Healing Effeminacy: A Church Seeking Fatherly Authority informed by Love

Spiritual sicknesses are both a developmental and mysterious dimension of the human condition. We cannot reduce all spiritual ailments to socialized causes, but we certainly cannot discount them as a reality that does in fact have a particular role to play in our spiritual deformation. Each one of us is wounded by a world that is disordered. Sometimes this disorder arises in our own family, through our peers, through authority figures, and sometimes even from spiritual battles that are unknown to us.

Spiritual wounds are both passed on invisibly and also at times inflicted upon us at points of time throughout our own personal history. These deep wounds ultimately lead us to a fork in the road where we have to choose between the way of the cross (sainthood) or the way of escape (damnation). Our wounds, according to St. John Paul II, enable us to confront Samarathe spiritual sickness within our nature that would otherwise remain dormant. That is to say, suffering can bring to the surface our wounds that can either fester through sin or be healed through grace. In this life we are fickle, which means we sometimes go through moments of healing and at other times enter into a sort of festering, decaying spirit, where the wellspring of iniquity within our soul defiles us to the point, where we are blind to love and justice and yet don’t even realize our blindness.

It is far better to be blind and to know that we are blind than to think the whole world is dark and we are not the problem. This double-ignorance (we don’t know, we don’t know) can at times be innocent and therefore easily corrected, but at other times can be obstinately maintained as a result of pride. Man can be so convinced he knows the world, when in reality he unwittingly projects his ignorance unto the world.

The particular spiritual sickness I see today in the Church and culture centres upon a fear and intimidation towards authority, especially authority expedited by men. There are many weakened, broken men, who have experienced bullying in their childhood or an abusive or absent father. As a result of these negative experiences of men, often times these broken Male Gossipand easily offended men, project upon anyone who exercises authority or boldness, a bully-like characterization. This is not to say that women do not experience the same brokenness (in many ways, they experience it quite often) but I’d particularly like to focus on men who seem to be lost in a narcissistic, effeminate, fear of “strong, masculine, men.”  There is typically a knee-jerk reaction to anything stated on the issue, revealing unwittingly a wound within their own life.

The saying goes: “Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.” Such is the attitude, however, when victims react to triggers that remotely remind them of wounds in their lives. We must therefore be patient in this regard with such broken individuals. However, redemption does not equate with escapism.  The real healing that needs to take place in such men’s and women’s lives is a process, not a defensive reaction. Real healing sometimes involves pouring alcohol on an open wound and even cutting the wound open in order to get to the root of the problem. Healing is not something that is done without sacrifice, and without some measure of pain.

This means that in order for a generation of “soft and fearful men” to overcome an antagonizing fear and disordered rejection of strength, good men need to demonstrate how authority and love can coexist in a genuine harmony. It is sad to think that power is often associated with abuse and bullying, especially when the culture reinforces such an over-simplistic reality and calls it “chauvinistic” without taking the time to realize that they are projecting experienced-chauvinism upon a true act of love.

One of the areas of reflection in the way of life at the seminary I attended was that seminarians who demonstrated an effeminate disposition would not really be fit for the priesthood. One possible reason for this is that the priesthood requires a firmness in love that is masculine: it requires a real-fatherhood, not a motherhood. I remember in my first year of priesthood being told to be more motherly as a priest, however, I immediately felt demeaned by this request, as if I was being asked to become something I am not:  a woman.  It was not demeaning because women are somehow defective.  It was demeaning because such a suggestion implied men as men were defective.  Just the fact that I need to nuance this proves what kind of culture we live in.Priest and Nun

You see, there is a genuine need for a greater masculine presence within the Church (as demonstrated by the demographics, which reveal that very few men attend mass, thinking it to be something for women only). However, when one is so wounded in their lives (and unable to realize it) they seek to eliminate masculinity, considering it to be evil and intrinsically married to abusiveness. This is an example of a festering wound within the Church, a wound which is not healed, but merely numbed through neglect and self-pity.

In example:  I encountered a nun who refused to refer to me as “Father” because it resembled for her patriarchy.  I asked her why she viewed “fatherhood” as something evil, and she quickly stated that I had mischaracterized her position.  I retorted, “You have mischaracterized my Fatherhood.”  It was sad that this woman would have such a terrible reaction to fatherhood, thinking it to be nothing more than a matter of domineering and demeaning power-mongering.  But it was she who projected this upon the priesthood, and not reality at work.

As Deacon Keating  suggested in my time at the seminary, “Do not worry about the women, they will always be at mass. Worry about the men. Go build relationships with them.” This deacon exuded a true fatherliness that I had rarely ever seen in most priests I had encountered. Likely because with a Church that is often mischaracterized by its own wounded individuals as “chauvinistic,” many priests are fearful to exert a fatherly, masculine authority.  In reality, this true masculine authority present in the home and in the Church, if carried through, will actually amount to nothing more than alcohol purifying the wound (at least at first). If endured, men will be men again, but if escaped, men will run away from their own vocation and uniqueness that compliments the role of women.  If healed, more vocations:  if not, more disorder.

The other extreme that must be avoided is what reactionaries often present. When there is a legitimate hunger for authentic human needs, and the “real-thing” isn’t presented, such hungering individuals will satisfy themselves with a counterfeit junk-food. We see this with women who are aroused and attracted to the false-male image presented in movies Father-Daughtersuch as “50 Shades of Grey.” Women who objectively are created to be loved by a man who is masculine, will seek what they wrongly perceive to be real manliness, a disordered, controlling, objectifying type of lust.

This spiritual sickness in our world is a reality.  The call to healing is to request: healthy-men to rise up in the family and in the priesthood to lead with a firmness that also attempts at every possible occasion to convey that such firmness is rooted in love and mercy.

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Finding Peace Amongst a Bickering, Murmuring Church

Grumbling is one of the funny words that shows itself in the book of Exodus, and later in the New Testament, in reference to the Israelites spoken of in the book of Exodus. What was the nature of their grumbling and bickering? We note that they grumbled against Moses, but by extension, they therefore grumbled against God. So the bickering and complaining, the resentments and brokenness of a prideful and sinful people had both a spiritual and a sociological dimension to it, within the community of the faithful and by extension with their relationship with God.Noisy world

Often we perceive this murmuring or grumbling to be a result of the very hard life and difficult tasks that came with traveling through the hot desert. Likewise, we are traveling through this life, a world moving towards its total fulfillment:  the promised Land of heaven.  It was difficult for the Israelites to let go of their slavery. To any reasonable person, one might mock the childishness of the Israelites for being so base, in complaining against God, after they had been given the better gift: freedom to worship God. That was the greatest gift and the purpose of all the works that God had shown to Egypt. Now having the freedom to celebrate their faith, to worship the True God in the desert, they began to resent the One they had come to worship.

What is revealed here is the mystery of iniquity that had grown within the hearts of the followers of the God of Abraham. The Israelites did not primarily wish to worship their Lord in the desert, but they wished to worship their disordered desires. No other explanation seems to be reasonable, especially considering that some Israelites wanted to return to Egypt, trading in their God for food that they considered to taste better. Was God so easily traded? Of course He was. Judas has traded the Son of God for 30 measly pieces of silver, unfaithful spouses have traded in their spouse for another or money. Universities, Hospitals, Schools, and churches have sold their Catholic Identity for grant money and political correctness, for social acceptability and pleasures. This shouldn’t shock anyone, as it’s in the nature of man to become so darkened in his heart and mind that he perceives that God is more of a burden to Worship and as a result we flee to find comfort, escapes, pleasures, in the delights of slavery (to sin).

