Saturday, February 15, 2020

Why Are You Singing?

There was once a funeral Mass in a Catholic Church for an individual who was widely known and greatly loved throughout the larger community. Many people were there, and the family of the deceased asked a non-catholic to "sing a song" during the Mass. The priest was very reluctant because the non-catholic had never been to a catholic Mass before and so did not understand the nature of the Mass. After much pressure he agreed to allow the song. Afterwards, he greatly regretted his choice. The singer turned what was supposed to be a communion hymn into an opportunity to draw attention to himself. This is not to say that the singer did not have talent, he did; yet, he was not leading other people to God, but to himself ("look at me, ain't I wonderful?").

What is singing for? Maybe it would help if I began by asking, "what is singing not for?" If we can eliminate some of those errors, then it would make it easier for us to consider what singing is actually for. Of course, we need to differentiate between singing in general and singing within a liturgy. These two situations are certainly not equivalent. How and what we might sing when we are driving down the road compared to what is done in Church should not follow the same rules.

For example, I have some very eclectic tastes when it comes to music; I do not like all music, but I do appreciate some very diverse musical styles. This does not mean that everything that I like to listen to is necessarily appropriate in all the same settings. During meals I like to listen to very soft ambient kinds of music (I have even read that it helps with digestion!). I do not, however, like that kind of music to be playing when I am driving--the absolute last thing I want when driving is to fall asleep. When driving, if I listen to music, I prefer some pretty heavy rock and roll; the tempo helps to keep me alert and focused on the road. As you might expect, I do not want heavy rock music playing when I am eating--not relaxing at all.

This is just a simple example of how different musical styles have different settings. There is another layer, however, to what we are dealing with here. It is not enough to say that certain styles of music have a proper location, for what I consider "proper" for one style of music might not be what anyone else would agree with (maybe someone likes soft music when they are driving so that they do not get stressed?). This means that we must realize the "personal taste" factor cannot be ignored. You see, we in modern society are so enamored with entertainment, that it is very difficult for us to distinguish between something that we like because it is personally enjoyable, and something we appreciate because it has a value that goes beyond ourselves.

What is the "value" of a certain musical style while driving (to continue to use this metaphor)? It will be determined largely on what the need of the situation is (which will not be the same for everyone). In asking this question, we must acknowledge that in the worship of God, it is not merely an issue of "taste" because we are not dealing with something that is allowed to be tailored to each individual's personal preference (contrary to the goofy antics that you see in some Catholic Masses!). There is only one goal that people are supposed to be aiming at when it comes to worship: personal humility and reverence toward Christ (which are two sides of the same coin).

Singing in the Mass in such a way that we draw attention to ourselves (as with the individual mentioned above) for the purpose of self-aggrandizement is a grave sin. Yet, drawing attention to yourself is just as self-serving as is singing merely because you enjoy the song. When the singing is not done to glorify God and assist those present in drawing closer to Him, then it is sinful. Just because someone enjoys a particular song does not mean that it is automatically glorifying God. Doing a "good job" does not guarantee that you are encouraging holiness. There are a number of musicians with great talent who are doing nothing to glorify God.

The purpose for music in the Mass is to do exactly as I have said above: lead the faithful to a deeper personal humility and reverence for God. This is why the Church says (yes, still today!) that Gregorian Chant always takes precedence in the Mass; all other forms are secondary. Pop music might be enjoyed, but it does little to deepen reverence. Singing because we enjoy the music is fine if we are singing at home, but that is not supposed to be our motivation for music in the Mass. So then, the question "why do we sing?" is easy to answer. "Why are you singing?" is the real question for us.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Some Thoughts on Querida Amazonia

Yesterday, Pope Francis released his conclusions on the Amazon Synod. The "final statement" is called "Querida Amazonia". In it, he does not refer specifically to the proposal of allowing married deacons to be ordained as priests, but he clearly does not give a big thumbs up to it either. He also does not express approval of the idea of women being ordained as deacons. Most took this as a negative response to both of these issues (and traditional Catholics were pleased at that). Some complained that it was too vague and that those who wish to continue to promote these ideas will find a loophole. Maybe; maybe not.

Regardless of what people are interpreting from this (and I am sure there are numerous points of view on it), we cannot be sure what he actually thinks (and, to some degree, it does not matter--the Pope is supposed to guide us to Jesus, not to himself). All we can know is what the Holy Father said, and generally, most would acknowledge that if he does not give express approval of a change in Church practice, that the current rules remain in force. If it is actually as bad as many (who are wringing their hands in fear) say it is or if it is better than we think, we are always supposed to move on in faithfulness.

It is also likely that the Pope is aware of the fact that if he were to seek to change the rules on priestly celibacy (which could happen) and women's ordination (which could not happen) there would likely be a major schism in the Church. Aside from the potential lightning from Heaven, and the Earth opening up and swallowing the heretics (fire, brimstone, etc.), we can be certain that the Holy Spirit will protect us. The promise of the Church's endurance through every trial still stands firm (and even an erring Pope cannot overcome the Holy Spirit). Regarding the potential schisms, there would likely be a whole new surge of offshoots like the schismatic SSPX, and the ugliness that would follow could be beyond anything we have ever seen.

Just to be clear: the rule on male-only ordination in the Catholic Church cannot be changed; that one is set in stone. If, however, the customary rule of priestly celibacy (in the Latin Rite portion of the Catholic Church) were to be changed, it should only be under vastly different circumstances than what we are dealing with today. Right now they are saying "let's get rid of the rule so we can have more priests". That is merely a pragmatic motivation, and not one based on clear theological or biblical reasoning.

For the Church to reach a point where the Pope and Bishops can examine this issue without the "static" of modernist and irrational thought, it will likely take us at least a few more generations. The motivation and desire to change the celibacy custom must come from a conviction and a soundly reasoned doctrinal position; not from a desire to fix a problem that is entirely unrelated to the issue of celibacy. Changing it now would be like using a screwdriver to hammer a nail because it is possible to swing the screwdriver; it might work, but you are going to ruin the screwdriver.

As I read through some of the statements of the Holy Father on what must be done about the shortage of priests in the Amazon, it was interesting to see a distinctly standard Catholic position put forward (and quite gently at that). It appears as if Francis' encouragement is "stop whining, buckle down and deal with the situation, and teach parents to be better at raising their boys in the faith so that they will want to be priests"! I am sure that those who examine the tiniest details of what Francis wrote might disagree with me, but reading between the lines, this is a logical conclusion from the admonitions he makes about evangelism.

