Taking Jesus Too Literally

September 30, 2015

Jesus Facepalm

We do well to closely heed all that our Lord Jesus says, but we must also carefully understand what the Word of God Incarnate is really telling us. Using Scripture to interpret Scripture, let us consider two examples where some modern-day Christians misinterpret Jesus’ teaching by taking him too literally.


“Do not swear at all”

Jesus declares, “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all; not by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black. Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:33-37)

Swearing an oath or vow invokes God as one’s witness to a claim or a promise and invites God’s just punishments if his name is taken in vain. It seems that people in Jesus’ day were trying to steal credibility without fearing divine retribution by swearing by lesser holy things. But Jesus warns that all good things belong to God, and condemns clever manipulations of the truth as coming from the devil. Instead, Jesus says, “do not swear at all,” but “let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes.’”

So do any appropriate times and places remain for swearing oaths or vows in the New Covenant? God reveals that such exist through St. Paul. In Galatians 1:20 and 2nd Corinthians 1:23, God himself inspires St. Paul to swear oaths (for example, “I call upon God as witness, on my life, that it is to spare you that I have not yet gone to Corinth.“) And in Acts 18:18, we read that St. Paul “had taken a vow.” Thus, in rare, righteous, and serious situations a Christian may solemnly swear to things before God.

“Call no one on earth your father”

Jesus tells us, “Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven.” (Matthew 23:9) Does this mean that we should not call priests (or our even own dads) “Father?” This is not how the first Christians understood Jesus’ words.

St. Stephen calls the Jewish leaders “fathers” in Acts 7:2, and St. Paul does similarly in Acts 22:1. God prompted St. John to address Christian community elders as “fathers.” (1st John 2:13-14) God also willed St. Paul to write of “our father Isaac” and to call Abraham “the father of us all.” (Romans 9:10, 4:16-17) God inspired St. Paul to regard and describe himself as a father to his spiritual children. (1st Corinthians 4:14-15, 1st Timothy 1:2, Titus 1:4, Philemon 10) Therefore, the true concern of our Lord is not with the label of “father,” but that our greatest devotion and love always be directed toward “our Father who art in Heaven.”

Pope Francis’ Great Americans

September 25, 2015

Pope Francis, during his visit to our country this week, elevated one figure from American history to sainthood, and spotlighted two other Catholics in his speech to the U.S. Congress. Who are they and what do they have to show and teach us?

St. Juniperro SerraSt. Junípero Serra

This missionary was a Spanish Franciscan friar who founded nine missions for evangelizing the native people from San Diego to San Francisco in what is today California. In his homily for St. Junípero’s canonization on Wednesday, Pope Francis said of him:

“He was the embodiment of ‘a Church which goes forth,’ a Church which sets out to bring everywhere the reconciling tenderness of God. Junípero Serra left his native land and its way of life. He was excited about blazing trails, going forth to meet many people, learning and valuing their particular customs and ways of life. He learned how to bring to birth and nurture God’s life in the faces of everyone he met; he made them his brothers and sisters. Junípero sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it. Mistreatment and wrongs which today still trouble us, especially because of the hurt which they cause in the lives of many people.

Father Serra had a motto which inspired his life and work, a saying he lived his life by: ‘Siempre adelante! Keep moving forward!’ For him, this was the way to continue experiencing the joy of the Gospel, to keep his heart from growing numb, from being anesthetized. He kept moving forward, because the Lord was waiting. He kept going, because his brothers and sisters were waiting. He kept going forward to the end of his life. Today, like him, may we be able to say: Forward! Let’s keep moving forward!”

© Copyright 2010 CorbisCorporationServant of God Dorothy Day

This Catholic social activist was an agnostic American journalist who converted and established the Catholic Worker Movement, Houses, and Newspaper. These advanced Catholic social teachings and provided direct aid for the poor and homeless. As a young woman, prior to her conversion, Day had an abortion and later gave birth to her daughter, though she never married. (A patron for repentance from sins like these seems much needed in our time.) The cause for her canonization has been opened by the New York Archdiocese since 2000, bestowing her the title “Servant of God.” In his (first of its kind) speech before Congress on Thursday, Pope Francis said, “Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.

