The Synod, Archbishop Chaput, and Despair

I just read Archbishop Chaput’s intervention at the Synod over at Edward Pentin’s blog at the National Catholic Register and I believe it touched on a major issue in the Church right now. It is not just one in relation to marriage and the family, but also a lack of hope in the Church and the power of the Holy Spirit to guide her. Here is the text of the intervention:

Marriage as a Witness to Hope

“Brothers,

The Instrumentum seemed to present us with two conflicting views: pastoral despair or a decision to hope. When Jesus experienced the pastoral despair of his Apostles, he reminded them that for man a thing may seem impossible, but for God all things are possible.

In mastering nature for the purpose of human development, we human beings have wounded our oceans and the air we breathe. We’ve poisoned the human body with contraceptives. And we’ve scrambled the understanding of our own sexuality. In the name of individual fulfillment, we’ve busied ourselves with creating a new Babel of tyranny that feeds our desires but starves the soul.

Paragraphs 7-10 of the Instrumentum did a good job of describing the condition of today’s families. But overall, the text engenders a subtle hopelessness. This leads to a spirit of compromise with certain sinful patterns of life and the reduction of Christian truths about marriage and sexuality to a set of beautiful ideals — which then leads to surrendering the redemptive mission of the Church.

The work of this synod needs to show much more confidence in the Word of God, the transformative power of grace, and the ability of people to actually live what the Church believes. And it should honor the heroism of abandoned spouses who remain faithful to their vows and the teaching of the Church.

George Bernanos said that the virtue of hope is “despair, overcome.” We have no reason to despair. We have every reason to hope. Pope Francis saw this himself in Philadelphia. Nearly 900,000 people crowded the streets for the papal Mass that closed the World Meeting of Families.

They were there because they love the Pope, but also because they believe in marriage. They believe in the family. And they were hungry to be fed by real food from the Vicar of Jesus Christ.

We need to call people to perseverance in grace and to trust in the greatness God intended for them — not confirm them in their errors. Marriage embodies Christian hope – hope made flesh and sealed permanently in the love of a man and a woman.

This synod needs to preach that truth more clearly with the radical passion of the Cross and Resurrection.”

There is a great amount of despair that is coming out of certain corners of the Church. For instance, the German Church demonstrates a profound sense of despair and loss of faith in its desire to conform to the world rather than the Blessed Trinity. Many in that Bishop’s Conference, not all, have forgotten that our baptismal call is to be conformed to Christ throughout our lives. That means entering into the Paschal Mystery and dying to self, dying to our desires, and inclinations, most especially those which are disordered and sinful. The reason for this is not because God is a cold-hearted authoritarian who desires to rule over us as a tyrant. No, what these men and many throughout the Church who have chosen this world rather than the next, is that God wants us to be fully human. He created us, so He knows what will make us fully alive and fully human. This occurs through an abandonment of sin, which is a difficult and life-long process only made possible through grace.

This despair leaves Jesus in the tomb. It is to scatter because Our Lord has been crucified. Many have forgotten that Jesus has in fact Risen, that He reigns in Heaven, and that the Holy Spirit is who guides the truth and the Church. We cannot give into despair because the culture is against us. The culture has always been against us. Jesus came to give the world a counter-cultural message, a message that goes against the depravity of sin, and the truth that relies on grace. He promised us that we would be persecuted. The question comes down to this: Are we a Resurrection people or not?

A good deal of the ranting and raving at the Synod and on social media comes from those who have lost hope. They see a Church of sinners, a hierarchy of sinners, and a seductive world. Many have cornered themselves into one of two camps: the Church is going to fall apart or we must become like the world. We forget that the answer is neither. It is that we must proclaim the Good News. We must share the joy of Jesus Christ who lives and reigns forever. That with grace all things are possible. We can overcome our sinful inclinations, even sexual ones, by the power of God. It is not by our own power, but Christ’s that will guide us and help us to persevere in the long arduous journey.

Do we truly believe in the power of the Paschal Mystery? Do we believe that God has and will redeem us? Do we believe that Jesus is who he said he is? If the answer is no, then yes, it is right to despair. That means there is no redemption and that human depravity will continue to spiral to deeper and deeper depths. If the answer is yes, then we must stop living in defeat. The world senses our despair and the vultures are circling overhead. Either we believe that Christ will protect the Church from error, or we don’t believe in Him. Either we believe that redemption is possible or we don’t. Conforming the Church to the world is to live without redemption. It is to believe that human beings are incapable of greatness, holiness, and saintliness. If we are redeemed, then we must share that redemption with others. We must be honest about the difficult task. We must be honest that human beings cannot do it on their. This is only possible through Christ.

Many people focus on the sins of the hierarchy. They obsess about a “Gay Mafia” or other agendas within the Magisterium. There have been competing agendas since the beginning of the Church. Today is not unique. Most of us are not in a position to do anything about it except pray. Gossiping and ranting in social media is not a proper response to such concern. Gossip is a sin for a reason. If there are concerns then write to the proper channels, pray, and trust in Christ’s promises. The sins of the hierarchy, the very same sins many of us in the laity struggle with, do not change the Church in her ontological reality. She is the Bride of Christ and protected from error by the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t mean that our sins don’t damage the Mystical Body, but it does not change the Church, nor does it change God.

