Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Reflections on “Chicago values”

Monday, July 30, 2012

Reflections on “Chicago values”
By Cardinal Francis George


Recent comments by those who administer our city seem to assume that the city government can decide for everyone what are the “values” that must be held by citizens of Chicago. I was born and raised here, and my understanding of being a Chicagoan never included submitting my value system to the government for approval. Must those whose personal values do not conform to those of the government of the day move from the city? Is the City Council going to set up a “Council Committee on Un-Chicagoan Activities” and call those of us who are suspect to appear before it? I would have argued a few days ago that I believe such a move is, if I can borrow a phrase, “un-Chicagoan.”

The value in question is espousal of “gender-free marriage.” Approval of state-sponsored homosexual unions has very quickly become a litmus test for bigotry; and espousing the understanding of marriage that has prevailed among all peoples throughout human history is now, supposedly, outside the American consensus. Are Americans so exceptional that we are free to define “marriage” (or other institutions we did not invent) at will? What are we re-defining?

It might be good to put aside any religious teaching and any state laws and start from scratch, from nature itself, when talking about marriage. Marriage existed before Christ called together his first disciples two thousand years ago and well before the United States of America was formed two hundred and thirty six years ago. Neither Church nor state invented marriage, and neither can change its nature.

Marriage exists because human nature comes in two complementary sexes: male and female. The sexual union of a man and woman is called the marital act because the two become physically one in a way that is impossible between two men or two women. Whatever a homosexual union might be or represent, it is not physically marital. Gender is inextricably bound up with physical sexual identity; and “gender-free marriage” is a contradiction in terms, like a square circle.

Both Church and state do, however, have an interest in regulating marriage. It is not that religious marriage is private and civil marriage public; rather, marriage is a public institution in both Church and state. The state regulates marriage to assure stability in society and for the proper protection and raising of the next generation of citizens. The state has a vested interest in knowing who is married and who is not and in fostering good marriages and strong families for the sake of society.

The Church, because Jesus raised the marital union to the level of symbolizing his own union with his Body the Church, has an interest in determining which marital unions are sacramental and which are not. The Church sees married life as a path to sanctity and as the means for raising children in the faith, as citizens of the universal kingdom of God. These are all legitimate interests of both Church and state, but they assume and do not create the nature of marriage.

People who are not Christian or religious at all take for granted that marriage is the union of a man and a woman for the sake of family and, of its nature, for life. The laws of civilizations much older than ours assume this understanding of marriage. This is also what religious leaders of almost all faiths have taught throughout the ages. Jesus affirmed this understanding of marriage when he spoke of “two becoming one flesh” (Mt. 19: 4-6). Was Jesus a bigot? Could Jesus be accepted as a Chicagoan? Would Jesus be more “enlightened” if he had the privilege of living in our society? One is welcome to believe that, of course; but it should not become the official state religion, at least not in a land that still fancies itself free.

Surely there must be a way to properly respect people who are gay or lesbian without using civil law to undermine the nature of marriage. Surely we can find a way not to play off newly invented individual rights to “marriage” against constitutionally protected freedom of religious belief and religious practice. The State’s attempting to redefine marriage has become a defining moment not for marriage, which is what it is, but for our increasingly fragile “civil union” as citizens.

Francis Cardinal George, OMI

Column: courtesy of the Archdiocese of Chicago website

ps- Thank you Cardinal George for speaking up. Courage is contagious.

The Incarnate Word: Direct contact and from afar

"It thus appears that in the days of His mortal life Jesus acted in two ways: He scattered His graces far and wide, and that is action from a distance; and He communicated them in a more intimate manner to those whom He could touch, and that is action by contact..."

-Cardinal Charles Journet, The Church of the Incarnate Word


Preface:

When is the last time you read a good piece of theological writing? Well, the excerpt below is pretty deep but yet understandable. Even better, it is insightful. This excerpt is from The Church of the Incarnate Word by Cardinal Charles Journet (January 26, 1891 – April 15, 1975). People often wonder how the Lord comes into contact with Catholics, believers within Christ's visible Church, in contrast to those who are outside of the Church. Journet refers to a number of episodes in the Gospel to illustrate that the Lord's healing touch- either through sensible contact or from afar -foretold how he would relate to people in future ages.


The Church of the Word Incarnate:
-From afar and up close:

Christ, in the course of His temporal life, could, as physical instrument of the divine power, act in two different ways: either from a distance, or by sensible contact.

This can be seen in the case of the bodily cures. When the Jewish official begs Him to come down to Capharnaum where his son lies dying, Christ sends him back comforted, and straightway the child is healed (John iv. 46-54). When the centurion expressly asks that his servant may be healed by a single word spoken from afar, his prayer too is heard (Matt. viii. 5-13). When the Syrophaenician woman goes home she sees her child already freed from the devil (Mark vii. 29-30); and when the ten lepers are on the way to show themselves to the priests they find themselves suddenly cleansed (Luke xvii. 14).

The cures however are, for the most part, wrought in a more direct way, by bodily contact. Our Lord touches a leper in Galilee (Mark i. 41); He spits on the eyes of a blind man at Bethsaida and lays hands on him twice (Mark viii. 23-25); He touches the eyes of two blind men at Capharnaum (Matt. ix. 29); and again at Jericho (Matt. xx. 34); He allows the woman with the issue of blood to touch the hem of His garment (Luke viii. 44); He takes Jairus' daughter by the hand (Luke viii. 54); He touches the bier on which a dead youth is carried (Luke vii. 14); He makes them take away the stone which separates Him from Lazarus (John xi. 39), and so on.

Further, Jesus seems to go out of His way, at one time to insist on the value of this sensible contact (as when He puts His fingers into the ears of the deaf-mute to signify that He is going to open them, and moistens his tongue to signify that He will unloose it (Mark vii. 33)); at another, to make His virtue pass by poor and altogether disproportionate material means (as when He puts clay on the eyes of the blind man of Siloe (John ix. 6)); and again, to extend its range by the use of words (as when He commands the paralytic to rise (Mark ii. 11), or Lazarus to come forth (John xi. 43)). Why, finally, did He deliberately prolong an absence without which Lazarus need not have died (John xi. 21 and 32), if not to help us to realize the virtue of His bodily presence?

These bodily cures are, above all, the symbols of spiritual ones. As soon as Jesus appeared, His heart radiated grace to illumine the world from afar. It was from afar that He knew Nathanael under the fig-tree (John i. 48-50), and His glance travels yet farther to all the true adorers in spirit and in truth (John iv. 23), and all the sheep not yet in the fold of Israel (John x. 16). But He acted in a still more marvelous manner on those who approached Him; He slaked their thirst: "If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink" (John vii. 37); He comforted them: "Come to me all ye that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you" (Matt. xi. 28); He absolved them:". . . but she with ointment hath anointed my feet. Wherefore I say to thee: Many sins are forgiven her, because she hath loved much" (Luke vii. 46-47); He touched their hearts with penitence: "And the Lord, turning, looked on Peter. And Peter remembered. . . and going out wept bitterly" (Luke xxii. 61); He put new heart into them: "Was not our heart burning within us, whilst he spoke in the way?" (Luke xxiv. 32); He met their love with love: "Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples whom Jesus loved" (John xiii. 23).

Here too we shall see Him use the spoken word to enlarge the field of this sanctifying contact. A word casts out the unclean spirit in the synagogue of Capharnaum (Mark i. 25), and among the Gerasenes (Mark v. 8), and takes away the sins of the paralytic (Mark ii. 5), and cleanses the adulteress (John viii. 11).

It thus appears that in the days of His mortal life Jesus acted in two ways: He scattered His graces far and wide, and that is action from a distance; and He communicated them in a more intimate manner to those whom He could touch, and that is action by contact. Certainly such contact is no indispensable means to His action; but it is His connatural means, the means to which He draws our attention, and for which He takes care to provide all possible opportunity by moving about through Galilee, Samaria, Judea, Decapolis and even to Phoenicia.

And if we want the ultimate reason for this procedure we must seek it not merely in the principle (still too general) that direct contact between agent and patient favours the full efficiency of physical action (for when it comes from God through the heart of Christ, physical action can be perfect even at a distance), but above all in the fact, much more immediate, that inasmuch as our nature is wounded, it stands in need of a sensible stimulus to awaken it connaturally to the life of grace.[27] And that explains why the perfection of heaven, where man will be glorified, will not be incompatible with Christ's action from a distance; whereas the perfection of earth, where man remains wounded, requires the action of Christ by sensible contact.[28]

Jesus has now been "taken up into heaven", He "sits on the right hand of God" (Mark xvi. 19), and is fully associated with His Father's power. Is His action to be restricted, from now onwards, to action from a distance? Is this the end of His action by contact? No: for before He left us He willed that there should always be among us certain men invested with divine powers, by whom the action that He initiates from heaven may be sensibly conveyed to each of us and may continue to reach us in the only way connatural to us—through direct contact. These are the hierarchic powers [i.e. pope, bishops, priests, deacons, religious, and laity].

Far from being substituted for Christ's action they are subordinated to it so as to carry it, in some sort, through space and time: like those mists left behind by the rain which continue to refresh the earth when the rain has ceased, they come to birth from the mystery of the Incarnation to perpetuate its blessings among us.[29] These powers are essentially ministerial, that is to say, transmitters; they would be without effect if the divine power, passing into the heart of Christ, did not perpetually come to touch them into life.

