Losing the Horror of Sin

Do Not Get Lost in Gehenna

By Fr. James Farfaglia,

“And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” (Matthew 10: 28)

What is Gehenna?  The word Gehenna is the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew ge-hinnom, meaning “Valley of Hinnom.” This valley, south of Jerusalem was where some of the ancient Israelites sacrificed their children to the Canaanite false god Molech.  In later years, Gehenna continued to be an unclean place used for burning trash from the city of Jerusalem.

The Gehenna Valley was thus a place of burning sewage, burning flesh, and garbage.  Maggots and worms crept through the garbage and sewage.  The smell from the smoke was strong and nauseating.   It was a place that was utterly filthy, disgusting and repulsive to the senses.

Gehenna presented such a vivid image, that Jesus used it as a depiction of hell: a place of eternal torment where the fires never ended and the worms never stopped crawling.[i]

“And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.”

Who are the people that are not afraid to die so that they do not lose their soul in hell for all eternity?

These are the martyrs.  There are millions of them throughout the history of Catholicism.

Some are very young and some are older.

They all died under cruel and terrifying circumstances.

Here is the story of a young girl, a child, who preferred to die rather than to commit a mortal sin.

She was only eleven years old. 

Maria Goretti (October 16, 1890 – July 6, 1902) is an Italian virgin-martyr. and she is one of the youngest canonized saints.

She was born on the eastern side of Italy to a farming family, but increased poverty forced the family to move to the western side of the country when she was only six.

Her father died from malaria when she was nine, and they had to share a house with another family, the Serenellis, in order to survive.

The Serenelli family was what we would call today a very dysfunctional family. Alessandro Serenelli, the young man who attacked Maria was part of a terrible mess.

Giovanni, his father, was an alcoholic and his mother died in a psychiatric hospital when he was only a few months old, apparently after trying to drown Alessandro when he was a newborn. Alessandro’s brother was interned in a psychiatric hospital where he died.

On July 5, 1902, eleven-year-old Maria was sitting on the outside steps of her home, sewing one of Alessandro’s shirts and watching Teresa, her baby sister, while Alessandro was threshing beans in the barnyard. Knowing she would be alone, he returned to the house and threatened her with a knife if she did not do what he said; he was intending to rape her.

She would not submit, however, protesting that what he wanted to do was a mortal sin and warning him that he would go to hell.  She desperately fought to stop him. She kept screaming, “No! It is a sin! God does not want it!” He first choked her, but when she insisted she would rather die than submit to him, he stabbed her eleven times.  She tried to reach the door, but he stopped her by stabbing her three more times before running away.

Teresa, the little baby, awoke with the noise and started crying, and when her mother and Alessandro’s father came to check on her, they found Maria on the floor bleeding and took her to the nearest hospital.

She underwent surgery, but her injuries were beyond anything that the doctors could do.

Halfway through the surgery, she woke up. She insisted that it stay that way. The pharmacist said to her, “Maria, think of me in Paradise.” She looked at him and said, “Well, who knows, which of us is going to be there first?” “You, Maria,” he replied. “Then I will gladly think of you,” she said. She also expressed concern for her mother’s welfare.

The following day, 24 hours after the attack, having expressed forgiveness for Alessandro and stating that she wanted to have him in Heaven with her, she died of her injuries, while looking at a picture of the Virgin Mary and clutching a cross to her chest.

The wounds penetrated the throat, with lesions of the pericardium, the heart, the lungs and the diaphragm. Surgeons were surprised that the girl was still alive.

In a dying deposition, in the presence of the Chief of Police, Maria told her mother of Serenelli’s sexual harassment, and of two previous attempts made to rape her. She was afraid to reveal this earlier since she was threatened with death.

Alessandro was promptly arrested, convicted, and jailed. After three years he repented, and when eventually released from prison, he visited her mother begging forgiveness, which she readily granted. He later became a lay brother in a monastery, eventually dying peacefully in 1970. Maria Goretti was beatified by Pope Pius XII in 1947, and canonized in 1950 by the same Pope.  Maria’s mother and Alessandro were present at both ceremonies.[ii]

Lost the Horror of Sin

My dear friends, we live in a culture where we have lost the sense of sin.  We have lost the horror of sin.  This is true because we have lost the sense of who God is.

