Sunday, July 31, 2011

Defending the Faith: Part I

Defending the faith today is not as it was several years ago. Catholics used to defend themselves by employing apologetics against Protestants or those of another faith, whilst having to 'prove' their beliefs in a one, true faith, and their Church as the one, true Church. It made for a lively evening to be sure. Though we still debate scripture and theology with Protestants, there is a new breed of people that need to be approached with a much more exacting knife, if you will. With Protestants, you didn't have to prove the existence of God since they already believed in God. The points discussed were the 'mechanics' of the faith and the interpretation of scripture. Today, we deal with a whole generation that doesn't  know of the God of traditional Christianity, or even of His existence. But, at least most of them have not flat out refused to believe in a God that could exist. Most are open and receptive to the idea, if your arguments of 'proving' God's existence are reasonable. 

This is different than the atheists. Atheists flatly refuse to accept the notion of a 'God', someone of intelligence that is 'out' there creating things here and there out of love and looking over us and giving us rewards or punishments. The arguments presented to atheists can however, be very much the same as to those that are ignorant of God because of their upbringing or environment.

Peter Kreeft, professor of Philosophy at Boston College once said that Christians cannot prove the existence of God using faith alone, nor can atheist disprove His existence using science and logic. But Christians, using faith, reason and logic can provide enough evidence or 'proofs'  for God's existence in an argument, and all atheists can do is to try to poke holes in those arguments.

Sound familiar? This type of arguing is done in court rooms everywhere. Many have been convicted by circumstantial evidence alone. Here is an example of circumstantial evidence that I found at this site:
The following example illustrates the difference between direct and circumstantial evidence: If John testifies that he saw Tom raise a gun and fire it at Ann and that Ann then fell to the ground, John's testimony is direct evidence that Tom shot Ann. If the jury believes John's testimony, then it must conclude that Tom did in fact shoot Ann. If, however, John testifies that he saw Tom and Ann go into another room and that he heard Tom say to Ann that he was going to shoot her, heard a shot, and saw Tom leave the room with a smoking gun, then John's testimony is circumstantial evidence from which it can be inferred that Tom shot Ann. The jury must determine whether John's testimony is credible.

We have a faith. We believe in what is not known by fact, scientifically proven or visibly seen, otherwise it would not be called faith.We cannot 'prove' anything with our faith, but we can provide enough 'indirect', circumstantial evidence, as stated above, to allow atheists and non believers to arrive at the possibility of determining whether our testimony is credible enough to allow a smidgeon of doubt of God's existence to enter their minds. In other words, our 'evidence' needs to balance in our favor.  In arguing  your case however, remember that the one who is being argued with must have an open mind, otherwise, it won't matter what evidence  you come up with, for they will be adamant in holding on to their non-belief, and you will not make any inroads, no matter how reasonable and logical are your arguments.

Most of what I will post has been culled from Professor Peter Kreeft and C.S. Lewis. Both of these men have had a lot to say concerning our defense of the faith. Two books that I recommend reading are, Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis and The Handbook of Christian Apologetics by Kreeft & Tecelli. Get them, read them, study them. These two books will be more than you need to argue your case with most people.

To be continued...

Second Reading At Mass

This was the second reading at Mass this morning:
Rom 8:35, 37-39

Brothers and sisters:
What will separate us from the love of Christ?
Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine,
or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?
No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly
through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities,
nor present things, nor future things,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor any other creature will be able to separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Indeed. We sound inseparable from the love of God don't we? Every violent action in the world cannot seem to overwhelm His love for us or separate us from Him, yet, I have this nagging feeling that there is one thing, something not mentioned in this litany of obstacles that face us or will in the future, that could throw all of this confidence down the drain...and that is ourselves. This reading tells us that nothing on the outside of us, can possibly separate us from God, but what of something from within us? Something that comes from our own hearts?

Does not sin without repentance separate us from Him if we allow it? The ball seems to be in our court doesn't it? Food for thought...

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Changing of the Guard

For quite sometime now our parish churches have come to look more and more like meeting houses, protestant churches, and many of the new churches being built seem to have little resemblance to the churches built before the 50's and 60's, or even a resemblance to a house of worship.

In another post, I more or less lamented the fact that liturgical music has not made the grade of being spiritually uplifting. Through these new "songs of praise and worship" that have taken the commanding lead over traditional forms of chants and hymns, the secular world has invaded our 'spiritual' space in Mass. I meant that. What I didn't mention was that along with the changes of liturgical music in the past forty years or so, what we see, or don't see in our churches has also  changed. 

Many Catholic churches today have little to distinguish them from other, non-catholic churches except for that one, lone crucifix that stands behind the alter. At times, that cross is just that, a bare cross: no corpus. It seems to me that we are afraid of displaying our Catholicism to the world. Why? Are we afraid of being seen as different than other Christian denominations? Well...we are different.

