Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Mass of Reparation for August, 2019

August 2nd is first Friday, so I will be saying another Mass of Reparation at St. George in Republic, Missouri. Mass begins at 6:00pm, with adoration immediately after. I will conclude with benediction at 7:00pm. The more who come (as we used to say) to "assist at Mass", the more reparation we are doing for the sins of the Catholic Church. For those of my readers who live nearby, if you love Christ's Church and want to see repentance occur, I beseech you to make an effort to be there.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Like a Roaring Lion

I tend to prefer it when Scripture is direct and clear. Some passages of the Bible are quite vague, and although they can be helpful in our spiritual walk, it is those that just "lay it on the table" that touch my heart most deeply. One of my favorite statements in Scripture is from 1 Peter 5:8-9:
"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..."
In other words, you are in his sights. The devil is lurking in the tall grass waiting to pounce. I do not say this to create fear (per se), but to encourage watchfulness; exactly as St. Peter did. He wanted his people to be prepared for the attack so that they could "resist". This is what I seek for every one of those under my care. Sometimes they understand that, and sometimes they do not, but I always work to help people be on their guard. Are you on your guard for the devil as he "prowls around"?

The best way to do this is to expect that he knows your weaknesses and is seeking to exploit them. Are you of a melancholy spirit? Then he will likely try to make you grumpy or discontented. Are you one who becomes easily suspicious of others? Then he will likely sow seeds of doubt about those who are closest to you. Do you have trouble controlling your  eyes? Then he is going to send someone (or something) into your line of sight that will tempt you. Whatever may be your tendencies, he will "prowl around" until sees you "limping" and then will run to attack. This one fact, taken to heart, can make a great difference in our spiritual health.

Those who easily forget about the works of evil that come after them, will more easily fall to those works when they encounter them. It is like the difference between the driver who is constantly on the watch for potential problems, and the driver who goes along presuming that there is nothing to worry about. Which one do you think will more likely be able to avoid an accident? No, I am not trying to make you live in fear, but if we live complacent and presumptuous, then we are not faithful to God.

When the Apostle says to be "firm in the faith", he is telling us that we need to be spiritually healthy. Are you working on your faith? Or are you like that weak gazelle in the herd who is going to be taken down next? Do you read good books (and especially the Scriptures) regularly in order to build up your trust in God? If you find yourself without that joy and spiritual vigor that Christ offers in the gospel, then your faith is likely hurting. Are you ready for the fight? Or is your faith weakened and vulnerable to attack?

So then, as the devil seeks "someone to devour", you should know that he does not aim only at those who are the weakest. He also aims at those who are a threat to him. If you are attending a reverent Mass regularly, seeking penitence and going to confession, then you can expect that the devil is upset with you. In doing these things, you are more likely to remain on the path to Heaven, and you might even help a few others along that path as well and this is exactly what he does not want; therefore, the devil is going to try to harm you. Have you been living faithfully, and then recently found your faith under attack? This is exactly how he works.

If there is a parish that is growing in faithfulness to our Lord and His Mother, and holds fast to the traditions handed down to us by the Church, then that parish is going to be the target of the attacks of the devil as well. The more true to the Catholic faith a parish is, the more it will be attacked (and especially will its priest be attacked). Sometimes those attacks are obvious and can be seen by any casual observer. Other times those attacks are more hidden, and are only noticed by a few. Either way, the devil appears to be more active today than in years past, and we must be serious about dealing with him.

This is not to say that Catholics who are "wishy washy" in their faith are not going to be under attack. In fact, in some ways they will be attacked more severely because they are the "weak" members of the "herd" who are easier to destroy. Most often, however, the attacks against the weaker members are more subtle. They often do not look exactly like attacks, but more like the typical trials of life. The reason for this is so that the weaker members will not have their minds drawn to consider spiritual matters. The evil one does this because he knows that if a weak member starts thinking about spiritual matters, his faith may be revived.

