Saturday, October 22, 2016

Good from Evil and Suffering

St. John Paul II

Believers know that the presence of evil is always accompanied by the presence of good, by grace….

Redemption is ongoing.  Where evil grows, there the hope for good also grows.  In our times evil has grown disproportionately, operating through perverted systems that have practiced violence and elimination on a vast scale.  I am not speaking here of evil committed by individuals for personal motives or through individual initiatives.  The evil of the 20th century was not a small-scale evil; it was not simply “homemade.”  It was an evil of gigantic proportions, an evil which availed itself of state structures in order to accomplish its wicked work, an evil build up into a system.

At the same time, however, divine grace has been superabundantly revealed.  There is no evil from which God cannot draw forth a greater good.  There is no suffering which he cannot transform into a path leading to him.  Offering himself freely in his Passion and Death on the cross, the Son of God took upon himself all the evil of sin.  The suffering of the crucified God is not just one form of suffering alongside others, not just another more or less painful ordeal; it is an unequaled suffering.  In sacrificing himself for us all, Christ gave a new meaning to suffering, opening up a new dimension, a new order: the order of love.  It is true that suffering entered human history with original sin.  Sin is that “sting” which inflicts pain, wounding man mortally.  Yet the Passion of Christ on the cross gave a radically new meaning to suffering, transforming it from within.  It introduced into human history, which is the history of sin, a blameless suffering accepted purely for love.  This suffering opens the door to the hope of liberation, hope for the definitive elimination of that “sting,” which is tearing humanity apart.  It is this suffering which burns and consumes evil with the flame of love and draws forth even from sin a great flowering of good.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Without God Man Builds a Hell on Earth

Cardinal Robert Sarah

A Godless society, which considers any spiritual questions a dead letter, masks the emptiness of its materialism by killing time so as better to forget eternity.  The farther material things extend their influence, the more man takes pleasure in sophisticated, narcissistic, and perverse amusements; the more man forgets God, the more he observes himself.  In looking at himself, he sees the deformations and the ugliness that his debauchery has encrusted on his face.   Then, to delude himself that he still shines with the original splendor of a creature of God, he puts on his make-up.  But the hidden evil is like the glowing coal beneath the ashes.

Without God, man builds his hell on earth.  Amusements and pleasures can become a true scourge for the soul when it sinks into pornography, drugs, violence, and all sorts of perversions.

There is great sadness in claiming to indulge in limitless pleasures, whereas the most beautiful joy is to remain simply with God, allowing him to clothe us in light and purity….

The man who ignores God and turns his instincts into godlike standards for all things is headed for destruction.  Today we are confronted with one of the last stages of the civilization of diversion.  The alternative is simple: if mankind reforms, it will live, but if its headlong flight persists, civilization will become a hell.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Religious Liberty Under Attack—Concrete Examples

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Is our most cherished freedom truly under threat? Sadly, it is. This is not a theological or legal dispute without real world consequences. Consider the following:
§  HHS mandate for contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs. The mandate of the Department of Health and Human Services has received wide attention and has been met with our vigorous and united opposition. In an unprecedented way, the federal government will both force religious institutions to facilitate and fund a product contrary to their own moral teaching and purport to define which religious institutions are "religious enough" to merit protection of their religious liberty. These features of the "preventive services" mandate amount to an unjust law. As Archbishop-designate William Lori of Baltimore, Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, testified to Congress: "This is not a matter of whether contraception may be prohibited by the government. This is not even a matter of whether contraception may besupported by the government. Instead, it is a matter of whether religious people and institutions may be forced by the government to provide coverage for contraception or sterilization, even if that violates their religious beliefs."3