They comprise two kinds of powers: the jurisdictional power, transmitting truth, and the sacramental power, transmitting grace.[30] Our Lord Himself announced, prepared and instituted them while He was still visible in our midst: He first sent the twelve Apostles into Galilee (Luke ix. 1), then the seventy-two disciples into Judea (Luke x. I), and finally the "Eleven" with a mission to teach all nations until the consummation of the world (Matt. xxviii. 16-20). He baptized, or had baptized, all who came to Him (John iii. 22; iv. 2) [31] and He willed that after His ascension all nations should be baptized (Matt. xxviii. 16-20). And we have a sign, at once mysterious and manifest, that in these hierarchic powers He seeks to establish sensible contact with us. It appears in this, that the end of the highest of these powers, the power of order, is to give us His very presence itself, real and corporeal, under the sacramental veils.

Doubtless God could have saved us without becoming incarnate. Probably even in that case He would have established a visible hierarchy—an opinion that finds support in reasons of a general order, such as the fact that providence habitually rules lower things through higher. Such general reasons cannot content us when others, more precise and immediate, are at hand. We know that it was the desire to come into immediate touch with us that led God to become incarnate.

And we know that Christ, after a short time in this world, was taken up into heaven where He sits at the right hand of the Father. How then can sensible contact between Him and ourselves be maintained? There is only one solution: namely that Christ, when about to leave the earth, founded here a visible hierarchy, assisted by Himself, directed by Himself, a hierarchy which, living in our midst, could serve as His instrument in establishing contact with us. He continues then to make contact with us by His action, but under the appearances of the hierarchy; as, in the greatest of the sacraments, He continues to make contact with us by His substance under the appearances of bread and wine. Such is the direct and immediate explanation of the institution of the Christian hierarchy.

In a word: How people judge others

In a Word is a feature of Sky View which provides a short commentary or reflection on life, on a current event or a particular book. This post was originally posted in 2011 but was recently revised.

People judge others based on who, or rather, what they are. If a politician, for instance, is accustomed to lying and cheating others for short-term gain, then when there is a question of someone else’s motive or character he will frequently judge others as he sees himself. This goes for unjust, narcissistic and bad people in general. Because they are guided only by their own lights and refuse to conform themselves to God's law- a higher standard outside of themselves -it is difficult for them to consider other ways of thinking. And so they project their own ways of thinking and assign motives to other people's actions that are similar to their own.

The gift of faith, on the other hand, trains the mind to see morality and the world from a perspective other than our own. After all, our Lord bids us to take the plank out of our own eye before we attempt to remove the speck out of our brother’s eye. This requires that we take a second look at ourselves; especially from someone else’s vantage point...especially God's vantage point!

With that said, those who are innocent like doves can make the same mistake as people with tainted motives. Indeed, those with a well-formed conscience sometimes get into the habit of assigning pure and innocent motives to those who do not merit it. For those that are pure of heart, it is difficult to imagine that someone can deliberately commit an evil act. Perhaps, this is why Jesus said, “Be as simple as doves and wise as serpents.” Simple in that we should do good deeds with honorable motives; wise in that we should realize, often painfully, that many in world do not aspire to such high moral standards.

Yet, we know that the Saints often assumed the best in others while seeing the worst in themselves. Yes, they assumed the best in others...even in the worst of sinners. However, they were not naive. When evil or immorality did present itself and when trust has been broken, the Saints, more than anyone else, took strong measures to deal with the evil at hand. They were wise as serpents in that they spared no sacrifice to eliminate and purge the evil in their midst (cf. I Corinthians 5:13). More often than not, three motives inspired such a zeal to purge evil: 1. Love for the sinner. 2. Love for those who would be harmed by the sin. 3. And love for God.

Christ calls each of his followers to spiritual and moral vigilance. This requires that we juggle opposites. That is, we have to be willing to see the very best in others while never turning a blind eye to a sin, a weakness or any vice that would disqualify the trust we put in them. I am afraid there is where many us have fallen short.

God forbid! Christian love does not mean that the person we are called to forgive automatically warrants our trust; especially when the person in question is in a position to harm others. To repeat, the Apostles and the Saints were quick to remove any unrepentant sinner from their fellowship who would cause scandal or spiritual detriment to others. It was precisely out of love for God and for souls they did this! This well-formed virtue of Christian love enabled them to love human souls more than human feelings. It sometimes happens that a charitable but candid word or a firm handed approach directed towards the good of the soul will disturb feelings. After all, spiritual and moral welfare "always" takes a higher priority over the fleeting nature of feelings, likes or dislikes.

To think with Christ is to think big. And to think big brings us to the realization that human beings can achieve the heights of sanctity, or, sadly, fall into the depths of great evil. With an informed faith we can see the world as it really is and act accordingly. But most importantly- the most important thing of all -is that this gift of faith helps us to see ourselves as we really are.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

St. Alphonsus: Rising Above Adversity

Have you ever heard of a person starting an organization only to be kicked out of it? Well, this is what happened to St. Alphonsus Liguori whose memory is celebrated by the Catholic Church on August 1st. One of the testaments to his outstanding character is that adversity did not hold this man down!

In 1839 Alphonsus Liguori was canonized a Saint and in 1871 was declared to be a Doctor of the Church. Yet, he was a man who experienced many defeats in his life. One such defeat came in 1723 when, as a lawyer, he suffered a humiliating loss in the courtroom. It was said that he did not eat for three days. But that setback would prove to be quite useful in God’s plan.

It just so happened during that same year, as he was visiting the sick in the hospital, he experienced the presence of God in such a way that would change his life forever. According to one source, “He saw a mysterious light, felt the building shake, and heard the voice of God asking him to ‘leave the world’ and place himself totally in his service.” This transforming experience inspired his vocation to the priesthood. Later, in 1762, he would be ordained a bishop of Naples, Italy.

St. Alphonsus then went on found the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, better known as The Redemptorists. From its beginning in 1732, the Redemptorist order struggled with division from within. It even was met with hostility from the State. Indeed, the Prime Minister of Naples, Bernardo Tanucci, tried to strip the religious order of its privileges. And towards the end of the Saint’s life, ironically, at the very “hands of the Pope who would later declare him venerable, Alphonsus was cast out of the order he founded.”

Nevertheless, whatever confronted him- good or bad –St. Alphonsus took it in stride.
Oh! How many Saints encountered what seemed to be a hopeless situation?! Failures in the eyes of the world, these men and women were used by God to bring about great accomplishments. It also happens that the Lord uses circumstances- that which appears to be useless or a defeat in our eyes -to bring about a greater and lasting good. However, in order to carry this out, the Lord needs willing souls; those Christians who are not discouraged by the appearances of failure or the threat of danger.

This great man learned to accept the peace of God through the various trials of life; not to mention the many infirmities he had to endure. He believed that whatever situation or condition God allowed to transpire in his life- good or evil, health or sickness, honor or disgrace –was part of an intelligent design no less wonderful than the creation of the universe.

Although his prolific writing career did not begin until he was fifty years old, he would write one hundred and eleven books. According to R. J. Miller, “St. Alphonsus had published 7,000 more editions of his works than Shakespeare by 1961 even though Shakespeare had over a century and a half head start.”

Arguably one of his greatest writings was Uniformity with God’s Will. In it he wrote, “Those who love God are always happy, because their whole happiness is to fulfill, even in adversity, the will of God. Afflictions do not mar their serenity, because by accepting misfortune, they know they give pleasure to their beloved Lord.”

This is an important part of knowing God’s peace and his joy. God Almighty either positively wills something to happen (i.e. loving him above everything else and serving the poor) or He allows evil to take place so that some greater good may come of it; such is His passive will. The belief of St. Alphonsus- as well with every canonized Saint –is that whatever happens is either willed or permitted by God. As such, whatever circumstances unfold in our lives is part of a great design whose Author is none other than the Lord himself. To be sure, it is no exaggeration to say that the circumstances of each and every moment are none other than the content of God’s will for us. It may rightly be called the “Sacrament of the Moment.”

But as for those whose happiness depends on favorable circumstances, he writes the following: “Because his peace of mind depends on the prosperity or the adversity he meets; he changes with the changes in the things that happen to him.” “The just man,” on the other hand, “is like the sun, constant in his serenity, no matter what betides him. His calmness of soul is founded on his union with the will of God; hence he enjoys unruffled peace.” This is the key to St. Alphonsus "unruffled peace!" It is the secret to the happiness the Saints enjoyed while they were on earth.

In a nutshell, the secret to sanctity and peace of soul is none other than to will what God gives us in the circumstances of each day. Think about it: If we thank God for only those things that suit our pleasures- and for that which is agreeable to us -can we not also thank Him for all the deprivations and setbacks that run counter to our will as well? And are they not just as good for us in the long run? If we have the faith of St. Alphonsus we would answer in the affirmative.

This is no small feat…to will what God will’s…as it comes to us in the circumstances of each day. In fact, it can be quite grueling! It can wear us down! It can even feel like a kind of death to self! But it is the most mysterious and yet most liberating ambition anyone could have! Indeed, St. Alphonsus’ uniformity to God’s will gave him wings. Now, he is in heaven as one who peacefully resides above all adversity.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Chick-fil-A & Chicago: A heads-up for the Church

Timing is everything. This maxim is especially the case if good is to prevail over evil. Whether it be personal sin or political tyranny, response to a crisis is most effective when it is done in the beginning stages. As the spiritual classic, the Imitation of Christ, cautions: “[W]e must watch, especially in the beginning of temptation; for then the enemy is more easily overcome, if he be not suffered to enter the door of the mind, but is withstood upon the threshold the very moment he knocks. Whence a certain one has said ‘Resist beginnings; all too late the cure.’”

