Friday, December 30, 2011

The Admiration of Dictators: A growing phenomenon

The Eulogy of Kim Jong-Il:

It startles the average person that intellectuals, celebrities and politicians in America are sympathetic to ruthless dictators. In fact, many of the have given public expression of their support and admiration for political leaders like Mao Tse-tung, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez and North Korea’s recently deceased Communist leader, Kim Jong-Il. As regards to Kim Jong-Il, the media and politicians recently eulogized this North Korean leader as “smart and ruthless,” “shrewd and calculating,” “tactically brilliant,” and “profoundly important around the world.” Former Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, in a surprising tone of sympathy, said that “[H]e would really have loved to have been a movie director… It was possible to talk with him. He's not a nut. I think that's the main kind of point.”


Viva Castro and Mao:

Certainly this troubling kind of admiration is nothing new. Actor Danny Glover has made his affections known for Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. Movie producer Oliver Stone said that Castro is, in his own words, "Very selfless and moral. One of the world's wisest men." Another celebrated movie producer, Steven Spielberg, once spoke in glowing terms of the Communist leader of Cuba: “Meeting Fidel Castro was the eight most important hours of my life." And Jesse Jackson took his admiration for the Cuban dictator a step further: “Viva Fidel! Viva Che! Castro is the most honest and courageous politician I've ever met."

It is also important to note that the admiration for dictators found its way into the White House in recent years. Anita Dunn, former Social Communications Director of the Obama administration, referred to Mao Tse-tung, former Communist leader of China, as one of her two “favorite political philosophers.” Keep in mind that Mao, Castro and Kim Jong-Il, put together, have killed millions of innocent civilians.


The Bigger Picture:

Talk radio commentators and political pundits rightly criticize this peculiar trend among intellectuals, celebrities and politicians. However, if Catholics only consider the admiration for dictators in a political context and therefore dismiss it as a mere annoyance to some conservatives, then I am afraid they are missing the bigger picture. In fact, they would be turning a blind eye to a looming threat that will, sooner or later, cause the Church in America much suffering. This goes beyond what any Republican or conservative might find offensive. No doubt, this is a spiritual and moral matter which concerns the mission of the Catholic Church. It is important to remember history: Dictators have never been friends of Christ’s nor have they been friendly to the proclamation of the Gospel. What they are known for doing is turning faithful Catholics in martyrs and using repressive measures to silence preaching. And to find that university professors, actors and elected officials in our country are becoming increasingly sympathetic to dictators should be a cause for concern.


A Costly Gullibility:

What we have observed so far begs the question: Why do some prominent intellectuals, celebrities and politicians admire dictators who have been known for killing scores of people? Mind you, this is not just a twenty-first century phenomenon. This demographic of elites have been duped by Stalin, Hitler and other ruthless regimes in the twentieth century too (read the “Liberal Death Wish” by Malcom Muggeridge). Wasn’t it Stalin who called liberals useful idiots? It is amazing how secular-liberalism can render intelligent minds and accomplished individuals to be so gullible.

Take for instance the Catholic and the Jewish voting bloc. The majority of Catholics and Jews voted for President Barak Obama in 2008. But needless to say his administration has initiated policies that have challenged the Church’s religious liberty in America (i.e. the federal mandate to have Catholic agencies cover birth control and abortifacients in their healthcare coverage) and Israel’s national security (i.e. his call for the return to the 1967 borders). However, orthodox Catholics and Jews knew beforehand this would be the case if Obama were to be elected. His current policies are no surprise to them! Yes, people are quite capable of admiring those who would do them harm.


The Causes of Unfounded Admiration:

In any case, the admiration for dictators goes beyond the day to day scrimmage between liberals and conservatives. It has profound spiritual and moral implications for society. Today this sympathy for evil among intellectuals, celebrities and politicians is more effectively communicated to the people than, let’s say, a hundred years ago. This is why Catholic Church should have something to say about this growing phenomenon.

As for the reasons behind this troubling admiration, there are at least three:

1. Traditionally, the secular-liberal strain has been strong among intellectuals, celebrities and politicians. As such, moral absolutes have never been well received by them. Hollywood celebrities in particular are not known for their chastity, marital fidelity and long marriages. That’s why they rarely make movies which hallmark these virtues. Even Tim Allen’s rendition of Santa Clause is divorced and remarried. Imagine that!

Is it any surprise then that personal sin is not a topic of emphasis in Hollywood or even Washington? If actors or even politicians cannot see themselves as faithful spouses; if they opt in favor of an abortion because of an unwanted pregnancy; and if their personal sins go unresolved and therefore unforgiven, then human guilt must be atoned for through something. And that something- that substitute -is usually their investment in social causes like environmentalism, animal rights activism and anti-capitalism protests. Perhaps, this is why they tend to see people more in groups rather than as individuals. Hate crimes against homosexuals or ethnic groups take on great importance under such an ideology. But a high price often comes at the expense of the dignity of individual. Unfortunately, the violation of human rights as it pertains to the individual person is overlooked. After all, isn't homicide wrong because a human being has been murdered and not because the victim was black or white, or homosexual or heterosexual?

The point to be had is this: When we are blind to personal sin then social sin and political causes takes on an exaggerated importance; so much so that we become blind to the moral evil dictators are guilty of. If the plank (personal sin) is left lodged in our eye, then not only will we not be able to remove the speck from our neighbor’s eye as our Lord commanded, but the much bigger planks in the eyes of political leaders will go unnoticed too.

2. Secondly, when we dethrone the true and benevolent God of the universe from our hearts, the idols that we replace him with are never as kind. The Jews of the first century found this out when they rejected Christ as their King. “And he [Pilate] said to the Jews, ‘Behold, your king!’ They cried out, ‘Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your king?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’” (John 19:14-15) It just so happened that forty years later, Titus, the general of the Roman army, under Caesar's leadership, destroyed Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple. This changed the Jewish worship and way of life for centuries to come. The words, "We have no king but Caesar" came back to haunt them in a formidable fashion. "Their king" eventually betrayed their trust.

In our day, prominent supporters of secular-liberalism give the impression that they would rather be slaves of an all-powerful State, or even a ruthless Islamic theocracy, than be free in a Christian society. Hatred can have this effect on the soul. Moreover, hatred among people can be so strong that it can drive them to embrace that which is positively harmful to them. As Bishop Sheen said regarding Communists, “Those who feel individually impotent to vent their hate upon a person or a class or an institution feel that if they joined Communism they could find a corporate expression for their pent-up animosities and their dammed-up hate.” Some even unknowingly forge alliances with the devil in order to team up against Christianity. Little do they know that sooner or later the devil will turn on them.

3. The third reason behind the admiration of dictators is more practical in nature. The fascination with celebrities or high profile people may be attractive at first but it gets old after a while. When you have throngs of people always taking your picture, wanting your autograph or stalking you, then the crowds of people become an annoyance. Those who enjoy the luxuries of power, fame and fortune begin to see people as sheep who are groping for a shepherd. And it also happens that politicians and celebrities begin to see themselves as their shepherd. When this illusion of grandeur kicks in, then the sheep can easily be regarded as cattle to be manipulated. After all, people in the spotlight instinctively know that they do not deserve the adulation they receive on a day to day basis. As such, the multitude who fawn over them are perceived to be dupes; and annoying ones at that. Perhaps this explains why intellectuals, celebrities and politicians often set out to impose standards and rules for people they themselves would not subject themselves to.

The admiration for dictators and the moral and spiritual reasons which lend to it, speak to an age old truth about God. In Proverbs he said, "For he who finds me finds life, and wins favor from the LORD; But he who misses me harms himself; all who hate me love death." (Proverbs 8:35-36)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Map of Life: Unveiled Hearts

The Word of God is that unchangeable yet inexhaustable standard of truth which has served as a reliable map of life for thousands of years. Map of Life is a feature of Sky View where we garner whatever insights or directives Scripture has to offer (if people like it, we'll post this series a couple of times a week). As the saying goes, praying is our way of speaking to God, reading Scripture is God's way of speaking to us. Indeed our relationship with God is a two way street. To take at least 15-30 minutes a day and meditate on the Word of God. It is food for the soul and light for the mind. Slowly but surely, this spiritual exercise is bound to yield its fruit. You will then notice a difference about the way you see God, yourself and the world around you!

