Posted by: Thomas Richard | May 14, 2016

Catholics: It is Time to Awaken!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by: Thomas Richard | April 25, 2016

Public Restrooms and Public Insanity

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by: Thomas Richard | April 13, 2016

The Great Banquet – Pope Francis: Phase II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phase II: Enter Pope Francis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phase III:

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

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

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

An example of an external constraint is:

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

An example of an interior constraint is:

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

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

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

Posted by: Thomas Richard | March 1, 2016

A Presidential Election Like No Other

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by: Thomas Richard | February 27, 2016

Thoughts in this time of Lent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

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