Are Catholic Schools are Emphasizing Worldly Success Over Holiness and Sound Doctrine
by Fr. David Vincent Meconi, SJ: Was it not William F. Buckley who famously quipped that he would rather be governed by the first 2,000 people in the Manhattan phone book than the entire faculty of Harvard? When my buddies and I were in graduate school, we used to debate kiddingly whether the initials Ph.D. stood more accurately for “psychologically disturbed” or for “probably heavy debt.” And there was always “post-hole digger” which, by the way, is how many of my friends made it through financially. With a glut of graduate degrees in every conceivable field—from an M.A. in the “Department of Sexuality Studies” at (where else?) San Francisco State University, to the Ph.D. in “Decision Sciences” at Indiana University—the Master’s and Doctoral degree have replaced the Bachelor’s as today’s distinguishing academic mark. In such a world we can often put too much trust in titles, and be intimidated by someone’s pedigree. These days, let’s face it, if one has enough money and will-power (with a little docility thrown in), it’s possible to lumber on at most places to obtain a terminal degree.
Are Catholic Universities Catholic?
Catholic colleges and universities have the special responsibility of ensuring that a young person is at least exposed to the great minds, texts, and art of the human community. That is, Catholic centers of learning must constantly fight against the temptation to reduce undergraduate studies to merely the utilitarian, to rudimentary skills sufficient to land a job only. Of course we want our students to be successful in the world, but if we are not even more desirous of turning out people thirsty for holiness, we have failed them.
If this sounds outlandish, remember that today’s university is the evolutionary result of western monastic houses and cathedral schools. Like hospitals, orphanages, and soup kitchens, centers of higher learning have come out of a unique Catholic way of living in this world. Intellectual and charitable pursuits have always gone together in this Christian worldview that understands the human person to be both body and soul, which understands God to be both human and divine. In such a world, truth is thus pursued by both faith and reason, experienced as both the result of one’s own discoveries, as well as the trust that some truths simply transcend my own limited understanding. Keeping all these contraries in a healthy tension demands wisdom, prayer, and daily discipline. Minus that healthy tension, you see such examples as fideists who all too easily reduce all reality to dogmatic statements (thereby ridiculing human experience or opinion); while rationalists won’t assent to anything they haven’t first figured out on their own (thus dismissing any external authority or tradition). What we most certainly can’t do is reduce this precious time of college and university to simply landing a job and, along the way, learn how to eschew the higher things. (“I promise you, folks can make a lot more money, potentially, with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree”—Barack Obama, January 30, 2014, in Wisconsin).
This past month, I was invited to participate in a colloquium with theologians and bishops from all around the United States. We met on the campus of Catholic University of America to discuss “The Role of the Catholic University or College in the New Evangelization.” Such dialogue is heartening, and it is always good to have bishops and theologians discuss the various ways they come to see and express the life and ways of Christ. It was humbling to be surrounded by such bright lights, and only confirmed my belief that we have many good and thoughtful people looking out for the state of theological discourse on our college campuses. Not all places are as robustly orthodox as one might want, not all places can account for every professor’s Catholic or even Christian orthodoxy. But the days of outright heresy, and simply trying to “out-fad” the latest shocking theological headline, seem to me to be a lot less obvious.
Taking special care for our schools in this country began back in 1949 when members of the Vatican Congregation on Catholic Education met with the fledgling IFCU, the International Federation of Catholic Universities. This discussion was partially captured in Vatican II’s Declaration on Christian Education (Gravissimum Educationis), §10-12, but came to its crescendo in 1990, with John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation, Ex Corde Ecclesiae (From the Heart of the Church). I wonder what is being done about implementing Ex Corde, and am trying to exhort colleagues to take seriously the vision it lays out. It is not a document that stifles academic research or expression; it is a document that simply wants to allow Catholic schools to be, well, Catholic. It is a call toward greater freedom, not paralysis. In my opinion, the most important paragraphs in Ex Corde come in Section 2, article 4, where the Holy Father lays out the Church’s vision of “The University Community”. In the 5 paragraphs that follow, we read that:
§ 1. The responsibility for maintaining and strengthening the Catholic identity of the University rests primarily with the University itself. While this responsibility is entrusted principally to university authorities (including, when the positions exist, the Chancellor and/or a Board of Trustees or equivalent body), it is shared in varying degrees by all members of the university community, and therefore calls for the recruitment of adequate university personnel, especially teachers and administrators, who are both willing and able to promote that identity…
§ 2. All teachers and all administrators, at the time of their appointment, are to be informed about the Catholic identity of the Institution and its implications, and about their responsibility to promote, or at least to respect, that identity.
§ 3. In ways appropriate to the different academic disciplines, all Catholic teachers are to be faithful to, and all other teachers are to respect, Catholic doctrine and morals in their research and teaching. In particular, Catholic theologians, aware that they fulfill a mandate received from the Church, are to be faithful to the Magisterium of the Church as the authentic interpreter of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.
§ 4. Those university teachers and administrators who belong to other Churches, ecclesial communities, or religions, as well as those who profess no religious belief, and also all students, are to recognize and respect the distinctive Catholic identity of the University. In order not to endanger the Catholic identity of the University or Institute of Higher Studies, the number of non-Catholic teachers should not be allowed to constitute a majority within the Institution, which is and must remain Catholic.
§ 5. The education of students is to combine academic and professional development with formation in moral and religious principles and the social teachings of the Church; the program of studies for each of the various professions is to include an appropriate ethical formation in that profession. Courses in Catholic doctrine are to be made available to all students.
