Saturday, October 17, 2015

Mercy in the Face of Divorce

Suppose a man and woman marry in the Church, that is, they receive the sacrament of matrimony. Then ten or so years later, perhaps with kids in the interim, they divorce. A not uncommon scenario. Maybe one or both goes on to meet someone else, date, and enter into another marriage at the courthouse, or maybe not. Let's just stick to them being divorced civilly for now.

When the man and woman receive their divorce papers, what happens to the grace of sacrament? That is, what happens to the divine help that God has provided to each of them and both of them? (Because that is what grace is - a helping hand from God that allows one to do things that otherwise would be humanly difficult or impossible.) Does this grace disappear too? No. It remains there for either or both to take advantage of.

Back to those who remarry civilly. Of course, Church teaching regarding the permanance of marriage still recognizes the first marriage at continuing. This is said to impose a hardship on those who civilly remarry and that in mercy they should receive Holy Communion in order to obtain the graces therefrom.

It is right and good that they should receive grace. They need that grace. Very much. We all need God's help, especially in difficult circumstances.

But those who call for Communion for those who are civilly remarried are forgetting something. No, not the indissolubility of the marital bond. They -- and those who focus on the bond of marriage overlook this too -- they are forgetting the grace of the prior sacrament of matrimony. It is still there. When we speak of indissolubility, included in that is the indissolubility of matrimonial grace. No one can separate us from the love of God.

God offers us his mercy and grace if only we will accept it. He offers us his mercy and grace in a number of ways. Two ways in particular are -- the revealed teaching of the Church and in the sacraments. Church teaching on marriage, family and human sexuality are not a burden, they are not a bunch of harsh rules, they are the Good News of God, they are given us by Christ in his mercy through the Holy Spirit. The sacrament of marriage that is lifelong is not bondage, it is not a chain -- it is itself a mercy and a grace that frees those who receive it.

The problem is that like the other sacraments -- Confirmation being high on the list -- too many people take the gift of those graces and leave it unopened, or they open the gift, use it for a while, and then stick it in the back of the closet, where it sits unused.

The man and the woman who marry in the Church, only to divorce ten years later, ten years after that they still have those graces they received in the sacrament. They each only have to take them out of the closet. And it is there they will find the mercy and help they desire.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Sigh. No. Just no.

One of the most grave threats to the faith and to the well-being of society is a grossly distorted and erroneous understanding of conscience. This highly destructive error was most prominent in the wake of Humanae Vitae, effectively giving license to reject objective moral truth and do whatever you want, but now it has once again reared its ugly and evil head. (See recent confused comments of Archbishop Blase Cupich)

The word "conscience" comes from the Latin "con-scientia," meaning "with knowledge." Knowledge of what? Knowledge of something other than our subjective selves, something that is beyond the self -- it is knowledge of objective and eternal truth, the "anamnesis" of the Creator who exhorts us to love in truth.

Conscience is not the same as one’s opinions or feelings, and one cannot choose or create his own conscience. That is not the conscience, that is the will.

The Nazi leader Hermann Goring proclaimed, "my conscience is Adolf Hitler." Others proclaim, "my conscience is myself." But the foundation of conscience is not man, but God.

Rightly understood, conscience is not the voice of self or the personal will, but is the voice of God within our hearts, our very souls; it is the light of objective moral truth which is given us so that we might make our way in the dark. (See Dominum et Vivificantem, 43) In this, God speaks even to the hearts of atheists and, if they are otherwise of good faith, they can hear Him even if they do not realize that it is His voice speaking to them.

We ourselves are not the light, God is the Light. The task of conscience is not to create moral truth, but to perceive it and then apply it, not ignore it. The judgment of conscience does not establish the law or decide for itself what is right or wrong; rather it bears witness to the authority of the natural law, it is the voice of Truth within the person calling him to act in conformance with truth, to do good and avoid evil. In other words, conscience is a judgment of reason in the application of objective moral truth to a particular case.

In our perception of such moral truth, we are assisted by the Magisterium of the Church, by the Pope and bishops, who are in turn specially guided and protected from error by the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete promised to us by Jesus Christ. Thus, as Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman noted, a properly-formed good conscience cannot be one that is in contradiction with the teachings of the Church.