What if some were unfaithful? Will their infidelity nullify the fidelity of God? Of course not! God must be true, though every human being is a liar, as it is written:“That you may be justified in your words, and conquer when you are judged.”
But if our wickedness provides proof of God’s righteousness, what can we say? Is God unjust, humanly speaking, to inflict his wrath? Of course not! For how else is God to judge the world? But if God’s truth redounds to his glory through my falsehood, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? And why not say—as we are accused and as some claim we say—that we should do evil that good may come of it? Their penalty is what they deserve.

Romans 3:3-8

It is time to stop focusing so much on this world and the sins of our neighbor. It is time for us to live as people in hope and in the glory of the Paschal Mystery. It is through our lives and our striving to live in holiness that people will come to know the truth. It is impossible for us to engage the world if all we do is either project doom and gloom out over social media and in our daily lives, or if we say the Church is “out-dated” and must conform to this age. Neither are truth. Both are a form of despair. Instead, we must do as St. Paul did and proclaim: Christ has risen! Pax Christi.

Trust, History, and the Synod on the Family

The Synod on the Family is is in full swing, so I thought I would again share this article that I wrote at Catholic Exchange about Church history and trust. I assure you this is not the worst period in the Church’s history. It is not exhaustive because no article ever is, but it gives a good outline of how the Church operates and what she has overcome. In everything we trust in the Holy Spirit. Here it is:

Next month the second part of the Synod on the Family will commence in Rome. Articles, theories, and concerns have been flying around social media for over a year now. Discussion on the Synod is a good thing and should be encouraged. What I have seen in many circles however, is a sense of foreboding that betrays a fear of a change in doctrine that runs completely counter to what we understand the Catholic Church to be. That foreboding is met with glee in many circles who are touting the Church will get with the times and completely revamp 2000 years of moral law in order to please the Zeitgeist of our own age. Both are wrong and neither understands how the Church operates.

First, let’s remember that the Church is not a human institution at her ontological level. Yes, on the outside she looks like an institutional structure, complete with a hierarchy, and extensive array of offices with the Pope at the head. The ultimate reality, however, is that she is the Mystical Body of Christ. Her head is Christ and the Pope is subordinate to Him. Christ Himself promised that the power of Hell would not prevail against her:

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. l will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Matthew 16:15-19

This passage from the Gospel of Matthew is often used to explain the Papacy and our understanding of Apostolic Succession. What it also tells us is that what has been revealed to Saint Peter, the Apostles, and the Church is not from earthly realities, but from the Blessed Trinity. The Church’s understanding is that the Holy Spirit will preserve the Deposit of Faith, that which is teaching on faith and morals, from error even in the presence of sinful men and sinful women. This has repeatedly played out throughout the Church’s history.

What exactly is the hierarchy doing through the Synod on the Family? She is doing what she always does, she is engaging in open dialogue in order to better understand the heresies of the day and to better express the truth in the face of those falsehood so that the Church may evangelize the world. What many people forget is that the Church has always encouraged open and honest dialogue. Just because dialogue occurs, does not mean that the Church is accepting everything that is said in councils or synods. In fact, a great many heresies have been proposed at such gatherings throughout the Church’s history. Let’s consider a few examples.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

Pope Francis and the Problem of the Eldest Son

785px-Rembrandt_Harmensz_van_Rijn_-_Return_of_the_Prodigal_Son_-_Google_Art_Project

Last week as I watched Pope Francis address Congress and our nation a thought dawned on me. Since Pope Francis’ election I have watched as certain groups within the Church and outside of the Church get themselves tied up in knots because of what he says and how he says it. These people are varied in their reasons for displeasure with our Holy Father, and some love a Pontiff who does not exist and who is a product of their own imagination. The latter are those in the mainstream media who love that he blesses and kisses babies and the disabled, but ignore his strong pronouncements on the Church’s moral teaching on abortion and “gay marriage”. There is another group entrenched in the heresy of Americanism that lashes out for what the Pope says about capitalism, without really understanding what the Pope means. Specifically, that a capitalism that uses people as a means to an end is evil; not necessarily capitalism that is rightly ordered. And finally, we have a group within the Church that greatly endangers itself by its irrationality, fall into calumny, and hardening hearts. It is this last group that I want to address in this post.

It is true that at times Pope Francis is not clear in his comments and at times it can be hard to understand precisely what he means. There have been moments early on in his Pontificate when he made comments about those serving in the pro-life movement that hurt many people. I understand. And the manipulation of his words by people inside and outside of the Church has made our mission more difficult at times. The “who am I to judge?” quote, which is taken entirely out of context by so many, has been thrown in most of our faces when it comes to moral issues in the West. I get it, but I want to consider something in light of the Pope’s recent visit to the U.S.

