How was the Synod on the Family like the United States Congress? Here are four ways.
1. We switched from hoping that they would accomplish something good to praying that they didn’t do any harm. By the time the Relatio came out, most faithful Catholics were just hoping and praying that the Synod managed to get through the next week and adjourn without trashing the sacraments and deep-sixing 2,000 years of Catholic teaching. We were no longer looking to the Synod for leadership, and we were certainly not expecting anything that would actually help Catholic families in they struggle to live our faith in a post-Christian world. We were just hoping that they didn’t start re-writing the Scriptures to suit the ACLU and the scriptwriters in Hollywood.
2. The Synod didn’t seem to be concerned with us, or with the Church. It gave the appearance of being all about the bishops’ private agendas and their fights with one another. At least a few of the bishops seem to be in rock-star envy of Pope Frances. The sound of one’s own voice is addicting, and several of our bishops appear to be in serious need of a sound-bite 12-step program. None of this would have mattered if they had not used their time on air to attack one another, (one of them even took off after the Pope) and to prattle on about their great desire to re-make the Church in their own image. It was a sad, sorry display of ego-driven sniping, carping tom-foolery by men who claim they speak for the humble Carpenter of Nazareth.
3. The Synod exposed a number of the bishops as men who are too insulated, too flattered, too pampered and too proud of themselves to properly do their jobs. Does anybody tell these guys they’re full of it when they’re full of it? Does anyone in the circle of people around them remind them that they are but dust? I’ve seen, up close and personal, how easily constant flattery and being treated as if you were special can destroy a person’s equilibrium. I’ve seen it enough that I recognize its effects on a person when that person is in front of me, or, as in this case, on a news video. A number of our bishops need a year or so of sacking groceries in a t shirt and blue jeans to get their minds right.
4. The Synod talked about Religion with a capital R, but it didn’t seem to care about faith and following Christ all that much. Was I the only observer who noticed how often these men talked about themselves and one another and how seldom they referenced Our Lord? Jesus was mostly absent from their comments, as was faith. They did not give me the impression that they were trying to follow Christ and Him crucified. I mean that. They were singularly lacking in humility, gentleness, common kindness and common sense.
All in all, I was relieved when these boys in red and black wrote up their final results and went home. I am not looking forward to the next go-round at all.
I don’t want pious play acting from my bishops. I certainly don’t expect perfection. In fact, I know that they are as incapable of perfection as any other person who walks this planet. I know and acknowledge what so many Catholics, priests and bishops collude in trying to ignore: These men are just people. I don’t want perfection. I would know it was a lie if they tried to pretend it. I certainly don’t want the stuffy royal distancing that would help them maintain a false facade of holy perfection.
The day is past when the Church can grow and witness to the Gospels on a diet of religious cornflakes and Queen Elizabeth waves from distant clergy.
We don’t need CEOs in miters, playing to each other. We need men who are alive with the call to convert the world. The Church has lost its missionary fervor. It must regain it.
All I ask of my clergy is authenticity. I don’t mean a fantasy, never-sinned perfection. I don’t care if my priests and bishops fall down and skin their knees. I don’t hold that against them any more than they’ve held my sins against me. We are all down here in the pits together in this life and we need to forgive and love one another without grinding our failures in each other’s faces.
My concern about the bishops who made all the noise at the Synod isn’t that some of them are rather obvious snobs and that some of them are in love with being in front of a camera. Being a show boat is probably one of the job requirements for being a bishop. If you’re the sort of person who detests being the center of attention, you probably would never want to be a priest in the first place.
My concern — and it is a concern, not a condemnation — is that at least a few of them are getting dangerously close to abandoning the call of every Christian on this planet, which is to follow Christ the Lord. We are — all of us, from back-row pew sitter to prince of the Church, required to yield ourselves over to Him and His leadership.
I didn’t see that in this Synod. What I saw was a lot of in-fighting and politics, a tiny bit of faith-talk when it fit the scenario and an overwhelming me-me-me. In that it was remarkably like that other all-too-human deliberative body, the United States Congress.
We’re getting snippets of this, and snippets of that out of the Synod on the Family.
One word that has appeared and is floating around like one of those word bubbles above characters heads in a cartoon is gradualism. Even John Allen over at Crux, has made note of the sudden uptick in gradualism talk. “Gradualism … seemed on the verge of being stricken fem the official lexicon, is back with a vengeance,” he tell us.
