5 Ways to Do Holy Thursday for Shut Ins and Shut Outs

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Waiting for the Word https://www.flickr.com/photos/waitingfortheword/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Waiting for the Word https://www.flickr.com/photos/waitingfortheword/

Go to mass tonight if you can. You will be blessed.

If you’re sick or you have to work or for some other reason you cannot go, try to take a moment to think on Jesus. You may be so busy or in such a problem that finding time for worship or contemplation of any sort is difficult. On the other hand, you may be flat on your back with nothing but time, dripping slowly by.

Here are 5 ways you can do Holy Thursday if you are shut in from illness or shut out because of other imperatives.

1. Pray. 

For those with time, pray the Rosary. Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. If you are sick, offer up your pains for conversions.

If you are pushing through a day with no rest stops, pray the Jesus Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Or, pray a Hail Mary.

Or, just stop for a moment and think about Gethsemane and say “Thank you Jesus.”

If you are in your own, personal, Gethsemane today, ponder what He faced there and remember that God understands what you are going through. He knows with the knowing of having been there Himself.

2. Read the Bible. Read the transfiguration (Mark, chapter 9) or the Last Supper (Mark 14) or the story of Gethsemane (Mark 14.) Read Psalm 22.

Better yet, read them all.

When you read, ponder for a moment the power of this story. I could write many thousands of words discussing these Scripture readings and never touch their full meaning. This is the promise of our redemption, the New Covenant which fulfills that of the Old Testament, and the all-too-human suffering of abandonment and The Alone.

Read it and pray over it. Put yourself there, in the disciples’ sandals, with Jesus as He prayed to let this cup pass from Him. Let God show you the understanding of it that you need for today.

3. Watch something edifying on tv. So much of what we see in the media at this time of year is a thinly-disguised attack on the faith through bogus scholarship presented as an “investigation” into the “real Jesus” or “what really happened.”

The simple fact is that these are deconstructions of Scripture based on little more than the fantasies of the “scholars” who put them forward. Most of the time, if you backcheck these “experts” you will find that they are people with an agenda, usually having to do with their dislike of the Church’s stand on things such as gay marriage and abortion.

They are attacking Christianity because Christianity poses a barrier to the universal acceptance of their viewpoints. However, they are not doing this in a forthright and honest way. They are using phony “scholarship” and an anti-Christian media to unfairly and inaccurately bash Christianity in hopes of weakening its ability to oppose them in the marketplace of ideas.

I had all but given up on tv.

Then, I found some edifying videos on Amazon Prime; lives of the saints, Church history, inspiring stories of faithful Christian witness. I suggest you seek them out and watch them. I’ve looked for similar things on Netflix and couldn’t find them. If you find good ones in other venues, please share them here.

4. Sing or play music. I’ve been under the weather for the past three weeks, and I haven’t felt up to playing my piano. That’s a huge deprivation for me. I’m going to change that today, at least for a while, and tap out a hymn or two. I have lots of Christian music of all genres on my iPhone. I play that and sing along in my rusty voice.

Music is worship with wings, especially, playing the piano. If you pick the guitar or bow the fiddle or pound the ivories, make a joyful noise to the Lord. If you don’t play an instrument, or don’t have access to one, sing a hymn, and if all else fails, just listen to Christian music for a while in your car or at your house.

5. Talk about Jesus with your Christian friends. I don’t mean making a speech or trying to convert someone. I mean just talking about the events of this week 2,000 years ago with a fellow Christian.

Don’t try to be profound. Just fellowship by talking about Our Lord with another Christian.

I know there are many other ways to “do” Holy Thursday if you can’t get to mass. I also know that even if you do go to mass, these are also important things to do.

A Christian can never engage in too much prayer, Scripture, and private worship in the guise of watching good Christian entertainment, making a joyful noise unto the Lord and talking about Him with other people who love Him.

Build yourself up in Christ today, step by step, brick by brick.

This is Holy Thursday. No matter your circumstance, you can find a moment and a means to love Him today. It will be your blessing if you do.

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Advent: Come Lord Jesus

 

The Bible ends with a poignant verse.

Come Lord Jesus, cries in a voice that resounds in the heart of every Christian.

Two thousand years ago, the conquered children of Israel looked forward to Him, even though they didn’t fully understand Who He was, and they certainly misunderstood what He would do.

The prophecies of the Christ begin in Genesis when God tells the serpent He will set enmity between the serpent and the Woman, that she would crush his head, and he would strike at her heel. This was not, note, a prophecy of Eve’s life, but of Mary, the New Eve whose quiet birth, unmarked as it was by the larger world, was the door opening on our salvation.

With Mary’s Immaculate Conception, the primal hope of the garden before the fall reawakened in human existence. It was given back to us as a free and totally unmerited gift by God. It set the stage for the coming of His Son, the long hoped-for Messiah.

