Posted by: Thomas Richard | January 12, 2016

What Time Is It?

“You know what hour it is,
how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep.
For salvation is nearer to us now
than when we first believed;
the night is far gone, the day is at hand.

Let us then cast off the works of darkness
and put on the armor of light;
let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day,
not in reveling and drunkenness,
not in debauchery and licentiousness,
not in quarreling and jealousy.

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and make no provision for the flesh,
to gratify its desires.”

(Romans 13:11b – 14)

Almost two thousand years ago St. Paul cried out to the Church, to know the time that is upon us!  The time is now, he proclaimed – it is now – now is the time, now is the hour, the day is even now at hand.

Jesus broke into the world, the ever-drowsy world of the nearly blind and the hard of hearing,  with the ever-sharp and the warmly calling, the truth of God.  He came as light; He entrusted His Church with His light:

“Be light!
Awaken, and awake!
Beloved, be love, be lovers!
The Day
is at hand!”

The world does watch.
How we need the fire of faith!
How we need to not leave Him,
to not turn from Him,
anymore.

Posted by: Thomas Richard | December 30, 2015

Second HPR Article on the Prayer, the Our Father

A second article on the prayer, the Our Father, has now been published on the website Homiletic & Pastoral Review.  The article title is: The Our Father: Ladder to the Heavens.   As the world seems to only grow in secular materialism, with a corresponding alienation of persons from other persons, with a growing coldness and hardness and detachment among people and groups, we are seeing a very troubling dehumanization taking place.  The fact of the innate dignity that we possess, and that we all ought to recognize in one another, by virtue of our common creation in the divine image of God, is fading out of consciousness and into a distant past.   The world is growing darker.

We need to return to that divine image!  We need to return to God!  We need to rediscover our own precious humanity, and that of others, so that we might begin to recover the human solidarity that ought to characterize all human-with-human interactions on this earth.

Below is the concluding paragraph of the article.  I hope you will follow the link given above, and read the article – and maybe even leave a comment for me and for others to read as well.

This remarkable prayer, the Our Father, can lead us into spiritual renewal. Like a spiritual director, it shows us the way of prayer, points the direction of prayer, leads us in ascent of prayer, to follow our Lord in mission. The Our Father leads us into, and through, the three stages of spiritual life that he intends us to travel and experience, along the way of our vocation to true maturity in Christ. He takes us by the hand as beginners, in the Purgative Stage, and leads us to a doorway of inner darkness, on to Illumination in mystical encounter, and infused contemplation. It is here that we most personally and intimately meet him, and grow to know him, and most deeply hear him pronounce our true calling to the glory of his kingdom and beatitude. The Our Father, the most overlooked and under-prayed of prayers, says it all.

 

Posted by: Thomas Richard | December 21, 2015

The State of My Soul

My last blog post included this:

My main concern then, these days, is for the foundations of the foundation: our individual, personal, person-to-Person relationship with God the Holy Trinity. In other words, I find myself looking within – and wanting to help others in the Church to look within, personally, to find and to renew that life of prayer which defines the relationship we have or do not have with God.

That all-necessary pursuit of the interior life – personally, among clergy and laity –  ought to be a priority in our parishes.  Budgets, calendars, offices, officers, Mission Statements, Parish Council agendas, clergy schedules, Parish Bulletins, announcements at Mass – all the “exterior” pronouncements and actions of the parish ought to reflect the interior realities and needs of Christian life.  What is the truth of my interior life?  What are the needs of my interior life, my soul, the grace entrusted to me beginning with my Baptism in Christ until now?

This question ought to be asked, daily.  Perhaps this question is asked but seldom – perhaps it needs to be asked, now: What is the state of my soul today, before God?

When I look at the externals of our churches and liturgical celebrations, I see great care, great willingness for “the best” – externally – we can possibly have and use in our worship.  Vestments, organs, fresh flowers, statues, sacred vessels, candle holders, professional musicians and cantors, and so on – all to insure a “beautiful” liturgy – all done for the Lord! Right?  Honestly?