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Passage: Luke 2:33-35

The child's father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

Sky View Comments:

When the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph presented the child Jesus in the Temple, St. Simeon, evidently a Jewish priest, joyfully received the long awaited Messiah into his hands. But from this joy, a prophetic utterance came forth from this holy man;s mouth for Mary, the Mother of God. Notice, he did not address this prophecy to St. Joseph. By the time Jesus would be begin his public ministry, St. Joseph is believed to have already passed away. In any case, this prophecy concerning Mary does not only pertain to her suffering and grief as the Mother of Sorrows (referring to Mary at the foot of the Cross), it also speaks to the effects of that suffering and grief. St. Simeon prophecied, in addition to the Christ being a "sign of contradiction," that the Mother of the Christ will have something to do with many hearts being revealed.

Interestingly, many hearts being revealed is none other than Judgment Day. St. Paul makes reference to this when he wrote the Corinthians: "Therefore, do not make any judgment before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God." (I Corinthians 4:5) In the Gospel of Luke, our Lord also speaks of this final exposure of thoughts, words, and deeds. He said, "There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the darkness will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed on the housetops.” (Luke 12:2-3) St. Thomas Aquinas on the nature of Judgment Day when he taught that every thought, word, and deed will be revealed for everyone to see.

In his Gospel, St. Luke subtly points out that by Christ's redemptive sacrifice on the Cross and through the piercing of Mary's soul, the sheep and the goats, light and darkness, the saved and the damned will be separated. The former will be given their reward whereas the latter will be punished. Indeed, from this passage of Luke 2:33-35, we can infer that Mary will be very much a part of Christ's Second Coming when God's mercy and justice will be instituted for the final time. A fervent devotion to her, as the Saints taught, is a sign of predestination!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The first Showdown between Church & State: Herod and Christ

“Christ came not to bring peace but a sword and that the Kingdom of God comes not by the elimination of conflict but through an increasing opposition and tension between the church and the world. The conflict between the two cities is as old as humanity and must endure until the end of time.

And though the church may meet with ages of prosperity, and her enemies may fail and the powers of the world may submit to her sway, these things are no criterion of success. She wins not by majorities but by martyrs and the cross is her victory.

She has been the guest and the exile, the mistress and the martyr, of nations and civilizations and has survived them all. Viewing history from this standpoint the Christian will not be confident in success or despondent in failure.”

Christopher Dawson, The Kingdom of God and History 1938



Introducing lukewarmness:

God’s hates lukewarmness because it leads to the paralysis of the will and apathy of the heart. No ideology or state of mind communicates this moral and spiritual malaise better in modern times than secular-liberalism. Under this worldview there are no extremes of goodness and evil. In other words, great Saints and heroes as well as evil men who are bent on destroying others are discredited. That's right! Goodness and evil, winning and losing, sin and virtue, salvation and damnation, are truths that are muddled in the middle.

The people of God in the New Testament were certainly not exempt from this kind of mediocre middle. The Risen Christ issued the following warning to the church in Laodicea about its dangers: “I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, 'I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,' and yet do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” (Revelation 3:15-17)

So few know that human beings can rise above themselves in heroic sanctity and become like angels. On the other hand, we can be equally ignorant about the human ability to descend into an animal-like existence. Yes, people can become something beneath their human dignity. But those who are morally and spiritually lukewarm deny the heights of holiness and the depths of evil. Indeed, they are blinded to the existence of Saints and sinners. But even more harmful is their denial of heaven and hell. Yet, if we are to take Scripture seriously, these two worlds are mightily engaged in a contest over each and every soul. As such, resting contently in the middle can last only so long. Sooner or later we will be forced to choose between the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of darkness.


The spiritual slumber of Judaism:

In the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel we are introduced to the two kings who happen to represent the two worlds of heaven and hell: Christ, the newborn King and King Herod. In the middle, if you will, stands the Three Kings from the Orient, the Magi. They represent all the political rulers of future ages who would have the choice to either pattern their governance in the likeness of the tyrant, King Herod or in the likeness of the servant-leader, Christ the King.

Fr. Cornelius Lapide, a sixteenth century priest, said that during the centuries just before the birth of Christ, Judaism had fallen into a spiritual slumber. As such, the Jewish nation was vulnerable to powerful foreign enemies such as the Roman Empire. According to an ancient Catholic historian Eusebius (260-341 A.D.), in the year 63 B.C., for the first time since the time of Moses, “the succession of Jewish rulers and governors came to an end” under the Roman ruler of Pompey. Their political independence would not be restored until 1948 A.D.

Israel knew firsthand that slavery to sin translated into political slavery. Catholics too would have to learn this painful lesson from time to time throughout Church history. Indeed, the Church is the hope and despair of mankind. When she is spiritually strong, society is lifted up. When her members fall into worldiness and lukewarmness, a moral and spiritual malaise spreads throughout the land. As one political commentator said, what happens to the Catholic Church happens to America. Perhaps the twenty-first century Catholic Church can bequeath her wealth of historic and spiritual lessons from her own past so that America can be spared of this painful lesson.



Enter King Herod:

St. Gregory once said, “When the King of heaven was born, the earthly king was troubled because, indeed, terrestrial exaltation is confounded when celestial greatness is disclosed.” As indicated, King Herod, at the time of Christ’s birth, was a puppet ruler over the Jews for the Roman emperors. He happened to be half Jewish and half Idumean. Needless to say, King Herod was despised by the Jews but he did do a few things to their liking. For example, he expanded the Jewish Temple, the construction of which lasted 46 years. But the problem was that he also saw himself as the legitimate king of the Jews. He loved his power. And to be sure, the coming Messiah was considered by him to be a threat. When the Magi showed up at his doorstep inquiring about the whereabouts of the Messiah, King Herod was disturbed to say the least.

King Herod was a good politician. He had religion on his lips but his heart was far from honoring God. He pretended as though he wanted to pay homage to the newborn Messiah. However, what he said and what he did were two entirely different things. Every power hungry ruler must speak about peace if he wants to lord over his subjects. Sound familiar? When King Herod found out that the Magi did not return to Jerusalem in order to give a report as to the location of the Messiah’s birthplace, he launched a campaign to exterminate the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem, that is, the newborn children who served as the first martyrs of the Catholic Church.

Political power is seductive. It appeals to so many human vices which lurk within the human soul: pride, vanity, lust, just to name a few. But when political rulers throw off the laws of God and say to themselves, “Mine!” then there is no limit to their power. There is no human right or legal precedent that will stand in the way of implementing their political agenda. This is how dictators operate. “Herod’s inordinate ambition for retaining and augmenting the kingdom of Judæa drove him to this horrible infanticide…And he himself was ambitious of the title, and told the Jews that he was their promised Messiah.” Not even King Herod’s fatherly love for his sons tempered his lust for power. After all, he “slew his own sons, who would have succeeded him in his kingdom.” If its any consolation, oppressive political regimes and rulers rarely last very long. As far as Herod's dynasty is concerned, like the modern day Soviet Union and Third Reich, it didn't even last a hundred years.

Just as nations in moral decline dispense with pre-born children through abortion, political tyrants historically have dealt with their enemy by killing their babies through forced infanticide. Such was the case with the Egyptian Pharaoh, Ramesses II, who ordered the killing of Hebrew infants during the time of Moses. Such was the case with King Herod when the birth of Christ threatened his reign.

Not much has changed, has it? Today’s political leaders are a bit more subtle and refined when it comes to the murder of pre-born children. But if the advancement of their political agenda requires it, then they will certainly favor its practice; of course, on the condition that such inhumane acts are conducted behind closed doors. Keep in mind that during the first century, infanticide was not only engineered by tyrants but it was a socially acceptable practice among the people. Keep in mind that citizens quite often trigger the growth of sin and vice, but their rulers perfect its practice.

Stay tuned for The first Showdown between Church & State: Herod and Christ II

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Historical notes:

1. Israel was first governed by Judges, then Kings, and then during the four centuries preceding coming of the Messiah, the Sanhedrin (a council of Sadducees, Pharisees, priests and scribes) was the last to rule. Although the Sanhedrin was still in existence when Christ began his public ministry, it no longer ruled independently. This is why they had to consult with Pilate and Herod- both of whom were appointed by the Roman emperor -in order to put Christ to death.

2. Idumeans were descendants of Esau, brother of Jacob. As such, both Jews and Idumeans were descendants of Abraham. Remember when God said to Moses, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?” Abraham was the God-father, so to speak; Isaac, the son; and Jacob, the grandson whose twelve sons founded the twelve tribes of Israel. They are called the Patriarchs in the Old Testament.