What if Pope Francis' intent is to "sneak something in through his vague statements" (as one commentator claimed today)? I say, "so what?" In other words, what would it really change? He is accountable for both his mistakes and any sinful intentions he may have (if any), and the Holy Spirit promises to protect us from ourselves. Whatever the intent of Pope Francis may be (even the intent of the liberal Catholics who want to protestantize the Catholic Church), we cannot behave like "chicken little", because the sky is not now, nor ever will it be, falling.

I will bet that at least some traditional Catholics will feel like we dodged a bullet. The Pope basically said "no" and now we should be able to move on. That seems to be the position that Cardinal Mueller seems to take in his comments on Querida Amazonia. Even if we had not dodged the bullet (if that is possible), we can trust that our Lord will get us through that as well. What would that look like? Many new married priests, many bad parish experiences, many unexpected consequences, lots of regret, and even more clean-up operations; this is not a pleasant prospect. Also, if people attempted to ordain women into holy orders, there would be various types of chaos from those who are holding to Catholic orthodoxy; there would be numerous invalid ceremonies, and lots of time cleaning up and backtracking. We should never want something like this, but we could get through it if we had to.

Remember, Christ is still on His throne and no errant teaching or mistaken practice can change that. The Church has endured 2000 years of much worse problems than this, and she will endure this as well. Thank our Lord for what we have, ask Him to protect us from what is coming, and seek to glorify Him in all you do.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

What's Your Sign?

No, not your astrological sign (I guess I showed my age by even making the reference?). I am referring to something much more important than the position of the stars on your birth date. Each one of us gives off a certain "atmosphere" or "mood" by our personality, and it is usually noticeable as soon as we enter a room. Yes, it is sometimes quite vague, and hard to determine by others, but that does not mean that we are not giving off a particular "vibe" to people. Sometimes there is no word to describe the particular "feeling", but it can still be recognized by most.

So, I ask: what is your "sign"? Presuming that our "vibe" can be seen by others, there is a "sign" that goes along with that vibe and though not all can decipher it, it is there for all to see. Imagine someone walking into a room and he glances around the room at the people who are there, scowling and breathing slowly and deeply. We would presume intense anger, and that he is likely looking for someone who made him angry. The sign he is "wearing" says "beware of dog" (for lack of a kinder euphemism).

Think of it this way: it is like we are all wearing a street sign around our neck and it says something to others (it could be warning signs, or it could be something more encouraging). "Falling rocks ahead", "uneven surface", or even "slippery roadway" are a few that we might see on some who are unpleasant to be around. So what is your "sign" that you present to others? When you enter a room, how do people feel inside? Most often others will not tell you how they feel, but they can give it away by subtle body language.

How do others behave around you? Do they strike up a conversation, or avoid you? Maybe some are drawn to you, while others seem to squirm uncomfortably? If you have been thinking that it is their fault, then it may be time to reconsider. People are naturally drawn to be around those who exude a pleasant disposition; and they are also naturally deterred from being around those who seem like a human version of a Tasmanian devil.

We could also describe this "sign" as a "cloud". It is an entirely different metaphor, but it helps us to see the same subject from an alternate perspective. What kind of a cloud hovers over you? Is it a white puffy cloud that shows you have a "sunny" personality and which encourages others to want to speak to you? Is it that type of cloud that makes people want to lay down on a hill and stare up at the sky? Or, is it a dark gray cloud that makes people run for shelter?

Whether you think of a cloud or a sign (or both), you are telling others something about you. Sometimes these "clouds" or "signs" that we bring with us are unknown to us. We go about our daily lives completely unaware that we are driving others away, or sometimes even making our own lives difficult because of an "aura" that we carry with us everywhere. It can be the tone of voice you use, or an expression of the eyes, or even the way you hunch your shoulders. There is a language behind it, and it impacts how we are able to interact with others.

I knew someone a while back who always complained that people did not like him. He seemed ignorant of the fact that his own manner of speaking to others made people uncomfortable around him, so most people that knew him avoided him when he came into a room. This can be caused by someone who is over-friendly or equally by someone who is anti-social. Quiet people often complain that no one will talk to them, and boisterous people often complain that everyone else is boring -- it is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It is truly remarkable how many people today are socially inept. The more time that people spend with blue faces (i.e. head bent down, eyes glued to their phone screen) the less ability they have to socialize properly with others. There are also those who were never taught by their parents how to interact with others so they are unable even to start up a basic conversation with anyone they do not already know. If you have someone in both of these situations, then I am sure that psychiatrists will likely find some diagnosis (and an attendant medication) to justify their lack of social grace.

In the Church we are supposed to be a social community. In other words, we are supposed to be spending time with one another. A parish family that only interacts during the Mass (which, if the rules of the Mass are obeyed, means minimal interaction with each other) is socially crippled and bound to end up dying a slow death. The Mass is where we are supposed to interact as a group with the Lord. Even the "peace" (while not wrong) is somewhat extraneous to what is going on in the Mass.

When we come together in settings outside of the Mass, then we are forced to talk to one another and that means that likely we will offend each other and have to go so far as to "forgive one another as Christ has forgiven you" (cf. Ephesians 4:32). That kind of interaction might sound like something that we want to avoid, but that is like cutting off your hand to avoid having your finger poke your eye. Those challenging interactions (that we all need to learn how to deal with) are a part of being the body of Christ and growing closer to our Lord. Jesus gave us one another in a parish community for the sake of helping each other grow closer to God (especially in the relational challenges!).

Each and every one of us needs to examine ourselves and ask whether are behaving like a part of "the body" or whether we are behaving more like a parasite on the body (i.e. something that everyone wants to get rid of). Social involvement in the community may not be essential for our eternal salvation, but it is essential for a healthy parish community to thrive. It is not just for what we can get out of it, but also for what we can put into it. Remember, Christ did not just call "you" to salvation, He called "us"!

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

The Purpose of Tradition

I often mention the importance of tradition. I refer not just to authoritative Tradition but also those traditions that are the natural outgrowth of a deep devotion to our Catholic faith (excluding, of course, those traditions that develop because someone had a "cool" but uncatholic idea and people "liked" it, so it became "the way we do it"). Yet, it is easy for us to forget the proper place of these traditional practises. It should never be thought that our goal is to "do traditional stuff". Yes, we should continue to work to restore many of the Catholic traditions that are being ignored by many in the Church today, but not for the sake of the traditions themselves.

The traditions that I aim to revive (e.g. ad orientem celebration of the Mass, communion on the tongue, Gregorian chant, priests in cassocks, etc.) have a purpose to serve. They are the best means to accomplish what the goal actually is: to glorify God, by becoming Saints in Heaven, and drawing as many others with us as we can. Traditional practises are a means to greater faithfulness, but they are not the faithfulness itself (which is best defined by the two greatest Commandments). To get these two mixed up is exactly what the Jews of the first century did. They refused to acknowledge that the purpose of the Mosaic laws was to help them draw closer to God and thus become more holy.