I wonder about the interior of it all.  How many Catholics present for the Mass, believe (or even know) “the faith of the Church” concerning the Mass, the holy Eucharist, the Real Presence, the requirement of being in the state of grace to receive Holy Eucharist?  How many are familiar enough with Holy Scripture to hear the Mass Readings in proper context, to know what is being proclaimed, to hear God speaking in those words proclaimed?  How many are living a moral life that can preserve the state of holy grace prerequisite for full and proper participation in the liturgy?  Is the cup as clean inside, as the ornate furnishings of the outside would suggest?

God sees the inside.  Perhaps no one else does, but He does.  What does God seek, amidst all the externals we can become so preoccupied with?

Who may go up the mountain of the LORD?
Who can stand in his holy place?
The clean of hand and pure of heart,
who has not given his soul to useless things,
what is vain.  (Ps 24:3-4)

I remember also this from Isaiah:

Thus says the LORD:
The heavens are my throne,
the earth, my footstool.
What house can you build for me?
Where is the place of my rest?

My hand made all these things
when all of them came to be—oracle of the LORD.
This is the one whom I approve:
the afflicted one, crushed in spirit,
who trembles at my word. (Is 66:1-2)

Advent  is a time of preparation.  Christ is coming!  Make straight the path to Him!

Posted by: Thomas Richard | November 30, 2015

Let Us Pray! Really.

It seems a long while since my last blog post.  I apologize – There is much to write about, these days, much going on in the world and much in the Church.  I find myself drawn to focus on what seems foundational – fundamental – to that which is foundational for the life of us all.  The Church is sent to be light, His light, in this dark and darkening world!  Yet the Church today also seems confused, weak in focus and direction.  If the Church – sent to be light in the world is herself confused and unfocused – then confusion and misdirection is only added to the darkness in the world.  The Lord’s words seem appropriate here:

Mt 6:22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light;
Mt 6:23 but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”

My main concern then, these days, is for the foundations of the foundation: our individual, personal, person-to-Person relationship with God the Holy Trinity.  In other words, I find myself looking within – and wanting to help others in the Church to look within, personally, to find and to renew that life of prayer which defines the relationship we have or do not have with God.

The Catechism teaches, beautifully, that prayer is “a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God. This relationship is prayer.” (Catechism 2558)  Again, “Christian prayer is a covenant relationship between God and man in Christ.” (Catechism 2564)  And again, “… the life of prayer is the habit of being in the presence of the thrice-holy God and in communion with him. … Prayer is Christian insofar as it is communion with Christ and extends throughout the Church, which is his Body. Its dimensions are those of Christ’s love. (Catechism 2565)

I wrote two articles for Homiletic and Pastoral Review on-line , the first of which was just published today.  The opening paragraph of the article is:

The Our Father is simple, easy to memorize and recite, and is thus, easily and often, very poorly prayed. I would say it is abused, is misused, and even is, shamefully, to the point of dishonoring the Lord, who personally gave this prayer to us. The prayer itself, in itself, is so beautiful! It is profound even in its simplicity, immense even in its brevity, luminous even in a most quiet and humble way. The Our Father—as the Lord who gave it to us—deserves better than it gets.

The article title is Overlooked and Under-Prayed: The Our Father.  I hope that you who read this blog will look at and read the article (just click on the title).  I hope you will feel free to comment there under the article or here on the blog.  I’m always glad to hear comments.  My hope is that the article will urge and encourage many to deepen in the life of prayer – to pray more often, and with a greater and growing sense of a dialog of prayer, and communion in prayer with our Lord and God.  A follow-up article is scheduled to be published next month, which goes a bit deeper into the prayer.

Meanwhile, as we frequently hear at Mass, “Let us pray.”  Yes, let us pray.  We need prayer, and the world needs a praying Church, and the Church needs praying members.  Blessings to you all.

