Bring Truth or Bring Destruction

Constitution and Declaration of Independence on Grungy Betsy RosFour years ago we began this blog because we saw the need to add another authentically Catholic voice to the pre-election discourse, when the Catholic voice that dominated the mainstream media was coming from religious women who minimized the value of unborn life and aligned themselves with a very anti-life and anti-Catholic party.  That anti-Catholicism has become even more obvious with the recent WikiLeaks email releases documenting the unrelenting efforts to undermine Catholic teaching and practice by creating subversive groups within the Church.

All Catholics, both laity and religious, have a duty to bring Truth to the public square, to let the 2000 year tradition and teachings of the Church founded by Christ permeate every area of their lives.  But if we bring half-truths and distortions of the Church into the world, we bring nothing but destruction.  We are living in a culture of death, and leaving no one unscathed, it has become firmly entrenched even among Christians.  Pope Benedict XVI has called it “a schizophrenic situation”, this divided existence which so many Christians are living.  He says that being Christian can’t become something we live alongside modernity; since Christianity itself is alive and ever-new, it can embrace modernity:

It is important for us to try to live Christianity and to think as Christians in such a way that it incorporates what is good and right about modernity —and at the same time separates and distinguishes itself from what is becoming a counter-religion.”  

Msgr. Charles Pope, of the Archdiocese of Washington, recently blogged about this, inspired by an animated short film called The Clocktower:  “The Church is a central part of the functioning of our times, our culture. But her role is not to become the same as the culture, but to inspire and to be a conduit of blessing that lights up the culture and helps it to move in productive directions. Instead, too many in the Church have joined the culture, becoming indistinguishable from it. In so doing we stop being a conduit of God’s grace; things grind to a halt and become bland, colorless, and dysfunctional.”

Here is his whole post:

This week I have been writing about the problems of our culture. Today I continue in that vein with a short reflection on the Church’s role, based on the animated short below. For indeed, the darkness and dysfunction of our times cannot be simply blamed on the world, the Church, too, bears a large share of the responsibility.

The video features a woman in a clock tower; it is she who keeps the clock running. As the video progresses, we see that the clock itself plays a pivotal role in keeping the world around it alive and colorful. Consider the woman as an image for the Church, and the clock as an image for our culture (note that “culture” also refers to the times in which we live).

The woman grows bored with sustaining the clock, longing to go out and see the world outside—and so she leaves the clock tower. But because she is the central cog of the entire clock, it grinds to a halt without her. As she emerges into the world, suddenly all goes gray and comes to a stop. Through her attempt to become part of the world she so desires, that very world loses its beauty and is no longer desirable.

This is the tale of the Church these past hundred years. The Church is a central part of the functioning of our times, our culture. But her role is not to become the same as the culture, but to inspire and to be a conduit of blessing that lights up the culture and helps it to move in productive directions. Instead, too many in the Church have joined the culture, becoming indistinguishable from it. In so doing we stop being a conduit of God’s grace; things grind to a halt and become bland, colorless, and dysfunctional.

For the culture to be truly what it is called to be, the Church must be what she is called to be. She is called to love the people of the world, to love the culture (but not be enamored of it). The Church must in a sense be above the culture and beneath the authority of God; she must be the conduit of God’s graces and act as a bridge between God and man.

When the Church leaves her place and shirks her role, the culture winds down and loses its color and life. When the Church is the Church, through her preaching and sacramental life, the culture is so much more alive with goodness, beauty, and truth.

Enjoy this beautiful video and consider its message for us.

 

Christ the King

 

Pilate said to Jesus,
“Are you the King of the Jews?”
Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own
or have others told you about me?”
Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I?
Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me.
What have you done?”
Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world.
If my kingdom did belong to this world,
my attendants would be fighting
to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.
But as it is, my kingdom is not here.”
So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?”
Jesus answered, “You say I am a king.
For this I was born and for this I came into the world,
to testify to the truth.
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

-Today’s Gospel Reading from JN 18:33B-37

 

 On this beautiful feast of Christ the King, let us think about the King Whom we are called to serve.  What does it really mean to be a servant of this King? Pope Benedict says “Participation in Jesus’ lordship is verified concretely only in sharing in his abasement, with the Cross.”

