Deacon Greg: The Church Teaches That Sex Belongs in Marriage

My hero, Deacon Greg

Whenever I describe my colleagues here at the Patheos Catholic Portal to friends, I usually end by saying, “I don’t know what I’m doing with them.”

Patheos’ Catholic bloggers are — present company excepted — awesomely talented writers with scholarly and literary credentials coming out their ears. They are also people of deep faith with a nuanced knowledge of the Church.

My descriptions of this group always include a star-struck recitation of Deacon Greg Kandra’s resume as a journalist. I usually quote what I think is one of his best lines: I used to work for Katie Couric, now I work for God.

It was great fun to watch the Catholic News Service video below in which Deacon Greg explains Church teaching on sexuality, specifically as it pertains to homosexual sexuality. As usual, he nails it.

Here’s Deacon Greg, video star:

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2013 Favs: Amazing Grace: A Former Prostitute Tells Her Story

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Linda Cavanah is the founder and Director of All Things New, a ministry for women coming out of prostitution and trafficking. In what I regard as a singular act of courage, she volunteered to write a guest post for Public Catholic telling the truth of what “sex-work” really is. The result is a first-hand, no-holds-barred witness to the reality of prostitution. Here, in her own words, is her story

.… anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone, and a new life has begun.

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My name is Linda Cavanah, and I am the founder of All Things New Inc., a faith-based organization providing residential services for victims of sex trafficking.

All Things New exists because of the healing power of Jesus Christ in my own life many years ago when I was one of the women we are now serving.

My cycle of sexual abuse began at the age of 14 when an uncle raped me in my parent’s home.  I was too frightened to tell my parents what had happened and held everything inside for many years.  At that time, I did not realize how devastating that event was to become in my life, leading to a succession of problems emotionally and spiritually. Eventually, the things that were hidden deep within me escalated into a dual addiction of alcohol and cocaine.

My first marriage lasted two years and ended in divorce. I then promptly entered into a common law marriage, and it was during this union that my ex-husband and I began dealing drugs. The drug addiction increased over the next couple of years until I was drinking approximately 13 alcoholic beverages and snorting several lines of cocaine on a daily basis. This marriage also ended in divorce.

I do need to say that both of these unions were not true marriages because we were all addicts and they were not ordained of God.

I moved to New Orleans in 1980 and lived there for several years.  I managed a restaurant and hotel on the outskirts of the French Quarter, and continued the downward spiral in my life.  it was during this time that I became involved with the owners of the hotel, and my addictions had increased to the point of having delirium tremors if I did not get up and have a drink at 2am every morning.

One night we had a party at the hotel, and I went and had sex with one of the owners.  The next morning I woke up and there was a pile of money beside my bed. In the prostitution world, this is similar to being “jumped” into a gang.

There were six men involved in the operation. They each had their own business and then had one together. All of the men each had a woman, and one had control over me.  I was sold to cops in New Orleans (used as hush money) to keep them quiet.  I had to watch pornographic films and then perform those same acts, all the while enduring painful sexual acts behind closed doors.

I wanted to run but there was no way to escape. We were not allowed to use a phone and I was trapped, both physically and emotionally. I was being “groomed” to be a madame for them, and I wanted out so badly. They told me they would kill me if I ever said anything, and they meant it.

 Even though I did not know Jesus at the time, I know He had his hand on me. I was able to leave the situation through the help of another person, and I am still here to tell this story today! I was a single mother to two children, and decided to go to nursing school.  I had a Christian nursing instructor and within a few months I came to know Jesus.

I was immediately delivered from alcohol and drugs, and have had a continual healing from the emotional wounds of my past. Last Easter I was confirmed in the Catholic Church.

God has changed my life and I am eternally grateful. However, there are hundreds of thousands of young women and girls who are trapped in the horrible world of sex trafficking/prostitution.  Anyone who is forced to have sex with other people, is severely beaten and/or has to turn the money over to someone who has control of them is a victim of sex trafficking. Prostitution and sex trafficking are the same thing.

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Sex trafficking is slavery. Young women and girls are made to stand on street corners, or in a room in front of a potential john, and they feel like they are on an auction block, sold to the highest bidder. They endure eyes full of lust staring at their bodies, up and down, up and down, men sizing them up like a horse, not caring anything about them, just looking for their next sexual fix. Inside, the girl is slowly dying emotionally, and probably physically.

I want you to understand that prostitution/sex trafficking is the rape of the body and the soul. Pimps, traffickers and johns are rapists.  Some of them are also murderers.

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Ninety percent of the prostituted women we have helped have had a forced abortion. They are physically held down in the place they are trapped in, and an abortion is performed on them. Included in this statistic are those women who are beaten until their babies die.  These monsters are murderers!  The traffickers starve the women, tell them when they can eat, what they can eat and if they don’t bring in a certain quota, they don’t eat at all.

