I respect Billy Graham. He’s the real deal.
When in trouble or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.
Based on conversations I have with Catholics in my private life, I’m guessing that what I’m about to say is big, unwelcome news for a lot of active, Jesus-loving Catholics in America today.
But, based on what I know is happening, it is long past time for someone to start saying it, and saying it often.
We are going to have to get used to the idea that the Church is under attack. I know that most Public Catholic readers are aware of this. In fact, I’m overdue in complimenting you on how thoughtfully you responded to last week’s media dipsy doodle over Pope Francis’ interview with America magazine.
Nobody tried to post any of the “run in circles scream and shout” comments I saw elsewhere on the internet. I think that I am blessed that this blog has attracted such an intelligent and thoughtful group of readers.
However, based on the things I read elsewhere, and more to the point, the things I’ve heard from my fellow pew-sitting Catholics, many of whom wouldn’t touch the internet with a stick, I would say that you are an extraordinary group of well-informed believers. That makes you important to the future of our Church.
Since you are the ones who have learned to think things through without taking a reflexive bite of whatever swill the media is dishing, you are also the ones who have the job of going into your parishes, prayer groups and families and setting things straight.
That’s a big job, and it’s going to get bigger as time goes by.
You see, the Church is under attack. As St Paul said 2,000 years ago, we are not dealing with the ordinary gossipy mealy-mouthedness of regular human communication. We are dealing with powers and principalities. In other words, the Church is being attacked by people who, without knowing it at all, are driven by a hatred for the Light that does not grow tired and will not stop until Jesus comes again.
The sad part is that the purveyors of Christian/Catholic/Church bashing claptrap are winning the information wars. People believe these folks, especially when they praise the pope for their false interpretations of his words. They fall right over the cliff of thinking that the Holy Father has pulled the moral rug out from under them.
Let me tell you something simple: That ain’t gonna happen. It won’t happen in my lifetime, or in yours, or in the lifetime of the Church.
The Pope will never obviate 2,000 years of Christian teaching to follow after what Elizabeth Scalia calls the “idols of everyday life.” No matter what bribery they offer him in terms of their praise and adulation for what he didn’t say, he will not do this.
The Church’s written teaching on abortion goes all the way back to the Didache, which is to say, to the beginning. The teaching on the sanctity of the sacrament of Holy Matrimony goes back to the wedding of Cana, which is to say, to the beginning of Christ’s public ministry. It was the first thing Our Lord did when He began to teach and preach.
The Vicar of Christ is not going to overturn these teachings.
At the same time, the teachings of the unfathomable value of every human being — young or old, gay or straight, man or woman, saint or sinner — goes back to that same Jesus and His words. The Christ Who told us that the very hairs on our heads are numbered by the God Who made us, is the same Christ Who instituted the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.
It is all of a whole; one cloth. That is what we have lost in our politicized message. We cannot chose between human beings and say that one is more worthy of life than another. We can not do this about any human life, including our own, for the simple reason that every human life belongs to God. By the same token, we cannot pretend and proclaim that two men or two women are the same as a man and a woman. If it wasn’t for the enormous pressure being exerted by the culture, we would all see this for the fantastical delusion that it is.
That does not mean that two men or two women are any less human and worthy of love than a man and a woman. But it does mean that just because you call it “marriage” that does not make it a marriage. It just makes you a fool when you say it.
The reason I am writing this is because I think most of the people who read it see this already. I want you to understand that you are graced by that understanding and that this grace carries a responsibility. Our brothers and sisters are being whipped around like flags blowing in the wind by media flimflam about the Church.
They absorb the constant dribble of malicious criticism without giving it perspective or taking the time to learn what is fact, what is exaggeration and what is an outright lie. By the same token, they buy the whole deal when the press tells them that the Pope has overturned bedrock teachings of the Church.
What I want for you is two things.
1. Do not lose track of the fact that the Holy Father will never repudiate Christ and His teachings. He will not do it. So when you hear the next new whatever that the press says about him, judge it by that simple fact.
2. Communicate this to the people around you. Evangelize a bit by telling the truth. It won’t be easy. The American public has been so beaten up by constant manipulation and propaganda that they behave like a 300,000,000-member herd of spot-lighted deer. But if I have learned anything in 18 years of public life, it is that steady persistence and consistency win out over lies. They don’t right at first. But in the long run, the truth floats and lies sink.
We’re going to have to get used to this. Things will get worse before they get better.
But that isn’t a tragedy. It’s an opportunity. It’s our chance to stand for Jesus.
My advice to you is, don’t miss it.
We have a pope, and our new pope has his own way of doing things. Twenty-four hours after he stood on the balcony and gave us his first blessing as our Holy Father, Pope Francis is already exhibiting an independent streak.
He dressed more simply, refused a Papal limousine, asked for our prayers and (get ready for this) went back to the Vatican hotel where he had been staying before his election to collect his own luggage and pay his bill.
I don’t see these changes as a departure from the papacy as it has been, but as a return of the papacy as a pastoral office that speaks to the world in the name of Christ the Lord that it always has been. Rather than behaving in a manner befitting what the press has termed “Christ’s CEO,” Pope Francis has shown us a Holy Father who has come to serve the Lord, and us in His name.