Our churches, once filled with icons of the divine, statues of saints and biblical personages, have been all but stripped bare. Before a non-catholic accuses me of worshiping a graven image, I would ask them to show me a picture of their family, children, or spouse and ask them if they worship those Neither do I worship these statues and icons, nor did the ancient Hebrews, with the seraphs adorning the Ark of the Covenant, or the bronze serpent held aloft in the desert so that those who were bitten by serpents could look at the bronze serpent and be healed or the seraphs that also adorned the ancient Hebrew temples. All at the command of God. None of these images were worshiped. Obviously, the interpretation concerning graven images should have been left to the Church and the Holy Spirit, and not to an individual's interpretation, for that would have saved us a lot of grief over the last 500 years or so.

In my own parish, our church is quite new. It was built about eight years ago to accommodate the large influx of people attending Mass on the weekends after the closing of several parishes around our area. St. Charles was to be and is considered the 'central' parish for the area. It now holds about 700 people at one Mass. The idea of St. Charles being the 'main' church in our area seems to have taken hold and more and more people are now coming. 

The church is attractive in the modern sense. It may not have the particular high arches of stone of the Romanesque, but it does reflect this style with large expanses of sweeping arches made of wood. The stained glass came from our old church and were only about five years old when the new church was built, so the decision was made to incorporate the 'old' stained glass into the new church. It worked. These windows are not the generic, hippie dippy designs of the last forty years where you sat in your pew wondering what scene the window represented or if it depicted anything at all. These windows were exquisitely designed and built in the traditional manner of old and clearly depicts gospel scenes that are easily recognized.  Yet, other than these windows, the main crucifix behind the alter, and the stations of the cross around the walls, handmade by a former woodworking pastor,  there really isn't anything else at all to show the former glory of the churches past. Then changes began...slowly. 

It was announced one morning at Mass that, over to our left, near the far wall, was a new statue of the Holy Family. It was sculpted almost life size from some sort of white 'stone' or material that to me suggested marble. It was beautiful. It was NOT done in an abstract style as so many pieces of art are today, trying to pass as 'sacred' art. It looked real, alive and you can see the time and skill that the sculptor put into sculpting this piece. Then something else a few months later popped up...

On another Sunday morning, I entered the church and in the huge narthex there was a six foot tall image of Our Lady of Guadeloupe hanging high above the sanctuary doors, front and center. On one of the side walls there was also a hand-painted portrait of our patron saint, St. Charles. It brought this whole entrance to the church, the narthex, a big step closer to heaven. Then two weeks happened again. Once Mass was over, I turned to walk back out down the center aisle of the church, and high above the exit doors I had just entered, were two beautiful icons, large, painted with vibrant colors that one sees in Orthodox Churches. 

St. Charles parish church is becoming more of the Catholic church that I, and the millions more before me throughout the ages in other churches, knew, grew up with and loved. Perhaps along with the new Mass translations, these other changes in our art and music cannot help but follow suit. To deny our senses of the mystery and holiness of heaven in good, sacred music and divinely inspired art, is to deny our humanity and creativity: the need of humanity to incorporate its whole being in the worship of God at Mass, and that includes our senses. When we die, our soul leaves the body for it is immortal, yet that is not the end. The Resurrection proved that. Our bodies will rise again as did Jesus. Without the body, we cannot be what we were created to be, fully human; body and soul. And that includes our eyes and ears.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Reminder...

 Over at the "Whole of the Hobbit" blog, a truth has been revisited that we all need to remember: 

"God is going to do what He set out to do-- and He doesn't need the government to accomplish one single thing for Him.  He never did................"

Take a peek and read it here

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Have you ever been homesick? I mean really homesick where you actually feel it in your body, as well as in your thoughts and emotions? It's one of the worse feelings one can have.

When I was 9 years old, I kept having incessant nosebleeds that would come from being jarred, running too much, eating certain foods, being overheated  etc..., and when the bleeding started, it would continue for quite a while, usually no less than a half hour and as long as an hour. This would happen several times per week and though I saw a doctor about this, there wasn't anything he could do. Then one evening, the worse bleeding I ever had began. I don't remember what brought it on, but this time I was bleeding from both nostrils and no matter what my mother did it would not stop. By the time the second hour of bleeding arrived, the ambulance was called and I was taken to the hospital.

I don't remember much of my arrival, but I do remember my mother standing next to the gurney, and I heard the nurse saying something about giving me something to relax me...then I was out like a light.

When I woke up the next morning, I realized I wasn't home anymore. I was in a strange bed, between two other beds that were occupied by two men I didn't know. In time, these two patients left and I found myself alone and scared to death. A nurse came in and asked how I felt. Then she told me the doctor was going to see me soon and with that, she just left. When the door shut behind her, the tears started. 

I sobbed. I was alone, scared, in a place I did not belong or want to be in and there was nothing I could do. I remember trying to stifle my sobs so no one would hear me and in doing so, I found myself gulping air, trying to breathe. Then I did the only thing I could think of. I prayed the rosary. I had to use my fingers as the beads since I didn't have one with me. My own rosary was hanging on my bedpost at home...waiting for me. This was perhaps the most fervent prayer I had ever prayed. Through all the Hail Mary's,  I asked her to take me home...please My Lady...take me home!! Over and over I prayed, sobbing...asking. I finally got to the end of my prayers and had collected myself a bit when the door opened and a nurse came in with a basin to wash me. 