The question we might pose to ourselves is: why are we so fickle in abandoning God for such trivial things such? We are all fickle in this regard. Even the “rich-man” who considers himself faithful in all the ways of the commandments cannot find the interior freedom to leave everything behind to follow Christ! The whole point of the law therefore is misplaced and it is all practiced in vain-glory! If to practice the law is meant to demonstrate a devotion and loving-obedience to God, than why can we, with one breath follow God’s law, and with another entirely abandon Him – as the Rich Man did?

DesertThese are the questions we ought to be asking ourselves as we enter into the spiritual discipline of Lent. We are not merely attempting to remove various sinful inclinations, a type of exercise in self-restraint. Rather we are to strike at the very root of all our sin, the very well-spring of iniquity that enables evil to perpetually arise. Sin will always return if we only cut away the evil fruits.

Man is fickle because of concupiscence. Man is weak because he is spiritually sick and disordered: all of us are disordered. We desire good and evil things over and above the infinite splendor and beauty of God Himself. That is our problem and that is what we are attempting to find healing for through grace.

I see grumbling in the life of the Church on so many levels and throughout her history. We see kingdoms divided against themselves, bickering theologians and opinionated others.  I’m guilty of it and not above it:  Mea Culpa.   It is all a distraction from the inner-peace and introspection that ought to drive our awareness away from others and more into the polluted spring of iniquity that rises within our own veins.

Children, if we are not spending more time in self-reflection than in reflection of the faults of others, we must be assured that our criticism of others amounts to nothing more than a log in our own eye and speck in another. Begin by assuming that we are the one with the Log in our eye!  It is amazing what we discover when we take this approach.  If you are bothered by a person’s temperament ask yourself:  “Where is that same temperament in me?  It must be in me, as I am a sinner too.”  Develop in this time of Lent the gift of spiritual apathy towards others (lest we are directly responsible for them). Rather fix first what is wrong from within ourselves (there is plenty of work for all of us in this regard). The fruit of this work will be more compassion towards those we find ourselves frustrated with. It will also enable us not to come to conclusions about one another based on small pieces of information.st-john-of-the-cross

More beautifully, self-examination will not only help us to beg the saviour to descend upon us with healing, but through this grace we will also discover that the Lord has deigned to reign within us, even as our nature is mired with dysfunction. Once we have such grace, we will become peacemakers rather than antagonistic reactionaries, demanding to be the first to receive validation. We will be proclaiming the name of Christ with apathy towards the dishonour and humiliation that come from being faithful to a world unenlightened by Him.  We will be on fire for Love of God.

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Euthanasia Decriminalized in Canada: Saints Rise Up

On Friday February 6th, I had the usual pleasure of a long day of ministry, where I have the chance to visit various parishioners who are unable to attend mass on a regular basis due to age or sickness. Here at our parish, Fr. Patrick, Fr. Pat, and myself visit these individuals on a regular basis, bringing the Sacrament of the Eucharist and offering any other sacramental support we can.

St. Miki and Companions

St. Miki and Companions

The memorial of the day was St. Miki and Companions. Several martyrs who had been crucified in Japan as a result for professing the name of Jesus. I remember as a seminarian preaching on this memorial as a deacon. After praying with St. Miki and companions I felt a connection with this Saint who encouraged his persecutors to be baptized as he was being crucified. He brought hope as he was crucified with many, but he did so with courage and great strength.

On this day I also learned that the Supreme Court of Canada had announced that the law on assisted suicide had been struck down unanimously. What this means as of yet remains unclear since the government may develop conditions around this, but it remains nonetheless an additional mortal wound on the integrity of our nation, Canada. As G.K. Chesterton reminds us, however, a nation is not only to be loved when it is doing well, but it is to be loved even more when it is mired in evil. His point of course is not to endorse the evil, but to bring about a greater sense of mercy and truth to such a nation that it might be healed.  But it is no wonder why we are here.  Most theologians these days consider mortification in the past to be a heavy and archaic practice.  Therefore the Church-herself has lost the practice of suffering in love and joy.  We should probably read this.

My initial reaction to the decriminalization of euthanasia was righteous-anger. Here I am visiting with the people many think have no value in their suffering.  I am utterly disgusted at this point.  Also, I pointed towards the failures of the church and her fickle inability to cast out ambiguity beginning with contraception, abortion, same-sex marriage and GSA’s in High-Schools, and now doctor-assisted suicide. Canada has in fact become baser than paganism who had doctors promising to never commit abortions or assist people to die before their time. Sadly this is the fault of a Church that has spoken but not lived and acted as if what it teaches is true. It is also a church that has spoken error in her members, or remained silent on such matters which frame a deep and genuine relationship with Christ.

Belgium-euthanasia-press-tvThe anger I felt was right, and I have no regret in how I felt. However, later that night I also began praying about it and reflected on God’s providence in all of this. Although God’s providence never promotes a spiritual laziness but rather a real sense of culpability within our own inaction and action as such, despite all of that God still has a plan, and can bring grace out of such a horrible situation. Where sin is, grace abounds. I consider the saints who stand in opposition to the values of the culture. We as a Church have seemingly fallen into the trap of caressing the ego and pride of each generation by affirming the values, even if they are half-decent, half-truths. Instead of focusing on the diseased foot, we have pointed towards the healthy foot. Limping along through life inundating it with “happy-talk” or what Jeremiah says is equivalent to saying, “peace, peace” while there is no actual peace (c.f. Jer 6) has permitted the diseased limb to spread to the heart finally bringing to life the fruit of death in a more vigorous manner than ever before. And while I use such stark words to describe what people consider to be compassionate, it is only because Satan deserves no compliments. That is, we must not become complicit in Satan’s amazing capacity to convince us that evil is good and good is evil.  People have convinced themselves that murder is love, and that suicide is an act of self-love. People are, in their moral-character evil. Like the prophet Eli who fell off his chair, having received the news that the pagans had taken away their ability to worship God well (consider how in my diocese only 86% practice their faith), so many are shocked and astounded that this has taken place. But Eli was a fool to be shocked. He had been warned, he had been told to discipline his sons who were leaders within the community. Excommunicating and forbidding politicians from receiving the Eucharist who support GSA’s in schools, same-sex marriage, the proliferation and promotion of contraception, abortion, prostitution, and doctor assisted suicide has not taken place. We are the sons of Eli, and Eli has broken his neck.

Yet as I mentioned earlier, all of this got me thinking about the saints. The saints were well known in cultures that also experienced the bleak reality of a fickle and inactive Church. St. Jean curearshcVianney for instance stood against a culture in the enlightenment period which treated reasoning-skills as somehow adding value to one’s own dignity in the world. This hasn’t really changed, it has merely gotten worse. We abort about 90 percent of children with down-syndrome. Nevertheless, St. Jean Vianney who struggled to learn Latin in school was not considered the most intelligent. Yet, he became one of the greatest priests because of his absolute pursuit of holiness and faithfulness to God. He also stood against the rebelling culture, going into the bars and commanding his parishioners to repent. And most importantly he suffered for his people with great love. He gave light penances to his confessing people, while suffering on their behalf great penances for the salvation of their own soul.

