My First 5 Years as a Collar Wearing Priest

Why the Collar: A Visible Witness

By Fr. Chris Pietraszko, Fr. Pietraszko’s Corner:

Whenever my parents got into an argument, as a child it was somewhat of a confusing experience.  I didn’t understand how two people who loved each other could disagree, especially when they seemed unanimously in agreement on my own behaviour and how I was to be punished…lol.   They were a united front in most things, and so an argument was an experience that was out of the ordinary and an unexpected experience of observing my parents relationship.  However, arguments happen often because we “care” and we are willing to discuss the issues we think matter and the issues we are passionate about.  I would think that most healthy marriages demand an argument from time to time to demonstrate a spirit of indifference hasn’t taken root, and that our own perspectives are going to continue to be perfected and purified by dialogue and discussion.  But as a child, knowing that divorce was a possibility in many people’s homes, my immediate thought, when I observed arguments fostered a devastating fear that my parents might get a divorce.  As a child I didn’t have the tools to realize that arguments, even heated arguments do not imply that love is absent.  And so I remember asking both my mom and my dad, separately:  “Are you getting a divorce?”  Their response was exactly the same, and it has made a rather large impact on my own priesthood.  Their response was unequivocally, and unconditionally:  “never.”

Love Requires Sacrifice

For our culture, to say “never” is to place limits on our own personal autonomy and freedom.  It is to close off possibilities in the near future, possibilities we feel entitled to preserve for ourselves.  But in reality, 0G1C1466love requires a sacrifice of personal liberty, because it recognizes that liberty is not an end in itself, but is there primarily to give way to love.  When we slam the door on unfaithfulness and never allow even the thought to be entertained, we are committing ourselves to love.  But the moment we begin to reserve for ourselves the hypothetical possibility of going back on our word, we have already lost the deeply rooted spirit of faithfulness, as we have built within our soul an escape-hatch that will always remain a cause of temptation and lead to a lack of interior freedom to say “yes” to our commitment to love.

My Incredible Adventure

This April marks my 5th year in the priesthood – and it is has been an incredible adventure.  There has been a great deal of hardships, humiliations, failures, arguments, and other things that are best kept between me and those to whom it concerns.  There have also been incredible graces, moments of encountering God in a new way through ministry, and also incredible moments of watching others encounter God in miraculous ways.  I have seen people experience ecstasy in prayers, grade 8 students receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit during Adoration, having faith become borne in their own heart.  I have heard confessions where massive wounds and heavy burdens have been lifted or healed.  I have made relationships with many people in time of death, sickness and joy and sorrow.  I have been greatly encouraged by those who have returned to the faith or returned to confession as a result of something I said or did that God blessed with grace.

Whether it was a moment of desolation or consolation, it matters not – my love for Christ and the priesthood has not changed, it has grown.  This is simply another way of saying that the Priesthood does not “need me” but that “I need the priesthood.”  This vocation is changing my heart every day, humbling it, giving me tougher skin, helping me to put others before my own needs, and above all, placing God in the centre of my life’s priorities, because it is “Truly Right and Just.”  If anyone would ever think I would waver, let me re-echo what my own parents said without qualification, without conditions:  I will never leave the priesthood.

Please Call Me Father

One of the blogs I posted earlier on in the beginnings of this call of the priesthood pertained to my wearing of the Roman Collar.  I still fervently practice this because the level of my commitment and love for the priesthood has taken on this particular means of tangible expression.  That is to say, my commitment to being available in serving others has taken on the tangible sign of being visibly present in public, wearing my collar.  This is both a chance for consolation and desolation, but it is a commitment not to an external practice itself, but through this external practice to achieve the very spirit behind the ministry I am called to.  Not only do I continue to adhere to the wearing of the Roman Collar, but I also maintain boundaries with most people, gently and politely hoping they will refer to me as Fr. Chris, and not the familiar “Chris.”  This comes with some challenge, as people often interpret this to mean that I want respect, personally.  I have, however, never called my own father “Mike,” and I never plan to.  Not because I consider my father as having more dignity than I, and not because “Dad” is a title – but rather because it is a type of relationship that I am called to have with him, and one that I cherish.  I have spent a great deal of time reflecting on the type of relationship I have with others, and with a few exceptions, I always realize that I am to be first a Father to others, not just in name, but in the manner of relating to others.  This means I am called to provide for their spiritual needs; I am to not ask them to serve me, but I am meant to serve them.  I am to die for them, and stand in the way of anything that could harm their spiritual life.  These are the things that come to my mind when I hear “Father Chris.”  What does not come to my mind is, “special me.”  This paternal role is not meant to be denigrated to mere authority and power as some begin to believe it is or some have twisted it to mean for clericalist purposes.  Rather, it is more deeply and profoundly a call to love those whom God has entrusted to me, as my own Heavenly Father has loved me.

The Collar: A Visible Witness

People have been most receptive of this – with a minority of exceptions.  The exceptions normally come from those who have been taught by others to interpret these external signs to only communicate something pejorative.  The most enjoyable experience I have of the collar is not when people scorn you publically for being a priest, as I experienced a few times.  Rather, I enjoy the times that I have walked into a Pub in Windsor and had people ask me, right there, to hear their confession.  Or as I walk through Wal-Mart, the same takes place, with a person who hasn’t been to confession in years.  Sometimes at the mall, youth ask for a blessing or simply say hello, and request prayers or we simply share a laugh.  These are not exceptional cases, they happen quite often, and it always makes me wonder how much good would I not accomplish today, had I hidden this simple white tab in my shirt?  More importantly it has made me deeply aware of how to penetrate the secular culture we live in, by simply being visibly present, showing up, and communicating to others that I am willing to drop everything for them – that is to be:  Salt and Light for the world.

It has been five years since I was ordained, this month, and amongst the failures, successes, and the fruitfulness of ministry, harsh remote-judgments and odd canonizations (others oddly think I’m a saint) – all I can say is I’m in it for the long run.  And with my brother priests who have proven time in again that they have my back, and that I have theirs, we march forward.  To five years in ministry, God I say to you, thank you for this tremendous gift and I will never abandon it:  never.

French Priest Slained: Fr. Jacques Hamel and the Crown of Martyrdom

Father Jacques Hamel Beheaded by ISIS Militants During Mass

Fr. Jacques Hamel Had a Target on His Back

By Fr. Christopher Pietraszko:

Any priest has a target on his back the moment he is ordained. This target is present for both spiritual and political reasons. We notice that in various cultures one of the first laws decreed by a fascist-like state is to prohibit priests from publically wearing any clerical attire. This is because the priest is a powerful symbol to the people of the conscience that ought to be directed towards faith in God. The visible priest in his own subtle way of witnessing walks the streets reminding people that there is a higher authority than the state, and if it ever contradicts that higher authority, it is worth contradicting. Therefore, fascist states who predicate their ideology of placing themselves above all other authorities naturally enter into a conflict with the priest.

Spiritually, priests are also under attack because if one priest’s pastoral vision and spirituality can be corrupted so can the many that follow him. Therefore Powers and Principalities (fallen angels) seek to attack Christ’s priests in order to mislead masses of people.

