Thursday, July 27, 2006

Holy Hour

He comes to me as bread
As a lamb, the one who knit the stars and time
In silent wonder

What is power?

What is easier?
To lash at the one who strikes you down
To hold in contempt the one who does you violence
To bring the fullness of justice to bear upon them
To wash their feet
To kiss away the pain that sin has wrought
To forgive them, even as the burning of the whip still steals through your veins?

Let us see thunder! Let us see you come to defend us!
Do you not see the evil? When will you come and make it all right?

...and you come
As a whisper you come
and smile upon us, wrapped in our fury.

There you bind our self-inflicted wounds
and with a gentleness beyond a mother's touch
you cradle us in your hands of mercy
and teach us what it is to love.

"This is how you will conquer the world" you say
"For I am Love, and none have conquered me"

...and I am overcome

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Liturgy and Obedience

My friends have started up a discussion about the following article (Which I don't even think is a very good one as far as articles go discussing Latin Liturgy). However, it did spur a response that I believe captures where Mel and I are in our journey right now:

The article can be found here:

Although my heart leads me to the Tridentine Mass in many ways – There is a dangerous mentality evident in this article that can lead us (Mel and I) down a dangerous path.

There is rhetoric in a lot of these articles, as Mel has said, that has lack of 2 things: Charity for that which is considered “Catholic” Now, and the spirit of obedience.

These two attitudes could be very easily linked to the two greatest commandments:

- Love God (Love of God consists in obedience not only to Him but to those whom he has placed in authority over us)
- Love of Neighbor (Which would include a spirit of Charity to those who may “Do Mass” in a way that disagrees with their spiritual palate)

Of the greatest importance is obedience: It is the lack of this important virtue that got Adam and Eve in trouble in the first place. God was going one direction, they chose to go another because they were convinced that they “knew better”. At the root of a lack of obedience lies pride – and pride ultimately leads us to death.

I think some of the best illustrations of obedience in reality is probably St. Catherine of Sienna and St. Rita.

Catherine also living in a tumultuous period of history, and though she disagreed in many ways the direction the pope was taking (or not taking, as the case may be), and took the opportunity to tell him so, there was not a question of obedience in her mind. She let him know “This is where I think you need to go/be doing…”, but when a decision was made by him, she fully devoted herself to that cause (Crusades under Pope Gregory, for example). In other-words, she recognized that the Pope was human, and required as much guidance and support as the next guy, but she also recognized in him the authority granted by God himself to guide and lead the Church. Christ told us that He would build his Church upon a Man: Peter, and the keys given him mean we are bound to obey him and his successors.

St. Rita found herself in an abusive marriage, yet she chose to continue to serve her husband, whom was converted on his death bed because of her witness, along with her two sons, who also passed away. She went on to become a nun and receive the stigmata of the crown of thorns.

A great illustration of obedience despite disagreement we can find in The Lord of the Rings (Please excuse the long explanation of the story – I believe it necessary in order to give weight to the principal character’s actions):

In the “Return of the King”, as the enemy is gathering on the border of their lands, the people of Gondor are preparing for an onslaught. Lord Denethor is a “steward” of the city, who is in a long line of stewards who exercise their authority in the name of the king until the king returns to take his rightful place (It has been many generations). (One can see an allusion to the Papacy here).

Denethor has lost his eldest son, Boromir, whom he loved very much. Faramir, the younger son, is now captain of the army in Gondor. He was stationed at an outpost on the city’s outer defenses that has been taken by the enemy – Faramir and his company have retreated back to the main city. The enemy which is throwing everything it can at this country, and the Gondorians are sadly outnumbered.

Denethor has little trust or faith in his younger son, Faramir. At this point in the story, however, it is clear that Denethor is wrong in his judgment not only of his son, but in his judgment, period. Faramir has shown himself to be a trustworthy and virtuous man of great moral strength.

