It's Easier To Speak Out Against God Than Against The Government


Three Blesseds are on the Roman Calendar this morning. Cardinal Bishop Clemens von Galen, Blessed Marian Gorecki and Blessed Bronislaw Komorowski. Fathers Gorecki and Komorowski are numbered among the 108 Catholic martyrs of WWII so recognized by John Paul II ( The group comprises 3 bishops, 52 priests, 26 members of male religious, 3 seminarians, 8 female religious, and 9 lay people ).

They spoke out against the evils of Nazism, prior to and just after the invasion of Poland by the Germans in WWII. Gorecki and Komoroski were arrested and imprisoned the day of the invasion and died in concentration camps. Well before the Nazis began the genocidal "final solution," Bishop von Galen went on to preach several powerful sermons against the Nazis, condemning especially their euthanasia program for invalids and those who suffered from mental illness. He spent the war  under virtual house arrest.

Speaking our against God seemingly few consequences in this life, but dare we speak out against the prevailing tide of popular opinion? Blasphemy against God is tolerated, even encouraged in our culture; speaking up in God's favor brings censure and condemnation.


Lenten Prayer

Shutterstock_124646857An investigative journalist once eagerly asked a desert monk who spends most of the day in prayer, these questions:

Reporter: "Does God speak with you?"

Monk: "Why? He has already said everything."

Reporter: "Don't you speak with God?"

Monk: "I don't pray to speak with God. I pray to feel God."

Good to ponder as we pray during Lent. 


No Pleading Necessary For Forgiveness

No Pleading Necessary

We might get the impression from today's reading in which Moses pleaded mercy for the Israelites, that we too need to change God's mind toward mercy. Moses used two good arguments for God: you promised, and you'll look confused about your plan. 

Since Jesus offered Himself for our salvation and took all our sins upon Himself, we needn't plead for God's mercy, although our contrition should be heartfelt and sincere, we simply need to express our sorrow and ask.

"Faithfulness has disappeared; the word has vanished from their speech."

There is an expression, sometimes attributed to Voltaire, "I wholly disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

Removing certain words from public discourse or silencing debate all together is a powerful way to manipulate not only language, but ideas. The civility Voltaire advocated is gone. "Hate speech" has been defined by some groups as ideas with which they disagree. 

In a pluralistic society, we must expect to hear some views with which we disagree, and as long as the speech does not incite violence, or diminish the intrinsic dignity of persons should be tolerated in a healthy democratic climate. This includes speech of religious belief and the moral values we hold as a nation.



Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?

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In today's gospel, Jesus asks his disciples a direct question, "Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?" They answer yes, probably not understanding the implications of their quick answer.

It is the chalice of his Own Blood, the Chalice of Blessing and the Spiritual Drink of eternal life, but it also a Chalice of Suffering, a Chalice of Self-Sacrifice and ultimately a Chalice of Martyrdom.

The Blood of Christ is not a super-food to save us from suffering, but an eternal medicine for everlasting life.


Good Measure, Packed Together, Shaken Down and Overflowing
Contents May Settle During Shipment

The world's generosity it not like God's. God's generosity will not be outdone and doesn't require fancy packaging to get our attention. Today's reading from Luke's gospel reassures us:

Give and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.
For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you.

St. Claude de la Colombiere

ClaudeA Jesuit priest who became confessor to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque and was the first to believe the authenticity of her visions and revelations. St. Claude and St. Margaret Mary promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart during a time in the French Church when Jansenism (a particularly severe and gloomy spirituality) was afoot. 

The mercy of a loving Jesus was a refreshing and necessary counterpoint to this viewpoint.

He was later transferred to England and became the confessor to the Duchess of York but was falsely ensnared in the "Popish Plot" during the Titus Oates controversy, was imprisoned and nearly lost his life but for the intercession of King Louis XIV.

His health suffered greatly during his cruel imprisonment and he never fully recovered after his return to France.

His bones are preserved in the chapel outside which this statue stands. He points to an image of the Sacred Heart inscribed with the words, "He loved but was loved not." This highlights an aspect of devotion to the Sacred Heart which is to make reparation for the insults and slights to Jesus' love for us.

Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich

Religious, visionary, stigmatist - on the path for sainthood after a temporary suspension due to conclusions that some of her writings dictated and translated were embellished by the translator many years after her death. Her cause for sainthood is proceeding on the merits of her life, since her writings will not be considered as proof of sanctity at St. Pope John Paul II's instructions. Her writings came to light in modern times partly due to the influence they had on Mel Gibson's movie The Passion of the Christ. 

The official church position on the authoritative nature of private revelations has always been reserved and skeptical and doesn't promulgate private revelations dogmatically.