3. As mentioned above, despotic rule generally does not very long. It either implodes from within or is destroyed from without. Herod's dynasty was put to an end when Titus, and his Roman army leveled Jerusalem to the ground. With that said, the papacy is going on 2,000 years old. This is miraculous given the duration of political regimes and other institutions. As Pope St. Pius X reminded Catholics, "Kingdoms and empires have passed away; peoples once renowned for their history and civilization have disappeared; time and again the nations, as though overwhelmed by the weight of years, have fallen asunder; while the Church, indefectible in her essence, united by ties indissoluble with her heavenly Spouse, is here to-day radiant with eternal youth, strong with the same primitive vigor with which she came from the Heart of Christ dead upon the Cross."


4. In Hebrew, Bethlehem means "house of bread," and Ephrathah means "fruit bearing."

The first Showdown between Church & State: Martyrs and the Holy Innocents

“To act bravely is the part of a Roman; to suffer bravely is the part of a Christian.”

-An early Christian saying


The Church and the State are like two brothers who come from the same Father. Both happen to be creations of God. And when they work together for the common good, society prospers. St. Ivo, bishop of Chartres, confirmed this to Pope Paschal II in a letter:

"When kingdom and priesthood are at one, in complete accord, the world is well ruled, and the Church flourishes, and brings forth abundant fruit. But when they are at variance, not only smaller interests prosper not, but even things of greatest moment fall into deplorable decay."

But like Cain, who, out of jealousy, killed his brother Abel, the State over the centuries has sought to repress the Church. Just as God favored Abel’s sacrifice over Cain’s, the same God favors his own kingdom above any political empire that be. After all, Christ founded a Church, not a government or political party. To be sure, the mission of the Church and the duties of the State are to be respected in their own right. Nevertheless, the Gospel makes it clear that God's kingdom does not belong to this world.

Still, political rulers like King Herod have taken great offense to the superiority of God’s kingdom. As St. John Chrysostom said, “Unquenchable is the anger which jealousy of the rival of a crown enkindles. Like a wounded wild beast, it tears in pieces whatever meets the eye, as if the cause of his wounds.” In fact, the aggressive actions taken by Herod against the newborn Messiah traced out the increasing opposition and tension between the church and the world that would unfold for centuries to come. From the beginning of Jesus' life on earth, the first one to seek his destruction was an ambitious political ruler.

Yet, what is curious is that God could have killed King Herod if he wanted to. After all, in the book of Acts, Ananias and his wife Sapphira were struck down by the Lord.  This was because they had lied to the Apostles about their possessions. Now, if the Lord would have done the same thing with Herod- who was certainly guilty of a greater sin -the Holy Family would have been spared at least 2 to 7 years of exile in Egypt. Furthermore, the mothers of the slain babies in Bethlehem would have been spared their great sorrow and grief.

Again, the important thing to note is that God "could have" prevented Herod’s evil design of mass infanticide. He could have spared much heartache the Holy Family encountered by taking refuge in a foreign land. He could have spared the heart wrenching experience of parents witnessing the slaughter of their infants and toddlers.

Yet, the Lord who is all good and all powerful permitted this evil. As siuch, the people of Bethlehem had to come to terms with two seemingly contrary attributes of God: His goodness and his power. If the God of Hosts is all good and all powerful then how can he allow this terrible tragedy to happen? This is something every believer must come to terms with when a loved one dies...especially at such a young age.

It is sometimes asked, “Why couldn’t God save my beloved from death? He could have done so, why didn’t he?”  This is where the mystery of the Cross enters into the picture. This is where the faith of every follower of Christ is put to the ultimate test. But ultimately, this test and trial by fire is the very instrument God uses in saving souls.

Pope St. Leo the Great said that through the martyrdom of the Holy Innocents “it was prophetically declared that the Church of God should increase by the cruel fury of her persecutors; since by the punishments and deaths of the blessed martyrs, whilst Christians were supposed to be diminished in numbers, they were augmented by example.” This same pontiff went on to quote an earlier Church Father, Tertullian: “And the blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christians.”

In short, therer are different types of martyrs. Sixteenth century priest and scholar, Cornelius Lapide, wrote the following: “Hence Doctors teach that there are three classes of martyrs. To the first belong those who, in deed as well as will, are martyrs. Such are adults who voluntarily accept death from a tyrant for the sake of Christ. The second class are those who are martyrs only in deed; such as infants who are slain for Christ. The third are those who are martyrs only in will—who desire martyrdom as St. Francis desired it.”

To paraphrase an early Christian saying: To act bravely is the part of a soldier; to suffer bravely is the part of a Christian. It is also part of the Christian to know that an all-powerful God could prevent evil from happening but chooses not to for a purpose of saving; especially when such evil descends upon his Church. And when that evil happens to be perpetrated by the powerful of this world, especially political rulers, we should be confident that the persecuted Church, like her founder, will prevail.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Intensification of Christ's Presence

Step by Step: The Unfolding of Christ's Presence

As we proceed from the outdoors to the sanctuary, from the business of the week to the Sacred Liturgy on Sunday, the presence of Christ gradually intensifies until we greet him at the altar. From the sanctuary we are then sent out to sanctify the world and claim it of Christ with the knowledge that the universe, like our human bodies, will be transformed into the likeness of Christ's glorified body. The presence of Christ intensifies with each of the following phases: 1. God is present everywhere. 2. Christ is present in his body, the Church as they gather before the altar. 3. Christ is then present in this spoken Word. 4. Christ is present, in yet another way, in his priestly minister as the words of consecration are spoken. 5. Christ's presence peaks, if you will, in the Eucharist. 6. Not only spiritually but Christ is then sacramentally present- body, blood, soul and divinity -in the Christian who stands before the altar. 7. Not only will the faithful Christian inherit a resurrected body from this gradation of Christ's presence, but a new and transfigured universe will come about as well. Indeed, it was a common teaching among the Church Fathers and early Christians that the world was created for the Church; that is, for the elect who, throughout the course of world history, would be saved by the saving merits of Christ.


God is Everywhere:

To begin with, we know, as Christians, that God is everywhere in the universe. Psalm 139 reads, “Where can I hide from your spirit? From your presence, where can I flee? If I ascend to the heavens, you are there; if I lie down in Sheol, you are there too.” The might of the Lord sustains all things. Indeed, no part of the universe can exist without his presence.


The Body of Believers:

But as soon as we walk through the doors of the church building and into the sanctuary for the Sacred Liturgy, what we encounter is the gradual intensification of Christ’s presence. In the assembly, where the faithful gather, the presence of Christ is manifest in a special way. We are no longer considering God’s presence as he exists in creation but rather as he dwells in the hearts of his people. This presence is described as the Church or the Body of Christ by St. Paul. Our Lord himself said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” The early Christians had a lively sense of this divine presence in the Church where the totality of believers is to be found and where the fullness of his gifts and revelation resides. Around the year 180 A.D., St. Irenaeus, bishop and martyr wrote: “Where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church and all grace."


The Spoken Word:

From the assembly we proceed to the Liturgy of the Word where the Word of God is proclaimed. When the Scripture readings are read aloud, the presence of God is taken to yet another level. Ancient Christians always made it a point to read Scripture out loud. For instance, St. Philip overheard the Ethiopian Eunuch, a court official of Candace, reading the book of Isaiah as he was traveling(Acts 8:30). The ancient belief is that when spoken the Word of God becomes present and active. Here again, this is yet another special manifestation of his presence. “Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)


Persona Christi and the Eucharist:

Now we draw close to the culmination of the Mass when, in Persona Christi, Jesus Christ, the High Priest, mystically enters into his minister as the words of consecration are pronounced over the bread and wine. Here is yet another presence of Christ which is transmitted through the Sacrament of Holy Orders. From this special presence, namely, Persona Christi, Jesus immediately into another, yet higher presence when ordinary bread and wine become his body, blood, soul and divinity. As St. Irenaeus said, “Just as bread from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread but the Eucharist, made up of two elements, one earthly and one heavenly, so also our bodies, in receiving the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, for they have the hope of resurrection.” The Eucharist, therefore, is given to the Christian on the altar as Manna was given to the Israelites in the desert. Upon this altar- and only at the altar –is the bread of God is served. As St. Ignatius of Antioch, disciple of St. John the Apostle and Bishop of Antioch, said, “Let no man deceive himself: if anyone be not within the altar, he is deprived of the bread of God.”