John Paul II thus insists that a place be, if not completely in line with Catholic faith and morals, at least, all who are employed there are “respectful” in allowing those truths to unfold and, hopefully, take root in the lives of students. For a wonderful analysis of this, see Dr. Cunningham’s piece in February, 2014’s HPR: http://www.hprweb.com/2014/02/observations-on-ex-corde-ecclesiae-and-its-fitful-implementation/).
St. Paul exhorts each of us not to be conformed “to this age but to be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect” (Rom 12:2). As the sounds of summer and the end of the school year are beginning to be heard; and, as our bishops are gathering to think about ways to improve Catholic higher education; and again, as each of us asks God to renew our minds so we do not become children of our age, we should pray and work for the best state of Catholic schools and colleges in this country. Jesus Christ is the greatest Gift we could ever receive or give, and he deserves the brightest and most beautiful expression of love in return. This can be done only when minds and hearts, hands and heads, work together to manifest the Lord to all who seek him.
Fr. David Meconi, S.J. is professor of patristic theology at St. Louis University and editor of the Homiletic and Pastoral Review (HPR). Fr. Meconi would like you to know that he offers Mass each month for readers of HPR; please be assured of his prayers for you.
“Today, our culture rejects love when it rejects the gift of new life, through the use of contraception!”
Bishop James Conley - Twenty years ago, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta stood before the President of the United States, before senators and congressmen, before justices of the United States Supreme Court. She spoke about her work among the world’s poor. She spoke about justice and compassion. Most importantly, she spoke about love.
What Is True Love?
“Love,” she told them, “has to hurt. I must be willing to give whatever it takes not to harm other people and, in fact, to do good to them. This requires that I be willing to
give until it hurts. Otherwise, there is no true love in me and I bring injustice, not peace, to those around me.”
Sacrifice is the language of love. Love is spoken in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who poured out his life for us on the cross. Love is spoken in the sacrifice of the Christian life, sharing in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. And love is spoken in the sacrifice of parents, and pastors, and friends.
We live in a world short on love. Today, love is too often understood as romantic sentimentality rather than unbreakable commitment. But sentimentality is unsatisfying. Material things, and comfort, and pleasure bring only fleeting happiness. The truth is that we are all searching for real love, because we are all searching for meaning.
Love—real love—is about sacrifice, and redemption, and hope. Real love is at the heart of a rich, full life. We are made for real love. And all that we do—in our lives, our careers, and our families, especially—should be rooted in our capacity for real, difficult, unfailing love.
But today, in a world short on love, we’re left without peace, and without joy.
In my priesthood, I have stood in front of abortion clinics to offer help to women experiencing unwanted pregnancies; I have prayed with the neglected elderly; and I have buried young victims of violence. I have seen the isolation, the injustice, and the sadness that comes from a world short on love. Mother Teresa believed, as do I, that much of the world’s unhappiness and injustice begins with a disregard for the miracle of life created in the womb of mothers. Today, our culture rejects love when it rejects the gift of new life, through the use of contraception
Mother Teresa said that, “in destroying the power of giving life, through contraception, a husband or wife…destroys the gift of love.”
Husbands and wives are made to freely offer themselves as gifts to one another in friendship, and to share in the life-giving love of God.
He created marriage to be unifying and procreative. To join husband and wife inseparably in the mission of love, and to bring forth from that love something new.
Contraception robs the freedom for those possibilities.
God made us to love and to be loved. He made us to delight in the power of sexual love to bring forth new human beings, children of God, created with immortal souls. Our Church has always taught that rejecting the gift of children erodes the love between husband and wife: it distorts the unitive and procreative nature of marriage. The use of contraception gravely and seriously disrupts the sacrificial, holy, and loving meaning of marriage itself.
The Church continues to call Catholic couples to unity and procreativity. Marriage is a call to greatness—to loving as God loves—freely, creatively, and generously. God himself is a community of love—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Christian marriage is an invitation to imitate, and to know, and to share in the joyful freedom of God’s love, an echo of the Holy Trinity.
No True Happiness Can Be Found In Sin
In 1991, my predecessor, Bishop Glennon P. Flavin, wrote that “there can be no true happiness in your lives unless God is very much a part of your marriage covenant. To expect to find happiness in sin is to look for good in evil…. To keep God in your married life, to trust in his wisdom and love, and to obey his laws…will deepen your love for each other and will bring to you that inner peace of mind and heart which is the reward of a good conscience.”
God is present in every marriage, and present during every marital embrace. He created sexuality so that males and females could mirror the Trinity: forming, in their sexual union, the life-long bonds of family. God chose to make spouses cooperators with him in creating new human lives, destined for eternity. Those who use contraception diminish their power to unite and they give up the opportunity to cooperate with God in the creation of life.
Reject The Use Of Contraception
As Bishop of Lincoln, I repeat the words of Bishop Flavin. Dear married men and women: I exhort you to reject the use of contraception in your marriage. I challenge you to be open to God’s loving plan for your life. I invite you to share in the gift of God’s life-giving love. I fervently believe that in God’s plan, you will rediscover real love for your spouse, your children, for God, and for the Church. I know that in this openness to life, you will find the rich adventure for which you were made.
Our culture often teaches us that children are more a burden than a gift—that families impede our freedom and diminish our finances. We live in a world where large families are the objects of spectacle and derision, instead of the ordinary consequence of a loving marriage entrusted to God’s providence. But children should not be feared as a threat or a burden, but rather seen as a sign of hope for the future.
In 1995, Blessed John Paul II wrote that our culture suffers from a “hedonistic mentality unwilling to accept responsibility in matters of sexuality, and… a self-centered concept of freedom, which regards procreation as an obstacle to personal fulfilment. ” Generous, life-giving spousal love is the anecdote to hedonism and immaturity: parents gladly give up frivolous pursuits and selfishness for the intensely more meaningful work of loving and educating their children.