See emerge now clearly, dear Brothers, the first and fundamental message that the Word of God says to us today: to me, Successor of Peter, and to you, cardinals. It calls us to be with Jesus, like Mary, and not to ask him to come down from the cross, but to stay there with Him. And this, in regard to our ministry, we must do not only for ourselves, but for the whole Church, for all the People of God. We know from the Gospels that the cross was the critical point of the faith of Simon Peter and of the other Apostles. It is clear and it could not be otherwise: they were men and they thought “as men”: they could not tolerate the idea of a crucified Messiah. Peter’s conversion was realized fully when he gave up trying to “save” Jesus and accepted being saved by Him. He gave up wanting to save Jesus from the cross and accepted being saved by his cross. “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:32), says the Lord. Peter’s ministry consists altogether in his faith, a faith that Jesus recognizes immediately, from the beginning, as genuine, as a gift from the heavenly Father; but a faith that must go through the scandal of the cross, to become authentic, truly “Christian,” to become “rock” on which Jesus can build his Church. Participation in Jesus’ lordship is verified concretely only in sharing in his abasement, with the Cross. My ministry also, dear Brothers, and, consequently, also yours, consists altogether in faith. Jesus can build his Church on us the more he finds in us that true, paschal faith, that faith that does not want to make Jesus come down from the Cross, but entrusts itself to Him on the Cross. In this connection the authentic place of the Vicar of Christ is on the Cross, to persist in the obedience of the Cross.

Homily of Pope Benedict XVI on the Solemnity of Christ the King, November 23, 2010

The Holy Father was speaking to the newly created cardinals, but his message applies to each one of us, who are called, in love, to become joyful servants of Christ the King, Lord of the Universe.  He is Lord of all, and while everyone and everything is subject to Him, we are gifted with free will to embrace His Kingship or to reject it.

Why pray for the holy souls in purgatory?

A baroque painting of Mary as the protectress of the poor souls in purgatory in the pilgrimage church of the Holy Trinity in Weihenlinden, Bavaria. The belief that love can reach into the afterlife, that reciprocal giving and receiving is possible, in which our affection for one another continues beyond the limits of death—this has been a fundamental conviction of Christianity throughout the ages and it remains a source of comfort today. Who would not feel the need to convey to their departed loved ones a sign of kindness, a gesture of gratitude or even a request for pardon? Now a further question arises: if “Purgatory” is simply purification through fire in the encounter with the Lord, Judge and Saviour, how can a third person intervene, even if he or she is particularly close to the other? When we ask such a question, we should recall that no man is an island, entire of itself. Our lives are involved with one another, through innumerable interactions they are linked together. No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone. The lives of others continually spill over into mine: in what I think, say, do and achieve. And conversely, my life spills over into that of others: for better and for worse. So my prayer for another is not something extraneous to that person, something external, not even after death. In the interconnectedness of Being, my gratitude to the other—my prayer for him—can play a small part in his purification. And for that there is no need to convert earthly time into God’s time: in the communion of souls simple terrestrial time is superseded. It is never too late to touch the heart of another, nor is it ever in vain. In this way we further clarify an important element of the Christian concept of hope. Our hope is always essentially also hope for others; only thus is it truly hope for me too[40]. As Christians we should never limit ourselves to asking: how can I save myself? We should also ask: what can I do in order that others may be saved and that for them too the star of hope may rise? Then I will have done my utmost for my own personal salvation as well.      

-From Spe Salvi, by Pope Benedict XVI

Click here to read the rest of the encyclical.

Show Notes – A Good Habit 4/16/14

A Good Habit Show NotesHello, everyone.  Sorry these show notes are so late – between the last days of Holy Week and the Easter celebrations I completely forgot about posting this.

The music featured on the show was from the CD Lent at Ephesus by the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles.  You can find it on iTunes, Amazon, and at their website.

The Jimmy Akin article we mentioned, 6 Things to Know About the Triduum can be found Continue reading

A golden thread in the tapestry of the Church

Miniature of St. Benedict

It’s hard to overstate the influence of St. Benedict of Nursia.  He is the Father of Western Monasticism, whose rule of life became the strong root from which so many religious orders grew.  Were it not for St. Benedict, the light of truth, wisdom, learning, art, history, music, and the works of ancient philosophers may never have survived, for without his influence, there might not have been numerous monasteries of resilient monks to rebuild and restore civilization after the barbarian invasions.

We want to share a wonderful address given recently by Fr. Thomas Rosica at the Catholic Media Convention in Denver, Colorado.  We especially loved the way he links the great Saint Benedict of Nursia with our own Saint Francis of Assisi, and Pope Emeritus Benedict with our present Pope Francis.  Using a beautiful quote from the celebrated book on Saint Francis by GK Chesterton (a quote which we  just happened to hear for the first time when Dale Ahlquist was on our radio show a couple weeks ago),  Father Rosica draws the parallels between these four men, whose names and missions intertwine in a way that shows the marvelous workings of the Holy Spirit.  Four men in different times, different centuries, and yet interwoven together in the amazing tapestry of the Church.  We hope you find it as inspiring as we did.

Click here to read Fr. Rosica’s address at the Catholic Media Convention.