About a year ago I was called to talk to a young woman who had been severely beaten by a john.  She was black and blue from the top of her head to her feet, and was eating bowl after bowl of food. She said the john had thrown her against a wall and her pimp got mad at HER, so he had not let her eat for several days. Her pimp found out through one of his other girls where she was at, and I found out later that day he drug her by the hair down a street. The next day she was unrecognizable and the pimp had her out on  the street.  Men were still buying her.

Another girl was trapped in a house.  Her trafficker put her in a bathtub of cold water, poured several pitchers of ice on her, held her down until she started bleeding, then threw her against a wall and beat her until she passed out.

We have women who were forced underground and sold twenty to twenty five times a day.  One woman had been trapped for 16 days in an apartment with her tormentors and they had sold her 400 times.  Four hundred times she had been raped!

Women who are victims of sex trafficking feel like a piece of meat.  They are so degraded and traumatized that they sometimes never recover. Their souls and their lives have been stolen. They are dead inside. Multiple personalities abound.  How else can they survive? Despair runs deep and hopelessness abounds.  These victims have a tendency to blame everything on themselves and they don’t realize it is not their fault.  They feel they are falling into a dark, deep bottomless pit.

At the bottom of it all is the pornography that fuels the fire for the demand side of sex trafficking and prostitution.

     Can you hear the cries of the human beings who are being sold?

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All Things New is a 501c3 non profit corporation.

Donations are tax-deductible.

Send donations to:

All Things New, Inc.

PO Box 513

San Antonio, TX 78292

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2013 Favs: 3 Million Line Beach for World Youth Day Vigil

Do you love Jesus?

You’re not alone.

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 Source: Capital Gazette, AP, Filipe Dana

From the Capital Gazette:

Pope Francis drew a reported 3 million flag-waving, rosary-toting faithful to Rio’s Copacabana beach on Saturday for the final evening of World Youth Day, hours after he chastised the Brazilian church for failing to stem the “exodus” of Catholics to evangelical congregations.

Francis headed into the final hours of his first international trip riding a remarkable wave of popularity: By the time his open-sided car reached the stage for the vigil service Saturday night, the back seat was piled high with soccer jerseys, flags and flowers tossed to him by adoring pilgrims lining the beachfront route.

“I’m trembling, look how good you can see him!” gushed Fiorella Dias, a 16-year-old Brazilian who jumped for joy as she reviewed the video she shot as the pope passed by. “I have got to call my mother!”

On the beach, pilgrims staked out their spots on the sand, lounged and snacked, preparing for an all-night slumber party ahead of the final Mass on Sunday. Many of those actually paying attention to the vigil had tears in their eyes, moved by Francis’ call for them to build up their church like his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, was called to do.

“Jesus offers us something bigger than the World Cup!” Francis said, drawing cheers from the crowd in this soccer-mad nation. (Read the rest here.)

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2013 Favs: Christian Persecution: Are We the ‘New Jews’?

Yesterday’s news of fresh scandal and rumors of scandal in the Church left me feeling like the little girl in Poltergeist. Her family had suffered a harrowing attack by demonic forces. As fresh attacks started, she turned to the camera and said, “No more.”

That’s exactly how I felt when Deacon Greg Kandra posted that another of our Church leaders has been accused of sexual misconduct. This came at the tag end of a day in which the Vatican issued a denial that the Holy Father’s resignation was in any way a response to what sounded like a cabal of homosexual cardinals within the Vatican and Cardinal Mahony loaded on with another of his weird, cardinal-from-space blog posts.

My reaction was exhaustion and depression and sadness, all rolled into a sigh. No more, indeed.

This is especially sad, coming as it does at a pivot point in history. The Catholic Church is the only unified Christian voice in the world today. Christianity is under attack as it has not been for 17 centuries, with Christians in many places quite literally under the gun. Even the Muslim invasion of Christian lands and the subsequent subjugation of entire Christian populations that took place in the Middle Ages did not have the universal, multi-faceted breadth of the challenges Christians face today.

What a terrible time for our leaders to become disgraceful, not for their fealty to Christ, which would inspire and edify all of us, but for their overweening self-absorption.

Before I went to bed last night, I read a remarkable post by one of my colleagues here at Patheos, Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, who blogs at The Velvet Kippah. In this post, Rabbi Adlerstein asks Are Christians the New Jews?  He says:

“If you want to understand us, study our story, learn of our pain.” That is what Jews told Christians who wanted to build new bridges of respect after the Holocaust. Ironically, when Christians begin listening to the story of the Jews, they are finding reflections of themselves.

Christians who listened learned of a Jewish history written in blood from ancient to modern times. When they thought of Christian martyrdom, on the other hand, they had to turn for the most part to antiquity, to early Christianity under the thumb of Roman emperors.