Unfortunately, ordinary pew-sitting Catholics like me have been pummeled and pounded with moral relativism these past few years. We’ve had the cant of what’s-happening-now talking-head theology thrown in our faces as we’ve been called everything from bigots to birdbrains for attempting to stay true to the Church’s teachings. In times like this, the sudden employment of the word “gradualism” by our bishops as they talk about those teachings fills us with anxiety.
Are our religious leaders going to pull the rug out from under us and announce that the teachings we’ve given real emotional blood to support are now as relative as the larger society has told us they are? The anxiety, which runs deep in a lot of hearts, is that our bishops are going to end up playing us for chumps for having believed them in the first place.
I’m no theologian, but I think — emphasis think — that gradualism, as it applies to Catholic teaching is that you don’t have to be all the way home to perfection or order to be on your way there. It sounds like shorthand way of saying that we are all on a journey in this life, and, in terms of our walk with Christ, we fall down a lot and have to get back up.
The easiest way I can explain what I’m trying to say is to describe my own self at the time of my conversion experience. I had committed the whole library of serious sins. I could go down the Ten Commandments and tick them off. Took the Lord’s name in vain? Check. Bore false witness? Check. Killed innocent people? Done and done.
I was rotten with sin, but the only sin I believed was a sin happened to be something that neither the press nor most of my friends know about. I confessed it to my priest and I’ve certainly taken it to God. I think I’ll let that ride and not confess it here.
Suffice it to say, that I believed I had done something cruel to another person and I was grieved to my core over it. So grieved that, after 17 years of telling God to buzz off, I reached out to Him. “Forgive me,” was all I said, but it was enough.
I experienced a homecoming that puts the welcome given the prodigal son to shame. I was, as Protestants say, washed clean in the Blood of the Lamb.
Buutttttt … I stil didn’t know my other sins were sins.
I know that sounds daffy.
But I had lived by my own lights, been my own little g god for so long, drunk so many gallons of my own Kool-Aid that I honestly believed that, say, abortion, was a positive good that saved women’s lives. I believed that right down to the ground. No questions. No doubts.
I could go on for a long time, cataloguing what I didn’t know about my own sinful state. But the point I’m making needs no further explication, and here it is:
God accepted me just exactly as I was.
Let me say that again: God accepted me just exactly as I was.
I didn’t have to go to the spiritual dry cleaners and get all spiffed up to be acceptable to Him and loved by Him.
I didn’t need to have my nose rubbed in my sins and be humiliated for them.
I didn’t even need to know what my sins were.
All I had to do was say “yes” and God loved me from death to life in an instant of overwhelming grace.
The interesting part is that He didn’t start educating me right away. At first, it was like a honeymoon of sorts. I fell blindly and absolutely in love with Jesus and He loved me back. I felt so free, clean and loved.
And I was.
Gradually, this Being (Who I did not understand at the time was the Holy Spirit) Who had been walking with me since I said “Forgive me,” began to show me my sins. It was gently done. He would show me something I had done, and I would realize that it was wrong.
It was — get ready for this now — almost a year and a half before He raise the question of abortion, and then it was as gently done as all the rest. Just, this is wrong.
A lot came later, but once again, this suffices for the point I’m trying to make.
Gradualism is not just a theological construct. It is a lived reality. What I experienced when the Holy Spirit began the process of re-shaping me into what He wanted me to become, what He had always intended me to be, was God’s own gradualism.
He can knock you flat just as He did me. But when He picks you up, it’s like a mother holding her own precious child. He does not expect you to “get” it all at once, even more than I expected my newborn babies to hop down off the delivery table and start tap dancing.
I knew, and God knows, that we learn slowly or not at all.
And, perhaps more to the point, we learn when the time is right for us to do it.
This gradualism I describe does not say that God’s Word, His Gospels and His Righteousness are relative. They are not. In fact, they are so absolute that none of us can live up to them. That is the reason for the Cross. It is why God had to become human and suffer what we suffer and die as we die to open a way out of our lostness for us.
We can never live up to God’s absolute righteousness. Thanks be to God, we don’t have to.
We are, all of us pilgrim people on the road through this life and into the next one.
Gradualism is simply the acknowledgement of two things:
1. None of us is righteous is His sight, and,
2. He accepts us just as we are.
What we must do — what we must do — is trust Him and give Him our lives and our wills. We must let Him shape us into what we were meant to be, one gradual step at a time. If we presume on His mercy to declare that we do not need to change, that our sins are not sins, then we refuse Him and we will die the ultimate death.
