correctness of men separated from God. In such darkness, justice is no more firm than a vapor, no more certain than the fluttering path of a butterfly, no more true than the slurring ramblings of a drunkard.

God is not welcomed here, anymore. Certainly He is welcomed among some! But among so many of our leaders, God is set off on the margins, and the margins are moved, and God is far distant, outside. Lost in the past, for so many people, is the sense that God is present – and relevant – to daily life. Does God “exist”? That question is now as irrelevant as God Himself, for so many it does not matter. God does not matter. God is irrelevant – as irrelevant as any other passing opinion, idea, or fantasy dreamed up by people who also don’t matter. God is irrelevant; the people who believe in Him are irrelevant. What is relevant, in this “culture of death,” is power. Political power, financial power, military power: power is relevant. Stalin is said to have discounted the relevance of the Catholic Church to his ambitions, with the rhetorical question, “How many Divisions does the Pope have?”

In America, we seem to have now reached a tipping point. My very rough “statistics” lead me to this conclusion: we are on the tipping point, and we will fall one way or the other, perhaps irreversibly, perhaps very soon. The Supreme Court, for example is about 50-50 on major, radically important issues of fundamental national moral values. The major political divide in the country – conservatives on the one hand and “progressives” on the other – is typically 40-40-20: 40% lean conservative, 40% lean progressive, and 20% might lean one way or the other. America, the flutterings of a butterfly might cause us to fall one way or the other.

When God dies, man becomes an animal – a savage – a beast. Such men care for no one; they are left to long for nothing but pleasure. They care for no one but themselves, and even that, wrongly. Such a man has lost himself, in running away from God, in hiding from God, in denying God, in refusing to acknowledge in his own heart that there is a God over all.

When God dies, man fills the chasm in his soul with anything, with everything, with ever more things, lest the empty chasm consume him too. The music must be louder, and louder still. The noise must never stop, silence must never seize a space in him, quiet and solitude must never be allowed in. Man must not pause, he must not seek rest, he must not stop lest God find him and he comes face to face with His eternal truth.

When God dies, man must erase all remnants of truth, he must silence the echoes of the Word still streaming through all that has being, he must forge his own poor stamp on all his thin fabrications and fictions, lest the authentic ring of truth condemn him. Man must not listen; man must not let himself listen again, not ever again, lest he hear and learn what he cannot bear to know.

Therefore – therefore, Church, listen to your call! – Therefore Church, you must speak. Therefore, Church, you must speak what man must hear, lest he destroy himself. You must bear witness, you must be the one you are called to be: His witness, His voice, His Bride. Awaken! Give what He has given you to give.

Pope St. John Paul II included this prophetic word for the Church of our time:

“The hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of women is being acknowledged in its fullness, the hour in which women acquire in the world an influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved. That is why, at this moment when the human race is undergoing so deep a transformation, women imbued with a spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid humanity in not falling”. (Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem of Pope [St.] John Paul II)

This was written especially to women, knowing the gifts and abilities given them particularly, for humanity. But Church, hear this for you as well – men and women – to live this vocation as Bride of Christ! Church, become imbued with the spirit of the Gospel! Church, live your vocation! Church, act – and do much to help and aid humanity in not falling!

Posted by: Thomas Richard | June 24, 2016

Seeking the “Still Small Voice” of God

God said to Elijah,

“Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake;

and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

(1 Kings 19:11-13)

It is an unmistakable and precious moment – a timeless moment – to be in the Presence of God.  Such encounters are so precious, that one could say they are essential.  How can a man or a woman keep sane, in this increasingly insane world, without moments – or at least memories – of communion with the One who is truth and reason, stability and sanity, faithful and strong, undying, eternal.

Elijah was given a moment of encounter with the Lord in a “still small voice” – and specifically not in a great wind, or an earthquake, or a fire – all events of power and dramatic significance.  Only in the humble whisper that demands alertness, attentiveness, inner quiet and focus: there was the Lord waiting to meet with Elijah.