You see, in every dark period, most especially in the darkness and chill of what is foolishly called the “enlightenment” God gives way to many signs of contradiction in order to confront the evil within the world. And so as the world becomes more bleak, more darkened by faithlessness, I say to all you remaining steadfast: contradict evil, and shine even brighter.  The darker the world is, the more visible your light will shine.  We have built the Kingdom of Man and it stands in direct opposition to the Kingdom of God.  More and more the ambiguity, the failed attempt to reconcile the world to the Church has failed.  And now the Church is blessed with being set-apart once again, albeit in a small way…

When I say, “contradict” I do not mean “react.” Reacting is another thing as a culture of death we ought to be aware of. Reacting goes from one extreme to another, and is usually motivated out of a personal wound rather than peace and love for Christ. Contradict reactions by reproving both extremes. Contradict a culture of death by joyfully suffering all trials and boast of them in Christ!! This actually excites me, and turns the anger into a powerful zeal to prove the world wrong in its cowardice towards suffering. My suggestion is to quote St. John Paul II’s document on Redemptive suffering in our lives. But I will end instead with a quote from St. John of the Cross:

“…one’s journey must not merely exclude the hindrance of creatures but also embody a dispossession and annihilation in the spiritual part of one’s nature. Our Lord, for our instruction and guidance along this road, imparted the wonderful teaching – I think it is possible to affirm that the more necessary the doctrine the less it is practiced by spiritual persons – that I will quote fully and explain in its genuine and spiritual sense because of its importance and relevance to our subject. He states in the eight chapter of St. Mark…if anyone wishes to follow my way, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his soul will lose it, but whoever loses it for me will gain it…

Oh, who can make this counsel of our saviour on self-denial understandable, and practicable, and attractive, that spiritual persons might become aware of the difference between the method many of them think is good and the one that ought to be used in traveling this road! They are of the opinion that any kind of withdrawal from the world, or reformation of life, suffices. Some are content with a certain degree of virtue, perseverance in prayer, and mortification, but never achieve the nakedness, poverty, selfishness, or spiritual purity (which use all the same) about which the Lord counsels us here. For they still feed and clothe their natural selves with spiritual feelings and consolations instead of divesting and denying themselves of these for God’s sake. They think denial of self in worldly matters is sufficient without annihilation and purification in the spiritual domain. It happens that, when some of this solid, perfect food (the annihilation of all sweetness in God – the pure spiritual cross and nakedness of Christ’s poverty of spirit) is offered them in dryness, distaste, and trial, they run from it as from death and wander about in search only for sweetness and delightful communications from God. Such an attitude is not the hallmark of self-denial and nakedness of spirit but the indication of a spiritual sweet tooth. Through this kind of conduct, they become spiritually speaking, enemies of the cross of Christ [Phil 3:18].

A genuine spirit seeks rather the distasteful in God than the delectable, leans more towards suffering than towards consolation, more towards going without everything for God than towards possession, and towards dryness and affliction than towards sweet consolation. It knows that this is the significance of following Christ and denying self, that the other method is perhaps a seeking of self in God – something entirely contrary to love. Seeking oneself in God is the same as looking for the caresses and consolations of God. Seeking God in oneself entails not only the desire to do without these consolations for God’s sake, but also the inclination to choose for love of Christ all that is most distasteful whether in God or in the world; and this is what loving God means.”

-The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book Two, Chapter 7, 4-5

  St. John Paul II, St. Miki and Companions, and St. John of the Cross, pray for us to defy and contradict the culture of death in the sanctuary of the Church, and in your world. Sacred Heart of Jesus: have mercy on us! Let us seek suffering before affective consolation in all things, that we might be made pure in the fire of your love.

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Reforming a Sterile Catholic-Culture: Externals…oh my!

Sometimes things stay the same, while the façade changes. That is, sometimes the culture needs to change Brothers rather than everything else. I’m thinking of the Catholic-Culture especially that has really made the Church a disembodied, abstract vehicle for sentimentalities that most people find else where in the secular world, already. A culture that has produced the fruits of, in some dioceses, as much as 70-86 % of Baptized and Confirmed Catholics who don’t practice their faith, is certainly a culture in need of reform. It is the culture we should not be clinging onto, but rather the change of the Catholic-Culture.

In listening to a lot of the people who don’t attend mass, I’ve often appreciated their own insights into what they want in the Church:

1. I don’t like modern churches, bring back the beautiful traditional ones. (that is putting their own views politely). Sometimes they say, “Bring back the real-churches.”

2. Bring back communion rails (that is right! Someone who wasn’t practicing and hasn’t been catechized came to this conclusion on all his own).

3. Gregorian Chant is more beautiful than the 30-50 year old music we’ve been using…

4. Make sure the community is not talking all the time, especially the choirs.

5. Why does Father always tell a joke that isn’t connected in any way to the message of his homily. I want to be fed when and if I go.

6. Visible Clergy & Religious (i.e. collar & habit)

Above all the spiritual change that needs to take place is an authentic concern with honouring and praising God before pleasing men. If we stop trying to appease everyone, we will actually begin serving their good-nature rather than their concupiscence.

Priest and NunThese are just a few. But I find it interesting that these are especially the people who are not in any “camp” but they have a natural Catholic-sense. That is, they want a Catholic Culture, not something that is swept up in modern-trends of bland-simplicity. They want noble-simplicity, richness of faith, a place of beauty, and worship that strives for excellence instead of being on par with what people find else-where in the world. Sometimes I find the Church is doing the world, but worse than the world. If you live in the world, why go to Church when it can’t even get the world-trends right…We need to be set apart, and offer something else.

The good news from my vantage point is that the newer priests coming out of the wood work are not obsessed with externals, but want to utilize them to fulfill the Church’s task in being sacramental (visible, tangible, sensible). I know that this can be difficult for some people to agree with. But it will come to pass that we will return to these Churchpractices, and with the right spirit! So its just a matter of waiting. And as Blessed Mother Theresa says, if they are going to destroy what you build, build it anyways.

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How is God Known to Us: The New Evangelization

Introduction

The New Evangelization is an important task for the Church as we seek to communicate, fruitfully, the Gospel. That is a task that cannot be accomplished by human wisdom or human effort alone. Rather man must submit to God as both the means and the end of this mission. I would like to reflect therefore on the principle ways God seeks to communicate His Law and Himself to the human race, Gentile or Jew.  20120605-203703.jpg

Fear and Manipulation

George Orwell wrote in the book “1984” a solid representation of how language can be used to twist and conform minds to submission in a totalitarian regime. This totalitarian regime would remove particular words from the dictionary and common rhetoric of society, in order to limit the intellectual freedom of the people, their curiosity and therefore their ability to consciously discern or think anything contrary to “Big-Brother.” In our Church today we see a similar trend in the change-of-language.  It is the case that language can change, so long as the meaning is not left behind, and this often needs to happen.  However, sometimes when language is changed to be considered “less offensive” what actually is happening to the language is not necessarily becoming a better vehicle to communicate the truths of the gospel, but rather a means to obscure it and foster ambiguity.  Softening the language around issues of “heresy” and “same-sex disorders,” “conscience” and “contraception,” really comes down to avoiding difficult truths.  People consciously want to change the language, perhaps because on another level they want to actually change the teaching.  The moral law is no longer considered to be a dimension of the good-news, but is rather perceived as a source of despair.  Big Brother is the personal force, whereby this agenda comes to fruition, and the minds of the people are dulled and stupefied by a watering down and generalization of important logical categories.  In order to accomplish this, Big Brother, the totalitarian leader of his society, spied and constantly “over-saw” the people.   Some might suggest that this method of control was ordered to make people “fear” and therefore submit. In reality, while there is truth to this notion, I would add that it was also likely that Big-Brother was afraid of what he couldn’t control, and thus motivated out of his own anxiety began to manipulate, twist words, all as a power-struggle.Anti-Christ

