Satire: Pope Francis Abolishes the Season of Lent

During the Holy Father’s private audience with an elite group of cynical sourpuss cardinals, bishops and priests, he has decided to abolish the season of Lent and extend the Christmas Season all the way until Easter.Sourpuss

He was quoted as saying, “The Church is to be a place of joy…JOY! But you sourpuss priests and bishops are dragging me down with your daily mortifications and acts of self-denial.”

Some of the priests who support this move sent letters to the Pope in hopes that he would call them and give them a pat on the back.  Meanwhile, media outlets have suggested that the Pope’s comments are a sign that eventually the Pope will one day abolish sin in general.  CNM reported:  “The Pope is finally bringing suffering to an end, by promoting a mindset where one serves himself rather than through pious acts of self-denial.  This will usher in a new age for the Church, so that it can finally catch up to the secular-mindset which is ending poverty and other bad stuff.”

The SSPX and followers of Maria Divine Mercy gathered and made a decision to fast and pray twice as hard during the Lenten season, and make sure that every time they come across a smiling Christian they remind them of the true meaning of the season of Lent…which is to be celebrated in the hearts of all the faithful all year around.  An anonymous member of a radical Catholic Group was quoted as saying on their official WordPress DesertBlog:  “Lent is the desert and in the desert we encounter God…only in the Desert – we never encounter Him in joy because that is sinful.”

Fr. Billy was interviewed at Holy Name Parish, somewhere in Canada.  He said, “I think it is great that the Pope is embracing the joyful season of the Church.  Surely the fruits of self-denial will never bring authentic peace and joy to a Christian.  We must always Jesusembrace the resurrection of Christ and the little baby and let us wipe out from history, from our memories that nasty business with the Pharisees and Calvary.”  Soon after this Fr. Billy ordered his parishioners to remove the corpus from all crosses in the Church and Rectory.

*please be assured none of the above is true…

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Clericalism and Pope Francis

Pope Francis2

One of the number of issues Pope Francis has brought to the forefront of discussion is “Clericalism.”  It is a buzz-word for many because it primarily attacks an attitude within the leadership of the Church.  Now as a leader within the Church I must say that since I’ve been ordained I’ve become more and more accustom to how people liberally criticize their leaders at the drop of a hat.  If they have the wrong expression on their face, they are a bad, evil vile priest.  If they don’t smile and say hello to one particular parishioner out of the 300 that are present for mass it’s because, “they hate me.”

If I were to define clericalism simply I’d say it is simply a man ordained who seeks to be served by others rather than to serve.  I think every single good-hearted Catholic will agree that this is scandalous, as the priest is chiefly to represent Christ who did not come to be served, but to serve.  And the priest who is Christ’s representative (sacramentally), ought to imitate the same virtues lest he give people a false image of who Jesus truly is.

As a result of this definition we must begin to examine Pope Francis’ thinking.  One of his first criticisms around Clericalism was pertaining to the laity.  He called it the “clericalization of the laity,” whereby the priests have infected the lay-people with their own sickness.  That is to say that the laity began to take on the roles and identity of the priest and the line between the laity and the priesthood become blurred unnecessarily.  Liturgical roles were extended to the laity after Vatican II, and this was approved and promoted by Vatican II.  But as always, an exaggerated sense of importance was added to this new feet when it was explained as if, “You didn’t have dignity before, but now you do, because you can be an extra-ordinary ministry of Holy Communion.”

The Pope (Francis) hoped to stress that the laity should not find their identity in some liturgical function of the liturgy, but rather find their identity in the liturgy of the world, where their true pulpit is found and discovered.  The majority of Catholic faithful today do not believe that they have a particular Liturgical abuserole to play in the promulgation of the Gospel.  But they do, and it is incredibly important.  They are called to proclaim the Gospel in the political sphere, to become politicians who proclaim the name of Jesus.  They are called to evangelize the work-place, be it the coffee shops, schools, factories, and so on.  They are to “make a mess” in the world by Christifying every place and corner of civilization.  But it is all too easy to consider a job well-done in the “evangelization” when we merely read during Sunday mass and then go home feeling as if our obligation to pass on the faith is complete.

To demand honour and glory as a priest is really to desire hell.  But to demand respect for the authority you have for the sake of serving others is to not only ensure heaven for yourself (as a priest) but also to assure heaven to those whom you are leading.  Real authority is unknown to people these days because they only operate under two extremes:  Tyrant versus Democracy.  You have the man who abuses power, like the Bishop recently under fire for spending far too much money on his own residence.  Then you have the democratic view which is akin to the parents giving their child a vote as to what time their curfew is.  Both are extremes, but what we call priests help us understand where the middle-ground is found:  FATHER.

A Father is anything but a tyrant, if he does it correctly.  My parents would never let me call them by their first name, and rightfully so, because they demanded that I respect my relationship with them.  At one point, as a little stubborn and smart-aleck kid I turned to my mother and said, “You are being condescending.”  She swiftly responded:  “That is my job, I’m allowed.”

Growing up in the culture I did, to hear that statement from my mom confounded me into silence.  I actually began to critically think about what she was saying.  I had been so immersed into the assumption that no one should ever be condescending, and yet my mother had said because she is my Mother she has that particular role.  The reason I was confounded was because a falsehood was being challenged which was this:  to be condescending necessarily means to be unloving.

Here is an analogy for you, to perhaps help you cease to judge me unfairly.  A father who is respected by his children is happy because his children will listen to them.  Why does the father want that respect?  Not because he feels as if he is honoured and glorified by it, but rather because his children will take seriously the message he is setting forth to them.  If a father who is not respected tells his children to cross the street by looking both ways first, he may have little confidence that his children are safe since they do not respect his legitimate authority.  But if he is respected and seen as a protector and loving father, when he tells them this he can be at peace knowing that they will be safe. spoiled-child-3-mom-correcting

Now most parents probably get this. When I went to World Youth Day in Germany I was shouting with a loud voice (during mass) on the stage with the Pope, his name.  He turned around and looked directly at me with a finger to his mouth.  I wasn’t embarrassed, even though he singled me out in front of millions of people, I actually found it somewhat funny, and I also took it as a fatherly correction.  But woe to those who cannot be corrected, they will never inherit the kingdom of God.

To become a priest to receive glory is also a really ridiculous thing to do these days.  As a priest I have been maligned publically as a pedophile, faggot, and religious nut.  As a priest you don’t always make friends easily since most label you as judgmental automatically and fear being judged.  The best way to avoid all of this is of course to take off the collar.  If you take the collar off it means that you are relieving yourself of a symbol read in by many to mean authority.  Well, being a priest does have authority, it is an authority that can forgive sins, cast out demons, and bring peace into chaos. collar

Being a clericalist is an invisible reality:  it cannot be directly tied to any external manifestation.  A piece of clothing does not prove the motives of a person.  This includes those who do not wear their clerics.  It doesn’t mean they seek to only serve themselves.  I question why they don’t make themselves available to others while in public, but I don’t judge their motives, I’m just left wondering.

Being a clericalist is living in a nice rectory with a plasma flat screen in your bedroom.  It is showing up to everything late (including mass) showing BMWBishopeveryone that “mass starts when I show up.”  It is resenting baptisms on a busy Sunday because giving eternal life to these babies is breaking into your nap-time.  Clericalism in the priesthood is not seeing the role of leadership you have been given by demanding the respect that vocation requires.  But rather serving yourself by avoiding at all costs the possible interpretation of your words that may lead to someone feeling offended.

What people need are loving fathers, and we all know that sometimes loving fathers have to hear from their children, “You hate me, you don’t love me!  I hate you!”  As they slam the door in your face after a huge tantrum it can hurt, but you know that they are only pushing your buttons and attempting to justify themselves.  Am I suggesting that there aren’t bad-fathers out there?  I think there are.  They are the absent kind that don’t involve themselves in the lives of their children.  They do not take an interest but rather emphasize administrative work (office-work) rather than the personal encounter with Christ in that particular parishioner.  They are the tyrannical fathers who see their power as a means to serve themselves.

