Cardinal Sarah: The Mass and the Serious Crisis of Faith

Adapting the Liturgy to Our Decadence

Cardinal Robert Sarah, The Catholic Thing:

Cardinal Robert Sarah

Cardinal Robert Sarah

Certainly, the Second Vatican Council wished to promote greater active participation by the people of God and to bring about progress day by day in the Christian life of the faithful (see Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 1). Certainly, some fine initiatives were taken along these lines. However we cannot close our eyes to the disaster, the devastation and the schism that the modern promoters of a living liturgy caused by remodeling the Church’s liturgy according to their ideas. They forgot that the liturgical act is not just a PRAYER, but also and above all a MYSTERY in which something is accomplished for us that we cannot fully understand but that we must accept and receive in faith, love, obedience and adoring silence. And this is the real meaning of active participation of the faithful. It is not about exclusively external activity, the distribution of roles or of functions in the liturgy, but rather about an intensely active receptivity: this reception is, in Christ and with Christ, the humble offering of oneself in silent prayer and a thoroughly contemplative attitude.

The Serious Crisis of Faith

The serious crisis of faith, not only at the level of the Christian faithful but also and especially among many priests and bishops, has made us incapable of understanding the Eucharistic liturgy as a sacrifice, as identical to the act performed once and for all by Jesus Christ, making present the Sacrifice of the Cross in a non-bloody manner, throughout the Church, through different ages, places, peoples and nations. There is often a sacrilegious tendency to reduce the Holy Mass to a simple convivial meal, the celebration of a profane feast, the community’s celebration of itself, or even worse, a terrible diversion from the anguish of a life that no longer has meaning or from the fear of meeting God face to face, because His glance unveils and obliges us to look truly and unflinchingly at the ugliness of our interior life. But the Holy Mass is not a diversion.

What is the Meaning of the Mass

It is the living sacrifice of Christ who died on the cross to free us from sin and death, for the purpose of revealing the love and the glory of God the Father. Many Catholics do not know that the final purpose of every liturgical celebration is the glory and adoration of God, the salvation and sanctification of human beings, since in the liturgy “God is perfectly glorified and men are sanctified” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 7). Most of the faithful—including priests and bishops—do not know this teaching of the Council. Just as they do not know that the true worshippers of God are not those who reform the liturgy according to their own ideas and creativity, to make it something pleasing to the world, but rather those who reform the world in depth with the Gospel so as to allow it access to a liturgy that is the reflection of the liturgy that is celebrated from all eternity in the heavenly Jerusalem.

As Benedict XVI often emphasized, at the root of the liturgy is adoration, and therefore God. Hence it is necessary to recognize that the serious, profound crisis that has affected the liturgy and the Church itself since the Council is due to the fact that its CENTER is no longer God and the adoration of Him, but rather men and their alleged ability to “do” something to keep themselves busy during the Eucharistic celebrations. Even today, a significant number of Church leaders underestimate the serious crisis that the Church is going through: relativism in doctrinal, moral and disciplinary teaching, grave abuses, the desacralization and trivialization of the Sacred Liturgy, a merely social and horizontal view of the Church’s mission. Many believe and declare loud and long that Vatican Council II brought about a true springtime in the Church. Nevertheless, a growing number of Church leaders see this “springtime” as a rejection, a renunciation of her centuries-old heritage, or even as a radical questioning of her past and Tradition. Political Europe is rebuked for abandoning or denying its Christian roots. But the first to have abandoned her Christian roots and past is indisputably the post-conciliar Catholic Church

“This column first appeared on the website The Catholic Thing (www.thecatholicthing.org). Copyright 2017. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.” Slight editing.

This is Super Serious: Fortune Telling, Ouija Boards, Tarot Cards . . .

Ouija Boards and Demonic Oppression

By Fr. John Hollowell, On This Rock:

I spoke with a young man who was battling authentic demonic oppression for over twenty years after being in a room where a Ouija Board was being used when this young man was in seventh grade.

He shared that he felt something come into him and that from that point on in his life, he knew he was battling a Demon that had considerable ability to harm him (head aches and weariness) and to suggest things to him denigrating himself, his family, discouraging him from going to Church, discouraging him from confession and priests, and much more.

Stay away from fortune telling, Ouija boards, Tarot Cards, and all that other garbage.  EVIL IS REAL.  