With the death of a Father Jacques Hamel in the face of Islamic Terrorism we should call to mind another truth – that priests enter into this ministry with a willingness to be a target. Although we might look at a martyrdom as a tragedy, which it certainly is, we also look at it as a cross that a saint bore victoriously. To be selected for the crown of martyrdom is no easy task, but it is something that every Christian is called to be willing to do, and first amongst them, the Christian-leadership.

Fr. Jacques Hamel laid down his life

With that in mind, we must not look at this 84 year old French-priest as a vulnerable person – although he was – but rather as a man who was selected by God to courageously lay down his life for love of Christ. Not for an ideology, not for politics, but out of reciprocity for the Sacrifice of Christ, and to unite it to the Cross out of love and sacrifice for those whom he served. A priest’s martyrdom is one way in which a priest has in fact fulfilled his own vocation – and therefore, while his death must be mourned, his virtue must be celebrated. How else do we also not rip the rug from under the feet of our persecutors than by triumphing at a saints death with which they just helped make.

Triumph in heaven Priest of God.

God have Mercy on Fr. Jacques Hamel.

If the Old Testament Laws have Changed…Why Not Homosexuality Too?

Saying Yes to Real Love

By Fr. Christopher Pietraszko, Fr. Pietraszko’s Corner: Sometimes people will quote scripture with regard to the penal laws in the old-testament, punishing people’s sins that are quite common-today.  Amongst them is homosexual acts.  Secularists and progressive Christians will point to the apparent hypocrisy of a Church that calls those living according to their sexual desires that do not follow the order of God’s design to repentance, while not also calling those who break other laws in the old testament that seem trivial today.  As a result of such arm-chair theologians we get seemingly ironic yet ignorant memes such as the one in this blog-post.Lev Meme

Part of the theological problem is people have too few categories to assess the law and to understand it.  Such an over-simplistic (dumbed-down faith) results from not catechizing people of common-sense distinctions with regard to the moral law and the juridical precepts which St. Thomas Aquinas and the Church clearly indicate were not intended to be perpetual, while the natural law is immutable.  That is to say some laws were given by God for a time, and others are immutable.  In the old-testament, often this distinction is not being clearly made, as the author lists the punishment for disobedience to all laws in general.

Thanks be to God, for the non-fundamentalist tradition of the Catholic Church.  The Church makes the distinction between the Natural Moral Law and various juridical precepts.  The natural-moral law is engraved into the very nature of man, and is immutable, while various juridical laws that were meant to maintain the integrity of the Jewish people as a distinct civilization were conditioned upon the time and circumstance, yet nonetheless willed by God.

 

3 Reasons Why People Do Not Make a Distinction Between
the Natural Moral Law and Various Juridical Precepts

The problem that I run into is that you will rarely find people that are willing to take the time to understand this distinction.  Firstly because their interest is in supporting a conclusion by whatever means necessary, including a straw-man argument.  Secondly, because so few teachers of the faith are able to articulate the distinction well enough for people.  Thirdly and most importantly, most people have a post-modern understanding of law, where they understand Law in general to be an imposition upon nature, rather than something flowing out of nature itself.  That is to say, too often people perceive God’s moral law, (Divine or Natural) to be a “positive-law” that is arbitrarily imposed upon man, rather than for the objective purpose of helping man flourish. Moses

Those who seek to do away with the law because they feel as if our modern era has progressed beyond it have likely bought into this notion of a “positive-moral law” given to us by God.  The irony is that such people claim to be following the “spirit of the law.”  When in reality, to gaze upon the moral law as if it is something imposed upon nature, rather than flowing out of it, for its own fulfillment and flourishing indicates the very opposite truth:  a failure to internalize the spirit of the moral law.  That is to say, in deeply penetrating the nature of God’s law as pointing towards true fulfillment in the divine design and nature of man, we now live in accord to the Spirit.  As a result we will look upon the natural moral law as immutable and the juridical laws as changeable.

But if we view God’s moral law as a positive law that constantly changes, then you must also ascribe to the notion that God is violently at work against us, to supress and repress our nature as such, rather than to heal it.  Yes, it is true that our nature is fallen, and God does seek to tell us to avoid that irrational disorder within us all (concupiscence), but He also seeks to restore us to our true nature, and to never repress or supress this divine design within us.  We give great glory and praise to God when we compliment Him on His wonderful design, and we bear grave insult to Him when we try to refashion it according to our own ignorance and disordered desires.

As Pope Francis put it at the end of the synod on Families:

Indeed, it means upholding all the more the laws and commandments which were made for man and not vice versa (cf. Mk 2:27).
In this sense, the necessary human repentance, works and efforts take on a deeper meaning, not as the price of that salvation freely won for us by Christ on the cross, but as a response to the One who loved us first and saved us at the cost of his innocent blood, while we were still sinners (cf. Rom 5:6).
The Church’s first duty is not to hand down condemnations or anathemas, but to proclaim God’s mercy, to call to conversion, and to lead all men and women to salvation in the Lord (cf. Jn 12:44-50).”

 

Saying Yes to Real Love

The Church is not so much condemning a person when it uses the language “disordered” to describe the attractions that a person has.  In fact, it is being consistent since every single human being is afflicted with concupiscence, and therefore all people have a variety of disordered desires.  The person themselves is not a disorder, but the person “has” a disorder.  So what?  Everyone has an inclination to sin.  The path to a fruitful and joyful life is not to be enslaved to irrational desires.  Rather it is to be who you are:  male or female and all that implies.  It is not up to us to change the grand design of God, nor to throw away those whose desires do not line up to their desires.  Furthermore, it is harmful to us to act contrary to who we are or to say that we are our desires.  Rather we are to call everyone to make a great sacrifice to say “no” to themselves so that they can say “yes” to what real love looks like.  It is ironic that in the world today the Church is told it does not accept these people.  But in reality, we are the only one’s truly accepting who they are, even while some such persons reject who they are objectively because of how they feel.  It is emotivism.

This true-acceptance of the person is impossible for legalists, even if they are “progressive” or “traditional.”  By the way it isn’t “traditional” to break with the Spirit of the Law, nor do we make any progress when we do this…. Whatever side we fall on, treating God’s moral law as anything but what comes natural to us according to our design leads to legalism.  And from legalism we get harsh, angry bigots or lawless, angry dissenters.  Both are to be rejected.  Capiche?

Are You Hating Reverence?

Aversion to Reverence: Entitlement and Narcissism

by Fr. Chris Pietraszko, Fr. Pietraszko’s Corner:

We begin the movement of the Ark of the Covenant, 2 Samuel 6:1-23, known to be the most holy possession of Israel. The Ark itself was venerated primarily because of what it contained: the presence of God. Leaving aside the very direct application this might have to our Blessed Mother, we realize that to the Jews, the Ark was to be treated with great reverence.

Why does God expect reverence from us?

Sometimes people will suggest that God is so humble that He would never demand reverence from us. This is true, only insofar as God would never demand reverence from us out of some ego-centric motive. However, God will demand reverence from us if it is for our own good. The opposite of reverence is familiarity, whereby we seek intimacy’s counterfeit. Familiarity is reducing a mystery into an object to which we claim to know everything about. Consider couples who beginwith romance and end in familiarity; they begin with respect, but end with possessiveness and entitlement. This is an example of people who have lost a sense of the genuine mystery in the one to whom they are married to, and how much more true is it when applied to our relationship with God.