Pope Francis does not need to really worry about those of us who grasp and try to live the Church’s moral teaching. We are sharing that truth in our families, communities, and in social media. By the light of faith and the gift of human reason, we are able to understand why the Church teaches as she does on issues that are counter-cultural. We understand why life is sacred and that every human life is endowed with dignity given by God from conception to natural death. In other words, we are not lost. We have the light of Christ leading us. Pope Francis knows that you and I will go to Scripture, the Catechism, and Church documents in order to understand and defend her truths.

Now, most of our culture is being led astray by Lucifer. They have believed his lies and now live in ignorance and with dying or dead souls. This is even more tragic when baptized Catholics persist in these lies, especially in a public manner. Pope Francis addressed some of these people in Congress and our nation throughout his various speeches. When someone has hardened their heart or grace has left them, as is the case with mortal sin (yes, that’s how serious it is), it is difficult to reach those people. In fact, stating moral law to those people who are either deceived or willfully dissenting can accomplish very little. Why?

The reason is that what these people need is grace. If their soul is dead, then they need grace to enter their lives again. If they have never experienced grace, then they need the supernatural gifts of faith and grace. This first begins in a movement from God, but then the person has to be willing to accept this gift. God does not force us to love or follow Him. He preserves our free will completely. It is true that some people return or enter the faith through learning the moral truths of the Catholic Faith. By and large, however, this is not the case. In order for conversion or reversion to occur, a person must have an encounter with the Living Christ whether it be a slower process like St. Peter or a knocked off the horse experience like St. Paul. No matter how it happens, that encounter must take place first.

With that in mind, what is Pope Francis trying to accomplish? Since he knows the orthodox are well taken care of, he is reaching out to those who have either fallen into error or who have always lived in error. It’s not that he is encouraging sin. Anyone who takes the time to follow the Holy Father’s message in its entirety knows this to be true. Rather, he is sharing the power of Christ with the world. When people see Francis’ life, they wonder where it comes from and that answer is Jesus Christ. Then people can begin to look for Jesus. In coming to know and love Jesus and through Baptism grace pours into the soul and makes it easier to come to the fullness of truth, including the moral law. In fact, it is impossible to come to the Church without faith and grace. What occurs in the supernatural life is not up to us. We are mere messengers. A fact that many seem to forget. Conversion takes time. Real conversion comes with falls along the way and many trips to the Confessional.

It is important for those of us who know the truth to avoid falling into bitterness as the eldest son did in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. In fact, let’s take a quick look at that beautiful Parable:

Then he said, “A man had two sons and the younger son said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’ So the father divided the property between them. After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation. When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need. So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine. And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any. Coming to his senses he thought, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”’ So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ But his father ordered his servants, ‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.’ Then the celebration began. Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean. The servant said to him, ‘Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him. He said to his father in reply, ‘Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends.But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’ He said to him, ‘My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’”

It is the last part of the this Parable that is most instructive for this particular discussion. The father says to the son: “My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.” This is really at the heart of Pope Francis’ Papacy. He knows that we are well taken care of. The last few popes have fought the Culture of Death. Whether it agrees or not, much of our culture is aware of what the Catholic Church teaches on these issues. If we solely focus on the “culture war” we run the risk of disengaging our audience because we resort to screeching at high volume to get our point across. Instead, we need to show people to Christ, so that they can come to the truth found in the moral teaching of the Church. We can’t put the cart before the horse. A person who has been steeped in relativism is not going to understand the Church’s teachings without the light of faith and grace.

Pope Francis is not an anti-pope or threatening the Church. He is welcoming the Prodigal. He is showing people to Christ, so that the Church makes sense. We forget that we have grace and faith while the majority of people in our culture do not. The Church is foreign and they look at us with blindness. They can’t see until they see Christ. It is not that Francis is leaving us behind or leaving the faith behind. He is being a Shepherd. He is welcoming the lost into the fold, and telling the Mystical Body to rejoice when people return or join us. Just because Francis doesn’t constantly mention our favorite pet issue, does not mean he is wrong. He is leading in a way we may not fully understand, but we can trust that he is doing his best to reach out to the world and bring people to Christ. That is his job on top of leading the Church. So, let us rejoice that wounded, suffering, and lost people are looking for Christ. Let’s go to the celebration instead of sulking or living in bitterness. Praise be to God for reaching the lost. God bless.

Rage Porn

screaming-kid

My title selection may be a bit shocking, but it is not far from the truth.  No I am not talking about some form of violent pornography. I want to talk about our culture’s addiction to rage. Keep in mind that anything I write about is a reflection of my own struggles.  You can see the first two posts in a series I am working on about anger here and here.

Social media is a great tool. It allows us to connect with people all over the world and people we have not seen or spoken to in decades. This is really great for people like me who are Veterans and who know people literally all over the world. It’s nice to see how people have changed, raised families, and continue on their journey. This is all good stuff. What I am concerned with is the focus on presumed righteous anger within the Church, which is actually sinful anger.