God accepted me just as I was, and then He began to slowly change what I wanted to be. He showed me my sins and I reacted by believing Him and letting Him change me, from the inside out.
That is the key to salvation.
It is also why gradualism is not relativism. Gradualism does not say that sins are not sins. It simply says that we are, all of us, at whatever stage in our Walk with Christ, in need of improvement.
Do not take the concept of gradualism and mis-use it as a get out of jail free card that allows you to willfully continue in your sins and thumb your nose at the Gospels. That is a fearful and, if it’s not given up, fatal sin. “God is not mocked,” St Paul told us, and those who claim God’s forgiveness as a fiat to sin are mocking God.
Gradualism is not relativism, although I suspect it will be bandied about as if it was. Gradualism is simply a word expressing what the old hymn, Just As I Am, expresses. It does not teach that sin is not sin. What it teaches is that the hopelessness of our sins need not be our story.
We can be washed clean of our sins by the Blood and water that flowed from Jesus’ side. We can become true pilgrims who are walking faithfully with Him on the Narrow Way that will lead us to Glory.
Gradualism tells us that we don’t have to get perfect to go to God. That, no matter what we’ve done, we can change and become new creatures in Him.
Because the same Jesus Who told us He was the Way, also promised that He would make all things new.
Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith takes his own view of gradualism here
Nuns Off a Bus. Sisters, arriving at the Benediction.
I don’t know what to say about the whole “black mass” deal.
They did their uggidy-buggidy thingamajig.
I didn’t get near it. And I’m not going to get near it now. If you want to read about the uggidy-buggidy black mass and the brain-dead fools who attended it, google is ready when you are. You’ll find none of that here.
I went to the Holy Hour and Bendiction conducted by Archbishop Coakley. I suppose I could begin writing about all this by telling you that, based on what I experienced, this was a real deal.
I had a hard time getting to the Holy Hour and Benediction. All day the day before I experienced the most dreadful spiritual crisis I have been through since I converted to the Catholic Church. My mind was deluged with negative thoughts, to the point that I began to wonder if I even was Catholic or had a right to enter any Church.
Then, at mass that evening, I prayed and prayed and it let up.
Later that night, I got hit with a sudden and rather violent gastrointestinal thing.
It was at that point that I finally recognized old scratch.
The next day, I thought about skipping the whole Benediction. I felt so terrible, and now I was tormented with thoughts that I might meet a particular person there who had hurt me in the past and who I dread ever seeing again.
I prayed, and knew that I needed to go.
I told a friend of mine that all this made me feel as if the devil thought that if Rebecca Hamilton showed up at this Benediction he would be cast back into hell. I told her that if other people were getting a dose of what I was getting, I feared that the church might be empty.
But, despite all this, I went.
And what I experienced was the Presence and Love of Christ.
There were a lot of young people wearing red t-shirts with Oklahoma on the front. The back read Sooner Born, Catholic Bred.
That’s a play on an Okie saying: I’m Sooner born and Sooner bred and when I die, I’ll be Sooner dead.
The prayer service was, for me, an exorcism of sorts. I prayed more deeply than I have in many months, and during the praying I went down into the seamy side of my own soul and confessed sins I had walked into that service not knowing I was harboring. It was cleansing, renewing and deeply, deeply humbling in the most beautiful way possible.
I think the reason that the devil had such a good go at me before the Benediction was that he had his claws hooked into me already. Writing about ISIS, seeing the photos of what they’ve done to people, is a gateway for satan. That came on top the raw hurt and anger I have about a gay friend of mine who dumped our lifelong friendship (which was as close as family; he was my brother) and who then went out on the internet to attack me — all over gay marriage. Then, there was that person I mentioned, the one I was afraid I would encounter at the Benediction. I had allowed myself to become a seething pit of resentment because of them.
The first two, personal, things, made me an easy target. But ISIS, which is satanic through and through, raised it to an active rageful anger. ISIS, Boko Haram, and all their stepbrothers, are satanic. Their beheadings, rapes, kidnappings, buying and selling of women and children, church burnings and genocides are just as much a black mass as what happened in Oklahoma City yesterday. When they say they do these things in the name of God, they add unspeakable blasphemy on top of their unspeakable actions.
The difference is that, for all its crudity, satan takes off his mask in the black mass and comes out as himself. When he gets inside people and uses them as his instruments on a governmental scale, what you get is Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, ISIS, Boko Haram and al-Qaeda. I don’t know what you get when he comes out as himself as he did yesterday (except a carny sideshow conducted by a convicted rapist) but I do know that Christ is fully able to cast him down with a flick of the finger. I experienced that in a profound and deeply personal way yesterday.