Therefore, what are you doing to watch for the "devil hiding in the tall grass"? Do you know your own weaknesses that he is seeking to exploit? Are you aware of the attacks he has sent against you most recently? Has your mind been clouded to his attacks so that you do not respond to them with the strength Christ offers you? It is the responsibility of each one of us to do exactly like the Apostle Peter says and "be sober" and "watchful". In this day and age, we can never let our guard down; we must always be ready for the fight. If you are not ready, you have already lost the battle.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Sneaking in the Back Door

In 1969, Pope Paul VI prohibited communion in the hand (in Memoriale Domini). Within a few years, widespread disobedience to this command led to him giving in and allowing permission to be given on a limited basis for this practice. I will not judge anyone about this, I was not there and do not know all the factors; I merely refer to the historical event. In 1980 Pope John Paul II (in Inaestimabile Donum, 18) said "women are not permitted to act as altar servers". Within a few years, similar disobedience to the above situation also caused a change and Canon Law was reinterpreted to imply that girl-altar-boys were allowed. This is how changes (bad changes especially) are able to be snuck in the back door.

Having raised five children, I have seen just about every attempt to "wiggle" out of the rules. Often children know exactly what the rule is, but they try to ignore it. Sometimes they will just do what they want. Other times they try to stretch the rule ("you never said not to kick my brother in the head, you said not to punch him in the head!"). It is common for children sneakily to repeat a disobedience behind closed doors and hope that it does not get noticed, and that if it does, the parents will be worn out from trying to change the behavior and will eventually just give in. This is bad when children do it; it is horrible when adults do it.

When someone really wants to pressure someone to change, there are many methods to do so. The most effective method is to sneak the change in by disobedience, and then make the person think that the change was his own idea. Whenever someone switches his position on something it will always have more lasting effect if he thinks that he chose to change, rather than if he believes he was coerced. The most effective method of this is obvious: repeat a disobedience until they get used to it.

This is also how Mass done versus populum (the priest turning his back on Jesus) was snuck in the back door. It had been happening for years in Europe, eventually worked its way over to America, and finally got "grandfathered in" (no actual permission was ever given for this, and the rules in the Roman Missal 3rd edition still presume that the priest is facing the altar when speaking to the Lord!). This is quite a remarkable thing when you think about it. This means that no allowance was made for this behavior; thus, every priest is technically not following the Church's rule when he faces the people for the entire Mass (!).

In my desire to be faithful to our Catholic traditions, while navigating the tumultuous waters of modernist attacks, I often encounter various rules being broken, and find that I need to correct people. I must say (in case anyone doubts it) that I really do not like correcting people. In fact, my regular temptation is to avoid the correction as long as possible and hope that the people repent on their own. Yet, I know that this behavior is not what I am called to (and I will have to give account to God someday for how I ministered as a priest). Therefore, I grit my teeth, clench my fists, and speak to people as gently as I can.

When these encounters of correction come up, I find, more often than not, that people respond with an attitude of "what's the big deal? its only a little rule I'm breaking". No, they never actually say that, but that is what is clearly being said between the lines. I will tell you what the big deal is: bending a small rule makes it easier to bend a big rule, and once we start bending the big rules, we will next make it a permanent habit to break them. This is what has been happening in the liturgy over the past 50 years (as I said above). If we are going to find a way forward from this chaos, then we have to stop breaking the rules. We have to begin where it matters the most: in the Mass. We have to start doing exactly what we are supposed to do, and seeking joy in obedience.

This is why I like my "i's" dotted and my "t's" crossed. Not just because it is what we are supposed to do, but because it is for our own spiritual good, and thus it is for the spiritual good of the whole Catholic Church. So the next time you see a priest obeying the rules of the Mass (which, as laity, you should know what those rules are!), give thanks to God. Pray for that priest, because he is probably under attack for it (even if only in a spiritual manner -- which can also be very painful). Pray also for those priests (and laity) who continually disobey and seek to encourage others to disobey; pray that the Lord would grant them penitence. Pray for our Pope, and pray for the Church throughout the whole world. May God have mercy on our souls.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Bad Kings

A few days ago, the reading for morning prayer was in 1 Samuel 24. This is the time when King Saul was chasing after David trying to kill him, and David gets a chance to take Saul's life (and is encouraged to do so by some of his men) and yet refuses to harm him because "he is the Lord's anointed". In other words, he may be a bad king, but he is the king, and we need to treat him as such. In fact, when his men essentially encourage him to kill Saul, all he does it cut the corner of his cloak; but right after that David is overwhelmed with guilt for doing so and says it was wrong. That is holiness.

