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

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

… no more

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cardinal Ratzinger’s comments in 1969 say in part:

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

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

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

2013 Favs: The Church has Gay Priests? Duhhhhh

Pope francis

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

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

Big deal.

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

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

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

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

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

2. He is keeping his vows of chastity now,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Melrose Park 255x256Sr Noemia Silva. Courtesy of Rudy Lopez, CNA

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

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

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

Bishop Scalabrini Community of the Missionary Sisters of St Charles Borromeo Scalabrinians in Melrose Park IL EWTN US Catholic News 2 10 12 300x225

Bishop Scalabrini Community of the Missionary Sisters of St Charles Scalabrinians

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

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

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

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

Uh-huh.

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

NYC081

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

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

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

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

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

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

From CNA:

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

Cq5dam web 1280 1280

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.”

Danger do not enter sign

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.

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

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

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

He told them, and all of us …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2013: The Year that Rocked the Church

 

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

This video highlights some of the momentous happenings in 2013.

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2013 Favs: Christian Persecution: Holy Father Warns Bishops of Coming Persecution

Pope Francis has spoken of Christian persecution. So did Pope Benedict XVI. The papacy is continuity, going back to the words, Thou art Peter. Unfortunately, Christian persecution is a continuity, as well. More Christians have died for their faith in the last century than all the previous centuries combined.

Far from abating, Christian persecution appears to be worsening and spreading, including socially accepted Christian baiting and bullying of Christians here in post Christian America. 

I wrote this post on January 11, 2013. 

 

The Holy Father cautioned bishops that they will inevitably face persecution for standing for Christ in the increasingly secular world of the future.

He issued this warning in his homily for Epiphany. Even though the warning was directed to bishops, I think it applies to all Christians. The day of cheap grace is passing for all of us.

We must, as Joshua instructed the Israelites, “Choose this day whom you will serve.” I hope that we will be able to say along with Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

ROME, January 9, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – “What sort of man” must a bishop be? The kind of man who can face persecution without flinching, Pope Benedict XVI said at the Mass for the Feast of the Epiphany at St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday.

At the Mass, the pope ordained four priests to the episcopate, one of whom is his close confidante and private secretary, Msgr. Georg Gaenswein.

Pope Benedict XVI

“Inevitably,” the pope said, faithful bishops will be “beaten by those who live lives opposed to the Gospel, and then we can be grateful for having been judged worthy to share in the passion of Christ”.

The Pope’s comments follow his recent pattern of especially strong statements on Dec. 14Dec. 21and Jan. 7  in response to the increasing push for abortion, acceptance of homosexual behaviour and general fierce opposition to the Church’s moral teachings from both inside and outside the Church.

“Today’s regnant agnosticism has its own dogmas and is extremely intolerant regarding anything that would question it and the criteria it employs,” Pope Benedict said.

“Therefore the courage to contradict the prevailing mindset is particularly urgent for a Bishop today. He must be courageous.” Seeking the “approval of the prevailing wisdom,” he said, “is not a criterion to which we submit.”

“The courage to stand firm in the truth is unavoidably demanded of those whom the Lord sends like sheep among wolves,” said the pope. “The fear of God frees us from the fear of men. It liberates.” (Read more here.)

Pope Emeritus Has Lunch with Pope

Pope Emeritus Benedict made the short trip to have lunch with Pope Francis.

It still seems strange to me that we have two living popes. I applaud the way that these men have handled this unprecedented situation.

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2013 Favs: News Flash: The Pope Attacks Capitalism! (or not)

Mammon worshippers have gone after Pope Francis lately, calling him a “marxist,” among other things. It might help us to gain perspective to remember that less than a year ago, they were doing the same thing to Pope Benedict XVI.

The moral? Maybe Jesus was onto something when He said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Here is a post I wrote on January 2 of last year defending Pope Benedict from attacks from the money changers. A few months later, I had to write similar posts defending Pope Francis from the same crowd. 

 

Have you heard the news?

Various outlets are blasting it out there that the Holy Father spoke against “unregulated capitalism” in his homily New Year’s Day.

In their rush to hype, they ignore a number of things that I want Public Catholic readers to think about.