Christians as Tabernacles:

Before the altar the communicant receives the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. By virtue of our Sacramental Communion with Christ, we are made into walking tabernacles, Christ-bearers, if you will. With this we are then are sent out into the world to sanctify it.


The Tranformation of the World:

As Pope Benedict XVI taught in 2005 at World Youth Day, the transformation of bread and wine into Jesus Christ prefigures the kind of change that God will bring about in our resurrected bodies. Indeed, through the glorification of our Risen Lord and through our resurrected bodies the universe itself will be transfigured. The first pope of the Catholic Church, namely, St. Peter, makes reference to this when he writes, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out. Since everything is to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought (you) to be, conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved in flames and the elements melted by fire. But according to his promise we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (II Peter 3:10-13)

This is where the intensification of Christ’s presence leads; to a new heaven and a new earth. Indeed, every time we witness the transformation of bread and wine into the real presence of Christ on the altar, we are witnessing, at the same, a preview of things to come.

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~The Intensification of Christ's Presence has been revised and was originally posted in 2010.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

St. Louis de Montfort & Christians in the Latter Times

Reposting for new Sky View readers: 

People from all walks of life are making predictions about the future. Most of these predictions are pessimistic and downright bleak; some justifiably so. For instance, economic decline and political instability are causes for concern for a lot of people. Another question that seems to linger is: What is tomorrow's generation of Americans going to be like? Are they going to be equal to their mission of keeping liberty, democracy and progress alive?

I refer to today's generation of youth and young adults (ages 14-19, 20's and 30's) as the "I-pod generation." The current fixation on texting, i-pods, i-pads, walkmans and nooks is widespread among this age bracket. The fascination with these gadgets will certainly set this generation apart from previous ones. No doubt, there will be some unfavorable social effects. Just to enjoy the company of another person who happens to be in the same room- and to further have the full attention without a text ringer going off -is getting more challenging by the day. Indeed, the simplicity of face-to-face interactions and the appreciation of the here and now is going out of style...so it seems.

If that wasn't enough of a downer we can pick up the New Testament and turn to Second Timothy chapter 3 where St. Paul issues the following warning: "But understand this: there will be terrifying times in the last days. People will be self-centered and lovers of money, proud, haughty, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, irreligious, callous, implacable, slanderous, licentious, brutal, hating what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, as they make a pretense of religion but deny its power." (II Timothy 3:1-5) Needless to say, the people in the last days don't sound very good. This is another cause for concern.

Unfortunately, these negative predictions are likely to induce spirit of melancholy and discouragement among Christians. Yet we know (or should know) that such a disposition of mind is not from God. If you read the writings of the Saints you will find that what the Holy Spirit impresses upon the soul is that of peace and hope.

Take for instance the early Christians. They had witnessed the collapse of the Roman Empire- the greatest of all empires at the time. Yet, the people of God were full of hope, pressing forward to the future, anticipating a better day. What inspired this? It was their consciousness of eternity and the eventual coming of God's kingdom. This happy truth preoccupied their thoughts and it captured their affections! They knew a better place awaited them. This hope not only inspired heroic acts of martyrdom but it led to the greatest civilization to ever have existed- the Christian civilization.

If you take a closer look at the annals of history you will find that the Christian vision and imagination provided incentives for creativity and innovations. Indeed, the widespread belief that life really begins when we die also inspired a generous spirit of sacrifice and a spirit of magnanimity to try new things and to take risks for the glory of God.

I see a similar pattern among today's remnant; that is, among today's well-formed Catholics who, no doubt, are few in number. Nevertheless, the present day Catholic who knows and loves Christ possesses more balance and zeal than his or her spiritual ancestors in recent centuries. Like the early Christians, today's follower of Christ is becoming more keenly aware of what he is being saved from. But as modern civilization drifts away from the light of the Gospel, it is also becoming more apparent that humanity is narcissistic when left to itself. Man needs God and without God man is all to inclined to be indifferent to human suffering! We seem to learn this anew every time we turn on the television. With these challenging times comes God's answer: The witness of Christians; especially that of the Mother of God.

St. Louis de Montfort (1673-1716) was one who saw the importance of Mary's witness. He had come to realize just how important devotion to her would be in the modern era. In fact, he predicted that she would play a bigger role in future centuries (and indeed she has through her various apparitions). He argued that just as the first coming of Christ came to be realized through her, so too would be his Second Coming.

One startling prediction, among others, is that, according to St. Louis, the Muslims would be converted to Christ (read quote below). Most Christians know that the Jews must be converted before Jesus Christ comes again. But few know of St. Louis's prophesy about the Muslims. Perhaps the vision in Revelations 12 of the Woman clothed with the sun with the moon (The crescent is the symbol of Islam) under her feet is an indication of this.

In any case, in the book, True Devotion- a book that popularized the consecration to the Blessed Virgin -St. Louis speaks of the Christians in the latter times in a very praiseworthy and reverential manner. One would think he was writing about the early Christians by the way he pays tribute to them. Certainly, there are a lot of challenges the Church is now facing. However, St. Louis de Montfort gives us a reason to believe that underneath all of the bad news and dire predictions, God is in control. Through Christ's loyal followers, he is calmly unfolding his plan. He compensates for the losses in the world. He even has an answer when such losses seem to get the upper hand.

Below are several quotes from his book, True Devotion. If you read just a few of them you will a get a good sample of St. Louis de Monfort's peek into the future. As to the Christians in the latter times, he says,

• These are the great men who are to come; but Mary is the One Who, by order of the Most High, shall fashion them for the purpose of extending His Empire over that of the impious, the idolaters and the Muslims.

• They will carry the crucifix in their right hand and the rosary in their left, and the holy names of Jesus and Mary on their heart.

• They will bring to the poor and lowly everywhere the sweet fragrance of Jesus, but they will bring the odor of death to the great, the rich and the proud of this world.

• Their hearts will not be troubled, nor will they show favor to anyone; they will not spare or heed or fear any man, however powerful he may be

• Attached to nothing, surprised at nothing, troubled at nothing, they will shower down the rain of God's word and of eternal life.

• They will point out the narrow way to God in pure truth according to the holy Gospel, and not according to the maxims of the world.

• In the eyes of the world they will be little and poor and, like the heel, lowly in the eyes of all, down-trodden and crushed as is the heel by the other parts of the body.

• They will be as the children of Levi, thoroughly purified by the fire of great tribulations and closely joined to God.

• Thus the most fearful enemy that God has set up against the devil is Mary, his holy Mother.It simply means that Satan, being so proud, suffers infinitely more in being vanquished and punished by a lowly and humble servant of God, for her humility humiliates him more than the power of God.

• Lastly, we know they will be true disciples of Jesus Christ, imitating his poverty, his humility, his contempt of the world and his love. But when and how shall this be? God alone knows. For our part we must yearn and wait for it in silence and in prayer: "I have waited and waited."

Whether these quotes pertain to Christians of today or tomorrow, I do not know. But St. Louis de Montfort gives us reason to believe that God will have an answer to all the troubling predictions we hear about. What is more, if these Christians are members of tomorrow's Church, which, they probably are, then there is reason to believe that the Mystical Body of Christ is destined for better days. Indeed, there is reason to hope that through the Catholic Church God will have an answer for the problems which daily presses upon her today.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Religious Liberty: Cardinal Wuerl's Call to Join the Bishops

December 22, 2011


Dear Friends,

We have all heard much over the past few years about the cause of reforming health care in the United States. Until now, federal law has never prevented Catholic institutions like the Archdiocese of Washington from providing for the needs of their employees with a health plan that is consistent with Catholic moral teachings. However, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is currently considering adopting regulations that would threaten that freedom.

Under the proposed HHS regulations, virtually all Catholic hospitals, elementary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, and charitable organizations would be required to provide coverage for sterilization procedures and contraception, including drugs that may induce abortions, unless they stop hiring and stop serving non-Catholics. The regulations would place many Catholic employers in the untenable position of having to choose between violating the law and violating their conscience.

This is an issue of fundamental, national importance. Yesterday’s Washington Post and New York Times ran a letter published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and signed by over four hundred prominent Catholic leaders calling on Congress to reconsider this unprecedented assault on religious liberty. I encourage Catholics and others of good will to join the bishops. No freedom is more precious and deserving of vigilance than this.


