Posted by: Thomas Richard | February 27, 2015

Radical Islam and a Bankrupt West

The world recently saw evil organized as a secular state: Nazism in Germany. Now we see evil organized as a religious state: radical Islam in ISIS. Do a search on the internet – the similarities and connections between Nazism and the radical Islamists are many, and are becoming obvious to many commentators. I continue to ponder the two “beasts” of the last days, in Scripture’s Book of Revelation: there is a beast out of the sea, and there is a beast out of the earth, a false prophet – both animated ultimately by the dragon, satan himself.

The beast from the sea seems to me to be the spirit empowering the secular and godless “City of Man”, the harlot Babylon, “sitting on a scarlet beast” (Rev. 17:3). Although satan hates mankind and its secular city, built by man to glorify man, he allows and guides it for a long while, since it suits his purpose of destroying mankind and defeating the plans of God. But in the end he seeks to destroy man and all that is of man, in his war against God. The City of Man was unmasked – stripped naked – for the world to see, in Nazism and in Communism and in all the godless totalitarian states of history! But man will not see it; it is in his godless and sin-loving heart to build his city, free of God, that he might be his own god. Man’s ambitions continue today, in major nations of the world today, even here. Even America, once a nation that honored God, seems now overrun by those seeking only their own pleasures and pride and glory.

So satan’s assault is two-pronged: he empowers Babylon, the harlot City of Man, with the godless beast from the sea. And he empowers a false prophet with a false god, a beast from the earth, that looks like a lamb but has a heart of darkness and death. This beast seems to be unmasking before our very eyes, in the madness, bloodlust and evil of ISIS. Two beasts, one dark spirit – the evil spirit that hates God and all that is good, holy and true. The civilized and secular, and the religious and fanatical: we see the two beasts, the two sides of the one coin made to deceive man and entice him to abandon the one God in Whom is LIFE, and His holy and eternal Kingdom.

It is remarkable to witness the explosive expansion of ISIS. It is painful to see young men and women leave their families and homes in the “civilized” and “Christianized” West, to travel to Syria to join ISIS, to fight with ISIS against the West, to be part of the brutal murdering of the innocent for the glory of what they call Islam. How can this be happening? Why is it happening?

“For many people who are lacking a strong sense of identity and purpose, their violent radical global narrative provides easy answers and solutions: it can be a very powerful message for people who are looking for answers,” says Matthew Levitt, the director of counterterrorism and intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “Their online material shows capturing territory, establishing states, beheading enemies: they show that they are the sexiest jihadi group on the block.” (from Time Magazine on-line)

“A lot are young, often teenagers, and a fair percentage of those arriving from non-Muslim majority countries are converts to Islam,” wrote Richard Barrett of the Soufan Group, an intelligence organization. “These and others who share their faith commonly express their motivation as a religious obligation to protect fellow Muslims from attack.”

In detail, perhaps they have many reasons. The French have called their jihadists “disaffected, aimless and lacking a sense of identity or belonging,” Barrett wrote. “Presumably people are seeking a greater purpose and meaning in their lives.” (from The Washington Post on-line)

Barrett also wrote of their desire to witness and take part in a battle prophesied 1,400 years ago.  Maybe they never read of the battle prophesied many centuries earlier in the Bible, the battle at Armageddon (see for example Rev 16:16, and 20:8): God will win! The deceived will lose! Evil will be done away with forever, God’s Kingdom will come. This present creation will come to an end, and the New Heavens and the New Earth will be revealed, where righteousness abides forever.

But I want to return to a possible reason why men and women can be joining ISIS in a war against the West: they are “seeking a greater purpose and meaning in their lives.” There is the greatest of purposes, the fullness of meaning, for their lives awaiting them in Jesus Christ! His Catholic Church has been entrusted with the truth of the human person, and with the graces to empower the full attainment of that purpose and that meaning – all has been given to and entrusted to His Church! His Church has been sent to all the nations of the world to make disciples, to teach them His saving Truth! How can it be that these volunteers for ISIS missed discovering the meaning and the purpose held for them in Jesus Christ? The answer is simple: the Church is not doing what she was sent to do. Too many in the Church are sleeping, and taking their ease.