Spiritually a clericalist probably looks like a priest who never goes to confession.  He might begin by demanding others confess their sins, or he likes to hear their confession because it makes him feel powerful to forgive their sins and give them comfort.  But rarely does he realize that the work of confession and the forgiveness given is Christ’s not his own, and all the glory goes to God.  But perhaps because of his own refusal to go to confession he will agree to himself that asking others to go as well is inconsistent.  Therefore he will hold back the sacrament.  But his reaction to the door bell when someone interrupts his dinner to seek confession will speak volumes.  How about a homily where he brags about his vacation that involved a cruise or a plane trip to somewhere extravagant to a group of families who haven’t the money or time to even dream of such a thing.

There is an outdated notion that clericalism is wrapped up in a cassock.  But as my mommy always says, “Don’t judge people based on the clothing they wear.”  In scripture it wasn’t that the Pharisees dressed up in long robes that made them proud, it was that they wore them to get attention.  What do priests do to bring unhealthy attention to themselves these days?  Perhaps it is showing off their “great humility” by taking off the collar and showing how “down-to-earth” they are and “one-with the people.”  When in reality it is a show that caters to a cultural value.  Perhaps not, we can only discern our own conscience and examine our own motives.  I once heard a priest divulge the real reason for why he rarely wears his collar, “It is hard to wear it with all the embarrassment of the scandals.”  And I have the utmost respect for this priest for admitting that is the reason he doesn’t wear it.  But perhaps read this blog and reflect on what good can be done with it on.

Liturgically, clericalism is best expressed when one thinks he has the authority to change the divine liturgy according to his own preference.  This applies to the SSPX as much as it does to those who have a more liberal mindset.  Both are liturgical abuses when they are not celebrated in communion with our Holy Father and the mind of the Church.  Taking such authority as to rip out or change the wording of Sacred Scripture and the words of consecration.  Here the priest has asserted that he knows better than the Holy Spirit and this will serve him to be accepted by many in his parish.  Or even his own judgment, he asserts, is greater than that of Holy Mother Church.  Humility.Take that satan

Perhaps real clericalism today is expressed in personal expensive clothing that most of the laity themselves cannot afford, eating food that people don’t get to eat on a regular basis…the list goes on, but at the end of the day the question is simple:  are we living to serve ourselves or others.  And this is not wrapped up in externals it is wrapped up in “me.”

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The New Evangelization: Evangelical Counsels Versus Ambiguity

Father Chris Pietraszko:

Reblogging…what I think is important

Originally posted on diocesanspirituality:

I have been reflecting on my journey through the seminary and the question continues coming up from others who are somewhat suspect of the contemporary seminarians around the Western World. There are some who have been pushing a progressive theology that has developed in an autonomous way, not only disjunctive of the magisterium but also from the last two thousand years of tradition. Monstrance-04

Often times this type of progressive theology dwells in the realm of ambiguity, because if it does not explicitly or obviously contradict magisterial teaching it cannot be condemned easily. Ambiguity is probably one reality that has harmed the Church the most, and unlike many rigid Traditionalists, I do not believe it is the result of the Vatican II Council.

Vatican II is undoubtedly one of the greatest councils that has ever been introduced to the Church, but what people celebrate is not what it taught, but rather…

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Consecration to St. Michael

Recently both Pope Emeritus Benedict and Pope Francis consecrated the Vatican to the care and protection of St. Michael, known as the angel who defeated Satan, and aids us in our spiritual battles against the evil one. St. Michael is able to defend us in spiritual warfare because he is an instrument of God, who enables God to work through him.

Within the name, we see very clearly why St. Michael is a great intercessor for us. “Who is like God” is literally what Michael means. This is a rhetorical question – revealing the wit and wisdom of those who are holy. To Satan, this is the very measure by how he is defeated; the humble recognition that no one can climb the ontological latter to finally be equivalent to God. Adam and Eve attempted this when they reached out to consume the fruit of the tree of Knowledge between God and Evil. That is, they attempted to make truth subject to their own will, their own preference, and therefore fostered the illusion that the prerogative that belongs to God alone, also belonged to them.

Satan being the author of this temptation was defeated by St. Michael, simply by being asked: “Who is like God,” the answer clearly being: no one. Satan in contrast to the power of God is a speck of dust. And yet before the evil one we are entirely powerless if left to our own devices. St. Augustine stated that if Satan had not been bound up by Christ, if he had merely one hand free, the whole world would be destroyed in one fell swoop.

However, through our own free will, we can approach Satan, like a dog chained, and get so close to this deceptively sleeping dog, that we are eventually no longer safe. The dog snaps at us, and we are subdued. Without the protection and mercy of God, we are food for Satan.

The mere recognition that the Vatican itself needs to be consecrated to St. Michael implies that there is a spiritual warfare occurring in the premises. This should not be a surprise. Satan normally does not attack where the least damage to God’s people is bound to take place. Rather Satan attacks the head, he attacks Christ himself.

We must not forget that the Church and Christ are one. When Saul persecuted the Christians prior to his conversion and “name-change,” Christ created the link himself by asking, “Why do you persecute me.” When the Church is persecuted, Christ is persecuted. The two are one fundamental reality, and this is revealed all throughout scripture. So that when we treat any of God’s people with disrespect, even the least of our brothers, we do it to Christ as well.

Pope Paul VI stated that “the smoke of Satan has entered into the sanctuary,” and these famous words have been quoted by many over the last several years. We know with the sexual abuse scandal, with the homosexual lobbying, the financial scandals, and perhaps any number of other sins remaining in the dark, that the evil one has a plan and has been carrying it out.

But it is altogether dangerous to become cynical about the evil one’s efforts. In fact many times Christians can develop an unhealthy obsession with the sins of the Church altogether losing a trust in Christ’s own words: that the Gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church. We must admit that it is a real temptation to become cynical, and if we can admit this, we are probably more safe to avoid it. Some might retort: but resting on that claim of faith that the Church will be safe from the gates of hell, leads to complacency. And this is also a fair criticism. One must strike the balance, especially as a Catholic, between the reality of cooperating with God’s will (as St. Michael did) and trusting in the unfathomable power of God to overcome evil. Satan may know he has lost the battle, but he seeks to drag as many souls to hell as possible on his “way out.”

There is a frustration with many in the Church, and rightfully so, that we tend to claim everything is going along just fine. In Jeremiah 6 we see the recapitulation of this attitude where priest and prophets are liars and great sinners and yet they all cry “peace, peace” when there is “no peace.” The illusion of peace in the world is precisely why Christ has not come to bring that sort of peace, but rather warfare. That is, he has come to bring the peace that can only be found when our wills are aligned with His.

Parishioners are “thanked” for the bare-minimum of the Christian life, and affirmed often times in their own waywardness. Silence on the part of leaders (both in the domestic Church, and in the priesthood) about various particular doctrines leads children of faith into dangerous dark places. Avoiding the challenge of the gospel leads ultimately to a faith of false consolation that avoids the cross at all costs. That cross which is our salvation.

We must trust in God’s prophetic words, but what they teach us is that ultimately the saints will shine forth and will cooperate, like St. Michael, to defeat the author of lies and malice, and evil. And all of us who are called to be saints, must take up arms to participate in that spiritual battle. To be indifferent is to be like King David who stayed home during battle and fell into Lust and temptation. Our avoidance or indifferences guised as “positive thinking,” leads to an undefended soul, under the power of the Evil one. If we are people of hope rather than an illusive “positive thinking” then we will be driven to fight the battle against evil all the more since no enemy can ever stand against the will of God and live. If our faith is truly in Christ, the battle will be fought with joy and peace, because nothing can defeat the Glory of God.

Yet we must never be confused, if the Church is to be protected from evil, it will rest on our cooperation and yet totally by the power of God. That wedding between us and God is ultimately that union which protects the Woman spoken of in Revelation who flees into the wilderness from the evil one. We must never be blinded by evil to forget that Christ amidst all the evil that exists within our Church remains all the more present to us, as a saviour seeking the lost sheep. We must always realize that the goodness of Christ’s handiwork still shine forth in the Church today, and building from these sparks of the saintly lives of a few, transformation is all the more possible.

