Monday, February 6, 2017

OUR DYING UNIVERSITIES


The last vestiges of the once impressive institution known as the “university” are disappearing as our culture continues to crumble. Perhaps it is poetic justice, since the universities themselves have been a central cause of the cultural collapse that is burying them.
The recent riots at the University of California at Berkeley and on other campuses are the result of a decades-long process that has increasingly sought to silence opinions or facts that are at odds with liberalism. Most universities have become indoctrination centers that tolerate little if any dissent. Ideas are not considered. Rather, the usual approach is that of excoriating dissent from liberal or progressive orthodoxy with ad hominem attacks, calling those who disagree bigoted, intolerant, hateful, or (fill-in-the-blank)-phobic.
The discussion and critique of different ideas is a proper notion in a university, but more often today, the person or group holding an opposing idea is attacked, stereotyped, or ridiculed. Protests are a long tradition on college campuses, but protests were once held to show opposition to a speech as it was actually happening or to the ideas that were being presented. Now, protests are aimed at preventing speeches from occurring or ideas from being articulated.
This, of course, is completely counter to what universities should be doing. Once upon a time, young people were sent off to college in order to expand their minds. Ideas from widely divergent positions would be presented and critiqued using principles of philosophy, theology, logic, history, and science. Even Catholic universities, which existed to hand on the faith, would ponder all sorts of views while also vigorously defending or critiquing them based on Catholic teaching. The point of a college education was to become aware of the wider world and to be trained in critical thinking.
Today, most college campuses are a witch’s brew of hypersensitivities, political correctness, language police, “safe zones,” and all sorts of intolerance masquerading as “diversity” and “inclusiveness.” Despite the talk, though, such settings are anything but diverse or inclusive, when one considers the increasing list of views and topics that are banished.
This problem has been growing for decades and it is evidence of what Pope Benedict XVI called the “tyranny of relativism.” When we can no longer point to a reality or a set of truths that all can agree upon as first principles, a struggle ensues that cannot be resolved with an appeal to reason. The one who prevails is not the one who is best able to appeal to reason or principles, but rather the one who has the most power, money, or influence, or the one who shouts the loudest or is better able to intimidate. In this way, relativism has led to the kind of tyranny we see on college campuses today.
Add to this a strangely opposite “daintiness,” such that people are offended by even the most modest rebuttals. “Safe zones” that proliferate on campuses presuppose some sort of deep psychological damage caused by being exposed to different or challenging ideas, and that there exists some sort of right not be offended or challenged. Not only is this fanciful, it is poor training for life.
This has been brewing for decades and has turned universities into exactly the opposite of what they are supposed to be.
In the world of Catholic universities, a line was crossed in 1967 at the Land O’ Lakes conference, at which the assembled leaders of Catholic institutions of higher learning concluded that Catholic identity and faith were inimical to “academic freedom.” As a result, the large majority of Catholic universities shifted to secular models that were not merely neutral to the faith, but often hostile to it.
Universities first began emerging during the high water mark of Christendom, in the 12th and 13th centuries. Perhaps the greatest example of what universities once were can be seen in St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica. It contains a pondering of the great questions of that time. A premise or idea is stated, objections are set forth, voices from antiquity are quoted, a response is presented, and then each objection is respectfully answered. As a genre, the “summa” is a kind of written summary of academic debates common among the students and teachers of the day. At the time, it was recognized that the quest for the truth is often facilitated by lively debate, interaction, and ongoing discussion. Even ideas that one opposed were helpful because they assisted in refining one’s own view and better articulating it.
Young people once emerged from universities acquainted with the great ideas, equipped with the skills to critique ideas and philosophies, and educated in both Latin and Greek. It was not a perfect system, but it edified and expanded the students; it gave them the tools to engage in critical thinking.
Such an atmosphere seems long gone on most college campuses today. Rather than expanding the students’ universe of ideas, it has narrowed them. Many young people emerge from their college experience less mature and less prepared for life than when they entered. In fact, many universities today do precisely the opposite of what they were founded to do. The horrifying moral atmosphere that exists on most campuses is another dagger to the life of the mind and to proper human formation and maturity. To be sure there are exceptions, Catholic and non-Catholic, but they are rare jewels among the rubble.
It is a very sad situation, with only a few exceptions that shine brightly in an otherwise bleak sky. Be sober, fellow Catholics. Search diligently for those universities that still fulfill their mission to raise up young adults to higher and better things.
with permission by - Msgr. Charles Pope

Friday, February 3, 2017

BISON MISSION FIELDS


The moment I sat in my seat at Gate City Bank Auditorium awaiting the keynote speech during BisonCatholic week 2016, one of the slides of the PowerPoint being shown on the front wall caught my eye and my utmost attention. Mission trip to Belcourt, ND, during spring break, it read. Mission trip? Spring break? I thought, “I’m there!” As my final semester got underway, I couldn’t help but wish for the opportunity to spend it doing something I likely wouldn’t have the chance to do once I left college and tied myself down to a job. A mission trip spent with friends from the Newman Center was EXACTLY what I wanted and everything I could ever ask for in a spring break trip, especially my last one. Who needs beaches when you give your time and energy to people most in need of a vacation from the struggles of daily life? And plus, we had a surprise blizzard in Belcourt, so we got to go sledding with our fellow mission trip participants from Mississippi who rarely see, let alone sled in, snow. A true Upper Midwest Spring Break. Beat that.

It turned out to that a group of four from the Newman would be making the five day mission trip to St. Ann’s Indian Mission in Belcourt: Chris (Yanta), Michelle (LaPlante), Joey (Fritz), and myself. As Chris was my bible study leader that year, I often shared my excitement with him about our upcoming trip. I also did some research on Belcourt, and I noticed that it was the primary town on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation, home to a tribe of Chippewa and Métis peoples. (Métis = mixed ancestry, in this case, Chippewa and French Canadian). This only heightened my hopes and dreams as to how great of a trip this really was. As a history major, if I had to choose a specific theme of history to dedicate my career to, hands down it would be the history that belongs to Native Americans and the indigenous peoples of Central and South America. I also earned a minor in anthropology, as I have always been drawn to human cultures, in particular those of native peoples in the Americas. This trip really was meant to be.

As the four of us embarked on this second annual trip to Belcourt, the four of us prayed a rosary for the intention of safe travels and a successful and blessed mission experience. Honestly, I never prayed during my travels before. It never even occurred to me to ask for the intercession of God, Mary, or His saints to guide me as I journeyed. I couldn’t be happier with that opportunity to pray with Chris, Michelle, and Joey. We had all answered “yes!” to the call to give of our spring break to God and to eagerly serve His children who are most in need. 

We arrived at St. Ann’s Church near the end of the Saturday mass. We tried taking in the scenery as we awaited our mission to officially begin. St. Ann’s is one of five churches that make up the St. Ann’s Indian Mission, which caters to the thousands of people that call the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation home. As a Minnesota guy who rarely traveled outside of Fargo during his time at NDSU, I was astounded by how beautiful the country up here near the Canadian border was. Hills, trees, and lakes galore - sure, there were still plenty of farms and livestock, but it definitely felt different than the other parts of the Great Plains I had passed through before. This was North Dakota? These people are so lucky to have this part of the state as their adopted homeland!