The world is doing a better job of evangelizing and making disciples of godless secularism and of the false religion of Islamism, than is the Church at its work of evangelizing and making disciples of Jesus Christ. As Jesus taught, “For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.” (Lk 16:8)

The next few verses in Luke are even more explicit, and have relevance for the Church today in the West:

Lk 16:9 I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
10 The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones.
11 If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth?
12 If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours?
13 No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all these things and sneered at him.
15 And he said to them, “You justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts; for what is of human esteem is an abomination in the sight of God.

The Church was sent to make disciples, teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded. Therein lies the meaning and the purpose of a human life: gather, teach, lead into the truth and the eternal life of the one God! We are sleeping. ISIS is growing; the hedonistic, self-obsessed, lustful and proud secular City of Man continues its buying and selling, marrying and giving in marriage. Many, many in the Church turn in their beds, and go back to sleep.

“But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lk 18:8)

Posted by: Thomas Richard | February 13, 2015

Update on a Call to Desert Hermitage… Mark Byerly

Back in 9/20/2014 I wrote a blog entry on a man on pilgrimage – Mark Byerly – called, “A Pilgrimage of Penance, Prayer and Sacrifice.”  I recently heard again from Mark, to let me know he is now moving into a desert hermitage, for time for prayer and reparation.   He wrote,

My name is Mark Byerly. Last fall I was interviewed by Michael Voris and Christine Niles at ChurchMilitant.tv. I am the pilgrim that crossed the country on foot to 150 Catholic shrines in reparation for the sins of our world and for the Church. You ran my story on your website afterwards. As I mentioned in the interview, I am going into the desert of Arizona to continue the life of prayer and penance as a desert hermit. The needs of our world are grave and urgent. I will be leaving home for this venture within a couple of weeks.

To help raise some of the funds necessary for the move and its initial costs, I have been persuaded to start a web based fund raising campaign. The campaign is run on Indiegogo. I am trying to send it on to good, orthodox, Catholic websites and blogs since I know that at these there will be many people of the same mind and heart who would be interested and willing to help. If you can do anything in this regard, I am already grateful. Or perhaps you have some other ideas? My email address is: markbyerly@yahoo.com. Here is the link to the fundraising campaign: LINK

Please let me know if you have any questions or if there is anything else I can do for you. Again, I am very grateful.
In our Lord,

Mark Byerly.

Mark will respond to any questions or thoughts you might have.  Perhaps you will consider helping support him in this initial challenge he faces to get “established” in his desert hermitage.  There is also some information on the “campaign” link.

Our country, the modern West, and the world in general is in great need of men and women of prayer.  We are in need of witnesses, of humble and obedient persons open to the Spirit, persons of Faith.  May the Lord lead us all, into perfect lives of obedience to Him in love.

Thomas Richard

 

Posted by: Thomas Richard | February 2, 2015

The Kerygma

The Church began on the day of Pentecost after Jesus ascended, with a Spirit-filled sermon by Peter to a crowd in Jerusalem. The crowd listened to Peter, and heard something that pierced their hearts! What they heard drove them to repentance, to conversion, to transformation – to faith! What they heard changed their lives, and for many of them – about 3000 – it began in them a new heart and mind, a new beginning. The close of his sermon called the hearers to repentance and to a new life in Christ:

Acts 2:36 “Therefore let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and they asked Peter and the other apostles, “What are we to do, my brothers?”
38 Peter [said] to them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit.
39 For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call.”
40 He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day.

What Peter preached that day is known today as “the kerygma” – often meaning the beginning and foundational message of the Gospel. If and when heard – such that the heart is pierced – a foundation is laid in the heart upon which the new life in Christ can be built. That foundation is rock-solid: it is faith in Christ; it endures, it weathers the storms of life, it perseveres through the years and decades and lifetime of a disciple, and is the seal of entry into eternal life in beatitude.

Msgr. Charles Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington wrote a concise description of the kerygma on their Archdiocesan Blog (1):

“The basic content of the kerygma emphasizes that Jesus is the chosen Messiah of God, the one who was promised. And though he was crucified, He rose gloriously from the dead, appearing to his disciples, and having been exulted at the right hand of the Father through his ascension, now summons all to him, through the ministry of the Church. This proclamation (kerygma) requires a response from us, that we should repent of our sins, accept baptism, and live in the new life which Christ is offering. This alone will prepare us for the coming judgment that is to come upon all humanity. There is an urgent need to conform ourselves to Christ and be prepared by him for the coming judgment.”