That has all changed. While Jews feel threatened by the massive explosion of global anti-Semitism in the last years, coupled with Iranian and Islamist calls for the genocidal destruction of all Jews, very few Jews in 2013 are dying because of their faith or their roots. Christians, on the other hand, have become the New Jews. (Read more here.

The violent persecution of Christians in the Middle East, which is what Rabbi Adlerstein is describing, is part — but only a part — of the tsunami of persecution that is heading toward Christianity and Christians today. In truth, violent persecution of Christians has spread over a good bit of the world. Christians are burnt, beaten, beheaded, kidnapped, raped, tortured and imprisoned with impunity in much of Africa, Asia, the Middle East and various Pacific nations.

At the same time, hate speech against Christians and Christianity has long been tolerated in the so-called Christian West. It is not only tolerated, but actively encouraged on many of our university campuses. Christians are increasingly faced with the choice of losing their jobs or following their faith throughout what has been for many centuries the stronghold of Christian faith.

We need leaders, and, fortunately, we have them. Our bishops have provided courageous leadership this past year against the overt government attack on religious freedom that the HHS Mandate represents. I am proud of them for this. They have my complete support and gratitude for doing it.

We are, as I said, at a pivot point. If we are going to turn back this tide of Christian-bashing bigotry, we must do it now, before it gets stronger. It is a great sadness that we keep getting battered by scandals at the highest levels in our Church in this perilous time.

I know that God makes all things, even bad things, work to the good. Good will come of these scandals. One good that I think we will see is a more authentic and committed priesthood. I am not one to criticize our priests. Based on my experience, I think they do their very best, and that this best is quite good. However, tough times are ahead. We are going to need priests who are committed to Christ to the death. The day is coming when we will need priests who can lead us through the fire.

I believe that these repeated scandals are the result of the Holy Spirit, cleaning things out. I don’t have any more insight into this than anyone else, but it seems to me that God just got enough. These abuses had to stop, and, even though the cure is quite painful, I believe that the scandals and the misery they bring to all of us will stop them.

So it is with the revelations of scandal from yesterday. These things have to be exposed because the Church cannot fail. The gates of hell will not prevail against this Church. There are times when things must be laid open because sunlight and air purify and heal. I think we are going through such a time in Church history today.

This brings me to something Cardinal Ratzinger wrote in 1969, decades before he became Pope Benedict XVI. I am going to quote it in its entirety because I think it is pertinent to what we face today. Read it prayerfully, and remember that St Paul told us, “The one who endures to the end will be saved.”

Do not let the sins of other people, including the sins of our religious leaders, lead you away from Christ or His Church. Do not throw away your salvation because someone else has sinned. Trust Jesus and endure to the end.

Cardinal Ratzinger’s comments in 1969 say in part:

 

The church will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning.

It will be hard-going for the Church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek . . . The process will be long and wearisome as was the road from the false progressivism on the eve of the French Revolution — when a bishop might be thought smart if he made fun of dogmas and even insinuated that the existence of God was by no means certain . . . But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes . . . she will lose many of her social privileges. . . As a small society, [the Church] will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members….

And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already, but the Church of faith. She may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.

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2013 Favs: The Church has Gay Priests? Duhhhhh

 

Is there any adult Catholic who attends mass regularly who is unaware that many of our priests are homosexual?

I have a response for this not-so-startling reality.

Big deal.

Pope Francis recently gave a brief press conference during which he took a couple of hard-ball questions about gay priests. He answered them with what you would expect: Honesty.

I’m going to paraphrase rather than quote because I don’t have what I think are good quotes to use. The various permutations of what he said are spread all over the internet. You can find them and be confused by them there.

Basically, if I understand it, he was replying to questions about a specific priest whom he’s appointed to a high position and who may have fallen off the chastity wagon in his past. This particular priest is rumored to be a homosexual.

If what I read is mostly accurate, the Holy Father said that:

1. If a priest is truly seeking to follow Christ, and,

2. He is keeping his vows of chastity now,

3. Then, who is anyone, including the Pope, to cast him out?

When asked about rumors of this particular priest’s scandalous past, he seemed to be saying that these were sins of the past that have been repented and which are not happening now.

All this is in keeping with the Catholic Church I know and love.

The Catholic Church is the most forgiving, most loving place any sin-shamed person can go. I have sins in my past that are not only really bad ones, but that were extremely public. I can tell you from personal experience that forgiveness is not to be found just anywhere. I was not forgiven, ever, by some people. They basically cast me out of the Christian universe over things I had done 20 or 30 years before.

I didn’t come to the Catholic Church seeking forgiveness. I came because Christ in the Eucharist called me with an insistent call. But one of the things I found is the first genuine forgiveness I had ever encountered.

So for me it’s a simple equation. If I can be forgiven, then some homosexual priest who fell off the chastity wagon once upon a time, deserves forgiveness, as well.