Thomas

 

 

Posted by: Thomas Richard | October 14, 2015

Reflections Upon A Coming Election

Election time is quite a revelation.  Since politicians keep close to the mind and heart of the electorate – at least, close to a majority of the likely actual voters – the political campaigns verbalize and emphasize the national concerns, our actual hopes and fears as a society.  It ain’t pretty.  It is not an encouraging revelation.  It is a mixture, true, but the mix is sounding less and less hopeful as the years go by.

A democratic republic is a beautiful idea!  Representative government, elected by the public, power divided and balanced according to legislation, execution and judicial overview – it sounds good, prudent, rational and reasonable.  Mistakes can be corrected in time through periodic elections, discordant views and opinions and philosophies can be harmonized with fraternal compromise.  It all is a beautiful idea if, that is, if the foundation upon which the edifice is build is solid and true.  Is it a rock?  Is it sand?  Is it true?  Is it fantasy, false and deceiving?

The experiment that was named the United States of America came mostly out of European cultures, and the English tradition of law and justice.  Judeo-Christian morality was as commonly accepted and unchallenged as the air we breathed and the clear water we drank.  Our differences were over the styles and meanings of worship, not the duty of it.  Some might have sought freedom from religion, but the vast majority recognized that men who would deny a divine Creator were lacking in reason and honor.  Freedom of religion was a pervading tenet claimed, even insisted upon as a right worth fighting for and dying for.

One crucial understanding of the moral foundations of the culture was the family: it was one man, one woman, mutually faithful until death do they part.  The family was taken for granted, so obvious it was.  Its roots were clear: created in the very beginning God Himself established marriage, and its definition and universal application among men was affirmed by Christ.

Now, in one man’s lifetime (mine) all this has changed.  Not just changed incrementally: changed radically.  Man has succeeded in marginalizing God – expelling Him even past the boundaries of modern society – such that human morality, and indeed even what is thought of as “human nature” itself, has been redefined.  Man is no longer “created in the image of God.”  Now, God is an idea shaped by the opinions and imaginations of the individual person.  God is now “formulated in the image of man.”

Good and evil, once made meaningful in the truth of Holy God, is now relative, subjective, transitory, “in development.”   Man has seated himself in the Holy Place – and all the while, his very heart is decaying into corruption.

The abandonment of God immediately brings the abandonment of reality, truth, goodness, happiness, peace.  Man’s spiritual suicide immediately pervades all society, with the consequence of national, cultural, social illness – grave, terminal illness.  Like the dog gnawing off his own leg, Western culture is devouring itself and cannot even perceive it.

So the politicians promise whatever it takes, reasonable or absurd, sincerely or deceitfully.  To many of them, it seems, the distinction does not matter: for many, “they rule for the sake of ruling,” as Augustine described leadership in the City of Man that opposes the City of God.  America seems sick of “business as usual” politicians!  Yet without building a government on truth – on rock – on that which is authentic and real and lasting – what substantial change can possibly come?

God sent a light – His light – into this lost and dark world!  That light was His Church.  How has our light become so compromised, so indistinct, so dimmed, so ineffectual – so much a faint echo of man, and not the vibrant proclamation of God?  Church, when will you awaken and sound the alarm?  Without your faithful witness to Christ, what hope remains for this world?

Posted by: Thomas Richard | September 7, 2015

When Law Is Made By The Lawless

When lawless men make the law, there is no law. I write this blog article with deep sadness, because I see great suffering coming on this land.  Now that homosexual marriage is the so-called law of the land, the clash of cultures in America has come to a very sharp point. How is a Christian to participate in secular America, where the Christian now must, under penalty of law, do things anathema to conscience and the righteousness of God? Many situations opposed to conscience can, it is beginning to be made clear, arise and threaten the rights of a Christian conscience. A few have already come to light, and the threat is already becoming a promise of more persecution to come.

From an Aug. 14, 2015 article, the National Review on-line had this:

Yesterday the Colorado state court of appeals upheld an administrative-law judge ruling that the Christian owner of a Colorado bakery, Masterpiece Cakeshop, did in fact have to bake a cake for a gay wedding regardless of the owner’s religious beliefs. The owner, Jack Phillips, had declined a gay couple’s request that he bake a cake for their same-sex wedding because he “believes that decorating cakes is a form of art, that he can honor God through his artistic talents, and that he would displease God by creating cakes for same-sex marriages.” Put in less religious terms, Phillips didn’t want to be forced to help celebrate an act he finds deeply objectionable.