“All forms of divination are to be rejected:  recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to ‘unveil’ the future.  Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers.  They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone”
– Catechism 2116

Note that Deuteronomy compares all these evil consultations with killing children: “Let there not be found among you anyone who immolates his son or daughter in the fire, nor a fortuneteller, soothsayer, charmer, diviner, or caster of spells, nor one who consults ghosts and spirits or seeks oracles from the dead.”
– Deuteronomy 18: 10-11

St. Paul and Deuteronomy note that those who engage in these types of acts commit mortal sins.  It is SUPER SERIOUS

As noted from this particular young man’s story, even those AROUND this type of activity can be harmed in serious ways.

Satan’s Great Evangelizer: Judas

The Vital Importance of Knowing the Judas in Ourselves

By Fr. Paul Scalia, The Catholic Thing:

During we remember Palm Sunday, Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, that brief moment before he was betrayed. Every Gospel writer points out that our Lord’s betrayer was one of His closest friends. At the beginning of our Lord’s public life, when He calls the Apostles, Judas is already pegged as the one “who became traitor.” (Lk 6:16; cf. Mt 10:4; Mk 3:19). In the account of his going to the chief priests, he is “one of the twelve.” (Mt 26:14; Mk 14:10; cf. Lk 22:3). In John’s Gospel it is the Lord Himself Who makes this observation: “‘Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil.’ He spoke of Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was to betray him.” (Jn 6:70-71)

In a sense, the repeated phrase “one of the twelve” states a simple historical fact. Jesus was not just put to death by His enemies but betrayed by one of His own. In a deeper sense, however, the line serves as a warning to all who follow Christ – and, indeed, to those closest to Him. Judas was with our Lord for the same three years as the others. With them, he heard the sermons, witnessed the miracles, and was sent forth by Christ. And yet he betrayed our Lord. We should never think ourselves beyond the wickedness of Judas. Proximity to Jesus does not always mean intimacy with Him.

So it is a healthy thing to look at Judas’s negative example. Not with a view to condemning him all over again or to feel our own superiority. Rather, we do so with a certain empathy, aware that we labor under the same human weaknesses and are likewise capable of grave sin – of betrayal. What then do we find in the betrayer that we might also find in ourselves?

The Faults of Judas

Judas kisses Jesus

First is Judas’s failure to persevere in his conversion. Our Lord chose him just as surely as He chose Peter and John. He did not do so begrudgingly or out of necessity. When our Lord addresses Judas as “friend” in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mt 26:50), He does intend it as irony or sarcasm. At some point, Judas’ conversion seems to have faltered. Perhaps it was simple sloth. Perhaps it was a teaching he couldn’t accept. John hints that the Bread of Life discourse was Judas’s undoing – hence the Lord’s reference to him as “a devil” at the end of it.

 Or maybe Judas felt betrayed by the Lord. He may have had expectations of the Messiah that Jesus did not fulfill – expectations of glory and power hard to square with the repeated references to the Son of Man suffering, being rejected, and killed. For three years, he followed this rabbi and the anticipated glory had not arrived. He grew impatient with the Lord’s talk about suffering. In this regard Romano Guardini observes: “That he did not leave, but remained as one of the Twelve was the beginning of his treachery. Why he stayed, we do not know. Perhaps he still hoped to muddle through inwardly, or he wanted at least to see how things would develop – unless he already dreamed of profiting by the situation.” (The Lord)

Judas’s Greed

Which brings us to the next point: Judas’s greed. Judas objected to Mary’s anointing of Jesus with costly ointment not out of concern for the poor but “because he was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it.” (Jn 12:6) Greed is grasping. It’s really not so much about possessions but control – about having such means at our disposal that we do not need to rely on others, or even God. It is “practical” in the worst sense of that word. And Judas was an eminently practical man. In fact, one theory is that he foresaw our Lord’s coming defeat and was hoping to set himself up politically and financially by the betrayal. A very practical consideration.

Seeing Things in Worldly Manner

Further, there seems to be a superficiality or shallowness about Judas, a tendency to see things in only natural, worldly terms (not surprising in the practical man). At the Last Supper, our Lord says to His Apostles, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” They ask Him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” Except Judas. He asks instead, “Is it I, Rabbi?” (Mt 26:21-25) The others saw Jesus as Lord. Judas saw Him as only a rabbi, a teacher.