Not, notice, my forgiveness. This hypothetical priest hasn’t done anything to me. I don’t need to forgive him. He and I are square. He deserves forgiveness from the same place where we all go for it: The wounded and loving Heart of Jesus. The blood that flowed from Jesus’ side fell on homosexuals, just as it did everyone else.

There is no sin so dark that He can’t forgive it. There is no hurt so deep that He can’t heal it. And there is no person so broken that He can’t use them to build His Kingdom.

What I ask of a priest is sincerity and authenticity of purpose. I want priests who are all in for Jesus and who have what it takes to lead us through the challenges that are coming as part of this post-Christian world in which we now live.

That means I want priests who stand for holy matrimony, who stand for life, who will not back down and run away when the Church is attacked by secular forces. The priesthood is a leadership position. I want priests who will lead God’s people through the morass, who can hold their little flocks together in the storm and deliver them safely to heaven.

Those are big things I’m asking. They are far beyond the ability of any human being, gay or straight. Only priests who are, as I said, all in for Jesus can do them, because they are possible only if they are attempted with heavy doses of heavenly grace.

We need priests who give themselves to Jesus through Our Lady in such a profound way that they can, in obedience to their bishops, be the leaders God needs for these times.

I don’t care if a priest is gay. Doesn’t bother me a bit.

What I want is true priests, holy priests, who are for-real followers of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

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2013 Favs: Battling Sisters of Stone Park, IL Hold Their Own Against Strip Club

When the city fathers of Stone Park Il came out in support of the worthy project of building a strip club next to a convent, they failed to reckon with the grit, guts and determination of nuns.

I’ve written before about the moral courage of women. When that moral courage is empowered by an unwavering commitment to the love of Jesus Christ, it becomes the kind of force that wears away stone.

I don’t know too much about Stone Park, Il, even though we have similar towns here in Oklahoma. From what I’ve read it’s a small town with a large number of strip clubs. So far as I know, they’ve gotten away with this up to now.

But when they decided to build a multi-million dollar “adult entertainment” club across from the convent of the Missionary Sisters of St Charles Borromeo, Scalabrinian, they started a fight with people who aren’t impressed by money or scared of bouncers.

The intransigent support for this particular strip club, might lead to the conclusion that the people who run this town are what you might call dedicated to having this particular strip club in this particular location.

They want a strip joint next to these nuns and they aren’t going to give an inch until they get it. Earlier in the on-going battle the owner of the club played the Christian-bashing card.

Dont “… impose your religious beliefs,” he said.

Uh-huh.

This guy makes his living by treating women like animals in a zoo. I can certainly see why he wouldn’t welcome the nun’s “religious beliefs” on his premises. What I don’t understand is why he has fought so hard to put his premises on the nun’s doorstep.

Why is it so very important to place a strip club next to this convent? You’d think that piece of land was the last place in the continental United States that was available for such uplifting civic projects. The people who run this town are dug in on this. Is Stone Park in some sort of strip club competition with another town? Do they perceive a strip club gap developing that they have to fill?

The strip club is called “Get It,” which I think says a lot about the services it plans to offer. The intention was to open this club during Holy Week 2012. I think that speaks for itself. 

The war is one year on and the sisters are still holding their ground. They recently held a rally to celebrate this fact, which says a lot in itself.

As many as 500 people have gathered for a prayer vigil. More than 3,000 people have signed petitions against the Club.

“It’s not only for the sisters, but for the community itself,” Sister Noemia Silva said. “All of our communities are praying for this; it’s just constant, constant prayer.

She compared their fight to David and Goliath. “David won the battle because he trusted the Lord. He’ll fight this battle for us.”

From CNA:

CHICAGO — Residents and religious of a small Chicago suburb rallied to celebrate their so far successful campaign against the opening of a multi-million dollar “adult entertainment” club across from a convent.
“We came together as a community, as people of faith and stood together fighting for family values against what some thought was an unbreakable giant,” Sister Noemia Silva of the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo, Scalabrinian said at an April 22 press conference.

“It’s not only for the sisters, but for the community itself,” she told CNA in a later interview.
Outrage has erupted locally over the building of the establishment, particularly because of its location next to the missionary sisters’ convent and retirement home. Proprietors of the business have been accused of breaking state law, which requires a 1,000-foot “buffer zone” between places of worship and such businesses.

“They haven’t respected state law and so we’re going to tell them, ‘You need to respect that,” Sister Noemia Silva said. “This should not have even happened so close to a worship area.”
Although the $3 million establishment, “Get It,” was slated to open during Holy Week of 2012, it has yet to open its doors to the public largely due to community protest and a legal battle between the landowner and building owner.

Sister Noemia said the sisters, who are spread throughout 18 countries, have been praying for the intercession of St. Michael. “All of our communities are praying for this; it’s just constant, constant prayer.”