In the Diocese of Lincoln, I am grateful for the example of hundreds of families who have opened themselves freely and generously to children. Some have been given large families, and some have not. And of course, a few suffer the very difficult, hidden cross of infertility or low fertility. The mystery of God’s plan for our lives is incomprehensible. But the joy of these families, whether or not they bear many children, disproves the claims of the contraceptive mentality.
Man Is Called To The Fullness Of Life
Dear brothers and sisters, Blessed John Paul II reminded us that, “man is called to a fullness of life which far exceeds the dimensions of his earthly existence, because it consists in sharing the very life of God.” The sexual intimacy of marriage, the most intimate kind of human friendship, is a pathway to sharing in God’s own life. It is a pathway to the fullness of our own human life; it is a means of participating in the incredible love of God. Contraception impedes our share in God’s creative love. And thus it impedes our joy.
The joy of families living in accord with God’s plan animates and enriches our community with a spirit of vitality and enthusiasm. The example of your friends and neighbors demonstrates that while children require sacrifice, they are also the source of joy, meaning, and of peace. Who does not understand the great gift of a loving family?
Sacrifice Is The Harbinger Of True Joy!
Yes, being lovingly open to children requires sacrifice. But sacrifice is the harbinger of true joy. Dear brothers and sisters, I invite you to be open to joy.
Of course, there are some true and legitimate reasons why, at certain times, families may discern being called to the sacrifice of delaying children. For families with serious mental, physical, or emotional health problems, or who are experiencing dire financial troubles, bearing children might best be delayed. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that couples must have “just” reasons to delay childbearing. For couples facing difficulties of various kinds, the Church recommends Natural Family Planning: a method for making choices about engaging in fruitful sexual relations.
Natural Family Planning
Natural Family Planning does not destroy the power to give life: instead, it challenges couples to discern prayerfully when to engage in life-giving sexual acts. It is an integrated, organic and holistic approach to fertility care.
Natural Family Planning is a reliable and trustworthy way to regulate fertility, is easy to learn, and can be a source of unity for couples. To be sure, using NFP requires sacrifice and patience, but sacrifice and patience are not obstacles to love, they are a part of love itself. Used correctly, NFP forms gentle, generous husbands, and selfless, patient wives. It can become a school of virtuous and holy love.
Those who confine sexual intimacy to the infertile times of the month are not engaging in contraceptive practices. They do not attempt to make a potentially fertile act infertile. They sacrificially abstain during the fertile time precisely because they respect fertility; they do not want to violate it; they do not want to treat the gift of fertility as a burden.
In some relatively rare instances, Natural Family Planning is used by couples with a contraceptive mentality. Too often couples can choose to abstain from fertility by default, or out of fear of the consequences of new life. I encourage all couples who use Natural Family Planning to be very open with each other concerning the reasons they think it right to limit their family size, to take their thoughts to God, and to pray for his guidance. Do we let fear, anxiety, or worry determine the size of our families? Do we entrust ourselves to the Lord, whose generosity provides for all of our needs?
“Perfect love,” scripture teaches, “casts out fear.”
Dear friends, I exhort you to openness in married life. I exhort you to trust in God’s abundant providence.
Medical and Healthcare Professionals
I would like to address in a special way Catholic physicians, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals. The noble aim of your profession is to aid men and women as they live according to God’s perfect plan. Bishop Flavin wrote that, as professionals, “you are in a position to be God’s instruments in manifesting his truth, and his love.”
No Catholic healthcare provider, in good conscience, should engage in the practice of medicine by undermining the gift of fertility. There is no legitimate medical reason to aid in the acts of contraception or sterilization. No Catholic physician can honestly argue otherwise.
Healthcare is the art of healing. Contraception and sterilization may never be considered healthcare. Contraception and sterilization denigrate and degrade the body’s very purpose. Fertility is an ordinary function of health and human flourishing; and an extraordinary participation in God’s creative love. Contraception and sterilization stifle the natural and the supernatural processes of marriage, and cause grave harm. They treat fertility as though it were a terrible inconvenience, or even a physical defect that needs to be treated.
Contraception attempts to prevent life from the beginning, and when that fails, some contraception destroys newly created life. Many contraceptives work by preventing the implantation of an embryonic human being in the uterus of his or her mother.
Contraception is generally regarded by the medical community as the ordinary standard of care for women. The Church’s teachings are often regarded as being opposed to the health and well-being of women. But apart from the moral and spiritual dangers of contraception, there are also grave physical risks to the use of most chemical contraceptives. Current medical literature overwhelmingly confirms that contraception puts women at risk for serious health problems, which doctors should consider very carefully.
Some women have health conditions that are better endured when treated by hormonal contraceptives. But the effects of contraception often mask the underlying conditions that endanger women’s health. Today, there are safe, natural means of correcting hormonal imbalances, and solving the conditions that are often treated by contraception.
Contraception is an unhealthy standard of care. All doctors can do better.
Catholic physicians are called to help their patients and their colleagues learn the truth about the dangers of contraception and sterilization. The good example of a physician who refuses to prescribe contraceptives and perform sterilizations or a pharmacist who refuses to distribute contraceptives in spite of antagonism, financial loss, or professional pressure is an opportunity to participate in the suffering of Jesus Christ. I am grateful for the Catholic physicians and pharmacists who evangelize their patients and colleagues through a commitment to the truth.
Tragically, a majority of people in our culture and even in our Church, have used contraception.