Prophecies of Jesus began at the beginning, in the Garden, and are woven throughout the many thousands of years of history that tell the tales of His family in the book we call the Old Testament. It is the story of God, raising up a people by first calling one man to leave his home and go out into the wilderness.

It began, as these things always do, with a family; in Abraham’s case, a troubled and often sinful family that nevertheless trusted God. Not everything Abraham did was right, but he believed the Lord’s promises, and Scripture tells us that God “reckoned that to him as righteousness.”

There is a message in this for all of us. That message is simply that we need to trust God and follow Him without placing the unreachable burden of perfection on ourselves. Righteousness is found in trying to do God’s will and trusting our lives and our salvation to His mercy. Whatever we lack in ourselves and our efforts, He will supply. All we need to do is trust Him and do our best.

But how does God supply the lacks? How does He reach across the unfathomable gulf between our finiteness and His infinite transcendence? He did it by doing the unthinkable, by taking on human flesh, being born of a young woman and living, suffering and dying as one of us. Jesus was foretold over and over again throughout the Old Testament, but, as Steve Jobs famously said, it’s impossible to connect the dots going forward; you can only connect them looking back.

In the case of the many prophecies of Jesus the Christ, the prophecies of His second coming are intertwined with those of His first coming. The triumphant Lord of all history is foretold alongside the Suffering Servant of Calvary. Connecting those dots going forward was as confounding to the people of that day as connecting the dots of the Second Coming are to us. Theories and theology abound, and all of them are, to a great extent, educated guesses.

People of Jesus’ day skipped over the Suffering Servant prophecies and misinterpreted the salvation prophecies to weave together an interpretation of a warrior king who would make the nation of Israel into the dominant world power. They tried to connect the dots going forward and came up with a political interpretation which, while it comforted them in their sufferings as a conquered people who occupied the bottom rung on a significant trade route for the Roman Empire — The trade route mattered to the Romans. The people who lived there, not so much. — was wildly inaccurate.

They took comfort in the promised messiah of their own interpreting who would place his foot on the back of the Roman neck and make the Israelites the rulers of the world. Although this inaccurate interpretation comforted them in their daily problems, it led them into the mistake of missing the real Messiah when He actually came to them.

Nothing in their grandiose imaginings came close to the lowly carpenter’s son, born of a virgin in a stable and then forced to flee into exile soon afterwards. They were unprepared for parables and stories urging them to love and care for one another and talking about a Kingdom that would grow like a tiny mustard seed or the leaven in bread into something they could not fathom.

The idea that the Messiah would be executed like a common criminal and then rise from the dead only to leave the whole enterprise of Kingdom building in the hands of 12 men chosen from ordinary fishermen and tax collectors made no sense according to the false interpretation they had believed for so long.

And so the cornerstone of the new Kingdom became the stumbling block for God’s chosen ones. They, the apple of God’s eye, the ones from whom salvation comes, turned aside from their own salvation while the prostitutes and sinners, the rabble and riff-raff of outsiders, walked right in.

Advent is the season we set aside to consider these things. We know about the first coming of Christ. The dots are in our past, where we can see the pathway they form with clarity. We have the Church to explain these things to us, and we have 2,000 years of Christian teaching to make them clear.

So long as we confine our Advent meditations to mulling over the First Coming of Christ and think about our personal piety and our need for repentance and conversion, we are on fairly solid ground. We know what is expected of us as His followers. We know the story of God made man for our salvation.

But we are not at the end of the story. We still await the fulfillment of the prophecies. We are somewhere along the long row of dots that connect the planting of the mustard seed and the final harvest. We are, all of us, awaiting the day when He comes again.

Perhaps more to the point, we are traveling along our own road of life, journeying from birth to grave. We know — know — that our end of time is always imminent. One day our souls will be required of us, and none of us knows the day or the hour that will happen. That will be our end of time, when we go to Him, even if He has not yet returned to us.

Advent is the prophetic pot, simmering. It is a few weeks set aside for us to contemplate the mystery and the majesty of Christ coming. We have the history of His First Coming and the probably seriously misunderstood promises of His Second Coming, all intertwined with the certainty of our departing and going to Him.

We can’t — any of us — connect the dots looking forward. But we don’t have to. All we have to do is follow in the footsteps of Abraham, or Mary or Stephen or Priscilla or Paul or the woman with the hemorrhage or the blind man who would not deny Him and was put out of the Temple for his fealty. All we have to do is just believe Him and follow Him and trust that, even if the dots don’t connect in meaningful ways for us looking forward, they will be form a pattern of salvation when we look back.

Advent is a good great time to consecrate however much of our lives we have left to His Mercy. Trust and obey the old hymn says. There is no other way to be happy in Jesus. 

Truer words were never spoken.

Spend a few minutes this advent contemplating the dots going forward into your eternity as well as those going back to the Immaculate Conception and to the stable. Are we living in the End Times? Perhaps. But in truth, it doesn’t much matter if we are.