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/religious-sisters-celebrate-one-year-of-blocking-illinois-adult-club?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NCRegisterDailyBlog+National+Catholic+Register#When:2013-04-25%2013:47:01#ixzz2RUdAXUIu

 

 

 

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2013 Favs: This Just In: Millions Watch as Irrelevant, Dying Sect Inaugurates Poorly Dressed, Out-of-Date Leader

First Question: How many secular pundits does it take a perpetrate a lie?

Answer: All of them, talking from the same script.

Second Question: How many pundits does it take to claim a world leader with over a billion followers is “irrelevant?”

Answer: See question one.

Pope Francis’ inaugural mass was a ratings hit. So was last week’s election of Cardinal Bergoglio to the papacy.

Ratings do not necessarily mean that everyone watching agrees with the Church. But they do lead one to wonder, just how “irrelevant” is a Church whose every action inspires so much adoration, abuse, worship and hatred? Maybe the people who’ve been reporting this story need to check their dictionaries for a better word. Like, say, a phrase such as “Church that says some of the things I want to do are wrong.”

Our public discourse is in the grip of tantrum-throwing narcissists, who, it appears, only talk to one another. They appear to be the products of an education that is more indoctrinating than edifying. They also seem to be stubborn about reporting the story as they want it to be rather than the way it is.

To borrow from that witty atheist writer Mark Twain, reports of the Catholic Church’s irrelevance are greatly exaggerated. However, unlike Twain and his witty retort to an inaccurate report of his death, the reports of the Catholic Church’s irrelevance will always be exaggerated. There is never going to be a day when the Church’s Gospel message of forgiveness of sins, basic Christian morality and the promise of eternal life will be irrelevant to the people who must walk this Earth.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that these issues are the only things that, in the final analysis, matter at all.

It appears that many of these comments are coming from the group rage of self-entitled people who do not like being told that they are wrong. It seems to set their conflated egos aflame whenever the Church says that sex outside of marriage is wrong, killing people they want to kill is wrong, stealing from, exploiting, dehumanizing people made in the image and likeness of the Living God is, well, the kind of thing that can get you sent to an eternal hell.

That last one really makes them mad. Hell is verboten in popular discourse. We can talk about beastiality or show films of gang rape for entertainment, but the word “hell” as an actual destination for wayward souls rather than a curse is forbidden. Saying the “h” word in front of any of these folks puts you in the same place as the little girl who pointed her flashlight at the Tyrannosaurus Rex in Jurassic Park. Do that, and you know you’re gonna get kicked around.

Why?

If these things are “myths,” why do they care? I would guess that first of all, it’s because the devil makes them do it. Not the comic book devil, but the real one who hates the light and whispers his hatred in the ears of us humans. Second, I think they do it because the Church is, in fact, not irrelevant at all.

I would say that there is no other institution quite as relevant as the one and only Church that stands strong and will not be moved on matters of the Gospel. The Church weighs in on issues of death and eternal life. It shows us, in easily-followed and understandable ways, how to go to heaven. It also posts signs along the roadside of our lives saying, in essence, “don’t turn here, that road will take you over a cliff,”  or, “pass by this rest stop or you’ll be mugged.”

Church teachings are not prohibitions. They are warnings. Ignore them, and sooner or later, you will reap the whirlwind of your own lost soul.

I have no doubt that the bizarro commentary about the “irrelevant” Catholic Church will continue, even as the commenters are reporting every word that’s uttered at the Vatican.

Meanwhile, I think the rest of us should pray for these folks. They are, after all, our lost brothers and sisters.

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2013 Favs: Pope Benedict’s Last General Audience: The Pope Belongs to Everyone


“’Always’ is also ‘forever’–there is no return to private life. My decision to renounce the active exercise of the ministry does not revoke this. I am not returning to private life, to a life of trips, meetings, receptions, conferences, etc. I am not abandoning the cross, but am remaining beside the Crucified Lord in a new way. I no longer bear the power of the office for the governance of the Church, but I remain in the service of prayer, within St. Peter’s paddock, so to speak.

Pope Benedict XVI gave his last general audience in St Peter’s Square before tens of thousands of people who came to say goodbye.

He told them, and all of us …

I can say that the Lord has guided me. He has been close to me. I have felt His presence every day.”

“I would like to invite everyone to renew their firm trust in the Lord, to entrust ourselves like children to God’s arms, certain that those arms always hold us up … a 

“I would like everyone to feel beloved of that God who gave His Son for us.

“I would like everyone to feel the joy of being Christian.

