Thursday, May 31, 2018

"I Only Looked Away for a Second"

When Jesus created the world, He intentionally made it parabolic. What does "parabolic" mean? It means that He made it so that the world is filled with stories and images that relate to each other, and (most especially) to the spiritual realm. This applies most particularly (of course) to God Himself. This is important, not just for our personal enjoyment, but also because we cannot see the spiritual realm with our physical eyes; we only see the effects of it. This is the reason why Jesus' parables in the gospels are so helpful to understand the Kingdom of God: Jesus intended the world to be like that. How do I know this to be a fact? One simple verse of the Bible: "Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made" (Romans 1:20). God has always wanted to show Himself in Creation.

Psalm 19:1-4 speaks similarly:
The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
It says that even without any speech, the "words" of Creation go out to tell us about God. In other words, the entire universe is "parabolic". This is one of the reasons that I use illustrations at the beginning of my homilies: it is how God intended for us to see the world; interconnected and interrelated.

Most people are unaware of the many and various parallels that exist in our daily lives. One that I have seen and spoken of quite often came to my attention again recently. How you drive reveals much about how you live. In the past I have only referred to the attitude we have when driving (polite, rude, safe, dangerous, etc). In driving between my three parishes lately (and I drive, on average, about 300 miles a week), I have seen numerous people driving "distractedly"; far more than I ever used to see. It is obvious sometimes; you can look ahead down the road and see a vehicle slowing veering into your lane, then it jumps back to its own lane, then it veers again, etc. The driver is more than likely looking at something on a cell phone and not paying attention to the road. I have seen it many times, and it has been confirmed every time when the vehicle gets closer and passes by -- there is the driver staring down at a rectangular object in his right hand and not looking at the road (if this is you, may I kindly say: stop it now before you die!).

The devil loves it when he can make people become so attached to a piece of technology that they are willing to endanger their own lives, and the lives of others. In the same way, the evil one wants each of us to live our spiritual lives distracted from what really matters. There are many ways that he can do this, and for each of us it will likely be a bit different than for others. If he can send us a problem in our lives that we focus on to the exclusion of more important issues (like prayer and personal devotions), then he has successfully gotten us to "take our eyes off the road".

Those who are bound up in regret and disappointment; those who are living in the past; those who are immersed in lust; those who are spending their time worrying about the future; each of these people has been "pulled away" by things that prevent us from growing in our faith. If you do not spend time each day in prayer, then you can be sure that you have gotten distracted from what really matters (especially if the devil has convinced you of the pitiful lie that, "you don't have time to pray").

Being addicted to anything is wrong, for nothing other than Christ should control us (and He never forces Himself upon us compulsively like an addiction). Today, however, people are addicted to distraction itself. It is as though they are desperately searching for distractions. The very word "distract" comes from a Latin root that means "to draw apart" or "to pull away". If our lives have no meaning and we are wallowing in misery, then we will look for things to "draw us away" from life and cause us distraction in the same way that a drunkard seeks the alcohol to help him forget.

Is this how we are going through life? Are we immersed in distractions and never connecting with reality? Is that what we really want for ourselves? Many people assume that distractions are good, and that each person just needs to choose his favorite distraction. What about focusing on reality? What about paying attention to those "real" things that actually matter; like the things of God? We have become obsessed with wanting our "free time" and assuming that we have a right to play. When entertainment becomes an end in itself, we are bound to become obsessed with it, and then we end up living in that fantasy world of distraction. This always makes it harder to leave fantasy and enter into the reality of heavenly things.

I am not just speaking about avoiding distraction while driving, or while in the Mass. I am speaking about living with distracted hearts; hearts that are always seeking for something "more fun" than what is going on. Things will eventually come full circle and people will see the futility of such living. In the meantime, we need to live with focus, with resolve, and with determination to stay on the path. All it takes is one time to take our eyes "off the road" and we end up crashing. When our soul crashes it takes a lot longer to heal from it than it does when we crash physically. Let us remain attentive to our spiritual duties, never allowing the evil one to pull us away.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Top 3 Easiest Ways to Create a Jellyfish

For those of you who do not know what a "jellyfish" is (because I am not talking about sea creatures), a "jellyfish" is also referred to as a "pansy", "milksop", "sissy", or "coward". I use the term "jellyfish" because I am referring to those who have no spiritual or emotional "spine" and who sting everyone they touch. Ever met someone like that? These are people who are constantly offended by things; so much so that it appears like they want to be offended. We have all heard it on the news, "you offended me so I hate you", "you infringed on my rights so I am filing a lawsuit against you", or (in the news just today) "you said something that made someone, somewhere, unhappy, so we are cutting you off".

As happens so often, at this point we should clarify our terms. What does it mean, technically, to be "offended"? In the Bible, "to offend" someone means "to cause to sin". It does not mean to be personally annoyed and emotionally hurt by someone's actions or words. In fact, the biblical term and the modern usage are two completely different issues. In the Bible we read things like "cause no offense", which does not mean "be nice" to others; it means to do nothing that would lead another person to sin. Although causing someone to be emotionally hurt can often lead to them sinning, these two situations are not the same thing.

Therefore, to arrive at the original subject of this post: let us discuss "offending someone" (in the sense of hurting someone's feelings). I would like to lay out for you, the three easiest ways to make your children into "jellyfish" (i.e. those who are constantly hurt by other's behavior). [Please take note of tongue in cheek at this point!]

  • Method #1: Give good example by your own behavior. In this method, which takes the least effort, one should merely behave as a jellyfish; children will follow suit very easily. If you are regularly griping about co-workers, bosses, neighbors, politicians, relatives, and friends, then you are off to a good start. It may be difficult if you are not already doing this, but one can easily begin this behavior by examining every detail of another's actions and finding the most insignificant things to complain about. Be sure, however, that you always do this in front of your children (and throw in a cuss word now and then for good measure). Once this has become a regular behavior, you have accomplished the majority of the task. Next, all you need to do is to "show your offendedness" by holding on to it and never forgetting it. Allow yourself to become bitter enough to bring it up in regular conversation (daily if possible). Your children's jellyfish-like behavior is almost guaranteed.
  • Method #2: Make sure your children never have any challenges in life. This second method takes a bit more effort, but once mastered it is even more effective than the first. With this second method, the parent should do everything possible to ensure that the children believe at a very early age, that life is handed to them on a silver platter, and that the world owes them something (it does not matter what they think the world owes them, and is often better if you leave it vague so that they can apply it in every situation they encounter). If a difficulty arrives that you cannot eliminate, then make sure that you just take it upon yourself so that they are never stretched and never acquire the ability to endure any hardship. Keep this up for the first 10 years or so of his or her life and you can be assured that they will become jellyfish by the time they are 15 or 16. Your children will definitely be furious at every person (teacher, police officer, etc.) who tells them to do something they do not like, and might even consider filing lawsuits against them at the earliest possible convenience. Make it a special goal to teach them the phrase, "who are you to tell me what to do?"
  • Method #3: Stand up for them in front of others and say that they are right, even when everyone knows that they are wrong. Although this third method can be used by itself, and is often very effective, it also works well as a supplement to the first two (especially considering that it depends on the actions of others, and cannot be instigated solely by the parent). Did little Johnny do something wrong in front of others? Laugh at it and say something like "what can you do?" (making sure to shrug your shoulders with a facial expression of confusion). Another tactic is to respond to other's criticism of your child by making sure that you express personal offense and raise your voice; flailing of arms often helps to emphasize your seriousness. This type of response helps the child to think of himself as the most important person in the world, and prevents him from ever imagining that he would have to do something like repent, say he is sorry, or (oh no!) go to confession (especially if he already went years ago when before he received first communion)!

All right then; so I am being a bit sarcastic (just a bit). Yet, modern society does seem to be intentionally trying to raise children to be unable to handle adversity and remain in a constant state of offense. It is as though people want to find a reason to be offended and victimized so that they can get others to feel sorry for them. This is a pitiful sign of extreme insecurity. What can we as parents do to overcome this? We certainly do not need to go overboard and make our children miserable or never show them compassion. Yet, I believe that some children are being raised with a constant diet of "prideful self-indulgence".

What happens when we turn our children into "jellyfish" like this? They find it difficult to forgive. They hold grudges. They live in a dream-world of entitlement. This is a childish kind of behavior that usually can be eliminated from a child with good loving discipline by the time they are 2 or 3 years old (yes, 2 or 3--it is possible!). Children like this grow up to have problems keeping a job; they feel attacked whenever someone offers them constructive criticism. In short, they become self-centered people who are more a liability to those around them than anything else. The majority of people who live like this usually contribute nothing to society of any good.

There was a time years ago when the Catholic Church spoke openly about the grave sin of being "permissive parents"; not much about it today. Can we turn the tide? Can we find that proper balance so that the coming generation will stop being offended at everything and learn how to "turn the other cheek" (a forgotten virtue)? Is it possible to teach our children the importance of overlooking an offense and seeing that "love covers a multitude of sins"? Let us seek to overcome the world's petty attempts at bolstering its own pride, and instead find strength in godly humility; thereby showing to the world the patience and wisdom of Christ.

Monday, May 28, 2018

The Idol of Comfort

Have you ever heard someone say that comfort was a bad thing? My guess would be that it is not likely. We all generally think of comfort as a good thing. There are numerous references to it in Scripture that tell us that we worship "the God of all comfort" and that we are to seek to "comfort others with the comfort that God has given us". Yet pretty much all of these ideas of comfort have to do with giving comfort to someone who is experiencing something painful and not with the common idea of being "comfortable".