I seldom use Twitter.  To be honest, it overwhelms me with information. I find it is a place where people can share their outrage in 140 characters. It’s a constant flow of bad news and information. Look at what the rad-trads did today and look at what the proggies are up to. Pope Francis is a heretic. Pope Francis is not a heretic. Change is coming to the Church. Obama is the anti-Christ. The world is ending, stock up on canned goods. The onslaught is unrelenting. To see the polarization that is occurring in our country and within the Church, take a moment to read a comments section on a news article or blog.  Then look away and stay away. It is startling.

We are turning the Interwebs into a place of “us vs them” and I can tell you historically that never ends well. We begin turning the people next to us in the pews or on the streets into enemies. There are genuine heretics (not our Pope) and people who are disobedient, but it really is up to a priest or bishop to correct them in private and in public, unless they are a friend who needs our guidance. Admonishment of sinners is not something that needs to be done whenever we see someone sinning in a manner different from our own. I like to share my love of the Sacrament of Penance as a way to help people find healing and strength against sin.  I get the struggle.  I have done it. I have a strong sense of justice and it is troubling to see people flout Church teaching and then proceed to the Eucharist line, but in reality, you and I are not the enforcers of canon law. We do, however, have an obligation to balance justice and charity. We do not overlook sin, but we discern where Christ wants to use us. There are moments we will be used for admonishment, but we should be clear beforehand.

There is little you or I can do about people who choose to be Catholics in name only, except pray for them and try to live by our example.  Let’s show people that things like NFP require sacrifice, but they are doable.  Let’s show love and respect for the gay community without accepting their behavior.  Let’s minister to the person embroiled in divorce and try to guide them through the love of Christ.  Let’s try not to make assumptions because of someone’s political leanings. Human beings are complex.  We are a sum total of a variety of talents, experiences, and above all we derive our dignity from being created in the image and likeness of God. I am not my politics, sexual orientation, or liturgical preference.  What a limiting world that would be!

My point is that social media can be a train-wreck if we make it one. I have shifted dramatically since joining Facebook in 2008.  My posts were almost entirely political.  I supported things that I never would support now, but I was sure through my presumption that I was right.  The Republican Party was the party of the Catholic Church.  I feel absolutely stupid for this now.  No political party is the party of God.  The immorality is on all sides and politics are inherently corrupted by human sin. The Republican Party will eventually fold on marriage.  It is inevitable. So then what? That is a very good question and it will put us in a difficult situation. But, I gave up politics for a while, so I will come up with in answer in a couple of years.

What should concern us, however, is when this toxicity spills over into the Church. Our primary mission to evangelize is greatly harmed by our inability to separate our ideology from Christ. Our political or even “theological” ideology is not a reflection of the authentic Jesus Christ who beckons us to communion with the Blessed Trinity. In fact, my constant focus on click-bait, rage porn drives a wedge between that communion and me.  It takes my focus off of Christ and drives me to dwell on things outside of my control, but in a controlling manner.  I am not arguing that we should not keep track of the world. We need to be aware of the landscape, but we should not constantly dwell on it. When we see bad news or conflict, the first thing that we should do is pray. Yes, while you are looking at your Twitter or Facebook feed, bow your head and pray.  Pray for them and for yourself.

When I see the anger of the Catholic blogosphere, the first thing I see is a lack of trust. I know this, because I have, and still see that in myself. Somehow the Church will perish in flames if I don’t tell Pope Francis how to get things done. If the progressive get their way then the Church will crumble because of changes in sexual morality.  Folks, the Church’s teaching on faith and morals will never change.  It is irreformable.  The Church will never change her teachings on divorce, homosexual acts, birth control, etc.  She can’t because Christ is the head, not men.  So stop worrying that she will.  She can find pastoral approaches to those who have been deeply hurt by the Sexual Revolution, but her mission is to heal and bring sinners to Christ.  To help them see why those sins tore them apart. So stop screaming in fear. Trust. Instead of writing hostile blogs and articles, how about we focus on fixing the brokenness? St. John Paul II left us a wealth of knowledge and tools to help us heal this pain and these sins.  Thanks be to God.  Let’s use Theology of the Body rather than ranting that the Church is going to change. The only one who will triumph in all of these things we worry about is Jesus Christ who reigns as our King, Priest, and Prophet.

And let’s stop being so hostile about the Liturgy.  Full disclosure I veil in the Novus Ordo. I have never been to an Extraordinary Form Mass, although I would love the experience it.  I want a reverent and beautiful Liturgy.  We are working our way back to that.  Christ did not say, in his Aramaic, that all Masses must be in Latin.  Yes, I am aware this argument is poor in the face of tradition.  How about this?  Latin is a discipline, not a doctrine. Yes, Latin has a long tradition and it is still the language of the Church.  I love Latin and chant.  They send my soul soaring to Heaven, but the yelling and screaming is doing absolutely no good.  The issue is not the use of the vernacular, the issue is a breakdown in understanding of the Liturgy and the Real Presence.  That is where our focus should be.  In fact the nastiness should be sending a lot of people to Confession, just like the sexual sins, because of sinful anger.