Does this sound familiar? It describes many sermons I have heard, from street-preachers in New York City, to downtown Smalltown, Bible-Belt USA, from TV evangelists, great and not-so-great, from pastors in community bible churches across the expanse of Christian denominations. The kerygma, when preached with power, can be heard with powerful effect in the human heart – with eternal consequences, bringing joy to the angels and saints in heaven, when souls are awakened to saving life in Jesus Christ.

I almost never hear the kerygma in a Catholic Church. Not in a homily, not in a parish mission, not from a pastor, not from an itinerant Catholic evangelist, not in an adult Bible Study, not on a Catholic retreat or Day of Prayer. I say “almost” because I have heard it, on precious but rare occasions, within the Catholic Church. I think it is more often presumed, than proclaimed. Just as the foundation in Catholics of living faith in Christ is presumed, as solid formation in that faith is presumed, as knowledge of Catholic moral teachings is presumed – and thus there is no need to preach or teach what might be offensive or contentious or – heaven forbid – divisive. If the foundation of the house is weak or absent, then the fear of actually building upon it is reasonable! No one wants to stir up the air, around a house of cards. If the foundation of living faith in Christ is weak or absent, then what, exactly, is ground-level in the hearts of the assembly for Sunday morning Mass?

The kerygma is essential, because it is foundational. Faith in Christ as Lord and Savior is essential! But if the 90-90 saying is correct (“90 percent of Catholics receive 90 percent of their information and inspiration from Sunday Mass” – (2)), then 90% of Catholic adults may never – never – have heard the life-changing truth, preached with power, that the first 3000 members of the Church heard from Peter, our first Pope.

Foundational weakness or absence may explain the fact that most Catholics do not have the time or inclination for the life of discipleship in the faith, that followed in the lives of those first 3000:

Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.
43 Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.
44 All who believed were together and had all things in common;
45 they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need.
46 Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart,
47 praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

The symptoms beg the question, Why? Why are the foundations so weak or non-existent? Why is the basic, foundational kerygma so rarely preached in Catholic parishes, or retreats, or even “missions”? Why have so many Catholics never been presented – or confronted – with the most important decision of a human life? In the end, there is eternal life, or eternal death. It makes a very big difference, the road taken at the very foundation of the human heart. What – or Who – is the explanation for your life? Who are you? Whose are you?

notes:

(1) http://blog.adw.org/2012/10/what-do-we-mean-by-the-term-kerygma/

(2) Anecdotal – not given as a precise statistic! Quoted in “Laying the Foundation for Forming Disciples in Our Parishes”, Fr. Matthew J. Albright, HPR: http://www.hprweb.com/2015/01/laying-the-foundation-for-forming-disciples-in-our-parishes/

Posted by: Thomas Richard | January 13, 2015

Maternal Martyrdom

Pope Francis, in his Wednesday Audience of Jan.7, 2015, recently quoted Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero in which the later martyred Archbishop used this poignant and revealing phrase, “maternal martyrdom.” The Pope reflected on the remarkable, beautiful generosity of self-gift that God put into the souls of women, which is so often seen in mothers. The Archbishop is quoted (indeed at the funeral of a priest killed by death squads):

We must all be ready to die for our faith, even if the Lord does not grant us this honor … to give one’s life does not only mean to be killed; to give one’s life, to have the spirit of martyrdom, is to give in duty, in silence, in prayer, in the honest fulfillment of one’s duty; in the silence of daily life; to give one’s life little by little. Yes, as a mother gives it who, without fear, with the simplicity of maternal martyrdom, conceives a child in her womb, brings him to life, nurses him, helps him grow and attends to him with affection. It is to give one’s life. It is martyrdom.

The Pope thanked and blessed the Church, and all mothers, and of course our mother Mary, for this simple and beautiful and life-long self-giving that demonstrates for us the Christian way.

All of us are called to such generosity, to such heroic self-giving. It may or it may not be to the point of shedding our blood, of giving the last breath of our bodies for others – we usually cannot know the kind of cross that the Lord has provided for us, personally. But we can know that we are called to live and to give for the life of the Church, with all that God entrusted to us for that very purpose.

It is in the context of this Wednesday Audience that I remember another phrase used by Pope Francis, a very troubling one, but one applicable to a Church that does not live her vocation as mother, but rather is self-serving, self-preoccupied, self-advancing. When she is evangelizing, bringing forth children, nurturing and feeding and caring for them, the Pope said,

… the Church becomes a mother church that produces children (and more) children, because we, the children of the Church, carry that. But when we do not, the Church is not the mother, but the babysitter that takes care of the baby — to put the baby to sleep. It is a Church dormant…

Church as Mother – or Church as Babysitter?