“In a beautiful prayer, which can be recited every morning, say: ‘I adore you, my God and I love you with all my heart. Thank you for having created me, for having made me Christian…”

“The Pope belongs to everyone … I also receive many letters from ordinary people who write to me simply from their hearts and make me feel their affection, which is born of our being together with Christ Jesus, in the Church. These people do not write to me the way one would write, for example, to a prince or a dignitary that they don’t know. They write to me as brothers and sisters or as sons and daughters, with the sense of a very affectionate family tie. In this you can touch what the Church is—not an organization, not an association for religious or humanitarian ends, but a living body, a communion of brothers and sisters in the Body of Jesus Christ who unites us all.”

The entire text of the Holy Father’s remarks, taken from the Vatican website, is below:

BENEDICT XVI’S FINAL GENERAL AUDIENCE: “I ASKED GOD TO ENLIGHTEN ME TO MAKE THE RIGHT DECISION, NOT FOR MY OWN GOOD, BUT FOR THE GOOD OF THE CHURCH.”

“Like the Apostle Paul in the Biblical text that we have heard, I feel in my heart that I have to especially thank God who guides and builds up the Church, who plants His Word and thus nourishes the faith in His People. At this moment my heart expands and embraces the whole Church throughout the world and I thank God for the ‘news’ that, in these years of my Petrine ministry, I have received about the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and for the love that truly circulates in the Body of the Church, making it to live in the love and the hope that opens us to and guides us towards the fullness of life, towards our heavenly homeland.”

“I feel that I am carrying everyone with me in prayer in this God-given moment when I am collecting every meeting, every trip, every pastoral visit. I am gathering everyone and everything in prayer to entrust it to the Lord: so that we may be filled with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding in order to live in a manner worthy of the Lord and His love, bearing fruit in every good work (cf. Col 1:9-10).”

“At this moment I have great confidence because I know, we all know, that the Gospel’s Word of truth is the strength of the Church; it is her life. The Gospel purifies and renews, bearing fruit, wherever the community of believers hears it and welcomes God’s grace in truth and in love. This is my confidence, this is my joy.”

“When, on 19 April almost eight years ago I accepted to take on the Petrine ministry, I had the firm certainty that has always accompanied me: this certainty for the life of the Church from the Word of God. At that moment, as I have already expressed many times, the words that resounded in my heart were: Lord, what do You ask of me? It is a great weight that You are placing on my shoulders but, if You ask it of me, I will cast my nets at your command, confident that You will guide me, even with all my weaknesses. And eight years later I can say that the Lord has guided me. He has been close to me. I have felt His presence every day. It has been a stretch of the Church’s path that has had moments of joy and light, but also difficult moments. I felt like St. Peter and the Apostles in the boat on the See of Galilee. The Lord has given us many days of sunshine and light breezes, days when the fishing was plentiful, but also times when the water was rough and the winds against us, just as throughout the whole history of the Church, when the Lord seemed to be sleeping. But I always knew that the Lord is in that boat and I always knew that the boat of the Church is not mine, not ours, but is His. And the Lord will not let it sink. He is the one who steers her, of course also through those He has chosen because that is how He wanted it. This was and is a certainty that nothing can tarnish. And that is why my heart today is filled with gratitude to God, because He never left—the whole Church or me—without His consolation, His light, or His love.”

“We are in the Year of Faith, which I desired precisely in order to strengthen our faith in God in a context that seems to relegate it more and more to the background. I would like to invite everyone to renew their firm trust in the Lord, to entrust ourselves like children to God’s arms, certain that those arms always hold us up and are what allow us to walk forward each day, even when it is a struggle. I would like everyone to feel beloved of that God who gave His Son for us and who has shown us His boundless love. I would like everyone to feel the joy of being Christian. In a beautiful prayer, which can be recited every morning, say: ‘I adore you, my God and I love you with all my heart. Thank you for having created me, for having made me Christian…’ Yes, we are happy for the gift of faith. It is the most precious thing, which no one can take from us! Let us thank the Lord for this every day, with prayer and with a coherent Christian life. God loves us, but awaits us to also love Him!”

“It is not only God who I wish to thank at this time. A pope is not alone in guiding Peter’s barque, even if it is his primary responsibility. I have never felt alone in bearing the joy and the weight of the Petrine ministry. The Lord has placed at my side so many people who, with generosity and love for God and the Church, have helped me and been close to me. First of all, you, dear Brother Cardinals: your wisdom, your advice, and your friendship have been precious to me. My collaborators, starting with my secretary of state who has accompanied me faithfully over the years; the Secretariat of State and the whole of the Roman Curia, as well as all those who, in their various areas, serve the Holy See. There are many faces that are never seen, remaining in obscurity, but precisely in their silence, in their daily dedication in a spirit of faith and humility, they were a sure and reliable support to me. A special thought goes to the Church of Rome, my diocese! I cannot forget my Brothers in the episcopate and in the priesthood, consecrated persons, and the entire People of God. In my pastoral visits, meetings, audiences, and trips I always felt great care and deep affection, but I have also loved each and every one of you, without exception, with that pastoral love that is the heart of every pastor, especially the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of the Apostle Peter. Every day I held each of you in prayer, with a father’s heart.”