She was gentle,and very kind. Always smiling. I'm sure she noticed I had cried a lot, but she didn't mention it. As soon as she was done, the doctor came in and checked me out and announced that my mother was on her way to take me home...home. My prayers were answered. My Lady had arranged everything.

Today, I am again homesick. I'm homesick for a place I've never been. Heaven. Again I find myself in a place I do not want to be living in, nor in a place that I belong. I am a stranger in a strange land. I feel I am living at the wrong time in history, a time where compassion no longer exists. I no longer recognize my country, the society I am forced to live in and at times, I do not even recognize my Church for all that is happening within Her. My soul sobs from this homesickness and it is deeply painful. I just want to go home. Can anyone understand that? I hope My Lady does...

Relentless Pursuit of the Kingdom

As a child, I had a recurring dream. In my dream, I would find myself ready for school and waiting by the front door until I could see the school bus in the distance. As soon as I saw the bus, I would kiss my mother good bye and head out the door. Then the dream would shift. At this point in the dream, I could see the bus at the bus stop, door open and waiting for me to enter but I was still far off, and it seemed that every time I took a step towards the bus, I would trip and fall and find myself back at the front door and having to start all over, or I would find that I had forgotten to put on my pants, and would have to go back to the house, redress and set out again. At other times, I would be running as fast as I could as the bus was pulling away, never quite reaching it. This dream continued over and over until finally, I would wake up with a start and very upset.

It was at Mass last night that I finally saw how closely my dream reflected my personal life as it pertains to my faith, that no matter how ready I try to be, I can never seem to reach my goal of living a holy and grace filled life. As soon as I take one step forward, I trip and fall and I find myself at the the beginning again. At other times, I finally get to step on the 'bus' only to realize I have something against a brother...and I have to step off and start all over again...always running, always pursuing, never quite arriving. But, as in my dream, I don't stop running after the 'bus'. I never quit and give up. Oh...I want to sometimes with the seeming futility of it all, but I have not given up on my goal. I just want the bus driver to perhaps slow down a bit...and let me catch up.

Did I ever make it and take a seat on the bus in my dreams? I don't know. That's the million dollar question. The dream just seemed to fade as I got older. I don't seem to be having that dream anymore...I just feel like I'm living it.

My Prayer of the Day

I offer you, Lord, my thoughts: to be fixed on you;
My words: to have you for their theme;
My actions: to reflect my love for you;
My sufferings: to be endured for your greater glory.
I want to do what you ask of me:
In the way you ask,
For as long as you ask,
Because you ask it.
Lord, enlighten my understanding,
Strengthen my will,
Purify my heart,
and make me holy.
Teach me to realize that this world is passing,
That my true future is the happiness of heaven,
That life on earth is short,
And the life to come eternal.

- from The Universal Prayer of Pope Clement XI

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Empty Vessel

I am far from being rich, oh, so very far, yet I do not feel one iota of resentment, or envy toward those that have more than I do. I do not consider wealth to be a qualifier in determining a person's character. I do not really care what the rich spend their money on or don't spend it on. Are there some wealthy people that are greedy? Sure, as greedy as one person I know, that makes much less than I do. Greed knows no bounds and is not determined by how much money you have. Nor is envy, or the accusation of the rich being evil and greedy,  which is the point of this posting. 

I have a relative who almost foams at the mouth with the thought that a wealthy person has more than others less fortunate. For this relative, money = greed. Ironically, he plays the Powerball each week so I asked him why he played the lottery, and he just looked at me as if I had lost my marbles. I continued and asked him, that if he won, would he now be one of the greedy, rich people? He was fit to be tied. Of course not he told me, he would share what he had, give to the poor and he would give to various charities. Again I continued, and asked him,  if he himself would give of his wealth, what made him think that others do not? Why assume that because others have money, that in itself makes them greedy, yet he wouldn't be? He had no answer. He had been bought and paid for by envy. 

Those engaged in class warfare, in pitting rich citizen against the moderate or poor citizen make good use of envy. Through the use of envy, they try to get the poorer of us to get angry and rail against the rich. They point their finger at the rich and accuse them of having gotten rich on the backs of the poor, us, or by stealing from the poor, Never naming names, they justs generalize about the rich as all greedy and the only thought of the rich is their bottom line. 

Of all the sins that can be committed, envy is the only sin where there is no satisfaction gained by the one that commits this sin. Adultery, theft, murder etc...have some sense of satisfaction when committed. Sex has it's sexual satisfaction, theft has the satisfaction of having something for which you did not want to pay or can afford. Murder for some has the sweet taste of short lived vengeance and vindication. Envy? Nothing. Envy is an empty vessel that fills itself with 'self'.  Envy brings no satisfaction, but with it comes much bitterness and anger. Envy is a complete waste of energy and is destructive to one person: the one who plays this game. 