According to Fr. Robert Barron, and many spiritual masters, at the root of all pride/sin is an inordinate fear towards God. We perceive on some level (consciously or unconsciously) that God doesn’t really love us, and we have to seek out our happiness according to our own judgment (the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil). If however we were to ascribe to God’s commandments with unfailing and loving trust we would receive the gift of what scripture calls, “the obedience of faith.” That is to say that obedience is predicated of faith, wherein through faith we are capable of a loving-obedience. One that without full understanding nonetheless abides in God no matter what He commands us. This offers us a decisive and contrary view to a totalitarian, manipulative dictator. God does not so much coerce us, except by the natural consequences of our own actions. That is to say that God allows for a natural and good fear to exist within us, but it isn’t one that is born out of His own fear (He fears nothing), but rather it is for our own good. A child fears falling off a cliff or being hit by a car while crossing the road. These fears are healthy and they demonstrate an appreciation for the gift of life itself. They are also not disproportionate, as one who fears things in an obsessive manner or in a defective manner might be said to suffer from a mental illness. God however also respects our freedom, and rather than manipulating us through the twisting of our language, He rather communicates to us in a concrete fashion. He literally puts it in stone, starting with Moses.
Discerning Infallibility from Error

And so the benevolence of God seeks to foremost communicate His law and ultimately Himself to us, and he does this through the created universe, with which we belong. Therefore “communication” is an essential dimension for us to reflect upon. God communicates to us, and this communication itself, as both a means and an end, are of incredible importance. For if we “play-with” or “fool-around” or “tweak” God’s method of communication with us, we objectively distort His “saving” message and pay the logical consequences. We must also keep in mind that amidst this call to communicate and preserve God’s communication of “Divine Teaching,” that there is a conscious and morally-evil person who seeks to do nothing but distort and confuse us. While this may describe members of the human family, who certainly have the wit and the capacity to be fully aware of their own manipulative techniques, we remember that the master of it all is ultimately “the” Deceiver: Lucifer.St. Michael

Therefore we have three voices in our lives that are fallible: ourselves, our world, and Demons. God who speaks to us through the Church’s Sacred Scripture and Apostolic Tradition is and ought to be understood, not through the lens of man, but through the authority of God. Therefore we must trust God to reveal to us Truth through the Church, and not in us “shaping” and opting for paradigm shifts within the Church herself, both in regards to the “means” and the “end” of the Gospel, since God determines both, through the docile-cooperation of His Church.

Creating and Twisting

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (who has requested to be referred to as Father Benedict, spoke of how the Divine Liturgy was not to be distorted by man’s own theological speculations and creativity. Let us leave this, for the moment as a mere principle without applying it to anything in particular. We often apply these principles without also considering many other numerous factors, and so I wish to drill into our minds the principles before apply them too broadly. We know that God does use the creativity of man while it also is a revelation of God, simultaneously. We see this in the various texts of scripture, each having their own genre and style of composition representing the personality of the writer and Divine teaching. God and man are united in a spiritual unity that enables God to infallibly speak through sacred scripture and dogmatic/definitive statements that come from the Church. Therefore, we are not to understand the term “creative” as a repressive application against man’s freedom to build the Kingdom of God. Rather we must examine what we do in fact mean by “creative.”

There are two senses that we can discuss when reflecting on how the Church can both become fruitful and become fruitless through the creative energies of man. For it was man who through malicious creativity built something as ugly and vile as a cross. Man also created a nuclear bomb, genocide, and many other horrible things that twist and disfigure the dignity of human life and place us at odds with a God of love. Even through innocent-human error we discover evils that result from our creative tendencies. When man advances in the sciences without also bridling his application of such knowledge to the discipline of wisdom (or genuine philosophy) we see this problem recapitulated.annunciation2

The second type of creativity is one that participates in fellowship with the Creator.  He does not want us to ever create apart from his own Wisdom and will. In J.R Tolkien’s books, evil cannot really or truly be a “creative-force” it can only pretend to do such things. One of the figures in his books, who represents Satan, manages to twist and distort the nature of the Elves in such a way that he creates what is perceived to be an entirely different race: the goblins. He does this through torture. This operates as a parable for the Church’s teaching on what “evil is” or rather, what it is not. Evil as St. Aquinas teaches is the “privation” of the good. To St. Augustine he more aptly describes it as the “twisting” of good. They are both correct, but are saying the same thing in a different manner. It all comes down to mimicking what George Orwell synthesizes in “1984” as a manipulation of truth and its distortion. Neither the devil or human beings have the capacity to create from nothing.  We are unable to create anything totally original.  That is a prerogative and power that ultimately belongs to God alone. Man can create from what already exists, but in reality he cannot conjure a new substance or a new being from nothing. In this regard, creatures (angels or humans) are limited. In the mind of a prideful and arrogant person, this limitation seems to be a source of agitation since his will is ordered towards becoming God. But since he is powerless to ever bring such a reality about, he instead does the “next-best-thing.” That is, he fosters the façade/illusion that he is creating something new. When people perceive and experience a reality that “seems” or “feels” new they are often intrigued because man’s nature is such that he is inclined towards all things that come from the Creator; anything new is a possible discovery of beauty.  But only God makes all things new.

Now with all this said, let us take a step back and ask ourselves: if the enemy wants to distort God’s message (of His law, and His very self) how is he going to go about doing this? What in particular is he going to attack? He will attack the very signs/symbols or sacraments of the Church.

Sacraments: God’s means of Communication

There are two specific categories that we can address when discussing sacraments. Sacraments first of all are a visible/tangible sign that communicates an invisible reality or grace. We might describe the invisible reality as the Logos (the Word) or God Himself. Sometimes we are speaking of God and other times we are speaking about earthly things or even the application of God to earthly things (such as the moral law).cropped-creation1.jpg

The first category of sacraments would be all of creation itself. St. Thomas Aquinas taught that all of creation together, and all things in particular, communicate to us God’s own self insofar as an effect tells us something about the cause. It certainly does not exhaust God’s essence (nothing finite can), but it does communicate to us, in a limited way God’s Identity. Although a painting tells us very little about the painter, we might notice that its beauty exists within the artist. Therefore, seeing the beauty and goodness of creation we discover that the Creator must have goodness and beauty within Himself. On the natural level we have two more categories: conventional signs and natural signs. Natural signs exist in the “nature of the thing itself.” That is to say that there are objective signs within nature that communicate to us various truths. Doctors use these signs to at times decipher the health of a body. Meteorologists use them to predict the weather. This ultimately leads us to a scientific distinction between an effect and its cause, or cause in relation to its effect (with regard to temporal matters). Conventional signs are fostered through the usage of reasoning as an attempt to communicate an invisible truth. For example, a man in one country might buy his wife flowers, while in another country he may buy her a bottle of vodka. Both may be attempting to communicate the same truth, but they do it through different signs. Another example is the difference between a bow and a handshake. Cultural ways of communicating truths are not of themselves bad “if” they are ordered to right-reasoning. Nonetheless, for the sake of discussion I would prefer, at this point, to reflect on how God is revealed through nature. According to Scripture and Church Tradition, God can be known through the beauty of the created world. However in the Creation narrative there is a pinnacle of creation which points beyond itself in a manner that surpasses all other things in the universe, and that is in Mankind itself. God describes the whole created universe as good, but describes Adam and Eve, woman and man, as “very good.” Therefore our first “go-to” source of reflection on how God communicates Himself to us is through the very creation of man and woman, husband and wife: natural marriage itself.