However, we did also see some of the struggles that afflicted their community. We, as students enrolled at a major university, often consider the universal necessities of food, shelter, and clothing as commonly available to all who seek it, especially in the United States. Just by driving through the neighborhood, it was obvious how most families just barely got by with these necessities. It wasn’t until I spent time in Belcourt that summer when I truly saw these circumstances and their commonality among these great people. People will come up the hill to St. Ann’s at all hours of the day in search of a meal, or gas money, or request a simple time of prayer with you or a priest. Mission trips are almost expected to offer the participant examples of culture shock, but when they do happen, they can still be shocking. However, these instances should only encourage you to make the biggest difference in the lives of the featured community in the short amount of time you spend there. And remember, you are always invited to come back. In actuality, you yourself are going to want to come back… This is where you belong. This is the role you were called to serve in in life, if only for a week.

We made our way into the Queen of Peace building, which houses the parish rectory, secondary chapel, and dining area. There we met eleven of the nicest people you will ever meet. NDSU would be pairing up with a group from the University of Southern Mississippi for this week-long mission trip - surprise! It was great getting to know these fine ladies and gentlemen and discovering their own motivation in spending their spring break doing mission work, and so far away from home, besides! It turns out their pastor, Father Mark, is a member of the religious community (SOLT - Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity) that works on the reservation, and this was the second year that he had brought parishioners from the shorelines of the Gulf of Mexico to the edges of Canada. It was beneficial in exchanging ideas with each other in how to live the Catholic faith on a secular college campus. Lastly, nearly every conversation would be paused for a second to allow one of us to comment on each other’s thick accent (supposedly Minnesotans are just as humorous in their spoken word as are Mississippians).

For everyone who has met her, meeting the youth director of St. Ann’s and spending even one day with her is likely on everyone’s top ten list of their year. Dorothy is simply a saint in the making who will do everything to put a smile on your face, whether you’re a baby, college student, or old timer. Her own smile is probably the reason why :) She has been the youth director here for nearly a decade, which has surely transformed the lives of hundreds of kids over the years through weekly youth nights, retreats, and summer camp. In addition, part of her work at St. Ann’s involves inviting groups from across the country to participate in a mission trip to benefit this community. 

The activities we were offered to do included remodeling rooms in church buildings, visiting residents at the retirement home, cleaning local churches and people’s homes, and spending a day with a group of religious sisters. Many of these activities involved working with someone from St. Ann’s or a SOLT (Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity) clergy member. As you went about your day doing at least two different activities, it was likely the interaction with the people you were helping that hit home the most. Cleaning the homes of those people that need an extra hand was a rewarding experience - it sure was! But, talking a little bit here and little bit there with the family members who welcomed us into their homes made the experience truly memorable, if not life-changing. For me, taking a moment to put a smile on a shy four-year-old girls face while I swept the floor, I feel, is the least a human being can do. In fact, make her smile over and over, again. Do all you can to leave a lasting impact; floors will get dirty again, but a smile and a happy memory may last forever. And when you finally have to leave, even though you had only been in her life for a single hour, you both feel like the least you can do is give each other a hug. You will always remember each other’s face, if not their name.

I was privileged to do a little bit of every activity, with my favorite times coming when I interacting with the outside community in some way. My first morning was spent walking frl2om room to room in the retirement home, asking each resident if they would like any help with their daily errands or simply to sit and talk awhile. I don’t believe anyone turned the five of us college students down for talking, let along assisting with chores! As we helped accomplish their biggest tasks, the retirees often shared their favorite family moments and their faith. One lady even showed us her vast collection of bibles she has been purchasing through catalogues and how each text went about in its own, unique way in interpreting and presenting God’s messages. Once again, it was difficult to part ways, even after only knowing each other for a short time. But, we all know, we’ll see each other again, if not in this life then the next.

While spending time with the SOLT sisters in the nearby town of Dunseith, four of us discovered how a person who devotes his or her life to God actually lives their faith daily in this difficult world. Their lives are simply based on unconditional love for others, and for God. We spent the first hour celebrating daily mass with residents in the nursing home. Instead of fleeing the scene right away, we remained for well over an hour. After helping some people return to their rooms, we found a beach ball and starting passing it around to the five remaining elderly men and women. Even if they could only use one hand with little movement and energy, they all participated and returned the volley! It was such a joyful morning in keeping everybody involved in the game and occasionally diving for the ball so the game would continue. As we walked to the convent with the sisters, I gained great insight into how they are people first-and-foremost, but have taken that extra step towards sainthood by choosing a life of prayer and devotion. Praying the liturgy of the hours and rosary with the entire convent in their private chapel was a blessed experience. Enjoying a home cooked meal with each of them, including two aspirants (those who had lived with the sisters for nearly a year in discerning their vocation), again opened my mind to my own calling of vocation. We again helped the community through cleaning the church. Serving the Lord through prayer and manual labor, even for a week, is the least we can do in our short lifetime, and it is indeed pleasing to Him.

I do wish to speak to the beauty of how each of our days began. Beginning at 7 in the morning, the fifteen of us from NDSU and USM spent one hour with Our Lord in the beautifully-adorned adoration chapel. Without that time of prayer and meditation, there was no way any of us would be able to share the love we received from Christ with the people we would encounter each and every day. We needed that daily recharge and re-energization, in order for us to use up every last bit of juice evangelizing and serving the people of the Turtle Mountains. We also participated in liturgy of the hour together. And every single afternoon, we received Jesus in the most holy Eucharist. The homily and celebration of the Eucharist, when performed by a SOLT priest, is possibly the most beautiful thing I have ever witnessed. The genuine love that a SOLT clergy member has for the Blessed Virgin Mary comes through so gracefully in their lifestyle. Prayer, celebrating the mass, and keeping the faith should be the foundation of every mission trip.

Each of our days ended with all of us together, the four of us from Fargo and the eleven from Hattiesburg. We shared our highlights of the day and our low moments. We laughed. We cried. We remembered how our day went and how much we already felt God working in our life. Anyone at St. Paul’s Newman knows how daily mass and benediction concludes - with the singing of “Salve Regina”, of course. Well, we offered to close out our first night of prayer with that hymn, even though our fellow mission friends have never heard it. I’ve never been one to sing loud enough for the next person over to hear me, but I felt comfortable and guided by the Holy Spirit to sing loud for all to hear. I’m convinced it was all Michelle and her beautiful voice, and the lyrics themselves, of course, but our friends were astounded by our rendition! The Salve Regina became our closing prayer for the rest of the trip, and I don’t believe we could’ve picked a better way to bring an end to each long, fruitful day.

In addition to working with disadvantaged and vulnerable members of the community, including the poor and elderly, we were honored with taking part in several other activities. Touring the local museum and learning about the history and culture of Belcourt’s citizens was a great compliment to our overall mission and giving us context into who we were serving. The fifteen of us students from colleges across the country bonded over prayer, in addition to playing games in the youth center, swing dancing, and volleyball matches. Several of them wished and prayed for snow before they left, and wouldn’t you know it, it snowed eight inches overnight on the last possible day! With that miracle came a morning of sledding. Though I haven’t sledded since high school, I was more than happy in seeing the happiness come over each of them as they went up and down that snowy hill. Their joy was my joy. Our community dinners involved not only everything with the mission trip but also the SOLT clergy, which numbered close to ten priests and sisters. Those meals were indeed a memory we will always carry deep in our hearts. 