The captains for Gondor are called to council:

“There all the captains judged that because of the threat in the South their force was too weak to make any stroke of war on their own part…’Yet,’ said Denethor, ‘we should not lightly abandon the outer defenses…It is at Osgiliath that he will put his weight, as before when Boromir denied him the passage.’
‘That was but a trial,’ said Faramir. ‘Today we may make the Enemy pay ten times our loss at the passage and yet rue the exchange. For he can afford to lose a host better that we to lose a company. And the retreat of those that we put out far afield will be perilous, if he wins across in force.’ …
‘Much must be risked in war,’ said Denethor. ‘…I would not yield the River and Pelennor unfought – not if there is a captain here who still has the courage to do his lord’s will.’
Then all were silent. But at length Faramir said: ‘I do not oppose your will, sire. Since you are robbed of Boromir, I will go and do what I can in his stead – if you command it.’
‘I do so,’ said Denethor.
‘Then farewell!’ said Faramir. ‘But if I should return, think better of me!’
‘That depends on the manner of your return,’ said Denethor.”

So, Faramir takes his band of men and heads to outer outpost of Osgiliath, which everyone knows is basically suicide.

So, what is Tolkien telling us here? That a man of virtue shows his virtue in action by his obedience – obedience even when he (and a good number of everyone else) know the orders to be madness.

There is a line in the movie that brings the point into sharp focus: As Faramir is making his way to the gate to make his charge, Gandalf comes alongside of him and pleads with him not to be rash and throw his life away, indicating that Denethor has given over to madness.

Faramir’s reply is poignant: “Where does my allegiance lie, if not here?”

Gandalf doesn’t have an answer, other than his Father will remember his love of his son before the end.

Why do I use this illustration? I think it brings the issue of obedience into clear focus:

We clearly see Faramir’s obedience to his Father as a virtuous action. The injustice belongs with Denethor to rashly send his son into certain doom.

But let us say that Faramir decided to dis-obey his Father’s orders and arrange the battle in a way that made more sense strategically? What would this tell us?
For many, they would say “Well, darn rights! The steward has lost his mind, and Faramir is of much better use alive and using his own wits than blindly following orders and dead!”

But here is the crux of the issue: If Faramir did disobey the orders given by the leader of the people, then his allegiance no longer lies with the country and people he has sworn to defend – His allegiance lies with himself and his own judgment of what is good and right. He would have cut himself off from the tree of Gondor and become a rouge.

So we come back to the real world of liturgical chaos – the enemy within modern culture are beating down our outer defenses. The Magesterium makes a judgment call: “Let’s have the language of the people within the Holy Mass to make it more approachable – there are so many for whom mass is a duty, let’s have it infiltrate the life of people easier by making it understandable, etc, etc ,etc”.

There are many in the traditional/orthodox camps who believe this change was liturgical suicide – I happen to be one of them – instead of the Church infiltrating society, the reverse has happened – society has infiltrated the Church.

So, we watch the Pope say the Mass, in the language of the people, facing us instead of the alter. In my spirit, I think there are many things wrong, many things lost in this change made after Vatican II, and many aspects open to the possibility of abuse (as we have all experienced). I believe the pendulum has swung too far and the body of the Church has been too easily swept up in the chaos that is our society.

But where does my allegiance lie, if not here?

I am called to be a part of the Body of Christ, and protect what I can with what I have been given, also knowing that in God's mysterious ways, He is still using this broken, beaten down and society-infiltrated ark to save me from the waters of the world.

God has promised us that the gates of hell shall not prevail.

Not mine, but Thy will be done, Lord.


Prayer for the Pope
Christ Jesus, in your presence I renew my unconditional loyalty to your Vicar on earth, the Pope. In him you have chosen to show us the safe and sure path that we must follow in the midst of confusion, uneasiness, and unrest. I firmly believe that through him you govern, teach, and sanctify us; with him as our shepherd, we form the true Church: one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.
Grant me the grace to love, live and spread faithfully our Holy Father’s teachings. Watch over his life, enlighten his mind, strengthen his spirit, defend him from calumny and evil. Calm the erosive winds of infidelity and disobedience. Hear our prayer and keep your Church united around him, firm in her belief and action, that she may truly be the instrument of your redemption. Amen.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Christmas and Humility

I recently attended a Spiritual Exercises Weekend put on by the LC Fathers. I always receive wonderful "lights" when I attend these retreats. This year, there was not any large number of revelations by any means, but there is one that really stuck with me:

I was laying my pride before God in Prayer, struggling with the tendancy I have to bask in the praise of others. A subborn pride that also lends itself to vanity. I was realizing that the only way that God's work was going to get done was for me to let go of my pride (and with it the tendancy to do everything myself insted of relying on his strength working through my weakness). I was asking for help, asking for the grace to break out of this "Reliance on myself" so-to-speak. It was late on the Saturday night at the end of a long day of "excercising".