I think it would be a mistake for anyone to take this gentleness and simplicity as weakness. Pope Francis’ actions demonstrate an unruffled confidence in the Christ of the Gospels that comes from the kind of faith that survives anything the world can throw at it. He is humble, but I predict that we will see that it is the humility of an inner strength born of great faith and holiness.
I’ve excerpted an Associated Press article detailing the Holy Father’s first day in office. You can find the entire article with all the details here.
VATICAN CITY (AP) —put his humility on display during his first day as pontiff Thursday, stopping by his hotel to pick up his luggage and pay the bill himself in a decidedly different style of papacy …
… He kept the simple iron pectoral cross of his days as bishop and eschewed the red cape … choosing instead the simple white cassock of the papacy.
… “He believes the church has to go to the streets, to express this closeness of the church and this accompaniment with those who are suffering.” Francis’ authorized biographer,
…Sergio Rubin, said in an interview Thursday with The Associated Press.… Rubin recalled how the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio would celebrate Masses with homeless people and prostitutes in.
… Francis began his first day as pope making an early morning visit in a simple Vatican car to a Roman basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary and prayed before an icon of the Madonna.
He also told cardinals he would call on retired Pope Benedict XVI, but the Vatican said the visit wouldn’t take place for a few days.
… Francis, the first Jesuit pope and first non-European since the Middle Ages, decided to call himself Francis after St. Francis of Assisi, the humble friar who dedicated his life to helping the poor.
The new pope, known for his work with the poor in Buenos Aires’ slums, immediately charmed the crowd in St. Peter’s, which roared when his name was announced and roared again when he emerged on the loggia of the basilica with a simple and familiar: “Brothers and sisters, good evening.”
By Thursday morning, members of his flock were similarly charmed when Francis stopped by the Vatican-owned residence where he routinely stays during visits to Rome and where he stayed before the start of the conclave.
“He wanted to come here because he wanted to thank the personnel, people who work in this house,” said The Rev. Pawel Rytel-Andrianek, who is staying at the residence. “He greeted them one by one, no rush, the whole staff, one by one.”
He then paid the bill.
“People say that he never in these 20 years asked for a (Vatican) car,” he said. “Even when he went for the conclave with a priest from his diocese, he just walked out to the main road, he picked up a taxi and went to the conclave. So very simple for a future pope.”
Francis displayed that same sense of simplicity and humility immediately after his election, shunning the special sedan … so he could ride on the bus with other cardinals, and refusing even an elevated platform from which he would greet them, according to U.S. Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
… “I think we’re going to see a call to Gospel simplicity,” said U.S. Cardinal Donald Wuerl.
… Francis’ election elated Latin America, home to 40 percent of the world’s Catholics … On Wednesday, drivers honked their horns in the streets ofand television announcers screamed with elation at the news.
Cardinal Thomas Collins, the archbishop of Toronto, said the cardinals clearly chose Francis because he was simply “the best person to lead the church.”
Reporter Rob Gillies in Toronto, Karl Ritter and photographer Luca Bruno in Rome contributed. (Read the rest here.)
Follow Nicole Winfield at www.twitter.com/nwinfield
Leah Libresco, who blogs at Unequally Yoked, is being received into the Catholic Church today. She has written several wonderful posts in anticipation of her baptism and confirmation, including one she titled Reach Out Your Hand and See What It Gets You.
This particular post describes Leah’s reaction to the Gospel story of Bartimaeus. Leah’s take on the story is original and through-provoking. She focuses on Bartimaeus, walking toward Jesus, reaching out with his hands to feel his way. Blind Bartimaeus, feeling his way to Christ.
We are all like that, whether we know it or not. Blinded by our lack of insight and the stories of this world, we hear Jesus calling us, but we do not have the eyes to see. We must, like Bartimaeus, trust Him and take that first step in His direction.
Leah’s fine post on this subject says in part:
Traditionally, as catechumens prepare for baptism in the Catholic Church, we hear three specific Gospel readings at the three Scrutiny Masses before reception of the Sacraments (John 4:1-42, John 9:1-41, and John 11:1-44). Because my parish does two cycles of RCIA per year, I ended up hearing the story of Bartimaeus, the blind man as told in a different gospel. On October 28th, the reading was from Mark 10:46-52 as follows:
As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”
And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me.”
Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.” He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.
Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?”
The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.”
Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.
Jesus doesn’t meet the blind man where he sits; he asks Bartimaeus to walk to him. Picture what that would be like; getting up and stumbling forward in pitch darkness, arms outstretched in front of you, until another hand takes yours. That first moment of contact with Christ might have felt like when you don’t realize you’ve reached the bottom of a flight of stairs, and come into jarring contact sooner than you expected.
When Bartimaeus reached Christ, he would have touched him with his hand, the eyes he had used in lieu of eyes his whole life. So, at the moment of contact, before Christ restored his sight, he was already perceiving Christ directly, and then, grace upon grace, a veil fell away, and he was looking at Him. Jesus would be the first thing Bartimaeus saw, with no point of reference or comparison. Presumably, for the rest of his life, everything else Bartimaeus saw was in some way interpreted in relation to that first vision. (Read more here.)
Click here throughout the Year of Faith, as the Catholic Channel at Patheos.com invites Catholics of every age and stripe to share what they are gleaning and carrying away from this gift of timely focus.