In an article in response to this court judgement, Fr. James V. Schall, S.J., commented in Crisis Magazine:

The court said that any “reasonable” person would not say that selling a cake violates one’s religion. The issue, of course, is whether the court’s notion of what is reasonable is itself reasonable.
And if that were not enough, the man has to implement “sensitivity” sessions for his employees evidently to cleanse them of any lingering doubts about the law. The baker also has to send regular reports to the court of why he refused any customer a sale. He can personally “hold” the strange ideas that something [is] intrinsically wrong with gay “marriages.” But he cannot refuse to sell wedding cakes and stay in business.
On hearing this harsh sentence, the baker announced that he was no longer in the business of selling wedding cakes to anyone. Good news, no doubt, for his competition. Similar cases in other states have dealt with photographers and florists, as well as bakers. The baker’s religious freedom under the First Amendment, the court said, could not be used. What has been overturned here is not just a simple baker’s conscience, but, when spelled out, the very roots of our republic.

Another Crisis article (Sept. 1, 2015, also written by Fr. Schall)) focused on the case of Mercy Catholic Hospital in Redding, California which “adjusted” its Catholic policy of not performing sterilizations of healthy men or women, such an adjustment apparently being made reasonable and proper “under threat of a suit inaugurated by the ACLU.” This Crisis article includes this:

… The hospital’s normal practice is not to allow sterilization procedures. The reason for this prohibition is not arbitrary. It is an unnecessary mutilation of a normally functioning human organ and is use[d] simply as another form of birth control. If the organ were diseased, another kind of reasoning would apply. ….
However, this being said, under threat of a suit inaugurated by the ACLU, the hospital in Redding reversed its normal policy. It allowed the tubal ligation requested by one Rachael Miller. A headline in one of the papers or blogs that I saw read as follows: “If You Want to Be Sterilized in a Catholic Hospital, Institute a Lawsuit.” And that, of course, is why this Redding case fits into the other recent cases like the one of the baker in Colorado. Only in this case, unlike the baker, the hospital capitulated. Instead of taking the case to court and perhaps losing, it did something that it itself held to be wrong. Religious consciences and religious sponsored institutions are increasingly required by law to perform acts that they consider immoral.

Now, of course, the latest assault on Christian right of conscience in America at odds with modern lawful sexual immorality is the imprisonment of a county clerk Kim Davis, whose conscience forbade her to allow her name to be affixed to marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples.  A Foxnews report on this summarizes:

LEXINGTON, Ky. –  A Kentucky county clerk has appealed a judge’s decision to put her in jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Attorneys for Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis officially appealed the ruling to the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Sunday. The three page motion does not include arguments as to why Davis should be released but amends Davis’ earlier appeal of the judge’s order.
Davis objects to same-sex marriage for religious reasons and stopped issuing all marriage licenses in June after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nationwide. Two gay couples and two straight couples sued her. U.S. District Judge David Bunning ordered Davis to issue the licenses and the Supreme Court upheld his ruling.

What is the meaning of freedom of religion if one will be jailed for living the religion? The secular culture has redefined freedom of religion to mean merely freedom of worship, meaning singing and praying to your heart’s content on Sundays while confined to an IRS.-approved house of worship. Those brave settlers who crossed the dangerous Atlantic in search of religious freedom, to settle in an unknown New World of America, must be weeping in their graves (poetically – not theologically – speaking, of course).

Persecution can be expected, more and more. The secular culture has become so strong – as the culture of life has weakened more and more, and settled more and more deeply into its couches and recliners of comfort. I’ll close this blog with an article in the UK’s Catholic Herald last spring on Pope Francis, with some quotes from him. This pope here is very conscious of the persisting struggle of the two cities – the City of Man against the City of God – in this present manifestation, the struggle of secularism against the way of the Lord and His Kingdom.