His only words were "Goodnight, little one".

So, I picked myself up and went to bed, thinking "You're right, Lord. It's been a long day, we'll take this up in the morning..."

Only when I woke up the next morning did I realize that he had answered my prayer already.

Reflecting on "Little one", I realized in one small phrase was captured the essence of humility: the counter to the pride I so wish to be rid of.

It helps to have three constant reminders of little-ness around me all the time (Their names are Elizabeth, Zach and Heather, and all being 5 and under, they fit the "little" title well).

To be "little" means to accept you don't know it all and you can't do it all.

It means accepting who I am as a created being, and that I have a heavenly Father that has loved me even before I knew myself. It means I will always need to grow, and when I wish to do big things, it needs to be done while holding my Daddy's hand.

The key to tackling this pride of mine, that wishes to take the place of God and run the show, is to repeat to myself that I am a "little one", and if I am truely a diciple of the "little one" who arrived on Christmas day, I must follow him by entering into his humility, taking up his cross and keeping my eyes on our Father's will.

Even this Christ-child, who with a mere thought, could have wiped Herod from existance, chose to rely on his earthly papa to watch over and care for himself and Mary. As he came into our world, he was un-assuming, showing us the way by fuffilling the role he had set for humanity: To be humble, to follow the will of our heavenly father, regardless of the cost to himself, for in that path, in that gift of himself, he shows us it is the only way we will find ourselves.

Now I must attend my littlest one, who is crying out in her time of child and my teacher, all in one cute little package.

Merry Christ Mass everyone.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

His Greatness, Pope John Paul II

I read an article the other day that mentioned the draw of the youth to our Holy Father Pope John Paul II. "Youth" is a is a broad category in terms of the church, seeing as I still fit into it at 29 years young…but are we not all children in the eyes of God?

The article made great pains (as does all the secular media in these interesting past few days) to mention that these young people they spoke to were drawn to the man’s "charisma", "Holiness" and "greatness", but that they chose to disagree with him on his "sexual morals".

Are we so naïve to believe that the great things that this servant of God accomplished on this earth are somehow disconnected from the moral ethics he chose to uphold?

If he were not such a sign of contradiction, a pillar of truth in a world that has ceased to acknowledge that the concept of truth even exists, would we really have much to say right now?
If he somehow had been able to change 2000 years of Church Doctrine and bowed to the whims of a dying society, would we still be "drawn" to him?

Jesus was the ultimate contradiction. As Christians we believe He was the embodiment of truth, and so naturally rubbed many the wrong way. Despite our personal stances on the Man, we can certainly not deny that he was "great", that he changed the course of history.

Let us say, then, that Christ bowed to the whims and expectations of the Jewish people he had come to set free. Let us say that he wrestled the Nations of Israel and Judah from the hands of the Roman Empire, served worldly ambitions and did what he was expected to do in the eyes of the culture of his day. What would we have to say about him today? Would we even know his name?

Had Pope John Paul II not been the sign of contradiction in these days, when sexual ethics appears to be everyone’s business, do you think there would be as many as there were at his funeral?

Here sat the leaders of our world’s nations, who, under other circumstances, would have been hurling sanctions, accusations and perhaps even grenades at each other, united under the banner of sorrow and respect. Here sat the leaders of many religions, united in the acknowledgement of holiness.

This world recognizes that someone great has left our midst, but can’t quite put its finger on why he was so great.

Many point to his social justice and human dignity stances: Those are pretty broad terms…sure, we agreed with him on THOSE, so those must be what made him so great.