With prayerful best wishes, I am Faithfully in Christ,

Donald Cardinal Wuerl


Archbishop of Washington

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Judges of Faith: Christian vs. Godless Schools

Excerpts from The Judges of Faith: Christian vs. Godless Schools

-Fr. Thomas J. Jenkins, 1882


On Christian vs. Secular Education:

To be truly Catholic one's faith must be as exclusive as his charity is universal. Where the former runs no risk of its life the latter is boundless. Catholics then must so love their own salvation that they shall be stubborn in their resistance to whatever imperils it ; and must love their neighbors' souls so truly that they dare incur temporary resentment for attempting to withdraw their brothers from the brink of social abysses. Though we are reputed intolerant, we love our respective countries and fellow-citizens both well and wisely in our treatment of the question of education, which concerns the present and the future of nations. While protecting ourselves from the effects on our children of merely secular education, we shall surely not harm others nor abridge one tittle of their rights.


One-sided Education:

We are not alone in our belief in the axiom put forth in the Pastoral of our Third Plenary Council: 'A one-sided education [i.e. secular] will develop a one-sided life, and such a life will surely topple over ; and so will every social system built up of such lives...'

Certain periods of the world's best education are periods of the world's worst morals and worst government...

No practical Christian ever becomes unfaithful. So creedless, neutral schools, breed creedless children; indifference to God and virtue is the surest precursor to infidelity in practice, and this, to that blindness called intellectual infidelity.


Education and the Republic:

But our republic must stand on virtue, and "eternal vigilance is liberty's price." We have gnawing at our vitals, the insidious system of miseducation that has made the ruin and upheavals caused by the Internationals possible. It is a very sapping of the foundations of law and order, having their reason of being in the supreme dominion of God over the minds and hearts of men, by creating in our Public Schools a world of human beings disinherited of their faith, strong in intellect and passions, weak in heart, open to the persuasive vagaries of every mountebank in religion or no-religion, prone to self-idolatry and world-renowned for license of word and deed.


The Church: Mother & Once a Teacher of Nations

Four hundred years ago Europe was one great schoolhouse under the tutelage of a grand Teacher and Mother, who, having brought forth all nations from the darkness of barbarism, had gathered them about her knee to teach them the arts of peace and the sweets of a Christian home. Far advanced were many of her pupil nations, and she had sent them forth from her nurseries instructed with Christian wisdom, able to frame their own laws and found their own commonwealths under her more distant, but still necessary, superintendence.

Near the finishing of her task in the older nations, she stretched out her creative hand to the setting of the sun, and behold, new worlds sprang forth at her touch, and new nations climbed her lap to receive heavenly nourishment from her lips and breast.

All was peace — such peace as may be in this life of trial. She governed her children and counseled her royal pupils at the head of nations, where she had often placed them or sanctioned their power, until by slow degrees she could set them free from the trammels of tutelage, and take her ever multiplying children, coming to her from the ends of the earth, under her care and teaching.


Concluding comments from Sky View:

The following prelates of the Catholic Church in America in the late 19th century gave the above mentioned book their imprimatur.

• Cardinal James Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore.
• Rt. Rev. John J. Hogan, Bishop of Kansas City and St. Joseph.
• Rt. Rev, Martin Marty, Vic. Ap. of Dakota Terr.
• Rt. Rev. Francis Janssens, Bishop of Natchez
• Rt. Rev. Thomas L, Grace, Bishop of St. Paul
• Rt. Rev. M. J. O'Farrell, Bishop of Trenton.
• Rt. Rev. Monsignor Thomas S. Preston of New York

Can we not see what they saw so clearly? Why isn’t today’s Church addressing the secular threat of State-run education? Not only has education itself suffered considerable decline in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, but it has taken a toll on the mission of the Catholic Church to claim cultures for Christ! As the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore taught in 1884, "A one-sided education will develop a one-sided life, and such a life will surely topple over; and so will every social system built up of such lives..." Hopefully the New Evangelization will connect the dots between America's secular and compulsory education with its citizens seeming inability to elect politicians who take our nation's challenges seriously.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Hardships of Protecting God

Preface:

If only Christians would anticipate hardship as a given, if only they were aware that God’s calling, by design, is not furnished with red carpets and smooth roads, I believe that the Gospel of Life would be accepted by more people. In recent years I have come across both priests and lay people who were inspired by a kind of boldness of faith at the outset of their ministry. Yet, when they encountered rejection and hardships they drew back and had second thoughts about their mission. Indeed, they even asked themselves: “Is this supposed to happen? Is it supposed to be this hard?”

Yes, the best of Catholics have been rattled to the core when it became clear to them that they might have to sit by themselves at lunch or be rebuffed by fellow Catholics or that they might lose some privileges. Sadly, the lives of the Saints and their multiple hardships escape them. Even the inspiration that came with hearing the words of Christ is a distant memory: “Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12)

If anyone’s vocation deserved to be free from the hardships it was St. Joseph’s. After all, he was given the exalted task of protecting God and the Blessed Virgin. Yet from the word “go!” he encountered one hardship after another that could have been easily been prevented by God. In fact, he was given four hardships that gave him great anguish of spirit. If we but seriously meditate on his life we will never approach the work God has for us with the expectation that it should be without hardships. Rejection by our own people, scorn from others, the disappointment of failures, waiting for long periods of time, detours and even the appearance that the Lord himself has abandoned us will not throw us for such a loop. These obstacles will cease to be an excuse not to act and do the right thing! Following the example of St. Joseph, we too can press on and fulfill the mission the Lord has called us to.


Estrangement from His Spouse:

As I mentioned, there are at least four hardships St. Joseph had to endure. As for the first one, here is a short excerpt from a previous Sky View post entitled, St. Joseph and the Sword of Conflict:

“Have you ever wondered why, after appearing to the Blessed Virgin to announce the coming of Christ, the angel Gabriel did not immediately appear to St. Joseph in order to inform him that the Messiah would be conceived of the Holy Spirit; that God would make it possible for Mary to be both virgin and mother?

Instead, there was an interim period of misunderstanding and anguish on the part of St. Joseph. God could have prevented this misunderstanding but he chose not to. And the reason he chose not to was due to some moral and spiritual benefit St. Joseph would gain. Certainly, a lot of tears could have been spared; but often tears can be every bit as redemptive as the blood of martyrs which, as the early Christian adage goes, is the “seed of the Church.”

In his temporary emotional estrangement, St. Joseph, when having the wrong impression about his betrothed, had to rely on God. Indeed, during this short period of time not even the Mother of God could help him because, after all, she was the object of his suspicion and doubt. Alone he stood, confounded over God’s plan and anguished in spirit.”

However, the angel appeared to St. Joseph in a dream in order to vindicate the virginal integrity of Mary’s pregnancy. At last, his anguish was relieved. With a sigh of relief St. Joseph concluded that in good conscience he could remain the Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And to be sure, his joy of doing so was revived. But in a matter of a few short months two things were to happen simultaneously that would make his calling as a protector and bread-winner of the Holy Family that much more difficult. Indeed, his hardships were only beginning. After he weathered the first hardship, the second one was soon to follow.


The Edict: Leaving Home

The census edict was issued by Caesar Augustus enjoining the head of each household to register in their hometown just when Mary was due to give birth. From a human point of view, the timing could not be worse. And as for St. Joseph, he probably hadn’t been to his hometown in Bethlehem, where he was to comply with this edict, in quite some time. After all, the traveling distance between Nazareth and Bethlehem was at least a two to three day walk, maybe even more. And because of the edict, traveling from one town to another would be like traveling on a busy holiday. Scores of people would be frequenting the roads and the inns. By the time the Holy Family would get to Bethlehem, St. Joseph’s innate instinct as a husband and father to provide for his Family would be greatly challenged.

St. Joseph's second hardship then was leaving the security of his work and the comforts of his home when his Spouse needed the best kind of care for the birth of her first born child. Such was God's will. But as Jesus would say some thirty years later, "No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God." This man of God would be forced to totally rely on Divine Providence. Once the Holy Family arrived in Bethlehem, another hardship awaited him.


Failure to Provide:

Certainly a man as good as St. Joseph would deserve the hospitality of Bethlehem, his hometown, and any accommodations it could afford to provide. Certainly a nice warm room or a spacious house would be made available to him. And certainly if he was called to make these sacrifices for the Son of God he would get a little cooperation from Divine Providence. God's ways are not our ways. The third hardship that was imposed on St. Joseph was certainly not to his liking. After all, there is no worse feeling for a man than to not be able to provide room and board for his family. A quick glance at this story and images of that cold Christmas night may give the average person warm feelings. But when one really sits down and meditates on the real historic details of that story, one cannot help but consider the angst and worry St. Joseph must have felt after having encountered one closed door after another. It is even conceivable that he was tempted to despair. What a failure he must have felt!