St. Michael therefore is not attacking the sinners living in the Vatican, but rather the evil one who has latched onto these leaders whose fruit is to destroy the trust and faith of the children of God. Rather, St. Michael purifies and brings light to sanctify and purify both the sinner and the Church as a whole, driving out the darkness of ambiguity and division, and bringing genuine union through surrender and humility. All of us have been a mouth-piece for the Evil one, because all of us have sinned. We all know how easy it is to be convinced that darkness is in fact light, and so our attitude towards these errors and horrors in the Church must be bridled with a sense of humility in our own personal struggle against sin.

Now that the Vatican has been consecrated to St. Michael, I ask the faithful to privately consecrate your priests, your bishops, your churches, your families, your work places, your friends to his care. Lets follow in the footsteps of our two Popes and get to battle.

Please Pray this:

Saint Michael the Archangel, invincible Prince of the Angelic hosts and glorious protector of the universal Church, I greet thee and praise thee for that splendour with which God has adorned thee so richly. I thank God for the great graces He hast bestowed upon thee, especially to remain faithful when Satan and his followers rebelled, and to battle victoriously for the honour of God and the Divinity of the Son of Man.

Saint Michael, I consecrate to thee __________________. I choose thee as our patron and protector and entrust the salvation of my soul to thy care. Be the guardian of my obligation as a child of God and of the Catholic Church as again I renounce Satan, his works and pomps.
Assist me by thy powerful intercession in the fulfilment of these sacred promises, so that imitating thy courage and loyalty to God, and trusting in thy kind help and protection, I may be victorious over the enemies of my soul and be united with God in Heaven forever. Amen.

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At the Name of Jesus: Respecting His Name

Happy PriestThis Sunday we continue to reflect on the Acts of the Apostles, who proclaim the Name of Jesus in defiance of the Sanhedrin (the highest Court in Jerusalem).  The apostles continue to do acts of mercy, charity, and none of them do it in their own name, but offer all the credit to Jesus Christ Himself, who is alive and well.

I think this is a good opportunity to reflect on “names” and how we use them.  First we should start with God’s name, because if we cannot respect His, who is worthy of all praise, all honour and all glory (as we see in the Second Reading), then how can we respect those who merely imitate his goodness?

God’s name carries with it a reputation.  That is to say, who God is, is captured by his name.  Perhaps a better way of stating this without sounding like I’ve put God into a box, is to say that His name should evoke within our memory all the good that He has done for us.

When his name is mentioned it should remind us of the inner healing he has offered us, how He has freed us from the burden of sin and shame.  How He has promised us everlasting life.  How He died for our own sake.  How He continues to be present to us through our neighbour and dwells deeply inside of us.

The name of Jesus should evoke peace, comfort, and endow faith.  With the name of Jesus, we make our faith explicit, just as a parent would share the name of their beautiful child with everyone, so would we boast of God’s name, since he is more dear to us than our own children, but the very reason why we may have children in the first place.

But to many this is simply not possible.  It is much easier to take God’s name in vain, than it is to say it seriously, with conviction in the public sphere.  Why?  Because we are fearful of entering into polemics, into a stereo-type of being labeled a Jesus-Freak, et cetera.  But all of these fears and attitudes are the result of a faith that is dead or forgotten.  We do not actually love God, we love an idea of him.  If Christ were truly our friend, we would boast of him more than we boast of our own mother, father, sister, brother, and best bud.

God is real, God is ours, and we are His.  Lets boast of his name instead of reducing it to a mere sentiment that only gets mentioned at Church.

St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that “familiarity breeds contempt.”  Meaning that when we lose track of the mystery or the grandness of another person, let alone God, we lose the reverence that we ought to give to them.  We develop a hard-heart that feels entitled before God or neighbour.

Not taking God’s name in vain is a serious command if we realize that God is in fact real, and is the one whom we should love above all else.  If we are embarrassed or fearful to make mention of his name in public, we ought to hear the same question Jesus asks Peter:  Do you love me?

Peter denied the name of Jesus three times (so we are in good company).  But Jesus undid this denial by demanding Peter to profess his love for Christ.

After the Resurrection we also notice that the lot of the Disciples were locked up in a room, out of fear of the Jews.  Jesus gave them peace, and taught them to go out into the world proclaiming his name.

In the acts of the Apostles we see clearly that this brought about conflict.  But instead of becoming downcast that they met resistance, they rejoiced that they were found worthy of being publically scorned and disciplined.  It is fair to say that their attitude as Christians is far from our attitude here in North America, where we keep God localized to the Parish, 1 hour a week, or should I say 45 for those who rush out before dismisal that tells us to go in peace or to proclaim the gospel?

If God is nothing more than an Idea that we worship, acknowledge that fact as Peter did, and hear Jesus ask you the question:  Do you love me?  When you respond yes…hear him say:  “Feed my Sheep.”

The dying of the Church takes place when the Name of Christ is not shared.  If we do not share His name explicitly, than people will remain ignorant of the infinite love God has for them, and the culture of souls craving and hungering for that love will go unfed.

The Liturgy itself gives us some practical suggestions about how we can actively, with our bodies, remember to keep his name holy.  If we can get this right, we can also stop gossiping about one another, and hold, with reverence those created in His Image and Likeness.  This is why you will notice in the GIRM that the name of God and the saints are honoured, because both are worthy of our respect, 1st God’s name, then all those who are faithful.

Here is the passage form the GIRM:

275. A bow signifies reverence and honour shown to the persons themselves or to the signs that represent them. There are two kinds of bow: a bow of the head and a bow of the body.

a) A bow of the head is made when the three Divine Persons are named together and at the names of Jesus, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of the Saint in whose honour Mass is being celebrated.

Heavenly Father, you desire us to honour your Son out of justice for all he has done for us.  It is truly right and just to boast of God’s name, and this ability to praise God is your gift, burning within us.  Help us to brave the world as the Apostles did to share the name of Jesus through acts of mercy and charity.  Never let his name be used in vain or for foul judgment and hatred.  But rather let your Son’s true Love be manifested, that all who hear the name of Jesus may experience their call to follow him, and to share him with all the sheep wondering, lost.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen

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Why I wear my Roman Collar

I just spent sometime on a retreat with youth.  I had a desire to speak about one of the symbols of faith that was important to me.  So I had chosen in advance my chalice, which was a gift from my parents and sisters for my ordination.  To me, the chalice is a powerful symbol of the priesthood, holding forth the cup of salvation for the sake of those whom I am to serve.  But being my disorganized self, I packed it up and totally forgot to bring it to the room in which I would speak to the youth.  So I picked the only other symbol I had on me…my collar.

The first thing I told them was, that I had intended on bringing another symbol, but forgot.  They laughed…yes, typical Fr. Chris.

In any case it is my view that often innocent mistakes are the result of the Holy Spirit directing me down the right path.  So I popped the collar out and began talking about its importance to me.  That it is a symbol of service, something that I am called to live.

Here are some after-thoughts.  When I was ordained, one of the first things I did was I got rid of a great deal of my clothing.  I no longer needed to dress like everyone else.  I had my uniform, and the rest could go to the poor.  Now, I did not get rid of everything, but most of it.  I have some regular clothes for sleeping, camping and a few nice things (but every month my closet gets a bit smaller as I continue to learn simplicity).

So the first experience I had with the collar was:  “this is what I will wear for the rest of my life.”  At first it seemed grand.  Later it became bland, and in that sense:  good.  Bland is good because its simple, and keeps me from vanity and obsessing about myself.

Second experience I had while wearing it was…people are looking at me.  Oh…I guess I better behave.  I should be careful what movies I watch, what language I use, as I am a visible sign of Christ to others now, in the priesthood.  Now, that is not to say that I am not called to live out such virtues with or without the clothing on.  When I put my PJ’s on at night, I’m still called to virtue.  Although the idea of clerical PJs has always interested me (people:  its called a sense of humour, if you didn’t laugh…*shake* loosen up!!)