The Catholic Church has a long tradition of “making a retreat” – a time apart, a time dedicated to openness to the Lord, a time for prayer, meditation, silence, solitude, peace.  It is a time for saying “Here I am, Lord, speak to your servant.  Here I am, Lord: what would you have me do?”  It is sad, but it is understandable, that human persons would not want to offer themselves to the will of the Lord in that way!  It is sad, but understandable, that given the choice between Martha who kept herself busy and distracted, and Mary who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to His word (see Lk 10:38-42), that many would rather turn to preoccupation and busyness than offer themselves “blindly” to the service of the Lord!  Who knows what He might ask of us?  Who knows what that might cost?  It might cost our very lives.

I was in my thirties when I made my first retreat.  It was a 45 day directed retreat, “directed” meaning directed by a retreat master who provided daily presentations on the retreat theme, and as a priest also offered daily Mass and Confessions, as well as personal conferences if desired to discuss matters of spiritual concern.  The theme of the retreat was the Gospel of John, and the length of the retreat allowed a slow and deliberate journey through that Gospel, listening carefully and prayerfully to what the Holy Spirit inspired John to write, for our salvation.  It was a wonderful, truly beautiful experience.

The first thing I learned, which was a surprise to me, was the length of time it took me to “slow down” and begin to actually listen to the Lord in His Gospel!  The retreat was held in an elegant beach-front – well, I would call it a “mansion.”  Now a retreat house, it had been willed by a wealthy family, donated to a religious order of sisters.  It was a beautiful place for quiet and prayer – well-separated from the world of noise and busyness – here we could find the silence and solitude needed to listen to and be attentive to the movements and directions of the Lord.  But to my surprise, after about four days, I noticed a change in myself: I had slowed down within myself; I had become quiet within myself; I had entered a space of solitude – separation from the other retreatants and retreat leaders and helpers – even though they were all around.  In a mansion on the beach, in the midst of 35 or 40 people, I had become alone.  This was not intentional!  It happened; it was given to me; it was a surprise gift that I did not know I needed or wanted.  I did not know I lacked it before it was given, but when I received it, I knew clearly the difference in me and the treasure that it was.  I was alone, and I was ready to be with myself, with God, with Truth.

This was the beginning of the retreat, four days into it.  Desert-time had come.  Prayer-time had begun.  The first lesson I needed to learn, was now dawning on me: I had not known what solitude and silence were; I had not known how busy and noisy I had been in myself!  Now I knew, because God showed me.  Now I could listen for Him; now I could listen to Him.

Here is the point of this blog: please, brothers and sisters, do not underestimate the immense value of silence, solitude and prayer.  Do not underestimate the cost of it!  In the beginning, it can take days – days in it, to arrive at it and willingly enter into it!  A fish does not know of the water he lives in; we do not realize the conflict and chaos that surrounds us, nor perhaps do we suspect how much of it, and how deeply, it has permeated our very souls.  We need to value silence, simplicity, solitude, prayer: listening for Him and for His life-giving words.  Once we have learned the treasure of it, we will not resist or fight against it so much.  It need not take four days, the next time.  The next time, we may even hasten to meet it, and to meet Him.  The time after that, no stranger any more to silence, simplicity, solitude and prayer, we may find it within ourselves, waiting within us for us to remember, and return, and maybe even remain as if home.  We have there found Him; we have found love; we have found truth.

In that sacred place, that holy encounter, we have found our true home.  In Him, with Him, we have all.  He is faithful, and will never abandon His own.  He will always be there, waiting.  “Seek Him!” He urges us to ask, and seek, and knock: He will respond, He will reveal Himself in holy prayer.  It is there, with Him and in Him, that we discover and begin to live the interior life.

St. Faustina wrote beautifully of this sacred place, where our Lord waits.

Although outwardly I meet with many sufferings and various adversities, this does not, however, lessen my interior life for a moment nor disturb my inner silence.  I do not fear at all being abandoned by creatures because, even if all abandoned me, I would not be alone, for the Lord is with me.  And even if the Lord were to hide, love will know how to find Him.  For love knows no gates nor guards; …; it will work its way through wilderness and scorching heat, through storm, thunder and darkness, and reach the source from which it came, and there it will endure forever.  All things will come to an end; but love, never.

(St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, Diary, Notebook III, #1022)

Posted by: Thomas Richard | May 14, 2016

Catholics: It is Time to Awaken!