Regarding God’s chosen servants, Fr. Paul Marie de la Croix said that “sometimes they encounter a failure which he permits even though he has first assured victory; sometimes, for no apparent reason, they experience a reversal of God’s relationship to them. They seem to be permanently abandoned or even rejected, though divine favor and friendship had been theirs before. They have not been guilty of the slightest infidelity, but they must become fit for the final mystery of faith.” Indeed, in the eyes of the world being forced to seek shelter in a cave right outside of Bethlehem is not a blessing but a curse. However, it was the will of Jesus Christ himself, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, to be born in humble circumstances. It was fitting that the King of Kings be born in a grotto so that even the despised and yet humble shepherds would approach him and do him homage. Hence, little did St. Joseph know that what appeared to be a failure on his part was a great blessing for the world. The simplicity of the crèche and the manager was not only an invitation for the lowly but it would inspire virtues of detachment and a love of poverty among many Christians.


Off to a Foreign Land:

St. Joseph’s resignation to the designs of providence would pay off. Soon after Christmas night, the Magi brought with them gifts for the newborn Messiah. Among these gifts was gold. This would come in handy for yet another hardship St. Joseph would have to endure. Due to the three kings (the Magi) seeking the new born Messiah in Jerusalem, the jealousy of King Herod was provoked. He launched a military campaign to kill every last child under the age of two in the town of Bethlehem. However, God was one step ahead of this ruler. This is when St. Joseph’s fourth hardship kicked in. “The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.’"

“Wait a minute! Where are we going to stay? Just how long do we have to be in Egypt How am I going to provide for Mary and Jesus?” These were just a few of the unanswered questions St. Joseph could have asked. There was no indication as to how long they would have to stay. A short meditation of this episode will bring to our attention how difficult that must have been! Taking refuge in a foreign land amidst a foreign people for safety is one thing; but to do so without knowing for how long is a real test of faith. After six months in Egypt there was no dream telling him to go home; after several months- no dream; and after a year- again, no dream! Ancient tradition has it that the Holy Family lived in Egypt anywhere from two and half years to seven years. The Fathers of the Church differ on this point.

Nevertheless, in order for St. Joseph to fulfill his mission he had to have strength of character, the endurance of faith and a spirit of detachment. For a short period of time, he thought he would have to say good-bye to Mary, his Spouse. And Scripture indicates he was willing to do just that. He also was called to say good-bye to his work and home because of Caesar’s edict. And finally he was forced to say good-bye to his fatherland, namely, his country.

Yet, for all of his sacrifices the Lord blessed him with many years in Nazareth with Mary and Jesus as his companions. What a paradise that Nazareth home must have been! The family conversations, the love and the peace of that household had to be a microcosm of heaven. And just as important, he was blessed with Mary and Jesus at his side on his deathbed. Indeed, the Lord compensated for every hardship St. Joseph was willing to endure for his sake.

For us Christians who are called to protect and advance the causes of God how can we not expect hardships? But if we endure them faithfully and press forward as St. Joseph did, how can we not expect his blessings?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

St. Louis & Christians in the Latter Times: A reason for hope

People from all walks of life are making predictions about the future. Most of these predictions are pessimistic and downright bleak; some justifiably so. For instance, economic decline and political instability are causes for concern for a lot of people. Another question that seems to linger is: What is tomorrow's generation of Americans going to be like? Are they going to be equal to their mission of keeping liberty, democracy and progress alive?

I refer to today's generation of youth and young adults (ages 14-19, 20's and 30's) as the "I-pod generation." The current fixation on texting, i-pods, i-pads, walkmans and nooks is widespread among this age bracket. The fascination with these gadgets will certainly set this generation apart from previous ones. No doubt, there will be some unfavorable social effects. Just to enjoy the company of another person who happens to be in the same room- and to further have the full attention without a text ringer going off -is getting more challenging by the day. Indeed, the simplicity of face-to-face interactions and the appreciation of the here and now is going out of style...so it seems.

If that wasn't enough of a downer we can pick up the New Testament and turn to Second Timothy chapter 3 where St. Paul issues the following warning: "But understand this: there will be terrifying times in the last days. People will be self-centered and lovers of money, proud, haughty, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, irreligious, callous, implacable, slanderous, licentious, brutal, hating what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, as they make a pretense of religion but deny its power."
(II Timothy 3:1-5) Needless to say, the people in the last days don't sound very good. This is another cause for concern.

Unfortunately, these negative predictions are likely to induce spirit of melancholy and discouragement among Christians. Yet we know (or should know) that such a disposition of mind is not from God. If you read the writings of the Saints you will find that what the Holy Spirit impresses upon the soul is that of peace and hope.

Take for instance the early Christians. They had witnessed the collapse of the Roman Empire- the greatest of all empires at the time. Yet, the people of God were full of hope, pressing forward to the future, anticipating a better day. What inspired this? It was their consciousness of eternity and the eventual coming of God's kingdom. This happy truth preoccupied their thoughts and it captured their affections! They knew a better place awaited them. This hope not only inspired heroic acts of martyrdom but it led to the greatest civilization to ever have existed- the Christian civilization. If you take a closer look at the annals of history you will find that the Christian vision and imagination provided incentives for creativity and innovations. The widespread belief that life really begins when we die also inspired a generous spirit of sacrifice and a spirit of magnanimity to try new things and to take risks for the glory of God.

I see a similar pattern among today's remnant; that is, among today's well-formed Catholics who, no doubt, are few in number. Nevertheless, the present day Catholic who knows Christ and recognizes his greatest miracle, the Catholic Church, possesses more balance and zeal than his Catholic ancestors in recent centuries. Like the early Christians, today's follower of Christ is becoming more aware of what he has been saved from. As modern civilization drifts away from the light of the Gospel it is becoming more apparent that humanity is narcissistic, dysfunctional and even barbaric when left to itself. Man needs God and without God man is all to inclined to be cruel! We seem learn this anew every time we turn on the television. With these challenging times comes God's answer: The witness of Christians.

St. Louis de Monfort (1673-1716) was one such witness. He had come to realize just how important devotion to Mary would be. In fact, he predicted that she would play a bigger role in future centuries (and indeed she has through her various apparitions). He argued that just as the first coming of Christ came to be realized through her, so too would be his Second Coming. One startling prediction, among others, is that the Muslims would be converted to Christ (read quote below). Most Christians know that the Jews must be converted before Jesus Christ comes again. But few know of St. Louis's prophesy about the Muslims. Perhaps the vision in Revelations 12 of the Woman clothed with the sun with the moon (The crescent is the symbol of Islam) under her feet is an indication of this.

In any case, in True Devotion- a book that popularized the consecration to the Blessed Virgin -St. Louis speaks of the Christians in the latter times in a very praiseworthy and reverential manner. One would think he was writing about the early Christians by the way he pays tribute to them. Certainly, there are a lot of challenges even within the confines of our Church (Sky View has detailed those areas which need amending). Still, there is reason to believe that underneath all of the bad news and dire predictions, God is in control. Through his loyal followers, he is calmly unfolding his plan. He compensates for the losses in the world and has an answer when such losses seem to get the upper hand. For instance, just when millions were leaving the Catholic Church during the Reformation in the 1500's, on the other side of the world Our Lady of Guadalupe was bringing into Christ's fold millions of Aztec Indians.


Below are several quotes from his book, True Devotion. If you read just a few of them you will a get a good sample of St. Louis de Monfort's peek into the future. As to the Christians in the latter times, he says,

• They will be true apostles of the latter times to whom the Lord of Hosts will give eloquence and strength to work wonders and carry off glorious spoils from his enemies.

• These are the great men who are to come; but Mary is the One Who, by order of the Most High, shall fashion them for the purpose of extending His Empire over that of the impious, the idolaters and the Muslims.

• They will carry the crucifix in their right hand and the rosary in their left, and the holy names of Jesus and Mary on their heart.

• They will bring to the poor and lowly everywhere the sweet fragrance of Jesus, but they will bring the odor of death to the great, the rich and the proud of this world.