To avoid living like pagans, Christians must guard against the temptation of “slipping toward worldliness and power”, Pope Francis has said. “This is the daily temptation for Christians, for all of us who make up the Church.” …
After the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, the people in the day’s Gospel account (Jn 6:22-29) seek Jesus not “because of the religious awe that leads one to worship God,” the Pope said, but “for their material interests.” When one tries to profit from following Jesus — an attitude frequently shown in the Gospels — then one “risks not understanding” and even obscuring the “true mission of Jesus,” said the Pope.
“Many people follow Jesus for their own interests. Even among his apostles: the sons of Zebedee, who wanted to be prime minister and finance minister, sought power.”
He added: “That fervour to bring Good News to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed and to proclaim a year of favour, becomes obscured. It is lost and it is transformed into something of power.”
The Pope said the temptation to exchange religious awe, “which Jesus grants in his encounter with us,” for profit-seeking has always existed.
Such was the nature of the three temptations of Jesus in the desert, said the Pope: the temptation of food or material goods, spectacle or power, and apostasy or “the adoration of idols.” The Pope also warned that “religious comfort” leads to worldliness, and when this comfort grows, it becomes “that attitude that Jesus calls hypocrisy.”
The result is that “we become Christians in name, in exterior attitudes, but the heart is invested in interests,” the Pope said. The consequence of such attitudes is that the faith, the mission and the Church “are weakened,” he said. However, God “wakes up” Christians with the witness of the saints and the martyrs, “who daily proclaim to us that the path of Jesus to follow is that of his mission: to proclaim the year of favour,” he added.

The suffering of these cases is certainly not that of those thrown to the lions for pagan amusement – but it is not consistent with religious freedom either.  Nor is the legal redefinition of marriage in a way contrary to natural moral law and also to Christian religious faith, and its enforcement as a legally protected human right, thereby sane public policy and governance.  It is insane.  It is an assault on families (the foundation of any society), on innocent children to be adopted, on Christian conscience to be attacked, on this nation to be seduced even further from its righteous foundations as “one nation under God.”  America, will you yet learn to discern true value?  License is not freedom.  Money is not wealth.  Thrill is not happiness.  Lust is not love, and truth is not determined by vote – not of a country, nor of a court of men.

Posted by: Thomas Richard | August 20, 2015

“Unreal Nation” – Concerning a Nation in Denial

In denial of what?  Well, where to begin – in denial of truth, of reality, of the nature of things, of the existence of right and wrong, of the distinction between sanity and insanity, ….

Unreal Nation” is the title of an excellent article that I strongly recommend to my readers, written by Prof. Anthony Esolen in this month’s Crisis magazine.  I warn you, it is painful to read: painful and I hope sobering to some in our country who fail to see the train-wreck that is approaching the USA, at an accelerating speed.

There is a section of comments after articles in Crisis.  I added this comment to “Unreal Nation,” which may give you an idea of the article:

Prof. Esolen, your article leaves me feeling like a man run over by half of the cars and all the trucks on the freeway at rush hour – and then the bad stuff happened. The article is deeply painful, grieving the soul, but true. The best summary in your own words, it seems to me, is “… even our madness has gone mad, so that the man who has accepted the madness of Monday finds himself unforgivably sinning against the madness of Tuesday….” But the best of all, again it seems to me, is the quote from St. Paul, Romans 1:21-27. God gave our hearts over to our lusts, our idolatries, our blasphemies, our hatred of Truth and our embrace of madness: “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools…”

Meanwhile, the Church continues to nod off in sleep.

Eze 33:6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes, and takes any one of them; that man is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.
Eze 33:7 “So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.