1. This is nothing new. I’ve read Papal Encyclicals calling for economic justice going all the way back to Rerum Novarum by Pope Leo XIII. The message Pope Leo gave in that Encyclical has been reiterated by Pope after Pope since then, including a passionate Encyclical issued by Pope John Paul II on the 100th anniversary of Rerum Novarum called, aptly enough, Centesimus Annus: On the 100th Anniversary of Rerum Novarum. I urge you to read both these encyclicals if you are interested in what the Church teaches concerning economic matters.

The Holy Father was simply reiterating what has been the consistent teaching of the Roman Catholic Church concerning economics.

2. The statement that the press has headlined was one line in the middle of a much longer homily, and even then it is part of a list of problems in the world today. That doesn’t mean that it’s insignificant. It certainly doesn’t mean that the Holy Father isn’t serious about what he said. But it does mean that the statement was part of a larger teaching on a number of topics and not the headline piece that these various articles would make you think it was.

I am not a theologian or a priest. So anything I say is always subject to argument and disagreement. Given that caveat, my take on these encyclicals is that they apply the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount to our economic life. I think they do a masterful and inspiring job of that. The bottom line to Church teaching in this matter (at least so far as I understand it) is that economic systems should serve people, not the other way around.

If an economic system does not allow people to earn a living that sustains the physical well-being of the wage earner and their family, and if it does not do this in a way that does not exploit, enslave or degrade them, then that economic system is in need of reform.

I hear echoes of Jesus’ statement “The Sabbath was made for man. Man was not made for the Sabbath.” all through these encyclicals, only applied to something far less significant than God’s law that we should rest on the sabbath. Economic systems are human devices. They are not holy. They should serve us.

I am not writing this to attack capitalism, which I think is the best economic system people have come up with so far. But I am saying that capitalism should never become a false idol that we put ahead of the well-being of other people or the clear teachings of the Church. When that happens, what you get is corporatism, which is, by definition, never just and downright harmful to vast numbers of people.

Now that I’ve stirred this economic pot about as much as I can in one post, I’ll add the Holy Father’s homily so you can read it yourself and form your own opinions. I am going to reproduce it in whole to help you do that. The sentence that the press has focused on is in boldface. This emphasis is mine.

Here, from the Vatican website is the homily:

(Vatican Radio) Pope Benedict celebrated mass in St Peter’s Basilica on New Year’s Day, marking the feast of Mary and the Church’s World Day of Peace. In his homily the Pope urged people to look to God and to his son Jesus for true peace in a world fraught with problems, darkness and anxieties.

Listen to the report by Susy Hodges:

Below, please find the English translation of the text of Pope Benedict’s homily:
Dear Brothers and Sisters, “May God bless us and make his face to shine upon us.” We proclaimed these words from Psalm 66 after hearing in the first reading the ancient priestly blessing upon the people of the covenant. It is especially significant that at the start of every new year God sheds upon us, his people, the light of his Holy Name, the Name pronounced three times in the solemn form of biblical blessing. Nor is it less significant that to the Word of God – who “became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14) as “the true light that enlightens every man” (1:9) – is given, as today’s Gospel tells us, the Name of Jesus eight days after his birth (cf. Lk 2:21).

It is in this Name that we are gathered here today. I cordially greet all present, beginning with the Ambassadors of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See. I greet with affection Cardinal Bertone, my Secretary of State, and Cardinal Turkson, with all the officials of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; I am particularly grateful to them for their effort to spread the Message for the World Day of Peace, which this year has as its theme “Blessed are the Peacemakers”. Although the world is sadly marked by “hotbeds of tension and conflict caused by growing instances of inequality between rich and poor, by the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated financial capitalism,” as well as by various forms of terrorism and crime, I am convinced that “the many different efforts at peacemaking which abound in our world testify to mankind’s innate vocation to peace. In every person the desire for peace is an essential aspiration which coincides in a certain way with the desire for a full, happy and successful human life. In other words, the desire for peace corresponds to a fundamental moral principle, namely, the duty and right to an integral social and communitarian development, which is part of God’s plan for mankind. Man is made for the peace which is God’s gift. All of this led me to draw inspiration for this Message from the words of Jesus Christ: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God’ (Mt 5:9)” (Message, 1). This beatitude “tells us that peace is both a messianic gift and the fruit of human effort … It is peace with God through a life lived according to his will. It is interior peace with oneself, and exterior peace with our neighbours and all creation” (ibid., 2, 3). Indeed, peace is the supreme good to ask as a gift from God and, at the same time, that which is to be built with our every effort.