Dorothy Day’s own famous quotes include, “The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?” Of herself, in life she said, “Don’t call me a saint. I don’t want to be dismissed so easily.” And of Catholicism she said, “Our faith is stronger than death, our philosophy is firmer than flesh, and the spread of the Kingdom of God upon the earth is more sublime and more compelling.”

Thomas MertonThomas Merton  (1915–1968)

This monk lived a life as checked as Day’s prior his conversion to Catholicism during college in his mid-twenties. In December 1941, he joined the Trappist monetary in Gethsemani, Kentucky. Seven years later, he published an autobiography about his converion and spiritual journey called “The Seven Storey Mountain.” Though Merton wrote more than 70 books, this work spoke to his generation more than any other, inspiring many monastic vocations.

In his speech before Congress, Pope Francis said of Merton:

“He remains a source of spiritual inspiration and a guide for many people. In his autobiography he wrote: ‘I came into the world. Free by nature, in the image of God, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born. That world was the picture of Hell, full of men like myself, loving God, and yet hating him; born to love him, living instead in fear of hopeless self-contradictory hungers.’ Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the Church. He was also a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions.”

Thomas Merton own quotes include: “Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.” “We are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God.” “The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image.” And, “Faith is the total surrender to Christ, which places all our hope in Him and expects all strength and sanctity from his merciful love.”

St. Thérèse Rose Novena

September 22, 2015

September 22nd is the day for beginning a nine-day novena to St. Thérèse of Lisieux, also known as “the Little Flower,” leading up to her October 1st feast day. Below is a novena prayer that you may use:

St. ThereseO Little Thérèse of the Child Jesus, please pick for me a rose from the heavenly gardens and send it to me as a message of love. O Little Flower of Jesus, ask God today to grant the favors I now place with confidence in your hands…

(Express your personal prayer intentions.)

St. Thérèse, help me to always believe as you did in God’s great love for me, so that I might imitate your “Little Way” each day. Amen.

Our Father…
Hail Mary…
Glory Be…

After completing this novena, do not be surprised if you find a rose.

The Catholic Catechism on Immigration

September 21, 2015

Paragraph 2241:

Catholic AmericanThe more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin.  Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.

Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption.  Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.

Preventable Tragedies

September 12, 2015

A Bolivian Family Riding a Bicycle, 1991

While studying for the priesthood, I spent a summer at our diocese’s mission in Bolivia. There I learned that South America’s poorest country has a death rate from tuberculosis 222-times higher than here. I was told the Bolivian government offers free TB medicine, but that many who take the pills start to feel better and quit before they’ve finished the prescription. Tragically, this allows the disease to resurge, and the patients are lost. Their half-measured approach to what would save them invites their death.

As our children soon return to CCD, I wish to emphasize the obvious truth that CCD alone is not enough to form a child into a mature Christian adult. Religious education must be paired with daily family prayer (beyond simply before meals) and family Mass attendance each week. Without these, children learn from their parents’ silent instruction that their Catholic faith may be carelessly discarded once their “last hoop” of Confirmation is cleared. This must not be so!

If you are already attending Mass and sharing family prayers, please keep it up. If not, please follow this powerful prescription of prayer and Sunday worship. Embrace it for your children’s sake and for your own. Our Catholic faith is not mere “fire insurance.” It is the path to abundant life for this life and the next. As Jesus says, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Five Seeming Liturgical Abuses That Are Actually Legit

August 27, 2015

These five liturgical practices may seem unorthodox, but the Roman Catholic Church officially allows for each of them:

1.  Receiving the Blessed Sacrament Twice in the Same Day

The Church limits the number of communions the faithful may receive in a day, lest people misguidedly pursue sanctity by filling their days with numerous communions, or lest receiving too-frequently make this most sacred gift feel common. According to the Code of Canon Law (which governs Church practices) the faithful may receive Our Eucharistic Lord twice daily. However, unless someone is in danger of death, the second time must be while participating at Holy Mass. (Canons 917 & 921)

Ten Commandments - Sacred Heart Catholic Church - Wauzeka WI2.  A Priest Eating Between His Sunday Masses