Think of it this way: you could get to your destination either in an old junky car or in a high quality well maintained car (even if it is older than the junky one). Yes, you are much more likely to arrive if your car is in better shape, but that is not the only possible way to arrive. Yet, having said this, let me ask: which one do you feel more confident about getting you there? Right; the one that is in better shape. There may be more than one vehicle to use, but you want to use the one that does not have bald tires, a leaky transmission, a broken windshield and no brake pads.

There are many things that the Catholic Church today allows for in the practice of the faith (many of which are temporarily allowed), but that does not mean that it is the best manner of arriving at the goal of personal holiness. We are allowed either to sing Gregorian Chant in the Mass (which is supposed to be primary) or "some other suitable hymn". Yet, we have to ask the simple question: does "some other suitable hymn" impact our soul just as effectively as that which is supposed to hold precedence over all other forms of music in the Church? In other words, why would we ever willingly choose what is considered to be "second best"? Or, to go back to my earlier illustration: why would you choose the car that is falling apart?

What attracts us in our journey to the goal should not be just the car itself, but the quality of the car. This is really quite difficult for me state because I really am attracted by the reverence of the Divine Worship form of the Mass. In knowing this, I have to admit that the form of the liturgy itself is the "vehicle" and not the goal. God did not create us to "go to Mass" for all eternity; He created us to love Him for all eternity. Therefore, if someone is attracted by the tradition (like that in the Divine Worship Mass which goes back one thousand years), he must acknowledge that it cannot be idolized.

To treat the traditions themselves as though they are the final goal ("if we just do traditional things we will be OK") is to put a weight and responsibility on tradition that it was never meant to bear. When we fight for tradition, we must fight for the right reasons (and with the correct rationale). We are the ones who are supposed to be spreading the gospel and bringing many souls to worship Christ as Lord. We are the ones who are supposed to become Saints for the glory of God. Offering the Mass is what helps us do those tasks and therefore, we have to make sure that it is taken care of (not corrupted) and that it is used appropriately; it is not, however, the goal in itself.

In the Catholic faith, the quality of the "vehicle" is, simply stated, determined by its ability to help you arrive at your destination. In this case, we would find the answer by "looking under the hood". If it is a matter of liturgy, we would have to ask whether the liturgy was focused on God (the key point of the goal) or focused on man himself (a consequent component of the goal). If our liturgy is focused on man (which can happen in many ways without even being noticed; like when the priest is more concerned about what people think about the Mass than what God thinks), then it might get you to your destination, but the likelihood of it is questionable.

If our liturgy is focused on God, then our orientation will be correct and we will be heading toward the goal in the best way possible. After all, the goal is to be able to be in God's presence for all eternity. If we focus on our personal enjoyment and opinions then we are far less likely to be growing closer to God (this may seem like it is overly obvious but not everyone considers it). Therefore, keep the traditions; yes absolutely. Protect them and practice them with joy. Yet, remember that each of these things are gifts given by God to help us on the journey to Heaven. We value them because of how they help us; but we should never get confused about what our true goal is: Jesus Christ.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Pro-Choice at Heart?

Recently, I watched a few videos about Catholics who are peacefully demonstrating their desire to end the holocaust of abortion in these USA. The debates that occur with "pro-choice" onlookers are interesting to say the least. I am not really clear on one thing: how could anyone view these interactions and see the hateful and irrational behavior of pro-abortion advocates as good (in any way at all)? I guess maybe the demonic likes other things that are demonic.

One comment that came up often in these debates was when a woman would say "you're a man, you have no right to tell a woman what to do with her body". Desiring to show them their ridiculously faulty logic, I thought about a possible response. It would look like this:
Pro-abort: "You're a man, you have no right to tell a woman what to do with her body." 
Pro-lifer: "Then you have no right to tell a man what to do with his body when he decides to rape you."
Pro-abort: "Yes I do, because that involves harming another person."
Pro-lifer: "So does murdering an unborn child."
No, I do not believe that the woman has no right to say "no" to the rapist; that is merely to show the error of pro-choice thinking. Since, however, modern science has shown that life begins at conception, the only argument pro-aborts can resort to is to say that "it's a woman's right to choose". Hence, we will not get very far if we do not put more effort into overcoming the root of their argument: choice. It needs to be pointed out that the idol of personal choice is going to lead to the destruction of society if it is not knocked down off its pedestal. Furthermore, we have make sure that we are consistent in what we are saying and not being "pro-choice at heart" in our own lives.

This whole idea of "choice" has so infected (and corrupted) our thinking that we often cannot see it. I recall the story of the widower who went out to buy socks for the first time after his wife passed (maybe you have heard this one before). He saw the multiplicity of options and ended up crying because he had no idea what choice to make; he just wanted to buy the one that his wife always bought for him. Choice is not always a blessing. Seeing someone overwhelmed by the tyranny of choice makes us realize what we are taking for granted.

When we live our lives with the idol of "my choice for my life" then higher priorities often get missed. The idol of choice without moral boundaries is truly rooted in a demonic deception. The problem stems largely from the fact that "choice" is often equated with "freedom". Properly understood, freedom is a moral good. Choice, however, does not have a moral direction inherent within it. In the Scriptures we see people often told "choose the good or the bad"; in other words, choice can go either way, and it is not morally neutral to have a choice.

We have been so influenced by the idea of personal choice that we unfortunately think of our commitment to Lord as a "free choice". Yes, we do need to make a choice to serve the Lord, but when we emphasize our own authority in choosing, we forget that God commands all, everywhere, to repent and follow Him (cf. Acts 17:29-30). If I understand my choice to follow God as "my choice" it is not the same thing as seeing it as "my submission to God Almighty".

Why do we do the many things that we choose to do; what is our motivation? If we get married, go to college, or take a job because "we chose it" then we are putting ourselves in the place of Absolute Master. Extend that to the next level and you will see the problems that ensue. Do you go to Mass "because you chose to" or because God commanded you to? Yes, a choice to obey is what happens, but how, primarily, do you view that action? Do you see it with you on the throne of choice, or willingly standing before God? It is not the same thing in our hearts and thus it is not the same thing in our souls.

This is one of the problems with parish membership in the Catholic Church being so flexible today. When someone views their association with a parish community as "their choice" alone they see it as something that they are in charge of. In the New Testament parish association is familial and always connected to the larger Church. When we look only at our bond to Christ and His Church as "what I want" then we miss the fact that God calls us to serve Him in His Church because it is what He wants. We are supposed to ask, "Lord, how do You want me to serve here?" and not, "Do I want to be here?" The latter begins from the same selfish motivation as the person who says it is a woman's choice to end her child's life.