Contrary to what many think, Christ did not say money is the root of all evil, but the desire of money is the root of all evil. Money is neither good or bad. It is what people do to accumulate it and how much importance they place on its accumulation. The same could be said on the accumulation of anything, or 'stuff' in our lives. Christ also said that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than the rich to enter heaven. Does that make the rich evil? No, it doesn't. It may make it more difficult to enter heaven for the attachment they have to money, but again, we become attached to other things we have in our lives. What the envious do not seem to understand or see, is that they also have an unhealthy desire for what others have that they do not. 

Rich people are no more evil than anyone else. It is people with money who usually start a business and hire people to work for a wage providing employment. It is on the charitable donations of the rich that many charities thrive. It is the top one percent of the 'evil' rich people that pay about ninety percent of all income taxes in this country. It is the man who had money and was a disciple of Jesus that gave his own tomb so that our Lord could be buried...

Those who envy others for their money do not really have a concern for the poor or to see the poor compensated by the rich. Their main concern is to take away from the rich as some sort of retribution only because they are rich and to them, it's just not fair. My relative and others like him that envy the rich, usually do not give much of their money they have now to the poor. What makes them think if they win a lot of money that would change? If we are greedy with the little we have at the moment, we shall also be greedy if we have more. 

Charity has nothing to do with money, but everything to do with the love that dwells in our hearts. Envy also has nothing to do with money, but with the anger, bitterness and jealousy we harbor, filling our hearts to the brim, leaving love no place to dwell within it. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Why Liberals Make Lousy Homilists

I found this early this morning and had to share. I also have heard similar homilies in the past and could never really feel connected with what others felt about God. My faith is more intellectual where I KNOW what Jesus did for us. I KNOW he loves us, and I KNOW I need to follow his footsteps to be called a son of God, but I do not always feel this 'love' I am suppose to feel. My faith is more a 'cross' than a feeling of love. I do have moments of overwhelming love for others and my Lord, but most of the time, pain drives out this feeling and leaves me exhausted. I would be overjoyed to have this 'love' so many claim to have, and I do not doubt those who say they do, but reality is, I don't. As the article says, I'm sure Christ didn't have his warm and fuzzy moment when he hung from the cross, nailed to it...bleeding and suffering.  I think it was St. Paul that said it best when he said, "We preach Christ crucified..."  - The Ordinary Catholic

Posted By Melody Lyons On July 19, 2011 @ 12:00 am In Featured on Front Page,The Marquee,We are Family 

Liberals make lousy homilists…
Now before any of you suggest that I not use the words “liberal” or “conservative” to discuss the members of the Body of Christ, I must just say this: I prefer not to use the word heterodox in this context because I’m going to give these individuals (as a whole) the benefit of the doubt. Liberal is an imperfect term but most of you know what I mean when I use it; often interchangeable with heterodoxy but sometimes just smelling a bit like it. At any rate, the term seems most appropriate for this discussion. Moving on…
By “lousy” I mean that a homilist doesn’t actually lead anyone to deeper conversion, offer any serious consolation or hope to the afflicted, or inspire confidence in the existence of a personal and powerful God. I’m painting with a broad brush but many do preach the same way and it often goes something like this:
The only way that you can really know that God exists is from the wonderful, deep down experience of love. That’s all you need… because God IS love and that feeling is God. We know He is with us because of that experience. Don’t worry about trying to prove He exists because you can’t; you just know He’s there when people love you and you love other people. Now, go be nice to each other in the parking lot and experience God.
The practical problem with this kind of preaching is that there are plenty of people warming the pews who do not have that feeling. And they may not have had that feeling in a really, really long time. But they know pain rather well. And blinding grief. Or the dead zone of indifference, depression and Prozac. Even if we feed them, build them a house, eat donuts with them and hug them, they may still remain lost in that pain. Most of us who have reached adulthood (and many of us as children) have know that kind of grief.
Father smiles warmly at us and announces that God is love. Period. And we know this because we have that experience of it deep within us. And that is all we can know and all we need to know. That is all, brothers and sisters. We need nothing more. And our silent screaming broken hearts and deadened people look at him, hear him, and understand that God is irrelevant. He is not to be found in our pain. Because we cannot find “love” there.
The liberal error is not always deliberate; sometime it is a matter of poor formation, ignorance or the use of imprecise language and improper emphasis. Regardless of whether it is intentional, the effect is still bad because it narrows our view of God by covering up the Cross with smiley face stickers. It is hard for the people to look at Calvary so we will not look at Calvary. It is unpleasant for the people to hear about sin so we will not talk about sin. This type of preaching is ineffective for the same reason that a nun who refuses to live in community or wear the habit will almost never attract new vocations; because there is no real appeal to be found in a passionless life. By passionless, I mean without energy and vibrancy and authenticity… but I also mean without the Passion. Without the suffering Christ.
The homilist who gives the love of our suffering Lord to a broken people is one who offers hope. Jesus did not “feel” warm fuzzies as He embraced His Cross. He felt broken and burdened, grief and incredible pain. He knows that part of us and reaches down to us in our despair and consoles us. The only one who really can. A priest who can introduce us to the Crucified Christ can also show us the way to the Risen Christ. We are not required to “feel” the love. That can be an impossible task at times. We need to rest our weary, miserable heads on His wounded heart and allow Him to raise us up.
Not everyone wants conversion and that is why people will happily embrace a liberal homily and talk about how “nice” it was. Of course it was nice… it left everyone comfortably where they were before it was preached. Many times, if we are wounded, it is painful to be touched. And if we are deadened, we prefer that to the pain.
But I prefer to know that I’m alive. And I prefer to know that there is Someone who has suffered like me, with me, for me… and offers me hope. Whether or not another person consciously wants that or not is not the issue. The fact that a Catholic priest would be content to leave the lot of us in our shallow, deadened states is problematic. By preaching in such a way that he moves no one, inspires no one and challenges no one, he makes himself irrelevant as a preacher and worse, causes God to appear irrelevant to our lives. As phony as the Easter Bunny.
The practice of such wrong-headed, vanilla preaching is so common to some clergy that I struggle with the temptation to pass judgement on their intentions. I find it difficult to believe that so many men would be ignorant of the meaning of their chosen words. I also find it difficult to believe that so many are actually satisfied with such a marshmallow version of God. I wonder… Is this what you are giving your life for?
Incidentally, the most jaded priests I’ve met are all liberals. And the angriest religious sisters I’ve met are all liberals. Fluff does not satisfy. It is also dull as mud. What a disappointment it would be to come into the presence of Divine Love at the end of my life and find there only the banality of a liberal homily. Oh, how… nice.