The second category of sacraments is the one we are all too familiar with (or are we?). The seven sacraments of the Church are instituted by God, and have developed through Tradition. We cannot be so obstinate, as to attempt to return to our roots while cutting off all growth that has arisen as the result of our growth. A common error in fundamentalism is that everything must be exactly as it was in the early Church. In one sense this is true, insofar as the content and substance of the faith must be exactly the same. However, the development and unfolding of these truths, their application and the ordering of them should not be dismissed. Sacraments such as Reconciliation has brought about a great deal of healing so many souls who have genuinely sought to be right with God. However this sacrament’s theology, while existing in substance in the Early Church was not necessarily ordered in the way we encounter it today.

Development and Organized Religion

That process of development never constitutes a change in the essence of the Church’s teaching but rather in its expression. But even these changing realities (accidental-change) are guided by God, not merely as a logical consequence of divinely revealed truths, but as a result of God’s own plan for our salvation.   That is to say that God has utilized and mapped out how He would save us throughout the centuries, not revealing to us “more” but giving us a fuller means to encounter what He has already revealed. Here is how the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) puts it:

With regard to this historical condition, it must first be observed that the meaning of the pronouncements of faith depends partly upon the expressive power of the language used at a certain point in time and in particular circumstances. Moreover, it sometimes happens that some dogmatic truth is first expressed incompletely (but not falsely), and at a later date, when considered in a broader context of faith or human knowledge, it receives a fuller and more perfect expression. In addition, when the Church makes new pronouncements she intends to confirm or clarify what is in some way contained in Sacred Scripture or in previous expressions of Tradition; but at the same time she usually has the intention of solving certain questions or removing certain errors.” (Mysterium Ecclesiae, 5)

vatican-bank.jpgOur God is not one of disorganization, He orders everything, and those who have a knee-jerk reaction to Organized Religion forget this. What they are reacting to is not really the fact that the Church is organized but that people forget it is most importantly an organized-organism. Sometimes through the inordinate preoccupation with order we lose our appreciation for the fact that we are more than simply an institution. Rather we have an interior depth that is moving towards a deeper and more profound, Divine Love, intertwined with our relationship to our brother and sister. The problem is not whether the Church is organized, it is why it is organized: for the health of the whole body. That is to say, the order is directly related to the good of each individual. But order alone should not be the only manner of understanding the body…rather a more phenomenological look into the very “will” of each person.

Salvation through the Church & the two types of Legalists

The sacraments themselves seek to sanctify man and help him persevere in grace. They are given to the Church to be the fullest means of salvation, and therefore without these helps, salvation is more difficult and even impossible if it is genuinely rejected. There is no hope for salvation for those who reject the Church knowing it to be true (as taught in the Vatican II documents). God who is a saving God seeks the whole world to be saved through the Church, and there is no one who should not be introduced and invited to partake in the sacramental life of the Church. Indifference is not an option for those who care about God’s will, rather than their own. While it is taught that salvation may be possible for those who are not a part of the visible Church, this should not ever lead to a pluralism and a reluctance towards the commission to baptize and evangelize. I often wonder about what a relationship with God must be like when an individual can rationalize his way out of a real call to evangelize on the possible technicality that a man “might” be saved if he has not been baptized or sacramentally united to the Church, visibly. Such is what I would prefer to refer to as liberal-legalism. It is a reaction to conservative-legalism.  Conservative-legalism holds to the structure God has instituted (or perceived it as such) and yet does not live it in spirit. Meanwhile the liberal-legalist seeks to reject the law while doing so in a legalistic way. I remember a community once being told to never have hands folded as one might see in altar servers in Europe. It was considered to be a legalistically pious act. The irony was in order to defy this “apparent” legalistic act, a legal prohibition was instituted for the said community. Blindness would have only perpetuated the silliness of such spiritual-legalism. And this is the point…legalism isn’t an external act to be condemned, it is a spiritual act to be condemned. It is an attitude, not a particular external behaviour.Pope Francis2

All in all, both seem to not consider honouring and glorifying God by simply doing as He commands. It makes as much sense as dual covenantal theology, which is outright insulting to the Jews. If the Jews love God, they would be the first to admit that they want to be faithful and know who He is completely. Yet by suggesting that God settles for them not knowing about the Trinity in this life is to suggest that God is apathetic to the fullest possible means of being known in this life. Anyone with a degree of common-sense in the relational-sense can see right through such arguments and attitudes. It is more likely that those who have been highly educated cannot see the forest from the trees and have become preoccupied with disjointed truths and developed false-absolutes. This is poor philosophy meeting a possibly poor relationship with God. A simple relationship with Jesus out of love, however, will dispose us towards seeing the big-picture and realize that Jesus, who is our best-friend and Lord must have His name shouted from the roof-tops!

Philosophical Exorcism: Nominalism

There are too many problems to list here with Nominalism, but for the sake of this reflection I will only focus on the issues that come about through communicating divine-truths. The latent, contemporary/modern-approach to the sacramentality of the Church has been inundated with Kantian Philosophy, otherwise known as nominalism. Nominalism or “deontology” ascribes to the notion that there really is no essence or nature to things, but there is a sort of over-all characteristic in a given reality. The consequences of such a philosophy are detrimental to morality and Catholic Identity. I would like to propose that we have a philosophical exorcism, rejecting the evils and errors that stem from nominalism. Nominalism denies that there can be a concrete and objective means to communicate truths through creation and the sacramental life of the Church itself. Nominalism ultimately fosters a disjunction between the Creator and the Created, almost as if creation itself does not have its being, and move in God, but rather is operated by God extrinsically. If this is the case, than creation is totally other than God, and nothing of it can really tell us anything about God, since it has no real connection to God. Nominalism also seems to suggest that there is no real objective definition to particular things as they are. That is to say, they have no essence or “definite-nature.” This enables us to define things in a sort of arbitrary way, and as a result, common-sense is altogether abandoned to rationalization and deconstructionism. While Kant was not altogether wrong on everything, nominalism is by far one of the greatest sources of wounds to the Church today, that while many may not explicitly even know what this philosophy is, and one may adopt it as a philosophy that shapes their own behaviour and attitude. Nominalism is a spiritual sickness that leads souls away from the Church, and therefore God.Thomas Aquinas

It is important for us to therefore consider what was earlier mentioned but postponed. Father Benedict teaches us that it is not within our own initiative that we ought to bring change to the sacramental life of the Church. This would also apply to changing the “definition” of things like natural-marriage or the definition of the created universe and all within it.  If you can do it with one aspect of the universe, you can do it with everything.  Just as if you can ignore one infallible teaching, every infallible teaching is up for debate.  A definition is something discovered not invented or cultivated out of a social construct. A definition is a definitive statement about what makes a thing what it is, as Aristotle would put it. And while there is a definitive essence to a thing, this does not diminish or petrify the reality it has, which some ultra-conservative Catholics have falsely assumed. The Church is an organism, which means it is both organized-and-alive at the same time. There is unchanging truth and a growing nature predicated of this Church, and this must be considered when approaching the Church and her sacramental life. It is the middle position between those who would do away with its sacramental nature through such careerisms as suggesting women should be permitted to become priests. Such an act would have to first deny the very sacramental nature of Orders in order to do so and reduce it to a function rather than a manifestation of Christ the groom.  That is to say that the spiritual marriage of Christ would no longer be transmitted to His bride, the Church.