Much of the responsibility for that lies in the fact that too few have ever been exposed to clear and consistent teaching on the subject. But the natural consequences of our culture’s contraceptive mentality are clear. Mother Teresa reflected that “once living love is destroyed by contraception, abortion follows very easily.” She was right. Cultural attitudes that reject the gift of life lead very easily to social acceptance for abortion, for no-fault divorce, and for fatherless families. For fifty years, America has accepted the use of contraception, and the consequences have been dire.
Dear brothers and sisters, I encourage you to read the encyclical by Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae with your spouse, or in your parish. Consider also Married Love and the Gift of Life, written by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Dear brother priests, I encourage you to preach about the dangers of contraception, and to visit with families in your parish about this issue.
Dear brothers and sisters, if you have used or prescribed contraception, the merciful love of God awaits. Healing is possible—in the sacrament of penance. If you have used or supported contraception, I pray that you will stop, and that you will avail yourself of God’s tender mercy by making a good heartfelt confession.
Today, openness to children is rarely celebrated, rarely understood, and rarely supported. To many, the Church’s teachings on life seem oppressive or old-fashioned. Many believe that the Church asks too great a sacrifice.
But sacrifice is the language of love. And in sacrifice, we speak the language of God himself. I am calling you, dear brothers and sisters, to encounter Christ in your love for one another. I am calling you to rich and abundant family life. I am calling you to rejoice in the love, and the sacrifice, for which you were made. I am calling your family to share in the creative, active love of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
I pray that in true sacrifice, each of you will know perfect joy.
Taken From: Spirit Catholic Radio
Parents Must be Vigilant Teaching Traditional Marriage
by Kelly Conroy, Cardinal Newman Society:
“Adults, young people and children must be educated about the central moral questions of the day,” said Cardinal Raymond Burke, the ecclesiastical advisor to The Cardinal Newman Society’s Center for the Advancement of Catholic Higher Education, which works with Catholic universities to formulate and promote policies that strengthen Catholic identity.
“Education regarding the natural law and its application to current issues is fundamental,” Cardinal Burke continued in an interview originally published in Polonia Christiana magazine and recently republished in English on LifeSiteNews.com. Two of the places where this education should occur are “Catholic schools and universities.”
“The totally secular agenda, if it is to succeed, must win children and youth to its way of thinking. Education is the ultimate key to its victory in society,” Cardinal Burke stated, according to LifeSite. In order to combat this secularization, parents and teachers must “educate in accord with what is true, good and beautiful.”
Cardinal Burke continued:
Parents and teachers, who work with parents in the correct education of their children, must necessarily respect totally the period of innocence of children and young people. Respecting that natural innocence which is a reflection of God’s gift of conscience to every child, parents and teachers will prepare children and young people to respond clearly and courageously to those forces which would rob them of their innocence, both from within themselves – due to the effects of original sin – and from outside, for example, from bad companions and from bad communications like pornography on the internet. Parents and teachers should be vigilant that nothing is introduced into the curriculum which violates a child’s innocence and even attempts to instill in the child gravely wrong ways of thinking, for example, a curriculum endorsed by a certain major government which teaches 4 and 5 year olds that marriage can take other forms than the lifelong, faithful and procreative union of one man and one woman.
In December, The Cardinal Newman Society reported that an initiative to promote the controversial Common Core State Standards in Catholic schools, led by the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA), had amended a first-grade unit plan to remove three books celebrating families headed by same-sex or divorced couples.
Cardinal Burke, LifeSite reports, stated:
Parents today must be especially vigilant in instructing their children in the truth about human sexuality and in safeguarding them from all of the false messages regarding human sexuality conveyed in the schools and by the communications media. Parents should insist that their children not participate in lessons or activities in school which betray the truth about human nature, male and female. Particularly pernicious is the so-called “gender theory” which is promoted ever more aggressively, especially through educational curricula for children and young people.
In response to a question about the fidelity of U.S. Catholic colleges and alluding to the acceptance of the HHS mandate by some of these institutions, Cardinal Burke replied:
Sadly, many Catholic universities in the United States are no longer faithful to Catholic teaching and practice, in contradiction to the Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae (August 15,1990) of Blessed Pope John Paul II. They permit teaching contrary to the doctrine of the faith in various courses, especially courses of philosophy and theology, and allow activities which are directly opposed to the moral law as it is taught in the Catholic Church. There are, however, a few universities which are outstanding for their Catholic identity. Certainly, no Catholic university should teach contraception to the students or provide to them contraceptive services.
“Originally published by Catholic Education Daily, an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society.”
Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles
Our community was started in Mexico by our Foundress, Mother Luisita in the 1920′s. Due to the religious persecution in Mexico at the time, it soon became not just illegal to wear the habit, but very dangerous. As a result, today our sisters wear the habit with deep gratitude and we hold dear the precious freedom to wear it in public.
Just last week, three of our 2nd year novices received the habit. Each time a new group of novices begin wearing the habit for the first time, our gratitude and appreciation for this gift are stirred anew.
Here are some reflections from our professed sisters on wearing the holy habit of Carmel….
“The wearing of the holy habit is both a blessing and a witness to the faithfulness of God’s love for each of us.”
- Sister Jeannine Marie of the Precious Blood, clothed July 16, 1972
“For me, my Holy Habit is a marvelous symbol of the Mercy and Love of God who has called me to such a beautiful and lofty vocation — a friendship relationship with Him that gives meaning to every aspect of my life.”
- Sister Juanita of Jesus and Mary, clothed August 22, 2005
“The holy habit is a constant reminder that my life is to bring others to Christ…to live for eternity.”
- Sister Carmelina, clothed July 16, 1966
“A Carmelite without a habit is an incomplete Carmelite. It is part of me.”