What applies to sin in the spiritual order also applies to injustice in the political order. And just as with personal sin, when government is a menace to liberty it must be met with head-on at the outset.

If history bears witness to the fact that secular-liberalism, when unleashed, runs roughshod over human rights, then the HHS contraceptive mandate is only a harbinger of things to come. This mandate bids us to resist the social and political intolerance while there is time to do so. We can anticipate the State not stopping at coercing Catholic agencies to provide abortifacients and contraceptives to her employees. No. There is another demand that is turning out to be- and will certainly prove to be –a more pressing matter. Indeed, the political will to advance same-sex marriage and criminalize its opposition are much more emotionally charged than the demand for contraception. Enter Chick-fil-A.

Dan Cathy, Chick-fil-A’s president, also happens to be an outspoken Christian. And thanks be to God, he is not shy about the biblical doctrine on marriage. In fact, he publicly stated, “I think we’re inviting God’s judgment when we shake our fist at him, you know, [saying], ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.’ And I pray on God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we would have the audacity to try and redefine what marriage is all about.” Although Mr. Cathy is not a Catholic, this is certainly a position the U.S. Catholic hierarchy can support.

But to Chicago politicians, such a Christian stance on the meaning of marriage is intolerable. For this reason, Chick-fil-A is running into obstacles as it seeks to expand in the Chicago area. For instance, Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emmanuel, complained that “Chick-fil-A’s values are not Chicago values. They’re not respectful of our residents, our neighbors and our family members. And if you’re gonna be part of the Chicago community, you should reflect Chicago values.”

In an attempt to speak for all Chicagoans, the mayor went on to express his political motives for trying to obstruct Chick-fil-A’s attempt to expand in Chicago:

“What the CEO has said as it relates to gay marriage and gay couples is not what I believe, but more importantly, it’s not what the people of Chicago believe. We just passed legislation as it relates to civil union and my goal and my hope … is that we now move on recognizing gay marriage. I do not believe that the CEO’s comments … reflects who we are as a city.”

Rahm Emmanuel is not alone. Chicago alderman, Joe Moreno, also echoes this aversion to the Christian position on marriage: “Same sex marriage, same-sex couples — that’s the civil rights fight of our time. To have those discriminatory policies from the top down is just not something that we’re open to. …We want responsible businesses.”

It is important to note, as many people already know, that this challenge to religious liberty and free enterprise is certainly not restricted to Chicago. The mayor of Boston, Thomas Menino, made his intentions clear as well when he said that Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston. Indeed, not only is America being challenged in this respect, but other nations are as well. Gospel values, which, at one time were sanctuary, are no longer so. The more we read the news, the more we realize that religious liberty and freedom of speech is being eclipsed by the “right” not to be offended; especially as it pertains to sexual preferences.


Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow, Scotland, is taking this growing threat to religious liberty very seriously. According to a Catholic News Agency report, “[J]ust a day before the Scottish government announced it would legislate in favor of same-sex marriage, the archbishop predicted, ‘ I could see myself going to jail possibly at some point over the next 15 years, if God spares me, if I speak out.’” Just like the early Christians who were accused by pagans hating the human race simply because they were unwilling to accept their unlimited number of gods, Christians in the twenty-first century will likewise be accused of hatred. In fact, they already are. Archbishop Tartaglia said, “I am deeply concerned that today, defending the traditional meaning of marriage is almost considered ‘hate speech’ and branded intolerant. Such a response is undemocratic, closes debate and is highly manipulative.”

Professor Robert George of Princeton once said on Relevant Radio that the legalization of same-sex marriage would be an unmitigated disaster. According to the CNA report, Archbishop Tartaglia gives us a few reasons why:

“[The archbishop of Glasgow] predicted that a change in the law could result in employees being fired for opposing same-sex ‘marriage,’ ministers and priests being sued for refusing to allow ‘wedding’ ceremonies to take place in their churches, school children being forced to attend homosexual history lessons, and couples being rejected as foster parents if they oppose the new legislation.”

What to do? Here, I mention short-term measures only. But they are very important nevertheless.

An honest assessment of the past twenty years or so indicates that the Catholic Church, at least in America, has been slow to publicly defend and join alliances with institutions and organizations whose religious liberties have been encroached upon by the State. Perhaps, a policy change is in order. An example that immediately comes to mind is the removal of Justice Roy Moore's monument of the Ten Commandments in the Alabama Supreme Court in November of 2003. I do not recall Catholics rallying behind him. In reality, the same secular tidal wave that had once swept the Ten Commandments monument out of the Alabama courthouse is now pressing up against Chick-fil-A and the Catholic Church.

It would seem, therefore, at the very least, it would serve the best interest of the Church if she were, in some official capacity, to denounce the Chicago politicians (and other foes of religious liberty) for not only opposing the Christian position on marriage but for attempting to limit free enterprise because of it. We should know by now that if this rising tide, so to speak, is not immediately dealt with- even though Chicago's intolerance of Chick-fil-A does not immediately concern the Catholic Church itself –such a crisis will undoubtedly overflow and do her harm.

Yet, the divine authority of the Catholic Church is still the greatest power on earth. We forget that Christ gave the Church authority to forgive and retain sins; to bind and to loose. But rarely does the Church bind and seldom does she retain sins. To be sure, the Church has so many unused weapons at her disposal. It is time that they be dusted off and used again.

Four short-term measures to consider:

First of all, it is not a bad idea for the Church to develop non-partisan- but politically honest –partnerships with those agencies that are being attacked for their support for Christian marriage such as Chick-fil-A. In hindsight, it is evident that we should have done this long ago.

Secondly, the pulpit on Sundays is a powerful venue for getting the message out. The threats to religious liberty and free enterprise is getting serious enough that Catholics ought to hear more about these threats during Sunday sermons on a routine basis. To be sure, to re-educate Catholics about the connection between socially liberal values politicians hold, and the unfriendly policies to religious liberty that are sure to follow, would be a most beneficial public service.

Third, Pope Leo XIII reminded Catholics in 1896, “Agreement and union of minds is the necessary foundation of this perfect concord amongst men, from which concurrence of wills and similarity of action are the natural results.” Unity of voice is but the necessary foundation for the communication of truth. As such, truth will greatly influence the minds of those who consider it. As to this latter point, a media blitz through press conferences by individual bishops within the same time period throughout the country will arguably draw considerable attention to the cause for freedom. And if possible, the media presence by the bishops- making radio and television appearances -will create a stronger impression that the public is in favor of religious liberty. Americans are forgetful. They need frequent reminders as to what is at stake.

Lastly, as alluded to previously, the U.S. Bishops, and Catholics who have a public voice, ought to name names in their indictment against the enemies of religious liberty. To do so is far from being unchristian. St. Paul did it with men who made a “shipwreck of their faith,” such as Hymenaeus and Alexander. St. John the Evangelist publicly drew attention to Diotrephes; a man who did not acknowledge his authority. And St. John the Baptist publicly took King Herod to task for his wrongful marriage. This way, politicians who threaten to close down Catholic agencies for not supporting same-sex marriage will more likely pay a political price; they may even think twice before acting. Furthermore, these same politicians- those who are no friends of religious liberty -ought not be allowed to step foot in a church or cathedral.

Let us learn from St. Ambrose of Milan, a Church Father in the fourth century, who publicly withstood Roman emperor Theodosius II at the cathedral door. It just so happened that the emperor had not yet repented from a serious sin. But after the saintly bishop pushed him away…away from the entrance, the Roman emperor yielded and did public penance.

Some of these short-term tactics are unconventional but they do have precedent in Church history. Catholic clergy and laity will have to think outside the box; and do so quickly. After all, timing is everything. “Resist beginnings; all too late the cure.”

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Future of Freedom

Reposting excerpts from:
The Future of Freedom, 1938
By Douglas Jerrold


“Even if mankind had no soul to save, it would still be true that the Christian civilization had saved his body. The Christian society is not merely a free society, it is the only free society which has ever endured...”

"It is not a coincidence but a consequence that, wherever the basic Christian institutions have been destroyed, so the powers and responsibilities of governments, even in Christian countries, have had to be increased until today the tasks of government, and the funds required to discharge them, are alike so great as to tax their utmost limits the resources of the richest peoples in the world."

Preface: Douglas Jerrold was a Catholic-political author from England. He maintained liberty is a stern discipline. For that reason, when liberty turns to license, when there is no check to our quests for pleasure, it is then that the political powers will be is poised to grow while true liberty diminishes. He warned long before the Sexual Revolution that preaching unbridled promiscuity is quite effective in ushering in a totalitarian state. After all, who else but a State vested with power can clean up the social debris?


Excerpt: Future of Freedom

The first point, therefore, for Christians to remember about politics is that the Christian civilization, now openly challenged all over the world, is founded on two revolutionary assertions, which have had as their secular consequence a unique series of political experiments. Our civilization is rooted in the teachings of Christ and thus, for practicing Christians, it enjoys peculiar authority, but even if it were not so, we should still be wise to spend a little time in thinking about those characteristics which distinguish the Christian civilization from all other civilizations, in asking ourselves whether we should be doing wisely to change it so as to deprive it of these characteristics. It has changed the face of the world. It is responsible for material progress on a scale unknown to any previous civilization. It has created possibilities of happiness unknown to any previous civilization.