Mat 26:45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

Thomas Richard

Posted by: Thomas Richard | August 14, 2015

Being Present to Holy Worship

It is a discouraging experience to witness apathy, impatience and even boredom among persons supposedly participating in the worship of Holy Mass. Some will admit to “not getting much out of Mass,” but they are willing to endure it each week as long as the whole ceremony is brief enough: less than an hour long, so they can get on with “life” when the Sunday obligation is over. Active members of the parish might lament together how hard it is to get people to “come out” for anything other than Mass! Neither religious activities nor “fun-fellowship” activities manage to attract many members to come out and support the programs – though certainly the “fun-fellowship” offerings are the larger draw. One partial solution I’ve heard is “Feed them and they will come!” But the “food” in mind is sadly NOT the “Bread from heaven” that ought to be the vital center of parish life.

In the celebration of the Mass, for example, how can so many not be completely overcome by the miracle of Holy Communion? The Church teaches that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life! As the Mass is ending, how can so many so quickly begin flooding out of the doors even before the Recessional is completed, the Lord Himself still lingering on their tongues, still being swallowed into their persons? How can so many, of those still in the building, launch immediately into the most banal and secular of conversations, even as the organ is still filling the sanctuary with the closing hymn? In other words, what is happening, in Catholics, during and after and as a result of the sacrifice of Holy Mass? What is really, actually happening?

Something is NOT happening, and the Catechism helps us focus on what is needed:

CCC 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.

These four sentences deserve individual attention, with serious reflection:

  1. The assembly should prepare itself to encounter its Lord and to become “a people well disposed.”
  2. The preparation of hearts is the joint work of the Holy Spirit and the assembly, especially of its ministers.
  3. The grace of the Holy Spirit seeks to awaken faith, conversion of heart, and adherence to the Father’s will.
  4. 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.

One important word written here is “precondition” in item (4): right disposition is a necessary precondition for the fruitfulness that the Liturgy is intended to produce. The Catechism repeats this necessity for right disposition:

CCC 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.

Again, the sacraments bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions.

It is my sense – my reflection and observation – that many Catholics who are physically present for the Mass are not rightly present spiritually. In particular, they are not “rightly disposed” for Holy Eucharist because they were not rightly disposed to really hear the Word, in the Liturgy of the Word. The written and spoken Word comes first, to prepare us for the Living Word Jesus Christ! Many physically present in the Mass, however, are not prepared by the words for the Word – they are not prepared for Eucharist by the Liturgy of the Word. And – they were not rightly opened to the words of the Living Word by a heart rightly humbled in repentance at the beginning of the Mass, in the Penitential Rite:

I confess to you, almighty God,
and to you my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do…
(And, striking their breast, they say:)
through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault;
therefore, I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the angels and saints, and you my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.

Lord have mercy!
Christ have mercy!
Lord have mercy!

Our vocation into a human part in the blessed Communion of God the Holy Trinity begins with a call to deep and sincere repentance – as the Mass continues to remind us. On the other hand, a soul hardened against true humility – hardened against repentance – is also hardened against the Good News of salvation in Christ: His Gospel. And a person hardened against His Gospel is not rightly disposed for the Holy Communion He offers us in the Eucharist. The Mass is salvation history! The Mass is our salvation story, personally.

Persons apathetic, distracted, bored in the Mass are failing to become engaged in a process designed to carry them from inner emptiness to God – from hunger to banquet – from an interior deadness to a personal participation in divine and eternal life. But if we fail from the beginning to be present spiritually to the Liturgy, it is very difficult to be present to its end, Communion. Those bored and interiorly absent to the process at work as the Liturgy proceeds through its movements, will find it almost impossible to be present to the glory of its end. The Mass is designed to carry us into worship.

Thus it is possible that in the Liturgy of the Eucharist – in the Source and Summit of the Christian life – the hearts of many are not ready, not prepared, not rightly disposed for Him. They do not hear the prayer of epiclesis calling down the Spirit, nor are they aware of the sacrifice of Christ on the Altar, nor are they awake to the supernatural miracle of Christ come before us – Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. And thus the great tragedy: the Source and Summit of the Christian life, though a present reality, remains experientially far, far away. Jesus remains distant; the people remain untouched, distant, individuated, isolated. So many remain mere spectators at a ceremony, present but yet absent in the supernatural Liturgy of Salvation.