§  Altering Church structure and governance. In 2009, the Judiciary Committee of the Connecticut Legislature proposed a bill that would have forced Catholic parishes to be restructured according to a congregational model, recalling the trusteeism controversy of the early nineteenth century, and prefiguring the federal government's attempts to redefine for the Church "religious minister" and "religious employer" in the years since.
§  Christian students on campus.In its over-100-year history, the University of California Hastings College of Law has denied student organization status to only one group, the Christian Legal Society, because it required its leaders to be Christian and to abstain from sexual activity outside of marriage.
§  Catholic foster care and adoption services. Boston, San Francisco, the District of Columbia, and the state of Illinois have driven local Catholic Charities out of the business of providing adoption or foster care services—by revoking their licenses, by ending their government contracts, or both—because those Charities refused to place children with same-sex couples or unmarried opposite-sex couples who cohabit.
§  Discrimination against small church congregations. New York City enacted a rule that barred the Bronx Household of Faith and sixty other churches from renting public schools on weekends for worship services even though non-religious groups could rent the same schools for scores of other uses. While this would not frequently affect Catholic parishes, which generally own their own buildings, it would be devastating to many smaller congregations. It is a simple case of discrimination against religious believers.

§  Discrimination against Catholic humanitarian services. Notwithstanding years of excellent performance by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Migration and Refugee Services in administering contract services for victims of human trafficking, the federal government changed its contract specifications to require us to provide or refer for contraceptive and abortion services in violation of Catholic teaching. Religious institutions should not be disqualified from a government contract based on religious belief, and they do not somehow lose their religious identity or liberty upon entering such contracts. And yet a federal court in Massachusetts, turning religious liberty on its head, has since declared that such a disqualification is required by the First Amendment—that the government somehow violates religious liberty by allowing Catholic organizations to participate in contracts in a manner consistent with their beliefs on contraception and abortion.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Presidential Election--A Lay Catholic's Call to Action

Tom Frederick, Pro-life Advocate

Do we have the epic battle between good and evil playing out on the U.S. Stage? How about we call it the SIN vs VIRTUE battle? That brings it a little closer to home if one really thinks about it. There is also a biblical element to the election and I would posit it may be more important than the political element with the choices we make.

As the world enters a very dark time, I’ve been told to stay close to the Church (a.k.a. the teachings) and close to the sacraments. That will help us with the introspection we all need to undergo during the darkness, the darkness that is revisiting us from centuries ago. The Light will come in due time and our HOPE must rely upon it.

So, let’s look at the presidential candidates with the above in mind.

Only the pro-abortion cohorts, big government advocates, Alinskyites, government dependents, homosexual activists of all stripes, illegal immigrants having been given illegal status, Marxists, Communists and atheists are happy with their candidate for the presidency. The rest of us find the two candidates way below our “comfort level,” as if comfort should be the defining method of how we vote.

To us practicing Catholics, the Church gives us guidelines on how to vote. Our Church teaches that there are “5 non-negotiable” issues to guide us in voting for a candidate: abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, cloning and same-sex “marriage.” These are not political issues, rather they are moral issues at the core of our Catholic faith. All of these issues are intrinsically evil because they are attacks on life and without support for life all other issues are mute. They have the highest hierarchical value assigned to them by the Catholic Church. If a candidate supports any individual issue or all of these issues, we cannot vote for that candidate by virtue of Church teaching. If we cast that aside and vote anyway for this candidate then one commits the capital sin of Pride. For others, an excuse like “I didn’t know”, or “our priest didn’t tell me” or “the other issues of importance are more important to me” is a matter of supine ignorance because the Church for years has been telling Catholics why these excuses are not valid. That person commits the capital sin of Sloth. These sets of persons will have to answer to God.

There is one candidate and party platform that supports all of these intrinsically evil issues, not to also mention those issues of a lessor hierarchical moral value to Catholics. Enough said for this candidate. Disqualified. The Church makes this easy for Catholics.

While claiming to be a pro-life convert, the other candidate has so many flaws and horrible adjectives thrown at him that one can’t keep track--the latest of which surfaced days ago and the most damaging. Calls to resign his candidacy are coming from all directions. Do we possibly have Biblical theater here? I say we do and, not surprisingly, we are all part of the cast.