We may ask ourselves: what is the basis, the origin, the root of peace? How can we experience that peace within ourselves, in spite of problems, darkness and anxieties? The reply is given to us by the readings of today’s liturgy. The biblical texts, especially the one just read from the Gospel of Luke, ask us to contemplate the interior peace of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. During the days in which “she gave birth to her first-born son” (Lk 2:7), many unexpected things occurred: not only the birth of the Son but, even before, the tiring journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, not finding room at the inn, the search for a chance place to stay for the night; then the song of the angels and the unexpected visit of the shepherds. In all this, however, Mary remains even tempered, she does not get agitated, she is not overcome by events greater than herself; in silence she considers what happens, keeping it in her mind and heart, and pondering it calmly and serenely. This is the interior peace which we ought to have amid the sometimes tumultuous and confusing events of history, events whose meaning we often do not grasp and which disconcert us.

The Gospel passage finishes with a mention of the circumcision of Jesus. According to the Law of Moses, eight days after birth, baby boys were to be circumcised and then given their name. Through his messenger, God himself had said to Mary – as well as to Joseph – that the Name to be given to the child was “Jesus” (cf. Mt 1:21; Lk 1:31); and so it came to be. The Name which God had already chosen, even before the child had been conceived, is now officially conferred upon him at the moment of circumcision. This also changes Mary’s identity once and for all: she becomes “the mother of Jesus”, that is the mother of the Saviour, of Christ, of the Lord. Jesus is not a man like any other, but the Word of God, one of the Divine Persons, the Son of God: therefore the Church has given Mary the title Theotokos or Mother of God.
The first reading reminds us that peace is a gift from God and is linked to the splendour of the face of God, according to the text from the Book of Numbers, which hands down the blessing used by the priests of the People of Israel in their liturgical assemblies. This blessing repeats three times the Holy Name of God, a Name not to be spoken, and each time it is linked to two words indicating an action in favour of man: “The Lord bless you and keep you: the Lord make his face to shine upon you: the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace” (6:24-26). So peace is the summit of these six actions of God in our favour, in which he turns towards us the splendour of his face. For sacred Scripture, contemplating the face of God is the greatest happiness: “You gladden him with the joy of your face” (Ps 21:7). From the contemplation of the face of God are born joy, security and peace. But what does it mean concretely to contemplate the face of the Lord, as understood in the New Testament? It means knowing him directly, in so far as is possible in this life, through Jesus Christ in whom he is revealed. To rejoice in the splendour of God’s face means penetrating the mystery of his Name made known to us in Jesus, understanding something of his interior life and of his will, so that we can live according to his plan of love for humanity. In the second reading, taken from the Letter to the Galatians (4:4-7), Saint Paul says as much as he describes the Spirit who, in our inmost hearts, cries: “Abba! Father!” It is the cry that rises from the contemplation of the true face of God, from the revelation of the mystery of his Name. Jesus declares, “I have manifested thy name to men” (Jn 17:6). God’s Son made man has let us know the Father, he has let us know the hidden face of the Father through his visible human face; by the gift of the Holy Spirit poured into our hearts, he has led us to understand that, in him, we too are children of God, as Saint Paul says in the passage we have just heard: “The proof that you are sons is that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts: the Spirit that cries, ‘Abba, Father’” (Gal 4:6).

Here, dear brothers and sisters, is the foundation of our peace: the certainty of contemplating in Jesus Christ the splendour of the face of God the Father, of being sons in the Son, and thus of having, on life’s journey, the same security that a child feels in the arms of a loving and all-powerful Father. The splendour of the face of God, shining upon us and granting us peace, is the manifestation of his fatherhood: the Lord turns his face to us, he reveals himself as our Father and grants us peace. Here is the principle of that profound peace – “peace with God” – which is firmly linked to faith and grace, as Saint Paul tells the Christians of Rome (cf. Rom 5:2). Nothing can take this peace from believers, not even the difficulties and sufferings of life. Indeed, sufferings, trials and darkness do not undermine but build up our hope, a hope which does not deceive because “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (5:5). May the Virgin Mary, whom today we venerate with the title of Mother of God, help us to contemplate the face of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. May she sustain us and accompany us in this New Year: and may she obtain for us and for the whole world the gift of peace. Amen! (For more stories like this, go here.)

Illegitimate Pleasures

Ravi Zacharias on the most precious things in life.