Prior to the obligation of conscience is the obligation to properly form one's conscience, or more specifically, "an actual conscience, conscience understood as a 'co-knowing' with the truth," in the words of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in his 1991 talk, Conscience and Truth. If we have a false, improperly-formed conscience, one that is not "with knowledge" of objective truth, but is instead one that is "with ignorance" of objective truth, including knowing contradiction with authoritative Church teaching, including those teachings on human sexuality and marriage, then we cannot assert a right to follow it.

The "obligation" to follow one’s conscience is an obligation to follow a good conscience, one that is "with knowledge" of transcendent objective truth, and not a bad or malformed counterfeit "conscience."

Conscience is meant to accuse one of error in sin, not justify sin, and conscience is most emphatically not a license to delude ourselves to truth so as to justify doing, facilitating, or participating in that which is intrinsically wrong or mala in se (evil in and of itself). One's "subjective conviction and the lack of doubts and scruples which follow therefrom" are not sufficient, explains Cardinal Ratzinger, "it will not do to identify man's conscience with the self-consciousness of the I, with it subjective certainty about itself and its moral behavior," especially in a relativistic age when so many can no longer see moral fault and sin. (see also Evangelium Vitae, 24)

With this connection to transcendent objective moral truth, in all things we have an obligation in conscience, written as law upon our hearts, to do the good and resist evil. (Gaudium et Spes, 16) This obligation to follow a good conscience, properly formed in conformity with the teachings of the Church, does not restrict human freedom, but instead calls the person to genuine freedom in truth, for only in truth will one be set free.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Once Again Before the Tree of Knowledge

Today, we are called to preach the Gospel of Truth, praying that people turn away from the culture of self-delusion and lies that leads to death.

On Friday, June 26, 2015, we were treated to this from on-high:
Obergefell v. Hodges, ___ U.S. ___ (2015).
The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity. . . .

From their beginning to their most recent page, the annals of human history reveal the transcendent importance of marriage. The lifelong union of a man and a woman always has promised nobility and dignity to all persons, without regard to their station in life. . . . The ancient origins of marriage confirm its centrality, but it has not stood in isolation from developments in law and society. The history of marriage is one of both continuity and change. . . .

Choices about marriage shape an individual’s destiny. As the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts has explained, because “it fulfils yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution, and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition.” Goodridge, 440 Mass., at 322, 798 N. E. 2d, at 955.

The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality. . . . The right to marry thus dignifies couples who “wish to define themselves by their commitment to each other.” . . .

The right to marry is fundamental as a matter of history and tradition, but rights come not from ancient sources alone. They rise, too, from a better informed understanding of how constitutional imperatives define a liberty that remains urgent in our own era.
We've heard this before. It was said in a more concise way a dozen years ago:
Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003).
These matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.
But these words were heard even further back -- all the way back to the beginning:

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-8.
The LORD God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it. The LORD God gave man this order: "You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and bad. From that tree you shall not eat; the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die." * * *

Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals that the LORD God had made. The serpent asked the woman, "Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?"

The woman answered the serpent: "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, 'You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.'"

But the serpent said to the woman: "You certainly will not die! No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is bad."

The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.
Once again those words uttered at the dawn of human history have echoed from the bench and through the land. Those who proclaim with unbounded hubris to know better than all of humanity, to have a "better informed understanding," to be greater and wiser than all who have come before, again repeat the lie that one can be like a god, with the freedom, the power, to choose one's own reality, one's own conception of truth and error, of right and wrong.

Do not eat the fruit of the tree being offered you. The judicial fiat proclamation of "same-sex marriage" in Obergefell, like the words of Lawrence before it, is founded on a lie disguised as liberty and equality. In a very real sense, it is that very first lie uttered in the Garden – a corruption, not only of God's gift of creation of man as male and female, complementary of each other in a way that is intrinsically unitive and fruitful, but His gift of free choice. It is the lie whispered by the serpent in Eve's ear, "You can be a god. Eat of this fruit and you yourself can choose what is right and wrong. You can choose your own truth, your own reality. You can decree that what is different is actually the same, you can choose your inherently sterile relationship to be the equal of one that is procreative."