The Catholic Church must wake up! The darkness growing in this country is accelerating, and human persons are being swallowed into it, losing all sense of truth, righteousness, justice – even sanity! And God’s chosen witnesses continue to sleep.

Catholic laity need strengthening, enlightening, igniting into life – so that they might be the holy light to expose and dispel this ugly darkness. Catholic men, Catholic women, Catholic young people, Catholic children – we all are here, in the midst of this evil and growing culture of death. And we all are called to be God’s witnesses, God’s messengers in the midst. We must remind our culture, our country, of what ought to be! Who else is there? Who else can do this? Who else can touch the dying hearts of this nation and revive them, and recall them to their own vocation?

The Church must awaken, the whole Church must awaken. Church leadership must arise and arouse them, must train and inspire them, must educate and enflame them, must pour God’s grace and Spirit into them, and bring them to life. The time for sleeping is past; there is no time left for half-hearted concern, or part-time Christianity. Catholic men and women, the time to choose is here: whom will you serve? Which side are you on? Why are you here, alive and strong, and doing nothing to fight the enemies of your children, the enemies of the innocent, the enemies of your own sleepy soul? Will you yet arise, and stand up? Will you yet be the man or the woman God is calling you to be?

Bishops! Priests! Deacons! Catechists! Parents! Cry out the saving Truth of your Faith, and live your calling. Teach your people! Stop with all half-truths, and safe suggestions, and nuanced duplicity! Make disciples! Bring forth fruit that will remain! Shepherds, enough of your pandering and platitudes! Enough lukewarm lullabies from the pulpit, lest anyone should actually hear the living word of God! Enough of your CEO concerns, while the sheep are not being fed and the wolves continue to raid your own sheep-fold! Enough catering to the donors, and neglecting the poor and the hungry! Enough building expensive edifices, and filling them with furnishings of gold and velvet and linen lace! Enough staff parties, and back-slapping, and sleeping with the enemy. Enough. It is time; the enemy is at the door; it is the time to act.

Bishops! Priests! Deacons! Catechists! Parents! Help your children, those children of God entrusted to your care, help them to see what is happening to this nation! The enemy is at war with us, like it or not.

Catholic laity need to know the Faith of the Church.
Catholic laity need to know Catholic moral truth – what is right, what is wrong, and why!
Catholic laity need to understand worship, in spirit and truth, that we may worship!
Catholic laity need a life of prayer – an interior life – a growing, maturing life in Christ.

Shepherds, be shepherds! Tend His sheep. Feed His sheep. Shepherd His sheep as Christ called you to do!  Every man will be called to give an account of his stewardship, on that Day.

Posted by: Thomas Richard | April 25, 2016

Public Restrooms and Public Insanity

 

God gave us what used to be called common sense.  That natural gift of reason, common sense, used to be – well – common.  It was usual; it was presumed present in people educated and uneducated.  It was a foundation of our legal system, because it was based on the age-old “natural moral law” – a universal sense of right and wrong found in cultures around the world – a moral sense that we Christians understand to be placed in the human conscience of all men and women by God.  Common sense today seems to be vaporizing, turning to a wisp of smoke, scattered to the winds, and it’s gone .

A universal moral law, set in humanity by God, is a serious “inconvenience” for men who want what they want when they want it.  “Common sense” in the moral realm, in a word, condemns much that modern man lusts for.  And thus, inventive that he is, modern man has come up with a replacement standard for human behavior.  Out with common sense; out with the natural moral law; and in with ”political correctness.”  Political correctness has all the qualities needed for rules of social behavior that fit with the lusts of modern man.  Political correctness as a standard meets with the approval of so many because it is so malleable.  It is adjustable.  It can be made into what modern man wants, to justify modern man grabbing and taking whatever his lustful heart desires.  The power of political correctness is the power of numbers – the power of popular opinions, even fads, and as enduring.  Political correctness is not unlike mob rule – and just as dangerous.

A modern example is contraception – a solution to a problem: how to keep sexual pleasure but avoid the pesky problem of potential children.  For many modern men (men and women),  children are all right at a distance, and in moderation, as long as they are someone else’s responsibility.  For many modern men sexual pleasure is good, but responsibility for children is bad, and costly, taking precious money away from toys and fun needing it instead to raise children, a very costly side-effect of sexual pleasure.  This used to be a problem, until modern contraceptives came to modern men.