I would suggest that the way to renewal is plain:

  • We need to repent. We need the ministry of John the Baptist – we need to come face to face with the ugliness and horror of sin: my sin, each man and woman – we have sinned even as the all-holy God awaits us, calling us to our destiny in Him.
  • Such a humbled and hungry heart can hear the good news of the Gospel. Such a heart can hear the message of the New Covenant proclaimed in the Liturgy of the Word. Scripture can come alive, igniting the heart with the fire of holy Truth – transforming one’s life! And preparing the heart and soul and body for the foretaste of heaven: Holy Communion.
  • Such a heart could and would fall on its face in worship – worship! – worship in spirit and truth, such worship as the Father seeks.

How beautiful it would be, to be part of such full, conscious and active worship of our God. The Liturgy is “designed” to facilitate such worship: repentance to Good News to the Altar of the Cross, and Holy Communion. Such worship deserves to be offered – but the people need to become awakened to it! The people need to be formed – taught – led to Faith alive, that they (we) might live. Would tomorrow be too soon to begin again, Church, and do what we were sent by Christ to do?

Posted by: Thomas Richard | August 6, 2015

Bishops Standing Firm

Here are only two examples, but they are great encouragements for me personally.  Thank you, all faithful and courageous bishops, who are standing fast on the Rock when so many in the world are sinking in sand.

Bishop in North Dakota breaks off Church ties with Boy Scouts over new … policy

Bishop David Kagan of Bismarck, North Dakota has ordered all parishes and schools in the diocese to end their ties with the Boys Scouts of America, after the Boy Scouts changed their longstanding policy to allow openly homosexual adult leaders.
“I regret my decision but, in conscience as the chief shepherd of the Diocese of Bismarck, I cannot permit our Catholic institutions to accept and participate directly or indirectly in any organization, which has policies and methods, which contradict the authoritative moral teachings of the Catholic Church,” the bishop said.
(Catholic World News – August 05, 2015.)

Another example on the same theme, concerning a woman “director of religious studies” at a Pennsylvania Catholic school:

It’s beginning to feel like every week brings a new story about the firing of an LGBT employee from a Catholic institution.
The most recent well-publicized termination happened earlier this month at Waldron Mercy Academy in Philadelphia. The school declined to renew the contract of Margie Winters, the school’s director of religious studies, when it came to light that she is in a same-sex marriage.
(7/29/2015, National Catholic Reporter)

Archbishop Chaput commended the school for its action:

Schools describing themselves as Catholic take on the responsibility of teaching and witnessing the Catholic faith in a manner true to Catholic belief. There’s nothing complicated or controversial in this. It’s a simple matter of honesty.

I’m very grateful to the Religious Sisters of Mercy and to the principal and board members of Waldron Mercy for taking the steps to ensure that the Catholic faith is presented in a way fully in accord with the teaching of the Church. They’ve shown character and common sense at a moment when both seem to be uncommon.

+Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. 
Archbishop of Philadelphia
07/13/2015
(LINK)

Yes, the Church has the theology right. From the Catholic Catechism:

Chastity and homosexuality

CCC 2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,<Cf. Gen 191-29; Rom 124-27; 1 Cor 6:10; 1 Tim 1:10> tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” [CDF, Persona humana 8] They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

CCC 2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

CCC 2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

I pray that every bishop in the country follow the lead, and leadership, in this matter of Catholic sexual morality set here by such bishops and archbishops. The Church has the theology exactly right: persons battling same-sex attraction deserve our compassion and our help, that they may live righteous and honorable lives. Persons struggling against any temptations of any kind – including sexual temptations of any kind – need the strength that God offers! But no person needs or deserves “enablers” who encourage him in any way, to go ahead and do what is wrong when he is tempted to do so! “Enabling” is not love – it is the opposite of love – such “enabling” is leading a soul into temptation.

Lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil. Amen

Posted by: Thomas Richard | July 9, 2015

Yes, He Is A Priest

BillM-smBlog2Bill was different.  He was a unique person – a unique man.  He was a unique priest.  Once, after a stay with Bill at his apartment in the Bowery section of Manhattan – a second floor walk-up over a pawn shop – I was waiting with Bill on the sidewalk, for a ride out of town.  I had made contact by phone with a priest who was driving out of the city that day to return to his parish, who would be driving near a little one-room cabin deep in the woods of upstate New York – a cabin available for times of solitude, hermitage, and prayer, a cabin owned by a parishioner in this priest’s parish.

Bill as usual was dressed in ordinary secular clothes.  We saw the priest drive up to the curb at the address given him on the phone.  He was wearing the clerical collar – a very unusual sight around the Bowery – so we were sure he was my ride.  He was nervous, making it clear to me that he’d be grateful to load me up right away so he could be on his way.  He was not comfortable in that area of the city, and was constantly looking this way and that as he opened the trunk for my shoulder bag.  He wanted to be out of there.  Bill helped open and close the car door for me, smiling at the priest and offering a few words of friendly small talk, but the priest was in the car and driving away.  Bill smiled and waved good-bye, and we were gone.

Once we were on our way, safely out of the Bowery, and the priest and I had exchanged a few words about my upcoming time in the hermitage cabin, he asked me, “Was that man a priest?”  “Yes,” I said.  “He is a priest.”  “I knew it!”  The priest exclaimed this as he hit his hand on the steering wheel for emphasis.  It was a strange “knowing” – he was not expressing happiness at the confirmation, nor at the recognition of a brother priest, nor at the presence of a priest in the Bowery of New York on the street corner in front of a pawn shop.  His face, his tone, his voice was saying something else.  It was as though he did not want it to be true.  It was as though Bill, a priest, in the Bowery of New York in front of a pawn shop made him angry.  Bill was different; a different kind of priest.

BillM.wpipe.smBlog2Bill was always available to me.  If availability is “poverty,” as some consecrated religious now describe the vow of poverty that they take, then Bill was the poorest consecrated religious man that I ever knew.  He wanted to live poorly, and he did in his humble little “over the pawn shop” one-bedroom in the Bowery.  He wanted to live among the bums, the drunks, the street-people who begged and washed car windshields at the stoplights for change to buy more liquor.  He wanted to be with them; he wanted to be for them, and he was.  This was his home.

Bill was a retreat master, a spiritual director, an expert on Augustine, on John’s Gospel, on John’s epistles.  Most of all, Bill was a catechist: he pointed me and others to Christ, he helped me and others listen to the saving Truth of Christ, he “set up our meeting” with our Lord.  Bill was the wisest man I ever knew: he knew, he was submitted to, he “trembled at” God’s Holy Word.

Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool; what is the house which you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest?
All these things my hand has made, and so all these things are mine, says the LORD. But this is the man to whom I will look, he that is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word. (Isaiah 66:1-2)

It is ironic to me that Bill did not want to be called “Father,” though Catholic priests have that title: he was always simply “Bill,” yet he was in truth a father to me.  St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (1 Cor 4:15)

Bill led me to Christ, and he became my spiritual father in Christ.  That word, “Father,” is a holy word!  A profound word, a precious and costly one, earned by the Cross!   To this day the title seems diminished far more than honored by too many others!  Words mean things!   The Word of God, the Truth of God ought to cause “trembling” on the lips of men – a trembling that reaches to the heart, that brings worship, and obedience, and life.

Thank you, Bill, for introducing me to the living Word!  Thank you for pointing me consistently, humbly, faithfully, in a truly fatherly way, for many years to the one sure Rock on which to build my life.  Pray for us, and for the whole Church.  We need it.

BillM-Color2edited_smBlog2These pictures were taken 30 years ago this month, in the summer house of one of Bill’s many friends, in Londonderry NH, during a retreat that Bill directed for my wife Deborah, another retreatant Bob, and me.  Finding the pictures today moved me to many memories, to much gratitude and thanksgiving.  I am humbled by him, yet also strengthened.  Maybe someone else reading this had the privilege of knowing him:

William J. Mountain, S.J. – “Bill.”

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