Each and every one of us is living in his or her “end times” every single day. There is absolutely nothing to fear in this if you trust and obey. God’s mercy, which was poured out on all humanity from the wounded side of Jesus, is greater than our weakness, stronger than our failures, more loving than all our fears.

Just put your hand in His and let Him lead you Home. There is no other way.

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I Didn’t Know “Trickle Down Economics” Was in the Ten Commandments.

 

I didn’t know “trickle down economics” was in the Ten Commandments.

I also didn’t know it was in the Sermon on the Mount.

I remember things about “blessed are the poor” and “depart from me I never knew you.” But I missed that “trickle down economics” part. I guess it must be in the part that says that government should transfer the wealth of generations to a few corporatists under the guise of corporate welfare and “privatization.” Or maybe it’s under the demands that economies should only be built on making war and not manufacturing goods, providing for infrastructure and growing the nation.

I dunno.

I read the Bible every day. I read through the Bible — the Catholic Bible, complete with all those books that Martin Luther took out — every year and a half or so. But I don’t remember anything about taking from the poor to give to the rich, or trickle down economics being a requirement for heaven.

I have heard these claims. I heard them just about every single day I spent in the business of legislating. They are part of the wing nut teachings which political nut jobs on the right use to replace the Scriptures. Left wing nut jobs do the same thing, only in reverse.

In the left wing political religion, moral values only apply to economics. Everything else — sexuality, family, basic honesty, even human life itself — are fixed on their own, selfishly-defined constructs. In the right wing political religion, moral values only apply to sexuality, family and, human life — when it fits their vote-getting expedience. Economics is a absolute morality-free zone.

The one thing the right and left wing political religions both agree on is basic honesty. Neither one of them have any use for it at all.

Which leads us to what has become an entertaining stand-off in the United States House of Representatives. 

House Speaker Boehner invited Pope Francis to speak to the House when he visits the US next year. It’s customary when dignitaries come by like this to pass an attaboy resolution and present it to them with suitable legislative fanfare. Nobody takes this resolution stuff all that seriously. It’s just being polite; kind of like offering your neighbor a glass of iced tea when she drops by to say howdy. Neither you nor your neighbor think all that highly of the tea. The only issue would be your rudeness if you didn’t offer it.

In a show of bi-partisanship, the resolution slotted for Pope Francis has both an R and a D as primary co-authors. It congratulates Pope Francis on being elected Pope and compliments him for his “inspirational statements and actions.”

That sounds like plain vanilla do-dah politicking to me. You’d think the resolution would sail through without a comment, that even the pope-hating bozos would chill and keep their mouths shut.

But the true-believers of wing nut political religion can never be underestimated. Their breathtaking self-importance is only exceeded by their equally breathtaking self-righteousness. The pro forma attaboy resolution for Pope Francis’ possible visit to the House may not pass. It will not pass if the true believers of right-wing-nut political religion prevail.

Meanwhile, the Ds are giving the resolution a big huzzah. The party whose national convention booed God is all for Pope Francis as he is defined by their press right now. Their press has edited and parsed Pope Francis into what he is not, which is to say an apologist for laissez faire morality in all areas except economics.

That’s heady stuff for a party that’s been damned and consigned to hell-fire in the public imagination. Pope Francis may not be their cheerleader, but unlike every other pro-life, pro-marriage religio on the planet, he has not washed his hands of them and told them to go to hell. He thinks they’re still people that Christ died for who are in need of salvation. Over 200 Ds jumped on the resolution with co-authorship. They’d co-author the thing twice each, if they could.

The party that claims it speaks for God is all in a pope-hating funk because, as it turns out, he thinks that they are also people that Christ died for who are in need of conversion. They’re not used to being told they need conversion. And they don’t like it.

While anyone can see that the lefty press is twisting statements to lie about the Holy Father, there is no denying that he is laying claim to all those troublesome things Jesus (and the prophets before Him) said about rich men having a tough time getting into heaven and how we all have a responsibility to care for the poor. That’s discombobulating to a party that (1) is corporatist to its core, and (2) has made its vote-getting bones by self-deification.

So, this do-nothing, attaboy, courtesy resolution has become another opportunity for the two political parties to proclaim their own righteousness and teach morality to God. Or, as the case may be, teach morality to the Vicar of Christ.

Rather than just hold their little noses and rise about the stink of their own self-importance, the Rs have used their power as the majority party to sideline the resolution in committee where it is intended to quietly expire. About 19 brave Rs stepped up to co-author. Most of the rest — many of whom are Catholic — have folded their hands and are now studying their shoes.

There are a few convinced and convicted right-wing-nuts who are so apoplectic at the Holy Father’s confrontational attitude toward right wing nut political religion as it concerns economics that they’ve stepped up to set the record straight. They are against the resolution because, they say, “the pope sounds a lot like Obama” (Obama = Satan in their parlance), that he has “denounced trickle down economics” and that he “supports civil marriages.”