It is sometimes hard to obey good leaders, but when the leaders are bad it is even harder. We can often be tempted to treat them like an enemy (they might actually be enemies) and seek to bring them harm. The example, though, should be obvious to everyone reading this. How are we supposed to treat "the Lord's anointed" when he is doing things that very well might cause us harm? I am not speaking about a political leader (though that point should be clear); I am speaking about a spiritual leader. Whether it be a Deacon, Priest, Bishop, or (obviously) the Pope, they have all been literally anointed for their task. Anointing does not mean that they are being faithful to their task--some might be extremely unfaithful--but that does not relieve us from the duty of showing respect for the office that he holds.

Now, to be perfectly clear, I am not saying that when a king tries to kill you that you should not defend yourself, but look at what David did do. He tried to work it out with Saul. He spoke to him and attempted to find peace. In fact, it was David's unwillingness to repay evil for evil that taught Saul a lesson. Saul likely would not have been able to see that David was in the right without him responding in this way. It was David's humility that God used to ensure that truth be told and righteousness be evident.

Do you do things like David's "cutting off the edge" of Saul's cloak? Those "little" or "minor" comments and actions that are attacking a priest or bishop who has been unfaithful to his calling; are they really that bad? If we think like David, then we would be grieved at those "little" things. Yet, most today not only are not grieved by their bitter and spiteful words and actions, they are actually somewhat proud of them. They portray themselves as "standing for the truth" and being "holier" than the rest (I am thinking specifically of some of the traditionalist Catholic news outlets). 

When we experience what appears to be a complete defection from the faith by many clergymen today, how are we supposed to respond? Or maybe I should ask first, how do we respond? It is true that we may need to run from them, as David did when he fled from Saul. In this way, the laity may need to leave a parish (or sometimes leave an entire diocese) for the well being of themselves and their loved ones. This does happen; but when it does, it should be with the same spirit that David exemplified. As David said, "the Lord forbid that I should [attack His anointed one]". There is nothing wrong with pointing out the sin of an unrepentant clergyman (especially if other's well being is in danger) but if it is done with anger and hatred, it is sinful.

Nowhere in any of David's dealings with Saul do we find him saying that Saul's disobedience means that he is not actually the king. Even though the Lord Himself said that He regretted having made Saul king, David acknowledges that the king is the king. We certainly are not to be obedient to a clergyman (or Pope) who tells us to sin or to deny the Catholic faith handed down to us. If anyone tells you to disobey God, you are not supposed to obey them. Proper obedience is always to the Lord first, and obedience to clergy is only as a means of obedience to the Lord. Yet, short of a command to sin (either morally or doctrinally) we are supposed to obey him. We are to acknowledge that the Pope is the Pope (even if he is a bad Pope). We do have the promise that the Pope will never promulgate a false teaching, but that does not mean that the Pope himself will always hold to the truth perfectly.

This whole principle helps us to find rest in Christ. It is only when we keep our true hope and faith in Him, and not in any improper devotion to one of His "anointed" clergymen, that we can find confidence in serving our Lord. When we put our confidence in any clergyman (even the best clergyman) we will always be disappointed. We are all fallen humans (yes, even priests are fallen!), and we will not always please everyone. Acknowledging our weaknesses and the Lord's strengths keeps us clear about how to trust God. This way, even when a Bishop or a Pope fails to do what is right or to hold firmly to the faith, we can know that God is still in charge and He is the One we can rely on.

I encourage you, even if you have read it before, to go read the story of David and King Saul (1 Samuel 24). Look at the spirit that David shows and what an example it is to us. Then look at your own heart, and ask yourself whether you could respond the way that David did in that instance. If not, then there is some soul-searching that needs to be done. Israel was still a nation, even with a lousy king (and she had some kings down through years that were far worse than Saul!). The Roman Catholic Church is still the Church even if we have Bishops who encourage errors and a Pope who fails to hold to the faith "once given" to us. Our faith must be in Christ Jesus and Him alone.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Unhealthy Inquisitiveness

We all want to know things. Some want to know things more than others. Some only want to know mundane things (like how many beers it takes before their driving is impaired). Others are more inquisitive into things of the faith and want to know about theology and the like. Seeking of knowledge is generally not a bad thing. Yes, I said "generally" because there are some subjects that we are not supposed to seek to look into. For example, you are not supposed to be curious about what someone else says in the Sacrament of Confession. None of your business; leave it alone, and do not even speculate.

