Pope Francis on Moral Relativism and Being Our Own Criterion

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Pope watchers the world over are well aware that Pope Francis has a love and a calling for the poor. 

He has told us that this inspired his choice of names. 

This emphasis on the poor has caused some disquiet in certain circles. What, they wonder, about the other things? Rumors have flown like mosquitos, claiming that our Holy Father mocked his own election, will abandon traditional marriage, is going to upend the liturgy and allow … what was it? puppets and cartoon characters?? … in the mass. We’ve been regaled with stories about his shoe color and how he’s “tipping the Church over” by washing the feet of young prisoners on Holy Thursday.

That’s why I was so glad to be able to publish a post indicating that fully 90% of Catholics who attend weekly mass approve of our new pontiff. I would guess that the other 10% must be on their computers, spinning out tales 24/7.

Today, Pope Francis made a speech to the Vatican Diplomatic Corps which should allay at least some of those fears. He talked about the poor of the world in moving terms, saying, 

How many poor people there still are in the world! And what great suffering they have to endure! After the example of Francis of Assisi, the Church in every corner of the globe has always tried to care for and look after those who suffer from want, and I think that in many of your countries you can attest to the generous activity of Christians who dedicate themselves to helping the sick, orphans, the homeless and all the marginalized, thus striving to make society more humane and more just.

Then, he went on to talk about “another form of poverty … of our time,” which he said was “the spiritual poverty … which afflicts the so-called richer countries … what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the ‘tyranny of relativism’ which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples.”

He added that this was the second reason for his name choice, since St Francis not only loved the poor, he also loved peace.

There is no peace without truth! There cannot be peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth … it is not possible to build bridges between people while forgetting God. But the converse is also true: It is not possible to build true links with God while ignoring other people.

Typing these words has reminded me again how blessed we are that the Holy Spirit has given us this man to be our pope. We need to follow his leadership. It’s difficult for Americans to admit that they should stop quarreling and nit-picking and just follow. But that is what we need to do. 

We are Christians, and it is our precise calling to follow Jesus. The single best way we can know that we are following Jesus is not, as our Holy Father said, to follow our “own criterion,” but to judge our understanding of how we should live by that which is given to us by the Church. 

Pope Francis is Christ’s Vicar here on Earth. 

I personally find some of the things a tiny minority of Catholics are saying about him painful. It is hurtful to me as a woman of faith to read articles attacking my Pope. I expect it from the secular world. But when it comes from Catholics, even when they are only a disgruntled few, it is appalling. 

Here, from Vatican radio, is the entire text of Pope Francis’ speech to the diplomats: 

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Heartfelt thanks to your Dean, Ambassador Jean-Claude Michel, for the kind words that he has addressed to me in the name of everyone present. It gives me joy to welcome you for this exchange of greetings: a simple yet deeply felt ceremony, that somehow seeks to express the Pope’s embrace of the world. Through you, indeed, I encounter your peoples, and thus in a sense I can reach out to every one of your fellow citizens, with their joys, their troubles, their expectations, their desires.
Your presence here in such numbers is a sign that the relations between your countries and the Holy See are fruitful, that they are truly a source of benefit to mankind. That, indeed, is what matters to the Holy See: the good of every person upon this earth! And it is with this understanding that the Bishop of Rome embarks upon his ministry, in the knowledge that he can count on the friendship and affection of the countries you represent, and in the certainty that you share this objective. At the same time, I hope that it will also be an opportunity to begin a journey with those few countries that do not yet have diplomatic relations with the Holy See, some of which were present at the Mass for the beginning of my ministry, or sent messages as a sign of their closeness – for which I am truly grateful.
As you know, there are various reasons why I chose the name of Francis of Assisi, a familiar figure far beyond the borders of Italy and Europe, even among those who do not profess the Catholic faith. One of the first reasons was Francis’ love for the poor. How many poor people there still are in the world! And what great suffering they have to endure! After the example of Francis of Assisi, the Church in every corner of the globe has always tried to care for and look after those who suffer from want, and I think that in many of your countries you can attest to the generous activity of Christians who dedicate themselves to helping the sick, orphans, the homeless and all the marginalized, thus striving to make society more humane and more just.
But there is another form of poverty! It is the spiritual poverty of our time, which afflicts the so-called richer countries particularly seriously. It is what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the “tyranny of relativism”, which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples. And that brings me to a second reason for my name. Francis of Assisi tells us we should work to build peace. But there is no true peace without truth! There cannot be true peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth.
One of the titles of the Bishop of Rome is Pontiff, that is, a builder of bridges with God and between people. My wish is that the dialogue between us should help to build bridges connecting all people, in such a way that everyone can see in the other not an enemy, not a rival, but a brother or sister to be welcomed and embraced! My own origins impel me to work for the building of bridges. As you know, my family is of Italian origin; and so this dialogue between places and cultures a great distance apart matters greatly to me, this dialogue between one end of the world and the other, which today are growing ever closer, more interdependent, more in need of opportunities to meet and to create real spaces of authentic fraternity.
In this work, the role of religion is fundamental. It is not possible to build bridges between people while forgetting God. But the converse is also true: it is not possible to establish true links with God, while ignoring other people. Hence it is important to intensify dialogue among the various religions, and I am thinking particularly of dialogue with Islam. At the Mass marking the beginning of my ministry, I greatly appreciated the presence of so many civil and religious leaders from the Islamic world. And it is also important to intensify outreach to non-believers, so that the differences which divide and hurt us may never prevail, but rather the desire to build true links of friendship between all peoples, despite their diversity.
Fighting poverty, both material and spiritual, building peace and constructing bridges: these, as it were, are the reference points for a journey that I want to invite each of the countries here represented to take up. But it is a difficult journey, if we do not learn to grow in love for this world of ours. Here too, it helps me to think of the name of Francis, who teaches us profound respect for the whole of creation and the protection of our environment, which all too often, instead of using for the good, we exploit greedily, to one another’s detriment.