Receiving the stigmata is a relatively uncommon phenomenon and seems to occur in some who have a great devotion to the passion of Christ. St. Francis of Assisi and in modern times, St. "Padre" Pio also received the wounds of Christ in their bodies. 

Such saints remind us that sanctity isn't always so simple and that there are more things in heaven and on earth than we understand.



Papal Infallibility


Today is the feast day of Saint Pope Pius IX , who is noted for many things, perhaps the most lasting is Vatican I which defined the doctrine of papal infallibility.

Still widely misunderstood (and deliberately misconstrued by some), it has been confused to mean that the pope's opinions on everything from politics to sport teams are divinely inspired to be free from error. Not so. The dogma of papal infallibility is rather specific and has only been formally invoked one time in church history to proclaim the dogma of the Assumption. (The dogma of the Immaculate Conception was declared by Pius IX before the formal passage of the doctrine of Papal Infallibility.)

The doctrine of papal infallibility  states "when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals  (ex cathedra or "from the throne") to be held by the whole Church." It is hard to construe papal opinions on politics, global warming or interviews granted on a plane to the press as meeting such criteria. Vatican I itself was adjourned due to warring armies invading the papal states, putting  governmental decisions made by the pope and the Vatican in critical perspective.

The inerrancy of the Church's teachings in faith and morals are ensured by the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit - good news for all faithful Catholics.


Candlemas Day or Punxsatawney Phil ?

As I researched the history and meaning of Candlemas Day and its interrelationship with the Presentation of the Lord and/or the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, especially with regard to secular observances of the occasion, I was struck by one particular comment: "In the United States, the celebration of the Candlemas Day has largely been supplanted by Groundhog Day." Sad commentary? 



Saint Brigid - A Holy Cross Window Saint

Saint_Brigid_by_Patrick_Joseph_TuohyBrigid is part of the Irish Trinity of saints along with Patrick and Columcille. As with many of the ancient Irish saints, her life story is probably part legend, part history.

Baptized by St. Patrick and witness to his preaching, Brigid dedicated her life to Christ and eventually founded the first dual monastery in Ireland with an enclosure for men and an enclosure for women. 

Many miracles and healings are attributed to her intercession. She is another example of the leadership role woman played in the Irish Church.


Saint John Bosco

John Bosco came from humble beginnings and eventually worked his way to the privilege of receiving an education. He worked at many jobs during his schooling, many of which he would eventually help teach his own students. After ordination he was assigned chaplain to a girls' home and school but became distressed with how many young boys and men were imprisoned on his visits to render pastoral care to the inmates. Determined to do something to prevent juvenile delinquency, he vowed to help boys and young men avoid unemployment, delinquency and imprisonment.

His small community of boys met with much opposition but continued to grow in number and took a major step forward when boys whom Bosco had helped became determined to help him in this unique ministry. In 1859 he founded the Salesians (after Francis de Sales and with great devotion to Our Lady Help of Christians) to continue and promote his ministry.

Local residents complained the boys made too much noise during recreation and his homes were forced to move several times. Political leaders also became alarmed when the numbers of youth grew, fearing a political or military union.

Despite criticism from within and without the the Church, Bosco persisted and religious society continues to this day in nations throughout the world.

Shimei and Social Media

ShimeiShimei, a friend of King Saul, whom David had replaced, taunted King David as he retreated from Jerusalem to avoid battle with his own son Absalom. He cursed and threw rocks and dirt at David, who was surrounded by armed loyalists. One of them wanted to put an end to Shimei's taunts by simply cutting off his head. David forbade it and tolerated the criticism even speculating that it could be sent by God.

How different from today's social media strategy which seems to be mutual annihilation. No comment is too small to be ignored. Reason and debate are ignored, name calling and personal insults rule the day.

King David shows a restraint not often seen in today's world. 

St. Angela Merici

St. Angela Merici, foundress of the Ursulines, had important insights about evangelization and catechesis: 1) there was a need for women religious outside of convents and monasteries for apostolic ministry to the world; 2) a crucial path for catechesis was the family, especially by mothers. To this end, she housed and educated young girls - a ministry which survives today.


St. Francis de Sales



St. Francis de Sales was born to a well-to-do family. His parents assumed he would become a lawyer and protect the family's interests, including propagating its line. Francis did obtain a law degree and after a struggle with the idea of predestination, which had become popular in Calvinist Switzerland, decided to do the best he could, eventually hearing Christ call him personally through the gospels.

He became a priest then bishop and an ardent preacher, pastor and shepherd of souls in the style of St. Vincent de Paul with whom he was friends.