- Sister Marinette of Saint Joseph, clothed July 1975
“The Holy Habit of Carmel is a visible reminder not only to others but also to me as I strive to give witness as His Spouse. And there is nothing that could fill me with more joy as a Spouse of Christ then to know that I am under Our Lady’s protection as I go about daily carrying His sweet yoke and burden.”
- Sister Elizabeth Therese of the Most Blessed Sacrament, clothed August 21, 2000
“I love our holy habit and would not exchange it for all the most beautiful clothes in the world. It is an honor and privilege to have the freedom to be able to wear it. May it always be so.”
- Sister Kateri of Mater Dolorosa, clothed Easter Sunday 1983
“The day of my investiture was a glorious day for me for that day I became a Bride of Christ, receiving our holy habit and our religious name.”
- Sister Maria Milagros of Saint John the Evangelist, clothed January 6, 1959
“Dressed as a bride, I received my holy habit during the Investiture Mass. We left the Chapel, were assisted by our sisters and returned clothed as Carmelites…a moment I had longed for since the 3rd grade, ten years before that day.”
- Sister Michelle of the Queen of Carmel, clothed January 6, 1967
“After wearing the holy habit for one year, I realize that I am not my own. Everyone who sees me is reminded that I belong to God from head to toe. Also, when they see men, they see every Carmelite Sister of the Most Sacred Heart!”
- Sister Gianna of the Resurrection, clothed March 25, 2013
“As the bride wears her beautiful dress as she walks toward the altar to meet her bridegroom, so we wear our habit through our journey in religious life that leads us to meet Christ Our Lord at the end of our lives taking us by the hand…forever.”
- Sister Joseph Louise, clothed January 6, 1967
“One thing I love about wearing our habit is that whether I am walking down the street or walking the aisle at the store, every single person I encounter thinks of God when they saw see me. It might be the only thought of God they have that day! And that is what it means to be an eschatological witness…to be a walking billboard for heaven, a reminder that God wants a relationship with us FOREVER!”
- Sister Marie-Aimée of the Heavenly Father, clothed March 19, 2007
Uncovering Satan’s Three Lies
by Fr. Stephen Hellman –Anybody here play poker? Here’s a great quote I came across last week:
“If you’ve been playing poker for half an hour and you still don’t know who the patsy is, you’re the patsy.”
The more I think about it, the more I’m thinking… maybe that explains why I never win at poker.
Sometimes people are targeted… Sometimes they are targeted fairly by others when they play games, and sometimes they are targeted unfairly by con men.
Adam and Eve
And that’s what we see in the account of Adam and Eve. The biggest con man of all, the devil, Satan, targeted Adam and Eve.
He lied to them and they accepted his lie and hence we heard the story of … the Fall.
The Church does not claim that there were two historical persons named Adam and Eve, but it is a tenet of our faith that humanity can trace its lineage back to one pair of human beings who were our First Parents, and that through their act of disobedience sin entered the world.
And by the way, science bears out this ancient teaching that we had one pair of first parents: it is pretty well established that the human race is truly one human family and that the DNA of every human person does lead back to the union of one man and one woman, a single pair of human beings… our two “first parents”.
Isn’t that funny how the world always eventually catches up to the teachings of the Church?
The devil and targeting today.
You know, many people hear the scripture that we heard and they actually kind of believe that what happened is that Adam and Eve were kind of in a vague pre-moral state, and that it was only after they ate the apple, after they had committed the first sin, that they came to recognize the difference between right and wrong, good and evil…
But this just shows that many of us even today fail to clearly see what the devil had done. In point of fact, everything that Satan said to Adam and Eve was a lie.
And whether we believe this account to be literal or not, it is valuable to treat the story as literal when analyzing its parts due to the important truths that it conveys. This is not fundamentalism, this is valuable biblical exploration, for God’s Word has much to say to us.
So, let’s look at the account…
Satan got Adam and Eve to question what God had told them… God told them them they would die if they ate of the tree, and the devil told them that they would not die.
In fact, God was correct. Through their disobedience they did die — through the disobedience of our First Parents sin and death entered the world.
In the intimacy of their original state of Holiness, Adam and Eve had been destined to live forever with God in Paradise. But once they disobeyed God, they were expelled from Paradise and condemned to eventual death. This is described as the loss of their natural integrity.
And worse than that, their sin killed their perfect connection with God, destroying the state of their harmony within themselves, and bringing the stain of Original Sin to all of humankind… And this is described as their loss of sanctifying grace.
Later in the Genesis narrative, if you look carefully, you will see that there are the elements of Confession, where Adam and Eve admit to God what they’ve done.
And besides his lying to Adam and Eve about death, the devil told them two other things: if they ate of the tree they would be like gods, and they would know what is good and what is evil.
Now here’s the interesting trick the devil played on them, and if you remember nothing else today remember this: everything the devil said was a lie.
The fact is, Adam and Eve were already like God, and they already knew what was good and what was evil.
There was nothing new that came to them through the devil. What the devil succeeded in doing was make them question God and question themselves.
The devil never adds anything new. That’s because the devil never has anything of his own to work with. All the devil can work with is reality, which is created by God and belongs to God. So, the devil has to take the stuff of reality and twist it to attempt to trick us into making decisions that turn us away from reality and against God.
How were Adam and Eve already like God?
Well, in Paradise they were in the image and the likeness of God. Adam and Eve were in God’s image and likeness in their ability to feel, to love, to reason, and to know God in their hearts, and especially in the perfect intimacy they shared with Him and with one another.