Ordinarily, a person who is going to receive Our Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist is to abstain from all food and drink (besides water or medicine) for at least one hour before holy communion. This is done to prepare oneself to worthily receive this most precious food (though the elderly, the infirm, and those caring for them are exempted from the fast.) The Church, recognizing that a priest could have difficulty finding time for needed nourishment, allows priests who celebrate the Eucharist two or three times in the same day to take something between their Masses, even if there is less than one hour between them. (Canon 919)

3.  Offering Mass for the Soul of a Notorious Person

May a priest offer a Mass for the soul of Osama Bin Laden, Adolf Hitler, or Judas Iscariot? Pastoral prudence may advise him against doing so publicly, but the Code of Canon law affirms, “A priest is entitled to offer Mass for anyone, living or dead.” (Canon 901) While the Church has declared many saints and blesseds to be now in Heaven, she has never declared any particular human being to be presently in Hell. Since Jesus warns us so strongly and frequently about damnation and we know that the devil and ‘one third’ of the angels are eternally consigned to Hell, it seems very unlikely that all people will be saved. (Revelation 12:4 & 9, Matthew 25:41, Catechism of the Catholic Church #393) However, even if hoping against hope, we may still offer our prayers (capable of transcending space and time) for the salvation of any and all human souls.

4.  A Wedding Couple Processing into Church Behind the Priest

At weddings in the United States, the groom typically takes his place near the altar to await his bride’s walk down the aisle. But the Catholic Rite of Marriage, while allowing for local custom, presents a different entrance as the norm: “If there is a procession to the altar, the ministers go first, followed by the priest, and then the bride and the bridegroom.” (Rite of Marriage, no. 20) The ministers of the sacrament of marriage are actually the bride and groom themselves — the priest (or deacon) simply presides as the Church’s official witness. (Catechism #1623) Thus, it is fitting that the couple enter the church on their wedding day side-by-side in liturgical procession.

5.  A Priest Dipping Hosts Into the Precious Blood at the Distribution of Communion

Host and Chalice - Sacred Heart Catholic Church - Wauzeka WIA minister of the Holy Eucharist who steeps the Host into the Precious Blood before placing it upon a communicant’s tongue is distributing by “intinction.” The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (or GIRM, which governs liturgical practices for Holy Mass) states, “The Blood of the Lord may be consumed either by drinking from the chalice directly, or by intinction, or by means of a tube or a spoon.” (GIRM, no. 245) While noting that, “Distribution of the Precious Blood by a spoon or through a straw is not customary in the Latin dioceses of the United States of America,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops reiterates that a bishop may allow distribution by intinction in his diocese. (Norms, no. 48 & 24, citing GIRM no. 283)

As the GIRM describes it, “If Communion from the chalice is carried out by intinction, each communicant, holding a Communion-plate under the mouth, approaches the Priest who holds a vessel with the sacred particles, with a minister standing at his side and holding the chalice. The Priest takes a host, intincts it partly in the chalice and, showing it, says, The Body and Blood of Christ. The communicant replies, Amen, receives the Sacrament in the mouth from the Priest, and then withdraws.” (GIRM, no. 287) The U.S. Bishops further emphasize that the faithful, including extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, are never to self-communicate by intinction. (Norms, no. 50) May an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist distribute by intinction? The GIRM passage above speaks of “the Priest,” but I would refer people to their local bishop’s norms on the distribution of Communion for a judgment on this question.

A True Story of Pain, Transformation, & Hope

August 20, 2015

My hometown friend, pro-life speaker Katie Stelter, spoke at our parish’s youth group this evening. Her story was made into this powerful docudrama, Metamorphosis:

Catholic Trivia & Riddles

August 19, 2015
  1. pondering-at-a-question-markName the Apostle that the Catholic Church has not declared a saint.
  2. The Blessed Virgin Mary lived with at least eight other people at various times on earth. How many of them can you name?
  3. St. Joseph was physically present at which mysteries of the Rosary?
  4. Name a non-mythical animal that was not on Noah’s ark.
  5. How many times did Moses lead God’s people around the walls of Jericho?