God expects reverence out of Justice. Keep in mind that God wants us to be righteous people, because that is good for the soul. Avoiding the poison of injustice helps us find inner-peace and peace with our neighbour. Therefore God wants us to be people of Justice. It is truly right and just, therefore, everywhere to give God thanks and praise. That is to say: in order for us to be “good” as far as justice goes, we need to be able to give credit where it is due, thanksgiving where it is due: and this begins with God. If it doesn’t begin with God who is responsible for everything, then our whole lives lack the proper orientation. How could we give more credit and thanksgiving to someone who is less responsible for all that is good? Would not our neglect of God become a twisted form of injustice?

Furthermore, we must understand why reverence is important from a Trinitarian perspective. The Father loves His Son, and out of that love expects us to Love him also. He does not appreciate when we defy or neglect His Son, to whom he Loves infinitely. Therefore out of love for His Son, he demands our reverence. Likewise, the Son is utterly in love with His Father, that he demands we respect Him. It is no wonder that the Father told us to Listen to Christ, and Christ told us everything He had heard from His Father. They are a united front, and expect us to respect them both. It is not as if they are seeking their own glory, but rather are seeking to glorify each other. Therefore, in this sense, out of Love for each other, the Trinity demands our respect.

Therefore, God seeks our reverence out of Love for each person within the Trinity and for our own good; thus the law of Christ (To love God and neighbour) is perfectly recapitulated in His demand for our reverence.

Spiritual Death: Entitlement to Grace

                Being aware of our own motives may help us to critically examine why we may or may not be overly critical of various forms of reverence. It may simply be that we have just grown accustom to the status quo in this regard. But if we are in Love with Christ, the status quo will never suffice. Perhaps change in the way others pray is perceived as a distraction: but sometimes distractions are good when they awake us out of a spiritual sleep and spiritual deafness to God’s presence. Perhaps they seem to draw attention to ourselves, and thus people automatically consider this a vain and unproductive activity. Aha, if this is the case, you must read the office of readings we encountered today. How easy it is to fall into the same trap that Michal fell into!

Before we examine Saul’s daughter’s reaction to King David dancing in the street before the presence of God, let us begin by examining what led up to such exaltation of the Presence of God. We note that Uzzah witnessed the Ark of the Covenant tipping, and so he stretched out His hands to steady it. On the surface, this might seem to be a fairly reasonable thing to do. However, God was utterly furious at Uzzah’s action that he was struck dead. Why?

Uzzah was not a Levite, and therefore not a priest. He took it upon himself to fulfill a role that God had not ordained him to accomplish. This means that Uzzah, who was not worthy of the task (election), was not permitted to take on the role of one of the priests. The priests had been consecrated to this particular task, and the whole established order that God had created around the Ark was meant to establish within the social-mindset of the Israelites a deep and profound reverence: the Ark was not something to be “familiar” with, but rather required a Divine-calling to handle.  The Ark therefore became a tangible means to understand our relationship with God in a properly ordered fashion.  The organization of the various roles/vocations of the Israelites became a means to teach people how to approach God, and in what spirit.

Applying this logic to the Church we realize that the way the Church organizes the liturgy has a profound impact on how we approach God.  This is something few seem to grasp in our day and age, which explains why the liturgy is often reduced to a symbol in the minds of many.  If we treat the Eucharist as if He is a symbol, people will naturally begin to believe it.  The way we pray, shapes what we believe in.  Furthermore, after Vatican II it became clear that priests reacted to clericalism by reinforcing clericalism, albeit unintentionally.  Instead of approaching their office without a spirituality of entitlement they shared that spiritual sickness of entitlement with the laity.  All of a sudden people began to feel as if they had a “right” to approach the sanctuary and preform duties that were strictly assigned to the priest.   Therefore, instead of defacing entitlement we hid it by encouraging it in everyone.  No longer was grace (gift) even in our minds:  entitlement was.  And as Pope Francis suggests, we priests clerlicalized the laity, passing on our own sickness, rather than building up the laity in their own vocation.Uzzah

Uzzah’s extended hand did not convey a reverence for the Ark, but was actually the exact opposite: he felt entitled to approach the presence of God, something that was clearly spelled out to be forbidden. God was therefore not punishing Uzzah’s intention of saving the Ark but rather his spirit of entitlement. Consider this passage in this way: when we approach God with presumption and entitlement we are spiritually dead. We cannot receive “grace” authentically if we perceive “grace” as something we are entitled to. It will never take root in us.  If this is our attitude we have reversed the entire order of justice, suggesting that God owes us reverence, and that it is truly right and just for us to be able to be in the presence of God. How spiritually twistedand vile for any human being to consider “grace” a right in the spiritual-sense. For grace is a gift, that we receive with gratitude, not possessiveness. Truly Uzzah was spiritually dead when he reached out to the Presence of God in the Ark.

King David was shaken by this experience and as a result welled up with reverence for the Presence that he could not fathom it being brought to Him in a deserving manner. In other words, David understood the pride of Uzzah and therefore sought to ground Himself in a spirit of gratitude that God had chosen Him and the Israelites to enjoy such a procession of God’s presence.

Michal and Reverence-haters

                Michal is a fantastic analogy for the spirituality of many who are off-put by reverence today. As David welcomes the Ark of the Covenant into the City, he dances and seemingly makes a fool of himself. However, David is over-the-top excited that God has chosen to be present to Him, and he can only appreciate this because all entitlement within Him is entirely vanquished. His gratitude is grounded in the very fact that he is dust, but with God’s abiding presence (grace) he is elevated from dust to life. What an incredible and exciting realization to have that a self-affirming culture cannot ever comprehend. When we affirm ourselves in the right-spirit it involves giving no credit to ourselves, but rather to the one who made us. We do not make our own heartbeat, nor do we design ourselves: that is all God’s doing. Therefore, when we affirm ourselves in an inordinate way it means we confuse our behaviour with our being: we think we are responsible for creating ourselves. This narcissism will naturally lead to one conclusion: entitlement and despair.