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Pope Francis: Christ Transforms Death Into the Dawn of New Life

The second day of Christmas — today — is St Stephen’s Day.

Why would the Church remember the first martyr, a Deacon who was stoned to death for his faith, in the middle of this most joyous season of the year?

I think that St Stephen’s martyrdom is a reminder to all of us that we are crowned with eternal life, but that crown has thorns. In this world, the peace and joy of Christmas are blunted by reminders of the suffering of our persecuted brothers and sisters, as well as the challenges to religious liberty and freedom of conscience here at home.

We no longer live in a Christian nation. We live in post Christian America. This is a fact we all need to absorb. The more you speak for Jesus, the more you will be attacked. Do not let that deter you from taking a stand for Christ. Remember that you are an immortal soul who wears the crown of eternal life. Know that whatever people may try to do to you, Our God will find a way to use it for the good of His Church.

Pope Francis spoke of this great hope that sustains us, as well as the sobering reality of present-day Christian persecution in his St Stephen’s Day homily. St Stephen was the first martyr. Christian martyrs of the 21st Century join him every day.

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Seek Him this Christmas

The true meaning of Christmas.

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The Reason for the Season

This is the second day of Christmas, which is not too late to reflect once again on the Reason for the season.

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Pope Francis Visits Children’s Hospital for Christmas

Pope Francis repeated a 2005 visit by Pope Benedict XVI with a Christmas visit to a children’s hospital in Rome.

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Merry Christmas 2013

Christmas joy to all of you!

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Pope Francis Visits Benedict to Wish Him a Merry Christmas

We are blessed to have both these men.

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Not Exactly a Christmas Carol …

Not exactly a Christmas carol. But it fits the way I feel.

Merry Christmas, my friends.

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Faith Challenges of 2013: Repenting of My Self-Sufficiency

This has been the year of two living popes.

It’s been a year of new mass shootings, government shutdowns, spies turned whistleblowers and the revelation that our government is doing everything but looking up our skirts and down the fronts of our blouses in its efforts to spy on and criminalize the entire American populace. I’m not ruling the skirts and and blouses part out, but we have no confirmation of that.

It’s been the year when the Supreme Court drop-kicked DOMA and took gay marriage off the leash, the year when we the people actually got our fill of senseless war and stopped the bombing in Syria. It was the year when the economy rotated in place and a big piece of my part of the world was blown to smithereens.

There’s been the flop of the Obamacare start up; the push for gun control and a nervy stand-off in Texas over a commonsense pro life bill that would simply require abortion clinics to provide the same levels of safety to their patients as any other free-standing surgery clinic.

My brother-in-law died, leaving my sister as one of the walking wounded. My mother has been in and out of the hospital.

And me, I’ve just kept on passing bills and writing blog posts. I still haven’t lost weight and I still can’t make my hair do one single thing that it doesn’t want to do. I have taken up piano lessons, and I am the proud possessor of a new camera.

Life, as they say, goes on.

One surprise to me has been how hard it is to blog about matters of faith and still keep my religion. I’ve spent years dealing with that very thing as a legislator. The process of getting whammed around because of my beliefs has toughened my faith and made it stronger. But I’ve also found, as I’ve started writing about it, that it has made me more than a little impatient with people who aren’t as willing to go out there on the ice for Jesus as I am.

I’ve forgotten how I was before the pro abortion people made me the target of an orchestrated campaign of character assassination. They forced me to choose over and over between them and Jesus, between the Democratic Party and Jesus, between having friends at work and Jesus, between anybody even speaking to me on the job and Jesus. I’ve forgotten what it was like back in the days when I hadn’t been called every ugly name I can think of.

Who was I back then?

I honestly can’t remember.

All I know is that talking about these things with you good people here at Public Catholic and witnessing your attempts to work through them yourself has acquainted me with the simple fact that I’m different now than I was before these things happened to me. I see the world differently than I did before I chose Christ in an active way during adversarial politics.

One of the purposes of this blog is to provide a forum where we can work through the process of finding our voice in the face of the often daunting ugliness of attacks on the faith in this post-Christian society of ours. It’s ironic how often the blog and I get targeted by people who make it their business to attack Christians and Christianity. That can be disruptive to what I’m trying to accomplish here, but it is, in its own backhanded way, a great privilege.

Whenever anyone targets me for personal attacks and vendettas because of my stand for Jesus, I am blessed.