These tragic loses has caused many Catholics to neglect or even forget about the importance of the Sacrament of Confession.

Let us, once again, remember some basic teachings of our Catholic Faith.

What is sin?  The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives us a concise definition. “Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law” (CCC #1849).

Scripture tells us that actual sin is divided into two classifications: mortal sin and venial sin. “There is a sin that leads to death…” (1 John 5:16).  “Every kind of wickedness is sin, but not all sin leads to death” (1John 5:17).

Mortal sin is forgiven through the Sacrament of Confession. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance. All mortal sins of which penitents after a diligent self-examination are conscious must be recounted by them in confession…” (CCC #1456).

Just like all the other sacraments of the Church, Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Confession.  The Church has always understood the Scriptural reference for the Sacrament of Confession to be John 20: 22-23: “Receive the Holy Spirit.  For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.”

What an immense gift we have been given!  The Sacrament of Confession is an enormous source of interior peace.  The priest raises his hand, and then with a blessing pronounces those amazing words: I absolve you from your sins.  At that moment, we know that God has heard our cry for forgiveness, and we have been pardoned of our sins.  “God, who is rich in mercy…” (Ephesians 2: 4).

There is a direct relationship between the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Confession.

Saint Paul speaks to us about this essential relationship in his First Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 11, verses 23-32.  Let us consider the entire text.

“For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.

Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying. If we discerned ourselves, we would not be under judgment; but since we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.”

The Sacrament of the Eucharist is one of the sacraments of the living.  We need to be free from mortal sin before we receive Holy Communion.  If we receive the Eucharist while we are in the state of mortal sin, we are committing a sacrilege.  “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.”

That act of receiving the Eucharist with a bad conscience has a direct influence on our physical health.  “That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying.” 

Sexual sin is not the only sin, but like for the Corinthians of old, it is certainly the battle of our times.

Adultery, fornication, masturbation, addiction to pornography, contraception, sterilization and abortion are real life struggles for many Catholics.

Relativism has convinced a lot of Catholics that there is no longer any need to go to confession for these sins before they receive the Eucharist.

It is possible to live the virtue of chastity in an unchaste world.  We have to make a decision to change and to live the Gospel with greater authenticity.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (John 3: 16-17).

We experience God’s mercy through the Sacrament of Confession.  It is there that we acknowledge who we are: limited, weak and sinful creatures in need of redemption.  It is there that God forgives us of any and all of our sins.

Everyone is welcome to the Catholic Church, but let Jesus liberate you from sin.  No one who has ever met Jesus has remained the same.

And now let us pray:

Oh Saint Maria Goretti who, strengthened by God’s grace, did not hesitate even at the age of eleven to shed your blood and sacrifice your life to defend your virginal purity, look graciously on the unhappy human race which has strayed far from the path of eternal salvation. Teach us all, and especially all young people, with what courage and promptitude we should flee for the love of Jesus anything that could offend Him or stain our souls with sin. Obtain for us from our Lord victory in temptation, comfort in the sorrows of life, and the grace which we earnestly beg of you , and may we one day enjoy with you the imperishable glory of Heaven. Amen.

 

[i] https://www.gotquestions.org/Gehenna.html

[ii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Goretti

 

Isn’t The Priesthood Lonely And Boring?

The Awesome Gift Of The Priesthood!

Father James Farfaglia – While I was pouring myself a hot cup of coffee in the rectory kitchen a number of years ago, a priest friend who lived in the same rectory came through the kitchen, his face beaming with his characteristic joviality.  “Come here,” he said,” I need to show you something.”  Father had just celebrated his birthday and he had bought himself a little present.  As he carefully opened the box he looked at me with the anticipation of a small boy with a new toy and cheerfully said, “Look at this!”  What he was showing me was a beautifully stitched corporal and matching altar cloth that he had ordered from a liturgical supply company for his celebration of the Mass.  “This new corporal and new altar cloth will remind me to say Mass better and better,” he exclaimed.  I was profoundly moved by his words.