But this so-called “right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life” is completely divorced from transcendent Truth. We are not, we cannot be, gods unto ourselves. Existence is what it is. We have free will, but we cannot choose our own truth, we cannot choose our own reality.

And, as with that first lie, the lie of today that is "same-sex marriage," and gender change, where a man is now a woman and all are supposed to applaud, and abortion, and cloning, and embryonic experimentation, and physician-assisted death for the sick and elderly, as with the first lie, these modern lies have taken and will take an enormous toll.

Nothing Has Changed

The sun still rises in the east. Blue is still blue. Two plus two are still four. And the conjugal union of a man and woman is still the only relationship that is capable as constituting marriage.

Truth does not change. A thing is what it is. Unfortunately, that includes Justice Kennedy being Justice Kennedy.

The question is -- Do you stand for truth? Or do you bend to legal fictions? Will you marvel at the emperor's pretend clothes? Or worse, will you eat the Fruit of the Tree that we are being encouraged to eat?

Monday, November 03, 2014

Praying for the Dead

There is news about a young woman who killed someone. She told everyone that she was going to do this evil act and many people enthusiastically supported her and a few even helped her do the deed. This woman, this killer, is now dead.

Do you pray for the perpetrators of evil who are now dead? If so, how do you pray? What do you pray for?

We might start with mourning, with recognizing that it is a tragedy that she is dead, even if one is justifiably angry at the evil that was the murder she committed. We might pray that God remember that, despite whatever evils she might have done and did do, she still is a child of God. We might pray that God’s will be done -- that is, given that she is a child of God, that He forgive her this great evil if it be His will to do so and take her into heaven.

Now, as a general matter, forgiveness implies that the deceased had repented of any mortal sin and accepted such forgiveness and redemption before dying. And if they died while in a state of mortal sin, that would be, again as a general matter, an indication that they did not seek or want such forgiveness. But what if the evil were committed in the very act of dying (as it was with this young woman)?

Again, it is a tragic thing that happened. Both the death of the sinner is a tragedy and the committing of the evil, of the sin, is a tragedy. And it is made all the more tragic because such evil tends to cause other people to commit the same evil. Although the evil was committed concurrent with death, we might pray that God find whatever ember of remorse might have been present. We might recall that the Lord delights not in the death of even the wicked (Ez. 18:23, 33:11).

Often we pray, “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy.”

If we were to be so presumptuous to judge the soul of this young woman who was a killer -- and it is NOT our job to do so, but if we were to -- we might conclude that she is among those “most in need” of Christ’s mercy. So, in saying this common prayer, we are already praying for her and others who have done such evil.

We might also pray that people having sympathy for this young woman's death (as would be proper) not think that such sympathy dictates overlooking the evil that she did. To do that risks presuming upon God's mercy and presumption is one of the gravest sins that we can commit. In addition, we might also pray for our society, for those who effectively cheered at the prospect of a young woman being killed. Too many people in this culture have made a covenant with death, they revel in killing, their consciences having been effectively killed long before.

God save us. It's clear that we aren't going to save ourselves.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

You Can't Own God

The Eucharist is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is basic stuff in Catholicism.

As such, a consecrated Host - the Eucharist - is not an article of property. You can't own the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. The very idea is absurd and contrary to every teaching on the Real Presence. No human can assert ownership over Jesus as if He were mere chattel.

An unconsecrated host, being merely a kind of bread, can and is property. But once it is consecrated it is no longer possible to be a species of property. And to claim that the Host still is property and that can be owned - that anyone can own the Body of Christ, the Divinity of Christ - is among the highest kinds of hubris that one can imagine.

Clearly, anyone who would claim that the Eucharist is property capable of being owned is either a heretic of the grossest kind or he is someone who really hasn't quite thought through the ramifications of his too-cute-by-half argument.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Friday, December 06, 2013

The Santa Claus Question

Growing up, nobody ever questioned parents indulging their children in the belief in Santa Claus while at the same time fostering love for the baby Jesus at Christmas. Few, if any, thought that the two were incompatible.

