Remembering those who serve.
Pope Francis gave a hard-hitting homily during his daily morning mass.
“We are all sinners,” he said. “But we are not corrupt. The corrupt remain in a state of self-sufficiency and don’t understand humility.”
This is a homily for the “Christian” West, if there ever was one.
What sort of people take part in Catholic Volunteer Services? How does volunteering affect their lives?
The short answer is good people, whose lives are enhanced by the experience.
Latin is an excellent way to learn English.
Does that sound counter-intuitive?
It’s based on my own experience of studying Latin. I don’t know that I learned much Latin, but the study of it taught me the English language inside out. Studying Latin was a beneficial activity for me that I do not regret in the least.
Nothing gets arguments going like the subject of the Catholic Church and Latin. I’ve seen remarkably exaggerated comments from people on both sides of this discussion. To me, Latin is a language, and like every other language, it is a tool for communication. The Latin that we use today is easy stuff, mainly because it’s a dead language. That means it doesn’t have the burden of idioms from common usage to muddy it.
We basically use the Latin of the great Roman poets, not the every day Roman. It is simple and clear. For that reason, studying Latin is an effective prism for viewing a huge mess of a language like English. Latin allows the student to boil English down to its skeletal roots and see how it hangs together from the inside.
I’m not quite so enthusiastic about Latin as liturgy. I think it had a place once upon a time, and still has a place in a limited usage, even today. But the mass is more than the language in which it is prayed. The mass is communion and communication. It is prayer, worship, and mystery, all rolled into one.
Wrapping all this in a language that is inaccessible to most people can easily push the mystery over the edge into magic. The mass is many things, but it is not an incantation. The Eucharist, which is the sum total of the Church itself, is the point where heaven and earth meet. It is the simple and plain way in which ordinary people can reach out and touch the living Christ and, like the woman who touched the hem of His garment, be healed.
It is not a magic charm and it is not a superstition.
For many people the Latin mass deepened the mystery of the mass to the point that it became inaccessible. Rather than the reverence which proponents of the Latin mass feel and miss, it became something that verged on superstition for a lot of people.
Mass in the vernacular is an antidote for that. By making the mass accessible, it allows people who are willing to bring worshipful hearts to their mass attendance to enter into the upper room.
The mass is a re-creation of Calvary. It is where heaven and earth meet in the Eucharist which is given for all. As such, it should be both beautiful and accessible. That’s why I dislike it when the liturgists load it down with ugly words like “consubstantial.” Not only is this language inaccessible to many people, it is flat-out ugly. I think that it challenges the reverence that the mass is due with this ugliness.
As for the question of whether or not Latin is making a comeback, I hope it is. Latin is a beautiful language. Studying Latin is a useful enterprise. The Latin mass should be an option for those who benefit from it and who grow spiritually by participating in it.
But the mass needs to be accessible. After all, the mass brings us into contact with a Savior Who spoke to us about rainfall and harvests, lost coins and wedding feasts. If He could be accessible, so should the celebration of His Body and Blood.
I know that those are fighting’ words. So now that I’ve said them I’ll back off and let the discussion begin.
Cardinal Dolan is stepping down as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. I imagine that he has mixed feelings about this.
On the on the one hand, an enormous amount of responsibility, as well as the stress of being the public face of the Catholic Church in America, will be lifted off him. On the other hand, he’s so good at it, that he’s bound to enjoy it. I’m sure that after he steps down, he will both miss it and be glad it’s gone.
In the meantime, here is a run down on the list of candidates. Given the tumultuous times the Church is facing, I pray the bishops chose Cardinal Dolan’s successor wisely.
After all the hullaballoo, it turns out that the Vatican is not seeking input from the laity about it teachings, procedures, or anything else.
The survey the Vatican announced a week ago is designed to collect raw data at the diocesan level. It is not, as the popular press implied, a poll of the laity on Church doctrine and discipline. The data will be used as a resource in the 2014 Synod.
I’ve seen the survey, and I hope that it is not fully reflective of the issues that will be considered in the Synod. I am concerned that it is too focused on the needs of “new” family structures and not enough on how the Church can better support the traditional family.
I realize that the problems and the noise from those in “new” family structures tends to focus Vatican attention. But while those in “new” family structures are making all the demands and creating all the fuss, traditional families are quietly foundering.