The bases of Christian civilization are the freedom of man within a closed moral order, and the autonomy of secular power, subject to the prior rights of the family. This balance of institutions derives neither from human wisdom nor from the mysteries of religious contemplation, but from specific dogmas of Christianity. The primacy of the spiritual in the world order derives from the teaching that all men are equal before God. Man’s claim to freedom rests, not on his intelligence, as fools believe, nor his claims on the good nature of those more intelligent than himself, as knaves pretend, but on his first duty to serve God with his heart, mind and soul. The doctrine that the rights of the family are absolute as against the rights of the State derives from the second commandment of the Christian dispensation, which imposes on man, as the price of salvation, the fulfillment of social obligations. These obligations cannot be freely fulfilled in a society which places the State above the family, and so removes from man his direct and personal responsibility for the preseveration and well-being, from generation to generation, of the society to which he belongs...

Even if mankind had no soul to save, it would still be true that the Christian civilization had saved his body. The Christian society is not merely a free society, it is the only free society which has ever endured. It is not a coincidence but a consequence that, wherever the basic Christian institutions have been destroyed, so the powers and responsibilities of governments, even in Christian countries, have had to be increased until today the tasks of government, and the funds required to discharge them, are alike so great as to tax their utmost limits the resources of the richest peoples in the world. The end of this process is seen in the final necessity imposed upon Governments which have destroyed all the institutions of a free society, to appropriate all the resources of their country to maintain their organization, and destroy all the rights of personality in order to maintain their authority…

Christian civilization is based on freedom and responsibilities, and having been so based for thousand years, there is, in every heir to that civilization, the urge to express himself in freedom of action. A man free to know, love and serve God; a man taught that he has an immortal soul and is only a little lower than the angels; that it is God’s will that, when he has worked out his salvation, he shall be crowned with honor and glory, such a man will not be content with a political regime which does not allow him say “Bo” to a goose, or even to a Commissar. If we go too far along the road to slavery, one of two things must happen. Either man’s political master must seek to cure him of the belief in his divine destiny, and to reduce him spiritually as well as politically to the animal level, or man will demand from his political mentors a field for the free expression of his personality in action.

The attack on the Church and the free family, on the Church sovereign in its own sphere and the family with rights antecedent to those of the State, is necessary to the positive state, because it is built on the denial of those rights of the human personality which the Christian state holds sacred…

I only wish in this chapter to emphasize that our historic Christian civilization is different in kind, by reason of its obedience to certain commands of Christ, from all the civilizations which have preceded it, and that the challenge of the new, twentieth-century conception of the State must be resisted if this civilization is to be preserved.

Ancient Rome: Symptoms of decay

Reposting for new Sky View readers:


Book: The Church of the Apostles and Martyrs (1948)
Author: Henri Daniel-Rops

Points from this excerpt:
• Centralization: demise of local authority
• State financial crisis
• Tyranny or autocracy
• Feminism and the shortage of real men
• Multiculturalism
• Depopulation
• Sexual revolution

Preface:

Recently I have been posting excerpts from books by good Catholic historians whose insights are rarely considered nowadays. Hilaire Belloc, Christopher Dawson, Alexis de Tocqueville and Henri Daniel-Rops are some of my favorite. If we can learn from the causes of growth and decline in previous civilizations, perhaps the restoration of America’s greatness is still a possibility. Indeed, history bears witness that the main force of cultural birth and renewal comes from the Catholic Church.

By the time Christianity had been legalized in 313 A.D., the Roman Empire’s decline had long since started. Because the Catholic Church was suppressed for nearly three hundred years she was hardly in a position to save the public institutions of ancient Rome.

This is why the religious liberty of the Catholic Church is so important in America. If Catholics can recover the confidence that their spiritual ancestors possessed, the confidence needed to successfully carry out their mission, then America has fighting chance to retain her greatness. To put it bluntly, Europe appears to be a lost cause with its impending demographic collapse and decades of abandoning its Christian roots, but there is still hope for America.


Enter Henri Daniel-Rops on Ancient Rome:

The political and social crisis:

The circumstances which the political crisis revealed in brutal fashion existed in every field of human activity. Though the word decadence cannot be applied to the Empire of the first two centuries A.D., its use begins to be justified by the third. All those cracks which the solid structure of the Imperium already possessed in the heyday of its splendor were now growing wider and deeper. Infection had triumphed over many parts of an organism which reacted more and more ineffectually against the forces of destruction…

[The] social crisis was fundamentally linked with the evolution of the State’s very principles. This evolution was a disastrous one. The Roman citizen, in fact, no longer existed. In 212 Caracalla [Roman emperor from 198-217 A.D.] had extended the right of citizenship to all free men living in urban communities or on land they owned, whatever their origin or place of residence within the Empire. What impelled the emperor to make such a splendid present in an epoch of disturbance and wretchedness? The inscription of a man’s name on the civic lists meant that it was inscribed also upon the register of new taxes! Did these raw new citizens at once acquire the traditions and virtues of ancient Rome? Increasingly, whatever classification might be used, there were no longer any citizens, only subjects, bound to obey a growing autocracy.

If the citizen was in decline the municipality was equally so. The municipal regime which had been the keystone of the early Empire, enabling immense structure to retain all of its flexibility, was showing signs of weakening. The local authorities, confronted with an increasingly serious financial situation, shirked their responsibilities. Municipal councilors could no longer be found, and it was necessary to go so far as to nominate men to the office, at the same time holding them as sureties for the fiscal collections! The almost federal system of the Golden Age was gradually replaced by centralization and bureaucracy, the typical evils of declining regimes. Only one solution could be found to the problem of supervising the cities: they were given imperial administrators. The reign of bureaucrats began. From about the year 200 decree after decree appeared, exempting the officials and the tenants of the emperor’s estates from all duties and taxes. The more time went by, the more the State intervened in all sectors of activity; the more precarious its authority became, the more it claimed the right to impose that authority everywhere…

And although during the first two centuries A.D. the Empire progressed farther and farther along the road towards centralization and state control, the Roman world did not yet know the defects inherent in these methods of government, defects of which it was subsequently to have most painful experience: incoherency of purpose and inertia, waste and ineffectualness.

Inscriptions dating from the first emperor’s reign have been found at several places in Asia Minor. On them we can read sentences like this one: "Providence sent us Augustus, as a Savior, to put an end to war and to regulate all of our affairs; the day of his birth marked the beginning of Good News for the whole world…"


Crisis of morality:

The entire moral atmosphere of this epoch was permeated by a new style of feminism, which had been brought from the East by the Syrian princesses of Septimius Serverus’ [Roman emperor] family: women filled the roles of men because the men were wanting…

But there was something even worse than this landslide of society towards moral inertia; or, to put it more accurately, a second phenomenon existed alongside it, deriving from the same causes, and especially from the excessive enrichment of all sections of the population. Roman society was attacked in its most vital spot, at the source which sustains all societies; the structure of the family was shaken to its roots, and the birth-rate began to fall. The mother of the Gracchi had borne twelve children; and the beginning of the second century A.D. parents who had as many as three were to be praised as quite exceptional. Men shirked marriage and its obligations: had not the orbitas, the bachelor, all the advantages the principal being to assure the rich man of a permanently faithful following of expectant heirs? And, after all, he was depriving himself of nothing, since slavery provided him with bed companions who were more docile than any legal wife, and who, moreover, could be exchanged whenever he wanted. Abortion and the ‘exposing’ of the new-born babies...acquiring terrifying proportions: in Trajan’s reign one inscription gives the precise information that, of 181 new-born infants, 179 were legitimate, and that the latter figure included only 35 girls. This proves how lightly people disposed of their daughters and their bastards. As for divorce, it became so common place that no one attempted to provide reasonable justification for it any more: the simple desire for change sufficed.

The substitution of the State edict for the individual conscience is always a sure sign of decadence, in every country and in every age. A nation is indeed sick at heart if in order to live decently and to produce children it needs a series of subsidies and rules to enable it to do so…It was no longer for the emperor and his jurists to attempt to restore the healthy foundations of Roman society. Nothing less than a radical change in the very bases of morality itself, and in its effects upon the individual’s mind, would now suffice [Here, Daniel-Rops was referring to the sanctity of the soul].

Was there any attempt to halt this moral disintegration? States have always shown themselves completely incapable of restoring their moral foundations once they have allowed them to weaken. The Roman rulers were far from being unaware of the peril, but their good intentions were absurdly useless, in view of the strength of the forces which were driving their society on to ruin. Augustus’s example is cogent evidence of this. He promulgated countless laws with the loftiest of moral intentions, in an effort to fight the twin scourges of adultery and divorce…
________________________________________________________________

Postscript:

1. Ralph Martin Novak, author of Christianity and the Roman Empire, provides a sobering statistic of third century Rome which serves as a warning to our U.S. government.

He said, "It is estimated that whereas at the start of the third century A.D. the Roman emperors employed only about 300 to 350 full-time individuals in administering the Empire, by 300 A.D. this number had grown to some 30,000 or 35,000 people [italics added]. The expense of this vastly increased administrative and military structure was an enormous burden on the people of the Empire, and the burden only grew more oppressive over the course of the fourth century A.D....Rome's efforts to collect the taxes necessary to pay for defense and administration exacerbated the already deep social and economic divisions within the Roman empire."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Excerpts: Thanking God for Crosses

“Excerpts” is a feature of Sky View which takes passages from old and dusty books because of some insight they offer or light they shed on the daily circumstances of our lives.

The following excerpt is taken from the book, “My Changeless Friend” written by Francis P. LeBuffe, S.J. 1949 The title of the chapter is called: Thanking God for Crosses.