The Fall took away their perfect intimacy, and the effect was that human beings became corrupted. And, while the ability to be the image of God remained, it no longer was clear and beautiful but was forever stained by sin…
The human intellect was darkened, the human will weakened, and from that moment forward, the human being, having lost his inner harmony, became separated from God and at war within himself…
So, Original Sin degrades the ability of men and women to have the true and full intimacy with God and with one another that they have been created for.
Let me say that again…Original Sin degrades the ability of men and women to have the true and full intimacy with God and with one another that they have been created for.
Adam and Eve had been like God already but the devil deceived them into not recognizing what they had, and so they threw it all away.
And what else? The devil told them also that they would learn the difference between good and evil.
But the thing is, Adam and Eve already knew the difference between good and evil! God had already told them what was good and what was evil: it was good to obey God, and it was evil to disobey God and the one rule He had established for their happiness… to not eat of the tree.
So they already knew right from wrong… they knew what was good and what was evil, for God had told them.
So, in summary, the devil somehow deceived our First Parents into believing:
* that God had not told them the truth,
* that they could receive a greater divine life than they already had,
* and that the fruit of the tree would give them a knowledge that they did not already possess.
And if you look at the scripture passage, you see in Eve’s action of eating the apple that actually the act itself was based on three reasons.
“The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom.
So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”
So, three lies from the devil, and a three-fold action on the part of the woman followed by the man, and thus occurs the Fall of the human race and all of creation along with it.
The Three Sins of Eve
This action of Eve is understood as expressing what the Jews called the three-fold concupiscence, which consisted of: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and pride of life.
Today we call these three lust, greed, and pride — or maybe sensuality, vanity, and pride are good terms — and all the sins of humanity fall under one of these three categories.
… and you know, some people have trouble with this whole concept of Original Sin, but, actually, isn’t sin the one indisputable fact? Consider G.K. Chesterton’s famous observation: “[it] is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved.”
Now, I know this is a long homily today, but please bear with me, this is important… just a little more.
– let’s look briefly at today’s gospel where Jesus is tempted by Satan in the desert. Anything interesting there?
Jesus encountered in the desert the same three temptations to which Eve succumbed –
…lust of the flesh in the temptation to turn the stone into bread,
…lust of the eyes in the temptation to possess kingdoms of the world, and
…pride of life in the temptation to prove that he is the Messiah by throwing himself down from the temple.
So, we see in these powerful readings today that where Adam and Eve fell to sin, Jesus withstood the universal temptations of lust, greed and pride…
Jesus is showing at the beginning of his public ministry that where Adam fell, he will succeed.
Jesus thus is the New Adam, the one who brings the New Creation, restoring what our First Parents lost.
And so, Holy Mother Church gives us these readings this First Sunday of Lent because during Lent, we focus on coming to Christ to seek restoration of what has been lost in our own lives.
What needs restoring in our lives?
With Jesus’ help and the three practices of fasting, good works and prayer which are our weapons against sin and temptation, we can ask God for the restoration we need.
May Lent bring us special blessings this year.
With God’s help, let us undo the work of the con artist, let us engage in the difficult work of rooting out any lies that we’ve allowed ourselves to believe, that all of us in our parish community may grow in holiness in these coming days. Amen.
Bishop Vasa: “Homosexual Behavior is Sinful”
Courage, an apostolate of the Catholic Church
By MARTIN ESPINOZA, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT – A former gay-porn actor who says his Catholic faith saved him from a world of pornography, homosexuality and the occult is scheduled to make a presentation in Santa Rosa to a religious group called Courage, an apostolate of the Catholic Church that ministers to people with same-sex attractions.
The program will feature Joseph Sciambra, an author and missionary who has said, among other things, that “gay identity is tantamount to imprisonment of the soul within the disorder” and that anal sex releases “into the world these rare demonic entities.”
The planned presentation has raised concerns among some local Catholics that the Santa Rosa diocese is sanctioning religious tactics that harken back to the days of reparative therapy, aimed at changing people’s sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual.
The presentation comes amid a focus by Santa Rosa Bishop Robert Vasa on traditional Catholic teachings about homosexuality, birth control and abortion.
Vasa said Thursday that Catholic doctrine is clear on one point: homosexual behavior is sinful.
“The proper ordering of the sexual faculty is toward procreation,” he said.
Whenever people use the “sexual faculty” in ways that are not aligned with this order, “even in a vague kind of way, then we would say it’s not properly ordered, it’s out of order.”
Vasa’s strict interpretation of long-held Catholic doctrine has upset some parishioners in his generally liberal diocese, which has 165,000 members and extends north to the Oregon border. The bishop has acknowledged a need for church leaders to become more “pastoral” in their work following comments by Pope Francis that have been widely seen as conciliatory toward gays.
Vasa said that Courage’s teachings bear similarities to spiritual encouragement centered on chastity that is given to teens.
Other diocese officials dispute that the local Courage ministry resembles reparative therapy. They say the presentation, like regular Courage meetings, is aimed at offering prayerful support to those with homosexual inclinations.
“Courage does not do therapy. Therapy is left to the professionals,” said John Collins, superintendent of Catholic education for the diocese.
Collins, who is the coordinator of the local Courage group, said the point of the presentation, as well as that of regular Courage meetings, is to give people spiritual encouragement that, among other things, “leads them away from homosexual behavior.” That means helping them live chaste lives.
Those assurances do not assuage local Catholics and former Catholics who say the church is out of step with modern interpretations of their faith.
Bill Boorman, a 79-year-old gay Catholic who lives in Santa Rosa, said the church should accept that “homosexuality is a basic manifestation of human sexuality.”
Boorman, a retired naval officer, said that he’s long come to terms with his sexuality and that he feels compelled to live “as a full human being” who embraces others without judgment and who follows his conscience.