Men and women, husbands and wives, in traditional Catholic families need a lot — and I mean a lot — more teaching and support, both spiritual and practical, from their Church. I hope that the bishops do not have the idea that what the Church is doing now to support traditional families within their care is enough. It simply is not, and I point to the need for this survey on “new” family structures as an indication of how serious the problem is becoming.
The huge increase in these “new” family structures which predicates surveys and Synods on how to deal with them is, to a great extent, testimony to the fact that traditional families have been suffering and failing. Traditional family has been under unremitting, concerted attack for almost 5 decades now. The Church needs to change how it supports traditional families to reflect this reality.
We need new and more inclusive ways of nurturing healthy Catholic families for the simple reason that traditional Christian families are under such enormous destructive pressure in this post Christian society. This destructive pressure bears down on every area of family life, from the way jobs are constructed, to social pressures, to the propaganda our children are inundated with in the public schools.
As Yogi Beara said, “The future ain’t what it used to be.”
If the church truly is a community, building healthy Catholic families by providing practical support of many types has to be part of its ministry.
From the National Catholic Register:
Vatican Collecting Diocesan Data, Not Lay Opinions in Worldwide Survey
Multiple media reports have given rise to the misconception that Pope Francis is polling Catholics for their views on Church teaching and practices.
Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/vatican-collecting-diocesan-data-not-lay-opinions-in-worldwide-survey?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NCRegisterDailyBlog+National+Catholic+Register#When:2013-11-8%2022:12:01#ixzz2kAjgql7O
Will Illinois create discrimination in the name of ending discrimination?
Illinois’ bill redefining marriage to include same-sex “marriages,” is on the governor’s desk, awaiting his signature.
Proponents of the bill say that ti will end discrimination against homosexuals. Others are concerned that a lack of exemptions for individuals and small business owners, including one-owner businesses, will allow coercion and a violation of these citizen’s basic right to religious freedom.
One thing that is commonly (and I think, deliberately) overlooked in discussions of this issue is that religious freedom and freedom of conscience are basic human rights.
From The Chicago Tribune:
Illinois’ gay marriage bill that awaits the governor’s signature doesn’t force religious clergy to officiate at same-sex weddings or compel churches to open their doors for ceremonies. But similar safeguards aren’t spelled out for pastry chefs, florists, photographers and other vendors who, based on religious convictions, might not want to share a gay couple’s wedding day.
The lack of broader exceptions worries some who fear an erosion of religious freedoms, even as supporters of the law say it will eliminate discrimination.
“We’re going to have to wait for lawsuits to arrive,” said Peter Breen, an attorney with the Thomas More Society, a socially conservative legal group.
President Obama has used his mighty law-making pen to require all insurance carriers to provide coverage for mental health treatment and addiction in the same manner as they do physical illnesses.
This is part of a package of regulations designed to stop the mass shootings this country has experienced. The proponents of this action say that it will not result in a large increase in the cost of health care coverage. I do not believe that. I think it will cost a huge amount.
I have unhappy family experience with addiction, and I don’t have much hope that this measure will curb the plague of drug addiction and alcoholism that is warping our society. I’ve seen what happens when people are sentenced to drug treatment by the courts. I’ve also seen what happens when their family persuades them to go to an expensive treatment program.
The drug treatment plan my family member attended because of court order was a scam. The family member was supposed to be in residence 24/7 as part of their treatment, but they came and went as they chose. There was no effort to enforce the rules or kick this person out. The treatment facility was raking in government money and not even enforcing its own rules with people that were sentenced to it by the courts.
I’ve also had unhappy experience with an expensive (very expensive) private treatment program. I went to meetings for family members and did the whole nine yards. The place was full of doctors, police, and others who had been sent there in order to keep their professional standing. They were not sorry. About anything.
The viewpoint expressed in meetings was that their families, friends and colleagues were … I can’t repeat the language … for being angry with them for the things they’d done in their addictions. These were privileged people, doing the doh-si-doh required for them to keep their license.
My family member went through the program and then got out and went right back to using.
On the other hand, I have seen people stop using and rebuild their lives and reclaim their souls just by going to the entirely free and voluntary Alcoholics Anonymous program.
No drug treatment program will help people who don’t want to be helped, and if someone really wants to stop, the expensive programs aren’t necessary. Also, the ones I’ve seen are overpriced — massively overpriced — and catering to their clientele more than they are treating them. Many of them are just raking in government money and processing people with no real concern about treating them.
I am concerned that the mental health care that will come about as a result of this ruling will be somewhat the same.