Similarly, Pope Paul VI prayed a beautiful prayer each time before he celebrated Mass, “Lord, grant me the grace to celebrate this Mass as if it were my first Mass, my only Mass, and my last Mass.”  When I was newly ordained, I mentioned this story to another priest friend who said, “Yes, I know about the Pope’s prayer, but I have changed the wording.  Rather than saying as if it were my first Mass, I pray that my Mass will be better than my first Mass.”

 How wonderful it is for me to be in the company of Catholic priests who passionately love Jesus, the Church and their vocation to the priesthood!

When I contemplate the mystery of the Eucharist, I am continually reminded of these beautiful words from the Sacred Scriptures:  “Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life.  For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved” (John 3: 16-17).

We cannot even begin to fathom the depth of God’s love for us.  His love is so immense that he himself is defined as love.  “God is love” (1 John 4: 8, 16).  The Holy Eucharist is the most visible sign of God’s love for each of us.  Jesus loves us so much that he cannot leave us.  “And know that I am with you always until the end of time” (Matthew 28: 20).

As we consider the mystery of God’s unconditional love we are reminded that love defines the very purpose of our existence too.  The purpose of our life can be summed up with only one word: love.  “…since God has loved us so much, we too should love one another” (1 John 4: 11).

A few years ago I came across an acquaintance that I had not seen in a long time.  We exchanged warm greetings and she asked me how everything was going at my parish.  Are you still the only priest over there?” she asked.  When I told her that I was, she wondered if I was ever bored with saying many Masses on the weekend.  I assured her that everything was wonderful, but I thought to myself, “bored”?  I love what I do!  I did not want to embarrass my friend, but I wanted to tell her that my biggest problem on Sunday is that each Mass has to come to an end.  How could I be bored when I have been called to the Catholic priesthood?  Each time I celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, it is as though a new Bethlehem and a new Calvary have become present for me.  How could I be bored when I hold Jesus in my sinful and trembling hands?

What intimacy!  When Jesus comes to us, he comes to us as communion.  God and man become one.  He comes to us as the divine lover.  His communion with us is more intimate than the intimate union of husband and wife or a mother with her unborn child.  Let us recall then the words from the first encyclical letter written by Blessed Pope John Paul:  “Man cannot live without love.  He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it” (Redemptor Hominis, 10.1).

When we consider the vocation to fatherhood through the prism of the Eucharist, we find that fathers have been called by God to love in a very special way.  “Husbands love your wives as Christ loves the Church” (cf: Ephesians 6: 25).

 How does Christ love his Church? 

The answer to this question may be found in the Eucharist:  “This is my body; this is my blood.”  Love is total, unconditional, a complete oblation.

Married men with children are called “Father” by a select group, their families. As a priest, people call me “Father.”  I too have been called “Father” by the thousands and thousands of people that I have provided for, nourished and educated for more than twenty-six years as a priest.  It is my vocation to celibate fatherhood that allows me to stretch my heart and give of myself unconditionally with joy and love each day with renewed commitment and dedication.

Our nation needs good fathers, be they heads of families, parishes, or dioceses; furthermore, that they be true and loving men who will live out their vocation.  And what is their vocation?  It is simply this: love.  “A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15: 13).

 Am I bored?  That question from my friend caused me to reflect. 

I realize that the older I get, the younger I feel.  With the rapid passage of time, I begin to understand Saint Paul’s dilemma: his passionate love for Jesus caused him to desire to be with him in heaven, yet that same love caused a passion to continue the work of the Lord here on earth. The daily encounter with our Eucharistic Lord allows us to be caught up in the mystery of continual and unconditional love.

Yesterday was Holy Thursday.  Let us all thank God for the awesome gift of the priesthood.  Some among our ranks have caused tremendous scandal.  There is no place in the Catholic priesthood for a modern day Judas.  Rather than focusing on what Pope Francis once called “the little monsters,” let us celebrate today the vast majority of Catholic priests who joyfully serve their people with profound dedication and joy.