“I wish to send my greetings and my thanks to all: a pope’s heart extends to the whole world. And I would like to express my gratitude to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, which makes the great family of Nations present here. Here I am also thinking of all those who work for good communication and I thank them for their important service.”

“At this point I would also like to wholeheartedly thank all of the many people around the world who, in recent weeks, have sent me touching tokens of concern, friendship, and prayer. Yes, the Pope is never alone. I feel this again now in such a great way that it touches my heart. The Pope belongs to everyone and many people feel very close to him. It’s true that I receive letters from the world’s notables—from heads of states, from religious leaders, from representatives of the world of culture, etc. But I also receive many letters from ordinary people who write to me simply from their hearts and make me feel their affection, which is born of our being together with Christ Jesus, in the Church. These people do not write to me the way one would write, for example, to a prince or a dignitary that they don’t know. They write to me as brothers and sisters or as sons and daughters, with the sense of a very affectionate family tie. In this you can touch what the Church is—not an organization, not an association for religious or humanitarian ends, but a living body, a communion of brothers and sisters in the Body of Jesus Christ who unites us all. Experiencing the Church in this way and being able to almost touch with our hands the strength of His truth and His love is a reason for joy at a time when many are speaking of its decline. See how the Church is alive today!”

“In these last months I have felt that my strength had diminished and I asked God earnestly in prayer to enlighten me with His light to make me make the right decision, not for my own good, but for the good of the Church. I have taken this step in full awareness of its seriousness and also its newness, but with a profound peace of mind. Loving the Church also means having the courage to make difficult, agonized choices, always keeping in mind the good of the Church, not of oneself.”

“Allow me here to return once again to 19 April, 2005. The gravity of the decision lay precisely in the fact that, from that moment on, I was always and for always engaged by the Lord. Always—whoever assumes the Petrine ministry no longer has any privacy. He belongs always and entirely to everyone, to the whole Church. His life, so to speak, is totally deprived of its private dimension. I experienced, and I am experiencing it precisely now, that one receives life precisely when they give it. Before I said that many people who love the Lord also love St. Peter’s Successor and are fond of him; that the Pope truly has brothers and sisters, sons and daughters all over the world and that he feels safe in the embrace of their communion; because he no longer belongs to himself but he belongs to all and all belong to him.”

“’Always’ is also ‘forever’–there is no return to private life. My decision to renounce the active exercise of the ministry does not revoke this. I am not returning to private life, to a life of trips, meetings, receptions, conferences, etc. I am not abandoning the cross, but am remaining beside the Crucified Lord in a new way. I no longer bear the power of the office for the governance of the Church, but I remain in the service of prayer, within St. Peter’s paddock, so to speak. St. Benedict, whose name I bear as Pope, will be a great example to me in this. He has shown us the way for a life that, active or passive, belongs wholly to God’s work.”

“I also thank each and every one of you for the respect and understanding with which you have received this important decision. I will continue to accompany the Church’s journey through prayer and reflection, with the dedication to the Lord and His Bride that I have tried to live every day up to now and that I want to always live. I ask you to remember me to God, and above all to pray for the Cardinals who are called to such an important task, and for the new Successor of the Apostle Peter. Many the Lord accompany him with the light and strength of His Spirit.”

“We call upon the maternal intercession of Mary, the Mother of God and of the Church, that she might accompany each of us and the entire ecclesial community. We entrust ourselves to her with deep confidence.”

“Dear friends! God guides His Church, always sustaining her even and especially in difficult times. Let us never lose this vision of faith, which is the only true vision of the path of the Church and of the world. In our hearts, in the heart of each one of you, may there always be the joyous certainty that the Lord is beside us, that He does not abandon us, that He is near and embraces us with His love. Thank you.”

 

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2013: The Year that Rocked the Church

 

We are so blessed to be part of the Catholic Church, especially at this time when we have the opportunity to do great things for Our Lord in a world that needs Him so much.

This video highlights some of the momentous happenings in 2013.

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2013 Favs: God Made In My Image

I want God; not my idea of God. C.S. Lewis

My god doesn’t …

I don’t believe in a god who …

How many times have we heard this?

I ask you, if God is God; if He made everything, everywhere, including us, then what does it matter what we think of Him? All these quippy little assertions are at base the expression of an underlying belief that God is the clay and we are the potter. They lead directly to what George Barna jokingly described as a nation of “310 million people with 310 million religious expressions.”

I believe this is the root of the “I don’t believe in religion; I believe in Jesus” phenomenon. If you can subtract Jesus from 2,000 years of Christian teaching, why then, you can create a Jesus who fits you and your prejudices, your wannabes, and your wannados right down to the ground. You can create a phony, basically useless Jesus who doesn’t demand conversion, never asks for repentance and would not think of chiding you for your “understandable” little sins.