The Church today seems to be very much in “dormant” mode – asleep even as the world outside the sanctuary is burning down to the ground. The Church today seems – at the parish and diocesan levels – seems afraid to proclaim the Gospel, afraid to form adult disciples, afraid to teach the crucial moral doctrines that on paper we hold but in practice avoid, afraid to preach the Catholic Faith with the unction, fervor and conviction that might actually wake someone up in the congregation. The Church is afraid to be mother – afraid to be martyr. And so she does retreat to the easier but deadly path of compromise, and the people and the priests slip into sleep. She becomes a babysitter. (See previous post on this subject.)

And the result of generations of babysitting is inevitable: a church of babies in the Faith, and not men, not women, not mothers, not fathers in Christ – but babies in Christ. Those in such poorly-fed congregations that have kept their Faith, and grown in it, and grown to maturity in Christ have in many cases done it on their own, in spite of the formal works and offerings of the parish. The situation, as I have seen it, is dismal. Catholic adults are not being formed in an adult faith; they are being fed pablum, and preached pastoral lullabies. Meanwhile evil is advancing, and the Church slumbers and takes her ease.

St. Paul wrote of such spiritual immaturity in his own day, in the Church in Corinth. He wrote,

1 Cor 3:1 Brothers, I could not talk to you as spiritual people, but as fleshly people, as infants in Christ.
2 I fed you milk, not solid food, because you were unable to take it. Indeed, you are still not able, even now,
3 for you are still of the flesh.

The New American Bible footnotes comment on this sad characterization of the Christians of Corinth. The Bible editors wrote (I have omitted many verse numbers cited, for brevity):

(1) The natural [unspiritual] person is one whose existence, perceptions, and behavior are determined by purely natural principles, the psychē and the sarx (flesh, a biblical term that connotes creatureliness). Such persons are only infants; they remain on a purely human level.
(2) On the other hand, they are called to be animated by a higher principle, the pneuma, God’s spirit. They are to become spiritual and mature in their perceptions and behavior….
Jealousy, rivalry, and divisions in the community are symptoms of their arrested development; they reveal the immaturity both of their self-understanding and of the judgments about their apostles.

In Corinth, “jealousy, rivalry, and divisions in the community” revealed the “arrested development” of the church there. Our symptoms are different, but are of the same cause nevertheless:
– Common are complaints if the Mass should last more than an hour,
– Many make hasty exits out of Sunday Mass before the priest’s recessional and the closing hymn have hardly begun.
– Most who linger in the Sanctuary after Mass do so to chat in normal voice with friends, apparently unconscious of the occasional few who would remain in silent prayer with the Lord.
– Participants of adult Faith Formation opportunities (Scripture/Catechism studies) number around 2 to 3% of Sunday Mass participants.

I can remember the days when a Catholic sanctuary was held as sacred by the people! Talking, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle, was brief, in a whisper, and it had better be important! No more. Today, in most parishes I have known, Catholic sanctuaries are held in little special regard – even though Christ is “believed” (at least nominally) to be present, Body Blood Soul and Divinity, in the Tabernacle. Yes a quick genuflection or bow is observed, an even quicker sign-of-the-cross is done, but silence and prayer are optional, except when Mass is actually underway. Even during the Mass – sometimes even during the Consecration! – messages between pew-neighbors are not unusual.

A lack of reverence reveals a lack of consciousness of the Holy – a lack of depth, of maturity, in spirituality – an “arrested development” in the spiritual life, as the Bible footnote phrases it of the Church in Corinth. In spiritual terms, the children of the Church are malnourished; their growth and development have been stunted: their “fathers” in the Faith – their “mother” Church – have not done their duty to raise the children to adulthood in the faith and life of Christ. The children have been shuttled off to day-care centers and babysitters, the parents have been concerned for their own careers and ambitions; the children have been neglected, and their growth has been stunted. The children can hardly discern the sacred from the secular, the good from the evil, their holy vocation from mere fleshly “self-actualization.” This must stop. The world is starving for lack of true food, and Christ the Bread from Heaven waits for servants to distribute Him to the hungry.