Dear Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you again for all the work that you do, alongside the Secretariat of State, to build peace and construct bridges of friendship and fraternity. Through you, I would like to renew to your Governments my thanks for their participation in the celebrations on the occasion of my election, and my heartfelt desire for a fruitful common endeavour. May Almighty God pour out his gifts on each one of you, on your families and on the peoples that you represent. Thank you!


90% of Practicing Catholics are Happy with Pope Francis

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Ninety percent of weekly-mass Catholics are happy with Pope Francis.

That’s what I call a majority. A recent Pew Research Center Poll on how American Catholics feel about their new Pope indicated overwhelming support. Sixty-two percent of infrequent churchgoers approved of our new Holy Father. 

A CNA article about the survey says in part:

.- A new survey shows that U.S. Catholics are overwhelmingly content with the election of Pope Francis, with 73 percent of Catholics expressing happiness with the new pontiff.

The poll, conducted by the Pew Research Center less than a week after the Pope’s March 13 election, also reports a subset of 31 percent of Catholics who say they are very happy with his election.

Though reported happiness was high, about 24 percent of Catholic respondents told the Pew Research Center they have not heard enough about the Pope to make a judgment. 
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However, only two percent said they were unhappy with the cardinals’ choice.

Among weekly Mass attendees, almost 90 percent are happy with his selection, compared to only 62 percent of Catholics who are infrequent churchgoers.

Women and Catholics over 50 were more likely to report being happy at the Pope’s election. (Read the rest here.)

Does Raising Boys to be Manly Christian Men Require Discriminating Against Girls?

Bergoglio foot washing woman

Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, the future Pope Francis, washing a woman’s foot on Holy Thursday.

I was jittery before I published Women and the Church yesterday. 

I was afraid that, since I mentioned the presence of homosexual priests in our Church, I would stir up a hornet’s nest of attacks on homosexual priests.

Silly me.

Women are sooo much more the object of discrimination than homosexuals. No group of people on this planet can outrank women on the hated scale.

I was inundated with comments from men (While I know there are women-hating women and lots of them, my commenters yesterday were ALL male) explaining basically two things to me:

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1. They are not prejudiced against women. They most certainly are not misogynist. It is the Church that requires them to go on and on and on ranting against any participation by women in the liturgy. If the bishops — and three popes — allow this, they say, then the bishops and three popes are wrong. Their teaching authority is bankrupt. And they’ve got some pet priest somewhere who tells them the bishops and three popes are wrong.

These folks seem to be hung up on the use of the Latin word for “man,” which they claim does not — and I mean does not — mean all of humanity, but rather only people who are genetically and anatomically male. The odd part of this is that they are accidentally making one of the best arguments for something I would guess they see as anathema — using more inclusive language — that I have ever encountered.

If “man” does not mean all of humanity, then many of the Church’s most compelling statements concerning the universal value of all human beings go right in the trash bin. To me, the issue is simple. I won’t belabor this except to ask: Does masculum et feminam creavit eos mean what I’ve always been taught it means or not?

Licht

2. Boys can not survive in a world where girls are allowed to compete. The whole reason for the priest shortage is altar girls. These commenters simply ignored every point I raised in the post and repeated this tired old argument as if no one had challenged them. The gist of their argument was versions of the cliched boys-won’t-be-called-to-the-priesthood-because-of-altar-girls stuff. Then, it took an interesting twist, and one I’m going to talk about here, by broadening it to say that there are so many troubled young men in our society today because girls are competing against them.