We have taken the idea of “treatment” as a panacea for ghastly behavior to the max. I have read that some of the young men who have killed large numbers of people in these mass murders were mentally ill. However, most of them were also from privileged well-to-do families with access to any care they needed. In fact, at least one of them that I’ve read about was under treatment at the time he committed the murders.
I am not opposed to mental health care for mentally ill people. In fact, I support it.
But I think that using this treatment as a catch-all cure for what are much deeper social ills will not and can not work. I think it is dodging the real issues, which are complex and require more of us as a society than just paying for some “expert” to fix people for us. I also think that simply handing over the money without stringent requirements about the quality of care is a mistake.
Drug addiction treatment, in particular, is, at least in my experience, over-priced and under-effective unless the person receiving the treatment truly wants to change and is motivated to endure what it takes to do that. In that case, free programs such as Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous are effective. In fact, from what I’ve seen, Alcoholics Anonymous is actually far more effective and beneficial than expensive treatment programs.
I realize that desperate family members who drain their life savings to send their loved ones to treatment for their addictions are doing it because the person they love will not go to meetings, do the work and endure the suffering required to heal from their addiction. They are losing someone they love and they are willing to do anything — including destroy themselves financially — to save them.
I have felt the same desperation and grieved the same grief over someone I love who is caught in the living death of addiction.
However, I speak from experience with the tragedy of addiction when I say that it’s up to the addicted person to want to change. If they ever reach the point that they are motivated to get help because they want to change for themselves, then AA or AN will do a fine job of helping them heal. Otherwise, bankrupting yourself will not help them.
By the same token, forcing insurance companies to open their coffers to pay for these outrageously expensive drug treatment programs will not help people who do not want to change, either. Statements that this will not raise the cost of health care are nonsense. These programs are massively expensive.
Since health insurance is now on the government dole, it will almost certainly end up contributing to our burgeoning national debt.
I wish there was a magic cure for these problems, but there isn’t.
From the New York Times:
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Friday will complete a generation-long effort to require insurers to cover care for mental health and addiction just like physical illnesses when it issues long-awaited regulations defining parity in benefits and treatment.
The rules, which will apply to almost all forms of insurance, will have far-reaching consequences for many Americans. In the White House, the regulations are also seen as critical to President Obama’s program for curbing gun violence by addressing an issue on which there is bipartisan agreement: Making treatment more available to those with mental illness could reduce killings, including mass murders.
In issuing the regulations, senior officials said, the administration will have acted on all 23 executive actions that the president and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. announced early this year to reduce gun crimes after the Newtown, Conn., school massacre. In planning those actions, the administration anticipated that gun control legislation would fail in Congress as pressure from the gun lobby proved longer-lasting than the national trauma over the killings of first graders and their caretakers last Dec. 14.
“We feel actually like we’ve made a lot of progress on mental health as a result in this year, and this is kind of the big one,” said a senior administration official, one of several who described the outlines of the regulations that Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, will announce at a mental health conference on Friday in Atlanta with the former first lady Rosalynn Carter.
The Supreme Court heard arguments this week on whether or not the town of Greece NY had violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The reason? Most of the prayers that opened its city council meetings were given by Christians.
From what I’ve read, Greece opened its city council meetings with prayers from many faiths through the years, including Jewish and pagans. The argument is that most of the prayers were offered by Christians, which means …
Evidently it means that Americans United for Separation of Church and State found a couple of people to say that this offended them and were who willing to be plaintiffs in a court case. This Court case has ended up at the United States Supreme Court.
The issue in Town of Greece v Galloway, as described on the Supreme Court Blog, is …
Issue: Whether the court of appeals erred in holding that a legislative prayer practice violates the Establishment Clause notwithstanding the absence of discrimination in the selection of prayer-givers or forbidden exploitation of the prayer opportunity.
What is the establishment clause that gives the federal government the right to intrude into small-town city council meetings and censure the speech of citizens who address those meetings? Just this: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.
That clause, (which, by the way is an accurate description of it, it is a clause and not a sentence) is the pry bar that those who hate religion in general and Christianity in particular have used for decades to attack the presence of religious speech in the public sphere.
Of course, the clause is not a sentence. Here the entire sentence in which this clause rests: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Those of you who read the comments on this blog might have noticed that there is a group that decries the fact that these rights — all of them, by the way — apply to Christians as well as other citizens.