None of us wants to get pigeon-holed into the idea that we are better because we are not “them”.  Christ dealt directly with this problem.  Remember Luke 18:9-14? If we want to change the world, then we must start with the primary mission of our Baptism: Our individual sanctification.  If we work on our own personal holiness, then we can change the world around us.  Can you imagine how the Catholic landscape in social media would change if we were focused on helping others achieve holiness?  That is the goal: Sainthood.  We cannot help others to holiness, if we ourselves are strangled by our own denial of sin.  It is not that we aren’t supposed to help sinners, it just happens that we must work on our own personal holiness before Christ will use us.

I know this is hard.  Ask my husband about me! You and I have been given a desire to write and share our faith.  That is a stewardship that God has given us.  We should respect it and use it for good.  That does not mean that we cannot wade into political discussions, ethical debates, or the Liturgy.  What it does mean is that we need to go into those posts remembering that we are a part of the Mystical Body of Christ.  We are a communion, not a community. We are members (as in limbs) within that Body and that means what we do profoundly impacts the other members.  So do we want to lift up the Body or do we want to tear it down? Do we want to bring people to Christ or drive them away?

Confronting Dissent Within the Church

There is major division brewing within the Church. It has been there from quite some time, as religious and laity alike chose to dissent from Humanae Vitae putting them directly at odds with Christ and His Church. We have been reeling ever since. I do believe in time, as medicine and science catch up with what we already morally know, more and more people will see the error of their ways. As our culture implodes, I believe people will begin to see what the deconstruction of the family is doing to our country. I think that we will have to undergo some serious and difficult times first. I think that we will undergo some pretty serious persecution.  This is not alarmist.  I have spoken at length with priests, as well as other members of the laity, and we all can see it in the times we are living.

One of the hardest things for orthodox Catholics to confront is dissent, also known as cafeteria Catholicism. Dissent implies knowledge of Church teaching and the choice to ignore it. There are some who are ignorant of the Church’s moral teaching, but these days it would be hard to not have an inkling that the Church does not agree with the prevailing culture. We have an obligation to continue to study the Faith and to learn what we believe as a Church.  So how do we engage these people? I am still trying to figure this one out, as are many of my friends. A lot of priests and sisters are trying to figure it out as well. There are some stumbling blocks that we have to figure our way around.

First, no one likes to be reminded that they are a sinner. As a friend of mine reminded me today, “we are all broken”. We do not like other people to tell us that what we are doing is morally wrong, or evil. The hardest sin to overcome is pride. Ask my husband about me on this one.  The fact of the matter is that we all sin, we all commit evil. The problem arises when we refuse to accept something is evil and work to overcome it. Sin damages and it can cause widespread evil and pain. The beginning of conversion means recognizing our sinfulness and falling on Christ. The real issue of our day is that the majority of people think that they set truth. A real and full conversion to Christ means submitting to Him in all matters. This is deeply difficult, but the road to real freedom. This is a message that we are struggling to share as we confront relativism.

Moral relativism is widespread. It is in the Church and it is outside of the Church. Thanks to Descartes we all think that we know what truth is and is not. That means that we no longer trust the Church to teach us the Truth. Instead we accept a hodge-podge of sources including the media and secular culture. The Church cannot possibly know what is true in our day. She is antiquated and out of touch. This is one of the biggest hurdles we have to overcome. Many will not change their position and will continue to dissent. All we can do is try to proclaim the Gospel and live it in our daily lives. Many people turned their backs on Christ in His day, our day will be no different, as heart-breaking as it is.

Another major issue is emotionalism. I have tried, and failed, to engage with people who ignore Church teaching on various issues. What ensues is not pretty. I have been called every name imaginable. The discussion quickly turns irrational and launches into personal attacks. In the social media world it usually results in “unfriending” which has happened to me on a few occasions. I am okay with that, but it is distressing that people are so wrapped up in their belief that their only response is rage. There is no reasoning with these people. Instead I commend them to prayer and God’s mercy. I pray that I planted seeds, no matter how poorly I did it. My own sinful nature is carried into debates and I am sure that I don’t always explain things the best, even if I meant well.

We are at a point in our country where tempers are at dangerous levels. People seek to silence one another. This is also true inside of the Church. Heterodoxical people will seek to silence the orthodox. We are already seeing this play out in churches and schools in this country and across the West. We have to remember that Christ can soften hardened hearts. We must pray and do penance. We also cannot put our heads in the sand. We must stand up for the truth. We just have to find the patience, love, and charity that is born out of prayer and contemplation. We must receive the Sacraments often and spend time before the Blessed Sacrament.  We will all fall short and say the wrong thing at times. The Lord knows that I have, but we must keep trying. These people do not understand that our concern is out of love. None of us want to see a person put their soul at risk. It is even more difficult to watch people put themselves at risk as they approach the Blessed Sacrament each week with no thought. I know one thing that I will be doing is beginning more study on Theology of the Body. It changed my life and I know that it can change other hearts.