Recall in John’s Gospel, Chapter 8, regarding the woman caught in adultery. When questioned about stoning her Jesus said, ‘“Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And millions sit here with self-righteousness while jumping on the pile pummeling this candidate. Where is our own introspection? What would it be like if our past and present sins were made public to millions of individuals? Why is this not the perfect time for the Church through its individual bishops and priests to call all of us to account for our sins using this candidate as an example standing before Christ awaiting stoning. How can we cast the first stone, including our prelates and clergy? 64 million abortions by women with men coercing them, millions of divorces, contraception, murders, rampant pornography destroying the family, infidelities, homosexual unions, the downward cascade of church attendance, lack of catechization,  no concept or reality of sin--and on and on it goes....

When we pray the rosary, the second of the first three beads is a Hail Mary for the gift of HOPE. So where is our hope? Could it be possible that God has his eye on this mightily flawed person and candidate? Who knows? The play is not over yet. But let’s take a look at history.

With his wife in advanced years, Abraham did not believe God that he would have heirs so he took it into his own hands and had relations with his wife’s maid and she bore a son, Ishmael, who became a violent, evil man. Regardless, God stuck with His choice and Abraham became the “father of all peoples.” Call it God’s unbounding mercy and love for us.

Moving on to Moses, he complained of being incapable of leading the Israelites out of Egypt for he felt he had no skills to do so (being a stutterer). He also was a murderer. His shortcomings would have been known to the people. If we lived in that encampment, would we believe this to be a good choice by God to lead us?

And what about David? A womanizer has an affair with a beautiful woman; she becomes pregnant, and he kills her husband to cover it up. A little similarity here? If we lived at the time, what would we think of God’s choice? From David we have the Psalms and the Messiah.

Moving to the New Testament, there is Peter, a simple fisherman. He runs away, denies Christ three times, and yet winds up the first Pope, crucified upside down.

Oh, and Paul, a persecutor responsible for beatings, stonings and death sentences against Christians, including St. Stephen.   Yet he converted after being knocked off his horse to become a humble, fiery evangelist to the Gentiles. Who would have thought?

And the Apostle Matthew--a tax collector by trade and by association known to be a cheater chosen by Jesus to be an Apostle.

And consider the many saints down through the ages who have lived checkered lives before their conversions. Could we begin with St. Augustine, a doctor of the Church?

So, you get the point: My only hope is to vote for this flawed candidate and see what happens. We deserve the choices we have. Our country deserves it. We’ve sat for years on the bench as Catholic laity and clergy, for the most part not voting our faith, not being pro-active in the public square with our significant multitude to change this culture and politic. 70 million Catholics vote no different than the population at large. Why? We need to put that in our introspection bucket while suffering in these coming dark times.

There is another angle to consider that involves us. Despite the critical nature of this election regarding our nation’s future, many want nothing to do with any discussion from the pulpit having to do with politics. Why not? The bible, the Word of God, is also a political book with example after example. There was politics even among the apostles. Recall the request to sit at Jesus’ right hand in paradise. How about the politics among the scribes and Pharisees. And Pilot, a politician of the first order, preventing an uprising that would get back to Caesar jeopardizing his career by allowing the Jews to crucify Jesus.

Aristotle calls the human person a political being by nature.  What are the implications of this?  What are the implications of denying some people their political nature?

Priests and bishops are reluctant to talk about politics because it might affect the collection. Some don’t pay attention to the hierarchy of moral values. Others claim they would lose their non-taxable status if they speak out to the dismay of many of us. There is no record of this anywhere.

So, we hang on, hoping for the day the Light will come.  PRAY!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Lawrence of Brindisi (1559-1619)

Fr. John J. Pasquini, Th.D.

Known as the “little angel” from his childhood, Lawrence would become known as the “Apostolic Doctor” of the Catholic Church. He is often referred to as a “second St. Paul” or “an incarnation of the apostles” because of his zeal for the faith and his many accomplishments.