But here is one of the most powerful reasons.  While the New Evangelization needs to be made public, on facebook on twitter, what about in the mall, on the high-way, at Tim Hortons?  If we only do public acts of Christianity in the Church, guess what…only those who go to Church will be evangelized.  So that it goes without saying…we need to, as a Christian people break outside of the church walls and meet people where they are…literally.

This is WHY I wear a collar:   Some priests have done harm to the Church through sin, while wearing that collar.  And thus have added a very negative meaning to it (stigma/stereo-type).  So it is actually not easy for any priest to wear.  haha…a little while ago I walked into Toys R Us for my niece’s birthday gift…awkward.  Roman Collar

In any case, I wear it because instead of hiding that grief that society has experienced, or keeping it segregated to the Church building, I would prefer to do good with it on, to bring about an alternative view to the priesthood through its most common-symbolic expression.  The collar represents service.  If we wear it and serve at the same time, perhaps that healing can begin.

I get knocked down a few notches, but its not really by people outside of the Church, for wearing the collar.  But that is neither here nor there.

Wearing the collar – MUST accompany charity.  It would be better for a priest to never wear his collar if he would cut people off while driving, or eat fancy meals and drive expensive cars.  The priesthood does not need to be undermined so publically.  When I went to Tim Hortons, it was my day off, and I almost did not wear my collar to just grab a coffee…conscience said otherwise though, so I obeyed. 

It was around Christmas time and there was a man ahead of me in line.  He looked at me a few times, almost perplexed.  Then finally he said, “I wasn’t sure if I was going to say anything, but I am.” 

I think to myself…”Oh crap…is this going to turn into a public declaration of hatred towards priests” (as has happened in the past).  Nope.

The man shared with me how he was not Catholic, but his wife was.  She had died last year, but one of her wishes was to hear Christmas Caroling.  The kids in an elementary catholic school sang to her before she died, and it really impressed him.  Then at the funeral, the priest arranged to have that same choir sing at her funeral. 

He was having a difficult Christmas without his wife.  When he saw the collar he was reminded of how God had been present to him through the Church and it gave him consolation.  He literally said, “I didn’t know how I was going to get through this Christmas, but then I saw you.”

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Spirit & Law: Lawlessness & Moralism

Sometimes I think of two siblings arguing back and forth, having a history of resentment without any sort of point of reference how that rivalry began, akin to whether the chicken or the egg came first.  When conflict gets so polarized, figuring out why it began becomes the least important task, but rather seeking a resolution and above all reconciliation to the truth in charity ought to be the goal.  God really does not care about who we were in the past, but rather who we will be for eternity.  This is why God is merciful, because ultimately he is liberated from any type of polarized notion of truth, or any malicious protest meant to serve one’s resentment and desire for revenge.

This probably could be said of any number of issues, but the one in particular that has consumed my mind of late is that of the difference between Moralism and Lawlessness.  The two are incredibly problematic, because both are spiritual attitudes lacking something significant:  the person of Jesus.  Dangerously, both camps tend to support their own stance through scripture. The Lawless will point out Christ’s criticisms on the Pharisees, and the Moralists will point to Christ’s warning about hell, and call to radical obedience to His Father’s will.

Those afflicted with an obsession to promoting lawlessness (albeit, they’d never characterize it as such) are people that ought to be loved.  Moralists must understand that while a person may attempt to falsely seek liberation through the dismantling of God’s moral law, or a sort of apathy towards it, is nonetheless a person who has been devastated by the evils of Moralism.

In a word, Moralism is a tendency to reduce our faith to a system of ethical does and don’ts.  That is to say, a purely external notion of sin is presented as the whole message of the gospel.  Moralism will advocate for orthodoxy, right doctrine, good laws, solid-catechesis and obedience to the Magisterial Authority.  When it goes “bonkers” it will likely place itself above Magisterial Authority, claiming to be “more-Catholic-than-the-Pope.”  Condemnation, judgmental glances, and a general unwelcoming spirit that essentially preaches the erroneous doctrine that one can only be loved by God or the community if he or she is first morally perfect.”   While a moralist probably would never characterize his or her position as such, that is often what is actually communicated.  Christ died for us while we were sinners.

And so those who are promoting a liberalism or a lawlessness or freedom from “rules” and “discipline” and ethics, are typically those who have been presented with God’s Moral Law as a purely non-relational, legalistic-and-sadly, malicious temperament.

Moralists should be loved.  Many moralists have been wounded by the plight of lawlessness which seeks to dismantle the moral law of God.  To dismantle the moral law of God is ultimately to cut us off from life, from genuine freedom and truth, and therefore any authentic expression of love and brotherhood.  The rigidity found in lawlessness, (that is the dogmatic-like assertion there are no laws), is to dismantle the 10 commandments to mere suggestions and personal preferences, leaving people with a sense of aimlessness, a lack of purpose and direction, and ultimately an enslavement to egoism, individualism, and a world of pain and isolation.  Moralists often are those who thirst so deeply for liberation from personal sin, or seek that others be liberated from the plights of selfishness.

Observing a world that does not honour God, because it rejects his law, has always been the cry of the prophets.  But so has it been the cry of the prophets that the law is not to be followed in a purely external fashion.  That is to finally say that when the law is practiced it ought to be done with Love.

Here we see one thing that may be over looked by the moralist.  He might suggest that if I do a just act, I have automatically done something loving.  But this is a terribly infantile view of morality.  Anyone with some degree of self-awareness knows that a good deed may be done for terrible reasons.

For instance, if a man were to serve a poor man a bowl of soup, most today would place him on a podium for honour and praise.  But this assumes of course that the “servant” has served this poor man out of love.  What if he knew that the culture he lived in would paint him as a hero, and this was therefore the only reason he fed the poor man?  Could it be possible that a man bearing external, visible signs of being “socially just” could in fact be morally corrupt?  The answer is quite simply:  yes.

In fact, all who are sinners, which is everyone with the exception of Jesus and Mary, is somehow guilty of this.  Here is the point:  the Pharisee of every generation is not tied down to a specific external sign, through all generations.  Rather the Pharisee is one who is tied down to what is commonly accepted as piety by all people.  Therefore, one could equally defend the right to life, but for all the wrong reasons.  A man could hold a sign, be harassed for his position, and be persecuted by others because of the very legitimate cause he is viewed as promoting.  But perhaps this man enjoys being treated as a victim.  Perhaps he views his own public martyrdom as a means to bring honour to himself.

To be a legalist therefore is never tied down to anything external, or to a theological left or right.  A clerical shirt, a golden chalice, a social-justice doctrine, and the right-to-life movement are all good things, which can be used for bad reasons.  But the lawless one enters, reacting justifiably to the legalist, but attacks the wrong thing:  the externals.

The lawless one attacks the externals rather than the spirit.  For instance, let us look at clericalism.  Clericalism takes many shapes and forms, and based upon the values of various groups, can at times be diametrically opposed the most popular notion of clericalism.

Clericalism to me is tied directly to a spirit of entitlement.  It is essentially where the ego of the ordained considered himself the subject of service, rather than serving his subjects.  Perhaps a better way of saying it is thus:  a man who serves himself is a clericalist.  The irony is that a Cleric ought to serve, and so the word itself should perhaps be “anti-clerical.”  This is neither here nor there, since language can be argued till the cows come home.

How can this clericalism form?  That is a question each cleric must bring to his own daily examination of conscience.  The question may be phrased as:  “How am I tempted to abuse my power?”  Or, even better:  how am I living up to a life of simplicity/poverty (for the purpose of service), celibate-chastity (for the purpose of service), and obedience (for the purpose of service)?

I had to ask myself that question and what I realized is that “clericalism” has been emphasized and attached to specific externals or arenas of the Catholic faith such as liturgy, doctrine, clothing, et cetera.