But this blessing leads me to the faith challenge that has troubled me most of this past year. It is easy to get caught up in these attacks and start feeling besieged. Instead of drawing me closer to Christ, that kind of thinking can build a barrier between me and Him.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of regarding these things as being about me. It’s also easy to fall into the parallel trap of trying to deal with them on my own.

One of the surprising pitfalls of blogging about faith is that I can spend too much time talking about Jesus and cheat myself of time spent talking to Him. It seems some days that the more I talk about Jesus the less I talk to Him.

This tendency to talk about Christ without talking to Christ is a dangerous road to take. I think it would lead me inevitably down the path of becoming my own little g god. I could eventually come to a point where I lose my relationship with Jesus and begin to lecture and hector about Him without any guidance or input from Him. These attacks from the Christian-bashing peanut gallery — and my own temper — push me hard down that path.

That would be disaster, not for you who read the stuff I write, but for me. I can not allow anything to come between me and my relationship with Christ, even if that thing is my attempt to stand for Christ. I can’t because to lose Christ is to lose life itself and all that matters.

The only way I know to avoid this is by retreating. I don’t mean by not writing this blog. I mean by not making the writing of this blog into what passes for my relationship with Christ. The life of a Public Catholic should be mostly Catholic and only a little bit public.

What I mean is that any public statements or actions about my faith should be the outflow of a fruitful walk with Christ that is mostly hidden and that is nurtured, sustained and informed by the quiet times of simply being with Him. If most of my faith is what people see, then it is an anemic and ultimately destructive excuse for real faith. The way to achieve this kind of fruitful walk with Christ is not by pushing on, but by making regular, nourishing retreats away from the public part of life.

This is similar to the lesson that I learned in how to live a real life while in public office. I had to withdraw and go home to my real life. You have a real life by living one. By the same token, you have a real relationship with Jesus Christ by spending time with Him.

I am not talking about going to mass, although going to mass and partaking of the Body and Blood of Our Lord is essential. I am talking about spending time in prayer, and by that I mean mostly just being with God. I certainly don’t mean dumping out a laundry list of wants and needs and then going back to your busy-busy life. Prayer is, or it should be, mostly companionship. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a wonderful way to get some alone time with God. But it’s not necessary, if it’s not do-able.

I experienced the profound conversion that changed my life while I was driving my car on the way to Enid Oklahoma to make a speech. God is with you, always. You only have to start talking to Him.

I’m still learning the blogging ropes. At the same time, I’m also trying to learn how to live my first vocation, which is simply and always to love Jesus and let Him love me. The challenge to my faith in 2013 has been the surprising reality that I need to learn how to speak about Jesus in a public forum and then just go home to Him the rest of the time.

I think talking about this on this blog is highly appropriate. It is, after all, called Public Catholic and is dedicated to helping all of us, you and me both, learn to live our faith in the public side of our lives. We live in a society where the public debate, the media and most educational institutions are dominated by an anti-Christian viewpoint that is not the least bit ashamed to engage in Christian bashing that rises to a discriminatory level. We have reached the point where at least in some quarters verbal abuse and hazing directed at Christians is considered a form of righteousness.

Every one who stands for Jesus is going to pay a price.

The only way this blog can help to empower Christians to find their voice for Christ in the face of that overt and ugly resistance is if we talk honestly to one another. We need, all of us, to base our efforts to speak for Jesus on a real faith that is nourished and sustained in the private side of our lives.

Nobody told me this rock was out there under the blogging water when I began doing this. I did not realize that I would learn that I had to repent of my self-sufficiency. I had to hit the rock of spiritual dryness and feel the unpleasant thunk all on my own.

For all I know, the other Christian bloggers here at Patheos have never come up against this. I tried a few months ago to talk to a priest about it because I thought that, of all people, a priest who has to go out there and wear his faith on his collar all the time would understand. He just stared at me like I was speaking Klingonese.

I decided then that I was on my own with this, or, rather, I was on my own with Jesus. But that’s how I became a Christian in the first place; just me and Jesus.

What that means for me is making time for the simple things: Pray the Rosary, read the Bible, go to mass. I can leave the heavy lifting to the Holy Spirit. I don’t have to sustain my relationship with Christ by my actions. All I need to do is stop ignoring Him in my zeal to defend Him and simply talk to Him. I am a child of God, and like all true parents, He will always answer when I call.


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