If we are going to be consistent (and effective) in our pro-life stance, then we must also acknowledge we cannot be "pro-choice" in our hearts. Just because we have made the right "choice" regarding the life of a child, does not allow us to place ourselves on the throne of authority and idolize our own choices. Let us not just resist pro-choice decisions about the lives of the unborn, but also in every area that could come against our Lord. Let us make one choice: to submit ourselves to whatever our Lord wants before we consider what we want.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Decoys

I saw an interesting sight on my drive between two of my parishes the other day. Someone put up a fake hunter out in field and left it there for weeks. It looked something like a mannequin with a hunter's outfit; it even had the orange vest and a plastic rifle in its hands. Although I was not there to see it, I presume the man who did it showed up at a later time and shot his deer. I have never heard of doing this before, but it is a brilliant idea. Deer will run away when they see a person anywhere around them . . . unless they are used to him.

Get the deer used to the decoy that looks like you and you could possibly walk right up to them in that same area and they would barely take notice of you. It is bound to work with deer, and it is bound to work with us as well. No we are not going to be taken in by a mannequin that looks like Satan, but he does do the same kind of thing to us. Satan wants us to become numb to a large array of evils because he knows that if we recognize these things as evil then we will turn away from them (everyone turns away from what he believes is evil -- even if he is wrong about what is truly evil!).

If we get used to something in our lives, we will likely miss other things that are similar but much more dangerous. The trick is called desensitizing. It is what happens when we become dull to things. It is certainly the method used by the devil when he promotes the many and various evils that are well accepted today -- get people comfortable with small amounts, and eventually they will become comfortable with it becoming widespread. If we ourselves get used a certain thing (anything) long enough, we will take it for granted, and it can blind us to what is really going on.

It is not likely going to be the same for every person, but we are all subject to the temptation to ignore those things that we see repeatedly. Like those deer, we get to the point of saying "that thing has been around for a long time, it would never hurt me". That is precisely what the evil one likes to do to us. He wants to train us to let our guard down -- and leave it down permanently -- because we think that what he is doing will not hurt us.

Rarely does anyone choose adultery (for example) in a moment's notice. Instead, they are slowly made comfortable with small things, flirtations, lustful glances, affectionate touches, etc. Then, step by step, a person moves closer and closer to the actual commission of the grave sin itself. Once a person's resistance is broken down with the "lesser" things, he will eventually fall to the greater evil.

What things in your life have you become numbed to that are actually blinding you to the work of the devil sneaking up on you? Whatever it is, you most likely do not recognize it (that is the point of decoys!). It takes an extra effort to find these things, and that means that you either need to ask God to reveal it to us, or ask a spiritual advisor to do so (or, even better, ask both!), and (most importantly) be humble and willing to accept what you are told. Therefore, we all need to recognize that there is the potential that there is a "decoy" in our lives that we are convinced is harmless, but in reality it is merely setting us up for a great fall.

Are you watching? Have you asked yourself about your own presumptions? Only when we are more attentive to our circumstances will we be able to recognize those "decoys" that we have become accustomed to. Once again, this leads us to the need to do some healthy self-examination and then go to confession. Yes, those things are challenging and can even be painful, but it is not as though we were just playing some pointless sports game, we are dealing with our eternal souls.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Desperation Mode

One of the first cars I ever owned was a junker; and that is being nice. It was not in great shape by any means; it had been in numerous accidents. Toward the end of its sad life, it began to have more and more breakdowns. Finally something happened where I was unable to start the car. The mechanic said it could be a few different things, but after trying out multiple options (battery, alternator, starter, etc.) there was nothing more that could be done. She went to the junkyard, having worked for only 14 years.

In those last few months of attempting to figure out what was wrong, it got to the point of desperation, "let's try this; now this; what about this; maybe this will work?!" Desperate actions are not always successful, and they often stem from a lack of knowledge as to what is really wrong. Much of what I see going on in the Church today appears like that very same kind of desperate behavior. "Let's try this gimmick", seems to be an all too common manner of dealing with our modern problems.

Just look at how many have responded to the spread of broken marriages by wanting to make the rules for marriage easier. We have an increase in societal approval of sexual immorality, so some in the Church say we should approve it also. People say that they are not interested in an aspect of the faith, so someone suggests we make it more contemporary and dumb it down. It is all desperation. A desperation that stems from a refusal to deal with the actual problem is never a solution.

If someone says that he is not interested in attending Mass because it is boring, it is not a solution to make the Mass more "fun" by adding in some entertainment (that is only giving into an error, not fixing it). This does not help in any way at all because the original problem was not with the Mass itself (not counting abuses of the Mass), but with the person. So if the person has the problem, why do we not work to change the person rather than the thing the person is complaining about? Changing Catholic dogma or practice will not help anyone, and "new and exciting" methods are rarely of any good in changing callous hearts.

There are so many areas where we can see the Church and her members slipping into this "desperation mode". We see it in various apostolates, we can see it in some of the declining religious orders, we can see it in how "liturgists" make choices for the Mass. It is spreading more and more, and it is not going to help us to restore our faith or the faith of those who are fading away. We do not need to change our practises of the faith, we need to change our souls.

In Jeremiah (23:12) we read:
Thus says the Lord: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
Notice the point. We are not encouraged to look for "new ways", or to be innovative, but to seek after the ancient paths. The desire for "newness" is a horrible confusion that has blinded many today to the goodness of truth and made them seek after things merely because they are new. Those in Jeremiah's day said openly that they would not walk in the ancient paths. Yes, it is the same today; people do not always want eternal truth (how many times have you heard someone use "pre-Vatican II" as an insult?). This, however, does not justify us running in desperation to find some adjustment or new trick to fix things. If men's hearts do not change, then no amount of "newness" will change them (it may entertain them, but it will not lead them to true holiness).

So as Catholics attempt to come up with new and innovative ideas for how to bring people to the faith, we need to remember that it is not about our techniques. Yes, we need to present the gospel well ("turn or burn you pagan" and "God hates atheists" are not appropriate), but that has to do with showing ourselves to be committed to the truths of the gospel itself and not behaving like hypocrites. It is not an issue of popularizing our faith in the eyes of the world. There is no allowance for compromise, nor is there anything in our faith that says if we appeal to people's base desires that we will bring them to the faith.