Contraception used to be a sin!  Virtually all Christians used to hold and teach that contraception was a moral evil, until the Lambeth Conference of Anglicans in 1930.  There, and then,  Anglican Churches approved contraception for married couples, for “morally sound reason.”  The Conference records a guarded permission, but maintained “strong condemnation of the use of any methods of conception control from motives of selfishness, luxury, or mere convenience.”  Such reservation did not last long.  Contraception is now completely disassociated from marriage – marriage is incidental to the sexual freedom of modern man.  Now contraception is available and distributed in public schools, and is widely considered now to be a human right to be funded at taxpayer expense.  So much for the history of human logic and reason prior to 1930, and the previous wide-spread Christian condemnation of contraception as a violation of reason and the natural moral law.  God created human sexuality intrinsically linked to human procreation, for a reason!  But reason was brushed aside, theology was “modified”, and contraception became a public good and a human right. Its use spread like wildfire especially with the “sex, drugs and rock-and-roll” explosion of the 1960’s and 70’s.

A way to artificially break apart at will what God had joined together (sexual pleasure and babies), quickly expanded the horizons of man’s pseudo-freedom from personal responsibility, to include a “plan B” to exclude unwanted babies: abortion.  This too was once a public horror, even a public crime, as well as a moral travesty!  But mob morality shouted loud and long enough, and the forces of “political correctness” began to bless and not condemn it.  Ways were found to speak well of the need to kill the unwanted child in the womb: “women’s rights” and “freedom of choice” were louder than the silent voices in the womb, and the previous “right to life” of the human person yet unborn.  Reason is brushed aside, common sense and the natural moral law is shouted down, denied and rejected: the crowd has its way.  Political correctness makes its own morality, a house of cards, built on sand.  It is the inculturation of insanity, protected not by moral law and the power of truth, but by mere law and the power of numbers: “might makes right.”  A post-Christian era was dawning upon us, and moral blindness was spreading through the land.  A culture of death was being born, a seed of satan, the father of lies, the enemy of reason and of all that is true.

When a culture embraces the lie, and rejects reason and moral truth, great suffering is in store.  So many examples come to mind: Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, Maoist China, countless other reigns of dictators and despots with horrific blood trails across the continents of the world.  America has been flirting with an evil more dangerous than she can imagine; she knows not what is on the coming horizon.

The insanity here, nevertheless, and the drunken “advances” continue.  Why stop with worry-free sex for only heterosexual couples?  Let’s champion the full equivalence of homosexual preferences as well!  They’ve had baby-free sex the whole time!  It makes perfect sense, in the insanity of political correctness, that “freedom of choice” applies to them as well. Full homosexual equivalence certainly must include same-sex marriage, and adoption rights, and why not polygamy and group-marriage as well?  Three men and two women all “married” in one group “family?  Why not?  Who is to say anything is wrong with any combination or permutation that we want, or think of?  We make the rules.  We define normalcy.  We are gods.

And why stop with the unnatural and inherently sterile sexuality of a same-sex couple?  Suppose the man really wants to be a woman instead?  What if a surgeon can turn his sex organs inside-out, pump woman-hormones into him, implant water bags in his chest, and make him look sort of like a woman?  Sure!  Why not?  If it can be done, why not?  Or if a woman can have her body surgically refashioned into her inner man-image, why not?  It’s not as though God or somebody made her a woman for a reason, is it?  She is merely a moment – an accident of the cosmos – and it’s her life to live as she chooses.

But suppose the man doesn’t want to have an operation.  Suppose he just feels like he is a woman, notwithstanding all the anatomical evidence to the contrary, and he feels like using the women’s bathrooms and showers at the public pool.  Doesn’t he have the right, as a poor victim of old-fashioned puritanical morality that is prejudiced against him and hurts his feelings, to do as he pleases and walk right in?  But of course!  Let’s firm this up, and make it his legal right, his human right, to be “normal” as he chooses to define “normal” today.  Innocent little girls in that public restroom ought to be trained at home – or better, at public school – to just ignore him when he comes in.  It’s so important to be tolerant!  America has gone mad.  She is insane.