Of course, a teacher is important. But one does not worship a teacher. A teacher’s words can be powerful, perhaps even life-changing. But they are ultimately human, limited by the world’s wisdom and time itself. Jesus’ words endure: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Mt 24:35) Judas does not seem to have realized the depth of our Lord’s words or have entrusted himself to their authority. They were for him perhaps interesting and challenging, but not authoritative. How often we hear that about His teachings today?

Regret Versus Repentance

Finally, and sadly, Judas fails to repent. No doubt, he feels remorse over what he has done. And this is no small thing. In the tangle of his heart he still bore at least some love for Jesus. But notice: he returns not to Jesus but to the chief priests – to his coconspirators. To them, he acknowledges his sin. Judas possesses not repentance but regret. By repentance we look to the good God, to the Redeemer, to the one Who is Mercy. In His light, we reject sin. By regret we look to ourselves, turn further inward, and close ourselves off from the reconciliation and healing that come from God alone.

In Holy Week, we would like to be more like John, who stood faithfully at the foot of the Cross, or like Mary Magdalene, who kept a sorrowful vigil at Calvary. But that would be to give ourselves too much credit. This is the hour to think not of our strengths but of our weaknesses. It is no time to look askance at Judas but to realize that we labor under the same wounded human nature as he.

Like Judas, we fail to persevere in our conversion. We settle for piety instead of holiness. We turn aside if things get difficult and fail to deepen our devotion. We may even feel betrayed by the Lord – if He has not answered a prayer the way we want or catered to our own imaginings of Him.

Grasping  Control

Like Judas, we grasp for things – for money, possessions, power. In a word, for control, trying to keep our dependence on God at bay. Like him, we tend to superficiality, making our faith only a matter of human wisdom, interesting insights, psychological comfort rather than an encounter with the Word made flesh. We adopt a worldly view of religion rather than put on the mind Christ.

Hence, we do not entrust ourselves to His words as we should: Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. . . .He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. . . .Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. . . .as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.

And most of all we fail to deepen our repentance. We feel regret for our own sake, because our sins made us look bad. For all these failings and sins the Lord has granted us now the opportunity for real repentance. “Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor 6:2)

“This column first appeared on the website The Catholic Thing (www.thecatholicthing.org). Copyright 2017. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.”

Slight editing of headlines and bolding.

What the Church Really Needs

The Passion of Christ

By Fr. Daniel E. Doctor – The reading of the Passion reminds us, calls us, to remember that the death of our Savior is one of the saddest stories of all time. It is a terrible example of our sinful human nature and what we are capable of doing to each other. As Thomas Hobbes, the great English Philosopher, once observed, “life in this world is cruel, brutish, and short.”

This too, we see in the history of Christ, a tragic story about the death of a 33-year-old carpenter. It is depressing and a horrible thing to witness such injustice against the innocent, a fake trial, unreliable witnesses, false testimony, cruel treatment for committing no real crime. This, the killing of a blameless man, an execution of the Truth, a silencing of Goodness and Beauty.

There was in Him no stately bearing to make us look at Him, nor appearance that would attract us to Him. A man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom men hide their faces, spurned and we held him in no esteem. Yet, it was our infirmities that He bore, our suffering that He endured, as one smitten by God and afflicted.

In the words of the Prophet speaking for Christ, “I have not rebelled, have not turned back…I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard, my face I did not shield for the buffets and spitting.”

A horrible thing to witness, a human person, a man…tortured, mocked, rejected, bloody and bruised, ultimately alone with no one to speak for him, no one to protected him, to stand up for him, scourged, beat up, abused and discarded as worthless.

God our Savior wants all men to be saved and come to know the Truth. And the truth is this...that this man Jesus Christ was sent by His Almighty Father. The Divine Son of God in the flesh, to give, to sacrifice, to offer Himself, His body, His soul as a ransom for many.

So, Christ was pierced for our offenses, crushed by our sins, upon Him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by His stripes we were healed. We have all gone astray, each following His own way. But the Lord laid upon Him the guilt of us all. Though He was harshly treated, He submitted and opened not His mouth.