Sacrament of Orders: Gentleman only, Ladies Forbidden

Let us focus on the sacrament of Orders, therefore for a moment. As said earlier, each sacrament seeks to communicate or transmit God’s law and God Himself to us. That is both the grace to know the Law and the presence of the one who fulfills it. Without God’s presence we cannot fulfill the law, and without our conscience informed it is incredibly difficult to consent to it freely. God Himself therefore is the grace to be found in each sacrament, and not in terms of quantity but perhaps quality and perhaps from a phenomenological perspective from the context of a relationship. Many people these days will argue that God can be found in nature, so why go to Church? But again, if God wants you to go to Church but you choose to seek Him in nature are you not slapping him in the face by rejecting his will. How can you seek God through disobedience? Such a soul says, “I want to know God, but I do not want to know Him on His terms, but rather my own.” This is a spiritual sickness which finds itself rooted in fear and sloth. It is something that all religious and non-religious people suffer from on all sorts of levels. For even a priest who celebrates mass regularly may complain that he is not collected and yet does nothing prior to mass to spiritually prepare himself.Roman Collar

The Sacrament of orders seeks to communicate the Person of Christ, and in the priesthood and episcopacy, Christ the Head. A priest is not merely a sacrament of the Person of Christ when he celebrates mass, but rather is a living sacrament of Christ while he sleeps and while he walks out in public. He is a sacrament of Christ to himself, as he lives in the privacy of his own home. And Christ has revealed himself not to be some sort of androgynous human being, but God himself has loved us in a manly way through Christ. Christ choose to be a man. Radical-Feminists may suggest that “he had to choose one sex, and he did so because he had to fit into the current temperament of the people for them to take him seriously.” But this is likely the most unwise statement one could ever conjure up. Christ was crucified precisely because no one took Him seriously or seriously-enough. If in the heart, all the disciples truly believed He was God and sent to save them, they would have all lined up at the foot of that cross or been crucified with Him on the same good-Friday. Many people had a hard time accepting what Christ taught. Furthermore, God does not bow to sexism or any sort of social injustice, he entirely wipes it out through his preaching and teaching and choices. This same Christ chose 12 disciples and excluded women from this particular sacrament.

The answer to the question “why” He did what He did can easily be understood as was previously stated: Christ is the Husband of the Church. Our sexual identity, as male or female is incredibly important, and it communicates an objective truth about God. We stated earlier that at the height of creation, God created man and women in His own Image, and for that reason, we are very good. To downplay human sexuality, would be to undermine God’s own decisive decision to make us the way we are for a particular reason. That reason being: communion. It was not good that Adam should be alone, so God created Eve. That is to say, that no one is made to be alone, but we are all created to love and be loved. This teaches us something profound about God as Trinity, that He is both Lover and Beloved. And Man and Woman imitate this love, while being of the same essence (bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh) to each other insofar as they are of equal value while not being the same.st-john-of-the-cross

Jesus who is the groom of His Church united the very sacrificial reality of His death to His identity as Husband. His sacrifice and his Marital relationship with the Church are intrinsically tied together that it would be altogether impossible for a woman to ever echo the words in a meaningful way: “This is my Body, given up for you.” For this very act of Christ offering His body to His bride is what tore the veil in the temple, revealing his presence to His unveiled bride. One cannot separate Christ’s manhood from the sacrifice, for it was motivated out of spousal love, communicated in a very concrete way through the masculine identity of Christ. To scoff and dismiss this marital union with the Church is to reduce Christ’s love for us as some sort of mere platonic idealistic love that never actually was incarnate in the flesh. And as the Catechism itself teaches, Christ’s flesh is the hinge of our salvation.

The Spirit of the Liturgy & Obedience to the Rubrics

The sacrament of the priesthood is necessarily tied into the Eucharist which the Church teaches is the source and summit of the Christian life. The Church does not say, “Catholic” it says, “Christian.” This has profound ecumenical consequences when considering the ultimate goal of unity with all Christians. That is to say that to be fully united with the Source and reach the summit of our shared faith, one must worship the Eucharist in reality. The end goal of ecumenism therefore is participation in the sacraments of initiation, ending in the Eucharist (for those at the age of reason).

Father Benedict has spent a great deal of time reflecting on the beauty and goodness of the liturgy, reminding the Church that we are not to play around with the rubrics. Anyone can find canonical or liturgical loopholes, just as much as anyone can play the legal system and get off on technicalities. The real question we must ask ourselves is: are we abiding by the Spirit? One does not get into heaven by “technically following the law.” We can obey the law and be entirely disobedient at the same time. For instance, if a man were to celebrate mass according to the rubrics he would be blameless in terms of the mass being licit and valid. However, he might not have prepared well for the celebration of mass, his homily was not the fruit of prayer, and in his heart was judgment. Despite the fact that such a man celebrated well, does not implythat God is pleased with such a sacrifice, or lack thereof. There are a whole slew of examples that could be given to things that are “technically permitted” but are pastorally stupid. But that is not the point of this reflection, the point rather is to focus on the simple fact that it ought to be always perceived that God is the instigator of our worship, the ordering agent of it, and the Spirit within it.  Anyone who has read the book of Leviticus has to agree to the fact that God cares about the details.  Those who did not follow the details of how to properly worship God were often punished severely.  It is not because God in the Old Testament was a Legalist and then loosened up when He was incarnate.  Rather, God wanted people to be obedient to Him, and He gave them a concrete (ritual) manner to know Him.Adoration

This realization will foster within each person docility rather than the ego-centrism of making either the priest or the people the centre of the liturgy. Rather the focal point will be the Paschal Mystery which is fully present in the Eucharist. Again, without the Spirit behind every act of our will (docility to the Church, the very sacrament of Christ’s Mystical Body), our worship is entirely in vain as we spiritually sum up to Peter who promised to never abandon Christ or Judas who displayed honour through a kiss while in the very act was betraying Him. God knows He is the best gift for anyone, and as a result of this self-knowledge, God wants to be at the centre of our lives for our own sake. Placing the Eucharist at the centre of our worship, since He is the true presence, is incredibly important.

