My Two Encounters with our Blessed Mother

My Serious Lacking of a Relationship with the Mother of Jesus

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

When I was in seminary, I had developed a scholarly affection for the Church’s teaching on Mary.  Having been involved in apologetics through social media, I was capable of understanding and comprehending why Mary was honoured with great intensity within the Catholic tradition.  Protestant objections did not phase my faith in the Catholic Dogma around Mary.  However, I always felt as if something was nonetheless lacking with my understanding, as if I had this nagging sensation that my understanding lacked depth.  At best, my relationship with Mary was ideological, and even then, I hadn’t yet crystallized my theological understanding of her importance.  This still continues to develop in my on-going study of the Catholic faith.

But what was more seriously lacking was my relationship with Mary and therefore Jesus.  It was somewhat of an embarrassing thing to admit, especially to my brother seminarians who seemed to be rather devout in their relationship with Mary.  Their perpetual praying of the rosary, images of her on their wall, and many other external behaviour and demonstrations of affection towards her.  Every time I witnessed their faith in Christ through Mary I found myself perplexed, knowing that I understood what they meant by it all, and its importance, but being unable to tap into this type of devotion.  For me, a devotion to Mary was correlated with holiness and a sincere love of the Catholic Faith.  However, there was a failure to integrate Mary into the heart of my worship of God.  And to admit that I had failed in this regard made me feel as if I was a bad seminarian, and somehow a fraud to the Catholic Tradition.  While these feelings were discouraging, they nonetheless were grounded in something nonetheless true:  I had yet to know from the heart our Blessed Mother.

My spiritual director seemed excited at the prospect of my exploration of a relationship with Mary, utilizing the Ignatius Spiritual exercises and deep meditation from the Word of God.  The thing about these silent retreats is that graces are difficult to escape, especially if our conscience is well formed.  We must be honest with our spiritual director, and we must faithfully obey him as we would obey Christ in our spiritual exercises.  Here I had put myself into the desert of my own ignorance and sought to discover the magnifying glass which teaches me about her Son.

My First Encounter with the Mother of God

As I spent time in quiet meditation, I began to imagine myself walking on the coast of a lake, with Mary.  She pointed towards the waters, and asked me:  “What do you see?”  I responded, “Waves.”  She smiled and then in a spirit of instruction stated:  “The light doesn’t pass through the waves, so you cannot see to the bottom of the lake.  You cannot see what is at the bottom.”  I immediately understood what she was implying, the waves represented my fears, anxieties, and worldly concerns.  As soon as this realization dawned upon me, the waters calmed and rays of light broke through the surface of the water, and now I could see through it, as though the water magnified and clarified the surface of the lake.  This was not an experience that gave me any feeling of peace, but rather it challenged me to seek out inner-peace that comes from a deeper surrender to God’s own will.  I was left challenged by our blessed mother.

Mary never made it about her.  She did not point to me, nor to herself.  Rather she sought to facilitate a situation where the very Light of the World would penetrate the depths of what He sought.

My second encounter with our Blessed Mother involved me arriving at a somewhat run-down house.  My imagination seems to be a powerful tool that the Holy Spirit can use in prayer.  It was not led by me or my own imagining, but seemed instead to be like a movie flashing before my eyes, nonetheless I remained an active participant within it.  And as I walked towards this house, I saw Mary holding two garbage bags.  She was asking for help, and looking at me.  She had apparently been cleaning up the house, but expected me to assist her.  The garbage smelt terrible, at least that is how I had seemed to react to it.  Jesus than entered the scene, and I became an observer of their interactions with each other.  Jesus grabbed the garbage bag from his Mother, and I held onto another bag.  Jesus put it into a garbage can and gestured to me to do the same.