There are two different versions of love that come from the pulpit. I sit and listen as one of the weak and wounded of the Body of Christ. One crushes my hopes and feeds my despair as I consider the emptiness of religion. The other, by taking me to the heart of faith, reaches in and fans the flame that lies buried and dim but still burns.
“I desire but this one grace, and long to be consumed like a burning candle in His holy Presence every moment of the life that remains to me. For that I would be willing, I think, to suffer all the pains imaginable till judgment day, if only I should not have to leave His sacred presence. My only motive would be to be consumed in honoring Him and to acknowledge that burning love He shows us in this wonderful Sacrament. Here His love holds Him captive till the end of time. It is of this one can truly say, ‘Love triumphs, love enjoys, Love finds in God its joys.” - St. Margaret Mary

Melody Lyons is a Catholic mama joyfully seeking truth, sanctity and a clean kitchen amidst the hustle and bustle of her full house. A happy wife and homeschooling mother of six, she is devoted to her vocation while finding bits of time for a few happy distractions. How does a Catholic homeschooling mother manage faith, family, education, creative pursuits, fitness and fellowship? The calendar is set. The reality is flexible. The days are colorful. The dishes are piling. The children are blossoming. The Lord is merciful. Blessed be the Lord! You can share in Melody’s journey of hope and joy at her blog,

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

On The Right Track

There is no denying that our Church is under a massive assault. Attacks have targeted her teachings and doctrines as hateful and intolerant. These attacks come from many different sources from outside the Church, including socialism/communism, the ACLU, atheists, governmental entities etc... Probably the worse attacks come from within the Church, her dissenters, lay and clerical alike.

I look around this country and the world and see the hatred that is directed at the Church, and at times, I do have to say I become overwhelmed. They hate her for her stand against abortion, a teaching that comes to us from the Church's very beginnings, such as the document called the Didache from what is widely accepted by both ecclesiastical and secular scholars as being written in the first century, containing the teachings of the apostles. 

They hate her for her stand against divorce, contraception, homosexual sex, same sex marriages, euthanasia, assisted suicides, her stand against women ordinations, etc... Some of our priests, bishops along with many of the laity, constantly attack her, trying to force her hand in changing her teachings to be more inline with secular society, to be more progressive in her thinking,  yet she stands firm in her conviction. She stands virtually alone, teaching the Truth in this ocean of evil that is confronting the world. She remains true to her calling to go and teach all nations. 

How can we look at what is happening in our Church and not be overwhelmed and frustrated? How can we not be sick from it all? No other church or faith stands on the worlds stage as the Catholic Church does and calls evil for what it is and confronts it as she does, and gets bloodied time after time, yet she stands. 

Despite all that is happening right now in our Church, against our Church, the evils that confront society and how frustrating it is for a Catholic and any good Christian to see this, know one thing: If the Church were of man's doing, his creation, it would have disappeared long ago. The more the world is against the Church, the more I know she is the True Faith, the Church built on the 'rock' called Peter. I would worry more if the Church conformed to the world and was praised by the world rather than her defending what we know to be the Truth. Stand firm, for we are on the right track, but we are in for a heck of a ride people. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Ireland in Turmoil

The Catholic Church in Ireland is in a total crisis. The land that once sent multitudes of missionary priests to nations, especially to the United States, seems to be hanging by a thin thread that is ready to snap as far as their faith is concerned, along with the rest of the Catholic Church in Europe. The Church in Ireland is knee deep in sex abuse scandals, a Mass attendance that is practically non-existent, and a leadership that has failed many of the faithful. And now, there is another report out of that land that just boggles the mind.