Lawrence of Brindisi was a man of many careers.  He was a professor of dogmatic theology and Scripture, a master of novices, a spiritual director, a preacher, diplomat, confidant, military chaplain, vicar general, definitor general, vicar provincial, commissary general, and miracle worker. 

Born on July 22, 1559 at Brindisi, Italy.  Lawrence’s father died when he was seven and his mother died when he was in his teens.  Having lost both parents, Lawrence went to live with his priest-uncle in Venice, where he attended school. 

In 1575 Lawrence joined the Franciscan Capuchins at Verona. He studied philosophy at Padua and theology at Venice.  He was ordained a priest in 1582.

Between 1599 and 1613 Lawrence aimed his attention at combatting the errors of Lutheranism and Hussitism.  Being a master of languages (Hebrew, Chaldean, Syriac, Greek, Latin, German, Bohemian, French, Spanish and Italian) Lawrence reached a vast audience.  He wrote extensively, including over 800 sermons, the Mariale, the Explanation of Genesis, and the Image of Luther.  His Mariale is considered the most complete doctrinal explanation of Marian theology.

In response to Protestantism, Lawrence explicated the always held beliefs of Christianity, and how they were Catholic.  He was able to show how Protestantism was an innovation and foreign to the teachings of the apostles and their successors. 

Curing the wife of the Duke of Bavaria, Maximilian, Lawrence was able to found the German Catholic League which opposed Protestant theology and protected Catholic rights.

As a chaplain against the Turks, Lawrence often led the troops from the front, often against overwhelming odds.  His bravery and the victory of the troops led by Lawrence were often considered miraculous, so much so that many Turks and Protestants converted to the Catholic faith.

After a long career combating Protestantism and Islam, as well as reviving the spirit of Catholicism amongst the lukewarm, Lawrence died at the age of sixty in 1619, having rightly earned his special place in Catholic history.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Prayer changes the Prayer

(Letter found on a civil war soldier)

I asked for strength that I might achieve; I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.  I asked for health that I might do greater things; I was given infirmity that I might do better things.  I asked for riches that I might be happy; I was given poverty that I might be wise.  I asked for power that I might have the praise of men; I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.  I asked for all things that I might enjoy life; I was given life that I might enjoy all things.  I got nothing that I asked for, but everything that I had hoped for.  Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered; I am, among all men, most richly blessed.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Being Grateful to God

Fr. John J. Pasquini,Th.D.

How grateful to God are we for our blessings?
A protestant minister was in the habit of visiting a young girl who had been bound to a wheelchair from essentially birth.  She was born with a physical abnormality which caused a severe curvature to the spine, so severe that the young girl was unable to walk.
One day, while visiting, it dawned on him that the girl always sat near the window.  Curious, the minister asked, “Why?”  “I love being here near the window,” she replied.  “It makes me so happy.  At night when I can’t sleep, I play with the stars.”  The pastor wondered how someone could play with the stars.  She continued, “I pick the brightest star I can find and say, ‘That’s Mommy,’ and I thank God.  I pick out another bright star and say, ‘That’s Daddy,’ and I thank God.  “I find a twinkling one for my brother, my puppy, and my wheelchair, and I thank God.”  The little girl went on and on until the minister interrupted her and asked, “How long do you spend naming the stars?”  She responded, “I can go on forever, because there are not enough stars around to thank God!” 
There are two types of people in this world.  Those who count the stars, who count God’s blessings and those who do not! (adapted from Parachin, Daily Strength). 
All the lepers were healed, yet only one came to give thanks to God.  One Samaritain, the most hated of people in the ancient Jewish world, came and gave thanks to God.
Are we people who count our blessings, or do we take God for granted?  Do we do all for his honor and glory, or do we do all for our honor and glory?  Do we use our talents, time, and treasures for ourselves only or for the glory of God?