Being "comforted" is not the same thing as being "comfortable". The first refers to receiving help and assistance after or during a time of great suffering; the second refers primarily to personal physical feelings. Our modern understanding of "comfort" is related more to the idea of being relaxed or at ease. It relates to being without restrictions, or inconveniences of any kind. This is quite different from the biblical concept of being given the grace of being free from fear and finding a peace in Christ. This is not to say that is wrong to be relaxed or to be without inconveniences, but despite similar words, these are two different things. If we do not keep this distinction clear, we may fall into a dangerous attitude. This is the attitude that "comfort" is more important to us than it is supposed to be; when this happens "being comfortable" can become an idol. Whatever we give more authority than the Lord is, itself, an idol.

When we make decisions based on a desire for comfort, that can become a serious problem. Our first thought when participating in any liturgical action should not be "how physically comfortable can I make myself while doing this?" It should be, however, "how can I honor the Lord God?" This is especially important because there may be things that are "comfortable" that actually dishonor God. As an example, would it be honoring to God for us to sit back on a couch with our feet up on a coffee table during the consecration at the Mass? It would be comfortable, yes, but not honorable. It would, in fact, show disrespect and a lack of reverence for the Lord. That is a time for kneeling, not lounging.

Let us take a comparative situation: imagine making your decisions based on food. One might say that since the Church requires a minimum of one hour fast before receiving communion, then it would be better not to go to Mass because that would mean having to give up food for a time. Or, one might say that the type of the wine used in communion is not his favorite so he refuses to receive the precious blood. Similarly, we could imagine someone saying that meat is not all that bad for you, so it is OK to ignore the Lenten abstinence from meat on Fridays. For each of these we would say that the person was being rebellious based on his own personal likes and dislikes; the wrong grounds for determining one's actions.

The distinction made above between being "comforted" and being "comfortable" is important here. Many treat the idea of "dressing up" for Church to be a grave hardship or terrible suffering. "I'm not comfortable when I wear something like that." It is not an issue of suffering for someone to dress nicely when he attends Church; it is an issue of personal dislike. "This is who I am, take it or leave it" is not an attitude of holy submission. Yes, we are supposed to "accept people for who they are" (apart from sin), but people should want to honor God by presenting themselves respectably. The point of the Mass is not to make us feel good inside, it is to glorify God and receive the grace of Christ. Does Christ want us to be "comforted" when we come to the Mass? Yes, but as I said above, that is not the same as being "comfortable". Being comforted refers to something that we experience in our very souls; it endures and does not change with various outward circumstances. Being comfortable refers to physical ease.

Furthermore, respectable attire does not need to be "uncomfortable" per se. That is a common misrepresentation. Yes, there are some fancy clothes that are quite uncomfortable (to be honest, the alb, cincture, maniple, stole and chasuble the priest wears for Mass are often very uncomfortable). The "comfort" that seems to be so necessary to many today is related to what the Scriptures refer to as "luxury" (e.g. Sirach 37:29, James 5:5). This is related to the attitude that says "I have to be comfortable and have nice things", and not "I want to honor God and am willing to experience discomfort for it." We are, after all, called to suffer for Christ; are we really willing to say that we cannot be uncomfortable for Him?

How do you make your decisions about how you dress in the presence of Royalty? Is there an effort to show respect for the King of Kings, as well as for the others present? If we are called to love God with our "heart, soul, mind and body" then we must also recognize that what we do with our body will influence what is in our hearts and minds. It is difficult to have deep reverence when everything about our person says "casual". Let us each consider how to give to God our best, both in body and in soul.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Jesus is not a Superhero!

Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman; Captain America, Iron Man, Thor; etc. I could say that I like superhero movies, but I have to qualify that statement. What I like is more the principle of a superhero movie -- someone with special abilities steps up to take a stand for what is good and right and defend those who are defenseless. In that way, every single one of us is called to be a "superhero" at times because we are each called to use our special gifts and talents to help others (our gifts are not given to us for our own benefit!). Yet, that is not the point of superhero movies, is it?

The extra qualification that I gave above is not exactly sufficient though, since I have to admit that I do not like the way that most superhero movies are made today -- a constant barrage of fighting and destruction for two straight hours. I like to call that kind of movie "lots of glory but not much story" (e.g. all the Avengers movies except the first Captain America). This kind of entertainment is comparable to a two hour wrestling match with CGI; mind numbing devastation (not interesting, exciting, or very entertaining).

With that said, however, it should be clear to all of us that people still long for superheroes. Our English ancestors had Beowulf and King Arthur; in the last century comic books brought Superman to life, and today we have been inundated with more superheroes than we can keep track of. It is hard to deny, especially with the proliferation of superhero movies over the last ten years, that many people sense a "need" for superheroes. I would like to fathom a guess as to why this is the case.

We all want to believe two basic things: first, that there are people out there who are stronger than us who can take care of us when we are in trouble; and second, that we ourselves can rise to the occasion and be able to do great deeds for the good of all. The first is not always admitted, but it is clearly true. This is why so many who have abandoned God throughout their lives will cry to Him when they think they are going to die. Although there are some who actually enjoy rescuing others, we all hope that someone will swoop down and rescue us when we are in serious need. The second is not always well balanced but most people would like to have a special ability to help others.

The danger, of course, is when many people seek superheroes because they refuse to accept the Almighty Lord as the One Who is stronger than they are and can help them when they are in trouble. The desire for superheroes exhibits a desire to know that someone "has our back" and can help us when we get into a bad situation. It displays clearly the desire to believe in something that is bigger than ourselves. This is something everyone (even the most prideful self-indulgent person around) wants, but few are willing to admit.

It is not wrong to appreciate superhero stories (I personally really like Beowulf and The Dark Knight trilogy), but we will always gravitate to imaginary superheroes more and more as we lose our hope in the power of Christ. In today's gospel reading we are told that Christ has "all authority in Heaven and Earth". That means that He is the strongest, the smartest, the most powerful person in all creation. He is more than just a "superhero"; He is the King of Kings. If we truly trust in Him, then we will just "appreciate" superheroes. If we have a weak trust in Him, then we will replace Him with the heroes that the world invents; because every one of us needs a powerful savior.

When pride overcomes someone who already believes in God, then that person will often seek to diminish God down to a "user-friendly" size, so that He is not so intimidating. Once this happens, someone can go through life without being threatened by things like eternal Judgment, Hell, etc. The problem is, however, that it is a vicious cycle: as soon as someone lowers God down to a manageable size (which can only happen in our minds, and never in reality), then he needs, once again, to find a hero to trust in. If we control God, then we cannot expect much genuine help from Him, so we have to go elsewhere.

So then, I encourage everyone to ask themselves about their hope and trust in God. Do you truly see Him as Creator of the universe, the Judge of all men? Or have you reduced Him to a more manageable size that no longer needs to be respected? Do not take from God what is His and give it to someone else. Do not seek hope in any of the things of men (like imaginary superheroes), for only God grants us true hope. Only He can "swoop down out of the sky" and save us when we need it. What glory it is to be the servants of King Jesus Who is above every hero the world can imagine.

Friday, May 25, 2018

I would rather not talk about it, but...

In my ordination vows I was required to say the following: "I will always tell people what they want to hear, and will do everything in my power to make friends with each parishioner, never offending or upsetting anyone". No, actually, that is completely false. My vows did, however, require me to preach the truth in every situation. I took that vow, and that means that I am expected to obey it. Which leads me to the following point: there are times when I have to say something that I do not want to say. This is one of those times. I do not want to have to speak about immodesty, but it is spreading in our society like a plague.

It was Bp. Athanasius Schneider who said recently that, "there is a mentality of radical relativism within the Church". He was speaking about many things in that comment, and it would not take anyone long to come up with a Catholic truth that has been attacked lately by relativistic compromise. Today, we see so many areas of "radical relativism" that I almost do not know where to start. Modesty, however, has become very "relative" in modern society and the subject pops up every year with the arrival of summer. What one person considers to be modest another considers to be immodest; this only happens when we have been tainted with relativism. Today, immodesty has become the norm and only a few Catholics seem to be aware of it.

It took a long time for us to arrive at this state of affairs. What was immodest just a century ago is now the commonplace; how is that supposed to be acceptable? I have heard Catholics say directly to me "as long as you love Jesus, what does it matter what you wear to Church?" What most people miss when they read that previous sentence is the reality that the very comment itself is immodest. The fact that a comment like "as long as you love Jesus" would be considered gravely immoral to the vast majority of our forefathers should be enough to make us feel ashamed; but shame is a lost art.

There was a time when I thought that I could get by without saying anything; that was naive. To say nothing is to encourage the status quo. Yet, to attempt to be gentle but honest is going to invite attacks that I am a "prude" or an "old fuddy-duddy". I am thankful that the instances I have encountered at my three current parishes are small by comparison with things I have seen in the past. If, however, I do not make it clear now, the course of society shows that it is going to get out of hand.

So then, let me be as clear and direct as I can: we live in an immoral and immodest society, and we have become so used to it, that now even many Catholics can be heard defending the immodesty. This should not be. No, the Church does not have dress codes in Canon Law, but the Catechism does say that "purity requires modesty" and that "modesty is decency" (CCC 2521, 2522). In other words, Church dogma says that there is a standard of modesty, and that it is something that we all should be striving for. What are you (both men and women) doing to aim at modesty? Do you distinguish between modest and immodest clothing, or do you just wear "what's comfortable" without consideration for how it affects others?