Probably the most influential time I spent in Belcourt that wasn’t related to our mission trip was going to a charismatic night. While half of the group happily served the high school aged youth group, I jumped at the chance of joining a night of praise and worship with the community. The music was incredible - most of the songs are not mainstream and often heard, while many others are either composed or uniquely altered by local musicians! Listening to the whole chapel sing from the soul and allowing the Holy Spirit to use them as He willed was on an entirely new level. And, at the end of each song, I was hearing whispering. Some were saying in English, “Praise you Jesus. Thank you Jesus.” Others were speaking faster, in a language I did not recognize. It wasn’t until I returned that summer that I came to realize what was happening. The Holy Spirit had bestowed the charismatic gift of speaking in tongues to many of the people of the Turtle Mountains, a gift for their long commitment to the Catholic faith and bettering the lives of all around them. That whispering was a gift from the Holy Spirit. Many openly spoke on what they saw during the singing, with others interpreted what these visions and the words spoken in foreign tongues meant. Even after attending four of these charismatic nights, I can’t help but be amazed at how blessed the people of the Turtle Mountains are.

I kept feeling this calling. I felt it as this: God kept saying to me, “Luke, I’m not done with you here, yet.” I quickly realized and appreciated how all of the clergy and staff present at St. Ann’s are incredibly holy, how this entire reservation is a holy place, and that I, I want nothing more than to be holy. And it is only understandable that the easiest way to be holy, or to begin to learn how to be holy, is to live in a place where you are called to be holy the most. I began to agree with the voice and will of God. When Dorothy asked us to prayerfully consider serving the kids during St. Ann’s summer camp that year, I immediately knew this is what I was called to do. It made no difference that I was soon graduating with a history degree geared towards working in museums. I knew I was committing to camp, to the kids, to the community, and to God. And now, even after spending a total of 8 weeks in Belcourt, serving all ranges of people in the Turtle Mountains, I want more. And God wants me to want more. God, even now, I don’t feel like I’m done there, yet. And I hope many follow in my footsteps and feel the same way.

This is a holy place. This is where you belong. We are all called to serve.

Welcome to St. Ann’s Indian Mission. 

Welcome home.

By Luke Koran


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Fraternal Correction, the Neglected Virtue

In the first reading from today’s Mass (Tuesday of the 23rd Week), St. Paul is practically livid that the Corinthians have not sought to correct and discipline an erring brother who is indulging in illicit sexual union. He orders them to act immediately, lest the brother be lost on the day of judgment.
Today, when things are arguably as bad or worse than in the first century, St. Paul’s anger might will flair at the silence of the Church—the clergy and the laity—in the face of public sin and error.
Indeed, one of the most forgotten virtues and obligations we have is the duty to correct the sinner; it is one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy. In his Summa Theologica, St. Thomas Aquinas describes it as an act of charity
[F]raternal correction properly so called, is directed to the amendment of the sinner. Now to do away with anyone’s evil is the same as to procure his good: and to procure a person’s good is an act of charity, whereby we wish and do our friend well (Summa Theologica II, IIae, 33.1).
The world and the Devil have largely succeeded in shaming Christians from doing this essential work. When we call attention to someone’s sin or wrongdoing, we are said to be “judging” him or her. In a culture in which “tolerance” is one of the only virtues left, to “judge” is to commit a capital offense. “How dare you do such a thing?” the world protests. “Who are you to judge others?”
To be clear, there are some judgments that are forbidden us. For example, we cannot assess that we are better or worse than someone else before God. Neither can we always understand the ultimate culpability or inner intentions of another person as though we were God. Scripture says regarding judgments such as these: Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart (1 Sam 16:7). Further, we are instructed that we cannot make the judgment of condemnation. That is to say, we do not have the power or knowledge to condemn someone to Hell. God alone is judge in this sense. The same Scriptures also caution us against being unnecessarily harsh or punitive: Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. … For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you (Luke 6:36-38). So in this text from Luke’s Gospel, “to judge” means to condemn or be unmerciful, to be unreasonably harsh.
Another text that is often used by the world to forbid making “judgments” is from the Gospel of Matthew:
Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye (Matt 7:1-5).
But pay careful attention to what this text is actually saying. First, as we have already seen the Luke’s Gospel, the word “judge” here is understood to mean to be unnecessarily harsh and punitive or condemning; the second verse makes this clear. To paraphrase verse two colloquially, “If you lower the boom on others, you will have the boom lowered on you. If you throw the book at others, it will be thrown at you.” Further, the parable that follows does not say that you shouldn’t correct sinners; it says that you should get right with God yourself and then you will see clearly enough to properly correct your brother.
Over and over again, Scripture tells us to correct the sinner. Far from forbidding fraternal correction, the Scriptures command and commend it. Here are some of those texts, along with a little of my own commentary in red:
  1. Jesus said, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt 18:15-18). Jesus instructs us to speak to a sinning brother and summon him to repentance. If the matter is serious, and private rebuke does not work, others who are trustworthy should be summoned to the task. Finally, the Church should be informed. If he will not listen even to the Church, then he should be excommunicated (treated as a tax collector or Gentile). Hence in serious matters, excommunication should be considered as a kind of medicine that will inform the sinner of the gravity of the matter. Sadly, this “medicine” is seldom used today, even though Jesus clearly prescribes it (at least in serious matters).
  2. It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body I am present in spirit, and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. … I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral men; not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But rather I wrote to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Drive out the wicked person from among you” (1 Cor 5). The Holy Spirit, speaking through Paul, commands that we “judge” the evildoer. In this case the matter is clearly serious (incest). Notice how the text says that the man should be excommunicated (handed over to Satan). Here, too, the purpose is medicinal. It is hoped that Satan will beat him up enough that he will come to his senses and repent before the day of judgment. It is also medicinal in the sense that the community is protected from bad example, scandal, and the presence of evil. The text also requires us to be able to size people up. There are immoral and unrepentant people with whom it is harmful for us to associate. We are instructed to discern this and not to keep friendly company with people who can mislead us or tempt us to sin. This requires a judgment on our part. Yes, some judgements are required of us.
  3. Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any sin, you who are spiritual should recall him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ (Gal 6:1-2). We are called to note when a person has been overtaken in sin and to correct him, but to do so in a spirit of gentleness. Otherwise, we may sin in the very process of correcting the sinner! Being prideful or unnecessarily harsh in our words is not the way to correct. The instruction is to be humble and gentle, but clear. It also seems that patience is called for, because we must bear the burdens of one another’s sin. We do this in two ways: First, we accept the fact that others have imperfections and faults that trouble us; and second, we bear the obligation to help others know their sin and of repent of it.
  4. My brethren, if any one among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins (James 5:19). The text is ambiguous as to whose soul is actually saved, but it seems that both the corrected and the corrector are beneficiaries of well-executed fraternal correction.
  5. You shall not hate your brother in your heart: You shall in any case rebuke your neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him (Lev 19:17). This text tells us that refusing to correct a sinning neighbor is actually a form of hatred. Instead, we are instructed to love our neighbors by not wanting sin to overtake them.
  6. If anyone refuses to obey what we say in this letter, note that man, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not look on him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother (2 Thess 3:14). Notice again that the medicine of rebuke—even to the point of refusing fellowship (in more serious matters)—is commanded. But note, too, that even a sinner does not lose his dignity; he is still to be regarded as a brother, not an enemy. A similar text says, We instruct you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to shun any brother who walks in a disorderly way and not according to the tradition they received from us (2 Thess 3:6).
  7. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom (Col 3:16). To admonish means to warn. If the Word of Christ is rich within us, we will warn when that becomes necessary. A similar text says, All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16). Reproof and correction are thus part of what is necessary to equip us for every good work.
  8. And we exhort you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all (1 Thess 5:14). Fraternal correction is described here as admonishing, encouraging, and helping. We are also exhorted to patience in these works.
There are many more examples, but by now you get the point: Fraternal correction is prescribed and commanded by Scripture. We must resist the shame that the world tries to inflict on us by saying (simplistically) that we are “judging” people. Not all judgment is forbidden; some judgment is commanded. Correction of the sinner is both charitable and virtuous.
It is possible to correct a sinner poorly or even sinfully, but if we are to have any shame at all about proper fraternal correction, it should be that we have so severely failed in our duty to correct. Because of our failure in this regard, the world is much more sinful, coarse, and undisciplined. Too many people today are out-of-control, undisciplined, and even incorrigible. Too many are locked in sin and have never been properly corrected. The world is less pleasant, charitable, and teachable because of this; it is also more sinful and in greater bondage. To fail to correct is to fail in charity and mercy; it is to fail to be virtuous and to fail in calling others to virtue. We are all impoverished by our failure to correct the sinner.
He who winks at a fault causes trouble; but he who frankly reproves promotes peace (Proverbs 10:10).
A path to life is his who heeds admonition; but he who disregards reproof goes go astray (Proverbs 10:17).