I don’t know about the other people at the Benediction, but I needed what I got there. I barely managed to force myself to go, and what I experienced was a deeply cleansing encounter with Our Lord. It was, for me, a small and much-needed exorcism.
I was in the overflow in the church gymnasium. I got there an hour early, and the gym was already mostly full. I sat on a folding chair on what was then the back row. Later, they added more chairs behind me.
The Eucharistic Procession. I was near the back of the line.
I took bad photos with my iPhone and settled in. It wasn’t until the Benediction entered into its first time of private prayer that I plunged, head first, into a dialogue with Jesus. I found myself, my real self, in that time of prayer. I saw my sins, my need to forgive and how deeply God loves me. One thing that came to mind is so simple and powerful.
Before I went to the Benediction, I prayed and asked if, considering how really lousy I was feeling, I had to go. And He answered me.
Think about that.
God, the God who made the deep reaches of space and time and everything there is everywhere there is, stooped down and answered me. Who am I that God should notice my existence, much less engage in dialogue with me and answer my prayers?
He cares. He cares about us. He loves you and me and everyone else. Think about that, my brothers and sisters. Let it roll around in your mind and consider the magnitude of what it means to say, I prayed and He answered me.
He loves each and everyone of us. He enters into dialogue with us, despite our silly and limited little brains and our flawed and sinful souls. He loves us.
Let me say that again: He loves us.
By their fruits you shall know them.
Jesus said that. And it is true.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. St Paul told us that, and it is also true.
When I read that list, I know — know — how far I am from truly walking with the Lord. God offers me love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. I nibble at these things, like someone sampling a salad bar.
But I save a huge portion of my spiritual plate for resentments, angers, self-righteousness, fear, blame and shame.
The truth is, to the extent that we cling to and protect ourselves, we deny ourselves the free gifts of the spirit. We have to lay it all down on the altar and trust Him.
That doesn’t, never has, come easily for me. I am not a trusting person. If I ever was a trusting person, happenings in my life have knocked it out of me. It is as if someone somewhere decided to teach me one thing and then to reteach it over and again throughout my life: You can’t trust people.
People will turn on you on a dime. People will abandon you when you are in disgrace. People will betray your confidences, search out and display your shames and, when you need them most, deny they ever knew you.
Does that sound familiar? It should. I began that paragraph writing about my own life experiences, and ended it with the realization that I was also writing about the Passion of Our Lord.
He wants to love us.
Why, I do not know.
But He does. And He wants it so much that He became one of us and allowed us to treat Him the way we do one another. He allowed satan to gloat and howl with delight as He was humiliated, stripped, tortured and murdered.
If the degradations of humanity that take place at the hands of satan’s disciples in ISIS, Boko Haram and all the other haters of humanity that stalk our world are a black mass, then, they also are, despite their evil intentions, the reenactment of His Passion. The victims of ISIS are the ultimate Eucharist, in human form. When I am writing about the victims of ISIS, and all its evil twins, I am writing about Him, and His Passion.
Satan intended his little uggidy-buggidy carny show to harm Christ. He can’t get at God, so he tries to get at God through us. He can do that because God loves us.
I allowed myself to become so overwhelmed by the evils of our day, and the sadness of humans hurting one another in my private life, that I gave him purchase in my own soul.
If the black mass was meant as a way into our world for satan, it backfired, at least where I am concerned. I experienced a little exorcism at the Benediction yesterday. God brought me back, snug against His side once again.
For this I am both awestruck and grateful.
Archbishop Coakley, holding the Host aloft.
I am having a blest life. In some ways, it is almost a charmed life.
I say that, not because everything has come easily to me, or because nothing bad ever happened to me. I say it because, in ways that I won’t talk about here, my life is one gigantic save.
I’m a survivor in that I’ve walked — sometimes crawled — away from a lot of crap.
I’m a survivor in that I’ve walked — oftentimes crying my eyes out — away from a lot of betrayal from people I trusted and loved.
I’m a survivor in that I’ve walked right through — oftentimes bitter and angry about it as I did it — right through repeated barrages of very public slams and whams.
I’m not writing this to talk about my grandiose survivability. In truth, I’ve survived things that should have put me down in the dirt because my surviving was to God’s purpose. I don’t understand it all, but it may have been, in a small part, so that I can write this post and say these things today.