In the first place the pope did not say he “supported civil unions.” Go back and read the post about that and see.

But I’m pretty sure, based on dealing with these kinds of birds, that what’s got their feathers in a ruffle is not “civil unions.” They’re on their soapboxes because the pope “denounced trickle down economics.” The reason I say that is twofold. First, it’s what has given well-paid corporatist mouthpieces the temerity to say that the pope is “a marxist,” “following Lenin” and some other thing that’s too stupid to even talk about.

Those media moguls are the corporatist-apologists-without-any-pretense in today’s media. The nut-job Congresspeople are the corporatist-puppet-people-with-loads-of-pretense in elected office. They were beamed into office on a beam of corporate money. They are wholly owned subsidiaries of corporatist thinking and activism. If they weren’t, they’d be pulled and replaced like a bad spark plug.

As for me, I’m not all that alarmed about this resolution thingy. As we say here in Oklahoma, it don’t mean nothin’. The resolution is just a piece of paper with no force of law of any kind. It’s a Congressional attaboy that they hand out to visiting dignitaries and such like gum drops.

Pope Francis is the Vicar of Christ. He answers to Our Lord. I doubt very much that he’s going to cry himself to sleep because a bunch of political puppets with delusions of grandeur do not deign to gift him with a meaningless attaboy filled with compliments they clearly do not mean.

It’s entirely possible that the press flurry may embarrass these Congresspeople’s corporatist owners enough that they tell them to go ahead and vote the resolution through and be done with it. If that happens, it’ll slide through and we’ll go on to the next Congressional stupidity. If it doesn’t, no matter.

The beauty of this particular incident is that these folks have demonstrated rather candidly what they are and who they follow. In terms of its impact, the resolution itself is worthless. But in terms of its teaching powers, it’s priceless.

I keep putting this message out there. I’m going to continue putting it out there until it gets through.

Repeat after me: Political parties have nothing to do with righteousness. Political parties are about power; about getting power and keeping power. Everything else they say is a lie.

Do not follow the R or the D.

Follow the whole Gospel of Christ, all of it, including the parts that disagree with your political religion. The simplest and surest way to do that is to follow the teachings of our Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church constantly irritates both the R and the D. If you believe Jesus, you will not agree with either political party most of the time. If you follow Jesus with your life, you will not and cannot follow either political party.

There is one Way. The R and the D are not it.

From The Hill:

A popular piece of legislation that seeks to honor Pope Francis is stuck in Congress.

With time running out on the Capitol Hill calendar, the lawmakers who crafted the bipartisan measure are getting impatient with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

The resolution, written by Reps. John Larson (D-Conn.) and Pete King (R-N.Y.), congratulates Francis on his March 2013 election and recognizes “his inspirational statements and actions.”

The seemingly innocuous resolution was referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which hasn’t acted on it. The panel didn’t comment for this article.

The inaction and the lack of a white smoke signal from Boehner have sparked speculation that politics is at play.

Only 19 of the 221 co-sponsors are Republicans. The dearth of GOP members on the measure could be attributable to assertions that the pope is “too liberal,” according to a Republican backer of the legislation.

The source noted that Francis last year denounced “trickle-down economics.”

Some Republicans believe the pope is “sounding like [President] Obama. [The pope] talks about equality — he actually used the term ‘trickle-down economics,’ which is politically charged,” the GOP official said.

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Waters of the Deep?

This story has been knocking around since June 12. That’s when NewScientist published an article claiming that scientists have discover a huge reservoir of water — what they call an ocean — deep beneath the Earth’s surface.

The article says that this underground ocean is hidden inside a blue rock called ringwoodite. It is supposedly 700 kilometers (that’s about 471 miles) deep inside the Earth.

It’s all very interesting; makes me think of Jules Verne and the underground ocean in Journey to the Center of the Earth. It also, oddly enough, fits rather handily with Scriptural descriptions of what happened with The Flood.

… on that day all the fountains of the deep burst forth and the windows of the heavens were opened. And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights.

From NewScientist:

A reservoir of water three times the volume of all the oceans has been discovered deep beneath the Earth’s surface. The finding could help explain where Earth’s seas came from.

The water is hidden inside a blue rock called ringwoodite that lies 700 kilometres underground in the mantle, the layer of hot rock between Earth’s surface and its core.

The huge size of the reservoir throws new light on the origin of Earth’s water. Some geologists think water arrived in comets as they struck the planet, but the new discovery supports an alternative idea that the oceans gradually oozed out of the interior of the early Earth.

“It’s good evidence the Earth’s water came from within,” says Steven Jacobsen of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. The hidden water could also act as a buffer for the oceans on the surface, explaining why they have stayed the same size for millions of years.