But Jesus, the afflicted one, He knew what the Psalms said of Him in prophecy, for “the Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame. And so He was silent and opened not His mouth.”

This is what sin has done to our Lord, your sin and mine, ultimately beating a man to His death. And if that wasn’t enough, after His death we run Him through with a spear and walk away. A job well done. . . God is dead. . . !!

Christ suffered for us and left us an example, to have us follow in His footsteps. He did no wrong, no deceit was found in His mouth. When He was insulted, He returned no insult. When He was made to suffer, He did not counter with threats. Instead, He delivered Himself up to the One who judges justly. In His Own Body He brought your sins to the Cross, that all of us, dead to sin, could live in accord with God’s will.

This passion, this Passover of our Christ is a horribly sad story about a Father who so loved the world, who gave us His only begotten Son and we murdered Him. Strong and sober words, but the Truth nonetheless. No one can pride themselves into thinking that they are innocent of this crime done against the Only Son of God. The level of our own ingratitude alone to our Lord who gave us life and freedom, then we use these gifts to kill His Son. And yet even in the midst of all of this, He still continually calls us to repentance and forgiveness because “by His wounds you were healed.”

But our time here on earth is not eternal and it runs out for all of us. Wouldn’t it be wise and prudent of us to be grateful now and turn our lives over to Him, instead of waiting? As St. Augustine said, “long have I waited to love you.” But why have we waited? What benefit can there be in waiting to love God? Waiting to turn our lives completely over to Him. . .?

Scripture warns us, “No one makes a fool of God. A man will only reap what He sows. If he sows in the field of the flesh, he will reap a harvest of corruption; but if his seed ground is the Spirit; he will reap everlasting life.”

The message of the Cross is complete absurdity to those who are headed for ruin, but to us who are experiencing salvation it is the power of God. Scripture says, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and thwart the cleverness of the clever. God’s folly is wiser than men and His weakness more powerful than men. God chose those who the world considers absurd to shame the wise.”

The Great Grace of Charity

This is a great grace that the virtue of charity can bring to us, if we live it. This virtue of charity gives us clarity in knowing and serving God; that makes the wise and the powerful ashamed; and exposes the thoughts of this world as absurd, imprudent, and foolish.

Remember, Charity means that we must aid, help, and assist our neighbor. Think of the story of the “Good Samaritan.” Charity means to go out of our way to show our neighbor kindness, to be tolerant and compassionate, “to suffer with,” as Saint Pope John Paul II reminded us, to be “generous, sympathetic, and understanding.”

True Christian Charity is the willingness to judge others in a tolerant and favorable way, to give to others the benefit of the doubt, to show affection for, even friendship towards, to actively love.

Christ taught that as we grow in charity, as we pray and become more mature in our practice of the virtues, then we naturally grow in a deeper love of Him and our neighbor. Simply put, we are to pray, do good, and love. We do these three things, out of love for Jesus Christ, with the firm hope that our faith will bring us to unending love with God the Father. We also know that while we are in this life – we need to receive the sacraments frequently, with Confession and Holy Communion once a year as the minimum requirement, so that we continue to grow into what God created us to be. That is what real mature love is, and the only way our Lord ever uses the word, as a sacrifice for the sake of the other for the good of the other.

What the Church Needs

What the Church really needs today is what the saints knew it needed during their lives, and they lived it. It is what the Popes and Bishops of the past, knew it needed, who fought the evils of their day and protected their sheep with the same determination that a Father protects his family. This reminds me of Pope Francis, and his scandalous behavior when he publicly failed to truly shepherd the Church when he said “who am I to judge” when he should have said, “go and sin no more. . . .”

We all, deep down within us, truly know that what is good, true, and beautiful must be defended, protected, and cherished by someone who is willing to get into the fight for what is right. To put on the armor of faith and stand with Christ, His Angels, and Saints in defense of His Bride the Church.

What the Church needs is strong men, masculine men, who are willing to walk more closely the path of Christ by serving the Church as her spiritual fathers, as Her Captains in the great battle for souls, so that the next generation of Catholics will not be fatherless.

What the Church needs is strong men and women, who are consecrated in the Truth, willing to seek out and do the good: prepared by the Sacraments, educated in the “Science of the Saints,” invincible in their prayer life, willing to defend at every turn no matter the personal cost, and even die if need be in defense of Holy Mother Church. And with Christ, as our great crucified champion, our dying to our life of sin ultimately leads to everlasting life. . . where we are seen as the great heroes, saints, and martyrs of our time, following the Bridegroom of the Church, that Divine Lamb, wherever He goes. . . .