This post is just the beginning of a very important discussion of a subject that I really dislike talking about, but it cannot be ignored. If good people do nothing, then evil will win. As uncomfortable as it may be, can we honestly say that we are happy with how modern society is steadily degenerating into greater and greater immodesty? Let us begin the conversation here, and let us do something about it.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

N (as in "N") . . . O (as in "O")

I am a workaholic; I cannot hide it. I also really like spicy foods, scary movies and hard rock music. Now, I would like to ask, how did I get that way? Was I forced into it? Was it determined beforehand by fate? Or (dare I ask it?), did God make me this way? That last question might seem a bit ridiculous, but there are those today who believe that God makes people a certain way, and that means either that they are not accountable for their behavior, or that the behavior is not sinful (there are even some in very high positions with the Catholic Church who appear to believe this in some areas).

Does God make people homicidal maniacs? Does God make people liars? Does God make people idolaters? Does God make people adulterers? Does God make people have any tendency toward a sinful behavior? NO. That is, N (as in "N") . . . O (as in "O"); of course not, only someone who did not understand Catholic truth would believe that. But somehow, today, people do believe that God makes people desire sodomy.

In order to hold a position like this, one must believe either that homosexual behavior is not sinful, or that it is only mildly so. If someone holds to the Catholic position regarding homosexuality (that it is always gravely immoral and completely disordered) then to claim that God "makes people" this way would mean that he believes that God makes people sin (or at least causes them to have weaknesses in that area). This would mean that God intentionally encourages sin in someone. This is entirely against the Catholic faith. Sin is a choice; it is our choice and no one else's. Yes, there may be some circumstances that lead us in that direction (as when those who are abused, end up abusing others), but every sin is our own choice and the result of the circumstances that we choose to give in to.

It does not help us to overcome sin if we blame our weaknesses on God. "He made me this way" is at best dangerous theology, and at worst it is blasphemous (no I am not exaggerating). To say that God forces anyone to sin is to enter into a confusing arena that ends in theological suicide. It also does not help those struggling with homosexual tendencies to be told this (any more than it helps a thief to be told "God made you that way") because it effectively prevents them from seeking holiness. God does not "make people that way" -- as a Protestant I was a Calvinist and I can smell that twisted theology a mile away.

This idea also cheapens the work of the Spirit. It treats the victory over sin that we can find in Christ as useless for many people. Yes, the sin of sodomy has spread far and wide, but we will not overcome it by being nice to it and pretending that it does not matter. I personally know some Catholics who struggle with homosexual temptations and they are each working to remain faithful to Christ in their lives (and I am encouraged regularly by their commitment to holiness). They have grown in their obedience to God more and more over time and are able to give glory to God for it. What would happen to their path of faith if I told them "God made you that way"? It is painful even to think about it.

Christ offers victory over every sin, and we should never settle for less than holiness. If it was a sin, it is a sin, and it always will be a sin. Sin is not subject to the definitions of modern society, and the Church does not make her determinations by listening to popular opinion (regardless of what some clerics would like). If anyone has a different position than that of the Catholic Church regarding the sinfulness of homosexual behavior, then he will have to answer to God for it (be he politician, layman, or clergyman).

Some have pointed out recently (e.g. see: Fr. Raymond J. de Souza) a comment that was apparently made by Pope Francis in a private conversation (again!) and are trying to use it as Church dogma (again!). The comment seems to say that God makes people "gay" [I do not like using that word] and so if God did it, then it is no big deal after all. It is not unheard of for a Pope to believe something that is contrary to Church teaching (even this extreme), but today we hear about everything the Pope says because technology allows us to spread it far and wide before anyone has had a chance to realize the consequences.

Another factor that we are dealing with in the Holy Father's comments is the manner in which so many people twist things to their own ends (for which, see my previous post: Marvel Not). I can think of many times when someone has taken my words (which I believed were spoken in complete clarity) and turned them to suit their own ends. This is happening more and more today in a number of different situations. Thus, when our current Holy Father is generally viewed as a "mover and shaker" who wants to "change" the Church into something different, then we have a recipe for disaster.

Mix together these four things: a Pope viewed as liberal, people prone to twist truth to their own ends, a lack of clarification of confusing statements, as well as a technological setting where off-the-cuff comments can fly around the world in seconds, and you have the circumstances in which error can spread like wildfire. I cannot lay the blame on any one individual (I do not know their minds) but vague and fuzzy teaching in crucial areas that society wants to distort will only continue to lead us to greater and greater confusion.

I would certainly hope that it is not the opinion of the Holy Father that God "makes people gay". I know that in many other places he has spoken clearly about the sinfulness of homosexuality, so I do not know how this apparent comment could fit with that. I will pray for him and I will pray for the Church. I will continue to speak the "whole counsel of God" to my people that are under my care and I will pray for Jesus' mercy to help us through these ugly times. I pray for you, to pray for me.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Marvel Not

"Marvel not that I say unto thee, ye must be born again" marvel rather that people will someday quote these words of mine and have no idea of what I am talking about.
No, that was not the actual quote on the marquee in front of the Baptist Church I drove by; the latter part is just what went through my mind when I read the quote in the first part. Having been, myself, a Baptist for a number of years, I feel that I can comment on Baptist theology and compare it with Catholic theology. This is not for the purpose of attacking the Baptists, but rather for making a larger illustration.

Baptists (as well as just about every other Protestant denomination except very traditional Anglicans) hold to a different understanding of Jesus' term "born again". They believe that it is a spiritual event that has largely no association with any outward event that we experience. This event, according to their teachings, is what makes a person a Christian, and determines his eternal status (thus explaining why they so often ask "are you born again?").

This understanding is not what the early Church taught about Jesus words in this regard. They associated it, rather, with baptism (as the Apostle Paul did in Titus 3:5). This is the main focus of the Catholic teaching, but it also touches on the renewal of one's personal relationship with God -- as in "I feel like I have a completely new relationship with God, as though I have been born all over again". In that way, the Church also teaches that one can be "born again" multiple times as after baptism a person may have many experiences of "renewal" in the faith.

This post is not, however, intended to distinguish these two ideas. The real point is my original reference: "marvel rather that people will someday quote these words of mine and have no idea of what I am talking about." In other words, people often take the words of God and twist them (often so slightly it is almost imperceptible) to fit with what they want. When I say "people", however, I am not just speaking about our Protestant brethren. I am also speaking about us Catholics. I have seen Catholics take the words of the Saints, the words of the Catechism, and the words of Scripture and use them for their own ends. We all are tempted to do this, but as Catholics we should recognize that this is not living faithfully to the Magisterium.

When God reveals something to us, He also reveals, through the authoritative teachings of the Church, what the proper interpretation of those things is. Otherwise, we would all be forced, like orphans, to figure the whole thing out on our own (which Jesus promised not to have us do -- cf. John 14:18). Humbling ourselves and forcing ourselves to accept the truths of God, without twisting them, is hard to do; especially when we live in a world that seems to enjoy twisting everything to its own ends.

When we (even quietly) reject the teachings of God by turning the interpretation of something to our own desires, we are essentially "marvelling" at the words of God, and coming up with something that we do not have to marvel at (because it fits with our personal preferences). Yet as I said at the beginning, we should marvel that people use Jesus' words wrongly; that they would reinterpret them to suit their own sinful inclinations. We all know how difficult it is when we hear or read a passage of the Catechism or of Scripture and feel that it is directly attacking our behavior; and many, when doing so, will salve their conscience by telling themselves "that does not apply to me" or "that is not what it means". This should not be our behavior.

Let us seek, rather, to find God's truth and accept it as He has revealed it, without any taint of our own personal ideas. Let us ask the Lord to give us "ears to hear" and "eyes to see" what He is telling us, and to push away any and all selfish pride that would filter out what we do not want to hear and see. Whether it is a disagreement with a Church dogma, or a rejection of one of the precepts of the Church, we should never fall into the temptation to see only what we want or hear only what we like. For Jesus said very clearly that, the truth would set us free, not that our own personal interpretation of the truth would set us free.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Capital and Corporal Punishment

I am going to come right out at the beginning and say that I hold to the historic position of the Catholic Church, the position of the Catholic Catechism (before it was "updated"), and the position of the Church Fathers, in saying that capital punishment is not evil, and, in fact, it can often be a definite good. Now, I am fully aware of much of the rhetoric today that goes against this, but this modern rhetoric is going against the almost unanimous position of the Church for the last 2000 years (not a small matter in Catholicism). I am not here going to attempt to prove what the Church has always taught (and is only being denied in very recent history) regarding the appropriateness of capital punishment; that is not in the scope of this small essay. The Church's historic position always takes precedence, and modern opinions hold no weight.

What I am aiming at pointing out, is that I find it more than an odd coincidence that right along with the common rejection of capital punishment, we find many parents rejecting corporal punishment (what used to be called "the rod of discipline") with their children. So that no one misunderstands me (though it is sad that I have to clarify this!), I am not advocating abusing children. A controlled, non-angry, spanking, which is done in love, is not the same thing as an outburst of fury that results in the abuse of a child (and I hold this in perfect confidence that Holy Scripture says the exact same thing).

I can only guess in this--because it is virtually impossible to find the exact root of every idea--but I think there is good reason to see a clear connection in the source of these two practical errors. The rejection of proper discipline for a murderer and the rejection of proper discipline of a child are not entirely disconnected points of view. In ministering to parents for many years now (even longer than I have had children of my own, and my oldest is 22 years old), I am sad to say that the vast majority of parents today do not take advantage of proper discipline for their children. Yes, many of them do "discipline", but not all "discipline" is necessarily proper.