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2013 Favs: If You’re Looking for Me, You’ll Find Me Standing With the Pope

 

I doubt that they’re interested in what I think, but I want to send a message to the charlatans out there in the blogosphere. If you’re looking for me, you’ll find me standing with the Pope.

If you are a Catholic, and you have been joining in the orgy of Pope bashing that is coming from the right wing of American politics, then you need to get in line right behind Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden and all those other Catholics you love to hate. Because you are one of them. Get yourself a cafeteria card and get that baby punched.

If you are a Catholic, and you are not outraged by the river of slime being dumped on our Pope by vicious right-wing pundits, then you need some spiritual smelling salts.

Wake up Catholics. Stand with your Pope.

American politicians and their minions in the media love to bash the pope.

Remember the attacks from the left wing against Pope Benedict XVI? They couldn’t/wouldn’t stop cracking their verbal knuckles over what this 80-year-old man had been forced to do against his will when he was a boy. The same crowd that calls foul if you hold any of their heroes accountable for what they said or did five minutes ago, wanted to proclaim that the entire sweep of this Godly man’s life was worthless because of something that had happened when he was a child.

Remember the bullets raining down on Pope John II? They were fired from a gun held by a paid assassin.

Politicians envy the moral voice of the Pope because, alone of all the great religious voices of our day, his is the one they cannot control. Left or right, it doesn’t matter; they all hate and fear the Pope.

That is because he is not one of their toady religious leaders that they have co-opted for their own purposes of gaining and keeping power. The Pope is not answerable to politicians, including American politicians, American politics or America’s self-deified tin gods of the media.

That enrages them.

Politics in this country has endeavored for the past four decades to slice and dice, buy and sell Christianity. It has, with the eager help of its pet clergy, narrowed the revolutionary message of the Gospels down into neat, easily-controllable little sound bites that it can use in campaign ads.

Christianity in America has become a politicized, bastardized mumbo-jumbo of apologetics for both right and left wing politics. Religious leaders have cut the Gospels into political shapes that do not in any way resemble the Gospel that has the words that lead to eternal life. Instead of leading their flocks on the Narrow Way, they are misleading them along the political way.

I have seen these religious leaders bow down before political power. I have witnessed them change their positions when their political masters yank their chains, even on issues of grave moral concern such as abortion. They have bartered Christ in the political marketplace. The fact that at least some of them were paid considerably more than 30 pieces of silver does not change the nature of the transaction.

Political power brokers in the media have not hesitated to use religious language to condemn the political opponents of the power column that is paying their salaries. Toady preachers have not hesitated to back them up. This has become such an unadulterated heresy that large segments of the Christian believers of this nation actually think that following one or the other political party and its “teachings” is tantamount to following Christ.

How did people come to this heretical viewpoint?

They came to it because their religious leaders sold out the Gospels to political power brokers and used their prophetic and moral voice to go whoring for either the Rs or the Ds. They have sold not only the Christian message but themselves in the bargain. They have become the things of the politicians and when they occasionally try to exert themselves as if they were actual men and women of God, they are quickly told to sit down and do as they are instructed, and they do it. 

I have witnessed these things and argued in vain with some of the religious leaders, urging them to grow spines and stand for what they say they believe. I have heard their excuses. I have also seen how whipped and meek they are in their dealings with these politicians.

I’ve seen them back off and back down about the one issue they claimed was number one with them: The issue of abortion. I’ve even had pro-life leaders lie to me in a failed attempt to try to keep me from taking a stand against legislative initiatives that were enabling abortion rather than shutting it down.

These political leaders are the religious leaders’ masters, and they are not at all shy about yanking back on the reins if the religious leaders forget this.

I believe that this prevailing relationship of religious corruption and political abuse has created an expectation on the part of right-wing leaders in all venues, including the media, that religious leaders are under their thumb. This public adulation of a Christ-less christianity of the political is coupled with a private contempt for its practitioners that has become so rife in American politics that they aren’t hiding it anymore.

The Pope is the great exception to this. He is not owned or dictated to by either the minions of the right or minions of the left.

The Catholic Church does not trim its teachings to suit the fancy of American politicians. For all their arrogance and power, these political forces and their operatives cannot control or dictate to the Pope.

There is nothing more frightening and enraging to political power brokers than a genuine man or woman of God. They are no different in that than the political power of the first century. Their instincts, which are always honed in the service of getting and keeping power, go ding-ding-ding like a fire alarm when they encounter a religious leader they can’t buy-bully-destroy.

That is why they are attacking our Holy Father today. They can’t control him. They can’t make him teach a two-sin Christianity that deifies them and their politics. They can’t get him, as they have so many other religious leaders, to comb through the scriptures to find verses that will exempt their actions, particularly their actions concerning economics, from moral scrutiny.