Temptation: Satan Will Do All He Can To Separate Us From The Love Of Christ

Satan’s Greatest Victory:  He Has Convinced The World That He Does Not Exist

Fr. James Farfaglia – A Christian magazine once surveyed their subscribers regarding the areas of their greatest spiritual challenges.  The results showed that their greatest temptation was materialism.  After materialism, followed pride, self-centeredness, laziness, anger, lust, envy, gluttony and finally lying.

The survey respondents noted temptations were frequent and more forceful when they had neglected their time with God and when they were physically tired.  They stated that the ability to resist temptation was made easier by a strong spiritual life, avoiding compromising situations and being accountable to someone.

Temptation will always be a part of our lives.  No matter our age or the circumstances of our lives, temptation will be something that we have to deal with until the end of our journey here on earth.

Not every temptation is caused by Satan, so we need to look at the two causes of temptation. 

Most temptations are caused by our fallen human nature.  As we saw last Sunday, Original Sin has wounded our human nature.  We simply do not have complete control over our mind, memory, imagination, will, passions and emotions.  We will always struggle with something.

Sometimes we might be tempted to be lazy and sleep in, rather than go to work or to school.  Sometimes we might be tempted to gossip.  Sometimes we might be tempted to be impatient.  Sometimes we might be tempted to be unchaste.  Sometimes we might even be tempted to take something that does not belong to us.

“Because man is a composite being, spirit and body, there already exists a certain tension in him; a certain struggle of tendencies between spirit and flesh develops. But in fact, this struggle belongs to the heritage of sin. It is a consequence of sin and at the same time a confirmation of it. It is part of the daily experience of the spiritual battle” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2516).

Satan Can Also Cause Temptation

Satan can also cause temptation.  Satan’s greatest triumph is that he has caused many people to no longer believe that he really exists.  Jesus tells us who he is when he said: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10: 18).  My dear friends, Satan is real and his actions in the world are very real.

The Second Vatican Council made this point very clear when it said, “The whole of man’s history has been the story of our combat with the powers of evil, stretching, so our Lord tells us, from the very dawn of history until the last day.  Finding himself in the midst of the battlefield man has to struggle to do what is right, and it is at great cost to himself, and aided by God’s grace, that he succeeds in achieving his own inner integrity” (Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, 37.2).

As the holy season of Lent begins, this Sunday’s liturgy reminds us that we are engaged in a daily and dramatic battle between Christ and Satan, between good and evil.  What is at stake in this battle is our eternal salvation.  Satan will do all that he can do separate us from Christ.  

Many people become discouraged and nervous when they are tempted.  Many people can be scrupulous.  They think that they are sinning when in fact they have only been tempted.  Sin is only a sin when there is full consent.  Temptation is not a sin; therefore, there is no need to mention temptation within the Sacrament of Confession.  Actually, when we say no to the temptation and affirm our fidelity to the Lord, we need to realize that we have been victorious.  

The continual interior struggle to be faithful to God does have great personal benefits.  The struggle is a workout, and every work out makes us stronger and allows us to go deeper.

Although it is true that we will always be tempted, we must also do all that we can to avoid temptation.

Men who trap animals in Africa for zoos in America say that one of the hardest animals to catch is the ring-tailed monkey. For the men of the Zulu tribe it is quite simple.

The method the Zulus use comes from their knowledge of the animal. Their trap is nothing more than a melon growing on a vine. The seeds of this melon are a favorite of the monkey. Knowing this, the Zulus simply cut a hole in the melon, just large enough for the monkey to insert his hand. The monkey will stick his hand in, grab as many seeds as he can, then start to withdraw it. He cannot do this because his fist is now larger than the hole. The monkey will pull and tug, screech and fight the melon for hours. He cannot get free of the trap unless he gives up the seeds, which he refuses to do. Meanwhile, the Zulus sneak up and seize him.

In 1972, during one of his General Audiences in Rome, Pope Paul VI spoke of Satan and the nature of temptation with these dramatic words: “So we know that this dark disturbing being exists and that he is still at work with his treacherous cunning; he is the hidden enemy who sows errors and misfortunes in human history. It is worth recalling the revealing Gospel parable of the good seed and the cockle, for it synthesizes and explains the lack of logic that seems to preside over our contradictory experiences: ‘An enemy has done this.’ He is ‘a murderer from the beginning, and the father of lies,’ as Christ defines him.  He undermines man’s moral equilibrium with his sophistry. He is the malign, clever seducer who knows how to make his way into us through the senses, the imagination and the libido, through utopian logic, or through disordered social contacts in the give and take of our activities. He can bring about in us deviations that are all the more harmful because they seem to conform to our physical or mental makeup, or to our profound, instinctive aspirations.”