There seems to be a law waiting in the wings from the Irish government that would require all priests to break the seal of the sacrament of confession. By law, it would require all priests to report to law enforcement authorities, any confession they hear from a pedophile. Non-compliance could mean up to five years in prison for a priest. They will now be putting a priest in the predicament of either complying with the law and going to prison if they don't, or being excommunicated by the Church for breaking the seal of confession. This is Ireland! Not some back-wash, third world nation! 

I can understand the need and the responsibility to want to do everything possible to protect children, and this law may sound reasonable to some, but this proposed legislation is an over-reaction  and an over-reach by the government in my opinion with dire consequences. What exactly do they think they will accomplish by forcing priests to break their vow of complete silence of what is confessed during the sacrament? How many pedophiles do they think they will capture in this way? Most likely, few, if any. 

If a pedophile knows that a priest will now have to report his confession to being a pedophile to the police, how many of them will continue to approach the sacrament? The very fact that sinners do avail themselves to this sacrament shows that they have some remorse for what they've done and are willing to admit it, at least in the confessional. Remove the safe guard of the seal of the confessional, and you will possibly remove the one voice that a pedophile will hear (the priest), that may be able to persuade the pedophile to turn himself in and turn his life around.

But this I fear, may only be the beginning. Just as abortions in our country were suppose to be an option for women that were pregnant from rape or incest, it has now turned into another form of birth control. What other crimes will the priests have to report in the future? What other confessions will the government require priests to divulge under pain of imprisonment? Do not think it will stop with confessions from pedophiles. This is the foot in the door. 

Priests have been martyred in the past for keeping the seal of confession. Now, we have a so-called civilized nation ready to imprison priests for doing the same thing. If this door is unlocked and opened, it will never be closed again. Pray for Ireland. Pray for her faithful priests. This whole thing stinks. grandson Sir Drake, two weeks ago, at eight hours old....

What else is there to say?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Pull Up Those Weeds!

Last night at Mass,  I listened to the parable in Matthew about the man who sowed wheat in his fields only to find that during the night, enemies had come and sowed weeds among the wheat. The man's servants asked him if they should pull up the weeds and were promptly told no, that in doing so, they also run the risk of pulling up the wheat along with the weeds, that they should wait til the harvest then bundle up the weeds and cast them in the fire to burn. The wheat would then be free to be harvested also and stored in the barns.

At first glance, I could see the analogy of this parable describing what we experience today and what mankind has experienced since the fall of Adam, that the world was now in a weakened state and has always had good and evil people living side by side, both seemingly enjoying the graces of God. I always saw this as God being merciful, allowing the evil people the chance to repent and turn to Him. Yet, in the back of my mind, I always wondered if it would not be better for God to just remove the evil from our midst and just leave the good. That would solve a whole lot of problems would it not? Then it hit me after I reread this part of the parable: 

" ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds
you might uproot the wheat along with them."

None of us are saints, but we are saints in the making. We cannot say we are without sin for all have sinned. I see two types of sinners: those of us who know sin is evil and we repent, promising to amend our lives, and those of us that see nothing wrong with sin, and continue to live our lives as if there will be no consequence to our sinfulness. We all have free wills to choose between loving God and not loving God. If God roots out all evil in the world, all evil temptations, all evil actions, what would be the use of free will then? No use at all. There would be no choosing between good and evil which means we are not free to love God of our own choosing. If we are not free to choose then there is no free will, and what we think in terms of love today would not be love. We would be robots pre-programmed to obey and accept what is before us without a choice. Free will is a gift from God that even God will not take away from us.

Which brings me to this other thought...If we are still sinners, though repentant, do we not still harbor evil within our hearts? And if the harvesters are told to pull up the evil before the harvest, do we not run the risk of being pulled up along with the weeds of the field because of our own sinfulness that still abides within us? Perhaps the strategy of waiting until the harvest and allowing all, time to repent and turn to God is the better strategy eh? Who is the recipient of God's mercy now?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Pit

Sometimes life takes a turn that you really didn't expect, yet you knew the risk was there. It is devastating to say the least after we have placed all our ducks in a row thinking them safe, and then all of a sudden we see them being picked off one after the other. Many times I feel I've lived much too long and I want all this to end, that I've experienced more than I should have, mostly by my own hand and again, with devastating results.

A heart and soul is nothing to be toyed with, yet we do it all the time. We may not think we are toying with them, but when we look back and see the aftermath and all the destruction we left behind, there can be no doubt about it.

I'm tired of my weaknesses. I'm tired of hurting my neighbors. I'm tired of struggling to be someone I know I'm not while waiting to be made into the person that I am called to be. I'm tired of justifying my own sinfulness while judging others of their sin. I'm tired of feeling things that should not dwell within me, yet they take up residence within my own soul. I'm just so tired of disappointing God and those I hold dear to my heart.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Stonewall

There is a stonewall that I cannot breach,
A forgiveness that I find elusive.
Be merciful I am told, yet I fear to be too merciful.

Am I a fool to think it? That I am that good?
Do I see all too clearly and lack the compassion I need to forgive?
But I remember well with the memory He gave me,
With its accusing finger saying "There! See it?"