Of course, times have changed. Some foster only a belief in Santa. I remember hearing one young boy at Christmas time tell his mother that some other kids had mentioned Jesus and he asked, "Who is he?" His parents - who were completely non-religious - had never told him that Christmas is about, you know, Christ. Other parents go to the other extreme, thinking that to speak of Santa is to, at best, engage in pagan fantasy and, at worse, to lie to their children.

When one mother claimed that her daughter told her, "you told us the Tooth Fairy and Santa were real, and they’re not. So, it’s hard for me to believe God is real.” I responded with telling her that Santa is real, just as God is real. But one is metaphor and the other is the real deal. Properly understood, “Santa” is not the commercialized guy of the materialistic modern world, but is instead an icon of the Son of God Himself and, hence, a model for us.

"Santa Claus" is representative of the giving and joy that we are each called to, and which originates in God giving Himself to us on Christmas morning. The only problem is in not locking yourself in by presenting Santa in such a fashion that one cannot then later explain exactly who "Santa" is. Yes, he was an actual real historical person by the name of Nicholas, whose feast day is December 6 (see below). And the clothes that he wears (red suit, white lining) are the real historical clothes worn by bishops. But the "Santa" of today is you and me. Santa is us, who are called to give to others.

Thus, it is probably wise, when kids see all the various “Santas” at the mall, to explain that that is not really Santa, but “Santa’s helper.” That can bridge the gap to later telling the children that “Santa” is symbolic. When children learn that Santa is actually mom and dad, the parents who love them, they receive a better gift than the toy giver from the North Pole could ever give. When they understand that the real Santa is each of us, they are more ready to understand that they are Santa too, they are called to self-giving.

Moreover, there is absolutely no reason that this should cause a crisis of faith. Kids are sophisticated enough to "believe" in the Easter Bunny without losing faith in God Himself - after all, it is obvious that they are receiving the very same eggs that they were helping mom and dad paint a couple of days before. Here, again, is the lesson of self-giving.

If done right, parents can avoid the two extremes of teaching fantasy and lies to children on the one hand and being a grumpy wet-blanket Grinch on the other. Fostering a belief in "Santa Claus" can be a teaching tool if carefully done, a tool that leads children to Christ and His call to love one another.

As for the real Saint Nicholas --

He was born in Lycia, Asia Minor, and died as Bishop of Myra in 352. He performed many miracles and exercised a special power over flames. He practiced both the spiritual and temporal works of mercy, and fasted twice a week.

He is undoubtedly one of the most popular saints honored in the Western world. Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Peter Damian called him the glory of young men, the honor of the elderly, the splendor of priests and the light of Pontiffs. In the United States, his memory has survived in the unique personality of Saint Claus — the jolly, rotund, white-bearded gentleman who captivates children with promises of gifts on Christmas Eve. Considered primarily as the patron saint of children, Nicholas is also invoked by sailors, merchants, bakers, travelers and pawnbrokers, and with Saint Andrew is honored as the co-patron of Russia.

St. Nicholas was born in the last years of the third century in Asia Minor. His uncle, the archbishop of Myra in Lycia, ordained him and appointed him abbot of a nearby monastery. At the death of the archbishop, Nicholas was chosen to fill the vacancy, and he served in this position until his death. Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who persecuted the Christians, St. Nicholas was arrested, taken away from his home by the pagan soldiers, and thrown into a prison at the beginning of the fourth century. He suffered the hardships of hunger, thirst, loneliness, and chains. Released by Constantine the Great, he returned to his city, and he later attended the Council of Nicaea in 325. He died in Myra about 345.

Popular legends have involved Saint Nicholas in a number of charming stories, one of which relates Nicholas' charity. A man of Patara had lost his fortune, and finding himself unable to support his three maiden daughters, was planning to turn them into the streets as prostitutes. Nicholas heard of the man's intentions and secretly threw three bags of gold through a window into the home, thus providing dowries for the daughters. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. The three bags of gold are also said to be the origin of the three gold balls that form the emblem of pawnbrokers.

Saint Nicholas labored in his domains to stop the worship of false gods, still practiced there as elsewhere. With his own hands he cut down a huge tree, site of a sacrilegious cult of the goddess Diana. During a famine his prayers multiplied the provisions of wheat which he had ordered for the port of Myra, to such an extent that what would have sufficed for his people for only a few days, was found to be sufficient for more than two years. He rescued from death, just before they were hanged, three innocents condemned by a judge who had been corrupted by money, reprehended the latter for his crime and sent these liberated ones home, entirely exonerated.