That is why the right-wing blogosphere has been littered the past few days with attacks from Breitbart, Limbaugh, Fox News, et al; all claiming that Pope Francis is a Marxist, or something worse, an Obamaist. They use ridiculous headlines such as Pope Francis Attacks Capitalism, Calls for State Control, (Breitbart) Pope Francis’ Latest Document is Pure Marxism (Limbaugh) Pope Francis is Giving Obama an Orgasm (Limbaugh again), Pope Francis is the Catholic Church’s Obama. God Help Us (Fox News) and CNN’s entry from the left, The Pope as Marxist: Is Limbaugh Right?

These people have become so arrogant that they think they can talk to the Pope the way they talk to their toady political religious leaders that they’ve bought and own. Since they can’t even get an audience with the Pope, they are going directly to their cult-like following among their readers and listeners and are doing their best to get them riled up into a froth of Pope-hating.

These attacks on the pope serve a two-pronged political purpose. First, they are an attempt to weaken the Holy Father’s moral leadership in America. Second, they are a method of damage control among the pundits’ Protestant followers.

Evangelii Gaudium does not say anything new in terms of Catholic teaching and economics. But its total lack of obeisance to the political powers in one wing of American politics both affronts and angers them. The Pope is a problem.

The last thing the political powers that be want is for religious leaders to start behaving as if Jesus Christ was actually the arbiter of their teachings. The scary thing about Pope Francis’ independence and total unconcern about them and their power is not only that tens of millions of American Catholics might follow him, but worse, that their toady religious leaders might consider preaching the Gospels of Christ instead of political expedience along with him.

Courage breeds courage. There is just the glimmer of a possibility that these had men of the fallen collar class might decide to become real men of God and start standing for Christ. What would happen if, instead of bending over and apologizing to their political masters for disagreeing with them, the religious leaders these political parties depend on for their moral cover actually stood for Christ?

Thus we are being treated to the sorry spectacle of tawdry attacks on the Vicar of Christ by people who have made their excellent livings promoting fealty to political christianity.

The pope attackers are trying to use the same thing that President Obama has used in pushing the HHS Mandate. They are counting — probably correctly — on the latent anti-Catholicism in our society, in particular in certain conservative Protestant circles.

Not only do these outlandish slanders against the Pope feed them red Catholic blood to whet their anti-Catholicism, they demonstrate what can happen to those who don’t do what they are told. The Pope might be able to shrug off their insults, but lesser clergy would have their reputations and careers wrecked by an onslaught like this.

In short, since they can’t bully and coerce the Pope, they will try as much as possible to isolate him and render his moral teachings insignificant among those religious leaders they can bully and coerce.

That is what is causing the outrageous attacks on the Pope. The claims that these pundits are making about Evangelii Gaudium are baseless lies. I’ve read the document and I can tell you that it is consistent with Catholic teaching on economics going back at least to the 19th century. I know this because I’ve also read the encyclicals of previous popes on this subject.

The Pope is a Marxist??? If you believe that, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn I want to sell you.

In case I haven’t made myself understood, I’ll explain this caterwauling and attacking of the Holy Father in outline form:

  1. It’s about power.
  2. It’s about politics.
  3. It has nothing to do with morality, truth, the facts, Marxism or even Obama.
  4. It is about these punsters using your fidelity to them to destroy your fidelity to your Church so that when the Pope disagrees with them, it won’t matter. It is about them appealing to anti-Catholicism within the body of Christ to divide us and scatter us so that we cannot stand for Our Lord with one united voice.
  5. These things they’re saying about Pope Francis are not true. They either did not read Evangelii Gaudium, or they are deliberately distorting what it says. When they say that the Holy Father “attacked capitalism, called for government control and is a Marxist,” I am hard-pressed to call it anything other than a slanderous lie.

I’m going to go over what the Pope actually said in a series of Cliff Notes posts. I’ve done one already. But I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this economic issue for the simple reason that it’s not that important to the overall message of Evangelii Gaudium. You can either take it from me, or read the document for yourself. These attacks on the Holy Father are absolute garbage.

From some of the comments I’ve seen, I would guess that a number of Public Catholic readers are drinking this Pope-hating Kool Aid. This is the small first test in what is coming people. If you allow these crude and vulgar attacks to shear you away from your Church, then you are the lowest of the low hanging fruit on the apostasy tree.

As for me, I am a Catholic woman. This is a Catholic blog. If you’re looking for me, you’ll find me standing with the Pope.

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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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Book Review: What Are You Afraid Of?

To join the discuss about What Are You Afraid Of?, or to order a copy, go here

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What Are You Afraid Of? by Dr David Jeremiah seeks to provide a workable life theology for believers who are facing the inevitable rough spots in life.

It is a fact of existence that some people skate through life without experiencing overwhelming tragedy. It is also a fact that other people suffer one tragic even after another. Another unwelcome fact is that the course of a person’s life can change from sunshine to tragedy in a moment.