Michal who has lost her inheritance after David replaces her Father Saul is filled with jealousy and therefore allows her bitterness to guide her interpretation of David’s leadership. She is disposed against Him, and will therefore always resent his actions and find fault with them, even when there is no fault.  In this case, she accuses King David of the same thing so many nay-sayers today accuse those who demonstrate reverence: “How the King of Israel has honoured himself today.” In other words, Michal is convinced that David has honoured himself or is showing reverence to God as a façade of actually receiving honour from others for himself. While it is more than possible that false piety can be twisted in such a sense, we must keep in mind that the external action of King David was actually in synch with a proper spiritual attitude. As a result Michal is judgmental and incorrect in her judgment. David responds that he would love to be dishonoured before the presence of God if only it builds up people’s view of God’s presence. What a profoundly humbling statement for David to say: something that is stated from a man who genuinely loves God.David dancing

Michal is later said to have lived without being able to conceive until the day she died. Perhaps, interpreting this in a spiritual light, we might be able to say that because her heart was hardened against authentic reverence (borne of her hatred for King David and therefore his example), she was not able to contribute new life to the Assembly of God. Without the spiritual fruit of reverence, it is impossible to add new life to the Church, in the spiritual sense. Our love for God will naturally draw other people into a relationship with God. A love for our neighbour is secondary to a love for God, and rightfully so, lest our neighbour becomes deserving of more honour then God.
Liturgy, Ritual, and Worship that is Pleasing

God gives us ritual as a means to express our love for God with our entire-being. We are body and soul: therefore our worship ought to be comprised of both body-and-soul. With a purely abstract love of God, we develop spiritual disorder within ourselves, and naturally with our neighbour. Do we give God worship in our mind, but not in our body, yet we show honour and respect in both ways to our neighbour? Why would we dare to give God less than what we would give one of His creatures? Ritual and Liturgy are the very means to bestow upon God this reverence.  Two friends of mine gave a perfect example of why this makes sense.  For the sake of propriety I will give them other names.  Matt went to mass with his girl-friend Kelly.  He went to mass because he really liked Kelly, but the faith was still growing within him.  One day Kelly noticed that Matt’s but was leaning on the pew during consecration (and he had no back-problems).  She told him:  get your butt off of that pew.  His response was swift:  “I’m pretty sure God doesn’t care.”  She gave him a head-flip, and then flipped back, and said, “If you cannot honour God, who can you honour?”

I love this true-story because it demonstrates a common attitude amongst people today, which is that God doesn’t care about our reverence.  God doesn’t care about a “show” of piety, but He does want us to place Him in the highest throne in our own soul.  Not because he needs such adulation, but rather, in order for us to be good, we need to place Him there out of justice.  Furthermore, our love for our neighbour cannot ever be authentic, if we do not put God in the highest place first.  Otherwise, we honour who we prefer, rather than who deserves it, and we cannot be grounded in justice if we are grounded in our preference over truth.

Sometimes we are like Uzzah who consider ourselves entitled to approach God with a spirit of familiarity.  One might think acting with familiarity presents ourselves as “down-to-earth” but in reality we are only perceived as down to earth by the people because the people perceive what is base to be down-to-earth. Likewise, we become base and spiritually dead when we buy into such a counterfeit.

One of the practices in our diocese, for instance, is that only the ordained ministers (and those who have received the ministry of Acolyte from the Bishop) are permitted to purify the vessels used after consecration. This often is perceived as “off-putting” because people feel as if they are entitled to touch the sacred vessels whenever it pleases them. People are found to be put-off when one suggests that they are unworthy of such a task. This is the wrong attitude, and it springs from a spirituality of narcissistic entitlement.

An ordained minister who rightly understands his vocation understands this to be something given to Him as a gift and a responsibility. He should never perceive such tasks as being something He is entitled to, but rather elected to accomplish. But when a priest perceives all of ministry under the lens of entitlement he might project that into the role of the laity, and therefore relax such rules, making everyone seemingly “entitled.” The unfortunate thing about such an attitude is it ultimately never uproots the spiritual disease, it simply enables it amongst everyone.incense-and-icon

God elects certain people for such tasks as a means to bring about humility: and so when these tasks are blurred between the laity and the clergy what happens is we remove ourselves from a very tangible method of making the Church filled with gratitude and reverence. We do not see the wisdom in the social-dynamic of allowing for such order to be supported, because we only perceive things through the lens of our fallen-nature.  We also lack the prophetic vision we are to have, in how God’s little laws and rubrics are actually impactful in an authentic spirituality.  We are constantly attempting to be progressive in sin, and totally unaware of this as the objective method and goal of our aims.

A priest has been made worthy, not by His own merit, but by the election and will of God. And with that gift, He is called to holiness as everyone else is: but in his particular task. If we were to internalize the Little-Flower a bit more realistically, we would come to the conclusion that such a task as handling the divine mysteries is incredibly debasing to our own ego.

The solution is in realizing that we demonstrate reverence not because we are worthy of God or showing our own holiness to others, but rather, we are debasing our pride that God may be the Rose that is noticeable amongst us, the little white-flowers that merely draw your attention to the real-deal: God.

Regardless of our vocation in life: life isn’t about any of us: it is about the glory of God. The quicker we learn this, the more abandoned we become from our own glory: the more we will experience God’s glory and all the joy that comes from such exciting love.

Pets, Heaven, and Marriage

The Danger of Lifting Pets to the Dignity of the Human Person.

By Fr. Chris Pietraszko, Diocesan Spirituality:

Usually when you want to stir the pot as a priest you begin by discussing issues such as contraception, abortion, same-sex marriage, or any sexual and moral issue. That is what I thought, until  I made mention of what I had learned about the difference between pets and human souls in my Thomistic Philosophy Class during Seminary formation. It might interest you to know that Thomistic Philosophy (the study of St. Thomas Aquinas’ thought) is the only philosophy mandated by Rome to be taught to those preparing for the priesthood. According to Vatican I, Thomistic Philosophy is considered the perennial philosophy of the Church. This of course does not mean that this particular brand of philosophy is dogmatized, but rather it is your typical “go-to” place when we want to discuss the systematic nature of theology in the Church.dogcreation

What I’ve noticed in our culture today is an inordinate love of pets. People gravely wounded by loneliness have turned to pets to fill the gap. But we must return to the book of Genesis to examine why this is disordered. We remember that Adam had been given all the animals on the earth as a gift, and he had the freedom to name each one. Yet, despite naming all of them, he discovered that they didn’t really fulfill him. Therefore, despite being in a good relationship with all of nature, man was still found to be alone and in isolation. Man lacked communion with another, and animals simply didn’t fill that deep gap within his own being. God had created man and woman with a degree of incompleteness. Therefore God said, “It is not good that man should be alone.” So God created for Adam, woman. St. John Paul II explains that “Adam” prior to Eve represented all of humanity, and the creation of woman in Eve represents the creation of both sexes. Woman being presented as being created last also means that she is God’s master-piece.

When Adam awoke from his sleep (a sort of ‘going-out-of-being’) he found Eve and discovered her to finally fill (to some degree) that gap within his own heart and soul. “Bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh.” At last, amongst all the earth, man had found his true companion. That hunger, that desire for communion, for affection and love, was now properly ordered in human-relationships.

When Adam, then followed the command of God to “Be fruitful and multiply,” they did not bear dogs and cats as children, but rather Cain and Abel. God’s command to have children was related to the conjugal act of erotic love between man and woman. Therefore the need for communion not only extended to the spouse, but also to the creation of a community with children. It is therefore in the nature of man and woman to desire a communion of love that bears the fruit of new life.

What happens when we don’t fill our natural needs? We sometimes go about trying to fill them in an unnatural or inordinate or unreasonable manner. The sad thing about this is, this hunger is the most fundamental gift that each of us have within ourselves, and it does not merely point towards children and a spouse, but it ultimately points towards God. Married couples discover quickly that after the Honeymoon, life is not entirely fulfilled. In other words, marriage acts as a foretaste of what a relationship with God is all about. A foretaste does not entirely satisfy our longing, but gives us a preview that inflames or awakens our hunger even more.