This second line of reasoning is the one I want to explore in this post.

Just for the record, I’ve raised boys. Or rather, my only husband, who is their biological father, and I have raised boys. We successfully managed to bring them to productive adulthood as manly men who believe in Jesus, say their prayers, do not shoot people, are not on drugs, and who go out to work, succeed in higher education and respect women.

Based on the interesting logic of some of my commenters, we must have oppressed every girl in the neighborhood to achieve this miracle. We certainly must have refused to let them participate in swim teams where girls might beat them or go to chess tournaments where girls sometimes did beat them. After all, manliness, according to the version I’ve seem in the comboxes these past few hours, is such a fragile flower that it cannot grow unless girls are sidelined and silenced.

Father and son

In truth, my husband (and he was the one who did most of this) taught them to respect women. “Treat them like people,” he advised when they reached adolescence and were agawk at the loveliness of the girls around them. “Just remember that they are people and treat them that way and you won’t have any trouble with girls.”

The message I’m trying to convey here is not what my husband said to our sons, although I think it was, like my husband, both wise and chivalrous. It’s that my husband, their father was on the beat to say it. Young men are different from young girls in a number of ways, all of them, when they are channeled according to Godly manliness, beautiful. They are physically stronger. They are more physical, period. They are bursting with that wonderment of a hormone, testosterone, which gives them beautiful male bodies, energy and a propensity to take action.

They are not inherently violent, cruel or sadistic. All this comes from the harm we do to them in the environment we provide for them and the way we treat them.

We are very cruel to our children in this society. Boys or girls, it doesn’t matter, we always put them last on our list of musts. Oh, we shower them with toys and things. But we also put their interests last in our lives and our society. We indoctrinate them in nihilism and sexual disorder in our schools. We tear their homes apart with our divorces and adulteries. Mothers disrespect their fathers. Fathers disrespect and bully their mothers.

Then we act surprised that they grow up to be emotionally and socially damaged adults who can not create families of their own and nurture children of their own.

Father and son black

Instead of admitting our own failings, we play the blame game, writ large. That is what this nonsense about boys being unable to thrive unless girls are oppressed is. It’s the blame game, writ large and cruel. Boys need their mothers to teach them about tenderness, love and women. Boys need their fathers to teach them about men. 

I am not talking about a lecture once in a while from dad who’s not there the rest of the time. I’m talking about raising boys the same way that Joseph raised Jesus, by being there, every day, and by interacting with them all the time, in big things and small things.

I’m talking, actually, about being a man like my husband, who is the best man I’ve ever known. I am convinced that if more fathers were like my husband, we would not have violent young men terrorizing our country with random mass murders.

This business of blaming young girls for the failure of a generation of men to be the Dad on the beat for their sons is one of the most blatantly stupid and self-serving examples of prejudice I’ve seen in a quite a while. 

If you sincerely want someone to sacrifice to raise up a generation of manly men, then men, you should start with yourselves. Go home. Love their mother. And spend time with your children. Love your kids. Enjoy them.

My advice to men who want to raise their sons to be manly men is to be men themselves. Then everything, including vocations, will follow.

Priest Clears Pope of Accusations

 The culture wars are fought with money and words rather than bullets.  Perhaps the most damaging weapon is slander. 

Every public person I know has been slandered. By slander I mean the deliberate character assassination of a person to destroy their effectiveness as advocates for certain viewpoints such as pro life or favoring traditional marriage.

Pope Francis was the object of slander in 2005 when his name first surfaced as a possible candidate for the papacy. The old rumors were dusted off as soon as he actually was elected last week. They claimed that he had “betrayed” two of his fellow priests, Father Francis Jalics and Father Orlando Yorio during the dictatorship of Rafael Videla in the 1970s.

Father Jalics has come forward to deny these claims. I would imagine that talking about this is still painful for him.

But, as he said ” … many commentaries contradict what I wanted to say … Neither I nor Orlando Yorio were denounced by Father Bergoglio … we were arrested because of a catechist who worked with us first and later joined the guerrilla. For nine months, we never saw her again, but two or three days after she was detained, we were detained as well.”

It’s an old story. People are “detained” and threatened or tortured to get them to “denounce” others who are “detained,” threatened and tortured in their turn. I have never understood the purpose of this, except to create a climate of abject terror and distrust within the populace. However, it’s a terrible commonplace.

The Catholic News Agency says in part:

Francis Jalics Credit File Photo CNA CNA Catholic News 3 20 13

Father Francis Jalics (CNA)

“Since my statement on March 15 of this year, I have received many questions, so I would like to add the following. I almost feel obliged to do so, because some commentaries contradict what I wanted to say,” Fr. Jalics said.