There is a great story about St. Dominic that another friend reminded me of this morning. St. Dominic was “a great lover of heretics”. His primary mission was fighting the Albigensian heresy, which is not too much different from the heresies of our own day. One day, St. Dominic met an innkeeper who was an Albigensian. It is said that St Dominic stayed up all night and did not retire until the innkeeper acknowledged the truth of the Catholic Faith. So that is what we must do. To take time with each person we meet. We cannot shy away from the truth, but we must share it out of love for souls. It is hard to engage in social media because it turns into a fight where other people get involved. This is a mistake that I have made. It quickly becomes a fight and people gang up on the one espousing the Truth. We have to find a way when in the heat of disagreement, to remember that these people are broken, that they are victims of the Evil One’s lies. So let’s keep about the task of saving souls, regardless of the personal cost to ourselves. If you have suggestions for engaging heterodoxy, please leave a comment. God bless.

 

Abandoning Disobedience

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I have been watching the Charlotte Catholic High School controversy with a mix of concern, interest, and finally frustration. I know the priest in charge there and he is a wonderful priest. They are blessed to have him, even though, they cannot see it. I am also a Lay Dominican, so a Dominican in the news is of importance to me. Both Fr. Kauth and Sister Jane Dominic have studied in Rome. The latter has a doctorate in Sacred Theology. I cannot remember Fr. Kauth’s full studious background, but I have attended multiple Masses of his when he would stand in for the priest who married my husband and me. I no longer reside in that Diocese, but I watch it in the news because I know there are very holy and orthodox priests coming out of that Diocese. It may be hard to believe it in light of what has happened here, but the young priests in that Diocese are great lovers of Christ and His Church.

More brilliant minds than I have written extensively about this incident. You can read about it here and here. I merely want to write about a couple of things that have come to mind as I watch this situation on unfold. First, I want to talk about humility and obedience. This is a core problem with situations like these. Many Catholics have fallen into the trap of relativism and follow the secular age while sitting in the pews. They profess the Faith from one side of their mouths while undermining it from the other side of their mouths. Second, I want to talk about the weight of our personal Cross. In our culture it appears that more emphasis is put on the crosses of individuals that have to do with sex. This is a byproduct of our culture’s obsession wtih sex.

So let’s begin with humility and obedience. As Catholics we are called to be obedient to Christ’s Church. When we profess the Nicene or Apostles’s Creed at Mass on Sundays, we are saying that we fully accept everything the Church teaches from the divinity of Christ, to papal infallibity, to social teaching. The end of the Creed states our belief in “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church”. Since this profession of faith is a part of the Mass, it can become robotic. But, do we really think about what we are professing. Credo, “I believe”. Do we really believe? or are we perjuring ourselves in the Real Presence of Our Lord? This is something every one of us should think about.

I spent some years living in disobedience to the Church. I thought that I knew better. I listened to heterodoxical people, rather than my own conscience and catechesis. I knew better. When I finally underwent a major conversion five years ago I realized that my pride and sin had gotten in the way. I realized that I could not possibly know better than 2000 years of sacred tradition, as well as Holy Scripture. Who am I to say that I know better than Christ and His Church? When we are disobedient, we are playing God. The teaching of the Catholic Church is Christ’s teaching. It is not of men, it is of God. Do you know better than Christ? This is a part of what is going on right now. Eden is playing out within the walls of the Church, as it has since the beginning. Some of us choose to follow God, some of us choose to follow ourselves. Whenever we sin, we choose ourselves. This is hard to swallow, but it is the beginning of true conversion.

We live in a country where individual liberty is prized above all else. We are the masters of our own destiny. No one can tell us how to live, not even the Church. That’s fine and good, but it is not a Catholic understanding of freedom. Freedom is the ability to what is right. There are billions of people on this planet who do not have that freedom. Look at China’s forced abortion policy. As Catholics it is God who is the Master of our destiny and that destiny is supposed to be Heaven.

The simple truth is that if we want to follow Christ then we must be like HIm and submit in love and obedience to the Father. That means following Church teaching even when it is hard, even when it is brazenly counter-cultural. We need to stop letting other people tell us what to believe. The Church’s position on issues of our day is not “hateful, bigoted, or homophobic”. It is based on authentic love and understanding. It is based on God’s desire for all people to be saved from eternal damnation. The Church is in the business of saving souls not racking up popularity points. To truly love is to desire the salvation of our neighbor and ourselves.

Second, we need to begin to understand that suffering is a part of the Christian life. Suffering is an integral part of the Catholic understanding of this earthly life. Christ told us to pick up our cross and follow Him. That means all the way to Calvary. Something that people need to think about is that being Christian is to die to self. It is to be crucified in our daily lives. Avoiding suffering is a secular (and some professed Christian groups) goal. Ours is to learn to accept and embrace our crosses so that Christ may sanctiy us and bring us further along on the path of holiness. The meaning of life is to become a Saint, it is not comfort.

This is not some type of sado-masochism. It is understanding reality. Every one of us will suffer. Every one of us will have crosses to carry. We cannot avoid suffering because we cannot avoid the inevitability of death. We do not choose sickness, natural disasters, or even terrorist attacks. Suffering is a part of the human experience. It is universal.