But upon examining some of the greatest saints such as St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Jean Vianney, I discovered that these men pumped much money into the Liturgy precisely because of their call to “serve” God first.  But they also pumped a great deal of money into their service of the poor, because their call to serve was and always will be twofold:  God and Neighbour.

Where did the saints NOT pump money?  The rectory.  Without going into detail, there are things that I have to personally improve upon in my own living quarters, and I am taking notes from both my local bishop who has sold his house and lives in a rectory, as well as the Pope who is now living in much simpler conditions.  If the Pope who is the head of billions of Catholics is going to live simply, perhaps I should too.  The priest does not act for the poor when we deprives the people of good worship, but rather when he denies himself comforts.  These externals are important and vital, and God alone knows if I am trying to embody them for the right reason.  However, just because the external can be lived out with a malicious or evil intention, does not mean that the external is the problem.  Precisely the opposite is true:  it is the spirit.

A priest could live in poverty and boast about it to find praise.  But his wealth and idol would be the honour and esteem of others.  A man could boast of his great sacrifice of celibacy and chastity, while living a life totally devoted to marrying himself.  A man could, boast of his obedience to the Magisterial Authorities or (for the lawless) his “conscience” (meaning preference for truth), and yet would be totally enslaved to his own personal judgment, never actually surrendering his intellect to God.

The extreme of lawlessness is to attack various laws or the externals as if they are the problem.  And the extreme with Moralism is to reduce moral acts to nothing other than mere external actions.  Both positions are incomplete, and yet both are attempting – probably in a very honest way – to remedy what is lacking in the other.

The solution is simply this:  to recognize that the Law is embodied in the Person of Jesus whom we are called to enter into a deep, personal relationship with.  To be “zealous about God’s law” because of a deep realization that those laws are written in our heart for our protection and growth in the spiritual life.

Sometimes I am greatly discouraged with our attitude towards this important discussion.  If a person wears a cross or some external sign, he or she is judged.  Perhaps my right hand and my left hand are placed together during mass, and this means I’m a clericalist.  On the other hand, I am praised by others for such externals because they contradict and therefore aggravate those who are attacking such externals.

Both attitudes lack charity and miss the whole point.  And so long as the conversation is devoid of love and a desire for reconciliation and understanding, nothing can be said or done to embody in the flesh God’s Love.

The Spirit of the Law is to embody it with a will that is motivated to seek the good of the other for their own sake.  That is to say, the Spirit of the Law is never contrary to the Law, lest it be the Spirit of the anti-law.  Rather, the Spirit of the Law is always about living out God’s Law in Love.  If God’s law is the truth, and God’s Spirit is Love, then perhaps they both go together, like the Trinity or something…

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The New Evangelization: Evangelical Counsels Versus Ambiguity

I have been reflecting on my journey through the seminary and the question continues coming up from others who are somewhat suspect of the contemporary seminarians around the Western World. There are some who have been pushing a progressive theology that has developed in an autonomous way, not only disjunctive of the magisterium but also from the last two thousand years of tradition. Monstrance-04

Often times this type of progressive theology dwells in the realm of ambiguity, because if it does not explicitly or obviously contradict magisterial teaching it cannot be condemned easily. Ambiguity is probably one reality that has harmed the Church the most, and unlike many rigid Traditionalists, I do not believe it is the result of the Vatican II Council.

Vatican II is undoubtedly one of the greatest councils that has ever been introduced to the Church, but what people celebrate is not what it taught, but rather that debate occurred. People call this at times “the spirit of Vatican II,” but we do not celebrate debate, in fact while it is necessary at times, its fruit is far more a reason to rejoice. But alas, people have suspended the Church to debate things that have been “definitively” decided. Once you put one infallible doctrine in question, you necessarily place them all into question because you implicitly challenge the authority that legitimately defined them as such. This places all dogma and all doctrine under the realm of skepticism, leaving it up to preferential judgment rather than faith. This is always the result of treating God like an idea rather than a real person. One can debate and play with an idea, but when dealing with a real person or persons, offering conjecture about who they are according to our preference is simply just offensive. Vatican II is over, its fruit is discovered in the documents, and the lack of fruit after Vatican II is the result of not implementing what the Council taught.

Ambiguity realistically is the result of a lack of coherent thought, and every human being is guilty of it. For instance, Jesus often referred to ambiguity as a sort of lukewarm spirit, where we become content with having one foot in the kingdom of God, and the other one lodged in our own pride. In many ways every person who sins finds themselves tangled into a degree of this, with the exception of being “content.” Meaning that those who are genuinely seeking to live a life that says, absolutely, “yes” to everything about God’s will despite human weakness, is not to be considered lukewarm. But those who attempt to bring some sort of reconciliation between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Satan are seeking an exaggerated and twisted notion of love and mercy.

To be clear, one must always seek to reconcile a sinner to God, but one ought to never reconcile sin to God, since the two stand in direct opposition to each other. The very act of reconciling a sinner to God is purging him or her of that sin which separates us from each other in the marriage with God we were created for. To be content with ambiguity is ultimately to be content with a relationship with God that will never survive His judgment. We are either for him or against him, we cannot serve both God and mammon, and the goats will be separated from the sheep.

sheep-and-goatsAmbiguity therefore cannot survive God’s judgment because God seeks simplicity of heart, a heart like the Virgin who says yes to God’s will without adding conditions and escape hatches in case it requires sacrifice and blood. As I earlier stated, the greatest force in the Church that allows dissent to continue is the fact that it never admits it is actually dissent. It is difficult to condemn an organization that operates through canonical “loop-holes,” always seeking an interpretation out of the law itself. Now it is far more respectable for someone to say definitively that they disagree with the Church’s teaching, because at least they are not pretending to be something they are not. Just as the man who seeks riches to accomplish happiness is far more respectable than a man who is pious by day and treacherous at night. Why? Because the first man will journey down that road and find it never brings fulfillment and eventually seek after what actually does bring happiness. This man seeks it with everything he is. But the man of ambiguity will never overcome his blunder as he walks through grace like a revolving door, in and out, in and out. He is content with never giving anything 100 percent of his effort, being satisfied with the bare-minimum or what the documents on the New Evangelization call the “status-quo” or “business as usual.”

The more ambiguous the Church is in its presentation of the teaching of the Church the more irrelevant it becomes, the lessmediocrity evangelical. Further, it presents the Church with a sort of low-self esteem, refusing to ever draw the line in the sand (standards), always meeting people where they are, but saying: “Stay there. No one is perfect.” Rather than presenting the Gospel message which after the gift of mercy involves saying, “Get up and sin no more” we say, “You will never overcome sin, sit down, and affirm yourself.”

This realistically denies our Christian dignity given to us at baptism which configures us more to the likeness of Christ. Christ did not seek to honour His Father in a half-hearted way. Everything was about his Father, and in our salvation, he sought to share His Father with us. It was the greatest gift He could give us in the Spirit. As members of Christ it is a scandal to seek honouring the Father in a half-hearted way (with contentment).

The Magisterium of the Church is the voice of Christ in the world, and a conscience that is not obedient to this Magisterium is either misinformed or obstinate. The only way to avoid this conclusion is to redefine what the magisterium is (or perhaps conscience). Perhaps an apathetic “rolling of the eyes” would suffice, but it would lack any sort of integrity to the Catholic Church’s teaching landing such a person right outside of communion with the Holy Church.

st-john-of-the-crossYou see, seminarians these days are faithful in an “absolute way” to the magisterium (for the most part) because there is this genuine sense of honouring Christ through His body which speaks infallibly through the Magisterium of the Church. So lets apply this to real life for a moment.

Why would a non-faithful (to the magisterium/Christ) person attend a seminary when the end result is making a promise to celibacy, obedience to a Bishop, and strive to lead a life of simplicity? To most liberals, the notion of wearing a habit, celibacy, and most of all obedience (that isn’t regularly negated by the exception-becoming-the-norm of dismissing the Bishop as a legitimate authority), is viewed as a tyrannical, oppressive and limiting establishment of code and ethics.