Answers: [highlight to reveal]

  1. Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve.
  2. Mary’s housemates included her parents (traditionally, Joachim & Anne), Zachariah, Elizabeth, & John the Baptist, Joseph & Jesus, & the Beloved Disciple (traditionally, John the Apostle. See John 19:27.)
  3. Joseph was present for the Nativity, the Presentation, & the Finding of Jesus in the Temple. (See Luke 2)
  4. Fish, dolphins, whales, etc.
  5. None. Moses died outside the Promised Land, but Joshua took them for 13 laps around the city in one week. (See Joshua 6)

Four Fun Family-Faith Festivities

August 12, 2015

A Family Feast, a Blackout Night, a Generosity Party, and a Big Bed Lifeboat. Enjoyable and memorable family activities for growing together in faith, virtue, and love.

A Family Feast

For a Family Feast, each member of the household prepares a dish for the meal. Whether it is making finger sandwiches, or opening and warming a can of veggies, or melting cheese over nachos, everyone can bring something to the table. Mom and Dad should provide the kids with many pre-approved courses to choose from to prepare. With coaching, even the little ones can play a part. Lead the dinner prayer thanking God for each person and their gift. All will feel a sense of accomplishment and a closer connection through helping to serve and feed one another.

Triple Candelabra - Sacred Heart Catholic Church - Wauzeka WIA Blackout Night

For one evening, collect and hide all of the cell phones, turn off all the lights, flip the circuit breaker, and bring out the flashlights, candles, or lanterns for a Blackout Night together. Let everyone know well in advance what is coming. Set out glasses of water for use in washing hands and brushing teeth later. Then, once darkness falls, turn off all the lights, cut the power, and gather the family in the living room. Play a card games together on the floor, read a Bible story (like the calling of young Gideon and his nighttime raid in Judges 6 & 7), or share familiar tales of your own. After bed time prayers and tucking-in the kids, turn the power back on for use in the morning. The experience will help your kids to appreciate the blessings we take for granted and it will be a night together that they will always remember.

A Generosity Party

Choose a charity, such as St. Vincent de Paul or Goodwill, lay out a blanket, and throw a Generosity Party. The clothes you did not wear last year probably won’t be worn this year. The toys we never play with are no longer any fun. But these clothes and toys and other things can still be a blessing to others. Explain how and why you are helping those in need, and encourage everyone in the house to bring the possessions they no longer want or need to the blanket “without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2nd Corinthians 9:6-7) The poor will benefit from your charitable giving, and you will all grow together in compassion, detachment, and generosity.

Sailboat - Sacred Heart Catholic Church - Wauzeka WIA Big Bed Lifeboat

Get everyone aboard your bedroom’s Big Bed Lifeboat and set the scene: “After a violent storm, our ship sank and now we’re in this lifeboat. There is nothing but sea and sky as far as the eye can see.” (Make sure everyone goes potty before you embark.) While you sit adrift, you can sing songs together (like “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” “Gilligan’s Island,” or “We’re the Pirates That Don’t do Anything.”) You can bounce together when a group of big waves come by. And you can hope and dream about being rescued. Ask them, “What is the biggest reason you want to get back to shore? What do you miss the most?” Listen to their answers, and then confide that your greatest treasures are with you in this boat. Once you flag down the rescue ship that suddenly appears on the horizon, lead a prayer of thanks to God for the gift of your lives and for the countless good things in them.

Give one of these unique family festivities a try and let us know how it goes in the comments.

Thoughts About FOX’s “Lucifer”

August 7, 2015

So the FOX network plans to launch this new show in 2016:

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but previews for movies and TV shows these days tell us plenty about what to expect. Based on this trailer and its synopsis, I’d like to share my first thoughts about FOX’s Lucifer.

What “Lucifer” Gets Right
Giving Their Devil His Due

Our first encounter with FOX’s Lucifer is in a form such as we should expect him to appear. No horns, tail, or pitchfork. Nothing in his appearance to make us flee from him in horror. He’s attractive, wealthy, well dressed, and speaks with sophistication. He drives through the night self-satisfied, solitary, and yet pleased to have others serve him and line up eagerly at his door. His popular club is named “Lux” (Latin for “Light.”) “And no wonder, for even Satan masquerades as an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14) He draws many to himself by means of human sensuality.