“These are the facts: Neither I nor Orlando Yorio or were denounced by Father Bergoglio.”

“As I made clear in my previous statement, we were arrested because of a catechist who worked with us first and later joined the guerilla,” he explained.

“For nine months we never saw her again, but two or three days after she was detained, we were detained as well,” he continued. “The official who interrogated me asked for my papers. When he saw that I was born in Budapest, he thought I was a Russian spy.”

“In the Argentinean Jesuit congregation and in Catholic circles, false information spread in the years prior that claimed we had moved to the poor barrios because we belonged to the guerilla. But that was not the case. (Read more here.)

 

The Church and Women

Francis kissing girl s foot

I love this photo. Why? Because it shows our new pope washing the feet of both women and men on Holy Thursday. 

Catholics of a certain stripe look for holiness in anything that diminishes women. Righteousness is wanting to do away with altar girls, ending the service of women readers and extraordinary eucharistic ministers. These same folk are adamant that only people with y chromosomes should have their feet washed by a priest on Holy Thursday.

In each of these cases, they will insist that no, absolutely not, misogyny has nothing to do with their insistence that women’s participation in the life of the Church be diminished to spectator and held there. No. They are only making these claims because their liturgical/doctrinal/moral purity commands that they, “in charity,” do so. 

After all, they tell you, we have a priest shortage, and the precipitous drop in vocations correlates to the use of female altar servers. Ergo, the presence of girls near the altar is what’s causing the priest shortage. As for women readers and female extraordinary eucharistic ministers … well … women, reading Scripture? Out Loud? Near the Altar? And women, touching the Host. Ewwwww. Then there’s the ugliness over foot washing on Holy Thursday. Everyone knows that when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, He did it as part of instituting the priesthood, and the priesthood is all male. Sooooo … no foot washing of female feet on Holy Thursday.

Notice how these various excuses seek to sidestep the fact that every single one of them is aimed at women? Notice also, that every single one of them is an I-am-more-Catholic-than-the-popism?

Licht

Let’s take these arguments one at a time, starting with everybody’s favorite; altar girls = falling vocations. There is a historical correlation between the time that girls were allowed to be altar servers and the beginning of the drop in vocations to the priesthood. However, correlations are always a bogus argument for cause. Here’s why. A correlation simply shows that two events occur near one another. The Encyclical Humanae Vitae also correlates historically to the fall in vocations. By this logic, I could claim that it was the cause. Or, for that matter, Nixon’s resignation from the Presidency correlates. Maybe that did it.

Correlations do not signify cause.

One possible cause of falling vocations that I can think of is linked to that 400 pound gorilla in the room that unwritten rules say we shouldn’t talk about. The percentage of homosexual men in the priesthood appears to have risen during these years. Homosexuals are a much smaller pool of possible applicants from which to draw vocations than the entire male Catholic population. In addition to that, as the stigma against homosexuality goes away, homosexual men have lots of other options. I am not writing this to start an attack on homosexual priests. I am writing it to explain why blaming the priest shortage on altar girls is nonsense.

Let’s look at the next argument against women actively taking part in the life of the Church: Women near the altar, or touching the host = something unclean. I hardly know how to address this argument. It is so obviously misogynist and, well, crude, that it baffles me how people who believe it can convince themselves to believe it. A woman reading the scriptures is bad? A woman extraordinary eucharistic minister defiles the Host? Did Jesus despise half the people He made? I think not.

Next, let’s go to the question of washing women’s feet on Holy Thursday. You know: Washing women’s feet on Holy Thursday = heresy or some such. To talk about this intelligently, we need to pause for a moment and consider where the custom of Holy Thursday foot washing came from. It began when Jesus washed the disciples feet at the Last Supper. 

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“Do you know what I have done to you?” Jesus asked the apostles after he washed their feet. “I have given you an example to follow.” 

He said this to men who, not so long before, were arguing about who was going to be greatest in His coming Kingdom. They didn’t get it. After three years of watching Him talk to the woman at the well, refuse to condemn the woman taken in adultery, teaching Mary and Martha and obeying His Mother at the wedding at Cana, they still didn’t get it.

He came for the least of these. And in all the world, no one is more consistently the least of these than women. Every society has it’s discriminated against. But no matter who else falls to the bottom of things, in every society, there is also always women who are beaten, raped, murdered, bought, sold and belittled from birth to death.

“Do you know what I have done to you?”  He instituted the priesthood that night, and by washing their feet, he was teaching them to be priests. “I have given you an example to follow,” He told them. 