• Their hearts will not be troubled, nor will they show favor to anyone; they will not spare or heed or fear any man, however powerful he may be

• Attached to nothing, surprised at nothing, troubled at nothing, they will shower down the rain of God's word and of eternal life.

• They will point out the narrow way to God in pure truth according to the holy Gospel, and not according to the maxims of the world.

• In the eyes of the world they will be little and poor and, like the heel, lowly in the eyes of all, down-trodden and crushed as is the heel by the other parts of the body.

• They will be as the children of Levi, thoroughly purified by the fire of great tribulations and closely joined to God.

• They will be superior to all creatures by their great zeal and so strongly will they be supported by divine assistance that, in union with Mary, they will crush the head of Satan with their heel, that is, their humility, and bring victory to Jesus Christ.

• Thus the most fearful enemy that God has set up against the devil is Mary, his holy Mother.It simply means that Satan, being so proud, suffers infinitely more in being vanquished and punished by a lowly and humble servant of God, for her humility humiliates him more than the power of God.

• But in compensation for this they will be rich in God's graces, which will be abundantly bestowed on them by Mary.

• The simplicity and self-sacrifice of Jesus will be reflected in their whole behavior.

• Lastly, we know they will be true disciples of Jesus Christ, imitating his poverty, his humility, his contempt of the world and his love. But when and how shall this be? God alone knows. For our part we must yearn and wait for it in silence and in prayer: "I have waited and waited."

Not bad. Not bad at all. Whether these are Christians of today or tomorrow, St. Louis de Montfort gives us reason to believe that God will have an answer to all the troubling predictions we hear about. What is more, if these Christians are members of tomorrow's Church, which, no doubt, they are, then there is reason to believe that the Mystical Body of Christ is destined for a better day. Indeed, there is reason to hope that through the Catholic Church God will have an answer for the problems which daily impress upon us.

The Messiah’s Resume: Submitted Before His Career Began

Preface:

The date these prophecies were penned range from 1400 years to 300 years before the birth of Christ. Bishop Fulton Sheen said that if God were to come the least he can do is to tell the world beforehand. That is exactly what he did. In fact, he submitted his resume to his people before he descended from heaven and took on human nature. As such, the world was expecting the arrival of the Messiah. He was the only religious leader whose coming was foretold hundreds of years in advance.


I Existed Before Time:


Before the mountains:

Proverbs 8:22-31 The LORD begot me, the first-born of his ways, the forerunner of his prodigies of long ago; From of old I was poured forth, at the first, before the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no fountains or springs of water; before the mountains were settled into place, before the hills, I was brought forth; while as yet the earth and the fields were not made, nor the first clods of the world. "When he established the heavens I was there, when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep; When he made firm the skies above, when he fixed fast the foundations of the earth; When he set for the sea its limit, so that the waters should not transgress his command; Then was I beside him as his craftsman, and I was his delight day by day, Playing before him all the while, playing on the surface of his earth; and I found delight in the sons of men.


From God’s mouth:

Sirach 24:2-12 From the mouth of the Most High I came forth, and mist-like covered the earth. In the highest heavens did I dwell, my throne on a pillar of cloud. The vault of heaven I compassed alone, through the deep abyss I wandered. Over waves of the sea, over all the land, over every people and nation I held sway. Among all these I sought a resting place; in whose inheritance should I abide? Then the Creator of all gave me his command, and he who formed me chose the spot for my tent, Saying, 'In Jacob make your dwelling, in Israel your inheritance.' Before all ages, in the beginning, he created me, and through all ages I shall not cease to be. In the holy tent I ministered before him, and in Zion I fixed my abode. Thus in the chosen city he has given me rest, in Jerusalem is my domain. I have struck root among the glorious people, in the portion of the LORD, his heritage.


My Birth: Exceptional but Humble


The Rising Star:

Numbers 24:17 Balaam said, “I see him, though not now; I behold him, though not near: A star shall advance from Jacob, and a staff shall rise from Israel…”


Virgin with child

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

Wisdom 3: 13 Yes, blessed is she who, childless and undefiled, knew not transgression of the marriage bed; she shall bear fruit at the visitation of souls.


A child is born to us:

Isaiah 9:5-6 For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. His dominion is vast and forever…


Where I will be born:

Micah 5:1-3 But you, Bethlehem-Ephrathah too small to be among the clans of Judah, From you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; Whose origin is from of old, from ancient times. (Therefore the Lord will give them up, until the time when she who is to give birth has borne, And the rest of his brethren shall return to the children of Israel.) He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock by the strength of the LORD, in the majestic name of the LORD, his God; and they shall remain, for now his greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth;



New Hearts Through Baptism:


My spirit within you:

Ezekiel 36:25-27 I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees.


My law on your hearts:

Jeremiah 31:31, 33 The days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD. I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people.



My Mission:


The coming Prophet:

Deuteronomy 18:15 Moses said, "A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you from among your own kinsmen; to him you shall listen.”


I myself will come:

Zechariah 2:14 Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion! See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the LORD.


The Good Shepherd:

Ezekiel 34:15-16 I myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest, says the Lord GOD. The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal (but the sleek and the strong I will destroy), shepherding them rightly.


Gifts of the Holy Spirit:

Isaiah 11:1-4 But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD. Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide, But he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land's afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.


From the shoot of David:

Jeremiah 33:14-15 The days are coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah. In those days, in that time, I will raise up for David a just shoot; he shall do what is right and just in the land.



My Priesthood:

Melchizedek: A preview of Christ

Genesis 14:18-19 Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine, and being a priest of God Most High, he blessed Abram with these words: Blessed be Abram by God Most High, the creator of heaven and earth…


God ordains his Son from Eternity:

Psalm 110:2-4 The scepter of your might: the LORD extends your strong scepter from Zion. Have dominion over your enemies! Yours is princely power from the day of your birth. In holy splendor before the daystar, like dew I begot you. The LORD has sworn and will not waver: “You are a priest forever in the manner of Melchizedek.”


A clean sacrifice:

Malachi 1:11 For from the rising of the sun, even to its setting, my name is great among the nations; And everywhere they bring sacrifice to my name, and a pure offering; For great is my name among the nations, says the LORD of hosts.


The Church with altar and sacrifice:

Isaiah 56-5-7 I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name Better than sons and daughters; an eternal, imperishable name will I give them. And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, ministering to him, Loving the name of the LORD, and becoming his servants - All who keep the Sabbath free from profanation and hold to my covenant, Them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer; Their holocausts and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar, For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.


Building the house of God:

II Samuel 7:11-14 Words spoken to King David: “The LORD also reveals to you that he will establish a house for you. And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm. It is he who shall build a house for my name. And I will make his royal throne firm forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me.”


Palm Sunday:

Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, Meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.




My Abandonment and Death:


His accusers:

Wisdom 2:13-20 “Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, Reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training. He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the LORD. To us he is the censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us, Because his life is not like other men's, and different are his ways. He judges us debased; he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure. He calls blest the destiny of the just and boasts that God is his Father. Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him. For if the just one be the son of God, he will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes. With revilement and torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him."


Holy Week foretold:

Daniel 9:24-27 “Seventy weeks are decreed for your people and for your holy city: Then transgression will stop and sin will end, guilt will be expiated, Everlasting justice will be introduced, vision and prophecy ratified, and a most holy will be anointed…After the sixty-two weeks an anointed shall be cut down when he does not possess the city; and the people of a leader who will come shall destroy the sanctuary…For one week he shall make a firm compact with the many; half the week he shall abolish sacrifice and oblation; on the temple wing shall be the horrible abomination until the ruin that is decreed is poured out upon the horror."


Our infirmities he bore:

Isaiah 53: 1-12 Who would believe what we have heard? To whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He grew up like a sapling before him, like a shoot from the parched earth; there was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, nor appearance that would attract us to him. He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom men hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem.

Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, while we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed. We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; But the LORD laid upon him the guilt of us all. Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth. Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away, and who would have thought any more of his destiny? When he was cut off from the land of the living, and smitten for the sin of his people, a grave was assigned him among the wicked and a burial place with evildoers, though he had done no wrong nor spoken any falsehood. (But the LORD was pleased to crush him in infirmity.)

If he gives his life as an offering for sin, he shall see his descendants in a long life, and the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him. Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days; through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear. Therefore I will give him his portion among the great, and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty, because he surrendered himself to death and was counted among the wicked; and he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses.


Pierced:

Zechariah 12:10 They shall look on him whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son, and they shall grieve over him as one grieves over a first-born.