There are a number of areas that we are supposed to "leave it alone", and figuring out which those are is a difficult task. If your next door neighbor appears to be building a nuclear bomb in his back yard, are you supposed to look into it, or should you just let it go? This, and many other situations, necessitate the usage of wisdom. Sadly, very few people, including Catholics today, have a surplus of wisdom. In fact, we could go so far as to say that bad decisions and foolish behavior is something of a norm today.

Many want to justify their sinful desire to know by claiming that they are just "concerned". Gossip is gossip, no matter what you label it. The news media's claim that "the people have a right to know" is just a self-justification for their rude and shameful exposure of every piece of dirt they can find. In this vein, I have to say (though it saddens me that it is so) that calling yourself a "catholic" news organization does not mean that everything you report about is necessarily done rightly (even if you are reporting accurately -- which is not always the case these days).

How about when it comes to scandalous events in the Church? Should we "want to know"? That is a tough one. Sometimes, yes, it is important for us to find out about something that has happened so that we can know what we are able to do about it. Other times, unfortunately, we want to know just out of a shameful desire (which is usually called being a "talebearer" and was once upon a time considered sinful).

The line between a holy reason for desiring knowledge about scandals and a sinful reason is not always clear. I can say this, if you are one who jumps to conclusions and constantly finds something bad in everything, then you are probably not seeking the knowledge for a holy purpose. There are those Catholics whose view of the world is very un-Catholic and who are constantly finding evil but never finding good ("chicken little" is what I like to call them). When one of these people becomes the head of a "catholic news organization" then what they are actually promoting is a protestant view of the world. You really need to stay away from these groups as they will only tear down your faith and make you more depressed and miserable than anything.

Another "red flag" is the simple question: how much time are you spending trying to "find the real truth"? The more time you scour the internet (which is not, by the way, the real world!) the more likely you are not leaving the problem in God's hands. After all, how much can you really do to help if you do figure out the "truth"? Is the situation under your authority? Those whose minds are stuck in the "blogosphere" need to realize that the Christian life is not written in binary; it is written on hearts. We are supposed to be concerned with what God has given us today (and not what He has given someone else today).

There is a "healthy inquisitiveness" and an "unhealthy" one. Is searching out knowledge about scandalous things really helping your faith? Are you becoming more Christlike because of it, or are you actually becoming more like our protestant brethren who are constantly "protesting" something (that is what it means to be "protestant" after all!)? The Catholic life is a life of joy, not miserable griping. We are not supposed to ignore when evil happens, but we are also not supposed to become obsessed with it either.

In summary, let me say this: where is your heart in your search for knowledge? Is your search coming from a desire to become a more faithful Catholic? Really? Make sure before you say "yes". Because if, down deep, you are actually saying, "I've just gotta know what he did and said", then your pursuit is unhealthy, and likely ungodly. This kind of pursuit of knowledge is only going to take you away from true godliness and it will prevent you from living the life that God has called you to. Avoid a life of speculations. "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Phil 4:8).

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Denying Hell Leads to Hell

A pagan friend of mine once told someone to "go to hell", so I asked him whether he now believed in hell. He replied, "of course not", explaining that "hell" is only an expression that means "something bad" but that enlightened people know that it is not a reality. I told him that I must not be enlightened, since I "knew" no such thing.

For many today the denial of hell is a selfishly motivated attempt to avoid the reality of Judgment Day. Yes, I have known some who will claim that they reject it for theological or philosophical reasons, but I have my suspicions about their actual motivations. Down deep we all would rather that there were no accountability for our sinful actions, but we also know that this is not the case.

In today's gospel reading for Mass, we hear Jesus warning people about the reality of eternal Judgment. He even goes through a specific list of cities and says "woe to you" because they refused the clear testimony of the gospel that He had given to them. Wow. He was not very nice was He? Essentially, He said, "You guys are headed to hell if you do not shape up!" Their denial of eternal judgment is what was making them lax in their faith and thus taking them right to hell.

Have you ever heard a Catholic clergyman tell that to anyone at all? Generally speaking, we are too timid to venture into the area of "hell". We do not like talking about it, and we certainly would be shocked if a priest were to say something as directly as Jesus. Some of this hesitancy is probably because we have gotten beaten down with sentimentality and want just "nice sayings"; none of that "fire and brimstone" stuff for us!