The people who are so adamant that no woman’s foot should be washed base their argument on the fact that Jesus instituted the priesthood that night. In some translations, the Scriptures say, “… now you should wash one another’s feet.” These folks try to take that literally, without taking it too literally. It means, they say, no women. But, if you really want to be literal about it, it means only the Apostles. Taken that far, we would probably have bishops, washing each other’s feet in a room by themselves and that would be Holy Thursday.

Does anybody think that’s what Jesus intended?

I think that if you want to follow the spirit of the act, you should probably go out on the streets and bring in homeless people, drug addicts and prostitutes and wash their feet. I think what Jesus was trying to tell the apostles — and us — is that they were wrong when they argued over who would be greatest in His Kingdom. They were wrong when they thought that they were following a Teacher Who would give them the power to lord it over all the rest of humanity. He wasn’t making them kings. He was making them servants.

He was also teaching us, all of us who take His name, that we should be servants. Washing feet on Holy Thursday is a testament of humility on the part of the priesthood of Christ. it is an action of profound meaning that tells all of us what the priesthood is and who it serves. When your parish priest goes down on his knees and washes and kisses the feet of twelve of his parishioners, he is acting out the meaning of the priesthood itself. He is demonstrating what in persona Christi means.

“Feed my sheep,” Jesus told Peter. He didn’t say feed my rams. He also didn’t say feed my ewes. He said feed them all, male and female, young and old, weak and strong, without discrimination or turning any of them away.

Jesus Christ is the Lord and Savior of all people, everywhere. In my humble and theologically ignorant opinion, if you don’t “get” that, then you don’t “get” Jesus. If you don’t understand that to your core, then you have never met the Lord I encountered on that day long ago when I said, “Forgive me.”

Do you know what I have done to you, he asked. I have given you an example to follow. 

I Think This is Wonderful!

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I don’t have a lot to say about this for now — I’ll probably get around to saying quite a lot later — but I think it’s wonderful. 

I love our Pope!

From Vatican Information Service: 

FRANCIS WILL SAY HOLY THURSDAY MASS IN A ROMAN PRISON

Vatican City, 21 March 2013 (VIS) – On Holy Thursday, 28 March, the Holy Father Francis will celebrate the Chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in the morning and then, at 5:30pm in the afternoon, will go to celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at the Casal del Marmo youth detention centre instead of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, where it had been traditionally held in past years.

The Mass of the Lord’s Supper is characterized by the announcement of the commandment of love and the gesture of washing the feet. In his ministry as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Bergoglio used to celebrate the Mass in a prison or hospital or hospice for the poor and marginalized. With this celebration at Casal del Marmo, Pope Francis will continue his custom, which is characterized by its humble context. (Read the rest here.) 

You’re Pope Francis? Well, then, I’m Napoleon!

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Andreas, the Jesuit receptionist must have a short fuse.

At least it appears he does considering his quick response to what he thought was a crank caller. It was an understandable mistake. After all, everybody knows that popes don’t dial their own phones. According to a Vatican official, “When the pope wants to call someone, an official usually calls a secretary who places the call.”

That’s the way things have always been.

Until now.

Francis, the black-shoe-wearing-hotel-bill-paying Pope is also a telephone-call-making Pope. He phoned a Jesuit residence in Rome last Friday wanting to speak to the superior general of his old Jesuit order.

The man who answered the phone, who has been identified only as Andreas, wasn’t about to be pranked. “Oh yes?” he said to the Pope. “And I’m Napoleon.”

Then he asked, “Who is it?”

When the Holy Father answered, “I really am Pope Francis. Do not worry Andreas, just connect me with the Father General. I would like to thank him for the charming letter.” Andreas seemed to figure things out. After all, who else talks like that? He apologized, and according to an article in the Mail, is now “extremely distraught” over his mistake.

After watching Pope Francis in action this past week, I doubt that Andreas has anything to worry about. I would guess that a black-shoe-wearing-hotel-bill-paying-phone-call-making Pope is not all that easily offended.

How Do You Do Lent in a Time of Feasting?

Lent

It’s still Lent.

We’ve got a week and a half of the deepest, darkest passage in human history to relive. Jesus arrested, betrayed, beaten, tortured, shamed and murdered; that’s what lies ahead of us in these next days.

We are approaching the depths of Lent; the remembrance of humanity’s greatest crime against innocence in the flesh. And we are almost there. 

But how do you do lent in a time of feasting? 

Last week, the Papal Conclave elected the first non-European pope in 1200 years, the first American pope and the first Jesuit pope in history. That conclave turned the Catholic world upside down … and left it unchanged.