Let us be people who count the stars, for to do so is to experience a perpetual feast of blessings!!!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

John of the Cross (1542-1591): Doctor of Mystical Theology

Fr. John J. Pasquini, Th.D.

John of the Cross is known as the “Greatest Mystic of the Church,” the “Great Doctor of Mystical Theology,” and the “National Poet of Spain.” 

John of the Cross was born to a poor family.  John’s father died when he was an infant, leaving his mother to take care of him and his two brothers. 

Because of the great financial stress on the family, John was sent to a boarding school, the Catechism School at Medina del Campo.  The school specialized in vocational skills such as tailoring, woodcarving, carpentry and painting. 

John would later move to the hospital Nostra Senora de la Concepcion where he lived and worked as a nurse.  While working as a nurse, John studied at the local Jesuit College and eventually graduated in 1563.

In 1563, at the age of twenty-one, John joined the Carmelite community of St. Ann’s in Medina del Campo.  After his novitiate, and because of his great intellect, John was sent to study at St. Andrew’s Carmelite College and then to the prestigious University of Salamanca. 

In 1567, John was sent to tutor Carmelites at St. Anne’s Monastery in Medina del Campo.  During his life, John became a novice master, the rector of the college at Alcala, and the Vicar Provincial of Andalusia.  He would found the college at Baeza and would serve as the prior at the monasteries at El Calvario, Los Martires, and Our Lady of Mount Carmel. 

John of the Cross’ greatest accomplishment, however, would be associated with his relationship with St. Teresa of Avila—being her spiritual director and serving as her envoy in founding discalced Carmelite monasteries.

John of the Cross met Teresa of Avila when she was fifty-two and he was twenty-five.  Teresa convinced John to join her efforts to reform the Carmelite religious order, which he did with the help of Antonio de Heredia.

Antonio de Heredia would be the first superior and the prior of the first reform or discalced Carmelite monastery at Duruelo.  It is however John of the Cross and not Antonio de Heredia that history would recognize as the first “Discalced Friar” and the “Father of the Reform.”

As with every reform, distrust, jealously, and even fear hindered the birth of the new order.  The Calced Carmelites feared the reform and sought to stop it by closing all reform monasteries. 

John of the Cross, being a leader of the reform, was captured and incarcerated by the Calced Carmelites in Toledo. Weak and ill from abuse, John of the Cross decided to escape his imprisonment, which he in fact did.

Being a wanted man, John found refuge in Teresa of Avila’s hospital at Santa Cruz.  The nuns nursed him back to health.

By the time John was nursed back to health by Teresa’s nuns, the persecution against the Discalced Carmelites abated.  By 1593 the Holy See recognized the Discalced Carmelites, the Carmelites of the Reform, as a new religious order. 

During John of the Cross’ many adventures, he was able to write many spiritual masterpieces that would earn him the title “Doctor of Mystical Theology.”  His works include The Ascent of Mount Carmel, the Dark Night of the Soul, the Spiritual Canticle, and The Living Flame of Love.   

John is most recognized for his summary—when his works are taken as a whole--of the spiritual life. 1) The Purgative Stage is one that purges the self of all that is not of God; 2) The First Dark Night is a stage where the senses are actively and passively purified; 3) The Illuminative Stage is the stage of heroic virtues and great enlightenment; 4) The Second Dark Night consists of the passive purification of the soul; 5) The final stage of the spiritual life is the Unitive Stage where one experiences spiritual union with God. 

Most people live and die in the purgative stage.  Saints are found in the illuminative stage.  And mystics are found in the unitive stage, where one’s will and God’s is one, where one becomes in the words of John of the Cross divinized, glorified, God by participation.

In 1591, at the chapter meeting in Madrid, John fell out of favor with the Vicar General of the Order, Doria. At first Doria encouraged John to go to Mexico and found new monasteries.  Unfortunately, John’s health would preclude him from doing so.  Suffering from leg ulcers and serious and frequent bouts of fever John settled at the monastery of Ubeda.  In a weakened condition, John died in 1591.