All of that being said, the liturgy itself is full of signs and symbols that would require a reflection of its own. They direct and order our worship and inform us about who God is, and what Heaven is like. Messing with this order of the mass therefore has grave consequences for it will ‘twist’ men in their own formation. We must therefore take to heart the Church’s teaching with regard to all facets of the Sacred Liturgy: sacred music, the GIRM, and the directives of the diocese.

Licit, Valid, and Displeasing Worship

The liturgy itself can sadly be disjointed from our own lives, and this is a problem I have witnessed in the growing faithful. While in an older generation the Eucharist was down-played in His importance, in this generation He is placed back on His throne. Unfortunately a lack of integration between the sacrifices of one’s life being united to the sacrifice of the mass has been altogether forgotten and this makes our worship empty. Some Protestants have been noted saying, ‘If Christ is truly present in the Eucharist, I would stay there all day, before Him.” And while this certainly highlights the profound devotion that Protestants have to Christ, in principle it again asserts one’s own will over God’s.

The liturgy itself is filled with prayers that remind us that we bring to the altar a sacrifice, and this sacrifice entails what we have done prior to mass and after our commission to spread the Gospel. To serve Christ in the Eucharist and to neglect the poor or those in need of the Gospel is a double-life that many fail to see today, and it again makes our participation in the Eucharist incredibly facile. Obedience is everything, we must live out our given vocation, and we cannot neglect the very real responsibilities of our ministry to our family, neighbours or our parish because of a disordered affection for the Eucharist. We cannot in any way exaggerate how important the Eucharist is in our lives, and this importance is stressed even more fully when we live out our given calling both on the streets and in the Church building. Many will undoubtable resist this point and suggest that I am down-playing the importance of the Eucharist and in some way supporting secular humanism. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.Caf Catholics

The experience of uniting ourselves to our Lord through the Eucharist is most fruitfully experienced in our lives when we have given to God our fullest service. It is inappropriate to receive the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin, and some sins can be discovered in our own neglect towards the mission given to us by baptism. We often consider sin to be in regard to bad things we have done, and yet fail to remember that the Confiteor also mentions “what I have failed to do.” I am writing this in the hopes of bring about a more fruitful reception and worship of the Eucharist, rather than placing Him at odds with service of neighbour and the living out of our vocation. That is why that statement echoed from Protestants is so utterly problematic, because it places one’s own preference for how one chooses to worship God over and above God’s own will for us.

If we choose to mess with the liturgy (and we know we are if we are), we are choosing to transmit a twisted message to the faithful. We will be held culpable of leading others astray as a result. That is the bottom line.

All sacraments are considered, when celebrated, to be a liturgical action. All of them transmit grace (communicate Christ), which should not be understood as some quantifiable, white, bright energy that is invisible (if it is invisible why would it be white?). Rather grace needs to be understood in terms of our relationship with God, and we need to have one to understand this phenomenologically

Chill Out

We might end therefore on this cautionary note: that because the 7 Sacraments are the ordinary means to unite ourselves to Christ’s saving works, the Devil will constantly be seeking to bring disorder and to twist the very manner of How God has revealed and initiated His communicative-plan to us. As a result, people will begin to worship a twisted vision of Christ, a false-Christ, one who is not real or true, or filled with half-truths. But Satan will also attack us as male and female, and he will vigorously set against us those both within the Church and from without.  Such has been the case with many martyrs throughout the centuries, beginning with St. John the Baptist.

We all need to chill out and just let God’s creation speak for itself, and the Church’s sacraments speak for themselves. We do not have to do more work than discovering the beauty of these realities. We work too hard to create our own path of righteousness and then falsely place the “divinely inspired” label upon it (implying we are God) as if that would actually convince anyone that it was made by God.   When you are in control of your own salvation, you become a sourpuss to everyone.

Everyone is fallible except for the Pope and the Magisterium, in so far as they are infallible. We need to relax and just follow the Good Shepherd. He knows how things are supposed to go, and He wants us to stop pushing our agendas. He Loves us, we shouldn’t fear what our lives would be like if we were Obedient to Him absolutely.Sourpuss

Remind yourself of how God reproved King David for attempting to build a temple for the Lord. It is not our initiative or our agenda, it is all about God’s will. He is smarter than us…we should listen.

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Priests are still promoting contraception.

Ez“Therefore, son of man, say to your people, ‘If someone who is righteous disobeys, that person’s former righteousness will count for nothing. And if someone who is wicked repents, that person’s former wickedness will not bring condemnation. The righteous person who sins will not be allowed to live even though they were formerly righteous.  If I tell a righteous person that they will surely live, but then they trust in their righteousness and do evil, none of the righteous things that person has done will be remembered; they will die for the evil they have done.'”  [Ez 33:12-13]

Fr. Robert Barron stated in one of his videos that moral-legalism is not only bound to conservative trends but also liberal trends.  Meaning that both the liberal and the conservative (if I may use such categories), can both hold to a moral code, without ever internalizing the spirituality of that moral code.   Recently I encountered a priest who held to this very type of moral outlook when he spoke on the issue of contraception with regard to a family that regularly practiced NFP.

First, it must be simply noted that the speaker did not take into account the Church’s teaching which clearly defines the usage of contraceptives as “intrinsically evil.”  Thereby prohibiting its usage in any circumstance, concluding that as a moral object, contraception cannot every be justified by a good-intention or a complicated circumstance. adamEve

Second, in suggesting that this family had practiced NFP their whole life, thereby implying there was an “over-all” spiritual docility to the Church and the moral law, assumes a morally legalistic approach.  St. John Paul II condemned this moral ideology, normally called the “fundamental-option” whereby a person’s overall commitment to God and his law diminishes any moral culpability when looking at mortal and grave matter (c.f. “Splendor of Truth” paragraphs 65-70).
Morality has a spirit to it, and is not concerned with the number of times one is faithful as much as avoiding any occasion where we offend our neighbour, ourselves, and God. To avoid offending another is most importantly born out of a love for the other and self and God.   To suggest that a couple practiced their faith well, means that they loved their neighbour as themselves, and loved God.  Thus, to give an exception to this practice would likewise be to suggest that they would be permitted to hate God, hate themselves, and hate their neighbour in a given particular circumstance.  This of course was not explicitly stated, but would nonetheless be the logical consequences of what is suggested.  I blame such a view on the lack of “internalizing” the moral law itself.  Below is some reflection on why any particular act (despite an over-all goodness) is nonetheless a gravely immoral act.  I realize many people at this point might roll their eyes, but I take this issue quite seriously, and I think others should.

Pope Francis2When most people hear this today, they would likely think such a statement is ridiculous, and perhaps laugh-off the Church’s teaching, disregarding it, and leaving it amongst all the other infallible statements of the Church.  And if one infallible teaching is ignored, I guess they call can be ignored.   Perhaps we have not adequately meditated on why contraception wounds the heart of our spouse and the heart of our God.  Perhaps there is a need for a more phenomenological approach to sin, than just a matter of cold facts about what is expected of  a person from the Church’s teaching and the teleological end of mankind.

I was disappointed that so few actually spoke up in regard to this priest’s comments.  Ezekiel 33 clearly reminds us that if we do not speak, not only do we fail to give another a chance to change his/her ways, but we also end up with blood on our own hands.  Our silence thereby becomes a manner of condoning immoral behaviour.