Giving thanks always for all things, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God the Father. (Ephesians 5:29)

He was a hard-headed specialist, one of the greatest authorities in his line. He had seen service at a leper colony and had cared for four thousand patients there. While there, a Jesuit chaplain was stricken with the dreaded disease.

“When I told him, Father, of his condition, he looked at me and then slowly lifted his eyes to Heaven, saying: ‘Thanks be to God!’ I just couldn’t make that out- and I can’t make it out yet. Thanks be to God for leprosy?!”

It did seem strange; and it didn’t seem to make sense. Thank God for leprosy! Thank God for the “gray death” that is so feared by man!

Yet, once we have caught the real inner meaning of life and the full providence of God over us, we know how to thank Him for everything. Anyone can thank Him for health and wealth and happiness and success. Anyone, even most casually acquainted with Him, can thank Him for bright days and joys and a road through life that is broad and smooth and sunny. Even a dog will bark and a cat will purr when food is given them.

But when the hard things of life come, and the days are dark, and every road leads steeply uphill- then it is that only a strong faith can bring a “Thank You” to our lips.

Yet if we believe in God’s Providence, we know that nothing happens to us without His knowledge and consent. It is not correct to say that all that is hard and painful is sent to us directly by God. No, much of it comes from our own mistakes or perverseness, or the mistakes and perverseness of other men. In those instances, God merely permits hard things to happen to us. Thus, when they actually do come upon us, they come with His full knowledge and permission, and we can, therefore, accept them as His will. He could have disposed things otherwise, but in His wisdom He did not; and thus here and now I bear my cross because it is His will.

But to a Christian there is a higher reason. Christ could have come upon earth and never have suffered a pain, and never have suffered any opposition. He could have had all the wealth He wanted and made Himself the honored ruler of all mankind. Certainly all that lay easily within His omnipotence. But instead He came in want; He met opposition and enmity throughout His life; He knew hunger; and often had not whereon to lay His head; and He died in the worst form of agony man’s cruelty has yet invented.

So when we are in want, when we are in pain, when crosses weigh us down, we can accept them- yes, and will accept them- with a heartfelt “Thank You.” They are hard to bear- of course they are; and our nature will rebel- of course it will. But we will realize as the great Catholic poet realized that it is “shade of His hand outstretched caressingly.” He knows what is best, and if He hurts or allows us to be hurt, He does it as the surgeon does, to heal. And we thank the surgeon, don’t we? And we thank that doctor that gives us bitter medicine or restricts our food, don’t we? And we are more like the Man of Sorrows in our days of darkness and our hours of pain. We love Him, don’t we? Well, “love either finds or makes alike.” Surely then a real “Thank You” will spring from our hearts and hang jubilant upon our lips for each untoward thing that makes us more like Him.

Dear Jesus, let me learn to say “Thank You” for everything that comes to me in life. It is easy to be grateful for what is pleasant and to my liking. But it is hard, very hard, to be at all thankful for pain and disappointments and crosses. You know it; You Yourself found it hard. Yet You were thankful nonetheless. So give me much grace to say “Thank You” for everything.

Good-bye for now Rob: One Year Later

One year ago, on July 25, a member of my extended family by the name of Rob Koger had passed away. He was only 35 years old. He suffered a severe head injury which, 2-3 days later, proved to be fatal.

Over the next several months, I had the privilege of corresponding to the Koger family. And it just so happened that during this time period I had become acquainted with about 4 or 5 people who had lost a loved one through death. Although I have never personally experienced such as loss, I learned a lot about grieving and the hope that sometimes accompanies.

For instance, I talked to a co-worker by the name of Dave. He lost his wife through brain cancer. A brain tumor had developed, and because of medical treatment, her cancer had gone into remission for 6 years. But sadly, the cancer returned; and aggressively so. Just a week before she had passed away, while she and her husband Dave were driving, she asked her husband to reminisce about their marriage. “Talk about us,” she said. And so he did. But at that point, Dave instinctively knew that her time was drawing near. Later he found out that nothing could prepare one for such a loss.

After his wife’s death, Dave told me it was like a big part of his heart was ripped out. However, he had two kids- a son and a daughter that he had to be strong for. He could have easily have been overwhelmed and paralyzed with sadness. But his duty as a father had bid him to rise above his natural inclinations. In response to what he shared with me, I told him that I had once heard that the healing begins when you start remembering the deceased loved one’s life more than his or her death. Therefore, I was surprised when he told me that his healing began when he stopped feeling sorry for himself. I had never heard that before.

Another thing he shared with me about the grieving process is that there can be a tension between two tracks: One track is the outside world; it continues to move on. The other track is where his world had abruptly stopped. As for the latter track, if you will, life is never the same when a close loved one dies. It’s like the World Trade Center building falling on 9/11: When those two buildings collapsed, it was difficult to even believe what our eyes were seeing. It was surreal. On the other hand, in the aftermath, that is, in the absence of the two skyscrapers, NYC skyline was forever changed. In the days to follow, it was hard not to stare at such a sad spectacle.

So there you are! A big part of your world stops rotating because the scenery is just not the same. It’s hard not to stare. And to be sure, it is impossible not to think about such a void “all the time.” After all, your deceased loved one contributed to who you are. Moreover, God shared apart of Himself through that person that no one else can communicate. Indeed, that person is irreplaceable.

"There is a new kind of normal” that replaces the old normal. Still, the world that exists outside of your grief continues to move. It continues to impose the same demands upon you. In other words, it doesn’t stop to grieve with you. And as for friends and family who sincerely want to support those who are grieving, they can make the mistake of never mentioning the deceased loved one out of fear that it might elicit tears. Yet, it is the deceased loved one that is constantly, if not, frequently, on the minds of those who mourn. Surprising to some, talking about our deceased loved ones is one of many means of healing.

In any event, Dave is a Christian. And to be sure, more than anything else, he is comforted knowing that his wife is with him in spirit and that one day they would be reunited in heaven. Although his friends will sometimes avoid the topic, he likes talking about his wife. In fact, he smiles when he mentions her name. Despite his loss, he is a man of hope. You can see it on his face.

And then there is Adam, another co-worker of mine: He lost his 3 year old daughter in a car accident. His wife was driving with their daughter in the car when they tragically got into an accident. Adam’s wife survived but his daughter did not. Just as unfortunate was that his wife could not forgive herself (although the accident wasn’t really her fault). Things went from bad to worse and the loss of their daughter ended up tearing apart their marriage. However, through group counseling, Adam managed to work through his grief.

A lesson can be learned from this story in that if we are to reach out and accept God’s forgiveness for whatever wrong or mistake we have made, it follows, not so much as a natural consequence but as a matter of moral obligation, that we have to make a choice to forgive ourselves. Only then can peace come to us. Adam was able to forgive but his wife could not bring herself to do so. She still suffers from this to this day.

Interestingly enough, one night Adam had a dream of his daughter. It was short but it was enough to bring him some consolation. In his dream he saw his daughter in a beautiful field of sorts. She was very happy and at peace. So touched by this, he woke up crying. But this was enough for him to believe that his daughter was in Good Hands.

Finally, I had the opportunity to talk to my daughter’s volleyball coach who had lost his 20 year old son, Dan, through cancer. The coach's name was Roger. When we first met, it had been 10 months since his son’s passing. My daughter’s volleyball team was celebrating the end of their season at a Pizza Hut. As such, they wanted to thank their coach in a special way. After giving him a gift, the coach fought back the tears and talked briefly about his son. The gift was a donation to Dan’s House of Hope; a charitable foundation created by Roger and his wife to honor their son and to give aid to those young men and women who were suffering from the same cancer Dan suffered from. Although Roger and I talked briefly about his son at Pizza Hut, it wasn’t until after Rob Koger passed away that we were able to talk in depth about his experience of loss. By this time, it had been 2 years since Dan had passed away and only a few months after Rob’s death.

After my conversation with Roger, I realized two things with greater clarity:

First, I realized how important faith is. He told me how he struggled to come to terms that his son could be in heaven; that he really could be in a better place. Faith really is a gift. For some, the gift is accepted with greater ease; yet for others, seizing it requires courage of venturing into the unknown. It can be a real struggle to reach out and lay hold of this gift from God.

Second, Roger told me that by creating Dan’s House of Hope, it brought him and his wife closer together. It gave them opportunities to talk about their son, Dan. This is when I realized that losing a loved one can be a kind of calling from God. I have talked to numerous people who took their grief and used it for a higher good; to serve others or to offer their pain of loss as a kind of spiritual sacrifice for the conversion of family members and/or friends. With Christ, suffering is never wasted. Thankfully, grieving can join forces with charity which, in the end, can gave meaning to profound loss. It was if they, who grieve, could now say to those in need, “Friend, I see that you are suffering. I too suffer. How can I help?”

As for the Koger and the Luder families, Rob’s passing on July 25, 2011, created a big hole that no one else can fill or compensate for. His uncle told me that when Rob used to walk into a room, he lit it up. And when I paid tribute to him by writing a short blog about what he meant to all who knew him a year ago, hundreds of people clicked in from all over the country to read it. It was then I realized how much he was loved and how good of a man Rob Koger was.

It might be easier for me to believe this than for others who were closer to Rob, but in my heart I believe that just as his life had meaning, so too does his death. It just so happens that the Catholic Church celebrates the Saints, not on their day of birth, but on the day they died. After all, it was on that day they inherited their eternal reward. And as for Rob, he received what is known in the Church as the “Apostolic Pardon” at the Wesley Medical Center. It is a special blessing by the Church that makes a soul immediately ready for eternal happiness. This is why July 25 has great meaning for me and hopefully for those who love Rob. As Pope Leo XIII said, "...when we have given up this present life, then shall we really begin to live...He [God] has given us this world as a place of exile, and not as our abiding place."