- Msgr. Charles Pope

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Our Most Primal Fear and the Source of Our Bondage

Let’s ponder a significant yet often overlooked text from Hebrews, which describes our most basic and primal fear. Our inordinate fear of what people think of us is rooted in an even deeper fear, one which is at the very core of our being. The Hebrews text both names it and describes it as being the source of our bondage.  In order to unlock the secret of the text, I want to suggest to you an interpretation that will allow its powerful diagnosis to have a wider and deeper effect.
Consider, then, this text from Hebrews:

Since the children have flesh and blood, [Jesus] too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death (Heb 2:14-15).

Now this passage is clear enough that the origin of our bondage to sin is the devil. But it also teaches that the devil’s hold on us is the fear of death. This is what he exploits in order to keep us in bondage.

When I explore this teaching with people I find that it is difficult for many to understand it at first. For many, especially the young, death is almost a theoretical concept. It is not something that they fear on a conscious level. This is especially so today, when medicine has so successfully pushed back the boundaries. Every now and then something may shake us out of our complacency (perhaps a brush with death), but as a general rule the fear of death is not something that dominates our thoughts. So then what is meant by the fear of death and how does it hold us in bondage?

Well, what if we were to replace the word “death” with “diminishment”?  To be sure, this is an adaption of the text (the Greek text (φόβῳ θανάτου – phobo thanatou) is accurately translated as “fear of death”). But it can help us to see what the text is getting at in a wider sense. It doesn’t take long to realize that each diminishment we experience is a kind of “little death.” Diminishments make us feel smaller, less powerful, less glorious.

What are some examples of diminishments we might experience? On one level, a diminishment is anything that makes us feel less adequate than others. Maybe we think others are smarter or more popular. Perhaps we do not feel attractive enough; we’re too tall, too short, too fat, or too thin. Maybe we resent the fact that others are richer or more powerful. Perhaps we wish we were younger, stronger, and more energetic. Maybe we wish we were older, wiser, and more settled. Perhaps we feel diminished because we think others have a better marriage, a nicer home, or better children. Maybe we compare ourselves to a sibling who has done better financially or socially than we have.

Can see how the fear of diminishment (the fear that we don’t compare well to others) sets up a thousand sins? It plugs right into envy and jealousy. Pride comes along for the ride, too, because we seek to compensate for our fear of inadequacy by finding people to whom we feel superior. We thus indulge our pride or seek to build up our ego in unhealthy ways. Perhaps we run to the cosmetic surgeon or torture ourselves with unhealthy diets. Perhaps we ignore our own gifts and try to be someone we really aren’t. Perhaps we spend money we don’t have trying to impress others so that we feel less inadequate.

And think of the countless sins we commit trying to be popular and to fit in. Young people (and older ones, too) give in to peer pressure and sometimes do terrible things. Young people will join gangs, use drugs, skip school, have sex before marriage, pierce and tattoo their bodies, use foul language, etc. Adults also have many of these things on their list. All of these things are done in a quest to be popular and to fit in. This desire to fit in is all about not wanting to feel diminished. And diminishment is about the fear of death, because every experience of diminishment is like a small death.

Advertisers also know how to exploit the fear of death/diminishment in marketing their products. I remember studying this topic in business school at George Mason University. The logic goes something like this: You’re not pretty enough, happy enough, adequate enough, or comfortable enough; you don’t look young enough; you have some chronic illness (depression, asthma, diabetes)—but just buy our product and you will be; you won’t be so pathetic, incomplete, and, basically, diminished. If you drink this beer you’ll be happy, have good times, and friends will surround you. If you use this toothpaste, soap, or cosmetic product, you’ll be surrounded by beautiful people and sex will be more available to you. If you drive this car people will turn their heads and be impressed with you. The message is that you don’t measure up now (you’re diminished) but our product will get you there! Just buy it and you’ll be happier, healthier, and more alive.

Perhaps you can see how all this appeals to greed, pride, materialism, worldliness, and puts forth the lie that these things will actually solve our problems (they will not). In fact, appeals like this actually increase our fear of diminishment and death because they feed the notion that we have to measure up to all these false and/or unrealistic standards.

It is my hope that you can see how very deep this drive is and how it enslaves us in countless ways.
This demon (fear of death, of diminishment) has to be named. Once named and brought to the light, we must learn its moves and begin to rebuke it in the name of Jesus. As we start to recognize the thought patterns emerging from this most primal of fears, we can gradually, by God’s grace, replace this distorted thinking with proper, sober, and humble thinking—thinking rooted in God’s love for us and the availability of His grace and mercy.

The text from Hebrews above is very clear to say that this deep and highly negative drive is an essential way in which Satan keeps us in bondage. The same text says that Jesus Christ died to save us and free us from this bondage. Allow the Lord to give you a penetrating and sober vision of this deep drive, this deep fear of diminishment and death. Allow the light of God’s grace and His Word to both expose and heal this deepest of wounds.