“Your house is now clean!”

annunciation2Jesus stated to me – and I with a gesture of surprise realized immediately that the garbage that stunk, were representative of my own personal sins.  Mary was there to help me clean the house.  It brought me back to a rather embarrassing moment when I was a child.  My room was often a mess, and when it would become more than an hour-job to clean my parents would help me clean it.  That sounds generous of them, but keep in mind, for me it was humiliating.  They would see everything I had shoved under my bed, and item by item I would receive either a frown or a lecture.  My parents were not unreasonable in the way they went about helping me clean my room.  But the humiliation of seeing the fruits of sheer laziness was challenging to experience.  That exact feeling came into my heart when I realized that Mary had been looking through all of my sins, and was intent on throwing them out of my house, which as now you realize, represented my soul.  Mary brought them to light, she in a sense magnified the truth about my sin, and ultimately had me cooperate with Christ in throwing them into the garbage can, where they would be forgotten, forgiven.

Mary without harshness and nonetheless firm resolve sought to purify my soul out of love for me.  She was willing to inspect, touch, and discuss my sinfulness.  Not with harsh condemnation, but rather with a desire to liberate my stinky soul and make it into a place where both Jesus, Mary and I could eat a meal together in enjoyment.

After these encounters with our blessed mother, I realized I had a lot to ponder and allow to sink in.  However, the consolation I sought, that I saw on so many faces of my brother seminarians continued to lack in my own prayer to Mary.  I was getting somewhat frustrated.  At this point, most of what Mary had done for me was instruct me.  But I had not yet interiorized these encounters on the level of my own affect.

It wasn’t until a very dry period of prayer, where I experienced no image or scene to facilitate a deeper understanding.  With reluctance and frustration I then began to pray a specific prayer my Spiritual Director encouraged me to pray:

Loving mother of the Redeemer,
gate of heaven, star of the sea,
assist your people who have fallen yet strive to rise again.
To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator,
yet remained a virgin after as before.
You who received Gabriel’s joyful greeting,
have pity on us poor sinners.

While I was praying this particular prayer, my spirit was entirely overcome with incredible peace.  It was as if every muscle in my heart relaxed as if it had been tensed up for years.  Everything in my body rested, and an incredible peace overcame me.  Without ignorance, I knew at that moment my soul had not only nominally received our Blessed Mother by adoption, but in truth and spirit.  Just as St. John took Mary into his own home, now Mary was welcome in my own soul.  Yet the peace I felt was from none other than Jesus Himself.  It was as if the two dined in my soul, and yet it was the result of Mary’s “yes.”  Jesus had proposed this encounter, Mary said “Yes” and the saviour was more abundantly born within my soul.

Ever since this experience I understood at a deeper level the entangled relationship that happens between the Saints, God and the living.  God collaborates with the Saints.  They reach out to us, more often than we realize, yet it is all provoked and suggested by God.  God makes His will contingent on the “yes” of others.  Although they could all say no, and God could more directly reach out to us, this simply isn’t how God’s providence organizes matters.  You see, he seeks to weave the community together in and through Him.  In theological language we might say that God’s grace is all-sufficient, but our cooperation is nonetheless necessary.  On its own, man cannot cooperate with God without His help, his proposal, and therefore His grace.  But by his will, he wants us to not only cooperate in our own salvation, but in the salvation of others.  You see, Jesus gave his Church a mission, and that mission is to baptize others, preach, and bind and loose.  As the Father sent Jesus, so He sends us!

All of this is answered perfectly by Mary, and thus becomes the supreme example of how to “respond” to Jesus.  Mary is not the initiator of graces, that belongs to God alone, but she is always the first-responder to God’s proposal, our great advocate.  All the terms that are often said of God can be attributed to Mary, not because she is equal to God, but rather that as a result of cooperating with God, she has become more concretely His hands and feet by grace.

This theological distinction is so key in understanding our relationship with Christ.  IF we love Christ, we are not going to ignore his designs.  Rather we are going to love what he loved and hate what he hates.  Christ seeks to use the faithful response of others to bring about our salvation.  Consider the paralytic man who was lowered to the feet of Jesus.  It was because of their faith that his sins were forgiven.  Think of Lazarus, who was resurrected by Jesus but unbound by the crowd.

Mary therefore becomes a living icon of the Church herself.  She is that benevolent mother who opens her arms to Christ for the sake of Him and the whole world.