Monday, July 23, 2012

Paterno, celebrities and heroes

There are heroes and then there are celebrities. America, unfortunately, is nation where celebrities attract most of the publicity. Prior to the 1950’s, the youth of America were taught to look up to heroes; to be inspired by their example. Such heroes were men and women of character and high moral standards. But then with the emergence of Rock and Roll in the fifties and sixties- along with the prominence of Hollywood in American culture -teenagers went from admiring heroes and respecting their elders to adoring each other. Elvis Presley and the Beatles, for instance, had a fan base of young men and women who were roughly the same age as they were.

From this era, the cult of celebrities was born. And although celebrity status is merited by real talent- whether it be musical, acting or athletic –the moral character of heroes faded into the background of American culture. But as the years passed, the public has come to learn- year by year -of the moral failings of celebrity rock stars, actors, athletes and yes, even coaches.

Enter Joe Paterno, former head coach of Penn State: It was a sad scene for some 100 to 150 onlookers at Penn State University on Sunday, July 22. The statue honoring the late coach was taken down amid much controversy over his handling of the sex abuse scandal of his assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15 year period. But equally egregious was the fact that top officials at Penn State, including Paterno, did little to nothing to prevent further abuse after having learned about Sandusky’s conduct.

Louis Freeh, former FBI director, led a special task force to investigate these allegations. After an eight-month inquiry, he voiced his findings at a news conference in Philadelphia on Thursday, July 12:

"The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized…These individuals, unchecked by the Board of Trustees that did not perform its oversight duties, empowered Sandusky to attract potential victims to the campus and football events by allowing him to have continued, unrestricted and unsupervised access to the university's facilities and affiliation with the university's prominent football program. Indeed, that continued access provided Sandusky with the very currency that enabled him to attract his victims."

Paterno just happened to have, under his belt, the most victories in college football history at 409. He is justly regarded to be among the best, if not, the best coach in college football. Some would even say that he was another George Halas; the grand daddy of the game! However, the blight on his character for being derelict while his associate coach was molesting boys- forever marring their lives –changed all of that. In fact, NCAA president Mark Emmert reduced the number of Paterno’s wins from 409 to 298. It just so happen that Joe Paterno had reached 298 victories in 1998 when Sandusky’s sexually abuse allegedly began. Now, Penn State University football is waiting to hear about what kind of penalties they are to incur from the NCAA.

Like so many gifted athletes, musicians and actors, Joe Paterno fell short where it really counted. As Mr. Freeh said, “The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized.” To be sure, protecting children from sexual predators is where it really mattered in his case. The glories of college football pales in comparison! And yet what really counts compared to what is of little importance is a line that is often blurred in the world of fame.

Failing to protect children is symptomatic of other common sins and vices among many (but certainly not all) celebrities. How many times have we learned about significant moral shortcomings of great athletes after their career had expired? Although marital infidelity and sexual promiscuity are sins the public barely winces at anymore, it is, nevertheless, a matter that the Lord will take up- with a great deal of interest –when we are judged by Him face to face. After all, we can be the best coach, the best football player, the best actor or the best rock star, but in the end these are nothing in comparison with being a good and faithful spouse, parent, son, daughter or sibling. If we fail in this latter department, we fail in life. As such, we will have much to answer for.

Scripture tells us that real heroism lies in being faithful to God and in loving those He has entrusted to us; be it family members or children under our care. It is in this that real greatness is to be found. The love of neighbor, one that is pleasing to God, cannot be had without first loving Him and our family. Loving humanity in the abstract is simply not possible without it. Indeed, when we love family and are willing to sacrifice for those closest to us, then our contribution to society will have enduring value; and it will certainly follow us to heaven. Then, and only then, can the words of St. James find fulfillment: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

With that said, Americans have to be careful about those men and women they anoint as worthy of admiration. Again, there are heroes and then there are celebrities.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Colorado Shootings: Like a Thief in the Night

Tragic! Too soon! Unexpected! And even heroism! These are some thoughts that immediately come to mind after hearing about the shooting tragedy in Aurora, Colorado. Quite often, these tragedies remind us of the unexpected nature of death. Upon hearing about these tragic stories, people immediately conjure up the losing of a loved one through a sudden death. And it is not uncommon that the thought of our own mortality comes to mind too. Indeed, it is through an abrupt and unanticipated for death is where the words of our Lord often find fulfillment: “Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who watches and keeps his clothes ready, so that he may not go naked…” (Revelation 16:15)

When we learn about the death of a child, it is hard to understand why the Lord would come so soon- some might be tempted to say “too soon!” –for a girl whose life was just beginning. Veronica, an innocent 6 year old girl, was one of 12 fatalities in the Century 16 theater shootings in Aurora, CO. When a young child dies, loved ones, especially the parents, often ask, “why?” Why does God allow a girl like little Veronica to die so soon...so early in life?

And then we have Alex Sullivan; a married young man who had just turned 27 years of age. That’s right! He died on his 27th birthday. Just before heading to the theater, Alex tweeted, "Oh man one hour till the movie and its going to be the best BIRTHDAY ever!” In a few short days, he also was due to celebrate his first anniversary with his wife. For Alex, and no doubt, for his family, his death was so sudden! Birthdays are a celebration of life. As such, they hardly occasion thoughts of death and mortality. Like Veronica, so much of life had yet to be lived.

Then we have the heroic act of Matt McQuinn, another 27 year old who instinctively took a bullet for his girlfriend, Samantha Yowler, and her brother, Nick Yowler. When James Holmes, the Aurora shooter, started spraying his bullets at dozens of people in theater 9, it was reported that Matt “dove on top of Samantha Yowler to shield her from bullets, family attorney Rob Scott told NBC station WLWT of Cincinnati.” As one Saint said, virtue acts quietly, but the reputation of virtue is stirred up by adversity. Whether Matt McQuinn was a friend of God is unknown at this point. However, when a man lays down his life for another person, as Matt did, we know, as Christians, that the Lord looks favorably upon such heroism.

Finally, Micayla Medek, 23, was also among the 12 fatalities in the Colorado shooting. Her relative, Anita Busch, told the Associated Press that, "I hope this evil act … doesn't shake people's faith in God." No doubt, when a tragedy strikes of this magnitude it can rattle the belief in Divine Providence. Yet, it is only Divine Providence- one that encompasses both time and eternity -that can account for the meaning of a death of a 6 year old, for a sudden end to one’s life on his 27th birthday and for a man who laid down his life for two of his friends.

In a letter to a friend who suddenly lost a brother through a tragic accident in 2011, I attempted to address how the Lord tolerates untimely death of loved ones and of evil and misfortunes in general. Personally, I have found that it is primarily through suffering, praying, meditating on Scripture, and reading the writings of the Saints which lead us to the answer. Perhaps the reason why a good and loving God tolerates evil, human suffering and sudden death is the reason why we should find meaning in such things.

This begs the following question. It is one I asked my friend who was grieving the loss of her brother: How does God do it? How does he endure it or even tolerate untimely deaths, human suffering and evil? Even Jesus, while he was on earth (a divine person in human flesh), had to know all the sufferings, the injustices and cruelty of humanity. But there is a reason why he wasn’t in constant agony over this. There is a reason why the Lord can tolerate such a sad spectacle of events.

It has something to do with this: The worst of human suffering and cruelty on earth is far outweighed by the reality of eternity. Eternity- and here I refer to heaven –is so full of compensation, so all-encompassing, so permanent and so full of happiness that people who go there would gladly endure a life of suffering. I know that is tough to imagine. But as Scripture states, human life is but a vapor, appearing one moment and disappearing the next. God sees our life on earth- with our trials and joys –simultaneously with our life in eternity. He knows exactly what we need and allows only what is in our best interests. And our best interest is that our eternal happiness is secured in heaven. If the soul is not saved, nothing is saved. To that end, God tolerates evil, human suffering and sudden death.

The suffering and the injustices that are endured are not only meaningful but they are, ironically enough, the very instruments God uses to bring about our conversion and salvation. To the world, this is utter folly. But as Christians, we are to understand that even the most painful of circumstances can be life-giving.

Death comes like a thief in the night and for that reason we must be prepared. As our Lord Jesus said, “Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect.” However, when death does come at an hour we do not expect- when it tragically takes us by surprise -it is only Divine Providence that can give meaning to it! And it is precisely during times such as these that Jesus says to us, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” It is in him where meaning, peace and recovery is found.

In every sinner awaits a St. Mary Magdalene

Reposting for St. Mary Magdalene's Feast Day (July 22nd):

St. Mary Magdalene is sometimes referred to as the thirteenth Apostle. Tradition has it that she was a prostitute but then, after having been touched by divine grace, was inspired to follow Jesus Christ. Out of all the disciples–not including the Blessed Virgin–the Risen Lord had appeared to her first on that beautiful Easter morning.

The honor of being one of the first witnesses of the Resurrection hearkens back to what Jesus said to the Pharisees and the Sadducees: “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.” (Matthew 21:31) She was one of those early Christians who understood just what the forgiveness of sin costs. After all, she was one of the few who courageously stood at the foot of the Cross when our Lord breathed his last.

St. Mary Magdalene also knew just what it meant to be in spiritual darkness and moral confusion. She was a restless soul who was a victim of men’s lust. What St. Paul predicted about exploited women in the end days could arguably be said of St. Mary: “For some of these (i.e. “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God) slip into homes and make captives of women weighed down by sins, led by various desires, always trying to learn but never able to reach a knowledge of the truth.” (II Timothy 3:6-7).