Noisy worldThe danger is, if our hunger is inflamed but we do not know where to order it, we will go about turning a foretaste into a gluttonous feast. Theologically speaking, we will turn an icon into an idol. Husbands and wives who possess each other without respecting each other’s freedom is precisely an example of this. It leads to a self-centred vacuum where each person becomes a black hole that seeks to suck the life and goodness out of others, and it is an infinite thing. Because man seeks God, who is infinite, as man unreasonably seeks his happiness in what is finite, it becomes addictive and never-ending. Nothing ever truly satisfies, and because man stops looking up towards heaven, he continues to search the earth to fulfill his need for infinity with what is finite. He will discover, hopefully that this is a pointless endeavour.

As a celibate male, I realize this in a more phenomenological way than merely theological and dialectical. The desire for communion is not “finally” answered through a sacred relationship with a wife. Rather, my heart is zealously pointed towards a complete and uncompromising thirst for God alone. I do not want the sign, I want the Trinity to burn within my Soul, the true spouse of my soul. It is not that I dismiss woman, but I see her as a gift who points me towards something that I hunger for even more deeply: the one to whom she was created in the Image and Likeness of: God.

This is, finally, why there is no marriage (human-marriage) in heaven, as Jesus explains. For each soul is married to God, who is capable of giving each of us the fullness of His attention. Some married couples have a difficult time with this, because they claim that their human spouse will be the most important relationship they have in heaven. But I have to remind them, their spouse on earth, while a gift from God, is merely a foretaste of the husband you will have for your own soul in heaven. Who would dare to replace God as husband?  Can they outdo Him in love?  We the Church, His Bride, are engaged at Baptism to God in heaven, and we hope our death is our wedding day and consummation with Him.

What happens, though when we fall into darkness about God and the hunger within ourselves? That hunger is so profound it motivates all of our actions. And this must be the reason why topics pertaining to sex often bring out all the world’s venom. Reconsider St. John the Baptist who had his head chopped off because of the Gospel he preached. Consider St. Thomas More! Don’t we get it? If our happiness and desire for total fulfillment is challenged, the spirit of murder rises up within ourselves to meet what is preventing us from filling that vacuum within ourselves.

Another way of putting it is, when we seek finite realities as our fulfillment:  both humans and creatures and things, to fill our wounded, hungering heart as the ultimate fulfillment we seek, we become competitive with each other. With finite-resources being limited, it is impossible for us not to become competitive. If God, however is our resource/source of happiness, then there is no need for competition, because there is enough of Him to go around to everyone. God therefore finally resolves the reason for all conflict, when He is placed as our ultimate goal and the food that we truly hunger for: for man does not hunger for bread alone.Nun Cross

What I have witnessed in people who call pets their children is a desire to create a fantasy that numbs the very real pain of loneliness that comes natural to them. Those who love their pets inordinately will actually say, (and I have witnessed it first hand) that if their pets are not in heaven, they do not want to go there. They have traded in God for a pet.  But what they loved in their Pet is already in God, infinitely, and thus fail to realize that the pet is an even smaller foretaste, but still nonetheless a foretaste of God’s good nature.

Whether or not pets are in heaven, along with their tapeworms, it should be a trivial question if our hunger is rightly ordered. Do not get me wrong: I love animals. I am a dog-person. I will get down on my knees and play with a dog, howl with the dog, and let the dog lick my face for hours. In fact, I even had a mystical experience with a dog – as weird as that sounds. I remember a time when I was very broken as a teen during a retreat. I left the prayer group in sobbing tears, and sat outside. Randomly a dog came up to me, and sat beside me. God gave me the supernatural grace to realize that it was not the dog who was loving me, but God was loving me, symbolically through the dog. It was a type of knowledge you receive by grace, not by mere reasoning.  If this is the type of relationship we have with nature, then it is healthy.  But if it is perverted by the idea that the actual pet is our happiness and necessary for our happiness, then we might consider going to adoration more.

Today we confuse the affection that exists in animals for love, they lift dogs and cats, therefore to the dignity of the human person. Please:  don’t buy into the notion that the Church hasn’t dogmatically claimed whether or not animals have the same type of soul as humans. The practice of the Church to baptize only human beings speaks for itself, and not once has any theological statement claimed that Christ died for the sins of Pepper, my deceased childhood dog. People want to believe their pets love them, because they are too burdened by the fact that their non-existent spouse doesn’t love them, because he or she doesn’t exist. The illusion of love in a pet makes the pain go away. But it’s an illusion. And one that I have witnessed will be defended at the cost of ostracizing a priest on Facebook.  Feeling that hunger is really what makes us good Christians if we allow it to become zeal for God.

What needs to happen, and this is coming from a man burning with desire for communion, is to learn to live in the pain of pleading“waiting” for that infinite love of God to be received. If our call is the single life, we should look at this as a gift that sets us on fire like a rocket towards heaven. Order your desire for love, your feelings of loneliness towards your ultimate end: God. Do not look at marriage as your ultimate fulfillment, but a means to arrive at your ultimate destination: marriage with God.

Love Your Pets

Love your pets, but love them not as a human being: love them as a very small picture of what God is like infinitely. Love humans even more, but again, don’t love them as you would Love God. Don’t make pets or humans into an idol: make God your object of worship.

But Father! They Won’t Remain in Hell Forever.

Dialogue on Hell: Will the Damned Remain in Hell Forever?

by Fr. Christopher Pietraszko:

S: Hey Fr. Chris!  Tonight I am teaching the RCIA class in my parish and I was hoping you could pray for me!

F:  Sure thing Sara.  What topic are you covering?

S:  Heaven and the modern view of Hell

F:  The modern view of Hell…what do you mean?  Has hell changed recently?

S:  Very funny Father.  Well, you know how St. John Paul II talked about how hell isn’t a place, but a state of relationship…

F:  Ah, yes.  Good.  I wasn’t sure if you were going to say that hell doesn’t exist anymore.

S:  Well, one day it will not, if what St. John Paul II said is true.  I loved his view of hell and heaven.  It veers away from this outdated fear-based way of evangelizing.  You know:  Love God because the consequences of not loving Him is that he will torture you for eternity.  Whoever believes in that cannot believe God is love at the same time, you know?!

F:  Where do I start, Sara?Adam-and-Eve

S:  Oh Father, I know you believe hell is forever, but really…who believes that anymore?

F: Well for starters: those who are in hell.

S:  Says who?  How do you know what they know?

F:  Have you read the parable in scripture on Lazarus and the Rich-man?

S: Oh I remember that one.  But again, its Old Testament stuff

F:  Sara…it’s a parable that Jesus gave…in the New Testament.

S:  I know, but Jesus was appealing to their fire-and-brimstone mindset.  It doesn’t apply anymore.

F:  Two things Sara:  1) Scripture always applies, its God’s word and a gift to us, and 2:  Jesus’ parable is meant to teach us something today.  Have we advanced, in your opinion, beyond the Master and Author of life?

S:  You are so funny Fr. Chris.  Of course we haven’t advanced beyond Christ.  But we are “developing” a much broader theology.

F:  Development of doctrine does not mean we contradict what was previously held, Sara, it means the truths of it are applied in a more complex manner, just as a tree becomes more complex as it grows larger.  It remains, nonetheless rooted in the ground from which it sprang.