Surviving requires one consistent thing of you, and that one thing is more difficult than all the gritty endurance that goes along with it: You can not allow yourself to be defined by other people.
If you are going to survive in this world you must — must — learn to think for yourself about yourself. You cannot allow any person’s cruel assessments of you determine your fate or your relationship with God.
I am writing today about one specific kind of person and one specific type of cruel assessment. I mean clergy and their condemnations and cruelties toward people who get on their bad side.
To my knowledge, there is no kind of clergy — Protestant, Catholic, Jew, Muslim — who is immune to this dastardly misuse of clerical power. They are especially prone to it when someone challenges what they see as their authority, or when someone does something they find deplorable, or, most damning for them, when their followers get into a group hate of some poor hapless soul and they join in to keep them from turning on their preacher/priest/rabbi/imam.
As I said, this post is not the place where I’m going to talk about my deepest wounds. But I will talk about one very public happening that devastated me at the time. That very public happening was the very public refusal of a number of prominent protestant clergy to accept me as a Christian after I met Jesus. One of these clergy was someone who knew me, knew how sincere I was, and who joined in with his “brother” clergy rather than stand up for me.
I made the mistake of trying to talk to these pastors. That was more damaging to me as a Christian and a person than their initial — and I want to emphasize this, very pubic — attack against me had been.
It was, as I said devastating. I felt as if I had been cast out, banned, from Christianity.
It was one of the only times in my life when I hid in my bedroom for several days and wouldn’t get out of bed and just cried. I stopped going to church and withdrew from everyone but my family.
I stopped everything except believing in Jesus. That didn’t change or weaken. If anything, it grew stronger.
This wasn’t my first time to be attacked by clergy. Being attacked by clergy was my daily meat and bread during my first time in office. However, that didn’t bother me on any deep level. I was in my anti-God period at the time, and they couldn’t touch me inside my soul. I already thought they were cruel, so their behavior was little more than a confirmation.
The ability of clergy to do deep, permanent harm to another person is in direct proportion to how much that other person believes they are dealing with someone who speaks for God. When they cast off someone or “ban” them, they can only actually hurt the person who believes in their authority.
Their followers, the seekers and believers who look to them for leadership and relate to them in trust are the ones they can harm. Because nobody else gives a care what they think.
The fact that clergy can persuade people and that this persuasion can manifest in votes in elections has made them the target of a lot of people who don’t really give a care about what they think. This isn’t a matter of taking them seriously as men of God. It is a matter of tactical power politics. It’s a huge mistake to confuse that with the anguish and broken heartedness of those who believe and are seeking acceptance and love.
The person who saved me from total, absolute and permanent alienation from all organized religion was an Episcopal priest. I cold-called her because she was a woman. I could never have gone to a man. She didn’t know me, but she readily agreed to talk to me, came in to her office one day when the church was empty, just to meet me.
She saved me from the despair I was feeling, not so much by any deep eloquence, as her affirmation that I had a right to be there.
That whole experience taught me a number of lessons. It also deepened and re-taught me things I already knew.
First, I am convinced that women have a profound and necessary place in ministry. Men are only half the human race, and when they deal from positions of power with the other half of the human race, they can be extremely cruel.
Second, I know that surviving requires a refusal to give yourself over entirely to other people, and that includes clergy of all types. Because, in truth and no matter what they claim, they do not speak for God. Not always. They never speak for God when they are defending their power and privilege, when they are limiting God’s love and mercy to those whom they like or want to support. When they do that they are speaking from the depths of their own black and sinful hearts,
Third, no one, of any faith, is ever obligated to accept any other person’s degrading and destroying abandonment or cruel assessment of them as if that degradation, abandonment and cruelty is a judgement from God.
Because it does not come from God and is not His judgement. Degradation, abandonment, cruelty are not of God. Ever.
It is foolishness in the extreme to allow yourself to think that clergy are exempt from these sins. It can destroy your faith in Christ, Who, in the final analysis, is perfectly capable of speaking for Himself.
I want to emphasize that last point because it is so critical. I am a living testimony to that fact that Jesus Christ is absolutely capable of dealing with a fallen person directly and saving them all on His own.
In all my years of anti-Godism, I was roundly and soundly rebuked by various religious leaders. I was lied about and slandered from the pulpit on a regular basis. But I never had a single member of the clergy try to talk to me as one human being to another. I never had a member of the clergy talk to me about Jesus and actually try to convert me. Not once.