Giving a rebellious child a "time out" does not do much more than frustrate the child, and that always ends up in encouraging more disobedience rather than discouraging it. A child who talks back to his parent should never be argued with (or worse, reasoned with), he should be disciplined. To allow children to continue in disrespect of a parent's authority is not proper discipline by a long shot, and if the method of discipline does not effect a continued change in behavior in the child, then discipline has not been done properly (i.e. if it does not work, then it is broken!). Many parents follow the "path of least resistance" in their disciplinary methods. This means that they have been led to believe that allowing bad behavior seems to be "easier" than to discipline it. Not true; never was, never will be.

With this continued error in parenting being perpetuated for the last few generations, we should not find it odd that suddenly there is a growing number of people who also want to support an error in societal discipline. One error encourages another error, and the vicious cycle continues. The solution will not be just to argue the truth back into people, but truth does need to be spoken, and many people do need to change their pattern of parenting. All it takes is a simple straight forward reading of some of the wisdom literature in the Old Testament (Proverbs, Sirach, Wisdom of Solomon, Baruch, Lamentations, and Ecclesiastes) to see that there is a manner of discipline that is genuinely effective and leads to success in parenting.

No, I am not advocating a "single magic bullet" methodology, because the wisdom literature itself does not tighten this kind of a clamp on us. Yet, there are principles that all parents are capable of implementing in their homes. I have seen it firsthand (and I am not just speaking of my own five children that I have raised), and it is not that difficult if we commit ourselves to it (in fact, it is actually amazingly easier than the so-called "path of least resistance" methodology).

Just like the consequences of undisciplined children are sad to watch, also the ramifications of proper discipline are truly a wonder to see. When discipline is not brought about, we can see large societal results. Punishment of the innocent, and permissiveness towards the guilty in the court system did not come about merely because someone made a mistake. If you do not understand what proper discipline is in the first place, then you are going to make mistakes in every area it touches on. Just because someone has a degree in Law does not mean that he understands how discipline works!

What is your view of discipline? Do you use the principles and points given throughout God's written word? Or have you fallen into the error of assuming you are doing so because this is what you are used to? It may seem like it is too difficult to read all of those books of the Bible and actually implement what they say. Yet, all of the baptized are given the strength of the Spirit to be able to make a penitential turn for the better. Do you really want to discipline properly? Could you commit yourself to helping your children to learn self-control and holiness? Are you willing to change any mistakes in parenting that you have made? What would it look like if every parent began today to enact a godly and proper discipline of their children?

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Ultimate Trial?

I am not a pessimist, but I am a realist. When it comes to the things of God, I am always hopeful, since nothing can remove Christ from His throne. Yet, these days, even with the sure and confident hope of Christ's ultimate victory over all His enemies (cf. 1 Cor 15:25), I expect a coming disaster for the world. It might be spiritual (as I have written about recently) or it might be economic and political (which would still affect the spiritual realm), or it might be natural (which never happens unless God allows it to--and He often uses it to teach us a lesson; cf. Isaiah 29:5-6 and Amos 3:6); or it could be a combination of all three! What will it look like? I have no idea. It could play out in a way that no prior global catastrophe has ever occurred. Maybe this is what is coming:

Article 675 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
The Church’s ultimate trial
Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the ‘mystery of iniquity’ in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth.
Then again, maybe not (having been in Protestant circles for years where "end times prophets" were a dime a dozen, I refuse to think that I can "figure out" the timing of these things unless Jesus appears bodily before me and tells me precisely), but it is hard (very hard) not to see a sobering similarity. Ultimately, without a divinely inspired prophet, we will never know until after it is already happening (and maybe not even then). So, I have no idea if this today is the "ultimate trial" or not. I do know, however, that it seems quite similar to what the Catechism says, and that means that we need to be prepared regardless.

Let us look closely at the words of the Catechism and glean whatever we can to help us remain faithful in these "dark days". First, let me point out that in the opening sentence of the paragraph it refers to a "final trial". In other words, there are many trials that are "non-final" which the Church must pass through. These things that we are experiencing may be merely one of those (I am sure that during the previous "non-final trials" many of the faithful--and probably a number of clergy as well--thought it was the "final trial"), so we should be cautious about assuming that what we are going through is the worst thing ever to happen.

Second, that same sentence tells us the final trial will "shake the faith" of many of God's people. We do find a number of people today whose faith has been shaken by recent events; there is no doubt about that. Yet, this is not the first time that the faith of many has been shaken either. What I find interesting in this phrase is the fact that the next sentence refers to it as a "persecution". If anything weakens our faith it is certainly not a blessing. A simple "difficulty", however, is not the same thing as a "persecution". The former can stem from many different things, but the latter is always an intentional attack. Are we today enduring merely a difficulty for our faith, or are we experiencing a full persecution? It is usually hard to tell the difference when we are in the middle of it.

If it is an "attack" of the type of "persecution" that the Catechism is speaking about, then we have to ask, what is the nature of this plan of attack? I do not think that this appears in any way to be accidental or merely coincidental. Something or someone is causing a spread of confusion, such that the faithful are at times unsure of what is actually right. I have been reading a lot lately regarding the methods of attack that are used in the demonic realm. Demons, after all, are hideously wicked, but that does not mean that they do not have a plan of attack. In fact, sometimes they have very specific and detailed plans of attack. Furthermore, from what I hear from official Exorcists the spread of demonic activity has gained significant speed in the past few years. We would certainly call that an intentional persecution, but that still does not guarantee that it is the final persecution to come at the end of the world.

Along with this shaking of people's faith that the Catechism speaks of, there is also an unveiling of a "religious deception" that leads to great apostasy (cf. Rev 20:7ff). Although I have seen and heard of instances of apostasy in various locations (even among some clergy), I would be hesitant to state that it is of a degree as can be expected at the end of the world. It could, however, be the beginning of a downward spiral that leads to that. When the faith of God's people weakens, we find many will degenerate into Apostasy.

Today we celebrate the feast of Pentecost. The day on which the Holy Spirit descended upon the Church to give all her sons and daughters the extra strength needed to endure the trials of this world, and live in faithfulness to Christ. What better day could there be to renew our commitment to serving God in all holiness? If we are going to stand fast in these times, let us never imagine that we can do it on our own; let us humble ourselves and ask the Lord to grant us the strength that each one of us needs to serve God in the way that He has called us; young and old, men, women and children, clergy and laity.

Therefore, with all the trouble we are seeing in the Church throughout the world, we may not actually know whether this is "the end" or not, but that should make no difference to our behavior. If it is the end, then we must be ready for it; if it is not the end, then we must be ready for whatever it actually is! For our Lord loves us enough to send us the trials and challenges that will help us to grow in our faith, and He often tests us to see if we will remain in our faith. How are you going to respond to current events? Will you fall into despair? Will you ignore it? Or, rather, will you do everything in your power to help yourself, and those under your care, to "stand against the wiles of the devil" (Eph 6:11).

Friday, May 18, 2018

First HOLY Communion

Just this morning, I got to thinking about Holy Communion again, in connection to my post yesterday. I was thinking about the time during my preparation for conversion to the Catholic Church, when I was reading up on first communion observances. A few of my children were old enough to be taking their first communion at the time of our reception into the Church, and I was curious what the rules are regarding one's reception of first communion. Were they expected to dress a certain way? Were their names announced? Did they come up first before anyone else received? I was a bit surprised to find out that the Church actually says very little about what that reception of first communion is supposed to be like.

It says more about the preparation for a child's first communion than about the event itself. So these pictures that we have seen so often (the lines of children coming forward, girls in white dresses and veils, and the boys in white shirts and black ties, all sitting up front to be seen by everyone throughout the Mass itself) these are not actually the "official" manner of receiving first communion. I am not saying that any of those things are bad, please do not misunderstand me; just that they are the traditions that have grown up around the celebration of one's first communion, but not things required (or even expected) by the Catholic Church.

We do want the children to respect the Sacrament, and realize that their first reception of it is of major importance. Yet, many of those practices can also give the wrong idea about communion. If a child dresses nicely for his first communion, but not any other day for Mass, what does that say? "If I'm not the focus, then it's not special"? Maybe. If we line them up to receive before anyone else, what does that say? "Look at me, look at me!" (which may actually be embarrassing for some who are of a more shy disposition). Maybe. I do not want to attack these "local traditions" but I do want to say that since they are not officially required by the Church, then they are not sacred and should be examined with serious scrutiny. We never want to do something merely because "that's the way we do it" (as opposed to doing it because the Church requires it).

Therefore, what does the Church require for the reception of a child's first communion? Proper preparation is the only thing (and that is not a small thing). At the barest minimum, the child must have more in his understanding than "I can eat the little white thingy now". He must grasp the sacredness of the Mass, as well as the miraculous nature of the Sacrament. He must see the absolute necessity of being in a state of grace to receive the Sacrament. He must know (as I said recently) that it is better not to receive in a particular instance than to receive in a state of grave sin.

Furthermore, who is supposed to teach these things? The Church is not the first teacher of any child; the parents are the first teachers. Certainly the Church can help, and may do so in a variety of ways, but that does not take away the parent's responsibility. In fact, Canon Law says nothing in this regard about religious education directors or special "first communion classes". What it does tell us is that a child must have "sufficient knowledge . . . to understand the mystery of Christ" in order to receive the Eucharist "with reverence". It also tells us that this is "primarily the duty of parents" and of the "parish priest" that they are prepared.