Make Use Of the Sacraments And Our Lady To Strengthen You In Battle

Prayer, daily Mass, filial devotion to our Lady, the reading of the Sacred Scriptures, adoration and the frequent reception of Confession are the proven remedies for temptation. 

At the same time, it is essential that we avoid the occasions of sin that put us in the danger of not only being tempted, but also may cause us to sin.  Young people who are preparing themselves for marriage need to be prudent about their relationship and establish firm boundaries that will help them to be chaste.  Parents need to be vigilant about the use of the television, cell phones, music, video games and the Internet in their homes.

The triple concupiscence of the world, the flesh and the devil are just as real today as they have been over the entire history of humanity.

Lent provides us with a special time of grace to examine our conscience and remove those things that are holding us back from a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ or may in fact be an obstacle to our eternal salvation.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks about Satan with these words: “He was a murderer from the start; he was never grounded in the truth; there is no truth in him at all: when he lies he is drawing from his own store, because he is a liar, and the father of lies” (John 8: 44).

He has everyone believing a big lie.

He has everyone believing that abortion is reproductive health, that fornication is cohabitation, and that sodomy is gay.

The father of lies has everyone believing that there is no such thing as sin.

And the best lie of all, he has everyone believing that he does not even exist.

Pray The Rosary

I have told you before that Our Lady of Guadalupe is not really Our Lady of Guadalupe, instead she is really Our Lady of coatlaxopeuh which is pronounced “quatlasupe” and sounds extraordinarily like the Spanish word Guadalupe.  Coatlaxopeuh means She who crushes the head of the serpent.

“I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel” (Genesis 3: 15, Douay – Rheims).

In our present day apocalyptic battle with the evil one, let us turn to Mary.  Let us pray the Rosary every day so that in our lives, in our homes and in our nation, she will crush the head of the serpent and give us the strength to live fully Christian lives with Our Savior Jesus Christi.    

Originally posted at:  fatherjames.org

Warning: Confusion About Marriage Is Rampant Amongst Catholics!

Marriage Is Under Constant Attack From A Culture That Is Out Of Control!

Father James Farfaglia – “You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5: 27-28).  These words spoken by our Lord provide an excellent opportunity for us to reflect upon the Sacrament of Marriage.

The Sacrament of Marriage represents a lifelong commitment on the part of the spouses.  For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part; marriage is forever.

Marriage Is Under Constant Attack

Increasingly, the dominant American culture has intensified the barrage against marriage. Every day millions of living rooms are inundated with lustful images depicted in soap operas, situation comedies, movies, talk shows and music videos. Magazines extol immoral lifestyles. Weekly tabloids play up the scandalous sexual proclivities of   film, sports and television celebrities.

This onslaught against marriage has been relentless, seemingly working toward discrediting the notion of Christian marriage as an institution and cornerstone of society.

It is very easy for married couples to become discouraged and overwhelmed.

Since there is so much confusion about marriage, even among Catholics, it is important that we remember some basic facts about marriage as a sacrament.

7 Issues To Remember About Marriage

  1. A man and a woman living together under the same roof, unmarried and engaging in sexual intimacy are committing fornication, a mortal sin.
  2. Parents who tolerate this promiscuity in their homes also commit a mortal sin because they are collaborating with sin.
  3. A civil marriage between two Catholics is not a valid marriage.  This may be a sin of fornication or adultery depending on the circumstances.
  4. A divorced Catholic spouse who enters into a new marriage civilly before receiving an annulment commits adultery.  He or she needs to wait for the annulment before entering into a new marriage.
  5. When a divorced Catholic spouse seeking an annulment does not wait for the annulment process to be completed and enters into a new marriage in any Protestant denomination, this too is adultery.  The divorced spouse is still married.
  6. A Catholic who marries in a Protestant church without the proper dispensation from the bishop of the diocese enters into an invalid marriage.
  7. A marriage between homosexual partners is not a marriage.