Years later, after my conversion, a member of the clergy in my district — who was the only one who had never lied about me — told me that he had once asked his fellow pastors, “Do any of you ever pray for Rebecca?” He said no one answered him.
There were people who did talk to me about Jesus, they even argued with me about my anti-Godism. Both of them were fellow legislators. One of them argued gently, lovingly. The other argued loudly and aggressively. Both of them had an impact on me.
I am writing this very personal and somewhat confessional post for one purpose. I want those reading it to realize that no person has the power to cast you away from the forgiveness and love of Christ.
Not only is the love of Christ greater than any sin you can commit, it is greater by far than the self-importance and narrow me-ism of all these bishops/priests/rabbis/imams who lay claim to Him and try to keep Him for themselves and use Him as their personal ticket to unmerited respect and power over other people.
I know this is not a very Catholic post, in spite of the fact that I am, in truth, very Catholic myself. But I am a child of the living God before I am anything else. And no one and nothing defines me other than that. This is the single great lesson of surviving that I have learned and re-learned and then re-learned again.
No person defines me. Christ defines me.
Those two sentences are the bedrock of survival in this world.
Do not let the petty wickedness of clergy and their ego-driven God-ownership issues convince you that you stand outside the circle of Christ’s beloveds. You do not.
Do not accept the cruel things they say to you as anything more than their own sinfulness. Nothing, not even Christ’s own Church, can separate you from the love of God.
Know that, and be unafraid.
Pope Francis seems to be talking about missionaries who cross borders to share the Gospel. I agree with what he says about that. But I’d like to add that we need courageous people who will be missionaries for Christ to our own fallen culture, here in the “Christian West.”
Do you hear the call to speak more about your faith? Is God asking you to share Jesus with those around you? That is a tough call, but we all have received it by virtue of our own salvation.
We have the way to eternal life. If we do not share it with those who are perishing, we are not being polite, we are being terribly selfish.
Ndi Nyina wa Jambo — I am the Mother of the Word
Today is the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows.
I remember years ago, a constituent of mine, a Hispanic gentleman of great faith, talking to me about all the visitations Our Lady had graced the world with in the past century.
Something’s going to happen. He told me.
I nodded and pretended to understand, but, in truth, I didn’t. It was only later, when I went to Fatima, that the great hidden truth of Our Lord sending His mother to warn and instruct us began to take hold in my thinking.
At that time, I was unaware that Our Mother had visited her children in Egypt, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. I had never heard of her prophecy of the Rwandan genocide. But she had visited Rwanda and she did warn them. Our Lady spoke to the people of Rwanda 13 years before the genocide. This is from If Only We Had Listened, by Immaculee Ilibagiza:
… in 1982, all the visionaries reported horrid visions of unspeakable violence, bloodshed, torture, destruction, and thousands of dismembered corpses littering the landscape — it was a prophetic warning from the Virgin Mary that if Rwandans did not cleanse their hearts of hatred and fill their souls with God’s love, evil would win out and a genocide would sweep across the land. Sadly, the Virgin’s warning became reality: The terrible Rwandan genocide unfolded exactly as she prophesied. … In 2001, after a twenty-year investigation into the events of Kibeho, the Vatican formally recognized the original three visionaries: Alphonsine, Marie-Claire, and Anathalie. Kibeho has now become the only Vatican-approved Marian site on the African continent, placing the humble village on the same spiritual level … with … Lourdes and Fatima.
I didn’t know of this when my constituent talked to me about these things. Later, I only knew about Fatima, and what I knew about that was mostly from my personal experience. I knew that the place was God-soaked, and I knew that God had spoken to me there. From that vague nothing-much of an understanding, I began to learn.
What I learned was that Jesus repeatedly sent His mother to warn her children of the coming conflagrations of the 20th century. In each of these warnings, she spoke of the horrors of hell and of the great numbers of people who were going to end up there. She encouraged prayer for the conversion of these people.
Then, she gave what I tend to think of as political warnings: Of the fall of Russia into Communism, of the genocide in Rwanda. Along with the warning, she also provided a solution. Each time, this solution centered on prayer.
Pray the Rosary, she said at Fatima. Consecrate Russia to my Immaculate Heart, she instructed. She added a call to pray the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows at Kibeho. Turn to God and cleanse your hearts of hatred, she instructed Rwanda.