After Nicholas' death on December 6, his body was buried in the cathedral at Myra. It remained there until 1087, when seamen of Bari, an Italian coastal town, seized the relics of the saint and transferred them to their own city.

By the year 1200 St. Nicholas had captured the hearts of all European nations. Many churches, towns, provinces and countries venerate him as their patron saint. Merchants, bankers, seamen and prisoners made him their patron, too. But his main patronage is the one over little children. Countless miracles were attributed to the saint's intercession. His relics are still preserved in the church of San Nicola in Bari; an oily substance, known as Manna di S. Nicola, which is highly valued for its medicinal powers, is said to flow from them.

The story of Saint Nicholas came to America in distorted fashion. The Dutch Protestants carried a popularized version of the saint's life to New Amsterdam, portraying Nicholas as nothing more than a Nordic magician and wonder-worker. Our present-day conception of Santa Claus has grown from this version. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Eternal Rest Grant Unto Her, O Lord

+ Greeting
In this moment of sorrow, the Lord is in our midst and comforts us with His word: Blessed are the sorrowful; they shall be consoled.

Let us pray:
Loving and merciful God, we entrust our sister Rosemarie to your mercy. You loved her greatly in this life: now that she is freed from all its cares, give her happiness and peace forever.
The old order has passed away: welcome her now into paradise where there will be no more sorrow, no more weeping or pain, but only peace and joy with Jesus, your Son, and the Holy Spirit, forever and ever.
R: Amen.

Gospel Reading
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John.
The sisters sent word to Jesus to inform Him, “Master, the one you love is ill.” When Jesus heard this, He said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
When Jesus arrived at Bethany, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. Even now, I know that God will give you whatever you ask of Him.
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.”
Martha replied, “I know he will rise again, in the resurrection on the last day."
Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, though he should die, yet will he live, and whoever is alive and believes in me will never die.”
The Gospel of the Lord.

Saints of God, come to her aid. Come to meet her, angels of the Lord.
R: Receive her soul and present her to God the Most High.

May Christ, who called you, take you to Himself; may angels lead you to Abraham’s side.
R: Receive her soul and present her to God the Most High.

Give her eternal rest, O Lord, and may your light shine on her forever.
R: Receive her soul and present her to God the Most High.

God of mercy, hear our prayers and be merciful to your daughter Rosemarie, whom you have called from this life. Welcome her into the company of your saints, in the kingdom of light and peace. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
R: Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer
With God there is mercy and fullness of redemption; let us pray as Jesus taught us to pray:
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Prayer of Consolation
God of all consolation, in your unending love and mercy for us, you turn the darkness of death into the dawn of new life. Show compassion to your people in their sorrow.
Be our refuge and our strength to lift us from the darkness of this grief to the peace and light of your presence.
Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, by dying for us, conquered death and by rising again, restored life. May we then go forward eagerly to meet Him and after our life on earth be reunited with our departed brothers and sisters, where every tear will be wiped away.
R: Amen.

Prayer of Commendation
Lord Jesus, our Redeemer, you willingly gave yourself up to death so that all people might be saved and pass from death into a new life. Listen to our prayers, look with love on your people who mourn and pray for their sister Rosemarie. Lord Jesus, holy and compassionate: forgive Rosemarie her sins. By dying you opened the gates of life for those who believe in you: do not let our sister be parted from you, but by your glorious power, give her light, joy, and peace in heaven where you live forever and ever.
R: Amen.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Still Present in Our Hearts

Rosemarie passed peacefully in Las Vegas on Wednesday, April 17, in the arms of her devoted husband of 40 years, Alan, and in the presence of her seven loving children. Throughout her life, Rosemarie showed a passion for life. Her energy and courage in the face of adversity was especially an inspiration to those that were fortunate enough to be around her.

Rosemarie loved her family, a family that included many people that she adopted as her own. And once a mother, always a mother, so she has now gone forward to help prepare a place for us in the house of the Father.