In other words, parents are supposed to be doing the training for their own children's reception of communion, and the priest is the one to give the final say in whether they are doing the job properly or not. If the parents wish to ask help from someone else, fine. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. Yet, they cannot shirk their duty by "dropping them off at class" and then expecting that someone else did the job for them.

From this we can see that the parents must be teaching the doctrinal aspects of the Sacrament, but also the practical aspects of reception of the body and blood of Christ. Children must be taught to be respectful and reverent when they are in the Church; especially during the Mass, but also at any other time (since they are in presence of the body of Christ in the tabernacle). They must be taught to focus on what is going on during the Mass and be taught the details of the liturgy (the role of the priest, the lector; the purpose of the altar and tabernacle; what the communion vessels are for; how to pay attention during a homily and gain benefit from it, etc.).

Some of this can be taught during the Mass, but most of it occurs at home. It is taught in how children show respect for their parents (fourth commandment: "honor your father and mother, in order that..."). It is taught in how children pay attention when spoken to (by anyone). It is taught in how children learn self-control (especially at the dinner table). It is taught in how children learn to communicate to others with respect and clarity. Children who talk back to their parents, will eventually talk back to God; the manner of how one behaves at home will always influence the manner of how one behaves while in the celebration of the Mass.

To all parents of children who have not yet received their first communion, I say this: give deep consideration to all of these details. Realize that your preparation of them for communion is not just a few mechanical details of how to open your mouth and tilt your head back to receive the host. It is not just a doctrinal detail of transubstantiation. It is a full and well-rounded understanding that encompasses a child's whole being, body and soul; and it should never be disconnected from the rest of life.

So whatever traditions you or your parish follows for a child's reception of first communion, ensure that it is a holy event. An event where the child has been prepared to revere Christ, and continue to receive the Sacrament because of love and devotion, not because of a mere duty or expectation ("everyone's doing it, I'm supposed to also"). Train them and guide them to love Jesus, and to receive Him with a heart filled with love and thankfulness.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

A Piano During Mass

Today I was saying Mass at a Veteran's home for the Catholic residents there, and 10 minutes before Mass was over, someone in the dining hall outside the chapel started playing a piano. Not, lightly playing a quiet tune; no. It sounded like the pianist was physically banging on the keys as loud as possible (being someone who likes to play piano, I am sure that it is going to need a tuning, and probably some repairs after that). The "music session" that they have out there is scheduled to wait until 10:00am when we are done, for the very reason of making sure that they do not disturb the Mass.

Now, this is not a complaint about the mistake that was made in their timing. I can let that go; the Vet's home is not a Catholic institution so I do not expect them to understand Catholic priorities. This is a recognition of the enormous disconnect that was being experienced there. In one room, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is going on. Fifteen Catholics are present before the (temporary) altar preparing to receive the very body and blood of Jesus Christ, the Creator and Redeemer of the Universe. While 15 feet outside the door to the chapel some "dance hall" style ragtime tune was being pounded out.

A few of the residents rolled their eyes; most of whom are old enough to remember when there was only the Traditional Mass in Latin. It was the look on one face that stood out to me. It was not a look of anger, or resentment (though I could have understood if  it had been). No, rather, it was a look of "they just don't get it, do they?" That is really the point. The world, "just doesn't get it" when it comes to the Mass. Some think of it as a "support group" session (this was spoken to me personally once); some think it is a worship service, just like any protestant group would have; some think of it as "smells and bells" and are just confused by it. Few, however, realize that it is the re-presentation of the same Sacrifice that occurred on Calvary 2000 years ago.

It is not just a memorializing of that Sacrifice, as though it were a trip down memory lane. It is also not like a "replay" of that event. It is the "traveling through time" of the actual Sacrifice brought here to the present. In that event of Jesus' offering Himself up to God, He is also being offered to us so that we may partake of all the benefits. As someone who did not believe in the real presence of Christ in the Sacrament once said, "if I believed that was actually divine body and blood, I would crawl hands and knees on broken glass to partake of that just once." If we really grasped what we are taking part in when we are in the Mass, we would be changed forever. The tiniest crumb of the divine flesh of Christ has more eternal significance than anything we can imagine.

I recall years ago someone mentioning to me how moved he was when I was doing the ablutions after Mass (the cleaning of the vessels used for communion). He said "every single crumb has to be accounted for, and that is awe-inspiring". This should be in our minds in every Mass and for us to think of the ablutions and just "cleaning up" misses the point completely. Another person once complained about a Bishop doing the ablutions after Mass and said "washing dishes is not part of the liturgy" (insert very heavy sigh here); I pray that he can learn to respect every single drop of Precious Blood and crumb of the Body of Christ. Even just a little bit of Jesus, is still Jesus.

Yet, how much reverence do we show to the Sacrament? I doubt any of us would be willing to blast out some irreverent music during the Mass (at least I hope not!), but are we being any less disrespectful when we give little consideration to the miraculous event that God allows us to see and participate in each week? The world may not "get it", but we should. For us to behave like the world (and consider intrusions to be minor, or even insignificant) is an affront to our Lord and suffering and passion that He experienced in our behalf. You do not need to "pound on the piano" to show disrespect for the Eucharist, but we do need to think about our own behavior and ask whether we are truly being reverent.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


A friend once said to me that "all children are born lawyers because they naturally try to find loopholes in the rules"; profound wisdom, indeed. Today, however, I believe that I need to extend his estimation a bit further. All children are born lawyers, and few today ever grow out of it. I overheard someone recently arguing for a reason not to obey a certain traffic law, and it brought to my mind how often I have heard similar arguments about many other subjects: "I don't need to do that because..."

Search your own heart right now. Do you look for "loopholes" to God's rules? Do you hear a homily and think, "yes, that is bad, but my situation in unique, so I do not need to repent of that"? That is, indeed, a dangerous situation to be in. Once someone starts to rationalize a particular sin, it makes it easier to rationalize other sins. It will go from one, to another, to another; eventually someone could rationalize the gravest of sins, and think it is OK because he has a "special situation".

Technically speaking, there are virtually no "special situations". A sin, is a sin. The level of a person's guilt may vary based on his understanding of the sin and his degree of willingness in committing it, but that is something that we are never supposed to determine entirely on our own. A good spiritual advisor [which will be someone who is strict with himself as well!] is always needed in these situations to keep us on the right track.

Do you think that you have a "special situation" that makes you less culpable in a specific sin (notice I did not say "that makes it OK for you to sin")? What is the proper Catholic way to deal with it? I ask specifically about the "Catholic" way, because my time as a protestant taught me very well that there is a protestant way to deal with "special situations" and they rarely include any more than "pray about it, and decide for yourself" (which actually means, "assume God will rubber stamp what you already decided"). Do you deal with your sin privately without the help of the body of Christ? No, that is not the Catholic way. In Catholicism we place a good deal of recognition on the assistance of those around us, as well as the guidance of good clergymen.

Therefore, one should seek guidance from other knowledgeable, and godly, people. In doing this, we must consider the possibility that we may be seeking guidance from someone whom we already know will answer like we want. Does that really count as "outside advice" if we pick and choose in this way? It is quite a bit self-serving to do spiritual inventory in this manner. Rather, we should look for those whom we know are well studied in the things of God (most often this is a faithful priest or deacon in the Church), and make sure that it is someone who will actually tell you what is true, rather than just say what you want to hear.

This is all certainly scary because it means that we have to put ourselves on the line. We have to be willing to open up to someone else and expose our sins to someone. This is why it is often best to do this with a priest--for he is used to hearing confessions and keeping them secret. Yet, if you have a close friend that you know would be honest with you, and you trust that person's God-given wisdom, then he or she may be a useful helper in this situation. The search for excuses and justifications for our sins is a dragon to be slain, and if we ignore the help of others and let that dragon live, he will always get the upper hand.

Do not ever look for loopholes. Yet, if you find one that you think does apply, then be careful not to assume too much on the accuracy your own wisdom (in viewing our own sin, we are usually too light on ourselves!). Do not trust that your loophole is really a proper reason for what you are doing. Jesus said that on the Day of Judgment, many will seek to justify their sins by various excuses, but only those who trusted in Christ and sought to obey Him in "whatsoever He commanded" are going to be justified in His sight. Let us look for Christ's justification, and not our own!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Spiritual Disaster

Remember the Y2K scare? Some people thought that every computer system in the world would get confused when the year 1999 changed to 2000 because "00" does not come after "99". One man I knew spent literally thousands of dollars to prepare himself for total societal collapse, and then when it did not happen, he had thousands of dollars of useless survival equipment. Many people today are afraid of an economic disaster, some are afraid of a nuclear disaster, and others are afraid of a natural disaster. I hear few expressing a genuine concern about a spiritual disaster--which would actually be far worse than any of those others. A spiritual disaster is like a "dragon" sitting in the living room that no one wants to talk about.

What would a spiritual disaster look like? It is hard to imagine just what it would be like, since no one living has ever really seen a genuine spiritual disaster on a large scale. Let us compare it first to a natural disaster. Where I live there is the potential for tornadoes (not a lot, but just enough where we own a weather alert radio). If a tornado hits a town then it destroys homes, buildings, livestock, crops, etc. People lose their belongings, and sometimes have to spend years to rebuild.