A Hard Case: Divorce and Cohabitation

Desiring to Live a Virtuous Life

In an interview with Edward Pentin, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio offers this example and says: yes. He refers to his recent book on Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia in which he speaks of this case:

Think of a woman who lives with a married man. She has three little children. She has already been with this man for ten years. Now the children think of her as a mother. He, the partner, is very much anchored to this woman, as a lover, as a woman. If this woman were to say: “I am leaving this mistaken union because I want to correct my life, but if I did this, I would harm the children and the partner,” then she might say: “I would like to, but I cannot.” In precisely these cases, based on one’s intention to change and the impossibility of changing, I can give that person the sacraments, in the expectation that the situation is definitively clarified.

What’s the harm to the partner in her departure? “But how can she leave the union? He [her civilly married spouse] will kill himself. The children, who will take care of them? They will be without a mother. Therefore, she has to stay there.”

He even states that the woman who desires to end the adulterous relationship would be guilty of killing her partner by leaving: “But if someone says: ‘I want to change, but in this moment I cannot, because if I do it, I will kill people,’ I can say to them, ‘Stop there. When you can, I will give you absolution and Communion.’”

The argument posed here is a quintessential “hard case” being used to establish a premise in favor of treating publicly known adultery as no longer an obstacle to the lawful reception of Holy Communion. But this premise sanctions emotionally manipulative coercion and victimizes the woman further by treating her desire to live a virtuous life as the cause of harm to another.

How can that be? Obedience to God’s law is the cause of good in the life of the woman in question and that good radiates out to those around her. Her departure might shock the man into realizing how abusive his behavior has been toward her. His children are his responsibility, along with their mother, assuming she is still alive and involved in their lives. Her decision to follow God’s law will bring the children sadness, but more importantly gives a living witness of the Christian duty always to obey God’s law.

Cardinal Coccopalmerio

The man in question uses the threat of suicide to coerce this woman, not simply to remain in his household to raise his children, as would be the case if he agreed to live in a chaste, brother and sister relationship for the sake of the children; he is coercing her into committing acts of adultery. He is sinning gravely on two counts. She is conscious of her objectively sinful behavior and wants to conform her life to the demands of the Gospel.

Her culpability is mitigated by the force and fear imposed upon her by this man’s threat. Nonetheless, when grace moves a person to reject sin, the Church must never tell that believer that she need not worry about her sinful situation because the man she is civilly married to is somehow entitled to adulterous relations, lest he kill himself.

Is it an authentically Christian pastoral approach to allow a deadly threat by the man to go unchallenged? Could the threat of suicide likewise be invoked to allow other gravely sinful situations to continue? If he were sexually abusing his children, and threatened to kill himself if they were removed from the house, would anyone think they should be left there? Why should his demand to continue in adulterous acts with a reluctant woman be treated differently?

An underlying assumption here may be that once the woman agreed to live with this man more uxorio, she somehow lost her right to refuse pseudo-conjugal rights, and that such a refusal would harm him, if not kill him. This is a backwards way of looking at the plight of a woman who, moved by God’s grace, wants to live faithful to the Sixth Commandment.

By allowing this “suicide exception,” the Church would be tolerating the woman’s exploitation and reinforcing the man’s mistaken notion that he can, without any consequences, manipulate another person, until such time “that the situation is definitively clarified” (whatever that means).

The role of the priest confessor in this case is to help this man and woman to live virtuous lives, which means abandoning threats to commit suicide and giving good example to the children by living a chaste life together. If that is not possible, the priest should advise the repentant woman to live in accordance with her upright conscience by departing.

Sad to say, Cardinal Coccopalmerio believes it is impossible (emphasis added) for some Christians to change their situation: “I say in the book, it’s necessary to instruct the faithful that when they see two divorced and remarried that go to the Eucharist, they ought not to say the Church now says that condition is good, therefore marriage is no longer indissoluble. They ought to say these people will have reasons examined by the ecclesial authorities on account of which they cannot change their condition, and in the expectation that they change, the Church has placed importance on their desire, their intention to change with the impossibility of doing so.”