It was a blessing to hear, recently on the news, a highly-placed call for a “revolution” in a major religion, a major correction needed because of a truly deadly movement in the faith that was destroying the message and meaning of that religion.

Egypt’s president opened the new year with a dramatic call for a “revolution” in Islam to reform interpretations of the faith entrenched for hundreds of years, which he said have made the Muslim world a source of “destruction” and pitted it against the rest of the world.

No doubt the influence of radical jihadist Islam on the religion – and on the world today – is very troubling. Egypt’s leader el-Sissi is calling for modernization among Moslems, for “contemporary reading for religious texts to deal with our contemporary reality,” in the words of another leader in the government. These are difficult times for Christians in the West, as well, but for different reasons. We also need a “revolution” of sorts, but not a turn toward the modern secular culture and contemporary popular approval, although such a turn has many proponents today in the West. Christianity needs Christ. The Church needs Christ. We need His life. We need His Truth.

The strange fact for Catholics is, the Catholic Church has Christ! He is not asleep in the boat – we are. He has not abandoned us – we are preoccupied elsewhere. He has not cut us off – we have turned aside to play with a false lover, an enemy of God and of our own souls. Take food now, Church, quickly! Take nourishment, you grow weaker and weaker! Tend to your families, tend to your own souls, help all whom you can that no more fall deeper into this affliction, this famine of the spirit, this bread that does not satisfy nor build up, nor give life. We need Christ! Seek Him, find Him. He is very close, waiting.

Posted by: Thomas Richard | December 9, 2014

The Choice to End Freedom

The title to this article may be puzzling, but it is meant to point to a dark reality that ought to be puzzling to anyone having a mind to think. America today is racing – I use the word carefully – racing toward a complete reversal of the ideals of her youth, to embrace the very ideology she rejected in her beginnings. She proclaimed herself a Republic; she grows and she grows toward self-surrender to dictatorship.

An ominous comment from Benjamin Franklin came at the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787. A woman asked him, as he left Independence Hall on the final day of its deliberation, “Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?” It is recorded and reported that he responded, simply, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” (Link: http://www.bartleby.com/73/1593.html)

It is a common way of speaking to say, “I am afraid” of this, or “I am afraid” of that. In one sense I am afraid that we are losing our republic, at a rate that is accelerating – racing – us toward “no choice but to end choice.” We seem to be losing the moral strength and competence to have freedom. We cannot be trusted with freedom any more; our society shows itself unworthy of freedom. We lack the moral vision, fortitude, virtue and character to live freely with one another.

America has changed – radically – in my own (it seems so brief!) lifetime. We have lost the sense of “one-anotherness” that allows peace and social cohesion. We have allowed ourselves to be fractured, separated into special-interest groups at odds with one another – victims versus victimizers, perpetually in a stance against one another, pawns on a chessboard of politics. In the reign of our first post-racial President we see not the “one America” that the whole country hoped for, and voted for. We see instead the fracturing and dividing, increasing – and the racial hostility only spreading, multiplying and intensifying. Under a president promoted as a constitutional scholar, we have seen the upending of constitutional process – now distorted almost beyond recognition. Executive-branch, unelected, executive-appointed “Departments” rule over many by Office edict – in mandatory “regulations” imposed without any formal need to be voted into law – while the two elected houses of Congress are frozen in inaction and/or irrelevance.

I came across a simple analysis by a notable preacher and educator – a powerful evangelist – of the 19th century, Charles Finney. (Links: Charles Finney, Human Governments from Systematic Theology. 1851.  )  I cannot endorse his theology, but I appreciate some of his insights. He wrote this of government:

“The particular forms of state government must, and will, depend upon the virtue and intelligence of the people.

(1.) Democracy is self-government, and can never be safe or useful except so far as there are sufficient intelligence and virtue in the community to impose, by mutual consent, salutary self-restraints, and to enforce by the power of public sentiment, and by the fear and love of God, the practice of those virtues which are indispensable to the highest good of any community.
(2.) Republics are another and less pure form of self-government.
(3.) When there are not sufficient intelligence and virtue among the people to legislate in accordance with the highest good of the state or nation, then both democracies and republics are improper and impracticable, as forms of government.”

This last comment is particularly piercing to the heart, concerning the prerequisites of a democracy or a republic (we in America have – or had) a democratic republic. In our morally impoverished culture – that St. Pope John Paul II called a “culture of death” – both intelligence and virtue have been assaulted, attacked, warped, redefined and painted over with the thin watercolors of a new morality. What is this new morality? It is simply today’s political correctness, today’s political needs, tailored to the political advantages needed at the moment. There is an even darker force and presence at work here, however. To that I will return shortly.