Next we can extrapolate from what a personal spiritual disaster is like. When an individual experiences a personal spiritual disaster, his faith is "shipwrecked" (cf. 1 Timothy 1:19). Something comes in and overcomes his faith, either twisting it so that his faith moves to something ungodly, or eliminating it completely. The result is that the person becomes what we call "apostate". The very word means "to be withdrawn" and is used for a withdrawal from one's religious practices.

Today we are in a genuine spiritual crisis, and though a spiritual disaster is looming on the horizon, we are not there yet. A spiritual crisis is where things are teetering on the brink of disaster and can be pushed either way. That should be a major concern to every one of us, and we should not be apathetic about it. If we do nothing, then it will come and we will be conquered. Many people's faith today is shaken and confusion abounds even among Catholic clergy. Understanding of the Church's dogmas and teachings has weakened, and though there are signs of recovery in some areas, the majority are still struggling.

You are probably saying, "whoa, Father, you're being a bit depressing with this post, aren't you?" Although I do not intend to be depressing, I do intend to be direct. There is no nice way to say that we are not doing well spiritually, and that we cannot continue to use the same old (failed) methods to renew our spirituality. "Business as usual" will not work when we are under attack from the devil and the world. So if all this does is depress you, then you are missing the point. I am wanting to instill a bit of godly fear so that all of us can "man up" and do what is necessary.

Our protestant brothers are continuing to divide and fracture, and many of them are converting to the Catholic Church, but it is not enough to overcome the numbers of those who are leaving their faith behind (mostly by just lazily wandering off). What will become of things if this trend does not stop? I firmly believe that the Catholic Church will continue, but it may be in a radically different form. Satan is trying to destroy the Church and it appears that he wants to do so by weakening it from within rather than direct attacks from without.

This is all the more reason for us to work to guard our faith while we work to build stronger communities. Only strong parish communities will be able to hold together and keep each other faithful. If we give in to the world's creeping corruption, our communities will flounder and eventually collapse. Bold, but caring priests, leading Churches with strong and godly fathers, with the support of loving and wise mothers, caring for and properly disciplining their children, and doing so in a community where we support one another with prayer and regular interaction, is what will keep us on the right path.

If all we do at this point in time is continue to come to Mass when it is convenient, and never spend extra time and effort on our spiritual well being, then we are bound to failure. It is like the doctor who says "if you keep eating a grease filled diet, you are going to have a heart attack". I am saying, "if you keep taking your spiritual commitment lightly, and you are going to have a spiritual heart attack" (otherwise known as apostasy). I am not thinking of any one person in particular (so, no, I am not pointing a finger at anyone), but rather saying that is what we all must commit ourselves to.

Are you afraid of a coming disaster? There are many possibilities of such things in modern society (especially in the context of so many people seeking a nihilistic, pleasure oriented, socialism), but the worst disaster we could encounter would be spiritual. Those economic or political disasters are nothing by comparison. How much are you doing to prepare yourself and your family for this possibility? Which would be worse, to be without money, home, or health; or to be without God?

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Wandering Minds

Do you know what "rubrics" are? Rubrics are those sentences in the Liturgy (written in red--thus the title "rubric", from the same root at "ruby"), that give a clergyman the orders for what he is supposed to do. These include things like, "the priest shall turn to the people and say..." or, "the priest shall turn back to the altar..." and they are not optional (unless they specifically say that the priest "may" do something, implying it is allowed but not required) regardless of what anyone says or does otherwise.

It would be hard to imagine that these little rules that are listed throughout the Missal would be anything more than boring technical details. Although it may be hard to believe, I was once deeply moved spiritually by a rubric. It was actually from the old Sarum Missal (from which the Divine Worship Mass is derived). In summary, the rubric said, "the priest shall pause here and remain silent, but not too long for danger that the devil may tempt his mind to wander". Wow!

Ponder that for a minute. "That the devil may tempt his mind to wander"; those are not merely "technical details" they are the substance of spiritual warfare. We are certainly a people whose minds are prone to wander. After all, we are immersed in distractions and any little thing makes our minds wander away from the task at hand (as I have written about many times before). Every one of us is subject to various distractions, and we all have to find proper ways to deal with them (which does not mean ignore them).

Yes, priest's minds do wander during Mass as well. It is a bit less common since we are so focused on all of the aspects of the Mass (at least, we are supposed to be focused!). Yet, things can happen that will pull us away. I recall one time when I was still thinking about a recent death in the parish, and suddenly during the Eucharistic Prayer I thought (just for a moment) about his widow, who was seated just a few pews back from the front, and whether she was doing OK. That is all it took: one thought, a quick glance, and then I lost my place on the page of the Missal. That made me stumble in my words as I was looking for the right place. Although it may seem like a small thing, the reverence of the Mass was impacted at that moment because I got distracted (even with something truly important).

We all need to view what we do during the Mass in that same way. Being cautious that our minds may be tempted to wander is not a petty thing, and there is nothing scrupulous about being concerned to stay focused on Christ during the Holy Sacrifice. Yet, that is the very thing that the evil one wants to do to us: make us lose focus. It is almost ironic that there are so many people today who drive distractedly (looking at their cell phones for one reason or another) and appear to think nothing of it, or how it impacts their behavior in other areas of life. If it is dangerous to our physical well being to get distracted while driving, it is all the more dangerous to our spiritual well being to be distracted while worshipping our Almighty Creator.

Let us prepare our hearts and minds before we enter the Church, and when we do, let us pray again for help to be attentive to the holy event that is going on in our very presence. Parents, work to help your children to remain focused -- it can be done even with the little ones (if you control the amount of distractions children are exposed to outside the Mass, it makes it easier for them to focus while in the Mass); I have seen it firsthand (more than once). If the devil cannot keep you out of the Mass itself, then he will do everything he can to keep your mind and heart elsewhere. Remember:
"Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith (1 Peter 5:8)."

Friday, May 11, 2018

Not Equal!

Men and women are not equal. There I said it. Let me go out on a branch and say a few other "bold" things. Dark and light are not equal; dogs and cats are not equal; hot and cold are not equal; life and death are not equal; wet and dry are not equal; and (this may confuse many people today) truth and falsehood are not equal. How could anyone say that men and women are equal and really mean it? There are a number of ways that men and women are similar (they both normally have two eyes, two arms, one head etc.) but there are numerous ways that they are not similar (chromosomes, body parts, etc.).

What do we mean when we say that something is "equal"? Take math for example. 2 = 2 (at least when I was taught it years ago). I think most would agree with that simple statement. In a more complicated equation we get things like 1 + 1 = 2. Maybe a bit tough, but I think most would agree with that as well. The point is, "equal" things are exactly the same, not just similar. When most people say "men and women are equal" they often mean "equally as good" or "equally as capable". The first statement is nonsensical since some men are good, some men are bad; some women are good, some women are bad. It is like saying "oaks are equally as wooden as aspens" (so what?). The second statement is patently false. Men are not "equally as capable" as women at bearing children. So the idea that they are "equal" has little or no foundation.

Now Scripture does tell us that men and women are both "joint heirs of the grace of life" (cf. 1 Peter 3:7), but in the same verse it calls women the "weaker sex" (the Apostle Peter's words, not mine). So even in that instance it says that men and women are "similar" and "not similar", but it never actually says that they are equal. Yet, we have heard it said so many times that many have come to believe it (even as ridiculous as it is).

This is not in any way an insult on women (or an insult on men for that matter). It is merely stating an obvious fact that modernism (and especially feminism) wants to erase. As much, however, as modernists seek to tell us to believe something which is clearly wrong, you cannot deny that there are many ways that God has intentionally made men and women different (and thus not equal); and I thank Him for those regularly. Women are designed to be able to do things that men cannot do, and men are designed to do things that women cannot do; this is the way our Lord wants it.

It is precisely because we are "wired" differently that God wants us to keep the created order clear. Gender theory is not really an attempt to find one's identity, it is an attack (and a vile one) on the created order. There are many things that women are just better at than men are, and there are many things that men are better at than women are. Let us be honest with ourselves and admit that fact. To refuse to do so only makes it harder for each one of us to be the person God created us to be. It is not an insult to say that someone is naturally better suited to something because of his or her sex any more than it would be an insult to say that someone is naturally better suited to something because of his or her weight, or height, or education level, or hair color, etc.

With that fact in mind, God has chosen that men are the leaders in the Church. Not because men are superior or anything like that, but because it is more what they are wired to do. Certainly women can lead, that is not the question, but is it what God has called them to do? Rather than thinking of it as "women cannot be ordained in the Church", many women (my wife is one of them) prefer to say "women don't have to be ordained in the Church". The reason that they say this is because they recognize that not being ordained means that they are free to do what they are best at. After all, the Blessed Virgin was not ordained, yet she has influenced the Church in ways that Bishops, Priests and Deacons can never do.

This is also true in the home. Men are called as leaders of their households, and we cannot try to erase that any more than people try to erase it in the Church. There are more verses in Scripture than I have room to quote which point out that fact. And just as priests should lead with gentle firmness, never lording it over their flocks, so also should fathers in the home lead with gentle firmness, never lording it over their families. The gentle and loving influence of a mother upon her husband and children is a power that still boggles my mind, and I will never fully understand it -- precisely because it is not what I am wired to do!