I want to forgive him, I really do.
" we forgive those who trespass..." measure for measure yes?
Yet what good is to forgive all
And not forgive him who needs it most?

How did David do it? Or Peter? I like Judas then? Is that my end?
Lord! The thirty pieces I have flung back long ago!
Yet their sound still ring in my ears!

Why is forgiving this one so difficult?
I have shown mercy to one and all but for him!
Will this one condemn me for my lack of mercy?
Your strength I need Lord, for how else to forgive myself? 


A Taste Of Heaven

When I enter my parish church and prepare myself for Mass,  I don't want the world to follow me in. I want to leave all my cares of the world "out there" and rest my soul in His presence. I want my senses flooded with what is good and holy. I want my ears to hear the Word, my eyes to see His body on the cross: the flicker of votive candles. I want my fingers to feel the missal I hold. I want to smell the incense last burned a few days ago and I want my lips to sing along with angelic choirs while my soul is lifted and is given a taste of heaven, but what I see and hear instead, is the world that has followed me inside the sanctuary. 

I see people wearing their everyday clothes, whispering to each other, with a muffled laugh here and a chuckle there...and I hear guitars tuning up. I can close my eyes and not see the clothes and I know when Mass starts the voices will hush, but the guitars...I have a big problem with that, along with the songs that will be sung. 

I am a guitar player and have played for decades. Playing guitar is a love of mine and I have had my own blues bands off and on over the years. So what's the problem you ask? It is this: when I hear a guitar in church, the first thing I think of however briefly, is entertainment. I have always thought of a guitar as the instrument of choice when it comes to being entertained, and so it is this feeling of being entertained that comes to me when I hear it in Mass. 

Over the years I've been asked to join in the parish folk group and I have always refused except for one time over 25 years ago. I played at an outdoor Mass and from the get go, I was back on a 'stage' again, entertaining, and it was then and there that I decided never again. Along with the guitar is the modern liturgical music that is played in Mass. I want my soul and spirit to soar in worship to God when I sing and hear beautiful religious hymns and chants, but the modern liturgical music I hear grounds my soul to the world. 

To be sure, the music now played at Mass has come a long way from the Peter, Paul and Mary wannabe that was presented to us in the early sixties as sacred music, but it still leaves much to be desired. I don't want to sing to the mountains...or to the sea. I want my soul to sing to God. I want to sing to His Holy Face and I want the words I sing to reflect this. I don't want to try to find the rhythm and cadence that is lost when one singer in the folk group unexpectedly decides to ad lib in his or her exuberance, leaving me without a melodic rudder. 

Instead, I want to join my voice to the many, in unison, in rhythm and with order in praising God, so that one does not have to think about what is sung next, leaving our hearts and minds to pray: much like praying the prayers of the rosary while meditating on the mysteries. I want to be connected to the ancient Church by the hymns and chants we sing, along with the celebration of the Eucharist.

Yes, I've heard some beautiful songs in the last few years, but I don't think they should be intended for Mass. Though beautiful, they do not reflect the sacredness of the Mass or the mystery that is before us on the alter. I would prefer to hear these songs in gatherings, prayer groups and such, rather than at Mass. We have two thousand years of liturgical music to choose from so we are not wanting for something to sing. We need to reopen this treasure chest of sacred music that has been thrust aside since Vatican II and reintroduce this treasure to a whole generation that has only heard chant in movies, usually as a backdrop in a darkened scene when the evil bishop is conspiring to overtake the Vatican. The  hymns and chants long lost truly praise, edify and place our focus on God in our worship of Him, and the world should not be intruding.

There is very little silence in our world today, especially when it comes to music in our everyday lives. Hardly a minute passes when we do not hear a radio or TV playing a song. Much of what passes as liturgical music today reflects the rhythms and beats present in secular music that we hear every single day, instead of immersing us in the sacredness and reverence of the Mass.  Maybe the lyrics have been changed, but the overall flavor of pop music remains.

Mass is not about us or the world outside the church doors. It is about God and the worship of God. Mass should reflect heaven and not the world we have lived in for the six days prior to Sunday Mass. Mass is public worship and we all need to be on the same page, where there are no distractions so the focus remains on God in the Eucharist. Everything in Mass should remind us that while we may be in the world, we are not of this world, yet that is very difficult to do when the world invades the sanctuary. 