Yet, the entire context of the gospel is Jesus saying, "Hey, you are not taking eternal hell seriously; time to wake up because it is real!" I do not think I could ever speak with the perfect wisdom of Christ the way that He did while He was on this earth. Yet, I truly wish that I could speak about hell as clearly and confidently as He did. It might actually touch someone in the right way and bring them to genuine repentance. That is the very thing that Jesus was aiming at when He spoke about hell: the repentance of His hearers.

Could this be the very reason why so few people find genuine repentance today? Is it because we do not take hell seriously enough, and so, as a result, we do not see just how horrible our sins are (even the smallest of them deserves hell)? If many of these lapsed clergymen who have abused those under their care (either physically, liturgically, or theologically) had a deeper sense of their sins and a genuine belief in hell, then they likely would not have committed these terrible sins.

The word of God is clear in many places that to deny Jesus means you are going to eternal hell. Those who claim the name of Christ (especially clergymen) need to know deeply in their very souls, that their actions will be judged by the Almighty Lord someday. To bank on His mercy when you are denying the faith is presumption, since His mercy is only promised to the penitent (those trying to overcome their sins).

What is your perspective on your sins? Do you think lightly of them, and at the same time think that everyone else's sins are horrible? If so, then you are still not thinking of hell seriously, because you treat it as something for "him over there" and that is not what Jesus was aiming at in the gospel. He wants each of us to ponder the fact that if we reject the grace of God, then hell is exactly where we will end up. As sad as it may make us, hell is a reality. Let us take that sadness and turn it into penitence. Our eternal destiny is at stake.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Rejecting a Cure?

Can you imagine a doctor telling someone that he had a deadly disease and giving him a medicine that would cure it, and the patient responding with reluctance because "I'm just too busy to bother with something like that"? We would presume that the patient either had a death wish or some mental problem. None of us would intentionally choose to avoid something that can cure a sickness unless we had an extremely good reason.

Now translate this scenario to the spiritual realm. What if the Lord revealed to us what to do to help overcome some of our greatest struggles, and which would also help others around us with their problems? Would any of us knowingly choose to ignore it and instead just go on with our lives? It is sad, but this very thing has happened. God has given us a great remedy for many of our own and society's ills, but most have come up with excuses and avoided doing what our Lord wants.

Our Lady in her apparitions at Fatima told us that we needed to say the rosary every day. Some have followed this pattern, but many (if not most) Catholics do not follow this advice. We can look at history over the next fifty years after Fatima and see how things did not get better, but worse. This means that people were not heeding her counsel. Instead, for whatever reason, most just went about with their daily lives and presumed that they did not need to pray the rosary more frequently.

There are many proofs from history (many more than the battle of Lepanto) that show us the incredible power of the rosary. It was given to us, after all, to battle evil and to help us overcome the devil and the world. Why do we not use it more? Why is it so often treated as an unnecessary extra in the religious life? It was the demons who infested Anneliese Michel (go look up her story if you do not know it) that, when forced to speak the truth by the exorcist, said that the loved it that people thought of the rosary as something "for old women" and that they feared the rosary more than any other weapon given by God.

Why would we not take advantage of this great source of holiness more than we do? Some of the excuses that I have heard are shocking, and can only be justified in a mind that is focused more on self-gratification than holiness. It is likely that the only reason is a horrible demonic influence that has clouded the minds of many Catholics and makes them think little of the great sacramentals that have been given to us by God through His Church. Certainly, our gracious Lord would never discourage us from holiness.

This is not to say that no one is saying the rosary on a daily basis. Yet, if there were more saying it, then we can be assured that it would have more impact on society and on the Church. It is much like physical health, if a large percentage of a community were to have a poor level of health, then the few who are healthy would be more likely to catch various sicknesses. Are we truly committing ourselves to the specific forms of holiness that have been pointed out to us in some of the most clear ways?

I know of a few parishes where there is a "rosary group" that gathers to say the rosary on a regular basis (though sadly, most today are only women -- we need some men showing their faith as an example to the boys!). There are also still some parishes where the rosary is said before every Mass. I would like to see that happen more often. If it did, can you imagine the impact that it would have on those parishes, especially if it was more than just one or two of the faithful who gather to say it?

As St. Pope John Paul II said, the rosary is the whole gospel. Pray it so that the gospel can influence you more and more every day. Pray it so that you can influence others each day. Pray it so that we can offer up the prayers necessary to help bring our society, and our Church out of problems that it is spiraling into. Pray it for the salvation of the world.