S:  You are saying, then that if Hell is a place where we are forever, that it will never change?  Yet, we once believed it to be a place, and now it is no more.  Isn’t that a contradiction?

F:  I’m not sure which dogmatic claim suggests that Hell is a geographical place per se, but in either case, we might understand the imagery of hell to be analogical or allegorical, just as Christ’s own words are known to us as a parable.

S:  Exactly.  So none of it is literally true.

F:  What would be the point of a parable if there was no truth to it at all?  Does Lazarus exist, literally?  Probably not.  But does it matter?  Did you notice how Jesus doesn’t give the Rich-man a name?  Perhaps he did this because the Rich-man could be any of us?  Or perhaps because his name is not written in heaven?

S:  I understand what you are saying…I think.  You are suggesting that the parable that came from the mouth of Christ speaks a particular truth that is undeniable, and because it is Christ and His word, it cannot be denied, though it can develop.  Furthermore, that it cannot develop into something that contradicts it as it was originally.  For example, an Apple tree can evolve, but it will never become an orange tree?

F:  Couldn’t have put it better than that.  That is an excellent analogy.  Can I use it later?

S:  Of course Father:  thanks!

F:  I still think there is something unresolved in our discussion here Sara.

S:  What’s that?

F:  Well you seemed to express a common-opinion amongst our contemporary people, that it seems unjust for God to send a soul to hell for not loving him.  As if it were something unjust or even unloving.

S:  It does seem that way.   But being that Christ said it to be true, it must be good and loving and just.

F:  I appreciate your faith without understanding.  That is a virtue severely lacking in our society today.  Rarely do people assent to a claim without having to first understand it themselves.  Rarely do we defer to the wisdom of God.   Rather people exalt their own judgment above the infinite wisdom of God.

S:  Thanks Father.

F:  You are welcome.  But since you are going to be teaching on this, I’d like you to perhaps reflect on the reasons why Christ and His Bride, the Church, teach that hell is a radical possibility, as much as is love.

S:  That would be appreciated Father.

F:  You said it seemed as if God were unjust if he allowed a soul to perish in hell for all eternity.

S:  Yes.  It seems as if God would have to be pretty resentful for that to happen.  It’s as if He is full of revenge, saying, “You didn’t love me, so I won’t love you.”  And that doesn’t really fit into what Christianity teaches, especially about loving your enemy.

F:  I think that is a fair point.  I think it is important to examine your first premise.  I would agree with your conclusion, that God does not ever lose His love for anyone, including those who are His enemies, and I’d add, even for those people in Hell.

Your first premise seems to carry with it a few assumptions.  The first assumption is that God wants to torture someone, almost as if His feelings are hurt, and therefore tries to get-them-back.  Is that a fair way to characterize your point?

S:  Yes.  Otherwise, it would seem to make sense that God would allow such a soul in heaven, especially when they ask for forgiveness.  You notice the Rich-man wanted to get out of hell.  It doesn’t seem to be true – what C.S. Lewis said – that Hell is locked from the inside.  If it was, the Richman could have left as he seemed to want to.

F:  I appreciate you reflecting on the parable to illustrate your point.  The problem is you are dead wrong about your reading of the parable.

S:  Gee… thanks Father.

F:  You are welcome.

S:  You are so funny Father.

F:  What I mean Sara, is that while the man regretted his actions, he only regretted them because of the consequences.  Not once did he say to Abraham:  “Tell Lazarus I’m sorry for neglecting Him.”

S:  Interesting point.  I never thought about that.  So are you saying that regret and hatred for hell does exist in the damned?

F:  Absolutely.  It wouldn’t be torment if the soul regretted nothing and enjoyed hell, would it?

S:  That is a really good point…haha

 Christopher Pietraszko

Fr. Christopher Pietraszko

F:  So as St. Thomas Aquinas teaches, a soul in hell can repent of His sin, only insofar as he regrets the logical consequences of it.  But never does his heart change.  Not once does he begin to Love Lazarus.  And that is the infinite chasim Abraham speaks of.  The shear inability for a damned soul to actually regret their sins because of the malice and cruelty within them.  And if they never regret that cruelty and malice, they haven’t changed.  And if they haven’t changed, if they ask for forgiveness, are they really asking for forgiveness?

S:  I guess not.  It is like when I was a kid and my mom grounded me from going to the school dance.  I screamed:  “I’m sorry!  I’m sorry!”  And she responded:  “No you are not:  you are sorry you got caught.”

F:  What a wonderful example.  I might use that another time?

S:  Of course Father.  But don’t use my name…haha

F:  Fair enough!

S:  What if someone asks, Father:  “Why can’t a soul regret in hell what they can regret on earth?”

F:  That is a tremendous and devastatingly complicated question.

S:  Does that mean there is no answer, and it’s a “mystery.”

F:  Well, in some ways the tip of my nose is a mystery, as is everything in the universe.  However, I think I can try to answer it.  But don’t be expecting sound-bites.

S:  Sound-bites?  What do you mean Father?

F:  I mean that often times when people examine deep theological questions, they often want things to be very simply understood.  The problem is as complex beings, when trying to understand what is simple, we often make a mess out of it.

S:  So are you saying that it’s simple, but as a result hard to understand?

F:  Let me explain it to you, and I’ll let you be the judge of that question.

S:  I’m waiting.

F:  Okay…Well I’d like to first describe to you how the Angel’s make decisions, because there is a certain parallel between what happens to them and what happens to us after we die.

S:  Angels!  I love angels!  I used to watch “Touched by an Angel.”

F:  Oh dear Lord have mercy!  While I’m sure that TV show often had a good message, it rarely evoked the name of Jesus.  Furthermore they had a tendency to humanize angels, making them base like us, rather than as magnificent and terrible as they truly are in their nature.

S:  Don’t knock a good TV show Father.  And what do you mean by “terrible.”

F:  Well if you are expecting a warm and soft light to surround an angel with gentle music in the background, I think you are missing what we normally see in scripture when real-angels encountered people.  They were struck by terror and fear.  Some were punished and made mute.  Others were carrying swords set ablaze, another destroyed and killed all the first born in Egypt… Angels are powerful creatures, and we should have some reverence for them.

S:  But they aren’t terrible in the moral sense, right?

F:  Some of them are:  Lucifer for instance.

S:  Right.  He was an angel.  But now is a demon.

F:  When we say he is a demon, we don’t deny that he is still an angel.  It is just a term we use to describe a bad angel.  His nature is angelic, his moral character is demonic.  Make sense?

S:  Sort of.  You are saying that he still has the same nature as an angel, but is an evil one.

F:  Yup.

S:  So in what sense do you mean “terrible” when speaking of the good angels?

F:  Again, I mean it in the sense that angels are powerful.  They have a great deal of power over our lives, and we should recognize their power with a sense of healthy fear.  We don’t want to get in their way.

S:  How would we get in their way?

F:  It is a little off topic.  However, I’ll respond.   We can get in their way by getting in the way of God.  Angels serve us because God has asked them to.  Their ultimate service is towards God.

S:  What might a good angel do if we disobey God?

F:  In this life they will defend the glory of God, and perhaps try to humble us.  That of course is a good thing.  But after this life, it is the Angels, according to Christ that sift the wicked from the righteous.  Angels will deliver us to hell if we have failed to obey God.