Mr. Finney continues his analysis of political systems, and the correlation of form of government needed with the moral stature of the people governed. He writes, concerning societies that do not have “sufficient intelligence and virtue among the people”:

(4.) When there is too little intelligence and virtue in the mass of the people to legislate on correct principles, monarchies are better calculated to restrain vice and promote virtue.

It is ironic that in the case of America, the framers of the constitution giving us a democratic republic, were breaking us free precisely from a monarchy in England. Thus the question having an unclear answer was, does this society/nation being formed as separate from England in fact have the “sufficient intelligence and virtue among the people” to sustain a democratic republic? Dr. Franklin answered that the fathers did set such a government in place – but adding, “If you can keep it.” That Convention was in 1787 – almost 230 years ago. Are we now in need of a monarchy? Or is there a trustworthy monarchy possible? Where would we get such a monarch? Or is the possible replacement for a failed republic, here in America, likely worse a possibility than that? Mr. Finney then continued moving down, on his scale of societies:

(5.) In the worst states of society, despotisms, either civil or military, are the only proper and efficient forms of government. It is true, indeed, that a resort to despotic government is an evil, and all that can be truly said is, that in certain states of desperate anarchy, despotic government is the less of two evils.

The national debt of the U.S. is now over 18 trillion dollars. America is living on borrowed money and borrowed time. The interest alone on such debt could cripple the nation, especially given our current demographics, entitlement costs and economic foundation. The greatest threat to our society, however, is not economic nor is it racial nor ethnic nor any other merely human condition. It is not the growing animus around the world against the U.S. generally, nor radical Islamic terrorism nor a resurgent Russia nor an emerging China. Rather, I say in agreement with Charles Finney, it is the collapse of “sufficient intelligence and virtue among the people,” in America. Possession of those qualities alone, Mr. Finney wrote, can insure stability for a democratic or a democratic-republic form of government. I completely agree. He wrote:

(6.) When virtue and intelligence are nearly universal, democratic forms of government are well suited to promote the public good.
(7.) In such a state of society, democracy is greatly conducive to the general diffusion of knowledge on governmental subjects; and although, in some respects, less convenient, yet in a suitable state of society, a democracy is in many respects the most desirable form of government.”

America has lost her “nearly universal” agreement in principle with the Judeo-Christian ethic, and sense of virtue. America has lost her “nearly universal” sense of what “intelligence” means – what is intelligent in matters of moral conduct, in matters of what ought to be unlawful and what ought to be legally protected, in what is just and what is unjust, in what is socially beneficial and what is socially harmful, in what is socially expected of a citizen and what is irrelevant and no one’s business but the individual, and so on and on. The foundation has been lost, and nothing but political correctness and the power of might to define right, remains.

When anarchy erupts in a nation, many are willing and glad to hand over individual freedom – so abused in eruptions of anarchy, riot and lawlessness – to an entity with the power to restore order. Thus enters a dictator, and thus ends freedom – the end of freedom, freely chosen in the terror of anarchy and lawlessness. There is a dictator waiting in the wings, and his heart is of evil.

Is there another end to this awful scenario? Is there another option? Another answer for us?

The answer ought to be the Church, witness and sacrament in the world to God’s way, for societies and nations, for virtue and intelligence, for the way for human persons to find and to keep one-another relationships. Jesus Christ entrusted His Church with the way, the truth and the life that brings human personal and social harmony and peace! Jesus showed us virtue! He showed us right knowledge, wisdom and understanding! Why does the Church say so little, as the society around us grows in degradation, corruption, lies and deceit? Why does the Church offer so little to a world starving for lack of truth, virtue, and understanding?

Parishes continue with their programs, their fund raisers, their financial appeals for the status quo, their dinners, their socials, their new pipe organs, their school trips and and their committee meetings. Where is the outreach to the world in the name of Christ? Where is the evangelization, the making disciples, the proclamation of the Word with burning and urgent zeal? Where is the life, in the midst of this culture of death?

The answer to the darkness ought to be the light entrusted to the Church. Too many in the Church continue asleep, taking their ease.

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 (LifeSiteNews.com) – 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 LifeSiteNews.com 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.

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