Would that this were all a nightmare, and we would soon wake up and realize that we were all  sleeping, and none of this was real.  It is a nightmare!  None of it is real.  But it is happening, nevertheless.  It really is happening here, in a once-Christian America, in a country and a culture that was recently, in Ronald Reagan’s vision, a “shining light on the hill” for the whole world.  How we need such leadership, such vision in these darkening days.

Friends, somehow the fence around sanity got inverted: inside got out, and outside got in.  Our culture has gone insane, and normal is now sick, and this inversion of moral truth has come upon us in my lifetime.  I saw it come, and I still can’t believe my own eyes.

Is it too late?  Will America simply collapse into itself, one more decadent self-obsessed and hedonistic culture falls – so typical in the history of mankind.  Is there no happy ending for us in this world?  The spirit at work for human destruction has made great strides “forward”, in his distorted quest for death.  Will he succeed?  Will he quench the light and life in this country completely?

Another name for “post-Christian” to describe our culture, is “neo-pagan.”  We are regressing, friends, not advancing, and we need to stop and reverse course while there is still time to do so.  Who will lead us?  Where are the leaders who can see where we ought to be, and what direction we ought to take, and what we need to do to get there?  That leadership, that vision, that prudence and wisdom, is in the Church – within her “soul,” the divine Holy Spirit.

But where is the Church?  Where is the Catholic Church in America?  Jesus Christ poured His Holy Spirit into His chosen Church, and sent her to be light, and to be life, among men walking in the shadow of the death of this world!  He overcame evil; He overcame death; He showed us the way and the truth and the life!  Where are we – and where is His Church, His own, His chosen?

The Church is mostly asleep, content with platitudes and niceness, while savages around the world are aiming their hatred straight at us.  Here is where conversion must begin: in our parishes, and chanceries, and convents and monasteries: conversion must begin within, deep within the heart of the Church, so that she, awakened and alive and renewed in zeal, might begin to live her mission.  The world needs the life of Christ!  The Church needs to awaken, and soon.

What a miracle it would be, if the fervent prayers of a few could call down heavenly showers of saving grace to rain upon us!  What glorious joy would come to those in the shadow of death, if Christians standing before Christ, our Lord, would fall to their faces in shame and repentance – yet in hope – and cry out for His mercy on us all!  Save us, Lord; save us all from this suicidal drive in the sick heart of fallen humanity, this insanity, this evil thirst of the evil one in the last throes of his own destruction.

Posted by: Thomas Richard | April 13, 2016

The Great Banquet – Pope Francis: Phase II

A parable of the Lord Jesus is speaking to me strongly these days; I’d like to share it with you. I’ll divide the parable into three parts – three “phases” – into which these last days, maybe, are divided. His parable concerns a “great banquet” that God chose to provide and offer to His own: a holy banquet is being offered in our time by His holy Church. His parable includes the responses of those invited, those who were too busy to receive what He offered and intended. The parable then also includes His own response: His intent and response to us all.

The Parable of the great banquet, Luke 14:15-24:

Lk 14:15  When one of those who sat at table with him heard this, he said to him, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!”

Phase I: Popes Paul VI, St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Lk 14:16  But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet, and invited many;
Lk 14:17  and at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for all is now ready.’

Popes Blessed Paul VI, St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI saw to it that the table is set well, very well! The Church of the Lord Jesus has before it a banquet feast: Holy Scripture opened and made accessible by many saints and scholars, the feast of the Word is in place.  A new Catechism is prepared and available to all the people – a wonderful resource for substantive adult formation in the Faith of the Church.  The Sacraments communicating the holy and divine grace of God are ready, with the clergy of the Church ready to distribute as needed or desired; mature and prudent moral teachings are well-developed to guide the people along as the secular world grows darker; the life of prayer also is now well-developed and understood, inviting the people of God to come, to enter into holy prayer-communion with Him, to experience the life of Christ from within their own souls.

But what has happened? The table is set, the people are invited! What has happened? What has happened is busyness and preoccupation among the people of God with the things, the loves, and the cares of the world.