His name, “Lucifer Morningstar,” is drawn from Isaiah 14:12.
Church Fathers wrote that “Lucifer” was never the devil’s proper (or “God-given”) name but that it signifies the glorious state from which he fell. However, I give the show creators credit for a pretty good name choice.

FOX’s Lucifer is a denouncer, reviling “this human stain” and “your corrupt little organization.” This is in keeping with him being ‘the accuser of the brethren, who night and day accuses them before God’ (Revelation 12:10) as he did with righteous Job. (Job 1:9-11, 2:4-5) In fact, his most well-known titles highlight this trait: “Devil” comes from the Greek word for “Slanderer,” while “Satan” is Hebrew for “Adversary” or “Accuser.”

Lucifer is willing to transgress laws whenever it benefits him. Perhaps this is why FOX’s Lucifer will premiere in 2016 driving with expired tags on his license plate (but it’s more likely just a production mistake.)

What “Lucifer” Gets Wrong
The Devil They Know is Better
Than the Devil They Don’t

If there were people in the entertainment world who didn’t believe that Adolf Hitler really existed, I could imagine someone reenvisioning him to be some TV drama’s charismatic hero. Many people would be understandably offended and concerned about what evils could flow from presenting the leader of the Third Reich — a spreader of hate and murderer of millions — as primetime television’s next charming protagonist. Ordinarily, aware of Godwin’s Law, I would avoid drawing comparisons to Hitler. Yet as bad as Hitler was, the devil is much worse. The worst thing the show’s creators will get wrong about the devil is that he is certainly not, and will never be, ‘a demon with a heart of gold.’

When a young, dispirited pop star returns to Lucifer he counsels her, “Pull yourself together,” and comforts her. Following her sudden death, he looks on her lifeless body with shock and concern. He asks of the LAPD homicide detective, “What is your corrupt little organization going to do about this?” Later, he tells a female confidante, “Someone out there needs to be punished!” She replies, “Stop caring, you’re the devil.” Indeed, this does not fit with his true character. Unable to strike out at the Almighty, the devil attacks the human race God loves. The devil would not mourn the death of a young woman lost in her sins, he would desire her unhappy end and encourage it, as he did the suicide of Judas Iscariot. The devil hates us all.

Lucifer meets the police detective again and offers his assistance: “We should be out there punishing those responsible. Come on, I’ll help you.” However, the real devil does not accuse sinners and will their damnation out of a devotion to truth or justice. He tempts and condemns out of envy, to prove that others are no better than himself. “[B]y the envy of the devil, death entered the world…” (Wisdom 2:24) Jesus said of him, “He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)

If you want to see something of what the devil is like, I suggest Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight. (*) Heath Ledger described the Joker as “an absolute sociopath, a cold-blooded, mass-murdering clown,” and his portrayal of evil will be long remembered. However, I doubt the same will be true for FOX’s Lucifer.

Why I Doubt “Lucifer” Will Last
The Devil Has No New Tricks

What type of show is Lucifer? It’s a sometimes light-hearted police procedural with supernatural themes and a “will-they-or-won’t-they” romantic subplot. FOX’s Lucifer is basically like The X-Files with angels instead of aliens. However, I’ll be surprised if it survives beyond its first season. I am dubious about how original and well-written the show will be since it borrows so much from previous works:

— We saw charming, talented eccentrics tagging along with cops to solve crimes in The Mentalist, Castle, and Monk.

— We saw snarky jerks growing in their humanity in CommunityHouse, and Sherlock.

— We saw a fallen angel embracing human life and love in Los Angeles in Nicholas Cage’s City of Angels.

— We saw a brazen angel in human form magically attracting women in John Travolta’s Michael.

— We saw a female love interest be uniquely impervious to a dangerous hunk’s powers with Bella and Edward in Twilight.

— We even saw a demonic vanity license plate (“BAD 1″) in Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley’s Bedazzled.

— At least FOX’s Lucifer plays piano instead of a mean fiddle.

Will these recycled elements gel into a successful hit? Will solving crimes, landing insults, exposing hypocrites, titillating women, and facing-down CGI angels and demons be a long-winning formula? I’m skeptical, but either way, I don’t plan to be watching.