Furthermore, it goes without saying that one generally tends to swim with the current, and those who have weak faith would probably not swim against the culture which prizes personal liberties over surrender to objective truth defined by God rather than our own attempt to appropriate truth to ourselves.

Today most young men entering deep into their faith are tired and frustrated, and in fact hurt, by ambiguity that says nothing more than: you are called to nothing great. Seminarians today would not enter into the seminary unless Obedience, Celibate-Chastity, and a life of poverty/simplicity where perceived as Evangelical, an expression of zeal for God. The same threefold Evangelical Counsels that have been neglected in years past, have led to a need for a New Evangelization.. On ConscienceConvents have been closing as nuns and brothers own vehicles, plasma screen TVs. The scandal of a Rectory that has leather couches, huge-TV screens, bars that seem to be stalked quite well, a Nice cars in the garage, and the list continues. Rather than following in the footsteps of the Patron of priests who guts the rectory and restores beauty to the common-space (the Church), we as priests and religious live in luxury. We all know how celibate-chastity has not been embraced, but beyond the sexual scandal is the scandal of looking at celibacy as something oppressive rather than a spiritual gift that draws us closer to God through sacred solitude. Becoming bitter or envious of married couples, or bitter and frustrated with the doctrine presented by John Paul II called Theology of the Body all bring to the front a serious problem which is the denial that Christ is the bride-groom of the Church. We would rather marry our idols than God. And finally disobedience which really needs no explanation, there are tons of examples all over the place of this. Although disobedience is often labeled falsely as following one’s own conscience – that topic alone deserves a whole other blog and perhaps a few books; I suggest reading Pope Benedict’s book “On Conscience” for more clarity.

The Irony is this, I have just listed three very important things: the Evangelical Counsels. Is it any wonder that we are faced with a need for a “New-Evangelization?” Is it any wonder that faithful orders which take these Counsels seriously are growing? I have heard it said that this will just “naturally work its way up north” but that is nonsense. God’s grace is born of faithfulness, and if we are really honest with ourselves, the communities that continue to grow, the seminarians that flourish, are those which at the end of the day seek Christ through Obedience, Chastity and Poverty of heart in a radical fashion.

The reason for the fruitfulness is simple – if you seek obedience to God’s will, it implies that good things will happen, since God and his will are both supremely good. Second, that if we are celibate and chaste it implies that we will have a greater and supernatural union with God that becomes a sign of hope pointing others away from their idols but rather for the sake of the Kingdom of God. And thirdly, if we are poor and detached from the world we will find ourselves enjoying the freedom of the Gospel which enables us to seek God first, and solidarity with the poor, where Christ is found in a supreme way. This therefore means that the New Evangelization is not about apologetics, Facebook and programs: its about conversion. And this conversion applies to both the clergy as much as it applies to the laity. (Pounds chest)

Many may not appreciate a lick of what I said, but frankly I just do not care anymore. This is simply the truth, and while a lot more nuances could be added, I would prefer to deal within the realm of theological common-sense first, before over-complicating issues to the point of ambiguity. We have turned far too much into grey, making exceptions the norm and obedience, when easy, commendable.

To those threatened by this growth in the Church, I can only invite you back to grace and a zealous desire to be a Catholic called to greatness: it is in you, and it is never too late to take up your cross and follow him right to the end. Strive with us, because while we all fall short of the glory of God, by his grace all things are possible.

Peace and blessings,

Fr. Christopher0G1C1466

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Freedom and Humility: Abortion and Pride

                Without freedom we lose our autonomy, we simply become a mechanism within a machine.  Without Freedom, love remains inauthentic, since it would be given in this impulsive, determined fashion.  Imagine a husband saying to his wife, “I Love you because I have to.”  God insists that we do not “have to love Him” rather he reminds us that in order for us to be happy, we have to Love him.  In other words, God doesn’t force anyone to be happy, rather he gives us the freedom to live a miserable life or a fulfilled one where we choose love.

St. Thomas Aquinas taught that Christ, when crucified was experiencing joy.  Many would have a difficult time understanding this.  However this is because joy, for those with spiritual depth goes deeper than sensation and emotion.  Rather Joy is born of peace, and peace is born of a will that is not at war with God’s own will.  Christ joyfully laid his life down; he did not do it resentfully.  It was the greatest way he could express his love for his Father, and for us.  Not only did he express his love for us through this action, but he helped us in a way that we will be eternally grateful.  God did not do this with sorrow, he did it with joy and with suffering, co-existing beside each other.

And so freedom does not always “feel” good.  In fact you could be bound to a cross, nailed to it, and dejected by many, and yet most free of all. Want to know who was enslaved?  The crowd of people yelling out, “crucify him, crucify him.”  Yup, they were enslaved because they were simply shouting out what everyone else was shouting.  They were going with the tide of the crowd, enslaved by fear.  Fear that the same thing that was happening to Christ would happen to them.  The disciples were also enslaved.  Did they take part in the jeering?  No.  But they certainly promoted it with their silence and abandonment.

If a man has a great deal of wealth which empowers him to own much, travel many places, go on a great number of adventures, and socialize with a great number of people, why is he unable to follow Christ?  Because of fear.  He is afraid of letting go of his stuff, he is afraid that without it he will not be happy.

True freedom is expressed in a man, nailed to a cross and enslavement is expressed in a ruler unable to free an innocent man.  Our culture rarely understands freedom in its proper context, because it has a very external and superficial view of freedom.  An atheist once suggested that the greatest way to achieve happiness was found in the “will to power.”  But in reality its quite the converse.  When we have the ability to choose from a list of 1000 options of how to live our life, we say yes to one of those options and no to 999.  The more “external” freedom to do “whatever” the more we have to say “no” to in life.

However, it is a grave and serious problem when one decides for another what is right for them.  It is always wrong to decide what is right and wrong out of a personal preference for the truth, whether that be for yourself or for your child.  Freedom is discovered when we have access to our own vocation in life.  A calling, something God himself has built us for.  This does not mean that our “desires” automatically determine our calling, since many of us, including Christ would not desire to carry a cross, let alone, die on it.  There are layers to our desires, and sometimes they are a bit out of order.  Sometimes we can desire things that are not healthy for us.  Bad eating habits, drug-addictions, unhealthy friendships; all of these things can develop as a result of making decisions by the seat of our pants.  But if we have the same spiritual depth as Christ, we realize that the vocation of every person is to Love in the Truth or univocally, to love in a genuine manner.

So from this discernment we can easily establish that freedom exists not as an end in itself, but to enable us to Love, and Love is undoubtedly something good.  Therefore freedom is not so much defined as the ability to do whatever, but rather to do what is good. 

The question then arises, can people define what is good and what is bad for themselves out of preference?  Furthermore, can a person decide for themselves what is good for another person as well, out of their own personal preference.  If our preferences are often tainted by desires that are out of order and sometimes lead us away from happiness.

So we come down to the question of truth and humility.  If we are to know or define what Love is or what Goodness is, we have to first admit to ourselves that it is possible to lie to ourselves and to others.  This should go without saying.  Humility is not lying to ourselves but rather is the surrendering to the truth.  Humility itself implies being grounded in the “earth,” having our two feet on the ground.  This means we do not fantasize about what the truth is, or construct it for ourselves.

Here is the Christian perspective.  When Adam and Eve were in the garden, God told them to not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  This doesn’t mean Adam and Eve did not know what was evil and what was good.  God had clearly told them, eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil: bad.  Eating of any other tree in the garden:  good.  So what is this type of Knowledge God is speaking of?  Its the type of knowledge that we grasp at.  Its the type of knowledge where I say, “I don’t care what the truth actually is, but what I do care about is what the truth is for me.”

This is the deadly sin of Pride.  It is pressing the button on our seat that ejects us from reality and says, “I’m God, I define right from wrong, and no one else can tell me anything different from what I prefer to be the truth.”  In other words, we do not discover the truth, we invent it out of nothing.