You never know.

It is this not knowing that creates much of the fear we have to live with as we traverse our days. It engenders all sorts of fear in people. Dr Jeremiah focuses his book on some of the most common fears, beginning with one I’ve had some recent acquaintance with: Natural disasters.

Dr Jeremiah not only focuses on natural disasters, he uses a description of the May 20 tornado that flattened a large part of South Oklahoma City (where I live) just a few months ago. People I know are still rebuilding their homes, grieving their dead and trying to put themselves back together from this tornado.

So, why does one person skate through a disaster like this without so much as smudging their mascara and another come out of it permanently paralyzed, or facing the loss of home and loved ones? Is there a balance in the cosmos that makes this right?

I’ve read about people who respond to these things by turning their back on God. But I’ve only known one person who did this in my whole life, and he found his way back to God later. In truth, it’s the people who aren’t suffering who use the tragedies of life to make jibes at God. The ones who are in the throes of the pain are far too busy clinging to God with all they’ve got to find energy or time to denounce Him.

Dr Jeremiah retells the story of the Tower of Siloam, which fell on a group of people in Jesus’ time, killing several of them. Jesus tells his disciples that this didn’t happen to the people who were killed because they were sinful. “God makes his rain to fall on the just and unjust,” he said, which I suppose, was Jesus’ way of saying that stuff happens.

Does that mean that God is uninvolved in what happens to us?

Anyone who has ever walked with the Lord knows this is not true.

That leaves all of us with unsatisfactory answers to these things. I think this is primarily because our perspective is temporal. God sees things from outside time.

What Are You Afraid Of? is an interesting book that seeks to answer one of the deepest questions of humankind: How do we balance the innate, existential fears that are encoded into us with the certainty of God’s promises and eternal life?

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Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 4

Michael

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Rev 12: 17 – 18

This is day 4 of the Novena to St Michael. We are praying for our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters around the world.

Our Lord was crucified by a group of corrupt priests and a cowardly politician. Today, let’s meditate on the cowardly politician. 

Pontius Pilate was not a coward in what we normally consider the manly sense. He was a soldier, and I would imagine a brave one. He certainly had no fear of putting people — even innocent ones — to death. Not too long before he was faced with the early-morning trial of this carpenter turned itinerate miracle worker and preacher from Nazareth, he had ordered the slaughter of worshipers in the Temple, “mingling their blood with their sacrifices.” 

Only God knew how many people Pilate had killed. I’m sure that Pilate had lost count long before he was forced to deal with the demands of the corrupt priests that he put yet another man to death. He knew the priests were corrupt because he was their corruptor. Rome left the Levitical priesthood in place when they conquered this land, but they did what governments always try to do: They tamed this priesthood with money and special favors; with the power of speaking for the larger populace to the ruling powers.

The uneasy population underneath this layer of Roman-Levitical governance gave the priests a certain power in dealing with Pilate. If Pilate had been an absolute ruler, or if Judea had been an unimportant area, this wouldn’t have been true.

But Pilate merely governed in the name of the Emperor in Rome. His head was as easily forfeit as that of any of the people he governed. Judea, for all its backward ways, was an important piece of real estate. It sat strategically along the trade routes between Rome and the breadbaskets of Egypt and the East. War here hurt commerce everywhere.  And Rome, like all empires, cared far more for commerce than human life, including the life of its governors. 

Pilate’s job was to keep things peaceable and those trade routes running. Uprisings and military clashes cost Rome money and endangered its privileged way of life. They weren’t to be tolerated.

The priest’s job in all this was to work with Pilate to keep the people down. Which meant that they had Pilate by the throat. Pilate, on the other hand, could certainly squeeze and punish them harshly if they cost him too much trouble, which meant he had them by the throat, also.

So, it was a gathering of political friends and allies that morning, come to haggle over what should have been a small thing to this Roman governor: The death of a single man. 

But there must have been something in Pilate, some honest thing or longing that only God saw. Because He dealt differently with Pilate than He did Herod, or even the priests.

He warned Pilate with a dream to his wife. Have nothing to do with that innocent man, she told her husband. For I have suffered greatly because of him in a dream last night. 

Jesus talked to Pilate, answering Him as directly as He ever did anyone. My kingdom is not of this world … I come to testify to the truth. 

Pilate responded with the answer of nihilists from then to now: What is truth? 

And yet, he tried. He tried hard to comply with his wife’s warning and what sounds like a cacophony of inner warnings in his own mind and step aside from killing this one man. He sent Jesus to Herod and tried to pass the problem off on him. He had Jesus scourged and displayed His wrecked and bleeding person to the priests with the words See the man! 

See how I have punished Him for you, he implies. See the blood and brokenness of Him. See the man! Isn’t this enough for you?

He even tried to use their own religious laws to free Jesus because of the Passover. 