Abandoned:

Psalm 22:2 My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why so far from my call for help, from my cries of anguish? My God, I call by day, but you do not answer; by night, but I have no relief.



God Raised Me Up:

On the third day:

Hosea 6:2 He will revive us after two days; on the third day he will raise us up, to live in his presence.

He raised me up:

Psalm 18:5-7,17 The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction terrified me. The cords- of Sheol encircled me; the snares of death lay in wait for me. In my distress I called out: LORD! I cried out to my God. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry to him reached his ears. The earth rocked and shook; the foundations of the mountains trembled; they shook as his wrath flared up…He reached down from on high and seized me; drew me out of the deep waters.


Raising the dead:

Ezekiel 37:1-14 The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he led me out in the spirit of the LORD and set me in the center of the plain, which was now filled with bones. He made me walk among them in every direction so that I saw how many they were on the surface of the plain. How dry they were! He asked me: Son of man, can these bones come to life? "Lord GOD," I answered, "you alone know that."

Then he said to me: Prophesy over these bones, and say to them: Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: See! I will bring spirit into you, that you may come to life. I will put sinews upon you, make flesh grow over you, cover you with skin, and put spirit in you so that you may come to life and know that I am the LORD. I prophesied as I had been told, and even as I was prophesying I heard a noise; it was a rattling as the bones came together, bone joining bone.

I saw the sinews and the flesh come upon them, and the skin cover them, but there was no spirit in them. Then he said to me: Prophesy to the spirit, prophesy, son of man, and say to the spirit: Thus says the Lord GOD: From the four winds come, O spirit, and breathe into these slain that they may come to life. I prophesied as he told me, and the spirit came into them; they came alive and stood upright, a vast army. Then he said to me: Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They have been saying, "Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost, and we are cut off." Therefore, prophesy and say to them: Thus says the Lord GOD: O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people! I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land; thus you shall know that I am the LORD. I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD.


My Glory and Dominion:

The Son of Man on the clouds of heaven:

Daniel 7:13-14 As the visions during the night continued, I saw One like a son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven; When he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, He received dominion, glory, and kingship; nations and peoples of every language serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed.


His inheritance:

Psalm 2:7-8 I will proclaim the decree of the LORD, he said to me, “You are my son; today I have begotten you. Ask it of me, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, and, as your possession, the ends of the earth.



My Mother and My Enemy:

Genesis 3:15 God said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel."


Isaiah 14:12-15 "How have you fallen from the heavens, O morning star, son of the dawn! How are you cut down to the ground, you who mowed down the nations! You said in your heart: "I will scale the heavens; Above the stars of God I will set up my throne; I will take my seat on the Mount of Assembly, in the recesses of the North. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will be like the Most High!" Yet down to the nether world you go to the recesses of the pit!"

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Unintended Consequences & the New Evangelization

“The bureaucracy is spent and tired…It is sad that there are what you might call professional Catholics who make a living on their Catholicism, but in whom the spring of faith flows only faintly, in a few scattered drops.”

-Pope Benedict XVI


Fr. George Rutler once said that the first protocol of any bureaucracy is to delay action. Over the years Catholic dioceses have seemingly evolved into bureaucracies known for just that…delaying action. Initiatives, creativity and taking the risks that come natural to great missions are not known to be fostered within diocesan walls. However, it is of great importance for the New Evangelization that dioceses across the nation are efficient and dynamic centers for spiritual growth.

There has to be a better way than the way your average diocese operates today. Can we not ask the following question: Do Catholic dioceses need to be burdened with layers of bureaucracy and a multiplicity of departments which usually end up stifling initiatives and bold missions? Your typical diocesan visioning processes in which programs and strategies are mulled over do have value. But it is a limited value. It is these limitations that are often unappreciated. The limitations of this bureaucratic approach are twofold:

First, planning for programs, ministries and missions in your average diocese is quite often considered a good work or an accomplishment in itself. However, meetings of this nature, by and large, only talk about the work to be done; they are not work as such. Unfortunately, many diocesan and parish offices consider the meetings and the planning of ministries as a ministry itself. As such, bureaucratic-like complacency sets in from having had so many meetings. Herein lays the limitations of programs and visioning processes. From this, the illusion of progress and motion is created. The wheels are spinning but is the cart really going anywhere?

Second, proposed plans or ideas may or may not be adapted to the real life circumstances the individual or the parish is immersed in. Traditionally, the office is not a good laboratory for testing or evaluating ideas as to what will work and what will not work with people. This is why academia has such a poor record of being able to identify with the outside world. Frankly, intellectuals surround themselves with ideas which often serve as a poor gauge of reality. Office bureaucrats suffer from the same handicap. Where the contribution of administrators does come in is with budgets and providing the material means to carry out ministries. However, wisdom must be borne where the rubber meets the road. This is why the emphasis of spiritual activity is important. Initiatives, creativity and practical wisdom which spring from spiritual activity must be the foundation upon which religious programs are made. If, on the other hand, spiritual activity is made to conform to preconceived ideas or the strategies which are baked in offices, then I am afraid that the ministry or mission at hand will be ineffective and sterile.

Spiritual activity, more than planning, adapts and responds to the real needs at hand. It is further a better generator of positive developments than ideas being tossed around at meetings. The history of monasticism and the spiritual enterprises pioneered by the Saints are proof to this effect. Monasticism and the spiritual enterprises pioneered by the Saints led to great innovations and developments for society as well as being a source of renewal for the Church.

What many of us have also forgotten is that holiness is one of the best sources of knowledge. St. Therese the Little Flower was declared a Doctor of the Church, yet she held no theology degree. How many times have we been inspired with an insight at Mass, or in prayer or even as we walking to the refrigerator? This is the Lord's way of letting us know that he is the source of knowledge and wisdom. He is the one who takes the initiative. Yes, we have to do our part. But bottom line is that God is the author of truly creative ideas and insights. He is the cause of all that is good and life giving.

As you may already know, monasticism is a religious movement that gave birth to monasteries where religious brothers, sisters and clerics prayed, studied and worked. It was and still is a venue where intense spiritual activity takes place. What flourished from this font of spiritual life were positive but unintended consequences.


For instance, many of the developments which led the creation of Christian civilization were unintended. New agricultural methods, a cash economy and other free market principles, non-government universal education, the preservation of classic and sacred literature, representative forms of government, and charities were just a few enterprises which sprang from the monasteries. All of these great services to humanity led to a prosperous Christian civilization. St. Benedict, who founded a community of monks in the sixth century, is considered the father of Christian or Western civilization. Yet the curious thing is that he never intended to create a new civilization. His first priority was to glorify God in prayer.

The most effective and life-giving reforms of renewal within the Church were also unintended. Great reformers such as Pope St. Gregory the Great, St. Patrick, St. Columban, Pope St. Gregory VII and Pope St. Pius V all came from backgrounds where intense spiritual activity was to be found. These men and their reforms were not the fruit of meetings nor did they come from a pre-planning process. Their work was the fruit of spiritual discipline and activity. They were innovative and bold...the very thing the Church needed at the time.

We also need to remind ourselves that God is the initiator and the driving force behind spiritual creativity and productivity. He invites us to be collaborators. We need his cooperation for any mission to work! The first step, therefore, is not planning out strategies at meetings but rather to seek the will of God out in prayer, in the meditation of Scripture and in sitting before our Eucharistic Lord. From a venue friendly to this kind of spiritual activity comes forth life-giving progress and initiatives that are more often than not unintended. The motive of the Saints and Fathers of the Church was to first and foremost glorify God. In doing so they were led to the uncharted waters of progress and renewal.

It is not so much what you say or what you do that changes people's hearts for the better, it is what God does with what you say and what you do that really counts. No doubt, the content of our words and actions should, at all times, be morally good. And to be sure, there are times when a highly publicized achievement will benefit only a few while small and seemingly unimportant deeds- with God's help -will bring about great changes for many. Psalm 127 says it best: "Unless the LORD build the house, they labor in vain who build."

Walking the talk, as opposed to just talking about the walk, is a legacy of holy men and women. Perhaps the first order of diocesan renewal should be to have perpetual adoration in every parish and to establish small communities of prayer. After all, it will be from these spiritual activities that other meaningful ministries will develop. These are the best kind of unintended consequences; the kind that renews Church and builds-up society. Indeed, the New Evangelization needs to have its unintended consequences. The ones that are so good that only God can foresee.