Let us stand fast on the "ancient paths". Let us realize that personal holiness and an uncompromising testimony of the Lordship of Christ are what truly draw people to salvation. No, we do not need to be mean-spirited to be faithful, but we do need to resist behaving like and following the ideas of the world. If we attract people by being worldly, then we will only make them worldly as well. There will always be "new ideas" but none of them truly touches the faith of our fathers and leads people to see the beauty and grace of our Blessed Savior. "Ask for the ancient paths."

Monday, January 20, 2020

A Happy Anniversary

Today is my wedding anniversary. Catherine and I have been married for 30 wonderful years. It is a joy to be able to say that our relationship has grown better every year. It is not, however, because we are loving each other more each year (though that is true). It is rather because we are both working to love God better every year. This is certainly not something that is easy, but it is something that a Catholic couple can help each other to do. In short, I rejoice this year because we have helped each other to serve God better, and that enables us to serve each other better.

There is a very good reason why the Catholic Church says that it is a "no-no" for Catholics to marry non-Catholics. Yes, I am sure you have probably heard about it happening all the time (and possibly have done this yourself, or at least might be related to someone who has). I have had people say to me directly that they think it is a bit "silly" or even "unnecessary" for the Church to say this. Yes, it is true that a dispensation can be granted for a Catholic to marry a baptized protestant, but it comes with significant warnings about the challenges to such marriages. It is also the case that a dispensation can be granted by the Bishop for a Catholic to marry someone who is not baptized at all, but that is strongly discouraged.

You might be asking "why" this is the position of the Church. It is not just the practical consequences of these unions, though that is significant (cf. 2 Cor 6:14, where we are told not to be "mismated with unbelievers"). The statistics show that the vast majority of Catholics who marry an unbaptized person with either end in divorce or the Catholic will abandon their faith. Yet, there is much more than that involved. It has to do with the impact that such relationships have on those around them (the children, as well as the larger community around).

Here are some basic points to consider in this regard. Firstly, an unbaptized person (pointedly referred to as a "pagan") does not have a Catholic concept of God or the love that He requires of us for holiness (if he did, he would probably cease to be a pagan!). Also, a protestant may have a generally similar view of God and love as the Catholic, but there are going to be some differences, often in crucial areas, that will impact the relationship. If the Catholic spouse and the non-Catholic are not working with the exact same perspective on God and His laws, then there are going to be points which we would have see as "irreconcilable" since they are viewing the world from two different perspectives.

Secondly, when a Catholic marries another Catholic, then we can presume that they both have a Catholic world view, and that if there is discovered a point at which that is not the case, then we are able to call the errant Catholic to account for not following through with his or her Catholic faith. This cannot be done with a non-Catholic. I cannot say to a Buddhist, or a Muslim, or an atheist that he is responsible to believe and behave like a Catholic. The very idea is foolish. There is no agreed-upon standard to draw him back to.

Thirdly, when two Catholic spouses are properly focusing on God and His words in the same way, then both can find personal fulfillment in the proper manner. Only Catholic teaching fully upholds the biblical principle that human happiness and fulfillment can only be found in God. This means that the Catholic husband and wife are both seeking their primary fulfillment in God, and their consequent joy in each other. If anyone (Catholic or not) seeks their primary fulfillment in their spouse, then they are going to be disappointed (and thus either seek their fulfillment elsewhere, which always leads to either infidelity or divorce). If a married couple is looking to each other to find fulfillment only frustration will be achieved. When they both realize the One and Only True Source of personal fulfillment, then, and only then, can their relationship grow properly into holiness and joy (which means more than just "sticking it out" in their marriage).

Some might think that this is just a utilitarian understanding of marriage; like saying, "seek a selfish goal in the right way and you'll be OK". It is selfish to seek one's personal joy in the wrong ways, but since the right way is to seek the righteousness of God first, then it is not selfish if the consequences are one's own happiness and joy. Yes, there are some marriages that last for decades without this proper perspective, but I would question whether they are genuinely enduring and growing closer to Christ, or whether they have merely found a way to let each other grow their own way while staying under the same roof (which is all too often the testimony given by many in this situation).

We must aim at much more than dysfunction or mere tolerance of one another. We must be aiming at holiness. We must be aiming at the spread of the gospel to the future generations that will follow in our footsteps. With marriages so weak today, let us make sure that we follow the right path to achieve our goal. Jesus offers us His strength, and if we receive it, then it will lead to our eternal joy.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Homily Helps

The General Instructions for the Mass (the "GIRM") instruct the priest to give a homily on all Sundays and Holy days. It says that the homily is to be an explanation of the texts of Scripture in the readings for the day. This means that the priest is not just to talk about whatever is on his mind that day (or worse, what he read in the newspaper -- yes, I have heard about this happening). The homily is not a running personal opinion time. It does not matter one tiny bit what the priest's opinion is; when we take our vows as a priest we promise to teach the Word of God and not our own ideas.

There are "homily helps" that you can find online that help to guide a priest in the preparation of his homily. It is a common occurrence on certain holy days that most of the laity are unaware of for these to be sent out. These are most commonly distributed to priests who serve parishes whenever an upcoming holy day is going to have a special character to it. Essentially, the "homily helps" tell the priest "here is how to preach on this particular subject from the given passages". There is a significant problem with this practice.

Firstly, if the passage is not already evidently showing the particular subject, then inserting the idea into the passage because of some vague word association is not faithful to the text. We cannot merely "squeeze" a truth into the wrong place. Just because it is true that our God is triune, does not mean that we can force the doctrine of the trinity onto any passage we wish to. This is not only unfaithful to Scripture, it is unfaithful to the people of God to be told that God is saying something that He is not actually saying in that particular text. If the text is already referring to the desired subject, the priest does not need "homily helps", and if the passage is not already referring to it, we should not pretend that it is.

Secondly, this habit is encouraging us to project our own ideas on to a text of Scripture (and that is never a good thing). Proper explanation of a passage of Scripture is called "exegesis" (which means to bring out of the words their proper meaning). This habit of "here's how to preach on this subject with this text" is often the exact opposite. To "insert" one's own idea into the text is called "eisegesis" (which means to add into the words a meaning you want to have there). Having been a protestant for years, I saw an overabundance of "eisegesis"; the ideas inserted into the texts of Scripture by most protestants were sometimes staggering as to how self-serving these things were.

Having been a protestant minister for 16 years, and now a Catholic priest for the last 8 years, I can say that I have never read a "homily help" that was treating the text fairly. It would be much better just to have the priest say: "I'm not going to comment on the text today, because we have an important subject to deal with. Today I'm going to speak about . . . " He is certainly not "explaining the text" as the GIRM says to do, but at least he is not pretending to do so.