Sed contra: “With God all things are possible.” Mt 19:26

 

“This column first appeared on the website The Catholic Thing (www.thecatholicthing.org). Copyright 2017. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.”

The Keys to Getting Your Prayers Answered

“Praying Like You Mean It!”

By Fr. Richard Heilman, Roman Catholic Man:

Fervent Prayer: Praying Like You Mean It.

Whenever I am offering spiritual direction, and the directee laments about a situation, wondering why God has not answered their prayer … I always ask, “How are you praying?” Nine times out of ten the answer comes back with something that sounds like, “I don’t know … I guess I add a petition to my rosary or something.” It is then that I speak to them about “Praying like you mean it!”

St. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote,

“Timid prayer does not pierce heaven, because immoderate fear binds the soul so that prayer, far from flying upward, can not even come out. Being lukewarm, it grows weak in its flight and falls because it has no strength. Prayer that is faithful, humble, and fervent will undoubtedly pierce heaven and it will certainly not return fruitless.”

I have witnessed countless miracles. In each case, we offered “intense prayer campaigns” … we were “begging God.” St. Bernard is correct, as we offered faithful, humble and *fervent* prayer that sought to pierce heaven. This was much more than *just* adding a petition here or there.

Here are some of the more notable miracles we’ve witnessed …

My uncle, a priest, was confirmed by two experts, that he was brain dead. After praying for him in the Holy Land, and bringing him a stone from the Pool of Bethesda, he completely recovered.

 

I prayed in the Holy Land for another woman who was filled with cancer, and brought her a stone too. She completely recovered.

 

My brother-in-law’s nephew was filled with cancer, and several of us prayed with the intercession of Padre Pio (we actually added oil blessed with intercession of Padre Pio), and he completely recovered.

 

My nephew was moments away from dying from pneumonia and excessive internal bleeding. We asked tens of thousands on social media to pray with the intercession of Pope Pius XII. He miraculously recovered.

 

A friend’s dad suffered a nine centimeter ruptured aneurysm (I’m told there is no record of anyone surviving one this size). We asked for prayer just as we did with my nephew. He miraculously recovered.

 

In Madison, WI, UW Clinics were threatening to implement late term abortions. We got over 200 people to pray the Stations of the Cross in front of the clinic, and ten days later they announced they are withdrawing there plans to go forward with this.

 

Religious freedom was suddenly under great attack, notably with the Hobby Lobby case. We got 100s of people to pray every Thursday evening in the Summer in front of the State Capitol for two years. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby.

 

Tens of thousands joined together with the Novena for Our Nation in the lead up to the 2016 Presidential election. The freight train of secular hedonism was stopped in its tracks.

And, here is the story of what happened just on the Western edge of Madison, WI, in the tiny town of Pine Bluff …

 

PINE BLUFF VS. PORNOGRAPHY

“As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage” (Exodus 17:11).

In the summer of 2004, I was assigned as pastor of two parishes, one of which was St. Mary’s of Pine Bluff, a Catholic parish in a small unincorporated town in southern Wisconsin, just west from Madison. The little town of Pine Bluff has one church, two bars, and a handful of homes. It is surrounded by fields and idyllic rolling hills and countryside. It’s the kind of town where people dream of raising their kids.

So it was that just months after I arrived in Pine Bluff, one of the bar owners decided to rent out his cozy establishment to a strip club owner. Neighbors were appalled, and the little town was stunned. But there was not much, it seemed, that anyone could do.

The folks in Pine Bluff, however, didn’t yet understand my resolve and my absolute trust in God’s miracle power. Lying in bed one night, I found myself in my prayer … “What in the world did you have in mind, God, by allowing this strip club across the street of my new parish?” Then one word came to me, “Mile.” It was then that I envisioned the trek from the front of our church to the end of the block, then back to the church and concluding in the cemetery behind our church. Then two words came to me, “Miracle Mile.”

These words and that image came so strong that I got out of bed at 3:00 AM in the morning and put on my sweat suit and went out in my car. I reset the odometer down to zero, and drove the path I envisioned in mind.  When I reached the end of that path (up in the cemetery), the odometer rolled to exactly one mile. I knew then that God was speaking to me.