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Pope Francis is the continuation of an unbroken line of popes going back to the moment when Jesus said “I will call you Peter.” The Church as a conduit of grace, a connection to the divine and a highway to heaven is untouched, unchanged and unchangeable. Despite the rancorous demands from some quarters that the Church re-write 2,000 years of Christian teaching to excuse the fashionable sins of our day, it will never do that. It has never done that; not for kings and princes, not for tanks and guns. 

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. His Church, despite its human failings, is like Him in that. Nothing that matters, nothing that’s central to what the Church is, changes, has changed, or will change. 

Last week, we elected a pope. Yesterday, he celebrated his inaugural mass. It has been a week of spiritual feasting, a time to get drunk on the Spirit and wave flags, cheer and experience the jubilation of this proof of His continued presence in our lives. 

How do we come down from that to Passion Week and the awful reality of the crucifixion? 

Transfiguration

Perhaps, we do it the same way Peter, James and John did when they came down from the mount of Transfiguration. They saw something that no one had ever seen before or since, at least not in this life. They saw the transfigured Christ in His glory, conversing with Moses and Elijah — the law and the prophets. They saw the promise of what is to come, of the meaning on the other side of the cross that they were to preach for the rest of their days. 

We saw a glimpse of that same promise in this election and inauguration. Not the transfiguration, of course, but the promise of what it meant when Jesus told us “I am with you until the end of the world.” He was promising us that when we are lost, He will call us without ceasing. When we are found, He will walk with us through whatever we must face. He will speak to us through the Holy Spirit in our deepest hearts. He will come to us in the Eucharist and forgive us in confession. In all the years of our lives, he will never leave us without a shepherd to guide us and teach us and show us the way to Him.

This past week of two living popes and one unchanging church has not been the same mountain-top view of the Transfiguration that the three chosen Apostles experienced. But it has been the Transfiguration that the whole wide world needed at this time in history. 

Now, we must, as the Apostles had to, come down from the mountaintop and turn our faces toward Jerusalem. It is Lent, and the way we do Lent in a time of feasting is to face the magnitude of our sins and the unbelievable mercy that God has shown us. 

This year, like no other, we have been given our own view of Transfiguration. 

White crucifixion

I Forgive You. Now Don’t Do It Again.

Cast the first stone scupture

My husband and I go to the Vigil Mass at our parish. Our pastor delivered a fine homily yesterday. It was based on the Gospel story of the woman taken in adultery.

He made a point that I’ve often thought myself, that the woman in this story was set up. You catch someone in “the very act” of adultery by being there. This outrage of the scribes and pharisees, which included demands that a woman be stoned to death, was fake outrage. 

The pharisees were so zealous to entrap Our Lord that they were willing to entrap and murder this poor woman along the way. I’ve always thought that the man with whom she had been caught in “the very act” of adultery was probably standing there with them, stones in his hand, ready to throw.

Such is the “mercy” of legal beagle clerics who care more for the trappings of religion than they do for the call to holiness that applies to every single person on this planet. They are so intent on following “the rules,” so focused on, as Jesus said, “cleaning the outside of the cup” that they leave the inside, which is their own souls, “filthy — full of greed and self-indulgence.”

I know because I’ve done it that human beings are capable of convincing themselves of anything. We can convince ourselves that we are holy. We can convince ourselves that our “personal morality” is, in fact, actual morality. We can make ourselves believe that our obsessions and fixations on the appearance of things truly are more important than their substance. We can, as these teachers of religious law did, forget our own sins and focus on the sins of others to the point of stoning them to death.

Today’s Gospel story has often been used against Christians by people who do not believe in Jesus and who do not follow Him. They confuse its meaning to say that we should go along with them in claiming that their sins are not sins and that, in fact, there is no sin. They want to twist the story to mean that their “personal morality” is, in fact, actual morality.

SwindleHeWhomIsWithoutSinCastTheFir

I don’t think that is what Jesus meant when He said, “Let him among you who is without sin cast the first stone.” The scriptures record the tantalizing but unexplained fact that Jesus knelt and wrote in the dust while He was speaking.

What was He writing? Was He perhaps writing the name of the man who had been with the woman when she was taken “in the very act?” Perhaps this man was the one making the demand that she be stoned. We don’t know. All we do know is that something happened that doesn’t often happen and these men became convicted of their own sins instead of the woman’s.

They dropped their stones and walked away.

This was not mercy on Our Lord’s part. It was the act that precedes mercy, which is to convict of us our own sins. We can not receive mercy for sins that we do not admit. We can not be forgiven without an understanding on our part that we need forgiveness.

The pitiful scribes and pharisees did not stay around to get the mercy they needed. They did not say, as Peter did, “have mercy on me Lord, for I am a sinful man.” They dropped their stones and went away to plot other evils for other days. They were temporarily foiled in their evil, not converted to the light.