In our culture the sexual sins are seen as too big of a burdern to overcome. The idea that someone who struggles with same sex attraction should be chaste is unimaginable to them. This cross is somehow worse than others. This is false. The crosses we are given are used by Christ to help us grow in holiness. I have no doubt that same sex attraction is deeply difficult to bare. That it comes with periods of loneliness, despair, and pain. Contrary to what many contemporaries think, most of us who support traditional marriage have had friends who profess to be gay. Some of my friends have embraced the gay lifestyle and others have chosen the Catholic path. I am going to say something that is very unpopular, this cross is no heavier than other crosses. Some people are chronically ill whether it be physically or mentally. Some people cannot have children, or like myself have lost babies. Some people live in abject poverty. Some people live in countries ravaged by war and violence. Some people have been abused in some way. The fact of the matter is that ALL crosses are hard. All crosses will cause us to stumble. Christ fell 3 times under the weight of the Cross and our sin. In the final analysis we must choose to allow Christ to help us with our Cross and use it for His purposes, or we can cast it off and choose the ways of this world. We either choose God or we don’t, but if we don’t, then we are to blame for the consequences.

Being Catholic, being a follower of Christ is not easy. It is deeply difficult. That is why we are called to be faithful and not perfect. The goal is perfection, but we are not there, yet. If you are sitting in the pews and think that being Catholic is easy, I would suggest some serious time in Scripture and discussion with a holy and orthodox priest. Our Lord was crucified for preaching the Truth. What makes us think that we can escape the same fate? What makes us think that Christ did not mean what he said about following Him? Love is the Cross. Total self-emptying. That means working to abandon those sins we hold on so tightly. I have some that I cling to. It means saying “no” to a culture that would lead us on the path of evil. It means professing the Truth no matter what and at times doing as Sister Jane Dominic has chosen to do in the Charlotte incident: dusting off our sandals and moving on to the next souls in need of salvation. If hearts are hardened, they will not hear the Truth, so we must seek those who will hear Him. We desire all be saved, but they must make the choice. That choice comes with humility, obedience, and an acceptance that crosses are a part of the journey. God bless you on your journey.

 

The End of the American Experiment and Falling on Christ

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Today a friend of mine posted an article on Facebook about how various state level Attorney Generals are ignoring and refusing to enforce state law. In other words, they believe that they are above the law. This brazenly totalitarian move has been met with apathy and even celebration by the American people. Her status update said it all, “The American experiment is over”. And so it is. Sure, there are people who are clinging to the idea that the America of previous generations is still out there somewhere under the miles and miles of red-tape, liberty violations, corruption, and power grabs that have been going on for decades. Many cling to their political party without acknowledging that there is very little difference between Republicans and Democrats these days. Both are willing to sell their soul for power and money. There are a few left who I believe are earnest, but they are out-numbered. America was founded on a sort of Protestant nationalism with a Deist flair, so it is no wonder that folks want to hold on to this dream, but we need to start figuring out what to do with the future, now that it is here. Governments rise and fall, including our own.

Being a Catholic, I never place hope in human institutions. Our government is formed and run by Fallen men and women who are just as prone to sin as I am. The difference is that their sins tend to rule the nation. History is not a kind place. It is fraught with violence, persecution, corruption, and stupidity. The problem is that Americans, in our largely decadent bubble, have forgotten this truth. Much of that is because of the abysmal history lessons we get in public schools, which largely consist of ideological underpinnings, and the fact that we have deluded ourselves into thinking that we are indestructible. I lived under this delusion for years. 9-11 came as a huge shock to me, not just because I was a relief worker, but because I wondered how anyone could pull off such an act in the U.S.? I think a lot of people felt this way. Even more shocking is how socialism with its political partner Communism has crept into our schools and political offices.

As a former Russian linguist, I find our country’s shift towards the economic system of socialism and authoritarian power to be fascinating and frightening at the same time. The Soviet Union fell in 1991, and yet, its ideology is rampant in the United States, especially at the university level. I would suspect that the former USSR has more to do with this than we would like to admit. I also find it incredibly ironic that our country is now trying to annihilate Christianity in the public square (and soon in private), while it is President Putin who is warning the world of global Christian persecution. I feel like I live in the Twilight Zone most days.

So what as Catholics can we do in light of these changes in our nation? First, pray. Second, prepare for persecution. Third, participate in the Sacraments frequently. Fourth, serve others. I know. No one likes to think about it. We want to live in our bubble pretending that things can go on at this chaotic pace with no consequences. That, however, is not how Christ taught us, or how world history works. Read Triumph if you want to taste of what it was like being Catholic throughout history. Our government, Hollywood, and special interest groups are on the offensive and the Catholic Church and like minded Christian groups who hold to Biblical tradition are the targets. The Catholic Church is the biggest obstacle to these people’s goals. Why? First, The Church has over 1 billion adherents worldwide. Second, is because our truths do not change with the times. Christ is the head of the Church. We are subordinate to Him, not the secular world order. The only thing these people can do is force the Church underground. She will never concede and change her teaching to fit their desires, but they will do everything to make sure the Church pays dearly. I pray for these people because of their hardness of hearts and also because of what they are capable of. Prayer brings about conversion. What these people need is conversion, and so do we.