“Christians can believe whatever they want,” they say, “but I don’t want them trying to force their beliefs on me.”
They are not talking about mobs of Christians showing up on their front yard carrying torches and demanding that they get baptized.
What they are talking about and speaking against and trying to stop is the exercise of these free rights by American citizens who happen to also be Christians. What they are objecting to is that there are people, some of whom are motived by their Christian faith, who vote according to their conscience and petition their government either by contacting their elected officials or through the courts.
They steadfastly refuse to admit this, even as they maintain the position, but what they are objecting to is the freedoms of other Americans to disagree with them and to act on that disagreement.
In other words, what they object to is the fact that Christians have and exercise the same rights that they do. They try to frame political involvement by Christians as somehow or another a violation of “separation of church and state” or, failing that, an attempt to “force other people” to do something or other.
But it is not. All Americans, including Christians, have these rights. That is called democracy.
This one-sided application of American rights and freedoms shows up with boring repetition in the com boxes and public debate. It also shows up in court cases. The establishment clause, it would seem, is the only part of the First Amendment that those who want to limit religious expression in the public sphere believe should apply to Christians.
All that stuff about the government not interfering with the free exercise of religion, or everyone having free speech and the right to petition the government, including Christians, is nixed right out of their conversations and their court cases. These same people will make self-righteous statements about how they support the Constitution, but what they mean is they support their own interpretation of the Constitution and want to use that interpretation as a hammer to beat those who disagree with them into silence.
For the past few decades, the Supreme Court has been playing catch to their throw. Every case that gets tossed to the Court ends up limiting religious expression in public situations. The Town of Greece v Galloway is particularly galling because it is aimed directly at one religious group, and that group is Christians.
I don’t know what the Supreme Court is going to do with this case. But I do know that I, for one, will feel no compunction to obey any ruling limiting my right to pray in public. I say that as an elected official and an American citizen who has the right to free speech.
I’ll pray if I want.
What are they going to do? Arrest me for praying?
From Fox News:
Prayer is a conversation.
Prayer is an action.
Prayer is friendship, love, companionship and trust.
It is not a performance or a recipe you must follow to “get it right.”
I’ve read a trove of books and articles about prayer down through the years, all of them well-meaning, and none of them either wrong or right. The authors of these books and articles seek to give Christians instructions or a methodology for doing prayer right.
The most common advice is to avoid laundry-list prayers in which you just say “I want this. I want that.” as if He was your personal genie and prayer was the lamp. That’s good advice, by the way, for the reason that just listing your wants is not prayer at all for the simple reason that it’s not conversation. It is, at base, rude and presumptuous. How would you feel if the only time you heard from your kids is when they want something?
But the writers who give this advice usually try to help you out by giving you a formula to follow before you present your list of wants. Begin your prayers with another list, they tell you. List your thank-yous. Then move into a list of praises for the wonderment of God’s creation. Don’t forget to ask forgiveness for your sins. After all this, you can get back to the real reason for praying and trot out that list of wants.
The main problem with this advice is that it’s just another kind of clocking in. It is predicated on formulas found in the Old Testament (Think Abraham dickering with the angels over Sodom and Gomorrah) and also mirrors the formulas of many public worship services.
Even though it is based on legitimate foundations, when you go through it as you kneel beside your bed at night, it is not genuine. You may be following the recipe, but your heart is really only in the end piece where you ask for the things you want.
There is nothing wrong, in fact, there is a whole lot right with saying thank you to God for the blessings of your life. There is certainly nothing wrong with pondering His greatness. We all need to confess our sins and ask His forgiveness. It is wise to do this daily.
But you don’t need to go through this whole list of worship stuff in order to pray. In fact, practicing prayer in this way can lead to, well, practicing prayer instead of actually praying from the heart. If it’s a performance, God sees through it, even more clearly than you do — and if you will admit it, you see through it too.
Other people advise that you use a totally formulaic approach. The most common formula used by Catholics is the prayer-meditation of the Rosary. Protestants urge the laying on of hands and a sort of rotational prayer among friends. They also advise “claiming God’s promises” by quoting a verse of Scripture and telling God you are “claiming” His promise in that scripture.
I’m a big fan of the Rosary myself. Prayerfully meditating on the Gospels through the heart of Mary is a powerful experience. I’ve also had groups of people gather around me, lay their hands on me and take turns praying for me. That’s an incredibly powerful experience, as well.