Kissing jesusfeet

But the woman, the sinful, terrified woman whose death would have been nothing more than a means to an end for these sin-sick priests, what became of her? Again, we don’t know for sure. Was she the Mary Magdalene who stood at the foot of the cross and who was the first one to see the risen Christ? Many people think so. Was she the woman who kissed Jesus’ feet and washed them with her tears while he was at dinner with a Pharisee? Maybe.

All we know for sure is what Jesus said to her. I do not condemn you, he said. Now go, and sin no more.

He didn’t tell her that what she’d been doing, how she’d been living, was right. He didn’t tell her that she was without sin. He told her, “sin no more.”

That is God’s mercy. It is the mercy that does not lie to us by letting us slide past the reality of our sins. But it is a mercy that also doesn’t equate us with our sins. We are more than the evil we do. We are the errant children of the living God Who will always forgive us when we go to Him in humility and remorse for what we have done, but who will never do us the great disservice of telling us that what we’ve done is ok.

God tells us, like I told my own children, “Don’t do it again.” Don’t run in the house and break the lamp. Don’t hit your brother with a stick. Don’t commit adultery, lie, cheat, steal, rape or kill. Don’t do it again.

That is the mercy of God. It  is not the namby-pamby self-referencing whatever-is-popular-is-not-a-sin mercy our culture teaches us to demand of Him.

To obtain God’s mercy, we have to do more than put down our stones and go away to plot more evil. We have to want to change. Because, when it comes to our sins, He will always tell us, “I forgive you. Now don’t do it again.”

The Malarky About St Malachy

But about that day and hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Jesus Christ

Your personal end of time is coming right at you.

Maybe that’s why people are so fascinated with any “end of time” prophecy they hear about. They know that their end of time will occur on that unknown but absolutely certain day when they die. They’d rather not have to face that day alone. They want the whole wide world to go with them.

My advice to people is to stop worrying about end of time prophecies and make sure that you are right with God today and every day. No end of time prophecy will be accurate. Jesus said so. He told us that no one knows the day or the hour. If you believe Jesus, then believe that. No. One. Knows.

The latest end of time babble centers around the supposed prophecies of St Malachy. Supposedly, St Malachy made a prophecy almost 1,000 years ago in which he detailed every pope up until now. He further said that “the last pope” would be — you guessed it — the one we just elected. This supposed prophesy is enough to send chills of delight up and down the spines of the oogidy-boogidy crowd. It also sets the typing fingers working on every pundit who’s looking for a story.

St Malachy was a real person and he is a real saint. But these so-called prophecies are, like every other end-of-time, the-anti-christ-is-coming fad we latch onto, malarky. 

We have enough problems — real ones — to deal with as Christians. Let’s get to work on them.

Here’s a brief summary of the life of St Malachy from The Catholic Encyclopedia. Notice that it says the real St Malachy had the “gift of prophecy.” I don’t know what the means exactly, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t mean soothsayer.

StMalachyOMorgair

St Malachy

St. Malachy, whose family name was O’Morgair, was born in Armagh n 1094. St. Bernard describes him as of noble birth.

He was baptized Maelmhaedhoc (a name which has been Latinized as Malachy) and was trained under Imhar O’Hagan, subsequently Armagh. After a long course of studies/ by St. Cellach (Celsus) in 1119. In order to perfect himself in sacred liturgy and theology, he proceeded to Lismore, where he spent nearly two years under St. Malchus. He was then chosen Abbot of Bangor, in 1123. A year later, he was consecrated Bishop of Connor, and, in 1132, he was promoted to Armagh. St. Bernard gives us many interesting anecdotes regarding St. Malachy, and highly praises his zeal for religion both in Connor and Armagh. In 1127 he paid a second visit to Lismore and acted for a time as confessor to Cormac MacCarthy, Prince of Desmond. While Bishop, he continued to reside at Bangor, and when some of the native princes sacked Connor, he brought the Bangor monks to Iveragh, County Kerry, where they were welcomed by King Cormac. On the death of St. Celsus 1129, St. Malachy was appointed Archbishop of Armagh in 1132, which dignity he accepted with great reluctance. Owing to intrigues, he was unable to take possession of his see for two years; even then he had to purchase the Bachal Isu (Staff of Jesus) from Niall, the usurping lay primate.

During three years at Armagh, as St. Bernard writes, St. Malachy restored the discipline of the Church, grown lax during the intruded rule of a series of lay-abbots, and had the Roman Liturgy adopted.

St. Bernard continues: Having extirpated barbarism and re-established Christian morals, seeing all things tranquil he began to think of his own peace. He therefore resigned Armagh, in 1138, and returned to Connor, dividing the see into Down and Connor, retaining the former. He founded a priory of Austin Canons at Downpatrick, and was unceasing in his episcopal labours.