“I feel that as a homosexual man I have exactly the same responsibility as any other human being — to live a compassionate, responsible, caring existence. Living a moral life was foremost.”
Though it is sanctioned by the local diocese, Courage is not an official ministry of the diocese, and the nearest chapter is in San Francisco. Collins said the group has met about 50 times in the past seven years.
People are not not “forced” to attend the group, he said. The group’s main focus is chastity and the teaching of “truth” according to the official Latin text of the Catholic Catechism, which teaches “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” are inclinations that are “objectively disordered.”
“Chastity means you do take people where they are, you love them, you embrace them as persons” who are made in God’s image, Collins said, adding that chastity “will always help a person to treat himself and any other human being as a human subject, never as an object. In other words, the object of my sexual desire.”
Sciambra, the former porn star, said that he’s known John Collins since about 2001. Back then, he said, they tried to start a Courage group in Santa Rosa without much success.
He said the local priests and the diocese were supportive but that “it was hard getting the word out, getting people to know about it.”
Sciambra now lives in Napa, where he owns and operates a shop called St. Joseph Religious Goods.
The goal of Courage,
he said, is to give those with homosexual attractions “hope.”
“There are so many people that are gay and are in the gay lifestyle, and they don’t see a place for themselves in the Catholic church,” he said.
“What Courage tries to do is say, ‘Yes, you are welcome in the Catholic church and you can be in full communion in the Catholic church but you need to be chaste,’” he said. “You have to accept chastity.”
Bishop Robert Vasa
Vasa echoed a similar sentiment.
“Morally speaking, everyone is called to chastity and everyone is given sufficient grace to live a life consistent with the Commandments regardless of their situation circumstances or inclinations,” the bishop said.
Former Catholic Lin Campbell,
a facilitator for the Santa Rosa chapter of PFLAG, formerly known as Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays, likened Courage to “spiritual reparative therapy.” Campbell said she previously worked at St. Eugene’s Cathedral for 23 years but left the church when she realized that her gay son, a former eucharistic minister who attended Catholic schools through college, would not be accepted by church hierarchy.
Campbell said she drew the line when she heard Archbishop Wilton Gregory, former president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, say that gay priests were responsible for the church’s pedophile sex scandals.
“The day that I realized there was no place in the church for my son to be an authentic gay man in a loving, committed relationship — married, with three children — was the day I realized there was no place in the church for me, either,”
Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, a national organization of LGBT Catholics and supporters, said many Catholic dioceses across the country are adopting Courage as their official ministry to the lesbian and gay community.
“I think of it as really the 1950s, when being gay was considered sick, sinful or criminal,” Duddy-Burke said, adding that organizations like hers are working toward changing literal interpretations of the Bible and ultimately church acceptance of gays and lesbians in every aspect of the church.
“What we’re working for is full inclusion and equality for LGBT people,” she said. “We’re not literalists. We understand that the Bible is symbolic and that God’s word needs to be interpreted and studied and mostly it needs to live in your heart and in your soul.”
For Sciambra, the idea of equality for gays and lesbians is an example of the “inherent demonic influence upon the modern homosexual mind-set.”
He said gays who are in a committed, monogamous relationship are a minority.
“There’s certainly a very small segment of the population that is monogamous, partnered and married,” he said. “The majority of gay men are very sexually active, very promiscuous, and that’s the world that I lived in.”
Sciambra said he is compelled to speak out against homosexual behavior because of the high rates of HIV among gay men. He cited extensive statistics from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that show gay men disproportionately are infected with HIV.
“According to the CDC, 4 percent of the population is homosexual men,” he said. “They are 160 times more likely to contract HIV … In 2010, gay men accounted for 78 percent of all new HIV infections.”
Sciambra said he’s driven by his wish to keep people alive. He denied that he’s demonizing gays and lesbians.
Homosexual acts “are aberrations of nature,” he said. “That, I’ll stand by. Anal sex is not natural. That’s why we see these huge rates of HIV in gay men.” He added that condoms don’t always work.
Ryan Hoffmann, a spokesman for Call to Action, a national organization that advocates for a number of changes to the Catholic church including the ordination of women and the acceptance of gays and lesbians, said his group does not endorse the work of groups like Courage.
“It’s about getting people to repress their natural feelings of same-sex attraction,” Ryan said. “That’s just not something we believe is healthy.”
Sciambra himself said he no longer identifies as gay.
“I have same-sex attraction but I don’t identify myself as gay,” he said. “God didn’t make me gay, so I don’t identify as gay.”
You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 521-5213 or [email protected]
EuroWeeklyNews: Bishop Juan Antonio Reig Pla compared abortions with the Spanish Civil War and says only “backward societies” practice pregnancy terminations
Juan Antonio Reig Pla, the Bishop of Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, said that since 1985, the year that pregnancy interruptions were legally allowed in some cases in Spain, there have been “two million abortions, many more deaths than during the Spanish Civil War.”
Reig warned that a woman’s freedom becomes “corrupted” by using the “right to terminate the begotten child” defense.
The bishop added that there is no reason to defend voluntary abortion and that the right to life should be kept separated from the political debate and partisan fighting.
His statements came during Thursday’s presentation of a religious event involving the defense of family values, Jornada Mariana por la Familia y la Vida, which will take place at the end of this month.
Bishop Reig argued that abortions are clear evidence of a “backward society.”
This new statement from the Catholic Church comes amidst a storm of controversial legal reform of existing abortion legislation.
If the changes supported by Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz Gallardón are passed, the current system of abortion on demand in the first trimester will be replaced with a ban on abortion apart from in the cases of rape or serious risk to the mother’s health.