I am, however, not so much in favor of the “claiming God’s promises” stuff. The prayers I’ve heard that were done in this way sounded more like an attempt to bully God than worship Him. But maybe I just haven’t heard it done right. I’ll leave that to people who know more about it.
Still other authors advise that you meditate on a painting or crucifix to focus your mind while you pray. There are those who tell you to set aside a place in your home for your prayers.
None of this is bad advice in itself — except perhaps for the effrontery of reminding God of His “promises” like a lawyer carping at a witness on the stand — and all of it can have positive applications.
However, these various pieces of advice and formula can leave the average Christian with tongue-tied brains where prayer is concerned.
I’ve been there.
I never could get into the first, say thank you, then praise god, then confess your sins, then ask for what you want formula. I tried it a couple of times, and it was dead as dirt for me. God and I both knew I had reduced Him to a little g god of doing it right instead of the big God Who is a living being. So I chucked that bit of advice almost as soon as I considered it.
However, I did drink deeply of the notion that I should not just ask God for things. Unfortunately for me, this led to a deeper and almost immediate shut down of praying altogether. Somehow I morphed this into an admonition not to bother God with my itty bitty stuff.
I almost quit praying for a time, simply because I’d read too many books telling me all the right ways to pray, and the sum total of them was to make me feel that my little prayers were unworthy.
I reached the point that I never asked God for my wants, stopped talking to Him about my hurts and fears and pits and stains, aches and scars. I felt that all this stuff of my life was unworthy of Him and since it was just about everything I had going on in my mind, I didn’t have anything much to say.
When I first found Christ, I chattered to Him almost like a stream of consciousness prayer. I would fall asleep at night, just talking to the Lord about whatever was in my mind. But somewhere along the line, I become too sophisticated for that. I began to try to pray “right” and in the process, I found myself praying to a wall instead of entering into conversation with my heavenly Father.
My prayers got drier the more I censured them. When I read enough books to become convinced that it was wrong for me to go to Him with my picayune wants and needs, that I should only approach God with problems that were worthy of God, my prayers verged into formulaic deadness.
I stopped praying except in church because I didn’t feel that my prayers were worthy to be prayed.
It was a strange time of living faith without conversation with the One in Whom I had such faith.
In all this time, God never left me. His presence was right there with me, but He was quiet, letting me bumble around in my unworthiness.
What saved me was, ironically enough, a prayer. I had a personal problem, a family problem, that was driving me up one side of the proverbial wall and back down the other side and then back up again. It was one of those things I couldn’t solve and didn’t think I could bear. I just burst out saying, “Lord, I know I’m not supposed to talk to you about this, but it is more than I can handle.”
I don’t know exactly how it happened, but I realized as I was praying my desperation prayer about my desperate little problem that I had it all wrong. I was supposed to be talking to Him about these “little” things that make up my life. Because …
My prayers are not “worthy” of Him. Ever.
I are not “worthy” of Him. Ever.
That is the point of Calvary. The cross on which Jesus died is the bridge. We walk through Calvary onto the cross and into God’s loving arms. Not because we are “worthy” but because we are loved.
If you love God, you will find yourself thanking Him spontaneously. When you look into your baby’s eyes. When you finally get that new house. When you find a job. When you lie down at night in a comfortable bed. You’ll say “Thank you” from your grateful heart without any formalities.
If you love God, you will find your awe of His greatness spontaneously. When you look up at the night sky. Or down the tube of a microscope. When you see your child on an ultrasound or stand on a ship and watch a whale break through the water, glistening in the sunlight. You’ll know that He is God.
There is no reason to turn your prayers into formal worship sessions. Prayer is talk. Not God talk. But talking with God, your heavenly Father, Who loves you beyond your ability to comprehend.
It’s not only ok to chatter to God the way you did to your parents as a small child, it’s good. Prayer is putting your hand in His hand and walking through life beside Him.
I still pray the Rosary, by the way. I also pray a prayer of consecration to Our Lady. I do not ever refuse to have people lay hands on me and pray for me. Every single one of these things blesses and sustains me.
Real prayer is conversation and these things are just another type of conversation.
Don’t worry about praying worthily. Just consider that the same God Who made everything, everywhere; Who holds all of existence in existence with a single thought, enjoys your conversation that same way you enjoy listening to the talk of your little children or, as in my case, my elderly mother.
Consider that miracle of miracles. And be grateful.
Then talk to Him from your heart.