I am currently traveling to Fatima for the first time, where Mary concretely reached out to the Catholic Church and all of humanity to remind us of the serious need to remember judgment and the dangers of damnation.  She cares for us – and she gave this message to children.  100 years later, I suppose the question is:  have we listened?  If not – have we ignored our Mother who was sent by Christ Himself to speak with us?  IF we ignore her, we ignore Him who sent her.

How to Understand Sin?

What is the Difference between Mortal and Venial Sin?

By Fr. Chris Pietraszko:

Although venial sin is lite, we ought to not treat any sin lightly. If we understand sin beyond a moral philosophy we may rather understand it from the point of view of a relationship. Venial sins are akin to the thorns piercing the sacred head of our Lord, while mortal sins are the nails that crucify and kill our Lord. While the thorns cause less damage that is not mortal, they arise from the same spirit that wants to put an end to our Lord. They hurt and betray Him, and they ultimately lead to a lack of reverence towards Christ that snowballs into His own murder.

Today some think that being zealous about avoiding venial sin is a form of scruples. Only when we inflate venial as mortal or good acts as sinful ones, does this apply. But to avoid offending God for that sake alone, is praiseworthy.

Mortal sin is to kill the life of grace which is nothing more than the very life of Christ within us. Venial therefore always leads to mortal sin, in that it’s spirit generates a hatred for Christ that will grow into banishing Him from our own sanctification.

In this, let us regret our thorns we press into His head, by also recognizing the mercy that pours out from His head for our sake.

Relativizing Sexual Pronouns: A Passive form of Hatred

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

“The young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created” since believing we have “absolute power over our own bodies” might lead to the belief that “we enjoy absolute power over creation.”
– Pope Francis

As a child I always enjoyed playing RPG games.  Role-playing-games offer us a world of our own making, and often an opportunity to “create a character” as we would prefer them to be.  In the fantasy genre, you not only had the opportunity to pick your gender, but you could also choose a race, your hair-colour, your skills, your class, et cetera.  This world of self-creation is of course attractive but it is also an illusion – a game, but not a reality.  The issue of transenderism today is not totally unlike this, except that an RPG game can be turned off, but for those experiencing gender dysphoria, their affective preference remains, and can weigh heavily upon them.  Their subjective experience is not trivial like a game, but such affective inclinations are also not grounded in an ontological reality, either.  Today however, instead of helping others find self-acceptance in the context of reality, psychologists are entering into their patient’s own delusion or dysphoria, thereby doing harm.

It is my philosophical view that today the world has now erased that line between preference and reality – and no longer bothers to make such a distinction. Even within the scientific field where once transgenderism was considered gender-dysphoria, now it is merely a matter of catering to the person’s subjective/affective preferences and allowing them to dominate or violently impose themselves upon reality.

Bishop Robert Barron has discussed this as nothing more than a recapitulation of the early heresy of Gnosticism, which ascribes to the view that one has a type of “knowledge” that does not necessarily manifest within concrete reality.  In other words, “mind over matter.”  Instead of reality informing us on what the truth is, our mind dictates to the matter what the truth is – and as a result one can slice and dice at our own world in order to conform it to our own affective preferences.

Another term for all of this could be existentialism.  Existentialism ascribes to the view that things of themselves do not have any intrinsic worth or even a definition or nature.  Rather, man has the capacity to create for himself his own definition, simply by willing it.  This type of philosophy is predominantly expressed by Mr. Nietzsche. Nietzsche believed that terms such as “good” and “evil” were merely social constructs, typically proclaimed to be “objective” by the powerful as a way of allowing the state or Church to impose its own “will” upon the people.  However, this notion of “objectivity” was merely itself a social-construct, having absolutely no real value.  For Nietzsche, in order to become enlightened man had to transcend the concepts of good and evil, and decide for himself right from wrong.  The man who could accomplish this was termed the “Superman.”Nietzsche187a

Often what is true of the individual is true of the social momentum within a movement.  When there is an objective reality to morality, there is a specific way to think and argue a point.  However, when one proposes a view that is only elicited by personal preference or an affective inclination there is no real ground to develop an argument.  Therefore those who seek to impose their own will, which is not grounded in logical discourse (that of itself appeals to the logos, or objective reality), only can do so with violence or logical fallacies (sophistry).  What means, therefore, does such a group have to impose its own affective preference upon the society it belongs to?  The answer is simply violence.  It has been a long-time view of classical philosophers that those who begin to personally attack others or interpret arguments as personal attacks, they have already lost the argument.