To be quite honest, my biggest struggles are not with secularists. I know that they cannot possibly understand objective truth as long as they deny the existence of evil and sin. They cannot possibly know why it is vital that we keep our desires, especially sexual ones, in check. They do not have the Light of Truth, which is what we need to bring to them through example and prayer. In other words, ‘They know not what they do’. No, my biggest struggle in praying for our persecutors, is the people sitting next to me in the pews who have chosen the secular culture over the Church. What do I mean? I mean the people who support “gay marriage”, abortion, euthanasia, and who put their political party above the Faith. The reason it is such a struggle for me is because they should know better. I was in their place once, and quite frankly, I DID know better. I honestly do not think they see the future of what these agendas will do to the Church. I think they also have not had a full encounter with the Risen Christ. In fact, it will be too late before many of them realize what this is all about. These are the people I need to learn to pray for more no matter how frustrated I get.

The agenda of our day that will lead to virulent persecution is the gay agenda. They want to completely and utterly destroy the Church. The goal is not “equality”. That is how they sell it to people to make it more palatable. You don’t have to dig far to find out what they really mean. I always find it interesting that supporters (not really members of agenda driven groups) are convinced that this has nothing to do with churches complying. They earnestly believe that this is about “equality”. The PR folks for these groups are doing a stellar job of deluding the culture at large. Many in the pews would rather take their cues from Modern Family, than Jesus Christ. I think that part of it is that people do not want to believe that others would attack their freedoms. I admire their optimism, but it is dangerous. In fact, that does not line up with our understanding of the Fallen nature of human beings. We hurt, and at times take away freedom, from other people when we sin. The more power we have, the greater our sin hurts others. Part of the problem is that people in the pews have fallen for our culture’s sentimental version of love rather than Christ’s call to authentic love. The Church does not condemn gays. The Church welcomes them with open arms to the freedom that is in Christ, but that means working to abandon sin and falling on his mercy. That is what all of us are called to in Christ. It means no marriage, unless in a heterosexual union. It means chastity, which all of us are actually called to. Gays are not singled out by the Church. All sexual sins are on the same plane. However, a person must have real and personal encounter with Christ to believe that they can rise above their desires.

It is hard for those of us who see the writing on the wall to watch as people support this agenda and abandon the Church, while still approaching the altar on Sunday. My hope is first, that we ALL pass the test that is to come. Second, that if any of us do flee or turn others over, that we may come back to Christ before the end. The only way to survive persecution is to fully trust and give ourselves to Christ. Read Scripture, pray, and study the lives of the Saints for strength. This is something that I have to pray for and tell my self every single day. I fear that I will not pass the test either. If you don’t believe me, I would encourage you to monitor the treatment of priests and Bishops in the coming years by this agenda. As well as the continued vilification of Catholics and other Christians in general.

It has only been in the past few years that I have started to realize what it truly means to follow Christ. It means following him to the end, even if that end is the barrel of a gun. History was not kind to Christ, we crucified Him. It will not be any kinder to us. We must pray and hope. Christ has conquered evil and He will stand with us no matter what happens. The American experiment may be over, but the Kingdom of God is at hand. Now is the time for us to move away from the lies of this world towards Him. Authoritarian power is diametrically opposed to Christianity. That is why Christians will be targeted as more power shifts. It does not mean ignoring this world. We should still be out helping our neighbor, serving, praying, and raising our families. We must continue to bring others to Christ, including evangelizing those who sit next to us in the pews, and secularists. It just means that we must always be prepared for what may come. It means not deluding ourselves into thinking that things will always be the same

This is not meant to be depressing. It is hard to swallow, but quite frankly, it is something that a lot of us think and worry about. Rather, if we focus on Christ as Matthew 14 tells us to, the storm and the waves around us will not matter. We cannot constantly focus on the bad news in the world. It gets worse daily. Instead we must fall on Christ and allow Him to prepare us for whatever is to come. We need to pray for our priests and Bishops. They are taking a lot of hits and they will get worse. We should pray for Catholic schools and all who represent the Church. Pray for Catholic charities throughout the world. We should pray for our neighbors in the pews and for those in the secular order who want to silence us. We should pray for our families and for ourselves. Pray!

I have attached some links to some articles that demonstrate how this agenda will come for the Church, and already is at hand. Take heart, there is hope in Christ!

Gay Student Sues Catholic School for “Homophobia”

Two Students Try to Banish Catholic Chaplain from GWU

Gay Activist Admits the Goal is to Destroy Marriage

Homosexual UK Couple Suing to Force Church to Perform Wedding

 

Belgium Archbishop assaulted by lesbian activists

Denmark forces churches to perform same sex marriages (if you want to see our future look to Europe).