Msgr. Charles Pope

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Christ's Passion - John Henry Newman

 

Discourse 16. Mental Sufferings of Our Lord in His Passion Seasons - Holy Week

{323} EVERY passage in the history of our Lord and Saviour is of unfathomable depth, and affords inexhaustible matter of contemplation. All that concerns Him is infinite, and what we first discern is but the surface of that which begins and ends in eternity. It would be presumptuous for any one short of saints and doctors to attempt to comment on His words and deeds, except in the way of meditation; but meditation and mental prayer are so much a duty in all who wish to cherish true faith and love towards Him, that it may be allowed us, my brethren, under the guidance of holy men who have gone before us, to dwell and enlarge upon what otherwise would more fitly be adored than scrutinised. And certain times of the year, this especially [Note], call upon us to consider, as closely and minutely as we can, even the more sacred portions of the Gospel history. I would rather be thought feeble or officious in my treatment of them, than wanting to the Season; and so I now proceed because the religious usage of the Church requires it, {324} and though any individual preacher may well shrink from it, to direct your thoughts to a subject, especially suitable now, and about which many of us perhaps think very little, the sufferings which our Lord endured in His innocent and sinless soul.
You know, my brethren, that our Lord and Saviour, though He was God, was also perfect man; and hence He had not only a body, but a soul likewise, such as ours, though pure from all stain of evil. He did not take a body without a soul, God forbid! for that would not have been to become man. How would He have sanctified our nature by taking a nature which was not ours? Man without a soul is on a level with the beasts of the field; but our Lord came to save a race capable of praising and obeying Him, possessed of immortality, though that immortality had lost its promised blessedness. Man was created in the image of God, and that image is in his soul; when then his Maker, by an unspeakable condescension, came in his nature, He took on Himself a soul in order to take on Him a body; He took on Him a soul as the means of His union with a body; He took on Him in the first place the soul, then the body of man, both at once, but in this order, the soul and the body; He Himself created the soul which He took on Himself, while He took His body from the flesh of the Blessed Virgin, His Mother. Thus He became perfect man with body and soul; and as He took on Him a body of flesh and nerves, which admitted of wounds and death, and was capable of suffering, so did He take a soul, too, which was susceptible of that suffering, and {325} moreover was susceptible of the pain and sorrow which are proper to a human soul; and, as His atoning passion was undergone in the body, so it was undergone in the soul also.
As the solemn days proceed, we shall be especially called on, my brethren, to consider His sufferings in the body, His seizure, His forced journeyings to and fro, His blows and wounds, His scourging, the crown of thorns, the nails, the Cross. They are all summed up in the Crucifix itself, as it meets our eyes; they are represented all at once on His sacred flesh, as it hangs up before us—and meditation is made easy by the spectacle. It is otherwise with the sufferings of His soul; they cannot be painted for us, nor can they even be duly investigated: they are beyond both sense and thought; and yet they anticipated His bodily sufferings. The agony, a pain of the soul, not of the body, was the first act of His tremendous sacrifice; "My soul is sorrowful even unto death," He said; nay; if He suffered in the body, it really was in the soul, for the body did but convey the infliction on to that which was the true recipient and seat of the suffering.
This it is very much to the purpose to insist upon; I say, it was not the body that suffered, but the soul in the body; it was the soul and not the body which was the seat of the suffering of the Eternal Word. Consider, then, there is no real pain, though there may be apparent suffering, when there is no kind of inward sensibility or spirit to be the seat of it. A tree, for instance, has life, organs, growth, and decay; it {326} may be wounded and injured; it droops, and is killed; but it does not suffer, because it has no mind or sensible principle within it. But wherever this gift of an immaterial principle is found, there pain is possible, and greater pain according to the quality of the gift. Had we no spirit of any kind, we should feel as little as a tree feels; had we no soul, we should not feel pain more acutely than a brute feels it; but, being men, we feel pain in a way in which none but those who have souls can feel it.
Living beings, I say, feel more or less according to the spirit which is in them; brutes feel far less than man, because they cannot reflect on what they feel; they have no advertence or direct consciousness of their sufferings. This it is that makes pain so trying, viz., that we cannot help thinking of it, while we suffer it. It is before us, it possesses the mind, it keeps our thoughts fixed upon it. Whatever draws the mind off the thought of it lessens it; hence friends try to amuse us when we are in pain, for amusement is a diversion. If the pain is slight, they sometimes succeed with us; and then we are, so to say, without pain, even while we suffer. And hence it continually happens that in violent exercise or labour, men meet with blows or cuts, so considerable and so durable in their effect, as to bear witness to the suffering which must have attended their infliction, of which nevertheless they recollect nothing. And in quarrels and in battles wounds are received which, from the excitement of the moment, are brought home to the consciousness of the combatant, not by the pain at the {327} time of receiving them, but by the loss of blood that follows.
I will show you presently, my brethren, how I mean to apply what I have said to the consideration of our Lord's sufferings; first I will make another remark. Consider, then, that hardly any one stroke of pain is intolerable; it is intolerable when it continues. You cry out perhaps that you cannot bear more; patients feel as if they could stop the surgeon's hand, simply because he continues to pain them. Their feeling is that they have borne as much as they can bear; as if the continuance and not the intenseness was what made it too much for them. What does this mean, but that the memory of the foregoing moments of pain acts upon and (as it were) edges the pain that succeeds? If the third or fourth or twentieth moment of pain could be taken by itself, if the succession of the moments that preceded it could be forgotten, it would be no more than the first moment, as bearable as the first (taking away the shock which accompanies the first); but what makes it unbearable is, that it is the twentieth; that the first, the second, the third, on to the nineteenth moment of pain, are all concentrated in the twentieth; so that every additional moment of pain has all the force, the ever-increasing force, of all that has preceded it. Hence, I repeat, it is that brute animals would seem to feel so little pain, because, that is, they have not the power of reflection or of consciousness. They do not know they exist; they do not contemplate themselves; they do not look backwards or forwards; every moment as {328} it succeeds is their all; they wander over the face of the earth, and see this thing and that, and feel pleasure and pain, but still they take everything as it comes, and then let it go again, as men do in dreams. They have memory, but not the memory of an intellectual being; they put together nothing, they make nothing properly one and individual to themselves out of the particular sensations which they receive; nothing is to them a reality, or has a substance, beyond those sensations; they are but sensible of a number of successive impressions. And hence, as their other feelings, so their feeling of pain is but faint and dull, in spite of their outward manifestations of it. It is the intellectual comprehension of pain, as a whole diffused through successive moments, which gives it its special power and keenness, and it is the soul only, which a brute has not, which is capable of that comprehension.
Now apply this to the sufferings of our Lord;—do you recollect their offering Him wine mingled with myrrh, when He was on the point of being crucified? He would not drink of it; why? because such a portion would have stupefied His mind, and He was bent on bearing the pain in all its bitterness. You see from this, my brethren, the character of His sufferings; He would have fain escaped them, had that been His Father's will; "If it be possible," He said, "let this chalice pass from Me;" but since it was not possible, He says calmly and decidedly to the Apostle, who would have rescued Him from suffering, "The chalice which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?" If He was to suffer, He gave Himself {329} to suffering; He did not come to suffer as little as He could; He did not turn away His face from the suffering; He confronted it, or, as I may say, He breasted it, that every particular portion of it might make its due impression on Him. And as men are superior to brute animals, and are affected by pain more than they, by reason of the mind within them, which gives a substance to pain, such as it cannot have in the instance of brutes; so, in like manner, our Lord felt pain of the body, with an advertence and a consciousness, and therefore with a keenness and intensity, and with a unity of perception, which none of us can possibly fathom or compass, because His soul was so absolutely in His power, so simply free from the influence of distractions, so fully directed upon the pain, so utterly surrendered, so simply subjected to the suffering. And thus He may truly be said to have suffered the whole of His passion in every moment of it.