“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, ‘You wicked person, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade them from their ways, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood.  But if you do warn the wicked person to turn from their ways and they do not do so, they will die for their sin, though you yourself will be saved.  [Ez 33: 7-9]

We need to deeply meditate upon the gravity of sin, which allows us to weep for the wounds we inflict upon one another. Sadly, many of us inflict such wounds upon each other, without even realizing it, and we even do it consensually.

annunciation2For instance, part of the personhood of a man or a woman is their capacity to create (with God) an immortal soul. This reproductive dimension of man or woman is an intense manifestation of the identity of what it means to be male and female.  It is not merely a functional dimension to mankind, but an intimate and personal reality.  Therefore, it doesn’t matter if a person has practiced NFP for their whole marriage, if they have not internalized the moral law (the spirit of it), they will use such a practice with a “contraceptive-mentality” as Dr. Janet Smith has said.  Spiritually such a couple will compartmentalize the nature of the person they love, and actively reject that intrinsic dimension of their spouse. And if it is done consensually, not only does one spouse hate the other’s personhood in this particular regard, but they each hate themselves in this particular regard.

Think of the language used when discussing condoms: Protection. Protection from what? Your wife’s fertility? A child? The fullest expression of love in the sexual act?

The body is a kind of sacrament of the person – meaning everything about that body teaches us something about the identityBarack Obama and person. When we compartmentalize their fertility in a particular act, we compartmentalize one of the most essential realities of what it means to be human.  The question could be posed as such:  is it ever okay to compartmentalize a part of your neighbour or yourself and view that personal reality as evil or to be rejected?  The answer is of course unequivocally:  no.

Therefore, those who use contraception are not loving each other in a total-fashion, but vomiting out an intrinsic part of themselves and the other. Even if contraception is used irregularly while NFP is done regularly, that one particular act of hatred towards the other is significant.

We should not look merely at the law as a matter of hoops to jump through, but we need to interiorize the law itself and understand the heart of it. If the Church teaches that a sin is of a grave nature, first consider the fact that spiritual blindness often facilitates the acceptance of grave sin. And consider, you are hating not only your wife or your husband, but you are hating God, whom you are created in the image and likeness of.

sheep-and-goatsAnd to such priests who endorse such evil through silence or ambiguous statements that do not lead them towards an informed conscience, we are merely leading people into a deeper and profound hatred for themselves and their spouse and at the same time a blindness to realize that such a hatred exists within themselves.

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Evangelizalizing the Culture Versus The Vatican II Generation

[ Nuance:  The Council of Vatican II is fine.  It is the people who exploited various ambiguous statements or altogether ignored the documents themselves…]

From time to time, various figures spring up who embody a spirituality of the anti-Christ. In the early Church NERO best describes the anti-Christ. In fact, in theNERO book of Revelation, the number 666 was a reference to the emperor Nero. Each letter in the Greek alphabet has a numerical value, and Nero’s adds up to 666. This was St. John’s way of speaking about the enemy of the Church.

Hitler is another figure who embodies the evils of the anti-Christ. Both NERO and HITLER both had great ambitions to create art work and large buildings. But they also sought to destroy culture and art-work when things didn’t go their way.

The Catholic Church believes that culture and art are sacred realities and seeks to preserve them, in their churches and in museums throughout the world. Art is more than having a monetary value, but it speaks to the history and identity of a people. It is the embodiment of the creative energies and values of a given society. Wiping out such culture cuts a group of people off from their own identifying heritage.

judgmentInterestingly enough, after Vatican II, much of Catholic Culture was lost. Statues were removed from Churches, designs and architecture were over-simplified (to put it politely) and devotional practices of piety in the public sphere were altogether eliminated and now considered offensive in the eyes of many.

The repressive tendencies to hide and supress Catholic Culture is largely the fault of leaders within the Church herself. The Catholic Church is not called to assimilate into a culture, but rather to form and shape the culture. This we failed to do, and instead devoted ourselves to succumb to a culture of death.

When we consider how the Catholic identity has been lost, we might call to mind the Old Testament, where the Jewish people who practiced pagan forms of worship and feasts and celebrations would often lead the whole tribes of Israel into Exile.

God wants to be infused into the culture of the peoples, and when we are not, idolatry ends up seeping in instead. Either the culture is ordered towards God or towards idolatry. As a result of poor leadership, bad liturgical practices, the absence of processions, and the confining of religious expression to a Church building, the western world has not merely burned away our Catholic Identity, it has also forgotten it. There is a blurred line between worldliness and Catholicism; we think being worldly makes us somehow more relevant.

A recent study shows that the Pre-Vatican II generation was incredibly culturally positive. They were often ideologically negative, which means they were not so much motivated by meaning and theory, but rather emphasized cultural expression of faith. The Vatican II generation on the other hand emphasized a stripping away of cultural expression, perceiving it as an instigator of division amongst protestants, and become devoted to an ideological narrative that repressed external expressions.

The latter has done great harm to the Church today. As a result of removing Christ from our culture, Bishops have not excommunicated political leaders who have allowed for abortion, same-sex marriage, and soon: euthanasia. The catholic culture has no impression upon the values and principles of our society since it has been compartmentalized into the “church-lady” whom many priests roll their eyes at as she constantly begs for processions and devotional practices.

No saint has ever claimed that the leadership within the Church was incapable of being corrupted by sin.  Many often said that the road to hell was paved with the skulls of priests with the Bishops as sign-posts.  St. Augustine says this:

“Brothers and sisters, allow no one to deceive you. If you do not wish to be deceived, and you want to love your brothers and sisters, then realize that every profession in the Church has its counterfeits.

I did not say that everyone is a counterfeit, but that every profession includes people who are counterfeit. There are bad Christians just as there are good ones.”

— Augustine, Commentary on Psalm 99

pakistan-christian

It is an unfortunate state of affairs. And I’d like to suggest reading the following passage in light of everything I’ve just written. There is no reason to lose hope. Even if the current leadership chooses not to listen to this resounding call from God, God will nevertheless still be present to the remnant of his faithful. God never abandons the Church, even as the churches become bankrupt from corruption, from an absence of those who practice their faith, and from poor theologies that break away from truth, only to enable people to run from their crosses and live in comfort.

God is still here for those who trust him.

Jeremiah 6:

13
“From the least to the greatest,
all are greedy for gain

prophets and priests alike,
all practice deceit.

14
They dress the wound of my people
as though it were not serious.
‘Peace, peace,’ they say,
when there is no peace.

15
Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct?
No, they have no shame at all;
they do not even know how to blush.

So they will fall among the fallen;
they will be brought down when I punish them,”
says the Lord.

16 This is what the Lord says:

“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.
But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

17
I appointed watchmen over you and said,
‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’
But you said, ‘We will not listen.’

18
Therefore hear, you nations;
you who are witnesses,
observe what will happen to them.

19
Hear, you earth:
I am bringing disaster on this people,
the fruit of their schemes,
because they have not listened to my words
and have rejected my law.

—-

Re-read verse 14…I recently heard a priest state that while all of these things are falling apart, “Life is still beautiful.”   If by this one means “Christ is beautiful” since He is the Life, then yes.  But that wasn’t how people took it to mean.  I believed full heartedly that this was a re-echoing of this particular passage. People will state that things are okay, while they are not. This is an empty statement and a refusal to repent.  Is this saying no less than playing the fiddle while the Church burns?

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