I have heard quite a few people tell me about having listened to homilies that were--shall we say--less than helpful to their faith. Insisting that they do not give me names (I absolutely do not want to know who they are talking about), I will frequently ask what was wrong with the homily that they were complaining about. I can summarize all the problems referred to by two simple example statements that were given to me recently. First, "the priest just rambled on and on and I had no idea what he was talking about", and second, "he explained some philosophical concept that went over everyone's head".

This does seem to be what happens so frequently these days. Often the text is not explained, but only referred to in a vague manner. It is common for the homily to sound about as exciting as reading the ingredients list on a candy bar. The people of God should never be bored by the preaching of the Word of God. The word of God is "living and active" (Heb 4:12) and should be presented to the faithful as such. The priest should tell the people what the Word of God says and help them apply it to their lives. It is a simple process, but not everyone is gifted to do this (and Bishops should not consider this a small issue).

If the seminaries gave better preparation and training on how to interpret the text according to Catholic teaching as well as on how to explain the Scriptures to a varied group of the faithful, then we would not have the need for "homily helps". The "help" will have already come in the preparation; my grandmother used to say "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". The consequences for God's faithful are more than I can tell you here but they are worth the extra work. People, please pray for your priests; every single day.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Functional Demoniacs

"What is wrong with him?" "Why does she do things like that?" These are not questions asked only about rebellious teenagers; we now hear these questions asked about people in every age and category. It is asked about politicians and doctors, police chiefs and teachers. "What is wrong", is being asked of more and more people in society than it used to be. There was a time--in the not too distant past--when the majority of citizens (at least in their public behavior) acted with civility, used "common sense", and showed respect for others. That time is long gone.

So then, "what is wrong?" In today's gospel reading we are told that Jesus healed "all who were . . . possessed with demons". In other words, there were a great number of people who were "possessed with demons". I do not give in to the modern lack of faith toward the Scriptures; if it said they were "possessed with demons" then they were (whatever that looked like or however it was experienced). It is well documented that demonic activity in the first century was at a high point. Even some pagans of the time have pointed this out (Nero Caesar himself was considered by those closest to him to be possessed). Is this what is going on today?

I have already made reference in previous posts to the fact that many exorcists have said recently that demonic activity is clearly on the rise, but that the standard idea of a "screaming and yelling demoniac" is much less common. You have to understand that the demons know that if they are recognized as such, they will be more easily exorcised. Therefore, the old adage that "the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist" applies to this situation as well. Demons are clearly active (I myself can point out that I have been called on to do quite a few minor exorcisms in the past couple of years), but they also do not want to "get caught". It appears that the well known pattern of possession (like with Anneliese Michel) is not as much their chosen method today.

This is why I will say that there are apparently people in the world today who are "functional demoniacs". I certainly cannot prove this point (since the whole idea of demons hiding means that they cannot be easily identified by more traditional means), but the enormous spread of evil in modern society makes us consider this as an option. Yes, evil does spread without the help of demons; we are sinners and we can fall into sin on our own. This is not rocket science. Yet, few would deny that the spread of grave sin over the last few decades has been at a rate that far exceeds what had come in previous centuries.

Think for example about the sexual perversions of many clergymen of late; this is not something that is merely a weakness that they struggled with--they were clearly influenced by wicked powers. Think of the quick and serious degradation of politicians--many of whom show a clear desire to promote horrendous evil, and seem to have no conscience telling them to repent. Think of the speedy acceptance of sodomy and the widespread rejection of the laws of marriage (even by Catholics!). Think of the quick and sudden spread of pagan thought and heathen practises in cultures that used to be influenced by Christian truth and morality. When these things happened in the past, it was rarely at the rate that is has been happening today.

All of this tells us that there is a demonic activity behind much of these things, and it is especially evident when you see how much hatred there is toward the Catholic faith (after all, the demons know who their greatest threat on Earth is). Yet, we do not see people behaving the way that we have heard (mostly from exorcists--but hollywood does not have it all wrong on this subject) that possessed people do. Thus, it seems that the demons have chosen (figured out how?) to influence, obsess, and possess many people and yet still have them be "fully functional" in society. This means that they can still drive a car, hold down a job, and even get elected to the US Congress!

Who are these people specifically? I am not about to make any kind of an accusation as I do not have first hand evidence to make a determination. What we do have, though, is the example of so many who do not think rationally about morality. We have the evidence of widespread approval of things that were well known (as recently as the last century) to lead to the destruction of society. We have public schools, and universities openly teaching and encouraging illogical and foolish thought.

If I am correct in this assessment, this means that you could have a functional demoniac in your workplace (hopefully, not in the Church, but that is possible as well). You could have a functional demoniac as your next door neighbor. The person who works at the grocery store could be a functional demoniac. It could also be the police officer who pulls you over for some minor infraction of the law. They will not necessarily be trying to attack you physically (like you see in the movies), but they will likely be attacking you spiritually.

I do not write this to make you fear, but to make you be on your guard. We are concerned with protecting our Churches from possible "shooters". Are we as equally concerned with protecting our hearts and minds from "functional demoniacs" who will turn our very way of thinking against the Lord and make us think that we being holy in doing so? This is what is happening in so many circles. Priests lead people astray from Catholic teaching; parents allow children to be taught by pagans; and politicians pass laws that prevent holiness and encourage wickedness. What will we do about it? It is time to "hunker down" and protect ourselves. It is time to be more discerning about what we allow to influence us (and our children). It is time to recognize the assaults of the devil. It is time to say, "no more compromise".

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Relearning How to be Catholic

People today, generally, like to find the easier way to do something (I have mentioned this before, many times) but the easier way is not always the best way. I have shown that this is true with parenting, and spirituality, but there is another way that this truth applies, and that is with renewal. If you have been reading this blog for more than the last few minutes, you will know that I have been calling for a return to many of the ancient traditions of the Church. No, I am not just saying that we need to have more Divine Worship Masses, or even Latin Masses (though they each would have a good impact). It is much deeper than that.

Let me give an example. Someone came to me recently and asked for the "trick" to restoring the Church to faithfulness. What I think he really wanted was some kind of gimmick; a sneaky way to "make it work right". Certainly it would be nice to have a "quick and easy" method to resolve all that has gone wrong, yet if it is "quick and easy" it is probably not going to work. Whether it is personal, familial, or ecclesiastical, there is not a gimmick that works. Yes, there are many gimmicks out there, but they all fail in the long run; the only thing that works is good old fashioned Catholic faith and devotion.

I have read some who have said "we tried that and it does not work in this modern age". That is kind of like those who say that they do not want to get married because "marriage does not work today". It is not the practice of marriage itself that is the problem, it is the people who fail to carry it out properly. In the same way, there was never anything wrong with the traditional practice of faith and devotion in the Catholic Church; rather things began to fall apart when people failed to follow through with those traditions. It was in spite of Catholic spirituality, not because of it.