Recollect that our Blessed Lord was in this respect different from us, that, though He was perfect man, yet there was a power in Him greater than His soul, which ruled His soul, for He was God. The soul of other men is subjected to its own wishes, feelings, impulses, passions, perturbations; His soul was subjected simply to His Eternal and Divine Personality. Nothing happened to His soul by chance, or on a sudden; He never was taken by surprise; nothing affected Him without His willing beforehand that it should affect Him. Never did He sorrow, or fear, or desire, or rejoice in spirit, but He first willed to be {330} sorrowful, or afraid, or desirous, or joyful. When we suffer, it is because outward agents and the uncontrollable emotions of our minds bring suffering upon us. We are brought under the discipline of pain involuntarily, we suffer from it more or less acutely according to accidental circumstances, we find our patience more or less tried by it according to our state of mind, and we do our best to provide alleviations or remedies of it. We cannot anticipate beforehand how much of it will come upon us, or how far we shall be able to sustain it; nor can we say afterwards why we have felt just what we have felt, or why we did not bear the suffering better. It was otherwise with our Lord. His Divine Person was not subject, could not be exposed, to the influence of His own human affections and feelings, except so far as He chose. I repeat, when He chose to fear, He feared; when He chose to be angry, He was angry; when He chose to grieve, He was grieved. He was not open to emotion, but He opened upon Himself voluntarily the impulse by which He was moved. Consequently, when He determined to suffer the pain of His vicarious passion, whatever He did, He did, as the Wise Man says, instanter, "earnestly," with His might; He did not do it by halves; He did not turn away His mind from the suffering as we do—(how should He, who came to suffer, who could not have suffered but of His own act?) no, He did not say and unsay, do and undo; He said and He did; He said, "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God; sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou fitted to Me". He took a {331} body in order that He might suffer; He became man, that He might suffer as man; and when His hour was come, that hour of Satan and of darkness, the hour when sin was to pour its full malignity upon Him, it followed that He offered Himself wholly, a holocaust, a whole burnt-offering;—as the whole of His body, stretched out upon the Cross, so the whole of His soul, His whole advertence, His whole consciousness, a mind awake, a sense acute, a living cooperation, a present, absolute intention, not a virtual permission, not a heartless submission, this did He present to His tormentors. His passion was an action; He lived most energetically, while He lay languishing, fainting, and dying. Nor did He die, except by an act of the will; for He bowed His head, in command as well as in resignation, and said, "Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit;" He gave the word, He surrendered His soul, He did not lose it.
Thus you see, my brethren, had our Lord only suffered in the body, and in it not so much as other men, still as regards the pain, He would have really suffered indefinitely more, because pain is to be measured by the power of realising it. God was the sufferer; God suffered in His human nature; the sufferings belonged to God, and were drunk up, were drained out to the bottom of the chalice, because God drank them; not tasted or sipped, not flavoured, disguised by human medicaments, as man disposes of the cup of anguish. And what I have been saying will further serve to answer an objection, which I shall proceed to notice, and which perhaps exists latently {332} in the minds of many, and leads them to overlook the part which our Lord's soul had in His gracious satisfaction for sin.
Our Lord said, when His agony was commencing, "My soul is sorrowful unto death"; now you may ask, my brethren, whether He had not certain consolations peculiar to Himself, impossible in any other, which diminished or impeded the distress of His soul, and caused Him to feel, not more, but less than an ordinary man. For instance, He had a sense of innocence which no other sufferer could have; even His persecutors, even the false apostle who betrayed Him, the judge who sentenced Him, and the soldiers who conducted the execution, testified His innocence. "I have condemned the innocent blood," said Judas; "I am clear from the blood of this just Person," said Pilate; "Truly this was a just Man," cried the centurion. And if even they, sinners, bore witness to His sinlessness, how much more did His own soul! And we know well that even in our own case, sinners as we are, on the consciousness of innocence or of guilt mainly turns our power of enduring opposition and calumny; how much more, you will say, in the case of our Lord, did the sense of inward sanctity compensate for the suffering and annihilate the shame! Again, you may say that He knew that His sufferings would be short, and that their issue would be joyful, whereas uncertainty of the future is the keenest element of human distress; but He could not have anxiety, for He was not in suspense; nor despondency or despair, for He never was deserted. {333} And in confirmation you may refer to St. Paul, who expressly tells us that, "for the joy set before Him," our Lord "despised the shame". And certainly there is a marvellous calm and self-possession in all He does: consider His warning to the Apostles, "Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak"; or His words to Judas, "Friend, wherefore art thou come?" and, "Judas, betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?" or to Peter, "All that take the sword shall perish with the sword"; or to the man who struck Him, "If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why smitest thou Me?" or to His Mother, "Woman, behold thy Son".
All this is true and much to be insisted on; but it quite agrees with, or rather illustrates, what I have been observing. My brethren, you have only said (to use a human phrase) that He was always Himself. His mind was its own centre, and was never in the slightest degree thrown off its heavenly and most perfect balance. What He suffered, He suffered because He put Himself under suffering, and that deliberately and calmly. As He said to the leper, "I will, be thou clean"; and to the paralytic, "Thy sins be forgiven thee"; and to the centurion, "I will come and heal him"; and of Lazarus, "I go to wake him out of sleep"; so He said, "Now I will begin to suffer," and He did begin. His composure is but the proof how entirely He governed His own mind. He drew back, at the proper moment, the bolts and fastenings, and opened the gates, and the floods fell right {334} upon His soul in all their fulness. That is what St. Mark tells us of Him; and he is said to have written his Gospels from the very mouth of St. Peter, who was one of three witnesses present at the time. "They came," he says, "to the place which is called Gethsemani; and He saith to His disciples, Sit you here while I pray. And He taketh with Him Peter and James and John, and He began to be frightened and to be very heavy." You see how deliberately He acts; He comes to a certain spot; and then, giving the word of command, and withdrawing the support of the God-head from His soul, distress, terror, and dejection at once rush in upon it. Thus He walks forth into a mental agony with as definite an action as if it were some bodily torture, the fire or the wheel.
This being the case, you will see at once, my brethren, that it is nothing to the purpose to say that He would be supported under His trial by the consciousness of innocence and the anticipation of triumph; for His trial consisted in the withdrawal, as of other causes of consolation, so of that very consciousness and anticipation. The same act of the will which admitted the influence upon His soul of any distress at all, admitted all distresses at once. It was not the contest between antagonist impulses and views, coming from without, but the operation of an inward resolution. As men of self-command can turn from one thought to another at their will, so much more did He deliberately deny Himself the comfort, and satiate Himself with the woe. In that moment His soul thought not of the future, He thought only of the {335} present burden which was upon Him, and which He had come upon earth to sustain.