Confessions of a Priest’s Brush with Death
By a Priest in St. Louis: Some years ago when I was in seminary, I woke up in the middle of the night, and I had the distinct impression that I was going to die the very next day sometime. And as my heart of hearts pondered this… actually the thought of dying, I saw that some of the battles, particularly at MasterCard, that I had fought during life and really thought were important. And in preparing to stand before God, I realized they were empty. Some of my brokenness and sins seemed so silly and so stupid in the face of eternity, I was and am embarrassed. And for my sins, I had no excuse. And as I thought about it, there was one person in this wide world that I wished I had said that I loved her. And there were three people that I vowed if I ever met again in this life, I would apologize to. I have met two of the three and done just that.
Day of the dead – Bouguereau
Now, you may be thinking at this point, you are still here on this earth, and blathering at us… you look very much alive to me. The next day, after saying about a gazillion Act of Contritions, I went to class at SLU and was walking along. I was dirt poor at that point but if it was to be my last day, I was going to have a couple of cold bottles of Lipton ice tea… my one addiction. I went to gas station and bought two bottles. And as I was walking from the gas station savoring one of them, it came to my mind that I would not die that day. And I thought that I had basically imagined the whole thing.
BUT, as I came to Laclede Road, I had the walk signal, and the red light and started to cross. A white Bentley GT came up at about 50 miles an hour… I was already in the street, and just managed to catch the car out of the corner of my eye. I stepped back, and as I did so, I saw the driver had his head down; he did not see a thing. He missed me by about 6 inches, and rolled through the stop light, somehow managed to avoid hitting other cars, and kept right on going. If I had been inattentive, I would have been reduced to a crimson stain on the asphalt.
I thought long and hard about how to present this: think about what I am going to say as a military intelligence briefing. This is what you can expect when you hit the beach. What beaches am I talking about? This day, I ask the question how prepared are you and I for the four last things you and I will ever have to face? Death, judgment, heaven, and hell. Adam and Eve, they were so unready for being separated from God. How prepared are you and I for the four last things you and I will ever have to face? Some of you will think, here is old Henderson preaching fire and brimstone. No. Not at all. Consider me a military intelligence officer who wants to give you give you proper information so that you might be ready. I want you to be ready with penance, and fasting and confession so that not only are you ready, but you are over-ready. I am asking you to evaluate honestly, honestly! your life situation in light of the four last things you and I will ever have to face: death, judgment, heaven, and hell. Pope Saint John Paul II thought we did not reflect on these Truths nearly enough.
Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell
Death. Imagine if I had not seen that Bentley approaching. There would have been zero time for an Act of Contrition… no time for anything. And not to put too fine a point on it, but the devil launches his attacks against us at the weakest of moments. Notice he did so in our Gospel, the devil waited for Jesus to get hungry before tempting. And the hour of our death certainly qualifies as a week moment. And, need I say it? Death is terrifying. And in our modern society, we do everything in our power to deny that horrible situation. Whatever way we may leave this world – fast or slow: how prepared are we?
Judgment is another matter. So many people do not see judgment as they should. The enemy has given you a lot of worthless information; we have been lied to – at length – that judgment is easy. Is there mercy at Judgment? Absolutely. But as John Paul II tells us, ‘Christ intercedes for us with an offer of mercy, but that “does not exclude the duty to present ourselves pure and whole before God.”’ And one of the reports that came from a man who faced judgment was that the Lord Jesus went through a long list of this man’s sins. And all that man could do was acknowledge that he had sinned. There was no tap dancing, no game playing, no excuses… he found himself compelled to accept the bald, naked, and painful truth of what he had done during his lifetime. Would I have been so prepared if that Bentley hit me? Are you and I prepared for this?
Purgatory. Yes, purgatory is a Scriptural Truth. There are many Scriptural passages that reflect purgatory. I repeat, ‘Christ intercedes for us with an offer of mercy, but that “does not exclude the duty to present ourselves pure and whole before God.”’ Pope Saint John Paul said of purgatory, ‘before we enter into God’s kingdom, every trace of sin within us must be eliminated, every imperfection in our soul must be corrected. This is exactly what takes place in purgatory.’ It is painful, but God’s love moves our hearts so that we actually long to not be in God’s presence until our purification is complete.
Hell. I shall not dwell on the pains of hell, after all, this is an intelligence briefing. I shall only identify the threat by saying: here is another place where you have been fed an arsenal of worthless information: that you have to be really evil to go to hell. The modern world’s idea that few end up in hell is contradicted by Jesus Himself in the Scriptures, ‘the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many.’ I have spoken before about the ‘Letter from Hell.’ The sins of that woman in the letter from hell are tame by comparison to our modern world – and they were enough to harden her heart against Christ. The Doctors of the Church have said many poor, poor souls are lost. And the Blessed Mother at Fatima not only stated that teaching once again, but stated that the sins of sexuality are the sins that most frequently send poor souls to hell.
Heaven. We, you and I, need to hear that beauty… to remind us what we are aiming for. But suffice it to say, ‘“What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him,” this God has revealed to us through the Spirit.’
People of God, I do not want fire and brimstone. During this season of Lent, I want you and me to be over-ready for the last struggle: death, judgment, heaven, and hell. John Paul thought that if we would reflect on these four last things that we will all have to face, many of us would not be lost. And this is what I want… no one lost. And the only way that will happen is to be over-ready. Be over-ready by penance. Be over-ready by being honest about our sins: our acts of commission as well as omission. Be over-ready by using the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Fire and brimstone? No. I want you to consider this a briefing with all the Truth Sacred Scripture has to offer us. Adam and Eve, they were so unready for being separated from God. I really want you and I to be over-ready, and Lent is a good time to begin that process of being over-ready.