What worries me about this whole thing is that the questions about the "trick to make it work" are so common these days. I do not want to presume the worst, but it certainly appears that there are quite a few people who do not want to commit themselves to hard work; they want a quick and easy fix for our problems. People come to me for advice at times and I will occasionally have to tell them that it is going to take a while to overcome their difficulties that they are dealing with. Most of the time that I tell someone that, they look at me like they are certain that I have to be wrong. It appears as though people believe that there must be a "quick fix" and so my claim of a "long-term-process fix" seems to them as though it must be wrong.

So then, how do we overcome this mess that we have gotten ourselves into? It is not going to happen overnight. Our recovery must involve a spiritual form of "physical therapy" (I would like to call it "spiritual therapy" but I think everyone would misunderstand that phrase). I know someone who recently have to have a leg removed, and he told me that relearning how to do some of the basic things of life was annoying, but necessary. We also must relearn how to receive communion; how to pray; how to show love; how to care for the poor; how to live in community; and how to speak the gospel to others. Most have been doing these things incorrectly for so long (and have had so many bad examples of how to do them) that they assume that they are doing it correctly.

We truly do need to work on a greater commitment to the Sacraments and spiritual devotions that were practiced in generations of the past (please realize that the devil is attacking us and that is precisely what he wants to destroy, so if you do not work on these things, then he is winning and you are helping him do so!). It may sound overly simplistic, but simple holiness has not changed; sin is still sin, and we still need to repent and obey our Lord. Obviously, if we attempt to return to ancient spirituality as a merely outward habit, then we will fail like so many others have. We must return to an older spirituality, while remembering that we must always have our heart fully committed to the Lord. Remember, the greatest commandment is to love God and neighbor, not just to appear outwardly to love God and neighbor.

Thus, I would encourage you to begin preparing yourselves to "relearn" how to be a Catholic. Let us together reassess how we got off the rails, and seek to see those areas where we "threw out the baby with the bathwater". Let us abandon the wrong heart of Pharisaical pride, and restore the heart of Jesus to our obedience. The only other path is presumption, and that never leads to holiness.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

The Church is Not a Democracy

I have always found it an interesting point that the word "democracy" has essentially the same definition as the word "Laodicea" (cf. Revelation 3:14ff). Both words mean "rule by the people" (obviously with different root forms). Laodicea was a Church in the first century that Jesus rebukes quite harshly because they refused to listen to Him and had a sinful level of self-confidence. This is not to say that everyone who likes democracy is sinfully self-confident (no need for any errant presumptions about my point). It is, however, to say that some "self-rule" goes beyond the proper "self-control" we are supposed to have and becomes prideful rebellion.

The Church, as most people know, is not a democracy. It never was, and (God willing) never will be. Democracy might have some advantages in the political sphere (and it might have some disadvantages as well!), but it is not the way that our Lord and His Apostles set up the Church. Jean Jacques Rousseau's "The Social Contract" is not the foundation of Church hierarchy (for which we can thank God--immensely).

There are, of course, certain areas where the laity are expected to help "lead" the Church, but that is not the same as granting a democratic authority to the non-ordained faithful. I have heard stories of parish councils that make some of my horrible experiences in Anglicanism seem calm by comparison. I make it a habit to reiterate to each new member of the parish council's that I have had that the council is (as Canon Law declares) an "advisory board" with no actual authority. So far, I have not had a problem; when people understand their calling, things usually work better.

Now, of course, some of this might sound like an authoritarian stomping his feet and pounding his fist: "my way or the highway!" Not so (and you can ask any of my parish council members if you doubt it). It is merely stating that there are things that work better than others, and the Church has had 2000 years of experience to figure these things out. I recall once hearing about a family that worked along "democratic lines". They all sat down (like a congress) and discussed and voted on everything. Sounded nice in principle (at least to them), until the day that a major decision had to be made and they could not see eye to eye.

The old principle that my grandmother used to say was "too many cooks stirring the pot ruins the soup". I would have to agree. The family mentioned above really suffered as a result of the fact that there was not a clear "cook" or "chief" who made the final call on things. In the Church, this is, of course, the Pope; ultimately speaking. On the local level, however, this is the priest (under the guidance of his Bishop). The priest is called "father" for a reason; he is the "father" of God's house, and as such he is supposed to lead it like a loving father.

Just in case anyone is wondering, my experience as a Catholic priest is completely different from what I went through in protestantism. I had numerous difficulties with congregants in the protestant congregations who all wanted to be in charge. In the Catholic Church, these problems are comparatively non-existent. That is not to say, however, that Catholics never get confused as to how things work in the Church, but rather that there is a much different culture that is taught to Catholics (especially those raised in the Church). Those who convert from protestantism do not always understand the authority structures in the Church, but they come around (usually).

Someone might be reading this thinking that I am writing about the subject because there is a big fight going on in one of my parishes. Let me put the rumor mill to rest. Nothing of the kind is going on. I merely was thinking about this subject in connection with a non-fiction book that I am reading, and I thought it would be a valuable thing to discuss on this blog. After all, we are always in need of being reminded of the good and godly truths that we have been granted through Christ's Church, and teaching on the hierarchy and order of the Church (as unpopular as it might be) is frequently needed. Additionally, the hierarchy of the Church is frequently being challenged today (often with just cause!).

With all this said, we can look out at the "lay of the land" in the Church today and realize that good leadership is less than abundant. We hear stories constantly of various clergy falling into grave sin (and many of them denying it in the face of overwhelming evidence), some Bishops are leading their dioceses like a corporation (i.e. with no true respect for the people within), and many Priests are either insensitive to their people, or are so "mushy" that they are useless as a spiritual father. How can the laity stand back in times like this and rejoice at the hierarchy of the Church? Let me make on thing clear: rebelling against the hierarchy (by doing things like leaving the Church or getting into power struggles within it) is never a solution.

The order that God has given to us for the Church is for our good. The Pope is at the top of the hierarchy; his Bishops are with and under him; their priests and deacons are under them. Yet, sometimes those given the responsibility to rule do not respect that responsibility and see it only as power (cf. the New Testament letter of 3 John to see that this is not a new development). Changing the system will not fix things; changing the hearts of those in authority will. In the past, when Church leaders got off track, it was most often the laity who helped turn things around. They did this, of course, through their prayers; but they also revived the holiness of their leaders through their humble admonitions ("Dear Bishop McGillicutty, please stop supporting impenitent sodomites and protect those Priests who speak the truth to their people.")