That following week, I gathered together some of the faith-filled people I had met since my arrival, and we began to make plans. Surprisingly, they did not think I had lost my rocker when I told them about my 3:00 AM drive through Pine Bluff. They, too, believed there was something to this.

We discerned that we were called to pray the Stations of the Cross along that one mile route. Some people designed little 3 foot high crosses, and we placed a roman numeral on each one, signifying each of the 14 Stations. All the neighbors allowed us to plant these crosses in their yards, near to the sidewalk. We then chose Palm Sunday to hold this Stations of the Cross. We asked people to come, and over 200 people joined us.

CrucifixCemetarycrop1Participants carried their prayer sheets and a white ribbon (a symbol of purity and anti-pornography). The twelfth station found them at the entrance to the beautiful parish cemetery on a bluff with a life-size crucifix of our Lord and a one-hundred-year-old stone kneeler in front (pictured here). The participants tied their white ribbons to this kneeler as a prayer form, much like lighting a vigil candle in church.

After that first prayer walk, a container holding prayer sheets and ribbons was placed at the first station on the walk. All were invited to come, pick up a prayer sheet and white ribbon, and pray at anytime of the day or night, as they wished. Over the next seven months, prayer warriors walked the path and prayed the Stations. The white crosses on residents’ lawns served as a very tangible reminder to pray the Stations and to pray for God’s mercy.

Father Does the “Moses Thing”

While I walked and prayed that mile many times, my primary way of praying during those days of intense spiritual warfare was to wake up before dawn every morning and drive up to Blue Mounds State Park (When one looks west at my church, from a distance, they can see Blue Mounds  in the background … it looks like a mighty mountain). On top of Blue Mounds (Blue? Mary’s color? 😉 ) is a lookout tower (Fire tower?). It was 64 steps to rise to the top. I brought my Bernese Mountain dog, Angel, and I would leash her to the bottom of the tower while I ascended to the top. On top, I would look east and see much of Madison from the high point. And, of course, I was looking out over my entire two parishes. I made sure I was there before the sun would rise, so I was praying as the sun rose. At some point, I found a straight branch that I used, much like Moses’ staff, to hold up and pray … recalling the scripture passage when Moses prayed this way … “As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage” (Exodus 17:11). After I had prayed on the tower, Angel and I would walk the paths on Blue Mounds as I prayed various prayers, such as the rosary. I only missed four days on top of Blue Mounds from April through October of that year.

Victory!!  Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam!!

The miracle mile was, indeed, miraculous. Even though many say that the porn industry is more protected (under First Amendment rights) than are the babies in our mothers’ wombs, within seven months the strip club was chased out of town. Little Pine Bluff was overjoyed, and a victory was won for Our Lord. We estimated that over 700 ribbons were tied to that 100 year old kneeler, represented 700 miles walked in prayer.

PRAY LIKE YOU MEAN IT!

The Culture of Death: Knowing Better Than God

God and Heaven are Top Priority

By Bishop Rober Morlino, The Catholic Herald:

Dear Friends,

Bishop Robert Morlino

Bishop Robert Morlino

The Lenten readings give all of us a general principle for evaluating our own lives and determining areas for growth during the holy Lenten season.

The First Reading reminds us of Satan’s successful deception of Adam and Eve, convincing them that pride, that is, disobedience of God, will enable them to be like God.

In fact, Adam and Eve are left in the Garden for the first time experiencing shame as they learn the hard way that the wages of sin never amounts to being like God, but rather the wages of sin is death.

God and Heaven are top priority

The Second Reading makes clear that disobedience and death really are the very same choice.

Disobedience and that assertion that “I know better than God!” leads me to place God and Heaven at a lower priority in my own life. Once this happens, it becomes progressively easier to make my goal something less-than-God, something less-than-Heaven.

But God and Heaven alone are the fullness of life, and ultimately to choose what is less-than-God or -Heaven as my top priority is to choose death.

That is why we have grown so readily in the United States into a culture of death. God and Heaven have been put on the shelf by our culture and the new normal has been to make something less-than-God and -Heaven our top priority.

Fighting the temptations

The Gospel Reading moves us to consider the temptations of Jesus.

Each of those temptations is a call to choose something less-than-God or -Heaven as the important life choice.