How We Should Respond
Resist the Devil and He Will Flee

In the preface to his spiritually insightful and quite funny book about demonic temptation, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis wrote:

There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”

As it is with devils, so I think for this show. In the coming year, I expect it to attract more heat and noise of controversy, and I suspect the show’s creators will welcome the free publicity. We may be told that everyone must watch the series in order to form an opinion — as if forms of entertainment were somehow entitled to our time and focus. On one hand, we do not want to lend this show inordinate attention. On the other hand, ignoring its existence would be a mistake. We should respond to FOX’s Lucifer with both true teaching and prayer.

FOX Lucifer ImageJust like with the inaccurate history of Dan Brown’s
The Da Vinci Code, this regrettable new TV show will bring with it
opportunities for catechesis; to teach about angels and demons, temptation and discernment, and the war that is fought for every human soul. (Teaching can be as easy as sharing an article like this one.) We can discourage others from tuning-in but, whether we like it or not, questions will come our way and we should be well-prepared to answer with the truth.

We must also pray. In 2012, an 24-year-old gunman with red-dyed hair, reportedly self-identifying as “the Joker,” killed 12 people and injured 70 in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater showing the third film of the Batman trilogy. On the human level, the responsibility for this crime lies with its perpetrator, but just as a movie can inspire an unstable person to imitate a villain, so a show about the devil can both lead the unwary into exploring the occult or subtly persuade others that the devil’s just a myth. Against such evils we should pray; not only for the impressionable viewers among the audience of millions, but for the creators of such art itself.

Spiritual connections are mysterious and rarely certain, but dabbling with satanic things can open doors to evil and burn us. Six months after the release of The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger, the actor who had immersed himself into the persona of the demonic Joker, was dead from a drug overdose. At one infamous concert in 1969, during which an audience member was later killed by “Hell’s Angels” working security, The Rolling Stones’ performance of “Sympathy for the Devil” was interrupted by a fight and the song had to be restarted. At the time, Mick Jagger remarked onstage, “We’re always having—something very funny happens when we start that number.”

For the good of everyone involved, I will be praying that the cast and crew of FOX’s Lucifer may soon find themselves safely employed in other work and, if Lucifer ever comes to air, that its harm may be minimal and a better show may quickly take its place. I invite you to join me in praying for the same by invoking the help of St. Michael, who fought the devil and the demons out of Heaven. (Revelation 12:7-9)

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us
in battle,
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him we humbly pray;
and may you, O Prince of the Heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world seeking the ruin of souls.   Amen.

Three Crosses Line Break

(*) — Like the devil, the Joker in The Dark Knight is a liar, telling incompatible tales about his scars. He loves fire, chaos, violence, and death. Alfred the butler says of him, “Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.” The Joker is an accuser of all: “See, their morals, their ‘code’…it’s a bad joke, dropped at the first sign of trouble. They’re only as good as the world allows them to be. I’ll show you, when the chips are down, these — ah — ‘civilized people?’ They’ll eat each other. See, I’m not a monster. I’m just ahead of the curve.” In the Joker’s climactic final scene, he is angered that those on neither ferry have blown the other up. Batman asks him, “What were you trying to prove? That deep down, everyone’s as ugly as you?!” The Joker tells Batman that they have been locked in “a battle for Gotham’s soul” while the camera films him, from an inverted perspective, having the likeness of one in an everlasting fall.

Holy Aphorisms — August 4 — St. John Vianney

August 4, 2015

        St. John Vianney, the Curé of Ars and patron saint of priests, is well known as a confessor who could see into peoples’ souls and who took great penances upon himself for the conversion of sinners. Less known, though, is his wisdom. St. John Vianney may have had difficulties learning Latin and passing his seminary exams, but he preached beautiful spiritual insights such as these:

“To approach God you should go straight to Him, like a bullet from a gun.”

“Prayer is the conversation of a child with his Father.  Of a subject with his King.  Of a servant with his Lord.  Of a friend with the Friend to whom he confides all his troubles and difficulties.”

“A pure soul is with God, as a child with its mother.  The child caresses and embraces her, and its mother returns all its endearments.”