I realize many people  like the music which was introduced forty years ago, but liturgical songwriter Micheal Talbot is not Palestrina, nor is Palestrina, Michael Talbot. Each has his own place and purpose and they both serve that purpose very well indeed. I may walk around during the week humming a Michael Talbot melody, but let me hear chants and  Palestrina in Mass while I lose myself in our Lord in the Eucharist...without worldly distractions.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Throwing That First Stone

All this Corapi business is making me a bit squeamish. Anointed by God and receiving the Sacrament of Ordination from His Church, it leaves me to wonder if those of us in the cheap seats(lay men and women) have any right to be judge and jury of a priest of God and His Church. How much of the truth do we really know? What do we know of Corapi's heart and mind that we are told only God knows intimately? Instead of vilifying and saying "I told you so", perhaps it would be better to leave this business to God and just pray for him and his faithful. There are nefarious factions out to destroy our Church with whatever means they have at their disposal and for the evil one to see those within our Church arguing and fighting amongst each other has got to be a gleeful moment for him. Here, let me make it easy for you...I'm placing my stone back on the ground at my feet...I think I'll just pray for Corapi and for his followers that are now in turmoil...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Perpetuation of a Lie

Anyone who still believes that same-gender marriages will not detrimentally affect society as a whole, needs to pull their head out of the sand. Now. Also, the Catholics among us that support same-gender marriages need to really look into what it is they are supporting and what that support is actually doing to the people who have same-gender attractions.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New  York recently wrote on his blog that there will be repercussions for those of us who believe and voice our beliefs that marriage is between a man and woman with the intentions of being open to life and bringing a child into the world. Here is an excerpt from his blog:

"If the experience of those few other states and countries where this is already law is any indication, the churches, and the believers, will soon be harassed, threatened, and hauled into court for their conviction that marriage is between one man, one woman, forever, bringing children into the world."

He's right. Religious persecutions and legal prosecutions for believing in traditional marriage are happening as I write. Forget about the so-called "protections and exemptions" written into these bills protecting institutions of faith and worship from having to perform these 'marriages' or recognizing traditional marriages as the only valid ones, for they are nothing but a smokescreen.

Whenever a faux right is given to a group of people by government, someones natural, God given right is trampled. Discovering the 'right' for women to choose an abortion decimated the right for the unborn to be protected in the mother's womb, a right that was enjoyed by the unborn for the first 200 years of our nation's founding, whisked away by a 'right' that is no where to be found in the Constitution.

Everyone has always had the right to marry, and we all have had to abide by the same restriction: we can only marry someone of the opposite sex. What gays want now are special rights for themselves. Nothing more, nothing less. So what rights will people who do not believe in the validity of gay marriage lose if same-gender marriages become the law of the land?

First, we begin to lose our freedom of religion, to freely practice our faith as our consciences dictates and if my faith tells me that marriages are between a man and a woman and for the purpose of bringing children into the world, then I will be subjected to prosecution. Two conflicting rights cannot co-exist. One has to give way. Second, even if I was not a man of faith, my right to voice my opinion, my freedom of speech, will now be severely restricted if  my opinion is contrary to what the law says, that same-gender marriages are good, normal and protected from discrimination.  I don't have to argue these points, for this is happening now, where same-gender marriages have come into being by law.

Now, for those of you that support gay marriage, think about it for a moment. You know what marriage is and what it is not. We can argue back and forth and try to blur the lines of marriage all we want, but reality is, and you know it, marriage cannot be and never has been anything but a union between a man and woman. You can redefine marriage to include same gender unions all you want, but my calling a house a car does not make it a car. We still know it is a house and nothing but. The law may say that gays are married, but you know and the gay community knows that it can never be a real marriage.

Basically what Catholic supporters of gay marriages are doing is perpetuating a lie, and helping and enabling gays to live that lie: the lie that says gay marriage is valid and equal to traditional marriage. Is this what Christian charity is? Helping people live a lie for the sole purpose of not appearing insensitive or whatever other reason you may have? Love does not lie. Love can and does hurt sometimes, as does truth, and supporting gay marriages is not love, but sharing in a lie and a sin. 


George Weigel gives a good analysis of what state justification of same-gender marriages may mean for the rest of us in this on....

Saturday, July 9, 2011

To Leave the Church or Not to Leave...There is No Question

Matthew 23

 1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.

    There is no question in my mind that the clerical sexual abuse we've seen in the last several years has led to an exodus of the faithful from the Church. That is sad. Sadder still is what the victims had to go through with the very men they should have been able to trust. Something I haven't heard mentioned often however, is the turmoil of what we, those of us that sit in the pews week after week, have gone through also. How do you explain to your non-Catholic friends why you still belong to a Church that has so harmed innocent children? How do you explain why you still support an institution that is riddled with scandal such as this? So, why NOT leave the Church behind?

This brings me to the above verses from Matthew. Jesus began lambasting the Pharisees as white washed sepulchers, hypocrites etc, then he turns to the people and tells them that despite all of their leaders weaknesses, they are still the ones in authority. They are still the teachers of the law, and that their teachings are to be obeyed. Never once did he condone the people to leave their faith and synagogue. Jesus, a Jew himself, did not abandon his faith. On the contrary, he told the people to keep obeying what the teachers taught them but not to emulate them. Jesus knew that the Pharisees were the lawful authority of the people, just as the Pope and bishops in communion with him, are the authorities over Catholics.

If Jesus walked the earth as he did during the time of the apostles, I can hear him say to all Catholics, "1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The Pope of my Church and the Bishops  sit in the Chair of Peter. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.

As difficult as it is to accept, we, as Catholics, have no moral right to leave the Church because of the sins of others, for if we do, we rain condemnation down upon our own heads. We know better, so let us continue to be faithful to His Church and pray for strength, for there is no question about leaving the Church...ever.