You can create your own personal feel-good Jesus, who inevitably will be a Jesus without the cross. The only problem with that, of course, is that this jesus is not god. He is not Christ. Jesus without the cross is not Christ. Jesus without the cross was a First Century itinerate preacher and miracle worker who died 2,000 years ago. He’s the shorn and nonsensical little nothing that the film-flammers who attack Christianity try to make Him out to be.

Dietrich Bonnhoefner had a phrase for this. He called it “cheap grace.” Here’s what he said:

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

The Christian culture in which so many of us live is a sham and a flam, a product of cheap grace gone wild that is drummed into our minds by the steady beat of media promotion. Today, we not only have cheap grace, we have competing cheap graces whose followers are focused on defeating one another in the culture wars rather than following Christ.

We have the cheap grace purveyors of the right who tell us that all that stuff Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, and indeed, throughout the Gospels, doesn’t mean what it so plainly says. They create a morality-free zone surrounding anything to do with business and commerce, exempting the most egregious assaults on the common good from any application of 2,000 years of Christian teaching.

Then, on the other side of the cultural divide, we have the cheap gracers who proclaim that any standards of personal morality are in fact violations of personal freedom and assaults on tolerance and love. They carry this to the point that simple disagreement with such actions as abortion, serial marriage, same-sex marriage, and the commodification and sexualization of women and children is attacked and labeled “hate,” “homophobia,” and, bizarre as this sounds, sexism.

These competing versions of cheap-grace, god-made-in-my-image faux christianity have become the public face of Christian teaching. Their followers attack one another with a ruthlessness worthy of Caiaphas, and a pragmatic amorality that would be the pride of Machiavelli. Their total lack of respect for Jesus Christ and the Gospels is only equaled by their pretentious self-righteousness.

These are mean people. They are mean with the meanness that any thinking person would expect of someone who has turned their back on Christ in order to twist His message into a club to beat their political opponents with.

Why they do it is obvious: To gain power, fame and money.

How they manage to succeed at it is more subtle. Anyone who honestly read the New Testament would pick up on the fact that what these people are giving us is the stone, not the bread; a snake rather than a fish. Yet millions upon millions of “Bible believing” Christians not only fall for this crass twisting of the Gospels in the name of self-justification, they abandon the real Gospels to follow and teach it themselves.

Why?

Are they that stupid? Can’t they read the Bible for themselves and see that these are lies?

I think the answer rests in the fact that they can read the Bible; they just don’t like what it says.

The story of the Gospels is not built around some “follow me and I’ll make you into little Ceasars” sort of promise. It is in fact quite the opposite. When Satan tempted Jesus, he offered Him all the kingdoms of this world and Jesus turned him down. What Jesus did instead was set Himself on the path that led to the cross.

These sham teachers of phony gospels of their own devising are offering us the same deal that Satan offered Jesus. The difference being that many of us are taking the deal. Follow them, and you can have any kind of sex you want with whomever you chose. Follow them and you can kill your own children, reduce other human beings to things to be destroyed for your pleasure and feel holier than thou for doing it.

Set your foot on the broad and smooth path of the phony jesus these liars give us and you can lie, steal, cheat, hoard, destroy whole economies for your personal gain. You can push most of the world into death-dealing poverty and back it up with armies you supply from your factories and go to church on Sunday and be honored as great people of a phony god.

Wide is the way that leads to perdition, and it seems that in today’s world it is most often paved by the self-righteous hypocrisy of following false gods of our own creation that we have cast in our own image.

This is cheap grace, and it always seems to end up giving those who choose it a license to kill.

Bonnhoefner also talked about another kind of grace. He called it “costly grace.” I tend to call it “real grace,” but that’s just me and my simple-minded way of looking at things.

Here is part of what he said:

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.

Cheap grace is a sham and a phony. It is a lie we tell ourselves. Costly grace, the grace that comes from following Jesus even if it’s unpopular, even if it means picking up your cross and following after Him, is what can and will heal our culture and save our world.

According to a survey conducted by the Barna Institute, America is drifting more and more toward the cheap grace of God Made in Our Image; the ultra personal god who follows our teachings instead of asking us to follow his.

God made in our image will never ask us to do anything costly. He will always understand our transparent justifications, even of the most heinous crimes. What he can never do is cleanse us, re-orient us and change us into what we were meant to be when God first made us. What we will never see by following him is eternal life. There is no redemption in making an idol out of yourself, in worshipping a self-made, all-agreeing comfortable little kitchen god that you create out of your longing to never be wrong, never sacrifice, never make a tough choice.

Only God, the real God, can redeem us, make us new and lead us into life everlasting. The price of following Him is the same now as it has always been. It is the costly grace of the cross.

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