“God commands you to pray, but He forbids you to worry.”

“You must accept your cross.  If you bear it courageously it will carry you to heaven.”

However, “Our Lord takes pleasure in doing the will of those who love him.”

“Just as a mother holds her child in her hands to cover it with kisses, so does God hold the devout person.”

“Here is a rule for everyday life: Do not do anything which you cannot offer to God.”

And as we approach the Eucharist, let us recall this final thought: “To content his love, God must give Himself to us separately, one by one.”

(Originally published August 4, 2010;
edited & republished August 4, 2015)

Moral Principles & Just War

July 23, 2015

St. Paul providentially wrote,

“[W]hy 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 3:8)

In this passage, the Holy Spirit led St. Paul to denounce the idea that having a good goal in mind can ever justify using immoral means to achieve it. God’s most basic commandment is heard in every human conscience: “Do good, avoid evil.” We must never do evil in hopes that good may result. If we do, there is no guarantee that our hoped for goal will come to pass, but we will have surely allied ourselves (in some measure) with evil by opposing God’s will.

A second moral principle (which frees us as it binds) is this: we must never intentionally kill the innocent, for this is murder. All human life is sacred and precious, which makes any decision to wage war a most serious one. Catholic Just War doctrine teaches that all of the following conditions must hold for a war to be morally just:

  1. The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain.
  2. All other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective.
  3. There must be serious prospects of success.
  4. The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.
    (See The Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2309)

B-24 BomberEven if all of these conditions are met and a country goes justly off to battle, enemy civilians must not be targeted. It is inevitable that some innocents will die in the chaos of war; sometimes bombs dropped over a military target will accidentally hit homes nearby. But it is something very different to intentionally aim for the civilians in hopes of killing as many as possible. This is a war crime. It is murder. “But what if murdering civilians will end the war faster and save more lives in the end?” (*) This is the tempter’s promise, but God’s commandment remains without exception: ‘You shall not become a murderer.’

I do not share these moral principles to condemn any previous wartime generation. God knows it is hard do what is right in times of stress and fear; and only He can judge hearts. I share these teachings because history shows that even in peacetime we stand between wars. When the next conflict threatens we must judge aright whether it must be fought, and if so, guard that the war does not make casualties our souls.

Three Crosses Line Break

( * – Some may claim that if enemy civilians are working, paying taxes, and not in rebellion against their government, then they are legitimate military targets, since they are aiding the enemy. Such thinking abandons the distinctions between combatants and non-combatants, condoning all sorts of evils. A similar case could be made for summarily-executing enemy prisoners of war, since their captivity aids the enemy by diverting our wartime resources. )

Sunday: A Day of Rest & Grace

July 22, 2015

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2184-2187

      Just as God “rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done,” (Genesis 2:2) human life has a rhythm of work and rest. The institution of the Lord’s Day helps everyone enjoy adequate rest and leisure to cultivate their familial, cultural, social, and religious lives.

      On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are to refrain from engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s Day, the performance of the works of mercy, and the appropriate relaxation of mind and body. Family needs or important social service can legitimately excuse from the obligation of Sunday rest. The faithful should see to it that legitimate excuses do not lead to habits prejudicial to religion, family life, and health.

Jesus Overlooking Jerusalem      Those Christians who have leisure should be mindful of their brethren who have the same needs and the same rights, yet cannot rest from work because of poverty and misery. Sunday is traditionally consecrated by Christian piety to good works and humble service of the sick, the infirm, and the elderly. Christians will also sanctify Sunday by devoting time and care to their families and relatives, often difficult to do on other days of the week. Sunday is a time for reflection, silence, cultivation of the mind, and meditation which furthers the growth of the Christian interior life.

      Sanctifying Sundays and holy days requires a common effort. Every Christian should avoid making unnecessary demands on others that would hinder them from observing the Lord’s Day. Traditional activities (sports, restaurants, etc.), and social necessities (public services, etc.), require some people to work on Sundays, but everyone should still take care to set aside sufficient time for leisure. With temperance and charity the faithful will see to it that they avoid the excesses and violence sometimes associated with popular leisure activities. In spite of economic constraints, public authorities should ensure citizens a time intended for rest and divine worship. Employers have a similar obligation toward their employees.

