Spiritual Reflections

Great homily on our veterans

It is so rare that we hear our veterans praised in glowing terms from the pulpit. So when it happens, it’s worth recognizing and drawing to people’s attention.

Some background:

On Sunday, November 12, I went to St. Maron Church in South Philly because they had the relics of St. Maron, the founder of not only the Maronite Order but the Maronite rite within the Catholic Church. It has produced other great saints such as St. Rafka and St. Charbel (aka, Sharbel) Mahklouf, to whom I devoted a chapter in my first book.

I recorded the homily because I thought Fr. Vincent Farhat, the pastor, might mention St. Maron, which I could then use in some form (article, blog post, etc.).

Instead he took me by surprise with a sermon exclusively dedicated to why our veterans are a force for good and for God.

I’ve heard homilies that mention vets before. I’ve heard perfunctory thanks from the pulpit in the past. This was the first time I’d ever encountered such a full-throated appreciation of our vets and what they give to us.

With Father’s graceful permission, I transcribed the homily and present it here for your consideration.

Praise be to God for our veterans! Thank you all, not only for your service, but the sacrifice(s) that service has entailed throughout the years. God bless you each and every one.

(NB: The Gospel passage in the Maronite rite for the day came from John 10:22-39.) Continue reading

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Saints Stories

Today’s Memorial: St. Benno of Meissen

St. Benno of Meissen
Memorial: June 16

Today we remember the august German bishop, St. Benno. Like St. Thomas More and many other figures throughout Church history, he is a great example of a Catholic defending the Church’s prerogatives against their usurpation by the State.

Benno (c. 1010 – June 16, 1106, made bishop of Meissen, Germany, ca. 1066) was a nobleman who was faithful to the Church at a time that Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV (1050-1106) was trying to make her subservient to the State. Henry had gone so far as to storm Rome in 1083 and take possession of the Basilica of San Pietro in Vaticano (St. Peter’s).

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Like St. John Cardinal Fisher with Henry VIII of England, Benno refused to go along with the imperial plan to bring the Church to heel. Indeed, he had long opposed Henry on any number of occasions. For instance he supported the Saxon nobility in their 1073-75 revolt against Henry. (See more here.)

Subsequently, when another German, Pope St. Gregory VII excommunicated the emperor, Henry rode to Benno’s cathedral at Meissen and demanded entrance, where he expected to receive the Eucharist.

Benno knew his only hope at thwarting His Majesty’s plans was to lock up the place and throw the keys into the River Elbe. The emperor was furious, but realizing he was foiled, rode off.

The question now for Benno was how would he get back inside? After praying long and hard, he told a fisherman to cast out his net to the spot where he had thrown the key. A fish was caught and the key found inside its belly.

St. Benno of Meissen, pray for us!

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News About Saints

New Sainthood Causes Decrees for June 2016

VATICAN CITY – On June 14, Pope Francis received Cardinal Angelo Amato, sdb, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in a private audience. In the course of the audience, the Holy Father authorized the Congregation to promulgate decrees regarding:

the martyrdom of the Servants of God JOSÉ ÁLVAREZ-BENAVIDES DE LA TORRE, priest of the diocese of Almería, and 114 COMPANIONS, priests. consecrated persons and laypersons killed in odium fidei between 1936 and 1939 in the religious persecution during the Spanish Civil War;

the heroic virtues of the Servant of God ANTONÍN CYRIL STOJAN, archbishop of Olomouc; born on 22 May 1851 in Beňov, Přerov (Czech Republic) and died on 29 September 1923 in Olomouc (Czech Republic);

the heroic virtues of the Servant of God VICENTE GARRIDO PASTOR, priest of the archdiocese of Valencia and founder of the Secular Institute of the Workers of the Cross; born on 12 November 1896 in Valencia (Spain) and died there on 16 April 1975;

the heroic virtues of the Servant of God JOSÉ BARDOMIANO DE JESÚS GUZMÁN FIGUEROA (in religion: PABLO MARÍA), professed priest of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit and founder of the Eucharistic Missionaries of the Most Holy Trinity ; born on 25 September 1897 in Cuanamuco, Moroléon, Guanajuato (Mexico) and died on 17 February 1967 in Mexico City (Mexico);

the heroic virtues of the Servant of God FILIPPO LO VERDE (in religion: LUIGI), professed cleric of the Order of Friars Minor Conventuals; born on 20 December 1910 in Tebourba, Aryanah (Tunisia) and died on 12 February 1932 in Palermo (Italy);