Lk 14:18  But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it; I pray you, have me excused.’
Lk 14:19  And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them; I pray you, have me excused.’
Lk 14:20  And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’
Lk 14:21a  So the servant came and reported this to his master.

Phase II: Enter Pope Francis.

Lk 14:21b Then the householder in anger said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and maimed and blind and lame.’
Lk 14:22  And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’

A different man is now servant of the Lord in His Church, a different pope, Pope Francis. Pope Francis hears the new word of the Master, to awaken the Church to the cries of the poor among us and all around us: the materially poor and the spiritually poor, the many who are owed the good news and the divine blessings of the Gospel. These, especially in this time, are to be brought in. These, especially, are to be called into the blessings of the banquet. These are the special concern of this pope – all those marginalized, the poor in any way, those who have found no place in the Church, at the banquet. These are to be called.

Those invited in the first call did not value what the Master had set out for them! They did not know their own poverty, or rightly discern their own famished and starved condition. They lusted for bright shiny glitter – they stepped over, and trampled upon, true pearls of great value.

God began warning our popes many times, over many years.

Blessed Pope Paul VI’s ‘Smoke of Satan’ homily of June 29, 1972 has received several interpretations of meaning, but the words themselves, as quoted, are startling: “From some fissure the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God.” Those were crazy days, in the secular world and in the Church. The “silly sixties and seventies” exploded with drugs, sex and rock and roll in the secular world; shallow innovations and experiments replaced tradition, prudence and even sanity in the Church. Those were “smoky” and spiritually impoverished days.

Pope St. John Paul II was allowed to raise to sainthood a fellow child of Poland, now St. Faustina, and was called with her to recognize the danger and darkness of days ahead. John Paul II repeated, time and time again to persons and groups around the world, “Be not afraid!” – he saw, I believe, darkness coming. John Paul II also realized deeply, along with St. Faustina, the need in such a time for God’s mercy. In her Diary, St. Faustina wrote of a vision she had of Mary the Mother of God (#635 in her Diary, subtitled Divine Mercy in my Soul):

635. March 25 … I saw the Mother of God who said to me:
“Oh, how pleasing is the soul that follows faithfully the inspirations of His grace! I gave the Savior to the world; as for you, you have to speak to the world about His great mercy and prepare the world for the Second Coming of Him who will come, not as a merciful Savior but as a just Judge. Oh how terrible is that day! Determined is the day of justice, the day of divine wrath. The angels tremble before it. Speak to souls about this great mercy while it is still time for granting mercy. If you keep silent now, you will be answering for a great number of souls on that terrible day. Fear nothing. Be faithful to the end. I sympathize with you.”

Pope Francis also was given this sense of need, among the people of God, to know of God’s mercy. Now we are in a “Year of Mercy” which he instituted for the universal Church. He has called us to open the doors of God’s blessings and grace to those so profoundly in need of it – that we not be like guards keeping people from God’s grace, but like ministers helping them receive it. The poor and maimed and blind and lame, in other words, are called to come and sit down at His banquet.

Will the Church do this? Will we seek out and welcome the estranged, the marginalized, the not-welcomed? Will we gather them to the Lord’s feast, and share with them His treasure? Even that, the parable notes, will not exhaust the bounty or the love of God for His creation. We read:

Phase III:

Lk 14:23  And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges, and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.
Lk 14:24  For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”

The time of “compelling” – “compel people to come in” – remains in the future in this interpretation of the parable; what such “compelling” means also remains in the future! How could persons be “compelled” to enter Faith, to enter His Church in sincerity, to come and be seated at the banquet table of His Word and His Altar, to receive His grace and His life?

The word “compel” in Lk 14:23 is the Greek anagkazo – to compel, constrain. A related word in Greek is anagke – constraint. Such compelling could be either exterior or interior, from outside the person or within the person himself.

An example of an external constraint is:

Mt 14:22 Then he [Jesus] constrained the disciples to get into the boat …

An example of an interior constraint is:

1 Cor 9:16 If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for constraint has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it!