This pride can also be discovered in the form of dictatorship.  If a dictator says, “This is the truth, and you all must agree with it, because I said so,” than he is simply a man who defines truth for himself and imposes that pride on others.  But a leader that imposes laws that maintain reality, rather than his personal preferences is one who wants to keep his people locked into reality.  This is a good thing.

One of the problems with pride is it isolates us from others.  If we define the world according to our own preference, than when we clash with others who also, apparently have that right we are undoubtedly mixed into a competition.  Instead of two people being united by the same reality, we have two people who define what reality is for themselves.

People undoubtedly experience reality differently, but this does not mean the difference is prideful.  For instance a man in Japan and a man in Canada experience the sun setting at different points of the hemisphere.  They both experience a fragment of reality, and when you put the two together you get a more complete picture of reality.

Freedom therefore is only “genuine” when it is experienced in an objective truth.  Enslavement is when we define reality according to our passions/desires.  For instance, if a good friend dies, we may pretend that it never actually happened.  We would prefer that it didn’t, and that certainly is an understandable reaction to have.  But if we started to live in the illusion that it never happened we would never find healing for the legitimate grief we experienced.  If we hate chocolate cake, and yet its served to us, no matter how much we prefer that it would not be chocolate, it will still be chocolate.  If you have an allergy to peanut butter, it doesn’t matter how much you prefer not to have that, if you eat it, you will either die or need to go to the hospital.

In the United States, Obama has been pushing for women’s right to kill their child after they are born, only if they are born after a failed abortion attempt (which has happened).  What this demonstrates is that the mentality behind the law is not based upon biology, or science, or reality, but a preference for if a person should be alive or dead.  This is and has always been the epitome of evil.  For if defining what our preference of reality comes at odds with an unborn or even born child, we become a tyrant by imposing our preference on that innocent child by suggesting that their life has no value in their preferred world view.  If however the government does not allow women to kill children, its the result of respecting the dignity of women.  How so?  The law implies its not within the nature of a woman to kill or hate life.  Pro-life laws respect the dignity of women by preventing them from doing something that contradicts their own dignity, as well as the child within their womb.  If however it becomes open to debate what a woman has the right to determine, it also relativizes the dignity of women.  That means to say that some women have dignity (their nature is to not kill) while others have the nature to kill.  Of course, such a view of women ultimately is disrespectful towards women.  Whether women like it or not, they have dignity.

We could go through history on many levels on this question, dealing with races, minorities, et cetera, but the point itself can be drawn out of simple reasoning rather than referring to such inflammatory situations.  But at this point someone may feel judged.  It’s important to realize that every human being is guilty of this crime.  Some are guilty of defining the truth when it comes to sexual desires, food-desires, money-desires, ways of coping with anger, what we do with our time, and how we appreciate or envy other people’s talents, relationships and property.  The question really is not about how I feel about the fact that I’m proud, but rather “What am I going to do about it.”

Pride is one of the reasons we stay proud.  Confronting the reality of our own pride is the hardest part of the spiritual life.  Because we are afraid of the truth about ourselves, we would rather avoid it altogether.   To be proud is ultimately to be afraid.

We do not want to admit we are imperfect.  Oh, we can say, “I’m imperfect” easily, but when it comes to actually listing our imperfections we get scared.   We speak about our pride generally and vaguely because it’s conventionally a sign of humility.  But if we never actually acknowledge it to ourselves in very concrete ways, we are simply lying to everyone and ourselves with the facade of humility.  But if we say, “I was rude to John.”  Or “I should not have stolen that music.”  Or “She deserves better than what I gave her,” then we are onto something closer to love.

It’s scary to look at our pride because sometimes we spend all our time making fun of, or judging another person’s arrogance and bad decisions.  We spend much time pointing our finger at others only to realize we have four other fingers pointing right back to us.  A good way to avoid looking at ourselves is to look at others;  it’s called scape-goating.  So we get tunnel vision and focus on our preference for reality about ourselves and about the world and block out everything else.  That is our safe-place to go, as we are ejected from the ground of humility into la-la land.  This is where our heart turns into stone; everything others say is “judgmental” and “offensive” unless it strokes our pride.  We do not love our enemies, we hate them, and we only love our allies.  Because anything that causes us to admit we are not perfect, wants to destroy us.  The irony is, we can never be perfect or even close to perfection unless we first realize we are imperfect.  If we are sick and don’t realize it the cancer grows.  But if we treat it early, we will regain some health.  The same is true for the soul.

Even if we find someone with our preferred world view, we will never really enter into a real relationship with them.  Rather we will simply be together for convenience, however the will of each individual is centred not on the good for the other, but rather the preferred good of the other.  That means the will is ultimately oriented towards myself, and my neighbour becomes a mere extension of my preferences.  This is not real love.  Love is willing the good for the other, for their own sake.

When Adam and Eve decided to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they put themselves at the centre of the universe.  They refused to serve God, because to serve means to be subordinate to God.  God who is the source of everything good.

The Devil villified God in order to convince them to ignore his commandments.  His COMMANDMENTS.  A God of love who commands.  The Devil convinced them that this one commandment was huge.  The first thing he did was exaggerate the commandment.  “Did God really tell you not to eat of any of the trees in the garden?”  Of course God did not say that, there was only one tree they could not eat from.  Then Satan continues to imply that God is a liar:  God said you’d die?  You will not die, no you will become like him instead!  What is the devil doing here?  Trying to convince them that God is some sort of moralizing tyrant that wants to prevent us from acheiving our full potential.  Saddly, Adam and Eve were already like God.  Satan was trying to sell them something they already had.

What was God’s first commandment?  “Be fruitful and multiply.”  Wow.  Here God completed this great work of creation and the first thing he does is share this act of creation with Adam and Eve.  “Create life with me!  Let us co-create together in love.”  However for some reason, society is convinced that the Church, like Adam and Eve’s view of God, is a moralizing tyrant that wants to hold people back from their full potential.  Our society has been duped.
Who is God?  According to Jesus, he is the “Way, the Truth, and the Life.”  When we reject the moral way of living, we reject God.  When we reject what reality is, we reject God.  When we reject the gift of life, our very existence or the existence of our neighbour, we reject God.  We say, “I will define the moral way.”

Listen to this quote:

U.S. Supreme Court
PLANNED PARENTHOOD v. CASEY
505 U.S. 833 (1992)

“At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

As Fr. Barron mocks this statement he says:

“Who am I?  I’ll tell you!  What’s my life about?  It is up to me! What does my life mean?  I’ll tell you!  Its up to my freedom.  Of the Universe…wow this is really getting expansive.  I can define the whole universe around my freedom.  And the mystery of human life.  Boy is that all?  This is freedom run a muck.  And the theological name for this is Pride.”

I suppose I would like to end with one statement.  There is always fear behind pride – always.  God is loving, no matter what decisions in your life have been made as a result of pride, he is a healer who wants to give you and me a fresh start.  He makes all things new.  Be not afraid to confront that truth, its the path to true freedom and true love.

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What is Sin?

There was a young girl who went shopping with her mother. She walked through the dollar store and found a plastic pearl necklace. She grabbed it from the shelf and relentlessly begged her mother to purchase it for her. Her mother however said to her young daughter, “I’ll tell you what, if you clean your room and do some chores I will give you some money so that you can earn it all for yourself.” The daughter agreed and went home, cleaned her room (even under her bed) and helped her mother around the house. After sometime her mother gave her the money to buy the plastic-pearl necklace.

The young girl wore this necklace everywhere, she was so proud of it. She wore it to bed, she wore it to school, and she showed everyone this treasure she had found. One night, however, her Father came into tuck her into bed. He said to her, “I want to ask you a favour.” She looked at him and said, “Anything daddy!” Her Father held out his hand and said, “I want you to give me your necklace.”

She immediately grabbed her necklace and said, “No daddy, this is mine! I worked for it!” He said, “okay.” Then he tucked her into bed, kissed her on the forehead and said good nite.” Her Father continued to tuck her into bed, and continued to ask the same question, at least once a week. But the daughter continued to be obstinate, refusing to give her Father this one thing.