Whether it be bread, or earthly kingdoms, or the worship of evil in place of God, in every instance, Jesus is tempted to stop short of fulfilling His Father’s mission.

And so for us, too, every temptation is always a temptation to stop short of God and Heaven when pursuing the destiny of our life.

Culture of death

Our culture of death has led us not only to believe that we know better than God, even sometimes under the devil’s deceit calling this “following our conscience,” but even to the explicit killing involved in euthanasia or abortion, again, is something of a new normal.

The thought of choosing death over life in a way seems unthinkable. From another point of view, what seems unthinkable has become the new normal for our culture and for our society.

Lent is a time to discover the Truth

Lent is thus a time for us to sift through, to discover the Truth about God and Heaven in our own lives.

Anything less as top priority means death — the wages of sin — manifested in disobedience. Let our Lenten examination of conscience begin.

Thank you for reading this. God bless each one of you and let us pray for one another that we have a holy, and yes, happy Lent, as we hasten to the celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection.

Praised be Jesus Christ!


This column is the Bishop’s  Morlino’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.

Those Pesky Cell Phones During Mass

The Devil’s Den of Distraction

By Fr. John Lankeit:

When the Temple in Jerusalem degenerated from reverent “house of prayer” (cf. Mt 21;13) into raucous public market, Jesus cleaned house! Since Lent is the perfect time to get our own house—our own soul—in order, I’d like to address one of the most insidious impediments to our respect for God and our charity toward others during Mass:

CELL PHONES!

Have you ever noticed how the words “cell phone,” sounds remarkably like “self phone”? Besides obliterating manners and destroying common courtesy, a cell phone seems to possess the power to make other people completely disappear from its user’s consciousness or concern. A prominent Catholic blogger observed insightfully in an Internet article on device addition last September:

“When someone next to you answers the phone and starts talking loudly as if you didn’t exist, you realize that, in [his or] her private zone, you don’t.”

As a priest who celebrates an average of eight to twelve Masses per week, I invite you to consider the epidemic of cell phone disruption during Mass—from a priest’s perspective. In my experience, we priests hear an average of three or more phone intrusions per Mass—whether the device is ringing, or beeping/chiming to indicate the arrival of an email or “Tweet”. Multiply that number by eight to twelve Masses per week, and a priest must endure this devilish distraction somewhere in the neighborhood of 24 to 36…or MORE…times per week! And most often, it’s not just one ring…or one beep. Sometimes the phone’s owner lets it ring—and RING—and RING—all through the Scripture readings…and even during the Consecration!

At a televised Mass some time ago, someone let their phone ring through its entire cycle during the homily…not once…not twice…but three times! It takes extremely inappropriate behavior to force me to interrupt the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, but by that point—live TV or not—I had reached the limit of my patience, as had all the people who kept looking in the general direction of the noise. I stopped the homily, looked toward the anonymous perpetrator and asked the person to turn the phone, “all…the…way…off!” It was extremely unsettling to have to confront this rudeness during a live broadcast of the Mass—especially with thousands of viewers tuning in—but when the prayers of the Mass are drowned out by electronic noise pollution, even a priest with heroic patience can only take so much.

After that particular Mass, a well-meaning parishioner approached me and said, “Father, don’t get so upset. Be patient.”

With all due respect to that parishioner, he only noticed that one phone during that one Mass—though, immediately after the first offending phone was finally silenced, another person’s phone rang. No joke! By that point in the week, I had probably already endured dozens of rings and chimes during the many Masses I celebrated. Since I had confronted that incident on live TV, I expected a backlash. Instead many parishioners, phone callers, emailers—and even the TV crew—offered enthusiastic expressions of encouragement and gratitude.

Anyone with a modicum of social awareness recognizes how modern “communications devices” are actually destroying genuinely human interaction between individuals. A growing number of scientific studies also catalog the damaging effects on brain development—not to mention the common symptoms of addiction and withdrawal—from device misuse and overuse.

But it’s when our phones disrupt our relationship with God—and distract others from God—that it’s time for priests to “cleanse the temple” of this modern scourge that turns the Father’s house of prayer into the Devil’s den of distraction.

For all the rationalizations people make for bringing their phone into church—and I’ve probably heard them all—we would better serve our souls, better respect our neighbors, and better honor the Lord…if we checked our excuses at the door…and left our phones in the car!