Indeed, the saintly woman from Magdala, near Tiberius, can teach us a thing or two about looking for love in all the wrong places. But alas! She found a Man who gave her the love of a Father and a Brother. In her search for peace, our Lord saw a Saint in the making and he seized the opportunity! Jesus not only took her sins to the Cross but he paid a social price for reaching out to her. Unfortunately, the Savior had to choose between not offending the Pharisees (who were His religious peers and the religious authorities of first century Judaism) and as such, possibly lose the opportunity to save her soul–or–offend the Pharisees by defending her and by making her one of his disciples. He chose the latter. But make no mistake about it–he had to choose!

You see if Jesus winced at offending people–especially His religious peers who disapproved of having anything to do with her–Mary would have never become a Saint. St. Mary Magdalene or even Zachaeus, the short man who climbed the tree to see Jesus, would have never benefited from His divine friendship if, in fact, he avoided the hatred of men at all cost. Unlike many of us today, Jesus ventured off of his religious turf and went out to seek sinners. To be sure, all sorts of sinners traveled many miles to see our Lord. But it can be also said that as the Good Shepherd, he went out looking for his lost sheep too.

Perhaps this is where we, as Catholics, have played it too safe. We wait for the Mary Magdalenes to come to our parish, to our bible studies and to our retreats. Perhaps this is why the twentieth century teachers, evangelists and pastors of the Faith did not enjoy the robust harvest the early Christians enjoyed.

St. Mary Magdalene challenges us to venture into uncharted waters; to get out of our comfort zones and to visit those places that may appear to be unseemly to our tastes.

In the twentieth century many good Catholics have developed the habit of retreating to those places that are familiar to them. The apostolic zeal which once carried us to foreign lands to hazard risks and even dangers, does not burn quite as intensely for us in comparison. As Fulton Sheen said in the 1950s, during prosperous times Christian pastors tend to visit their own. Staying within the confines of the church building they settle down into a comfortable routine of administrative duties. But in the throes of adversity, it often happens that pastors become shepherds by being "out there" where the people are; tending to their spiritual needs and taking risks they would not have taken during times of prosperity.

America may be at a time when adversity is becoming more pronounced than prosperity; when our challenges are more apparent to us than the promise of a problem-free tomorrow. As such, the people on the streets and those in public square need to see their shepherds, teachers and evangelists.

After all, "out there," in the streets, is where we find the Mary Magdalenes. And in every prostitute, adulterer, criminal, atheist and anti-Christian bigot is where we need to see a potential St. Mary Magdalene.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

America and Philidelphia: Mission Territory Again

Catholic News Agency reported that in an online posting on July 17, Cardinal Timothy Dolan said that the United States of America is a mission territory once again. Archbishop Charles Chaput also echoed this realization when he said that the city of Philadelphia is “now really mission territory … for the second time.” Acknowledging that a crisis of faith is now entrenched in the fabric of Western societies, another finding they addressed is the lack of confidence people have in organized religion; especially the Church. Cardinal Dolan alluded to as much when he suggested, “Maybe, we have gotten way too smug. We have taken our Catholic faith for granted.”

According to the same CNA report, a recent gallop poll found that “only 44 percent of Americans, from various faith backgrounds, now say they have a ‘great deal’ or ‘quite a lot’ of confidence in ‘the church or organized religion.’” At its highest, public confidence in the Church was at 66 percent. Today, however, the public trust is the lowest since 1973. Although many, if not, most, U.S. Catholic Bishops have effectively implemented child-protection policies in their respective dioceses, the shadow of the 2002 priestly scandals remains. But, perhaps, what is even more at issue is how a once Christian society, inspired by the knowledge of Christ, became secular and entangled in those sins it had once been delivered from.

Half of the remedy is acknowledging the problem. As with apostates- that is, those Catholics who fall away from the Faith only to become the Church’s leading critics –societies follow a similar pattern. In contrast to a people never having known the Gospel, a spiritual downward spiral has its own peculiar challenges. As one Catholic historian said, “A man going uphill may be at the same level as another man going downhill; but they are facing different ways and have different destinies.” Indeed, there is such a thing as moral and spiritual momentum.

As for the early Christians, they started with a fresh sleight. The world was anticipating the arrival of the Messiah during those first centuries. For that reason, momentum was on their side. In fact, even though the ancient pagans were hostile to Christianity at first, they had both a reverence for the supernatural and an awareness of a void that needed filling. On the other hand, it would “seem” the modern world is lacking in both of these areas. As such, the New Evangelization will probably not benefit from the same kind of momentum that the early Christians enjoyed. In some respects, our challenge to reclaim the culture for Christ is greater than theirs.

Not a few seasoned missionaries throughout Church history have made the claim that, in contrast to fallen away Catholics (or Christians in general), it is much easier evangelizing a people who had never known the Gospel. Perhaps this is why St. Peter the Apostle said, “For if they, having escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of (our) Lord and savior Jesus Christ, again become entangled and overcome by them, their last condition is worse than their first.” (II Peter 2:20) The last condition is worse than their first because their culpability is greater. Sins committed after having known Christ merits more guilt for the sinner than if those same sins were committed before grace awakened his soul. Having known the truth, the sinner is judged more severely. Which is to say: falling from greater heights causes greater impacts.

Another factor to consider in evangelizing a post-Christian world is this: Catholicism has been misrepresented with great intensity by those within and outside the Church. To be sure, such misrepresentations have been occurring for twenty centuries. However, probably more than any other time, partial truths about the Catholic Faith (or nominal Catholicism itself) have been passed on from Catholic to Catholic unchecked for the last 50 years. As a result of this, there are a multitude of people in society who “think” they know what authentic Catholicism is but in fact do not. Studies tell us that if this demographic of ex-Catholics were a denomination it would be the largest one in America. Therefore, the attitude- “Been there! Done that!” –is an attitude that the Church will have to contend with; not only contend with, but overcome.

The fact that Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Archbishop Charles Chaput said that the United States of America is once again a mission territory is no reason to be discouraged. When this nation was a mission territory before the early 20th century, the Catholic Church grew by leaps and bounds. Such a phenomenal growth can be traced back to these historic truths: Our spiritual ancestors had no illusions about the sacrifices and the challenges that awaited them. They lived in this world but were not of this world. With a world-renouncing spirit, their faith and love of Christ were able to flourish all the more. And the greatest irony is that they were in a much better position to save the world (i.e. American culture); a world they had learned to be detached from. Like the early Christians, Catholic immigrants from the 1600's to the early 1900's saw themselves as pilgrims on this land because they first believed themselves to be citizens of heaven. The second century Epistle of Mathetes Diognetus, captures the "In this world but not of this world" attitude:

They [the early Chrisians] dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven…They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

World Population Day

The great liberal death wish marches on. Zenit reported that on July 11, 2012 that World Population Day was observed at the United Nations. What has been traditionally celebrated at the UN, is not human population as such, but the call for a reduction in world population. Indeed, the main theme is not: “The more, the merrier.” But rather, “The less human beings there are, the better off the world is.” On the same day, the London Summit for family planning, sponsored by the British government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, called for more funds for limiting population growth. It is projected that 4.6 billion dollars will be invested in such an endeavor in the coming years. As a matter of fact, the website for the London Summit had this to say: “Contraceptives are one of the best investments a country can make in its future.”

The propagation of the overpopulation myth is simply amazing given the demographic crisis many nations find themselves in. “In recent decades,” for instance, “there has been a 60% drop in worldwide fertility rates and the number of people aged 60 or more has multiplied 3.5 times. The ratio of workers to retired people has fallen by 25% in the last 50 years and is expected to fall by another 55% by 2050.”

Still, the contraceptive mentality among world leaders continues unabated despite the demographic facts. But in actuality, this quest for furthering the demise of civilization should not surprise us. Proverbs says, “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.” (8:35) That’s right! For the first time in world history, nations are deliberately implementing measures to reduce the number of people being born into this world. As for Europe, such an attempt will result in demographic crisis not unlike the Black Death of 1348-1350. The unintended consequences of a worldwide push for “family planning” will be considerable.

Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), said that fertility rates are falling off a cliff. Take, for instance, Germany’s economy. Among the European nations, it is prospering the most (which isn’t saying all that much). Yet, not even this nation will withstand the economic burden of a falling birthrate. Zenit provided the following statistics for us to consider:

• On July 3 Reuters reported that the number of births in Germany fell to a post-war low last year. This was despite government incentives designed to reverse the trend in what is the European Union's biggest economy.

• Preliminary data released by Germany's Federal Statistics Office showed 663,000 children were born in 2011, down from 678,000 in 2010, said Reuters…Every year since 1972 the number of people who died was greater than the number of children born.

• As for other countries: The latest U.N. projections estimate that by 2050, 75% of all countries, even in underdeveloped regions, will not have enough children to avoid population decline.

Many Americans fear that China is poised to be the world economic leader very soon. But due to their aggressive one-child policy and other human rights violations, China will suffer a seismic demographic collapse. Arguably, this may occur just when China is due to surpass the United States of America as the world's leading economic power. In any event, the report issued by Zenit provides just a few reasons why China may not be a long term economic threat after all:

• The world’s most populous nation has created demographic abnormalities that cannot be remedied for decades, he argued. There are 51.3 million more males than females as a result of sex-selective abortion.