One day the Father walked into her room, finding her sobbing miserably. The Father quickly said, “What’s the matter little one?” The daughter looked up with tear-stained eyes and said, “Take it! It is making me miserable.” She shoved the plastic-pearl necklace into His hands. “It is keeping me from you Dad!”

The Father tucked her in, silently, kissed her on the forehead and said, “Good nite.” In the morning the young girl woke up with a real pearl neckless in her hand.

Our Heavenly Father doesn’t make anything cheap: look at the universe. Look at the highest point of creation: You. The Son didn’t die for the stars, or for the mountains, or for the wonders of the world: he died for you.

Sin is ultimately the result of treating ourselves as if we are not great. We aim for counterfeit love and half-truths. We aim low, because we do not recognize our own dignity, our own worth. Treat yourself to the realization that you are worth more than the universe, and then you will realize that “the world is not enough” and only its creator can satisfy that longing in your heart: the Love of God.

This young girl holds onto some plastic-imitation of the “real” thing, of the great pearl necklace. She holds onto a counterfeit of what her Heavenly Father truly wants to give her. But it is only until she painfully sacrifices this item she treasures that she will be able to receive the “real-thing.” Our Heavenly Father does not want to impose his gifts upon us, but wants us to accept them freely, trusting that when he asks us to change our lives, he is doing it because he wants to replace that gap with something altogether more amazing.

Often times when we look at sin, we often think of a code of conduct given to us through the scriptures (which is true). Sin itself is contrary to God’s law, because God is seeking what is good for us. God does not need us to be obedient to His will for him to be perfectly happy. God in fact does not “need” us for anything. Yet he nonetheless desires that we be happy, for our own sake.

We rarely teach why sin itself is very contrary to our own genuine happiness and joy in life. Sin itself is to fall short of what it means to be “who I am.” Sin is to immerse ourselves into that which is “fake” that which is “false” that which is a mere counterfeit of the real thing. We are not being who we truly are, we are being someone else.

Sin is not a matter of irritating God with behaviour he arbitrarily decided he would rather us not perform. God’s moral law is grounded deeply into allowing us to achieve our full potential to love and be loved. God wants us to become “fully alive” and does not want to hold us back. True freedom therefore is found in LOVE OF His law, and slavery (addiction) is found in sin, where we become blind to the true good nature of ourselves.

God created us to be great-lovers, to be saints. When a person has a poor image of themselves, low standards, and a poor understanding of why morality is even important, it is the result of a deep subconscious lie that states, “I am worthless” or “I am totally depraved of goodness.”

The Philosopher Kant attempted to establish a moral philosophy that does not meditate on the nature of the moral actor (person). This is called a “deontological” ethic, and it is highly problematic – and it is exactly what is wrong with various non-Catholic, Christian forms of morality that have ascribed to it, as it ultimately develops into a cold, duty-bound morality that has nothing to do with “being fully alive” and “loving ourselves as images of God.”

St. Thomas Aquinas who ascribed to what is called an “ontological ethic” or “common-sense ethics,” teaches that each human person has a purpose: and that purpose is to become Happy. It is an undeniable fact that every person desires to be happy, and this is what motivates us in all our actions. If you walk outside to buy some bread, you do it because you are hungry, and being hungry can be painful, and thus can make you unhappy (so can starvation). But all choices lead to an “ultimate happiness.” Our hunger or thirst always comes back, and so we are hungering and thirsting for something that will last eternally. This Aquinas and Aristotle call our “Summa Bonum” our “ultimate end” that “ultimate good” we live for.

All little choices are in some way linked to our desire to be happy, and this is the innate design of each human person: God has constructed us in such a fashion that we all seek to be happy.

There are two types of Happiness however, according to St. Thomas Aquinas: “Apparent” and “Real.”

Apparent Happiness

Apparent happiness could be defined as “falsely perceived happiness.” We all have the experience of looking for love and happiness in all the wrong places. We have all made decisions that made us feel happy, but left us feeling miserable later. All of these apparent happiness is the result of placing our hope for our fulfillment, our happiness in the wrong “stuff.” We are seeking something to satisfy that undying desire for love, a love that never ends. And so often we put our hope into something that in fact does die, that does not last, and that is rather cheap in contrast to what our heart truly desires. From this we can realize that each human person will want to be cured of ignorance so that we can experience “real” happiness or “happiness in reality.”

Real Happiness

Real Happiness ultimately is found in what is “real” otherwise known as the TRUTH. Another way of putting it is, we seek our fulfillment, our happiness in reality rather than a fantasy world. Real happiness ultimately means we are seeking happiness in what can sustain us, and truly give us the fulfillment we seek. We refuse self-deception, and we accept what reality is, and live in it. We all know of people who can be stuck in “la-la land” where they dream up fantasies that are beyond a realistic vision of who they are…they are often the result of a form of escapism.

Like the young girl, she placed her hope in some cheap imitation of what she really wanted: a real pearl necklace. But more to the point, she wanted above all things a relationship with her Father, and came to the realization that her “apparent happiness” was actually making her quite unhappy. It was only until she was healed of that blindness, that she was able to – albeit painfully – give up her possessions out of love for her Father.

Apparent Happiness can be the result of two things:

Innocent Ignorance

We can be raised to think certain things will bring us happiness. We may think that having a great body, having a lot of money, a number of types of cars or relationships will make us happy. We may even think that our vocation itself will give us a total sense of happiness, be it marriage, priesthood or a career. We may simply not be aware that all of these things or relationships are either a means to genuine happiness, or a stumbling block to real happiness. But none of them are “ends in themselves.” In any case, a person who is innocently ignorant is someone who, to no fault of their own simply does not know the truth about something. They either had no education on the matter or were deceived into thinking something false to no fault of their own (i.e parents indoctrinating their children with atheism or something else just as irrational).

Chosen Ignorance

When confronted with the truth about our unhappiness we may realize quickly that surrendering, painfully that which we have become addicted to in our life will be painful. As a result we can attempt to make ourselves ignorant of that realization by “forgetting about it.”

We can effectively lie to ourselves, not so much because we do not want the ideal in its place, but because we do not wish to do the hard-work that is involved in detaching ourselves from what idol or created thing or person we have become addicted to for “my own happiness.”

Chosen ignorance is ultimately to choose not to “contemplate” one’s life but to escape into the “moment” or the “future” in such a way that never really examines what our purpose is (future) and how to logically go after it (the present). We would rather be dazed in a fantasy world that we create for ourselves that I generally term as “la-la land.”

Idols are another example of what “sin” is. I recently watched the new movie which was a remake of Snow White. In this movie the evil queen places a mirror onto an Altar of a Castle she takes over. She replaces God with a mirror – her vain quest for personal beauty and power (which go hand-in-hand in this particular case). She has taken a created thing which is good, and made it the “be-all and end all,” of everything she desires. But the evil witch will never be happy, because it is this never-ending daunting exercise of resentment, of war, of murder and of trying to protect herself from all the enemies she continues to make. He is constantly trying to defend and safeguard what she thinks will bring her happiness – and it makes her miserable. With God, however, he does not need our protecting, he is Powerful and present to us, even in death. We simply need to allow him to enter into our Castle, be placed on our Altar, to be the centre of our life.

Idols are cheap, because they are not God. We were created to be happy by receiving God’s love, and that is expressed in the sign of the “real pearl necklace” given by the young girls Father. At the end of the day, the choice to hang onto the cheap pearl necklace is the choice to hate yourself, to not love yourself and to act as if you are called to nothing more than a cheap imitation of something great. Saints seek a treasure that is eternal, sinners seek something that will die and fade away. Clearly the counterfeit is stupid; and that is sin. You are called to something more – so lets love ourselves by living for greatness. As Blessed Mother Teresa put it, we ought to not do great things as much as do small things with Great love. Because at the end of the day, anything other than Love is a cheap pearl necklace.

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