Recently there has been an increase in not only seeking what are considered “rights,” but imposing this way of thinking upon others, without an argument.  There is nothing objectively wrong with imposing upon a society laws which safe-guard the rights that belong to individuals, but those rights need to be grounded in something more than consensus and individual preference.  Rather, the rights should be grounded upon rational discourse and logical assessment of what reality for itself says about what it means to be a human person.

What I would suggest however is that society’s approach to logic and preference is disingenuous.  Rarely will you find a person who is willing to admit that they reject objectivity in every sense of its possible meaning.   This conclusively means that the good instinct to cling to reason over gnostic preference still remains within man – except man offers himself an exception when his preference or inclination would have to be sacrificed to spirituality subsist within reality/reason.  That is a common-plight – we all have moments where reality is challenging, and love demands of us to let go of our preferences and immediate desires for the good of another.  A parent who hears a child crying is objectively in need of their parents, and despite the fact that the parent would rather rest, he or she gets up to care for that child.  A good parent does not define the reality of their children’s need, subordinating to what is comfortable to them – they know that the needs of their child remains nonetheless the same, regardless of whether they return to sleep.

hard-thinkingRationalization, however is a common-tendency within the human person, when reality clashes against our preference for what is not real (an illusion). Rationalization often can be done by an individual, but when he clashes his views against a society, it can become more difficult to maintain the weak arguments that are constructed not from reason but from preference.  As a result he can attempt to lie, deceive, and convince others of his views in order to gain their own consensus.  Once he has their approval he reinforces the rationalization and subjectively begins to convince himself that what is an illusion is actually a reality, even though deep-down he knows otherwise.

When a Christian community continues to boast of what the truth is, what the objective criteria is, it naturally creates and fosters conflict.  And this naturally wounds others for many reasons.  One of the reasons could be a misapplication of the argument.  For instance, often the narrative within the LGBT is that Christians view those who experience a same-sex attraction are automatically going to hell.  Therefore, when Christians speak about the subject, the natural responses for such individuals to take offense, and therefore to not realistically entertain or even discern the logic in such arguments.  There is a fear and dread at the prospect of being condemned so arbitrarily.  However, with the exception of a few forms of Christianity, this simply is not a true narrative of Christianity.  Catholicism for instance speaks about the acts of homosexuality as being gravely sinful, but does not suggest that if a person has a same-sex attraction they are “de-facto” condemned to hell.  People are held accountable for choices, not for things that they did not choose, such as a sexual orientation.

These false-narratives often foster or compound a victim-culture.  This does not diminish the fact that many are factually victims of discrimination, which the Church also condemns, and rightfully so.  But in replacement of an argument, appealing to being a victim often is nothing more than a recapitulation of the logical fallacy of an “appeal to emotion” whereby an argument is shut down, not because it lacks merit, but because it doesn’t make another person feel good.  I once encountered a religious leader who wanted to share wisdom from his diseased mother, wisdom she offered on her death bed.  However, what his mother said was not wise, but to voice disagreement with her view would have seemed insensitive – and therefore he was able to facilitate within the venue he offered an argument that everyone was timid to disagree with publically.

Please do not misunderstand this point to imply that we should not be concerned with those who subjectively perceive themselves to be victims.  If a person truly believes this, even if it is not grounded in an objective experience, they are nonetheless still wounded, and wounded as a result of the false-narrative.

Applying everything I have said before now I would like to apply to the whole question of pronouns being relativized to cater to the preferences or affective inclinations, specifically for those who decide for themselves what their pronoun ought to be.  Specifically transgenderism.  In this regard, an argument can be made that the Canadian government has passed a bill which will necessarily interpret those who do not cooperate with this relativistic philosophical system of pronoun-assignment as a form of hate.  But I would argue to the contrary.  While it may cause pain to a person to know that someone disagrees with them on a subject as sensitive as this, it does not denote hatred.