S:  I never thought of an angel as doing something like that.

F:  Probably because you watch too much TV?  Our faith is very sentimental today, and it is that way because it is safer for the ego, but not for the soul.

S:  Oh man, you really hate that TV show, Touched by an Angel…eh?

F: I don’t hate it.  But I do think there is some good theology really missing in it.  It is a generational problem.

S:  So what is missing in it, other than the terrible nature of the good-angels?

F:  I mentioned that the show humanizes angels.  A great deal of movies do this.  Angels are very different from humanity.  Some movies attempt to portray angels as being capable of conversion either from goodness to evil or vice-versa.  But that is not how angels make decisions.

S:  They can’t repent, like we can’t repent in Hell?

F:  We are getting warmer to an answer here.  In a sense.  Angels cannot repent for their sins primarily because they are “pure-spirits.”  They are not fickle and as complex as we are as human beings.  When they make their first decision, all other decisions adhere to the vice or virtue of their first decision.

S:  That doesn’t make sense to me Father.  Not because I perceive a contradiction, but I just don’t understand it.  What do you mean by “pure-spirit?”

F:  Sorry…it is difficult.  Pure-Spirit means that they are Pure-intellect.  They have an intellect, but no “quantity” or physical dimension to them.

S:  How do they know anything if they don’t have a body?  We know through sense-experience, right?

F:  Yup.  We know through our senses, but we also create abstractions…something that beasts cannot do.  So we have a spirit too, but not to the degree of an angel.

Angels on the other hand are infused with knowledge by God.  Their knowledge comes directly from God.  Of course, they don’t know everything that God does, but whatever God entrusts to them for their purpose, mission and happiness.

S:  So if they know everything they need to, in order to be good, why would some of them choose to sin?

F:  Well, when you drive faster than the speed limit, do you know you are driving faster than you should?

S:  Yes.

F:  Exactly…so you know how to avoid doing something evil, but you do it anyways.  That makes your actions sinful.  Mind you, if you drove improperly and weren’t aware, you’d still be responsible since you had the capacity to know and responsibility but you choose not to.  That is where humans are a bit different.

S:  I’m following.

F:  Angels, when they sinned or were obedient to God, they adhered to that fundamental decision and will adhere to it for their entire existence, because of their nature as pure spirits.  They are absolute…they swallow their decision, whole, and adhere to it forever.

S:  That is difficult to comprehend, but I sort of understand your point.  You are saying that angels make a decision based upon information they see clearly and perfectly.  As a result of this they do not repent of their decisions, except in perhaps the way you mentioned before?

F:  Exactly.  Now with human beings it’s a bit different.  But to some degree we have established that because of the nature of an angel it is impossible to repent.  Can we both agree that this doesn’t remove free-will from the angels?

S:  I think so.  Angels have a free-will, but it can be enslaved to evil as a result of their own decision?

F:  Very good.

S:  So how are humans different, and yet the same?

F:  Well, in the current mode of our existence –

S:  Stop…speak English

F:  haha…sorry.  Well as human beings we live in time, moving from one moment to another, right?

S:  Yes.

F:  Angels exist in a different type of time than we do.  That I can’t explain with great clarity.  But it is different.  They do not exist in the same “Eternity” as God, since God alone exists in that sense.

S:  Interesting…go on.

F:  As human beings, within time we are fickle, changing our minds all the time, constantly given new information through sense experience, but also rationalizing our way out of truths for egocentric reasons.  Agreed?

S:  We have a hard time being honest with ourselves?

F:  Sure we do.  The truth can hurt, and it can challenge us.

S:  That is true….haha…see what I did there!?

F:  Not the wittiest remark I’ve heard before…but good.

S:  Father…

F:  Let’s move on.  What happens to us when we die?  Do you know?

S:  Our soul leaves our body?

F: Sort of.  I prefer to describe it in this way:  our soul is torn apart from our body.

S:  That sounds a lot worse.  Nothing romantic about that.

F:  Death, according to our nature, is certainly not romantic.  It is our destruction, it is an evil, and if you remember, it is the consequences of sin.

S:  That is true.  So the soul is ripped apart from the body.

F:  Yes.  And as a result our body turns back into dust, but our soul still exists.

S:  Why does our soul still exist?  Isn’t it dependent upon matter to exist?

F:  That is a discussion for another day…but there is an answer to that.

S:  Okay…

F:  So…the soul is separated from the body and as a result we for a time are nothing more than spirit.

S:  Oh so we are an angel!

F:  No…and please don’t ever suggest that to anyone.

S:  Why?

F:  Our spirit is unique and is constructed to only make sense with a body.  Angels are pure-spirits which means they exist naturally without a body.

S:  So are you saying that death is bad for the soul?

F:  Absolutely.  Death is a horrible tragedy that happens to us.  We may not experience physical pain, but spiritual frustration is certainly part of death.

S:  Oh, I get it!  This is why the Resurrection is so important.  That makes sense out of a lot!  So the resurrection is what fixes that problem!

F:  Precisely.  Now, without a body, it is impossible for us to have a conversion…would you agree with that?

S:  I guess so.  If our soul needs a body in order to discern and think and make choices – using the organ of the brain to accomplish all this – then I suppose without that, no one could make a decision.  But that proves nothing to me.  Because don’t we believe as Catholics in the Resurrection of the body?  Don’t we believe one day we will have a body?

F:  Yes, we do believe that we will have a glorified body!  Good for you, for remembering that.  Very important.  But one thing that is important to recognize is that body will no longer be the same as it is now.  It will be different.

S:  How do you know that?

F:  Jesus’ own resurrected body seemed to transcend space and time without contradicting either.  He was able to eat fish with the disciples, to be touched and sensed, and yet would disappear and appear simply by willing it.

S:  So in what sense is the “glorified body” different from our human body, and how will that affect our ability to repent?

F:  Let me first begin by asking you a question:  do you think it is sensible that in heaven we will never die?

S:  Yes.  If we died, it would seem to suggest that the Resurrection was only a temporary solution to an on-going problem.

F:  Masterfully stated!  Now, let’s follow the logical consequences of your statement.  If we will not die, that would mean that our bodies would be devoid of any form of corruption:  correct?

S:  They are incorruptible?  Yeah, that makes sense.

F:  So you agree that there would be a sort of permanence to our nature that was unchangeable?

S:  Yes.

F:  Great.  Now here is a side-stepping question:  do you believe that virtue and vice are bodily or spiritual realities?

S:  Spiritual

F:  Wrong.

S:  They are bodily?

F:  Incorrect again!

S:  Father, I can only laugh at you so much…

F:  Sorry.  It was a trick question.  The answer is both.  Basically what I’m saying is that because the body in the next life is incorruptible, the vice is permanently a mindset within us. Vice, as you know, makes us stupid, it darkens our mind and makes us unable to see what needs to take place in order for us to do better.  Virtue on the other hand is a type of enlightenment and disposition towards truth and justice.  And so our mind, heart and soul are perpetually opened to God’s divine light.

S:  So you are saying that because virtue and vice are bodily realities, and that the bodily reality is concrete and incorruptible, that it is impossible to change, since to change would imply a sort of corruptibility?