Pope Benedict’s Farewell Angelus

Vatican Radio translation of the Holy Father’s Angelus address:

Dear brothers and sisters!

On the second Sunday of Lent, the liturgy always presents us with the Gospel of the Transfiguration of the Lord. The evangelist Luke places particular emphasis on the fact that Jesus was transfigured as he prayed: his is a profound experience of relationship with the Father during a sort of spiritual retreat that Jesus lives on a high mountain in the company of Peter, James and John , the three disciples always present in moments of divine manifestation of the Master (Luke 5:10, 8.51, 9.28).
The Lord, who shortly before had foretold his death and resurrection (9:22), offers his disciples a foretaste of his glory. And even in the Transfiguration, as in baptism, we hear the voice of the Heavenly Father, “This is my Son, the Chosen One listen to him” (9:35). The presence of Moses and Elijah, representing the Law and the Prophets of the Old Covenant, it is highly significant: the whole history of the Alliance is focused on Him, the Christ, who accomplishes a new “exodus” (9:31) , not to the promised land as in the time of Moses, but to Heaven. Peter’s words: “Master, it is good that we are here” (9.33) represents the impossible attempt to stop this mystical experience. St. Augustine says: “[Peter] … on the mountain … had Christ as the food of the soul. Why should he come down to return to the labours and pains, while up there he was full of feelings of holy love for God that inspired in him a holy conduct? “(Sermon 78.3).
We can draw a very important lesson from meditating on this passage of the Gospel. First, the primacy of prayer, without which all the work of the apostolate and of charity is reduced to activism. In Lent we learn to give proper time to prayer, both personal and communal, which gives breath to our spiritual life. In addition, to pray is not to isolate oneself from the world and its contradictions, as Peter wanted on Tabor, instead prayer leads us back to the path, to action. “The Christian life – I wrote in my Message for Lent – consists in continuously scaling the mountain to meet God and then coming back down, bearing the love and strength drawn from him, so as to serve our brothers and sisters with God’s own love “(n. 3).
Dear brothers and sisters, I feel that this Word of God is particularly directed at me, at this point in my life. The Lord is calling me to “climb the mountain”, to devote myself even more to prayer and meditation. But this does not mean abandoning the Church, indeed, if God is asking me to do this it is so that I can continue to serve the Church with the same dedication and the same love with which I have done thus far, but in a way that is better suited to my age and my strength. Let us invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary: may she always help us all to follow the Lord Jesus in prayer and works of charity.
I offer a warm greeting to all the English-speaking visitors present for this Angelus prayer, especially the Schola Cantorum of the London Oratory School. I thank everyone for the many expressions of gratitude, affection and closeness in prayer which I have received in these days. As we continue our Lenten journey towards Easter, may we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus the Redeemer, whose glory was revealed on the mount of the Transfiguration. Upon all of you I invoke God’s abundant blessings!

Pope Benedict’s Ash Wednesday Homily

Pope Benedict greets the faithful at Ash Wednesday Mass

Venerable Brothers,

Dear brothers and sisters!

With this day of penance and fasting — Ash Wednesday — we begin a new journey toward the Easter of Resurrection: the journey of Lent. I would like to pause briefly to reflect on the liturgical sign of ashes, a material sign, an element of nature, which becomes a sacred symbol in the liturgy, a very important symbol on this day in which we start our Lenten journey. Historically, in the Jewish culture, the practice of sprinkling ashes upon one’s head as a sign of penance was common and was often combined with the wearing of sackcloth or rags. For us Christians, however, this is the only time that we use ashes but it has a special ritual and spiritual relevance.

First of all, ashes are one of those material signs that bring the cosmos into the liturgy. The principal signs are of course those of the sacraments: water, oil, bread and wine, which become true and proper sacramental material through which the grace of Christ reaches us. But in the case of ashes there is a non-sacramental sign that is, nonetheless, always connected to the prayer and sanctification of the Christian people: a particular blessing of the ashes — which we will perform shortly — is, in fact, specified before they are applied to the person’s forehead. There are two possible formulas for this blessing. In the first the ashes are defined as an “austere symbol”; in the second a blessing is requested directly upon them and reference is made to the text of the Book of Genesis, which may also accompany the imposition of the ashes: “Remember that you are dust and that to dust you shall return” (cf. Genesis 3:19).