It is interesting — and powerful — that Our Lady spoke of the Divine Mercy when she spoke at Kibeho. The Divine Mercy comes to us through an obscure Polish nun named Faustina Kowalska. Sister — now Saint — Faustina was visited, not by Our Lady, but by Jesus Himself.
The one who turns to God in this world, and lives according to God’s will, can, through Divine Mercy, shorten and even avoid his time in purgatory, Our Lady said at Kibeho.
Repentance, prayer, love and mercy: Can these things really be the answer to our miseries in this life? Mary said this at Kibeho:
When I visit someone and speak to them, I am openly addressing all people. If I am now turning to the parish at Kibeho, it does not mean that I am concerned only for Kibeho or for the diocese of Butare, or for Rwanda, or for the whole of Africa. I am concerned with and turning to the entire world. … Repent! Repent! Repent! … I am speaking this appeal to the whole world. Today man empties all things of their true value. Those who are continually committing sins are doing so without ever accepting that what they are doing is wrong.
The things Our Mother tells us do not change one word of the Gospels of her Son. They do not add to His teachings. They apply His teaching in a direct way to the challenges of our times. I think of them as the best sermons, the greatest Christian teaching, available to us in this world today.
Christ has sent us His own mother to teach us how to follow Him in these challenging times when, as the Anchoress said yesterday, the “center does not hold.” I both agree and disagree with what Elizabeth Scalia, aka, the Anchoress, said in that post.
Yes, we are flinging ourselves off into chaos, destroying our civilization with the glee of an angry child, knocking over a tower of blocks it took him all afternoon to build. But the center itself is unchanged by this. The center is Christ, and He is holding. We are simply refusing to take the outstretched hand of our Savior and be saved. We would rather thrash around in our self-centeredness and drown for eternity in the final and bitter desserts of our own caprice.
Repent! Repent! Repent! Our Lady tells us.
Devote yourselves to my Immaculate Heart, pray the Rosary, pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, pray the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows. Cleanse your hearts of hatred. Fill your souls with God’s love. In other words, chose life, not death.
Because, Something’s going to happen.
My constituent told me that, and I nodded in agreement without understanding what he was saying. Now I can answer him more honestly.
Something’s going to happen.
Yes. It is.
Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Jesus Christ
We pray it every Sunday and at the beginning of each decade of the Rosary. My children and I began each homeschool day by praying it.
It is the Our Father, the prayer that Jesus gave us when the disciples asked Teach us to pray.
This prayer is the answer, given to us by God Himself in human form. It begins with a new way of looking at God.
Our Father, Jesus teaches us to address Him. Not YHWH whose name may not be said. Not I am, the unknowable infinite.
But, Our Father.
For those of us who had fathers in our lives, that is a beautiful image. It betokens a loving, protecting presence. It speaks of always-there Daddies on the beat who kept us safe and taught us love by loving us, who gave us a place in the world that was ours and was safe and was home. Our Father, for those who have fathers, is a beautiful image.
Jesus teaches us to address God as Father. He tells us that He is the Good Shepherd; the protector and defender of our souls.
Jesus begins His prayer with Our Father and then moves to an acknowledgement of Who this Father is.
Hallowed be thy name.
The name of God is like no other. It is the name of the One who created everything, everywhere, who spoke existence into existence with a single word and Who holds existence in existence with a thought. How can we address such a Being? Who are we to call Him Father?
Jesus, who is God personified, God in human form, reminds us that Our Father Who art in heaven is also God, and His name is, as the Commandments told us, not to be taken in vain. We take this commandment too lightly these days, all of us, me included.
We take it lightly because we take God lightly. We have become so inured with the God-is-one-of-us way of thinking that we’ve forgotten Who He is and what He requires of us.
Our Father, Who art in heaven
Hallowed be Thy name.
Jesus follows this acknowledgement of Who God is and the respect we owe Him, by praying that God’s Kingdom will come. In other places in Scripture, Jesus describes this Kingdom coming as leaven in bread and a mustard seed that grows into a great tree. He tells His followers that the Kingdom is now, that it is active in them (and us) when we hear His word.
Thy Kingdom come He prays, knowing full well that the Kingdom is coming, that its spark exists in the heart of every true follower of the Word, and that He is Himself this Word.
Look at nature, look at the long silent passage of time from that first word that spoke existence into existence and today’s world. It is an eye blink of time in the mind of God Who foresaw it from before the beginning, but it is time beyond our reckoning to us. God plants seeds, God sets events and forces in motion. God, the Good Shepherd Who answers our prayers and longs for relationship with us, is also a good gardener Who allows things to grow and ripen in their own time.