In any event, if we are reading the parable rightly, our time is now, and it is a time of mercy. Pope Francis has taken this burden upon himself, as a focus of his papacy, that we be truly a Church of God’s mercy. There is no doubt that Pope Francis has touched upon a truth hard for many in the Church to hear in this time: we have not cared enough, we have not cared as we should, we have not reached out as we should, to those most in need of the mercy of God in Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God for His patience with us! May we hear, in our time, the word of the Lord to his churches. May we become, in ways that the lost of this world may recognize, a people of mercy worthy of our merciful God.

Luke 6:36  Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

Posted by: Thomas Richard | March 1, 2016

A Presidential Election Like No Other

Not in my lifetime, anyway, has a presidential election been like this one – and not in my lifetime has the need been greater for a true statesman to hold the office, to lead this country. How America needs a statesman seeking the true good of the nation, with members of Congress to work with him – and not mere self-advancing careerists, politicians serving their own ambitions, seeking their own glory.

Augustine saw the difference among men so clearly! In his penetrating book The City of God he wrote of those whom we would call true statesmen, who seek to “serve one another in love,” who seek to “take thought for all,” who seek, in other words, the true good of their fellow men and women. Such is true servant-leadership: leading by serving, leading in order to serve others, serving according to the true good intended by God in His holy truth and love.

But then there are the lesser men of whom Augustine writes, who seek to rule for “the love of ruling.” They are dominated – they are driven – not by the love of others for the sake of God, but by “the love of self, even to the contempt of God.” They seek glory for themselves, glory that they draw from the men they dominate. They are not servants of others though they speak often of “serving their country”, but they are users – abusers, really – and manipulators of others in order to gain power over them.

I see and hear such a hard spirit of meanness, bitter hearts dripping with disdain for their enemies and rivals for the power they seek! So many politicians seeking to divide and thus conquer, seeking to set one voting block against another, seeking to guard their own power base, willing to insinuate what is false and to suggest so as to deceive. They are willing – so much do they lust for power – even to lie outright and to repeat the lie again and again until the undiscerning fall into believing the lie.

Thus the weakness of democracy: it depends upon the people! Thus the vulnerability of democracy to evil men, and their dark work of “dumbing-down” the electorate, keeping the poor poor and dependent upon their elected masters, keeping all ignorant of what is happening around them. These rulers, who rule for the love of ruling, hide the truth of the true God from public consciousness so as to bring ultimate impoverishment to the people, so as to bring ultimate hollow and false dependency on these evil masters who in fact care nothing for the people ruled by them.

But how they lie and manipulate, twist and dodge, evade and invent, and repeat the lies until they sound normal and right! And the people – have they come to love it that way? Has the lie become lovely to them? Have they come to disdain the truth – does truth demand too much of them – does the truth condemn their own wickedness, does the lie help them justify themselves, and help them hide from God in the roar of the crowds and the glory of the masses?

The Reading of today, for this morning’s Liturgy of the Hours, this day called “Super Tuesday” in the secular world, is a telling exhortation from the prophet Joel. He wrote, on behalf of God to His people,

Return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God.
For gracious and merciful is he,
slow to anger, rich in kindness,
and relenting in punishment. (Joel 2:12-13)

The following is a quote attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville (1805 -1859), a French political thinker, historian and writer. If he was not the first to express it this way, someone did. It is true.

“America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

Indeed, America has for some time now taken a path of intentional redefinition – distortion – of the good in preference for ideas of “goodness” of anything that seems pleasurable. Sexual excess and deviancy is not only common, but is declared “normal” and thus “good. Material things are sources for our human happiness. “Political correctness” – not the truth of God, not even the truth attested in human conscience – is becoming the standard, the foundation for morality, and even for federal law as interpreted by a so-called “Supreme Court”. The American Constitution, which once enabled America to be a nation of laws and not of the wishes of the powerful, is becoming a document of suggestions open to the whims of fickle men. “Might makes right” – the code of tyranny used by evil throughout human history – is becoming the operative code in our new “progressive” philosophy. Its fruit is death, in a culture of death; its future is darkness and great suffering for all.