F:  Yes.  But I would add the nuance that with an open heart, soul and mind, our soul remains open to God’s light for eternity, open to a “type” of movement from God.

S:  I can understand why people don’t believe others go to hell for eternity.

F:  Sara, you didn’t believe people stayed in hell for eternity a little while ago.

S:  My point is, Father, that not many people have this type of education and have pondered the …

F:  Metaphysics, eschatology, ontology, and scriptures?

S:  exactly…whatever that is.

F:  Right.  So what we have today are a group of strongly opinionated arm-chair theologians who have nothing more than sentimentalities, emotive sensibilities and as a result come to sweeping conclusions without following the logical consequences of the bodily resurrection, the nature of virtue, the nature of the will, and the word of God.

S:  It just seems impractical for me to have to communicate all of this to the people in RCIA.

F:  It is very impractical to teach them a great deal of this content.  RCIA is not meant to be a theology class.  But those who are teaching it should not be arm-chair theologians…I don’t say that to hurt your feelings or to demean the efficacy of a good testimony that you could share with the people in RCIA, but I say it because you or others might lead others along the same path of a simple-faith that doesn’t understand the deep theological consequences that come from various beliefs commonly held.

S:  And I think it also goes back to what you were saying about being able to trust in God and His Church without necessarily having a fundamental understanding of all the teachings at the moment.

F:  Exactly.  Faith is so important, and a deep trust and abiding obedience in Him and His Church are rather essential.

S:  Is it fair to conclude that God does not want anyone in hell, but respects their freedom to choose it as such?

F:  Yes, and as C.S. Lewis stated:  the door is locked from the inside.  The souls are permanently darkened by vice, just as concrete has been hardened over time in an obscure and ugly fashion.  That makes this life very important, it truly is a time of mercy and repentance!  What a wonderful gift that we as human beings have received from God!!

S:  So it seems as if our world has come up with yet another heresy Father!

F:  Actually it’s not new.  This heresy existed in the early Church and was coined by Origen as apokatastasis. It is funny how every generation considers itself wiser than the one preceding it.  More often than not, we are actually forgetful and backwards rather than progressing and upright.

S:  Father, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me about this.

F:  I don’t think we are done.  I’d like to examine why it is actually just for a soul to be condemned to hell.  There are more ways than one in looking at this issue.  But for the time being, take a break.  I also want to thank you for your honest dialogue and provoking questions.  But above all your faith.  It makes these discussions much easier.

S:  Toddles

He Won’t Go to Hell. Will He?

 

by Fr. Christopher Pietraszko:

So long as a man lives in mortal sin, there is nothing meritorious within him. It does not matter how many homeless he feeds, how many children he saves from a burning building, how often he prays or attends mass with pious behaviour. So long as a man has sinned mortally, he stands condemned. If a murderer stood trial, openly admitting his sin without sorrow, yet boasted of good deeds, and acts of faith, it would mean nothing for the judge. The man is being sentenced for the injustice, and rightfully so. Man compartmentalizes his sins. He hates God with one breath, yet claims to love him with another. Like a husband who slaps his wife’s cheek and kisses the other.

Man cannot ever undo the Justice that is due to him. But God can. Confess your sins, and you are rewarded with the merits of Christ.

 

Courageous Priest Update:  Thank you so much.  The St. Patrick Shirt fundraiser was a huge success.   182 shirts were sold in only 7 days.  We are very pleased with that.  One update will be our mobile compatibility, which is severely lacking.  We have a few other updates that may or may not be noticeable.  Again thank you and please pray for us and courageous priests everywhere.

Getting God Wrong

Fr. Chris Pietraszko: Are You Ascribing to a Stupid Way of ThinkingA

by Fr. Chris Pietraszko

Fr. Chris Pietraszko

One thing I have been trying to do in my Apologetics course is to link our Catholic Spirituality to various doctrinal truths of the Faith. It is very important for us not only to know God’s law, who He is, and what He has done for us, but we need to also be able to apply such truths to our own lives.

Getting God Wrong #1

I believe that one of the reasons we fail to propagate the faith to others is resulting from the appearance of dry-adherence to a moral-law. Pope Benedict XVI called this “moralism.” Moralism essentially removes the essential characteristic of “relationship” we are to have with God and our neighbour.

A morality is and ought to be predicated of the relationship we have with God. That is to say that just because you follow the moral law, does not mean you have a good relationship with God. Likewise it also says, if you do not follow the moral law (especially in grave matters) you most certainly do not have a good relationship with God.

Rather the motivating force must both be extrinsic and intrinsic when discerning the moral law in our own life. We must seek to have a good relationship with Christ “in” the very act of doing what is right, rather than “by” the very act.

Getting God Wrong #2

For instance, if a Catholic does not “internalize” the moral law, it merely becomes a hoop by which they jump through in order to de-facto (in their own mind) love God. But this is legalism. The alternative is to say, “It doesn’t matter what I do, as long as I have some sort of ideal in my mind about God, I love Him.” This is lawlessness.

The middle position is also the narrow position, it is difficult. We must not only abide by the law itself, but we must internalize it. We must love God’s law, and to see how “in” the act, we are directly choosing God and Neighbour.

For instance, a couple who practices the Church’s teaching on contraception by not contracepting, they do well. But if they internalize this matter, they do very well, because they refuse to ever diminish the nature of their spouse by compartmentalizing an intrinsic dimension to their nature as a male and female. Man and woman have the capacity to procreate, and it is through this “identifying dimension” that man can truly love woman for all that she is, rather than rejecting a part of her nature as if it were a problem.

I believe that theologians who have not internalized the moral law may foster a legalistic or lawless approach to this particular infallible truth of the Church, as explained by Pope Paul VI.

Getting God Wrong #3

The particular approach I’d like to deny and condemn directly is a Kantian approach to morality. In an unnamed place, there was a priest who had communicated to his brother priests that it was morally praiseworthy to give a family who had practiced NFP an “exception” to use contraceptives since they had already fulfilled a significant quota of 9 children.

Kantian Ethics therefore judges whether an act is good or evil, “by the act itself” rather than “in the act itself.” In other words, he is looking for a consistency in the person’s life, like virtue, whereby they practice what is good on a regular basis out of duty.

Kantian Ethics can also be called deontological ethics. In this way, Kant does not indicate that there is anything intrinsically wrong with the act itself. All that should be discerned is the outer-shell of the act and how often it occurs.

But most of us would never ascribe to such a stupid way of thinking. For instance, if a man were to kill someone, he would not plead with the Jury and Judge by saying, “But I don’t normally do this, I deserve an exception to the rule, because I am not really a killer.” For such a person to suggest this as a defense would have failed to internalize the irreparable damage he has caused society and the said victim.

Likewise, “in” every act of contraception there is a rejection of God’s masterful design and path towards goodness and a rejection of the spouse in an essential matter. Without this internalization of the moral law, we therefore lose sight of the Master’s Sermon on the Mount, whereby he not only calls us to follow the law, but to internalize it. If one internalizes the moral law on contraception, they realize that every act of contraception is a (possibly latent) hatred for who the other is as male and female. Therefore there could never be any “exception” to something so intrinsically evil.

 

Headlines were edited.