But nothing worked, because they wouldn’t have it. And in the end, Pilate literally washed his hands of the whole affair declaiming that the blood of this man is on you to the priests and ordering Jesus murdered by means of crucifixion. 

It is fascinating that even though Jesus came for the purpose of redeeming all of humanity on Calvary, God still gave Pontius Pilate every opportunity to avoid his participation in this great crime. The point here is that God does not entrap us into sin, even if our sin plays a part in the on-going history of His Kingdom. 

We choose. 

The cowardly politician and the corrupt priests who murdered Our Lord did not have to know that they were dealing with God Incarnate to see that what they were doing was wrong. Their own laws told them that. The innate natural law that is inborn in each of us told them that.

You do not murder innocent people. Killing people to preserve your political career or your place in society or your special privileges is wrong. There is no qualifier to the wrongness of it. 

But the priests convinced themselves, as people do, that what they were doing was a political necessity to “save” the nation, and Pilate convinced himself that by killing this man he could avoid the uprising that might get him recalled. They convinced themselves and that is the key. It is the key to their evil that day and to most of ours today. 

We can convince ourselves of anything. 

That is what is at work in the political and religious justifications for the violent persecution of Christians around the world today. And for these persecutors now, just as it was for Our Lord’s murderers 2,000 years ago, there is no qualifier to the evil wrongness of what they are doing. 

The innate, inborn natural law that tells us every one that the murder of innocents is wrong condemns every person on this earth who breaks it. There is no confabulation or dissimulation or propaganda that we can use to convince ourselves otherwise that will wash away the stain of blood guilt for those who kill innocent people.

Those who kill Christians because they are Christians commit the almost unfathomable sin of crucifying Christ again in the persons of His followers. 

Without repentance and the grief that comes with the realization that they have done monstrous things, they are doomed. 

When we pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ, we need also to pray for their persecutors. 

For while those who are privileged to suffer for Christ are piling up crowns for themselves in heaven, their persecutors are committing sins, that, if they die with them on their souls, will condemn them to an eternity in hell. 


Here is the Novena to St Michael for the Persecuted Church, Day 4. Please pray it and ask others to join you.

Glorious Saint Michael,
guardian and defender
of the Church of Jesus Christ,
come to the assistance of His followers,
against whom the powers of hell are unchained.
Guard with special care our Holy Father,
the Pope, and our bishops, priests,
all our religious and lay people,
and especially the children.

Saint Michael,
watch over us during life,
defend us against the assaults of the demon,
and assist us especially at the hour of death.
Help us achieve the happiness
of beholding God face to face
for all eternity.

Amen.

Saint Michael,
intercede for me with God
in all my necessities,
especially

for the conversion of the world, 
that from pole to pole, 
dateline to dateline, 
all will call out Jesus' name. 

Obtain for me a favourable outcome
in the matter I recommend to you.
Mighty prince of the heavenly host,
and victor over rebellious spirits,
remember me for I am weak and sinful
and so prone to pride and ambition.
Be for me, I pray,
my powerful aid in temptation and difficulty,
and above all do not forsake me
in my last struggle with the powers of evil.

Amen.
 
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 3
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 2 
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 1
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Mary and Following Jesus: There are No Limits

 

I have been progressing through the 33 day preparation for Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary.

I am well over half way through it, and it has tested my faith every step of the way. I do not mean that it has made me question my belief in God. It has not put my belief in Jesus or the teachings of the Church to the test. Far from it.

What it has tested is the limits of my willingness to live my life based on that belief. Just how far will I go in following Jesus? A book I reviewed today, Fight, also tested those limits.

That seems to be the season I am in. On the one hand, the prayers and meditations of Total Consecration have pushed me to consider just what I will yield to another person, even the person of the Mother of God. How much can I trust anyone, even her? Specifically, how much of my relationship to God, to Jesus, will I yield to her rather than doing it all myself?

Fight challenged me with the question of how far I would follow Him, how completely would I do what He asks, even when I really don’t want to.

It’s really all one question and Jesus asked it best: Do you love me more than these?

His mother answered that question in the affirmative every time in every way. When the Archangel Gabriel asked her to assent to what was death-dealing anathema for girls of that era — unwed pregnancy — she said yes. When Simeon told her how it would end, she said yes. At the wedding at Cana, when she sent her child forward into His ministry which they both knew would culminate at Calvary, she said yes. When she prayed with the Apostles for the birth of the Church before Pentecost, she said yes.

Mary, like Jesus, had to be resurrected and taken into heaven as part of the divine plan. He gave her to us from the cross, and once again, she said yes.

She had to be lifted up because we need her there. The Immaculate Conception of Mary was the door opening on our salvation. She was then and she is now an outstretched arm, pointing to Him.

“Do whatever He tells you,” she instructed the wine stewards.

She says the same thing to us.

Because, as I am discovering and wrestling with, when she is your guide, there are no limits to following Him.

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