The Priest’s “Secret” Prayers at Mass

July 22, 2015

Offering the Mystical and Holy Mass     Did you know that the Church gives priests celebrating the Mass several prayers to say in a low voice, such that few (if any) in the church hear them? These are called the “secret” prayers (from the Latin word for “hidden.”) May the great beauty of these prayers inform and inspire your own devotion at Holy Mass.

The priest, before proclaiming the Gospel, pauses in front of the altar to bow and pray:

“Cleanse my heart and my lips, almighty God, that I may worthily proclaim your holy Gospel.”

 At the end of the Gospel, the priest (or proclaiming deacon) kisses the book and prays:

“Through the words of the Gospel may our sins be wiped away.”

During the Offertory, the priest (or assisting deacon) pours a little water into the chalice of (unconsecrated) wine and prays:

By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”

After thanking God for the gifts of bread and wine He has given us to offer (“Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation…”) the priest bows behind the altar and prays:

“With humble spirit and contrite heart may we be accepted by you, O Lord, and may our sacrifice in your sight this day be pleasing to you, Lord God.”

While the priest washes his hands, he prays:

“Wash me, O Lord, from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”

During the “Lamb of God,” the priest places a small piece of the Host into the chalice, praying:

“May this mingling of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ bring eternal life to us who receive it.”

At the end of the “Lamb of God,” the priest joins his hands and prays one of these two prayers:

1. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, who, by the will of the Father and the work of the Holy Spirit, through your death gave life to the world, free me by this, your most holy Body and Blood from all my sins and from every evil; keep me always faithful to your commandments, and never let me be parted from you.”

2. “May the receiving of your Body and Blood, Lord Jesus Christ, not bring me to judgment and condemnation, but through your loving mercy be for me protection in mind and body and a healing remedy.”

Before consuming the Body of Christ, the priest prays:

May the Body of Christ keep me safe for eternal life.

Before consuming the Blood of Christ from the chalice, the priest prays:

May the Blood of Christ keep me safe for eternal life.

Finally, while purifying the sacred vessels following the distribution of Communion, the priest prays:

“What has passed our lips as food, O Lord, may we possess in purity of heart, that what has been given to us in time may be our healing for eternity.”

Starving the Beast

July 22, 2015

A Baby Held In Hands

According to 2nd Vote, a consumer research app, the following corporations have all made direct contributions to Planned Parenthood—the group which sold and performed more than 327,000 abortions in our country last year:

Clothes & Body: Avon, Bath & Body Works, Converse, Dockers, Johnson & Johnson, La Senza, Levi Strauss, Macy’s, Nike, Unilever, Pfizer

Charities: American Cancer Society, March of Dimes, Susan G. Komen, United Way

Finance & Insurance: American Express, Bank of America, Deutsche Bank, Fannie Mae, Liberty Mutual, Morgan Stanley, Progressive, Wells Fargo

Food: Ben & Jerry’sPepsiCo, Starbucks, Tostitos

Industrial: Energizer, Clorox, ExxonMobil

Tech: Adobe, AT&T, Expedia, Groupon, Intuit, Microsoft, Oracle, Verizon

It is not a sin for a person to use the products or services of these Planned Parenthood supporting companies (since the customer’s connection to abortions is so very indirect and remote.) However, it might do good for many of us to cease, wherever possible, giving these companies our business and to let them know our reason why. For example:

Dear Sir or Madam,

It has come to my attention that your company has given direct contributions to Planned Parenthood, a group that has killed millions of innocent human beings. Because of this, as far as possible, I will no longer be your customer and I will encourage others to do likewise. I urge your company to reconsider its support of Planned Parenthood.


[Links to each company’s feedback page are provided above.]

Finally, it should be noted that the largest single contributor to Planned Parenthood is not any of these companies, but our own government. In the 2013-2014 fiscal year, Planned Parenthood received $528.4 million in taxpayer-funded health service grants and reimbursements. Efforts to end this public funding of Planned Parenthood are also worthy of our support.

Source:  The Daily Signal – “Meet the 38 Companies That Donate Directly to Planned Parenthood


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