the heroic virtues of the Servant of God BERNARDO VAZ LOBO TEIXEIRA DE VASCONCELOS (in religion: BERNARDO OF THE ANNUNCIATION), professed cleric of the Order of Saint Benedict (Annunciation Congregation); born on 07 July 1902 in São Romão do Corgo, Braga (Portugal) and died on 04 July 1932 in Foz do Douro, Porto (Portugal);

the heroic virtues of the Servant of God JOSEFA OLIVER MOLINA (in religion: MARÍA ELISEA), founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Virgin of Mount Carmel; born on 09 July 1869 in Benidoleig, Alicante (Spain) and died on 17 December 1931 in Orihuela, Alicante (Spain); and,

the heroic virtues of the Servant of God MARÍA DE JESÚS GUÍZAR BARRAGÁN (in religion: MARÍA OF THE MERCIFUL LOVE OF JESUS), founder of the Guadalupan Handmaids of Christ the Priest; born on 11 November 1899 in Cotija, Michoacan (Mexico) and died on 06 January 1973 in Tulpetlac, Estado de México (Mexico) .

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This and That, Uncategorized

Why Young Adult Catholics Aren’t With It (i.e., the Church)

I’m doing an article on a local young adult group. In researching my article, I came upon an article reviewing a book I possess but which I haven’t finished. Hoping I could get some useful facts from the book via this review, I read it. It’s from Commonweal, a well-known liberal Catholic organ.

The article’s author starts off saying nothing with which I wouldn’t agree (more or less, as you’ll see):

Only 7 percent of these young adults who might have turned out Catholic can be called “practicing” Catholics—if “practicing” is tightly defined as attending Mass weekly, saying that faith is extremely or very important, and praying at least a few times a week. [Uhm, how else would we define it, sir? To “practice” something, you have to be its practitioner. I can’t call myself a practicing golfer when I get out and hit a bucket of balls once every three years … at best.] About 27 percent are at the other end of the spectrum, classified as “disengaged,” meaning that they never attend Mass and feel religion is unimportant. In between these two poles is a complex landscape of the marginally attached—perhaps willing to identify themselves as Catholic, attending Mass sporadically at best, and in general living life with their Catholic identity as a more dormant, if not entirely irrelevant, force.

Perhaps the most depressing chapter is one where we hear not numbers like these, but the actual words of some of these younger should-be Catholics, a small sample of whom the authors interviewed in 2008. Most were “out,” considering themselves estranged from the church or no longer Catholic, and only twelve met an expansive definition of “active.” For everyone, active and not, “church” seems associated primarily with morals [If Jesus didn’t care about “morals,” by which I’m gonna go out on a limb and assume he means sexual morals (in my experience, it’s a safe bet), then why did He talk in the Gospels about sex outside of marriage (i.e., “fornication”) as being something that pollutes us and as something that keeps us out of heaven? (cf. Matthew 15:19; Mark 7:21; Revelation 21:8, 22:15) If we look at someone with lust in our heart, we commit adultery. If we are aggressively angry with someone, we’re guilty of their murder. Same if we call them “fool/raka,” which also makes us “liable to hellfire.” Jesus does nothing but talk about morals.] and obligatory Mass attendance rather than anything that sounds like Jesus and the Gospel. [It’s “obligatory” because, well, there’s that pesky, darn Third Commandment, doncha know — “Thou shalt keep the Sabbath day holy” — which requires Mass attendance (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 2168-2183). And didn’t Jesus say in at least one Gospel if not more than one that we have to keep the Commandments?] More disturbingly, their vague priorities of “being a better person” don’t seem likely to generate much of a desire for deeper answers to life’s questions, at least in the short run. [Pardon me for the question, sir, but isn’t that the whole bent of post-Conciliar catechesis, that Jesus loves us as we are, that we just have to try to be a better people, that concern over the deeper meanings to life’s questions is really just the purview of those “obsessed” with dogmas and doctrines? Just sayin’.] “It’s just easier not to follow a religion, is what it comes down to,” says a typical young adult—and even though I feel that way some of the time myself, it’s hard not to agree with the authors’ sense that this is a generation largely lost to what we oldsters think of as Catholic identity.

But then the piece’s author shows himself to be a typical smug liberal (don’t take it from me; take it from The New York Times‘ own liberal commentator Nicholas Kristof). The author writes of those “naïvely assuming that our crisis of membership and allegiance is primarily a failure of ardor in education and explanation.” [Smug, smug, smug, smug, smug.]