Let us pause a moment over this passage of Genesis. It concludes the judgment pronounced by God after original sin: God curses the serpent, who made the man and woman fall into sin; then he punishes the woman, announcing to her the pains of birth and an unbalanced relationship with her husband; finally he punishes the man, he tells him of the toil of labor and curses the soil. “May the soil be cursed because of you” (Genesis 3:17), because of your sin. So, the man and the woman are not directly cursed as, however, the serpent is. Still because of Adam’s sin the soil is cursed, the soil from which Adam was formed. Let us re-read the magnificent account of the creation of man from the earth: “Then the Lord God made the man from the dust of the soil and breathed into his nostrils a breath of life and man became a living being. Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden in the east and there put the man he had made” (Genesis 2:7-8); thus the words of the Book of Genesis.

This is why the sign of ashes brings us back to the vast canvas depicting creation, in which it is said that the human being is a singular unity of matter and divine breath, as suggested by the image of the dust formed by God and the divine breath breathed into the nostrils of the new creature. We can see how in the account of Genesis the symbol of dust undergoes a negative transformation because of sin. While before the fall the soil is a potentiality that is completely good, fed by a spring of water (Genesis 2:6) and able, by God’s handiwork, to bring forth “every sort of tree, fair to behold and pleasant to eat of” (Genesis 2:9), after the fall and the consequent divine malediction, it produces “thorns and thistles” and only through “toil” and “sweat of the brow” gives up its fruits to man (cf. Genesis 3:17-18). The dust of the earth no longer reminds us only of God’s creative gesture, wholly open to life, but becomes a sign of an inescapable destiny of death: “You are dust and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19).

It is evident in the biblical text that the earth participates in man’s fate. Speaking of this in one of his homilies, St. John Chrysostom says: “See how after his disobedience everything is imposed upon [man] in a way contrary to his previous manner of life” (Homilies on Genesis 17, 9: PG 53, 146). This cursing of the soil has a medicinal purpose for man, who must from the earth’s “resistance” be helped to keep himself within his limits and recognize his nature (cf. ibid.). Another ancient commentary expresses itself in this way in a beautiful summary: “Adam was made pure by God for his service. All of the creatures were given to him to serve him. But when evil reached him and conversed with him, he heard it by his external sense. Then it penetrated into his heart and took over his whole being. When he was thus captured, the creation that had helped and served him, was captured with him” (Pseudo-Macarius, Homilies 11, 5: PG 34, 547).

We said a little bit ago, quoting St. John Chrysostom, that the cursing of the soil has a “medicinal” purpose. That means that God’s intention, which is always beneficent, is deeper than malediction. The latter, in fact, is not due to God but to sin, but God cannot fail to do it because he respects man’s freedom and its consequences, even the negative ones. Therefore, in the punishment, and also in the malediction of the soil, there remains a good intention that comes from God. When he says to man, “You are dust and to dust you shall return!” together with the just punishment he also intends to announce a path of salvation, which will travel through the earth, through that “dust,” that “flesh” that will be assumed by the Word.

It is in accord with this salvific perspective that the verse of Genesis is taken up by the Ash Wednesday liturgy: as an invitation to penance, to humility and to an awareness of our mortal condition, but not to end up in desperation, but rather to welcome, precisely in this mortality of ours, God’s unthinkable nearness, which, beyond death, opens the passage to the resurrection, to paradise finally rediscovered. In this sense we are given orientation by a text of Origen, who says: “That which was at first flesh, of the earth, a man of dust (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:47), and which was dissolved through death and again made dust and ashes — in fact it is written ‘You are dust and to dust you shall return’ — was raised up once more from the earth. Afterward, by the merits of the soul that inhabits the body, the person advances toward the glory of a spiritual body” (On the Principles, 3, 6, 5: Sch, 268, 248).

The “merits of the soul,” of which Origen speaks, are necessary; but Christ’s merits are fundamental, the efficaciousness of his Paschal Mystery. St. Paul offered us a summary formulation in the second Letter to the Corinthians, today’s second reading: “He who did not know sin God made sin for our benefit, that in him we might become the justice of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). The possibility for us of divine pardon depends essentially on the fact that God himself, in the person of his Son, wanted to share our condition, but not the corruption of sin. And the Father raised him with the power of his Holy Spirit; and Jesus, the new Adam, became, as St. Paul says, “life-giving spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45), the first fruits of the new creation. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead can transform our hearts from hearts of stone to hearts of flesh (cf. Ezekiel 36:26).

We invoked him a moment ago with the Psalm “Miserere”: “Create in me, O God, a pure heart, / renew in me a firm spirit. / Do not banish me from your presence / and do not deprive me of your holy spirit” (Psalm 50:12-13). That God who banished our first parents from Eden, sent his Son to our earth devastated by sin, he did not spare him, that we, prodigal sons, might return, contrite and redeemed by his mercy, to our true homeland. May it be so for each one of us, for all believers, for every man who humbly recognizes his need of salvation. Amen.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

Pope Benedict celebrates Ash Wednesday Mass