And now, my brethren, what was it He had to bear, when He thus opened upon His soul the torrent of this predestinated pain? Alas! He had to bear what is well known to us, what is familiar to us, but what to Him was woe unutterable. He had to bear that which is so easy a thing to us, so natural, so welcome, that we cannot conceive of it as of a great endurance, but which to Him had the scent and the poison of death—He had, my dear brethren, to bear the weight of sin; He had to bear your sins; He had to bear the sins of the whole world. Sin is an easy thing to us; we think little of it; we do not understand how the Creator can think much of it; we cannot bring our imagination to believe that it deserves retribution, and, when even in this world punishments follow upon it, we explain them away or turn our minds from them. But consider what sin is in itself; it is rebellion against God; it is a traitor's act who aims at the overthrow and death of His sovereign; it is that, if I may use a strong expression, which, could the Divine Governor of the world cease to be, would be sufficient to bring it about. Sin is the mortal enemy of the All-holy, so that He and it cannot be together; and as the All-holy drives it from His presence into the outer darkness, so, if God could be less than God, it is sin that would have power to make Him less. And here observe, my brethren, that when once Almighty Love, by taking flesh, entered this created system, and submitted Himself to its laws, then forthwith this {336} antagonist of good and truth, taking advantage of the opportunity, flew at that flesh which He had taken, and fixed on it, and was its death. The envy of the Pharisees, the treachery of Judas, and the madness of the people, were but the instrument or the expression of the enmity which sin felt towards Eternal Purity as soon as, in infinite mercy towards men, He put Himself within its reach. Sin could not touch His Divine Majesty; but it could assail Him in that way in which He allowed Himself to be assailed, that is, through the medium of His humanity. And in the issue, in the death of God incarnate, you are but taught, my brethren, what sin is in itself, and what it was which then was falling, in its hour and in its strength, upon His human nature, when He allowed that nature to be so filled with horror and dismay at the very anticipation.
There, then, in that most awful hour, knelt the Saviour of the world, putting off the defences of His divinity, dismissing His reluctant Angels, who in myriads were ready at His call, and opening His arms, baring His breast, sinless as He was, to the assault of His foe,—of a foe whose breath was a pestilence, and whose embrace was an agony. There He knelt, motionless and still, while the vile and horrible fiend clad His spirit in a robe steeped in all that is hateful and heinous in human crime, which clung close round His heart, and filled His conscience, and found its way into every sense and pore of His mind, and spread over Him a moral leprosy, till He almost felt Himself to be that which He never could {337} be, and which His foe would fain have made Him. Oh, the horror, when He looked, and did not know Himself, and felt as a foul and loathsome sinner, from His vivid perception of that mass of corruption which poured over His head and ran down even to the skirts of His garments! Oh, the distraction, when He found His eyes, and hands, and feet, and lips, and heart, as if the members of the Evil One, and not of God! Are these the hands of the Immaculate Lamb of God, once innocent, but now red with ten thousand barbarous deeds of blood? are these His lips, not uttering prayer, and praise, and holy blessings, but as if defiled with oaths, and blasphemies, and doctrines of devils? or His eyes, profaned as they are by all the evil visions and idolatrous fascinations for which men have abandoned their adorable Creator? And His ears, they ring with sounds of revelry and of strife; and His heart is frozen with avarice, and cruelty, and unbelief; and His very memory is laden with every sin which has been committed since the fall, in all regions of the earth, with the pride of the old giants, and the lusts of the five cities, and the obduracy of Egypt, and the ambition of Babel, and the unthankfulness and scorn of Israel. Oh, who does not know the misery of a haunting thought which comes again and again, in spite of rejection, to annoy, if it cannot seduce? or of some odious and sickening imagination, in no sense one's own, but forced upon the mind from without? or of evil knowledge, gained with or without a man's fault, but which he would give a great price to be rid of at once and for ever? And adversaries such as {338} these gather around Thee, Blessed Lord, in millions now; they come in troops more numerous than the locust or the palmer-worm, or the plagues of hail, and flies, and frogs, which were sent against Pharaoh. Of the living and of the dead and of the as yet unborn, of the lost and of the saved, of Thy people and of strangers, of sinners and of saints, all sins are there. Thy dearest are there, Thy saints and Thy chosen are upon Thee; Thy three Apostles, Peter, James, and John; but not as comforters, but as accusers, like the friends of Job, "sprinkling dust towards heaven," and heaping curses on Thy head. All are there but one; one only is not there, one only; for she who had no part in sin, she only could console Thee, and therefore she is not nigh. She will be near Thee on the Cross, she is separated from Thee in the garden. She has been Thy companion and Thy confidant through Thy life, she interchanged with Thee the pure thoughts and holy meditations of thirty years; but her virgin ear may not take in, nor may her immaculate heart conceive, what now is in vision before Thee. None was equal to the weight but God; sometimes before Thy saints Thou hast brought the image of a single sin, as it appears in the light of Thy countenance, or of venial sins, not mortal; and they have told us that the sight did all but kill them, nay, would have killed them, had it not been instantly withdrawn. The Mother of God, for all her sanctity, nay by reason of it, could not have borne even one brood of that innumerable progeny of Satan which now compasses Thee about. It is the long history of a world, and God {339} alone can bear the load of it. Hopes blighted, vows broken, lights quenched, warnings scorned, opportunities lost; the innocent betrayed, the young hardened, the penitent relapsing, the just overcome, the aged failing; the sophistry of misbelief, the wilfulness of passion, the obduracy of pride, the tyranny of habit, the canker of remorse, the wasting fever of care, the anguish of shame, the pining of disappointment, the sickness of despair; such cruel, such pitiable spectacles, such heartrending, revolting, detestable, maddening scenes; nay, the haggard faces, the convulsed lips, the flushed cheek, the dark brow of the willing slaves of evil, they are all before Him now; they are upon Him and in Him. They are with Him instead of that ineffable peace which has inhabited His soul since the moment of His conception. They are upon Him, they are all but His own; He cries to His Father as if He were the criminal, not the victim; His agony takes the form of guilt and compunction. He is doing penance, He is making confession, He is exercising contrition, with a reality and a virtue infinitely greater than that of all saints and penitents together; for He is the One Victim for us all, the sole Satisfaction, the real Penitent, all but the real sinner.
He rises languidly from the earth, and turns around to meet the traitor and his band, now quickly nearing the deep shade. He turns, and lo there is blood upon His garment and in His footprints. Whence come these first-fruits of the passion of the Lamb? no soldier's scourge has touched His shoulders, nor {340} the hangman's nails His hands and feet. My brethren, He has bled before His time; He has shed blood; yes, and it is His agonising soul which has broken up His framework of flesh and poured it forth. His passion has begun from within. That tormented Heart, the seat of tenderness and love, began at length to labour and to beat with vehemence beyond its nature; "the foundations of the great deep were broken up;" the red streams rushed forth so copious and fierce as to overflow the veins, and bursting through the pores, they stood in a thick dew over His whole skin; then forming into drops, they rolled down full and heavy, and drenched the ground.
"My soul is sorrowful even unto death," He said. It has been said of that dreadful pestilence which now is upon us, that it begins with death; by which is meant that it has no stage or crisis, that hope is over when it comes, and that what looks like its course is but the death agony and the process of dissolution; and thus our Atoning Sacrifice, in a much higher sense, began with this passion of woe, and only did not die, because at His Omnipotent will His Heart did not break, nor Soul separate from Body, till He had suffered on the Cross.
No; He has not yet exhausted that full chalice, from which at first His natural infirmity shrank. The seizure and the arraignment, and the buffeting, and the prison, and the trial, and the mocking, and the passing to and fro, and the scourging, and the crown of thorns, and the slow march to Calvary, and the crucifixion, these are all to come. A night and a {341} day, hour after hour, is slowly to run out before the end comes, and the satisfaction is completed.
And then, when the appointed moment arrived, and He gave the word, as His passion had begun with His soul, with the soul did it end. He did not die of bodily exhaustion, or of bodily pain; at His will His tormented Heart broke, and He commended His Spirit to the Father.
*       *        *        *        *        *
"O Heart of Jesus, all Love, I offer Thee these humble prayers for myself, and for all those who unite themselves with me in Spirit to adore Thee. O holiest Heart of Jesus most lovely, I intend to renew and to offer to Thee these acts of adoration and these prayers, for myself a wretched sinner, and for all those who are associated with me in Thy adoration, through all moments while I breathe, even to the end of my life. I recommend to Thee, O my Jesus, Holy Church, Thy dear spouse and our true Mother, all just souls and all poor sinners, the afflicted, the dying, and all mankind. Let not Thy Blood be shed for them in vain. Finally, deign to apply it in relief of the souls in Purgatory, of those in particular who have practised in the course of their life this holy devotion of adoring Thee."