• The country will also shortly be hit by an “age wave,” Gordon Chang noted (author and journalist). The age cohort of those aged 60 and more, currently at 12.5% of the population, will double by 2030.

• China is already short of workers and the working-age population is set to fall from just under a billion in 2015 to 789 million in 2050. This will have serious economic consequences for both China and the rest of the world, Chang pointed out.

The Hierarchy of the Catholic Church should be leading a discussion about what the contraceptive culture portends for humanity. I do not know about you, but I do not see it as of yet. Nevertheless, the Church has been that prophetic voice of Christ on this issue for 2000 years. I hope things do not have to get “so bad” and “so dire” in order for her to muster up the courage to use that prophetic voice. Demographically speaking (and even fiscally), things are looking pretty unstable.

So far, we have seen the widespread use of contraception wreak havoc on the Culture of Life; a culture that took so long to build-up. But now, we are just beginning to see the effects of what a low birthrate means for society in economic terms. As many studies suggests, the ratio of workers to retired people is due to fall precipitously. With this, State revenue for social programs and entitlements will fall with it. The socialistic dream will, I am afraid, turn into a nightmare.

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From the "Great Liberal Death Wish" by Malcom Muggeridge:

“The thing that impressed me, and the thing that touched off my awareness of the great liberal death wish, my sense that western man was, as it were, sleep-walking into his own ruin, was the extraordinary performance of the liberal intelligentsia…Once you eliminate the notion of a God, a creator, once you eliminate the notion that the creator has a purpose for us, and that life consists essentially in fulfilling that purpose, then you are bound, as Pascal points out, to induce the megalomania of which we've seen so many manifestations in our time - in the crazy dictators, as in the lunacies of people who are rich, or who consider themselves to be important or celebrated in the western world. Alternatively, human beings relapse into mere carnality, into being animals. I see this process going on irresistibly, of which the holocaust is only just one example.”

Muggeridge then says, “If you envisage men as being only men, you are bound to see human society, not in Christian terms as a family, but as a factory--farm in which the only consideration that matters is the well--being of the livestock and the prosperity or productivity of the enterprise. That's where you land yourself. And it is in that situation that western man is increasingly finding himself.”

Monday, July 16, 2012

Singles and the Sacrament of the Moment

Although the married life and the family has preoccupied most of my time, nevertheless, through pastoral ministry and friendships I interact with a lot of singles. Curiously, more than any other demographic that I have encountered, it is Christian single who seems to be the most anxious about their vocation. In short, they fear that they will not find that right person. On the other side of the spectrum, it is increasingly the case that non-religious or sub-religious singles deliberately choose not to get married. For them, shacking-up suffices to meet their needs. In fact, Pew Research has found that the number of people getting married since 1960 had dropped by 20 percentage points. More recently, from 2009 to 2010, in just one year, the marriage rate dropped by 5 percent. That's a lot!

But as for Christian singles who want to get married, whose main ambition it is to get married, many of them have, it seems, a very difficult time reconciling their current status with God’s will. Not a few of them lose their peace believing that somewhere along the line they messed up and made the wrong decision; thus, putting themselves outside of Divine Providence. On the flipside, their non-religious counterparts are found to go with the flow, almost with indifference. If they get married, they get married; if not, no big deal! That is their attitude, anyways. To an extent, there are some understandable reasons for this discrepancy between the two demographics of singles.

Christian singles are called by Christ to live chastely. As far as their options are concerned, “shacking-up," or just "sleeping around," just to relieve sexual tension, is off the table. Whereas for non-religious or secular singles, they are more likely to be taken away by these pleasurable diversions. Under these circumstances, to wait for the right person isn't as urgent for them.

Also, Christians, by and large, put a high premium on the institution of marriage; their counterparts, by and large, do not…at least not as much. In short, this accounts for some of the anxiety suffered by Christian singles. They want to get busy, so to speak. They want to get on with their life with a companion. But there is another factor at play which takes us to the very heart of God’s will and His providence: This factor is what may be called the “Sacrament of the Moment.” Let me explain.

Many Christian singles rack themselves with anxiety over the thought they did something to “mess up” God’s plan for their vocation. They maintain that perhaps the right person came along and he or she did not recognize “their time of visitation;” that is, they missed that one and only opportunity to get married. Their anxiety also has them wonder if they broke up with a person "they should have never broken up with." Or it could be that- given their bad luck –they think that they’ll never find that right person at all. In their reasoning, it is as if their belief in random chance- circumstances which lie outside of God’s control –is stronger than their faith in God’s all-powerful wise counsel.

Whatever the crisis, one has to believe in one of two things: 1) Either every single circumstance is within God’s control or 2) it is not. Strangely, many people choose to believe the latter. And in choosing the latter they struggle to reconcile God’s love (or God’s will) not only with missed opportunities but suffering and misfortune as well. So they chalk up bad things to chance; something that is outside of God’s domain. This belief, no doubt, is inspired by noble motives. After all, they do not wish to criticize the Lord when they find themselves in a crisis. In order to spare God of criticism they conclude that suffering and setbacks are not God’s doing.

The downside to this belief system is that if we press its premise to its logical conclusion, it means that adversity is meaningless; that is, the trials that we encounter were never meant to be. Yet, if we see that the circumstances of each day, good or bad, are but the manifestation of God’s plan for us, then we can also understand that what appears to be a senseless drought of romance and marital love is every bit as meaningful as if we were to find ourselves in a happy marriage. No doubt, we may not like it. But because God willed it positively (preferred it) or allowed it (with His passive will), we can rest assured that the situation we find ourselves in is good for us nevertheless!

In fact, it is God’s will that husbands and wives can find fulfillment in the vocation of matrimony to begin with. In other words, if God had not willed it, the married life would not be fulfilling to anyone; even to the Christian single who hungers for a companion to share his life with! Indeed, the same God who created the institution of marriage and made it appealing, is the same God who has strategically called certain Christians to be single, either for the short term or the long term. Or, to put it another way, the same God who created marriage and instilled the human desire for it, is the same God who withholds the calling of marriage for the good of the single person.

And what about those mistakes we fret over? What about the “what if’s?” Now, certainly every sinner is capable of forfeiting plan A for plan B. For instance, a man who commits adultery and then seeks to file a divorce with his present wife is, by no means, carrying God’s plan (A) for him or for the family. But even in this case (where we find immoral decisions having been made in a given situation), God, from all eternity, allowed such a moral evil to take place and in allowing it to happen, He allowed for it to contribute to His overall perfect plan for the family and even for the adulterer. In so doing, plan B- being less ideal than plan A –can be comparably effective to plan A for God's purposes. If Christ can take the sins of humanity and bring out of it many blessings, then surely He can do it for one individual. This applies even more so to mistakes.

And this leads us to the following question: Can God’s will be thwarted by mistakes? The Saints tell us, “no!” Every apparent fluke and all “senseless” suffering is either deliberately willed by God or permitted for some higher good. It is all a part of His intelligent designed. No doubt, the more painful the circumstances, the harder it is to reconcile such circumstances to God’s wise and loving counsel. For this reason, the mystery of the Cross is a stumbling block to many of us; especially when we are blindsided by a crisis.

But here is the real crux: We know that God is everything for us; we lack nothing with Him. If, then, He dwells within our souls and is firmly within our possession, why is it, then, that we suffer so much in the absence of a spouse or a loved one? The answer: It takes a lifetime of faith, hope, love and suffering to have this interior spiritual reality translated into what we can feel, perceive and even act on. It is through the mystery of the Cross (i.e. the trials of life) that hasten this translation. This is how the peace of God is attained. It has a lot to do with what St. Paul wrote to the Philippians:

“Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus…[F]or I have learned, in whatever situation I find myself, to be self-sufficient. I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.” (Philippians 4:6,7,11-13)

The peace of God results, at least in part, from the knowledge that all things work together for the good. This most especially applies to Christians.

Believe or not, free will is such a small part of the overall picture. What Christians do not think about often enough is all the evil and mishaps the Lord does prevent from happening. Even mathematicians who specialize in probabilities say that it is a wonder that we can get from point A to point B without some accident occurring. In this unstable world of ours, so many things can go wrong. I guess that is why we have guardian angles. And for whatever reason, the man or woman who has just turned 30 or 40 years of age and hence sees the clock ticking away, may be prevented by Divine Providence from marrying the wrong person or marrying too soon or even entering into a marriage when there are so many unresolved problems that the single person needs to work through. Whatever the case may be, being married or single is not the most important thing. What is the most important consideration for any Christian is to embrace God’s will as it is revealed to him in the moment. Yes. We do well when we resign to God’s plan as it unfolds in the sacrament of the moment.

But to be a Saint, conformity to God’s will is not enough. No. We have to will what God will's. And to will what God will’s, even if it means being single for an extended period of time, we have to will being single "in the moment." That’s right. The secret to sanctity and peace of soul is to will what God gives us in the circumstances of each day. This is no small feat. In fact, it can be quite grueling. It can wear us down. But it is the most mysterious and yet most liberating ambition anyone could have!

Think about it: If we thank God for only those things that suit our pleasures- and for that which is agreeable to us -can we not thank Him for all the deprivations and setbacks that run counter to our will as well? And are they not just as good for us in the long run? If we have the faith of a Saint we would answer in the affirmative. At the very least, let us be thankful that the Lord does not give us what we want all the time! After all, how many times have we begged God for things that, in hindsight, proved not to be in our best interest.

Even more so, let us be thankful for the Sacrament of the Moment. After all, this is where the greatest of treasures is to be found: God’s all-wise and loving will.