What we have, in an objective world that insists upon its own ordering subordinate to consensus and individual preference is a consensual hallucination.  When a voice speaks to the contrary it comes at a great cost.  When St. Thomas More did not compromise on his faith toward Henry VIII, he, as a friend to the King did not endorse the rationalized course of behaviour that he wanted to have validated.  As a result he was imprisoned and eventually killed.  In this regard, I would say that a healthy Christianity is not one that compromises with the government or the mob or the powerful, but rather the one that is willing to be imprisoned with Christ and St. Paul and all the saints before us. Selling out Christ for 30 pieces of silver is perhaps just another recapitulation of the dark-side of the gospel that continues to be re-echoed to this day and is found in God’s providence, but this doesn’t denote that we ought to find it favourable or even cooperate with it.  As a Church we need to resist this way of living.  Of course, one needn’t even appeal to matters of faith to understand why morally speaking one should not subordinate pronouns to cater to the preferences of others.  While it might be considered in some cases to avoid offending someone, we must not see this as the supreme good of a healthy relationship.  If reality is itself what is offensive, than it is truth that is unjustly offended by those who promote such an illusion.decisions

Furthermore, for a person to passively reject their own ontological configuration as a man or woman is to passively hate themselves.  The irony here, therefore is that hatred is actually being endorsed by the government, on behalf of those who would prefer they were a different sex than what they truly are.  One, as a Christian or a man or woman of philosophical logic, cannot cooperate with such an illusion precisely for reasons of love.  When one fosters the illusion that truth is always subordinated to our own personal preferences there is no limit to what this type of thinking can accomplish.  At this point in time, man knows he does not existentially dictate to himself that his eyes are for the purpose of seeing, or that his ears are for the purpose of hearing.  These are truths grounded in the very anatomy of the body.  Yet, in our civilization, when it comes to matters of sexual organs these are relativized even though biologically we know better.  This inconsistency must be attributed to the fact that remaining in the truth of this, with an affect that does not line-up with the nature of the body (for whatever reason) requires integrity to nonetheless subsist, spiritually, in truth.  For such an individual, subsisting in this type of truth would likely require sacrifice, and that sacrifice is painful and uncomfortable. Nonetheless, to subsist in reality is what permits one to have any authentic (truthful) experience of joy and interior freedom.  Man is not a beast.  Beasts get “fixed” because they cannot control themselves, whereas mankind also gets “fixed” because he begins to resemble less of an intelligent being, and rather one controlled by impulses.  Why else do we have people turning into a stampede, killing other humans in a shopping mall on Black-Friday?

St. Thomas Aquinas defines pride as a problem precisely because man clings to his own fallible judgment that is enslaved to his impulses and affective preferences rather than what is true.  Pride is therefore an exaltation of our own will and intellect beyond what is actually reasonable:  beyond what is good or evil.  What Nietzsche espoused was nothing new, in fact, it was already written about in the book of Genesis when discussing man not having the prerogative to decide for themselves good from evil (eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil).  The humble disposition that requires self-mastery and interior strength is not to subordinate reason to our preferences, truth to our subjectivity, but rather to examine reality and allow ourselves to discover it, rather than invent an illusion and coerce others to follow it.

Therefore, I cannot cooperate with any notion of referring to a person to another gender than what they are objectively – precisely because who they are, as an ontological reality is worth loving, even if they cannot. This is the type of love that offends, and actually makes love seem like something that is desirable to crucify.  Yet, it must be done anyways – because if no one loves such individuals, who will?  The whole culture, collectively wants us to mutually hate each other, and label it as love.  We consider legalizing prostitution as a liberation of women (and men), and yet all it is, is the commodification of one’s sexuality – reducing their dignity to something that can be sold.   Our culture really has, in many ways turned away from love, while nonetheless nominally labeling hatred as love, and love as hatred.  In a purely subjectivist society, this is possible – anything is possible, except truth.  Truth is not something merely exterior to the individual, the individual themselves is a truth, is a reality.  That reality is made up of matter and soul – and that individual must be loved as who they are – not in a gnostic way, but ontologically (who they objectively are).

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.