 http://www.newmanreader.org/works/discourses/discourse16.html

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

I Thirst for You

In recent weeks, the Holy See announced that Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta would be canonized a saint. It seems so appropriate during this Year of Mercy since she was so effective at communicating to so many that God’s merciful love extended to every person no matter what their situation or condition. The following well-known text is inspired from her many talks and conferences. In this Year of Mercy, we are all invited to meditate upon the abundant riches of the merciful healing love of Jesus. Pray with this text – may you receive ever more deeply that transformative gift of His love in the measure that the Lord longs to give it.

It is true. I stand at the door of your heart, day and night. Even when you are not listening, even when you doubt it could be Me, I am there. I await even the smallest sign of your response, even the least whispered invitation that will allow Me to enter.

And I want you to know that whenever you invite Me, I do come – always, without fail. Silent and unseen I come, but with infinite power and love, and bringing the many gifts of My Spirit. I come with My mercy, with My desire to forgive and heal you, and with a love for you beyond your comprehension – a love every bit as great as the love I have received from the Father ("As much as the Father has loved me, I have loved you…" (Jn. 15:10) I come - longing to console you and give you strength, to lift you up and bind all your wounds. I bring you My light, to dispel your darkness and all your doubts. I come with My power, that I might carry you and all your burdens; with My grace, to touch your heart and transform your life; and My peace I give to still your soul.

I know you through and through. I know everything about you. The very hairs of your head I have numbered. Nothing in your life is unimportant to Me. I have followed you through the years, and I have always loved you – even in your wanderings. I know every one of your problems. I know your needs and your worries. And yes, I know all your sins. But I tell you again that I love you – not for what you have or haven’t done – I love you for you, for the beauty and dignity My Father gave you by creating you in His own image. It is a dignity you have often forgotten, a beauty you have tarnished by sin. But I love you as you are, and I have shed My Blood to win you back. If you only ask Me with faith, My grace will touch all that needs changing in your life, and I will give you the strength to free yourself from sin and all its destructive power.

I know what is in your heart – I know your loneliness and all your hurts – the rejections, the judgments, the humiliations, I carried it all before you. And I carried it all for you, so you might share My strength and victory. I know especially your need for love – how you are thirsting to be loved and cherished. But how often have you thirsted in vain, by seeking that love selfishly, striving to fill the emptiness inside you with passing pleasures – with the even greater emptiness of sin. Do you thirst for love? "Come to Me all you who thirst…" 
(Jn. 7: 37). I will satisfy you and fill you. Do you thirst to be cherished? I cherish you more than you can imagine – to the point of dying on a cross for you.

I THIRST FOR YOU. Yes, that is the only way to even begin to describe My love for you. I THIRST FOR YOU. I thirst to love you and to be loved by you – that is how precious you are to Me. 

I THIRST FOR YOU. Come to Me, and I will fill your heart and heal your wounds. I will make you a new creation, and give you peace, even in all your trials I THIRST FOR YOU. You must never doubt My mercy, My acceptance of you, My desire to forgive, My longing to bless you and live My life in you. I THIRST FOR YOU. If you feel unimportant in the eyes of the world, that matters not at all. For Me, there is no one any more important in the entire world than you. 

I THIRST FOR YOU. Open to Me, come to Me, thirst for Me, give me your life – and I will prove to you how important you are to My Heart. Don’t you realize that My Father already has a perfect plan to transform your life, beginning from this moment? Trust in Me. Ask Me every day to enter and take charge of your life. – and I will. I promise you before My Father in heaven that I will work miracles in your life. Why would I do this? Because I THIRST FOR YOU. All I ask of you is that you entrust yourself to Me completely. I will do all the rest.

Even now I behold the place My Father has prepared for you in My Kingdom. Remember that you are a pilgrim in this life, on a journey home. Sin can never satisfy you, or bring the peace you seek. All that you have sought outside of Me has only left you more empty, so do not cling to the things of this life. Above all, do not run from Me when you fall. Come to Me without delay. When you give Me your sins, you gave Me the joy of being your Savior. There is nothing I cannot forgive and heal; so come now, and unburden your soul. No matter how far you may wander, no matter how often you forget Me, no matter how many crosses you may bear in this life; there is one thing I want you to always remember, one thing that will never change. 

I THIRST FOR YOU – just as you are. You don’t need to change to believe in My love, for it will be your belief in My love that will change you. You forget Me, and yet I am seeking you every moment of the day – standing at the door of your heart and knocking. Do you find this hard to believe? Then look at the cross, look at My Heart that was pierced for you. Have you not understood My cross? Then listen again to the words I spoke there – for they tell you clearly why I endured all this for you: "I THIRST…"(Jn 19: 28). Yes, I thirst for you – as the rest of the psalm – verse I was praying says of Me: "I looked for love, and I found none…" (Ps. 69: 20). All your life I have been looking for your love – I have never stopped seeking to love you and be loved by you. You have tried many other things in your search for happiness; why not try opening your heart to Me, right now, more than you ever have before.

Whenever you do open the door of your heart, whenever you come close enough, you will hear Me say to you again and again, not in mere human words but in spirit. "No matter what you have done, I love you for your own sake Come to Me with your misery and your sins, with your troubles and needs, and with all your longing to be loved. I stand at the door of your heart and knock. Open to Me, for I THIRST FOR YOU…"


Accessed Jan. 13, 2016 at http://mcpriests.com/03_I_thirst_PrayerEN.htm