The Kingdom is coming in each of us individually and in our corporate history. It is no accident that the ideas of universal human rights grew in the hotbed of Christian culture. That notion was simply the fruit of the tree that grew from that first mustard seed.
Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
The Kingdom is coming in every believer who will trust Him and step out in faith to follow Him. But this kingdom is buffeted and attacked in direct proportion to how fruitful it is. Christ’s followers — His Kingdom on earth — suffer attack from what St Paul termed “powers and principalities.”
The darkness hates the Light. It has from the beginning. Our job as Christians is to be the Light, shining in the darkness.
We cannot leave the world outside our safe circles of faith lost in the blackness of a night without Christ.
We can not leave whole populations to the machinations of dead philosophies that teach death. The proponents of these philosophies seek death wherever it may be found. They lift up cruelty, killing and degradation of human beings and call these things rights. They label them good and teach them as freedom. And always, without end, they war against the Light.
Choose this day whom you will serve, Joshua enjoined the Israelites. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
Jesus took the command to serve the Lord our God and added another to it. Go into all nations teaching what I have taught you, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
We are called to do more than just save ourselves. Christianity is a lifeboat, headed for eternal life. Unlike a real lifeboat, it expands to take in everyone who wants to climb aboard. There is no qualification for entering into the Kingdom other than to accept Jesus as Lord.
Lord, how can we know the way, Thomas asked Him.
I am the Way, Jesus answered.
No one comes to the Father, except through Me.
Our job, as Christians, is to point the way to the Way. We are on a lifeboat headed for salvation, floating through waters filled with angry, lost, drowning people. We are called to shine the light on them and let them know the lifeboat is there, to help those who are willing to be saved to climb on board.
That is evangelization. We should not — must not — be the church that builds the fancy church house full of gorgeous accouterments and then sits, hands folded and utterly complacent, waiting for lost people to find their way to us.
We need to go to them. Because they are perishing. Because He told us to do it.
Our own inner cities would be wonderful places to begin. I’m not talking about ministries to clothe and feed these people, although those are certainly good things. I am talking about bringing them Christ; converting them. I am talking about evangelization.
How many churches in the inner city have closed down because they say all the people have left? That absurdity is emblematic of our failure to do what Jesus explicitly told us to do.
As the moving vans from those churches drive toward the suburbs, they go through neighborhoods that are full of people. They’re just not the people those churches want.
Oh, the churches come back to those neighborhoods. They come to do “ministry.” These “ministries” are good things. They offer help. But most of them do not stay around after dark and they do not offer Christ.
Which of you, if your child asked for a fish, would give him serpent, or if he asked for bread would give him a stone? Jesus asked.
If we give people bagels and coffee, warm winter coats and help with paying their utilities, but we don’t also offer them eternal life, what are we doing?
Do we think that eternal life is too rude to give to people? Are we afraid of being attacked for proselytizing? If that’s the problem, we need to get over it. The people who attack us for that have proven that they’ll find something else to attack us for if we stop sharing Jesus.
The existence of Christians and Christianity is what offends them. The only way we can stop them from attacking us is to follow the world instead of Him. In other words, we can stop their attacks if we stop being what they hate. If we give up our own eternal life and join them in their living death, they’ll stop harassing, hectoring, suing and hating us.
Do we fail to offer Christ along with the canned goods and clothing because it embarrasses us? Are we ashamed of Jesus? Are we afraid that Christian bashers will accuse us of making conversion a condition for our aid?
That would be a devilish thing, if it were true. We need to help people, whether they accept Christ or not. But we also need to offer them Christ as part of our help.
What they do with the offer is their decision. Nobody has to follow Jesus to get a can of beans or a pair of socks. But they have a right as human beings to know that eternal life can be theirs. They accept or don’t. Our only responsibility is to offer Him to those who are dying.
All we need to do is make sure that we are walking in His way. If people want to accuse us falsely, that’s on them.
Who determines your behavior: Jesus Christ, or His critics?
Evangelization is not some new-fangled marketing ploy. It is a Commandment from Jesus Christ. Protestants call it a Commission: The Great Commission. And so it is. Our Lord explicitly directed us to evangelize the world. He didn’t make exceptions, and He didn’t put caveats on it.
Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and I will be with you always, to the end of the world.
Seems pretty clear to me.
Family Missions Company has put out a beautiful new video about evangelization. I think it’s worth watching.