I ask you: From whence does our dignity come? Where does the very idea of "justice" come from? Are these concepts that are pliable and moldable in the hands of man? Can we really make these in our image? I propose that they are not, for we have seen what happens to culture when ideas of human justice and dignity are messed with. So did Pope John Paul II. He himself lived in the misery of the Nazi invasion, an invasion which, at it’s heart, had the "highest ideals" of human dignity: that of the "perfect" human being.

There is a holistic understanding of human dignity in the light of being created in the image and likeness of God. It is this same understanding of dignity that Pope John Paul understood and wrote about: Holistic in the sense that our dignity is tied to being human.

This is what motivated our beloved papa in his social action, in his desire to know and understand the people of his flock more intimately and personally. This is what drove his desire for the downfall of communism. This is what drove his hatred of abortion and Euthanasia.
How can we, then, make the unfounded leap that the motivations that drove his social justice stances and his pleas for the respect of human dignity are somehow removed from his motivations in the sexual morality realm?

They are not.

As he was not cowed by the communist dictatorships of his time, and instead proclaimed the Gospel of Truth, of humanity deserving of freedom in all social spheres, so he was not cowed by the liberal agenda of his day, and instead proclaimed the very same theme: Freedom! Freedom from the false ideas of what "human freedom" actually is.

Many point to the Catholic Church’s stance on Artificial Birth Control, and to our Pope as the champion of that ideal and cry "Foul! You deny the people they very thing that would give them freedom in HIV-ravaged areas of the world! You should be held accountable because of these teachings you uphold!".

In response to this accusation, the church simply responds (in the words of an African Cardinal whose name escapes me at the moment): "Chastity never killed anyone."

Are we really free? When we are not chaste and self-sacrificing with each other, whose good are we seeking? Are we really "free" to be able to see each other possessing the dignity we all deserve, because we are human?

When my ultimate good is my comfort, or even my pleasure, have I not relegated other human persons to the realm of a means to my own selfish ends? Are we then really free?…or are we not rather slaves to each others selfish ambitions and desires?

This is why our Pope proclaimed these truths in the books he wrote and from pulpits of the world! Just as Poland was enslaved to a misguided ideology, so our modern world is enslaved to a misguided concept of human freedom.

Being this champion of freedom, in all social spheres, is what made this Pope great.
Real human freedom is impossible without Truth. We can only be truly great when we are truly free.

Greatness, then, comes from being subservient to the truth. Only because Karol Wojtyła was a servant to the Truth was he truly great, and truly free.

So when we say we are "drawn to his greatness" but choose to disagree with his stands on certain aspects of morality, then the Church’s answer is this: Then you will never be truly free. Nor will you ever understand why this man seemed so great, only that he was so.

We would be wise to listen to the words he has left us in the wake of such a powerful, prayerful and amazing papacy. We would be wise to allow them to challenge us and change us: "Rise, let us be on our way!"

We have witnessed the passing of one of the greatest servants of truth. May God grant him eternal rest in the presence of the one whom he gave his whole life to: Jesus Christ.

Hopping on the Bandwagon

Hello world,

Peace be with you.

There are many words in this time we live in. Many opinions, ideologies, advertisements, talking heads, political agendas, articles, editorials, papers, magazines...blogs...

Somehow, joining the ranks of the over 1000 Bloggers that will begin this day makes me feel somewhat inconsequential. In fact, my life, on the surface, would appear to be as inconsequential as the next.

The reason for the title of my Blog? It is the counter to those feelings of inconsequently.

I believe Truth is a person. His name is Jesus Christ. I believe truth speaks today in the voice of the Magesterium of the Catholic Church (Yea for Pope Benedict XVI!!).

God knows the number of the hairs on my head (even INCLUDING my eyebrows!...Imagine that...), can I somehow believe that what I and others do with our lives is of no consequence to Him?

My hope is in the Truth, because in the Truth we find true freedom.

"But no darkness of error or of sin can totally take away from man the light of God the Creator. In the depths of his heart there always remains a yearning for absolute truth and a thirst to attain full knowledge of it." - The Great Pope John Paul II: Veritatis Splendor, par. 1

"Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me"