Early in 1139 he journeyed to Rome, Scotland, England,and France, visiting St. Bernard at Clairvaux. He petitioned Pope Innocent for palliums for the Sees of Armagh and Cashel, and was appointed legate for Ireland. On his return visit to Clairvaux he obtained five monks for a foundation in Ireland, under Christian, an Irishman, as superior: thus arose the great Abbey of Mellifont in 1142. St. Malachy set out on a second journey to Rome in 1148, but on arriving at Clairvaux he fell sick, and died in the arms of St. Bernard, on 2 November. Numerous miracles are recorded of him, and he was also endowed with the gift prophecy. St. Malachy was canonized by Pope Clement (III) on 6 July, 1199, and his feast is celebrated on 3 November.Here from The Bible Probe, is a short list of some of St Malachy’s “prophecies” about “the last pope.” This stuff has people who enjoy speculation about “the end days” enthralled. But from what I see here, you could make anybody fit these prophecies, including me, my Aunt Mattie and my cat. All we’d have to do is be elected pope, then you could rummage around in our lives and situations for something that might be stretched to the point that we could claim it “fulfilled” the “prophecy.”

St Malachy’s Prophecies

St Malachy’s Prophecies – The Last 10 Popes The Burning Fire. PIUS X. 1903-1914. This Pope showed a burning passion for spiritual renewal in the Church./p> <Religion Laid Waste (Religio Depopulata). BENEDICT XV. 1914-1922. Unfortunately, this was true.  During this Pope’s reign saw Communism move into Russia where religious life was laid waste, and World War I with the death of millions of Christians who were carnage in Flanders Field and elsewhere. Unshaken Faith. >PIUS XI. 1922-1939. This Pope faced tremendous pressure from fascist and sinister powers in Germany and Italy, but he was an outspoken critic of Communism and Fascism which enraged Hitler. An Angelic Shepherd. PIUS XII. 1939-1958. This Pope had an affinity for the spiritual world and received visions which have not been made public. Peter Bander says Pius XII “has emerged as one of the great Popes of all time,” and he “was in the truest sense of the word an Angelic Pastor to the flock…” Pastor and MarinerJOHN XXIII. 1958-1963. ” Pastor et Nauta” or “Pastor and sailor”. John was a pastor to the world, much beloved, and the Patriarch of Venice. The connection to “mariner” is thus remarkable. According to Peter Bander in The Prophecies of Malachy (TAN Books and Publisher, 1969 during the conclave which was to elect John XXIII in 1958, a certain Cardinal from the United States, (Cardinal Spellman of New York) evidently having taken Malachy’s forecast that the next pope would be “pastor and mariner” literally, rented a boat, filled it with sheep and sailed up and down the Tiber.6.  Flower of Flowers. “Flos Florum” AUL VI. 1963-1978. Paul’s coat-of-arms depicts three fleurs-de-lis, corresponding to Malachy’s prophecy. His coat of arms included three fleurs-de-lis (iris blossoms).  At the popular and controversial site of Garabandal in Spain, a seer named Conchita Gonzalez once noted: “The Blessed Virgin said in 1962 that there will only be two more popes after Paul VI.” Of the Half Moon. “De Medietate Lanae,” or “from the half moon” JOHN PAUL I. 1978-1978. John Paul I was elected Pope on August 26, 1978, when there was a half moon. He reigned 33 days, that is, about one month, when he died, although many think he was murdered. He was the 109th Pope – is “De Medietate Lunae” (Of the Half Moon). The corresponding pope was John Paul I (1978-78), who was born in the diocese of Belluno (beautiful moon) and was baptized Albino Luciani which means white light, such as that given off by the half-moon in Malachy s prophecy. He became pope on August 26, 1978, when the moon appeared exactly half full. It was in its waning phase. He died the following month, soon after an eclipse of the moon. The Labor of the Son. “De Medietate Lunae” JOHN PAUL II. 1978-2005  Amazingly, Pope John Paul II was the only pope who was both born the day of an eclipse of the sun, and entombed the day the sun was eclipsed. The Glory of the Olive. The Order of St. Benedict has said this Pope will come from their order. It is interesting that Jesus gave his apocalyptic prophecy about the end of time from the Mount of Olives.    PETER THE ROMAN - The 112th prophesy states: “In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church there will reign Petrus Romanus, who will feed his flock amid many tribulations; after which the seven-hilled city will be destroyed and the dreadful Judge will judge the people. The End.” The last pope may just cut Catholics loose from unity and the papacy, causing total disruption and confusion. See Saint Francis of Assissi’s 13th century prophecy below.  It is believed the next pope will be the last pope.


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