It seems to be an appealing idea to some that our bishops could have prevented the collapse of Catholic culture in the 1960s if only they had preached doctrine and Catholic obligations more heroically. [No. Really, it’s if they — and their priests and those priests’ catechists — had done so with any real conviction at all and not given us The Green Bay Catechism- and The Dutch Catechism-inspired garbage. For my First Communion, I heard nothing of Transubstantiation. I did, however, make some really nice felt banners.] However, from my years in business, I can tell you there are few sadder phenomena than a company that thinks its failed product could surely have been successful if only customers could have had its greatness fully explained to them.”

If a tree falls in a forest 

Again, this assumes that people have had it explained to them at all.

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Take for instance Mozart’s Requiem. I think it is the most perfect piece of music ever composed (and I’m a post-Beatles era 40-something).

I would never expect anyone to agree with me if:

a) no one had heard this piece exists;
b) had never had it described to; and
c) had never heard it and been shown it in all its beauty and grandeur, much less “fully explained to them.”

Let’s talk about sex, bay-bee

Take sexual issues, much less other doctrines (Transubstantiation, the Virgin birth, Mary’s perpetual virginity, etc.).

I’ve had confessors wink-wink/nudge-nudge at me in the confessional  when I confessed such peccadilloes in my own young adult years.

I remember once, I confessed two sins, one sexual and the other of anger. The confessor got purple with me of the sin of anger. Picture being royally castigated by someone whose voice sounded like Droopy Dog with an Irish lilt to his voice.

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“OK, Father, duly noted, but what about the other one?”

“Oh, yes, well, don’t worry about that too much. Try to do better, if you think you must.”

In confirmation and as a teenager, no one explained Humanae Vitae (click here for a summary; here for the short encyclical itself), much less the Theology of the Body, much less the glory of the Church’s other teachings in this realm. I didn’t even know HV existed until I was in my late 20s. When I discovered it, I thought, ‘Why was this hidden from me? It would have answered a lot of questions.’

Nike ain’t the only one sayin’ it, kna’m’sayin’, G?

So when the rest of the culture is telling you, “Just do it, especially if it feels good” (and what feels “gooder” than sex?), and most people — even Catholics loyal to the Magisterium — can muster nothing better than, “Well, the Church says it’s sinful … but we can’t really tell you why,” to expect a different result from today’s young adult is idiotic.

The problem with the publisher/author of this piece and the rest of the Commonweal crowd is this: Far from promoting a better understanding of the Church’s teachings and letting people accept or reject them on their merit without need of the typical liberal colorization, they feed into the culture’s rejection of these teachings.

They actually encourage dissent from them. They effectively say, “We have deemed the Church stupid and wrong in these areas. Therefore our young must think this way, as well, and we will do whatever is in our power to ensure they do.”

Then when the young do what the Commonweal crowd wants and rejects these doctrines — without ever knowing just what they’re rejecting in the first place — the Crowd points its long, accusing finger and says to the Church hierarchy, “See?! We told you this would happen! It’s because of these stupid ‘dogmas’ upon which you insist that they’re leaving. You must jettison them if you have any hope of getting them back.”

Or as the author puts it, stop making so many “doctrinal and moral pronouncements.” That, he averts, is the best place to start.

There be the door

There is a perfect Communion for people like the author and his sympathetic readers who believe this: Anglicanism. Or the Old Catholic Church. Or the so-called American Catholic Church.

Really, why union with Rome? You’ve already rejected so much of what is in the Catechism in your heart (even if you haven’t had the courage of your convictions to say so publicly). So why not just swim the Tiber in the direction away from the Vatican and find a home where you’re content and just leave the rest of us who do agree whole hog with the Church’s teachings in peace? You’d be happier. We’d be happier. Let’s all just be happier.

Otherwise stop being such obvious tools of the devil (I don’t say this lightly but from careful observation of history). For if you want to know why these young adults have left the Church, do your fair share of looking in the mirror. Realize that the finger you’re pointing is often pointing right back at you. (I realize this advice applies to me, as well, but I’m not the one in full-throated dissent.)

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News About Saints, Saints Stories

“Let us work, my daughters, we shall rest in heaven!”

Marie-Léonie Paradis

Memorial: May 3

Today we remember an indefatigable worker in the Lord’s vineyard, a Canadian foundress of a religious order, Bl. Marie-Léonie Paradis.

Born Alodie-Virginie Paradis in L’Acadie, Quebec on May 12, 1840, she came from a distinguished Catholic family, descended from a clan that had given the Church several bishops, including an archbishop of Quebec.

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“Élodie,” as her family called her, was homeschooled until age nine, which is when her parents sent her to the boarding school run by the Notre-Dame Sisters. Although the Sisters were quite kind to her, she was often miserably homesick. It was here that she received her First Holy Communion and Confirmation in 1849 and 1850, respectively. Continue reading

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