We see many examples of "the ruled" responding to problems in "the rulers" throughout the Bible, and different situations may call for different tactics, but there is always present the example of working humbling within "God's sheepfold". The principle that is being taught to us is not to look first for how we can have a say in things; it is, rather, to learn obedience first. As we learn obedience to our Church superiors (especially when we either do not like them or have a beef with something they have done) we learn obedience to God (and then we can figure out how to "have a say in things"). Yes, there are times when faithfulness requires us to separate from wicked rulers, but that should never be done rashly.

Let each of us seek how to find that obedience which God expects of us; and let each of us work to learn the right way (i.e. with humility) to "have a say" in what is happening. Only in this way will we genuinely find holiness and please Our Almighty Lord.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Pendulum Swings . . . or not.

I was speaking with someone recently about the fact that "modernist" parishes are generally shrinking in the Catholic Church and more traditional parishes are growing. No modernism is not fading quickly, but the signs are steadily increasing that show that Catholics (especially the younger generations) are wanting a return to our historic faith and practises. During the conversation, I was asked "is this just a pendulum swing?" The questioner seemed to be hoping that it was only a temporary situation, and that eventually things would "swing" back to modernist tendencies once again.

Yes, a "pendulum swing" is one possible interpretation of events. And, yes, it is also true that there is a certain degree of "reactionary" behavior in the traditional interests of many Catholics today. That is not, however, what I think is the best explanation of events. If it were truly a "pendulum swing" then we would be able to see the pattern in the past as well (modern, traditional, modern, traditional, etc.). Although there are varying fluctuations in Church history, there is nothing to reflect this kind of "swing" from modern to traditional going back and forth in history.

Therefore, we are led to consider another possible interpretation. Thus, we should compare the modernist tendencies of our day, and ask ourselves: is this similar to what the Church looked like prior to this development (which, although present earlier, had an enormous increase in the late 1960's)? The answer is an easy "no". This does not mean that the Church before Vatican II was perfect -- if it had been it is unlikely that we would have had a Second Vatican Council. Thus, the modernist trend was a new thing foisted upon the Church by those who hated Vatican II and wanted to change the Church into something else (yes, you read that right).

Rather than a swing of the pendulum, it should be evident that what we are dealing with is an attack on the liturgy that began 50 years ago (not counting the precursors that can be seen in the 1940's and 50's) and now today we are experiencing the beginning of its restoration. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard, or read, Catholics who say that they "like" the "contemporary style" of the liturgy. I have heard many say that the contemporary music and casual attitude of the priest help them to "enjoy" the liturgy more. Yet, I have never heard anyone say that contemporary liturgy struck them with awe at the majesty of God. I have never heard anyone say that the modernist paraphrasing that many priests engage in for the parts of the Mass makes them feel more reverent in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. The reason should be obvious.

Enjoyment alone is not grounds to justify contemporary and modernist behaviors in the Mass. This is not a "pendulum swing" that we are seeing. It is an experience of enlightenment when the faithful realize that people made a mistake and not only took the ideas of the new liturgy too far, but also went about breaking most of the rules that were given to us for the liturgy. When this happens, people step back and say, "I cannot do it this way anymore". This is what I have seen from many of the faithful that I have spoken with recently; not just at St. George, my Ordinariate parish, but also elsewhere. People are tired of "liking" the liturgy; they want to be "awed" by the liturgy. This is what we call restoration.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

"Reformerism"

I am not a Protestant (anymore). Most of you reading this will already know that fact (yet, there are some who still think the Ordinariate is a schismatic group and not actually Catholic--please pray for them). There are many reasons that I converted; more than I could outline here. Theology, sacred Scripture, history, and even just basic logic drove me to see the need to be Catholic. Most of the reasons that I could give will point to the desire I had to find communion with the Church that Jesus founded -- I was running toward something more than away from something.

There is one trait, however, that stands out the most noticeably to me that I was "running away" from in protestantism, and that is what I call "reformerism". Yes, I know that is not a real word (and it is clunky word at that), but it does summarize what I am speaking about quite well. "Reformerism" is that habit whereby a person sees something wrong with others, and passionately wants others to "reform" but does not to reform himself. Viewing himself as a "reformer" his goal is to help others to reform, while he stays right where he is.

Hence, one of the reasons that I chose to leave protestantism is out of a desire to reform myself first, and to stop (as was the habit in so many protestant congregations) seeking only to reform others. I had numerous examples of this type of behavior, both from protestant ministers as well as laypeople. One particular example (whom shall remain anonymous to protect the guilty) took great pride in telling everyone else what was wrong with them, but the first time that I spoke to him about a mistake he had made, he responded like I had told him I was an alien from Mars; completely and utterly dumbfounded (I can still see him staring at me with his mouth hanging open).

The principle behind this issue is well known to all of us: "you without sin cast the first stone" or "don't try to take out your brothers splinter, when you've got a log in your eye". Yes, the principle is well known, but amazingly rarely practiced. Self-examination is like a long-lost art; many people have heard of it, but few know how to practice it. This is central in every relationship we have; Church relationships, family, marital, work, etc.

This, of course, takes us back also to the principle of regular confession. How often since you have been to the Sacrament of Confession (your eternal soul is at stake!)? Regular confession means that we have the opportunity of regularly dealing with the state of our soul, and that helps us to avoid "reformerism". I still remember the time I was told after a homily that "someone else" really needed to hear that message (i.e. "he needs to reform himself, but I don't"); this is the same spirit that says "I don't need to go to confession". Just simply ask yourself, are you always finding reasons to criticize others? Or ask, when was the last time you worked to correct your own failings without reference to anyone else?

Hence the problem, as I see it, with the protestant "reformation" is not that it went too far, but that it did not go far enough. If the early protestants (today's protestants mostly do not know what they are protesting anymore) had gone the full distance and been willing to reform themselves first, then they likely would never have left the Church and we would not have had a schism (imagine that!). When we reform ourselves first, then we can see more clearly whether our criticisms of others are correct or not.

Of course, this is not to say that this is entirely a protestant problem and that we Catholics never fall into it. Yes, many Catholics suffer from reformerism as well, but in my experience those are the ones most heavily influenced by protestant thinking to begin with. There are a number of protestant errors that have infected Catholics in various ways (most especially when Catholics read non-Catholic materials and show no discernment about it), and this is just one more way that this has happened.

So what about you, my friends? Have you slipped into a habit of "reformerism"? Maybe it is not a full habit, but it still pops up at times (?). Look inside first. This is important for our relationships with others, as well as for our personal salvation. We cannot be presumptuous and think that everyone else needs to fix their problems but that God is going to let things slide for us. This is not the Catholic religion, it is rather a prideful form of self-destruction.