So then, once again, men and women are not equal; never were, never will be, and never should try to be. Let us humbly submit to God's order that He gave to us, and work to ensure that our children see good examples of loving fathers, and caring mothers, as well as many other men and women who live out the calling that God has given them. Let us stand firm and resist all the chaotic selfishness that the world is trying to cram into our brains. God's order is always true, good and beautiful.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Finding Intelligent Life

My grandmother was looking for her glasses for quite a while and had become quite upset. When I tried to speak to her about it, she was short with me and told me either to help her find them, or to leave her alone so that she could do so in peace. The problem was that she was already wearing them, and every time I said "gramma" she would tell me to be quiet. Eventually she looked at me and noticed that I was pointing at the glasses on her face. Sometimes we look for something that is already right in front of us, but we are "blinded" by things that keep us from seeing what we are looking for.

Another article in the news recently was reminding us that the late Stephen Hawking was positive that there was "intelligent life" in outer space, and that eventually we would be able to contact this life. He also usually said that the initial contact would not go well but I never read enough to figure out why he said that. Hawking wanted to look for that intelligent life because, according to him, it is arrogant to imagine that humans are the only intelligent species in existence. I actually agree with him. It is arrogant to imagine that humans are all that there is; that is why I believe in God. The fact that Hawking denied the existence of God shows that he was not as smart as he liked to think, nor was he as objective as many claimed he was, and though he had a lot of head knowledge, he did not do very well at examing Creation (for it all speaks about its Creator).

Of course there is intelligent life "out there". Otherwise, there is no way to explain how we got "here". The difference between Hawking's expectations of that intelligence, and my expectations of that intelligence is primarily the fact that mankind already contacted that "intelligent life" a long time ago (or should I say we were contacted by it?). In case it is not already obvious, it happened on the day God created Adam and Eve, for the greatest "intelligent life" that exists "out there" is, of course, God Himself. There are some other "intelligent life forms" out there as well, which are properly called, the angels, the cherubim and seraphim, and all the other heavenly beings. They also are intelligent beings that are not from this Earth (and very well may have contributed to some of the so-called UFO sightings!).

Although I do not know Hawking's personal beliefs (other than his statement that he was an atheist [and I do mean "was" for he is no longer such]), his search for his scientific view of life "out there" was an apparent rejection of the real Life "out there" (Who is also the "Way" and the "Truth"). Hawking's claim of humble wisdom in declaring that there had to be extraterrestrial beings is actually an attempt to avoid the fact that he is gravely mistaken. His view of "intelligent life" is still limited to a "this-worldly" creation (for even if there are sentient beings that are from another planet, then they too were created by God). He, therefore, has not found a genuine humility in acknowledging intelligent life that is beyond this world (for denying one's Creator is truly the height of arrogance!).

To be perfectly clear, I like science fiction stories; there is a certain fun to the creatively imaginary parts of them. Yet, science fiction is just that: fiction. Science fact says that there must be a God for nothing could exist without a proper cause. The problem today, however, is that it appears that there is more "fiction" in science than "fact". The search for aliens (in whatever form someone imagines them to exist) is misguided if it is not subject to the Creator Himself. Therefore, Hawking is both correct and incorrect. We will all one day come into face to face contact with that "intelligent life" that is "out there" and, he is also right that it may not go very well (at least for some). He is incorrect, though, because that Life, and that contact that we will all have, is nothing like what Hawking once expected it was going to be. Best to acknowledge that Life now, before it is too late.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Waiting for Communion

Someone at Mass today did not come forward to receive communion. How do you feel when you hear that? Sad? Confused? Happy? What thoughts go through your mind when you see something like that? Have you ever seen something like that (except for non-Catholics)? What would you say (if anything) to the person after Mass if you saw that? All of these questions are important for you to ask yourself, because they will reveal much about your understanding of Holy Communion.

The first question that many ask in this regard is, "isn't that wrong? aren't you supposed to receive communion every time you go to Mass?" I would really like to know where this idea came from. Somewhere along the line the faithful were encouraged to receive communion at Mass regardless of whether they were in a state of grace or not (which is an insidious error). The faithful are forbidden from receiving Holy Communion if they have unconfessed (and therefore unforgiven) grave sin in their lives. What have you been taught in this regard?

Did you know that many of the Saints of years ago received communion only on rare occasions? This was not because they were lazy or disrespectful toward Jesus (just the opposite!); it was because they wanted to be sure that they were "rightly disposed" before they partook of the Sacrament. There was something else going on here as well; they realized that the sacrifice of the Mass was more important than their personal reception. In fact, only the celebrant is actually required to receive at the Mass, for when he receives he is completing the sacrifice itself (and the consecration is not considered complete until the priest has received both body and blood).

There certainly might be various reasons why someone would not receive communion at Mass; both good and bad. Maybe someone does not believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the sacrament and wants to avoid "superstitions" (someone once told me this was his belief). Maybe someone has just returned to the Church after being away for years and wants to go to confession first (a great reason!). Finally, maybe someone is not Catholic and knows that he is not supposed to receive the sacrament (regardless of what some German Bishops would say). Other than something similar to these three reasons, the primary reason why a Catholic would abstain from the reception of communion in the Mass is because he knows that he is only supposed to receive communion in a state of grace and that to receive otherwise is another grave sin on top of what is already there.

Technically speaking, since none of the faithful are required to receive communion more than once a year (yes, you read that right), there is nothing wrong with attending Mass faithfully on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation and not receive for quite a while. Because the Sacrament provides grace for the life of faithfulness, we would not want someone to err so far in this direction that he were avoiding the Sacrament. There is still grace to be received in the body and blood of Christ, but it is better to be working on your sins and abstain than to ignore your spiritual condition and come to communion in a state of grave sin.

It would be better to take those few minutes before the Mass to do a healthy self-examination and ask yourself "am I rightly prepared to receive communion today?" (how many times have you done that?) than to assume that you are required to receive communion every time. Furthermore, in this context, it is obligatory for the rest of the faithful to look with humility upon someone who stays in the pew during the distribution of communion (there is no criticism for someone who respects the sacrament so much that he chooses to wait to receive it).

So when someone does not receive communion at Mass, and is doing it because he or she is concerned with being right before God, it is commendable -- did you read that? Commendable! It is a good and godly thing: it says "I'm not taking this for granted" as well as "I am concerned that I be fully and rightly prepared to come to the rail." In fact, were everyone in a single parish to acknowledge this important truth, then less and less people would come to communion every week. In addition, more and more people may very well spend more time working on their spiritual state and less time trying to look perfect in front of everyone else.

Monday, May 7, 2018


"I have been called by God to serve as a Eucharistic Minister!" She was speaking to a priest (no, not me) and was expressing her disagreement with the fact that he had chosen to cease having laity assist with the distribution of communion (which is a priest's prerogative). Aside from the fact that the only "Eucharistic Minister" is a Bishop or Priest, and that the laity are properly referred to as "Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion" (or "communion ministers", for short), her error was centered in the fact that she was trying to "pull rank" by saying "God told me to". This is never a godly thing to do.

The question we really need to ask here is much deeper than, "who has the authority to decide whether someone assists at the altar?" What we really need to ask is: how can one tell the difference between a personal desire and divine calling? It is completely possible for someone to be called to a ministry, and for him not to want to do so (the prophet Jonah is the classic example). It is also just as possible for someone to want to have a "ministry" in the Church yet not be genuinely called to that ministry.

So then, once again, how can you tell the difference? Much of the distinction comes down to the difference between the internal call and the external call; both of which I have spoken about before. It takes more than a "feeling" to determine a person's calling to a duty in the liturgy. A calling is a calling; meaning, just as much as God does not allow a man's own opinion to be the sole determining factor in whether he is called to holy orders, so also a layman's individual opinion cannot be the sole determining factor in whether he is called to serve in any capacity at the altar.

I am not going to delve into the intricacies of how the Church determines whether someone is called to serve in a liturgical fashion within Christ's Church (in spite of rash of abuses in this area over the last few decades). Rather, I just want to encourage everyone who believes that he (or she) is called in this manner to seek to ensure that their desire is not driven by selfish motives. Ask yourself the following questions: 1) who am I seeking to please in this ministry? 2) if I was told I could not serve this way any more, would I be offended and angry, or would I seek what else God would want me to do? 3) what is my real goal in this duty? 4) what type of confirmation of my calling did I seek from the Church (i.e. was I willing to be examined, or did I just want my desires to be "rubber stamped")?

It should be obvious how these questions will differ according to whether someone is seeking their service in a selfish manner or in a spirit of genuine self-sacrificial obedience to the Church.  I recall someone I met years ago who told me that she was "called" to serve in a particular capacity, and when I asked her why she believed that, her response (apparently a bit offended that I would even ask) was, "because I enjoy it so much". Admittedly, it is preferable for someone who is called to Church duties to enjoy doing so, but that enjoyment should never be used as the grounds for doing so.

It is always a danger for us to take our personal desires and ideas and say "God told me so" or "God called me to this". If one does genuinely believe that he is called to a particular duty in the Church, then he will be willing to subject his desires to a higher authority. This means not asking, "I feel called to this, where do I sign up?", but rather, "if I believe that I am called to this, how can I confirm whether my belief is correct or not?" After all, if we say that God called us to something merely because we want to do it, we are taking God's name in vain (remember that third commandment thing?).

With the knowledge that some of the "ministries" that laity take up in Catholic Churches today, are actually intended to be temporary (for example: Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, and Scripture reader), we should approach the filling of those roles with great caution. The Church did not open the doors and say "hey! all the rules are gone and whoever wants to can fill these roles". No, it was more of a "in the current difficulties with shortage of priests, it will be allowable in some circumstances to allow laity temporarily to hold these duties." Let us all seek humility in whatever we do, and then subject ourselves (and all that we do) to the Lord, always seeking to do what we do for the glory of God.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Did the Apostles Succeed or Not?