Can America be made great again? Can she be made good again? If so, it will not be by making more clever deals and treaties, by making the middle class more affluent so as to spend more money in shallow self-gratification, so as to make “the economy” stronger. America, we need a renewed sense of value – we need to understand the economy of the spirit – we need to learn where happiness truly is found! We need to learn again what “truth” is! And “goodness”! And righteousness. We need to know that we do not have the power to define good and evil – God has that power – we need to recognize, to acknowledge, and to honor the true good, and to reject the evil no matter how tempting, “glamorous” and politically correct it is declared to be by a political elite, in the dark culture of death.

America, will you wake up before it is too late? Will you listen to your heart, to your conscience, to the better voices in and around you? Or will you grasp the lusts and the lies dangling before your eyes, in the shouting crowds, in the roaring din of noise that seeks to overwhelm the whispers of reason and truth, of goodness and beauty, of salvation and holy life? Your God is calling you:

Return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God.

+++++++++++++++++++

note: Augustine, City of God, Book XIV, Chapter 28: “Of the Nature of the Two Cities, the Earthly and the Heavenly”

Posted by: Thomas Richard | February 27, 2016

Thoughts in this time of Lent

Catholics who pray the Liturgy of the Hours in this time of Lent can recite, with the Invitatory Prayer, the antiphon: “Today, if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.” Just repeat that antiphon – out loud – slowly – and listen to the words!

“Today, if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.”

There is so very much spiritual power in this brief and simple exhortation! The spiritual power I speak of, which is at risk for the possibly inattentive human heart, is the power of the voice of the Lord – the power of His Word – the power of His Spirit – power to effect conversion, life-giving transformation, supernatural renovation in the soul. The antiphon can be found in Scripture in Psalm 95, and is quoted in the Letter to the Hebrews – similar exhortations are found in other places in Scripture as well.

Ps 95: 7b … Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
8 Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah,
as on the day of Massah in the desert.
9 There your ancestors tested me;
they tried me though they had seen my works.
10 Forty years I loathed that generation;
I said: “This people’s heart goes astray;
they do not know my ways.”
11 Therefore I swore in my anger:
“They shall never enter my rest.”

This portion of the psalm points us to the trial of the Israelites in the wilderness, as they went their way under the leadership of Moses and Arron – thirsty for water in the desert, and untrusting of God in their understandable desert thirst. “Meribah,” and “Massah” indeed mean “the place of strife, of quarreling”, and “the place of the test,” respectively, and that place and that event was thus named in the verse, “Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as on the day of Massah in the desert”. God gave them water – water from a rock, and “the Rock was Christ.” (1 Cor 10:4)

The lesson is clear for us, today. The water is the Holy Spirit, and the Rock is Christ the Lord. From Him the Spirit is out-poured to mankind, out-poured through His Cross, and that Holy Spirit brings His life to humanity. From the death of Christ flows life for humanity – eternal, unending life even now – for men in the desert of a world of sin and hardness of heart.

The Spirit has a mission, which includes this promised by Jesus to His own, in His last hours before His last hour, and the Passion of His Self-offering: “But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.” (Jn 16:13) This truth includes, specifically, truth concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:

Jn 16:8 And when he comes he will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation:
9 sin, because they do not believe in me;
10 righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me;
11 condemnation, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.

In this way, the Spirit can lead a believer into life – the life of Christ – and out of the death of this world, a world condemned in the light of His holy truth. If we will listen! If we will “harden not our hearts”! If we will become “convicted” concerning our sins, “convicted” concerning sin in us, in the Church, in the world. If we will become convicted – and convinced – concerning His righteousness, and our call into His righteousness, and we grow in a life-long journey into His holiness, for His name’s sake. In this way, in the guiding and leading of the Holy Spirit, we can turn from the world condemned because of sin, and turn to salvation unto life in Christ.

If we will listen, and hear, and turn: “Today, if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.” The Spirit speaks to us today, in the voice of conscience, in the quiet of our hearts, in the solitude of prayer, in the truth of Jesus Christ and His grace. We read in the Letter to the Hebrews,

Heb 3:12 Take care, brothers, that none of you may have an evil and unfaithful heart, so as to forsake the living God.
13 Encourage yourselves daily while it is still “today,” so that none of you may grow hardened by the deceit of sin.
14 We have become partners of Christ if only we hold the beginning of the reality firm until the end,
15 for it is said:
“Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
‘Harden not your hearts as at the rebellion.’”

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