Today's gospel reading for Mass relates to us the words of our Lord on the last night before His death:
"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide."
So then, I will ask, did it? Did the fruit that the Apostles bore "abide" or did it fade away? What I am asking is whether the Apostles were successful in their efforts to bring forth the Kingdom of Christ, or were they failures? If Jesus says that He appointed them to bear "fruit that abides" and they failed, then we must also say that Jesus failed [I feel like I need to wash my hands and sanitize the keyboard after writing "Jesus" and "failed" side by side in the same sentence!].

Every form of Protestantism (except Eastern Orthodoxy) would have to say that the Apostles failed. All of the anti-christian cults (like Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses) will say this outright. Although most of the more orthodox Protestants will not be so negative towards the Apostles, a few of them will say that the Apostles did not fully establish the Protestant faith (like some of the Baptist denominations).

There is not much else that can be said once one notices that the roots of today's Roman Catholicism are clearly found in the Church Fathers from the late first and early second century. If Catholicism is wrong, then the Apostles failed to bear fruit that will last, since it was apparently thrown out and replaced by Catholic tradition while some of the Apostles were still alive (many distinctly Catholic teachings were found in writings that were circulating before A.D. 100. If Protestantism is true, and if the Apostles had intended to promote some form of it, then it did not last very long at all, for by the end of the second century we can see clear signs of Roman Catholic belief and practises throughout all the Churches.

I recall speaking to a pastor from a certain Protestant denomination (that I will not name here), who told me that the Apostles actually were successful in what they wanted to do, and that they established the Catholic Church (!). Then he proceeded to tell me that the Apostles were wrong for doing so! I have never met anyone else who held this position, but I will at least give him credit for trying to deal with the historical facts. Dealing with history is something I had to do about twelve years ago (and I ended up becoming Catholic), and since then I have encouraged every Protestant to do the same thing.

As a Catholic I can answer the question easily. Yes, the Apostles were successful in the fruit they bore, and Jesus was successful in appointing them to the task. I pray for all my brethren who are still in the Protestant churches that they will consider this important question, and then be able to find the fullness of the faith that has been handed down to us.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Mass Selfies?

I recently had to purchase a new cell phone. For those of you who know me well, no, I did not break down and buy a smart phone; in fact, I actually downgraded. I bought a "flip phone" that did not have a camera on it. I had to search far and wide, but I found one. Why, you may ask, would someone do that? I am attempting to step away from the whole frame of mind that says we need to get everything on video or in a photo. I have had this new phone for a few months now and found it to be very liberating. I have stopped seeing things and saying "I need a picture of that" and started just enjoying what I am seeing.

It appears today like many people do not think that an event is real unless they have captured it in some kind of picture or video. I recall doing a baptism years ago and a family member missed the moment of the baptism because she was doing something with the camera on her phone. She actually asked if I could do it again so that she could get the picture; I said no. She was more upset that she did not get the picture than that she did not actually see the baptism. What is wrong with this picture (no pun intended!)? A baptism (or any event for that matter) is no less real because we did not get a picture of it. In fact, I might even say that if we remove the camera from the situation and just focus on the actual event, then it becomes more real since we are seeing it with our own eyes rather than through a lens (but few people think about that aspect).

This brings us to the issue of "selfies". It is not as though I want to condemn them outright; please understand (there is nothing inherently wrong about taking a picture of yourself). Yet, think with me for a minute about the concept of a selfie. Many years ago people on vacation would take a picture of the scenery, and maybe get one or two pictures with the family included. The primary focus, however, was the scenery itself, and not the family. It appears that we have reached the point that we believe we have to include ourselves in the picture; as though the scenery is not appealing enough unless we are in the picture. It has become more of a "look at me" rather than a "look at the beautiful scenery".

I have actually only taken one "selfie" in my life. It was about 30 years ago, and it was not a true "selfie" since it was not even taken on a phone, but with an old non-digital camera that was very difficult to hold at the end of my arm (and the photo was out of focus!). I think that the recent obsession with selfies stems from an obsession with self. We have been driven in our modern society to think that everything revolves around self. From the pagan enlightenment of the 18th century saying "man is the measure of all things" now we have further descended into the modern dark ages of the 21st century and we can say "I am the measure of all things". Our dark ages are darker than anything imagined about the medieval period.

It is this obsession with self, that has led us to have an even greater misunderstanding of how worship works. Is worship about us, or is it about the Lord? We all know the correct answer, but do we really live it out? How do we approach the worship of the Lord of all creation? Is it "look at God" or is it "look at me"? Priests are especially aware of this problem, since we are required to be up in front of everyone at every Mass we celebrate (one more reason why I prefer to say Mass ad orientem). A priest will either recognize that he is only a tool in God's toolbox, or he will degenerate into the very problem I am discussing: "look at me!"

The final question I want to ask (and which this entire post is really about) is for those of you who either wish to, or do, have a "ministry" at the altar (reader, server, etc.). "Why do you want to do that?" What is the reason? There are, after all, right reasons and wrong reasons to "do a ministry" during the Mass and we cannot assume that everyone has the right motivations. Although there are many right reasons to wish to have a duty in the chancel during Mass (devotion to Christ, interest in holy orders, genuine service to the Church), of all the wrong reasons to want to be up there (feeling useful, enjoying it, etc.), one of the worst is to create your own personal "Mass selfie". "Look at me" should never be in our hearts during Mass, but rather "look at Christ".

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Appreciating Repetition

I currently serve as pastor in three different parishes; St. George Catholic Church, my primary parish, as well as St. Susanne's and St. Patrick's, my two parishes that I serve for Bishop Edward Rice, the Bishop of the diocese of Springfield/Cape Girardeau. Although it keeps me very busy, I appreciate serving within the local diocese at the same time that I serve in my own jurisdiction of the Ordinariate. I believe that this helps to show that even though there are a number of traditions that are different between the diocese and the Ordinariate, we are all part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Because of this mixture of my duties, there are times when I am saying Mass at one of the diocesan parishes (from the Roman Missal) and I "slip" into the wording or actions of the Ordinariate form of the Mass (from the Divine Worship Missal). In spite of a few significant differences between the two forms of the Mass, a number of places are quite similar and it is easy to get them switched, especially when there is only an hour between the times when I celebrate the two Masses!

Recently, I noticed something about the Roman Missal (i.e. Novus Ordo) Mass as I was saying the Divine Worship Mass, just an hour later. The "preface" is a prayer that is said in the both the Divine Worship Mass and the Roman Missal Mass right after the Sursum Corda where the priest tells the people to "lift up [their] hearts". In the Roman Missal there are five options for the "preface" during the Easter season. In the Divine Worship Missal, there is only one option. I assume that the choice for five options was made so that there could be a certain variety in the Easter season, and also that the choice for one option (for the Divine Worship Missal) was made because there was only one preface in the Anglican and English Missals (which itself probably stemmed from the practice of the Sarum Missal, though I have not confirmed this).

What is the big deal, you may ask? What does the difference in a pastor's choices have to do with you? Think of this: if you are used to hearing the same preface each Sunday (and a number of weekdays) for seven weeks in a row, and then not again for another year, then you think of it as "that is the preface for Easter time"; you get used to it, and do not think of it as repetition (if you think of this at all). It does not seem to be redundant because it is just "a prayer" that we say at this time of the year.

If, however, you are hearing a sequence of the five different options for a preface for seven weeks, then when you hear one a second time (and a third, fourth, etc. because you have to repeat some when you only have five to last for a span of seven weeks!) you will think, "I heard this one before, how about a different one?" In other words, a set of prefaces that have to be repeated every few days (not to mention all the other parts of the Mass that have a few different options) makes one desire more variation rather than less. It actually makes it harder to be content with just one "Easter preface", and causes the desire for a different Easter preface for each day of the seven weeks! In this situation we do not think of the repetition as "applying it more deeply to our souls" (the way the Church would want us to do), but rather as annoying redundancy.

So when I was standing up there saying Mass a while back, and noticed that the preface I had chosen for the day was the same one I used last Sunday (though none of my parishioners would ever actually complain), I even found myself thinking "I've read this one before". Whereas when I said the same preface in the Divine Worship Mass that I have used for the last number of weeks, I had the response of "ah yes, those comforting words that I have begun once again to memorize and make part of my own prayers." Two very different situations, and they will each effect our spirituality in a different way; are we hearing beautiful repetition, or annoying redundancy?

I am not saying that variety is automatically evil, nor am I saying that everyone who hears the same prayer repeated each Sunday will always be more holy than others. I am merely pointing out how multiple choices are prone to backfire and create more discontent rather than less. The solution that I have recently chosen when I say the Roman Missal Mass (with its multiple options) is to lessen them on my own. Sometimes I will do the same preface for an entire week (!), and then switch the next week. Sometimes I will just limit myself to one each year and allow it to do the work on our souls that it was intended for.

How do you respond to a prayer you have heard before? I have a number of favorite Mass collects (the opening prayer in the Roman Missal, and the second prayer in the Divine Worship Missal) for certain days of the year. I only get to hear and say them one week out of the year, but when I see them again each year they sound like old friends come home; like a book that I like to read every few years brought down off the shelf for another enjoyment. It stays for a week, is appreciated, and then returns to the book, to await another visit next year. What a joy to appreciate repetition!