In all of the cases stated above, those living in any of these irregular situations cannot receive Holy Communion until they reconcile their lives with God.   Reconciliation can take place in the following manner:

Solutions To The Above Situations

Case #1 – The couple will first need to split up, confess their sin and receive absolution.   They are more than welcome to marry in the Catholic Church.

Case #2 – The parents who have been tolerating this situation in their home, need to become more demanding and urge the couple to split up and marry in the Church.  They need to reach out to the couple.  They must not remain silent.  They can be kind and welcoming, but they cannot allow sin to take place in their home.

Case #3 – If no previous marriage exists, couples in these circumstances must go to Confession and then contract a valid marriage in the Catholic Church.

Cases # 4 and #5 – Before these individuals can go to Confession and receive Communion, they will need to obtain an annulment.  If there are no dependent children living in the household, they should split up until they have obtained the annulment.  If there are dependent children in the home, the couple should avoid sexual intimacy by separating or by living in separate rooms until they have obtained the annulment.  By living in a state of celibacy, they can then approach the Sacraments of Confession and Eucharist.

Case #6 – Those having attempted marriage in this manner need to have the marriage validated and blessed by a Catholic priest.

Case #7 –Ceremonies of this sort can never be marriages. Catholics must never attend these ceremonies because they give rise to scandal.

Catholics Have Become Increasingly Confused By Moral Relativism and Hedonism

Aside from all of the confusion caused by moral relativism and hedonism, more Catholics in recent decades have become confused by the alarming number of annulments being granted to Catholics.

An annulment is not a Catholic divorce, as some mistakenly believe. A valid marriage signifies the full and free consent of a man and woman to live together in Holy Matrimony for the rest of their lives.  An annulment means that an impediment exists which has hindered the full and free consent of those contracting marriage.

Many Marriages Have Failed Due To The Fact Couples Have Been Ill Prepared For Marriage

Many Catholic priests agree with my experience, that in the majority of cases, the large number of failed marriages has resulted from the couples having  been insufficiently prepared for the Sacrament of Marriage in the first place. Thorough and caring marriage preparation for engaged couples is essential.

Still, the best preparation for marriage is Christian chastity.  It is this virtue of chastity that helps a married couple to remain faithful to one another.  But, if young people are not being sufficiently challenged to cultivate this virtue, we may be marrying many who have developed profound sexual addictions through a promiscuous life style; and these addictions in and of themselves will not allow for the necessary full and free consent to take place.

Whether clergy or concerned lay people, we need to take the time to help young people live chastely in a very difficult world.  Encouraging them to develop a rich Eucharistic life, to use the Sacrament of Confession frequently, to practice devotion to Mary and to avail themselves of on-going spiritual direction, all these are the proven ways by which we can help strengthen young people to live out their relationship with Jesus and each other.

The Church Cannot Capitulate To The Clamors Of The World

The Church must not capitulate to the clamors of the secular world.  By the holiness of their lives, both the clergy and married couples can be a wonderful help to those who are called to the Sacrament of Marriage.

For those who are already married, mutual fidelity is the path that provides personal joy and peace.  However, subject as we are to the effects of Original Sin, we are all fallen creatures of flesh and blood, and it is normal that fidelity can prove a struggle. For married couples a daily renewal of their personal commitment to their spouses, a well disciplined spiritual life and a realistic acceptance of their own personal limitations will provide the lasting strength to remain faithful until death.

As a priest, I have always delighted in the exuberant joy of young couples as they marry and then bring their first child to the parish to be baptized.  I have always admired those elderly couples, who after the many years of happiness and patience, still faithfully wear their wedding rings by now embedded in the worn and wrinkled fingers that have been tried by the adversities of life.

Chastity Is The Antidote To Lust

Although the Catholic Church upholds the indissolubility of marriage, the Church always welcomes her children who are divorced and separated.  Those who suffer from difficult marital situations are always welcomed as living members of Christ’s Church.  Even in those situations where individuals may not be able to participate fully in the Eucharist, the doors of the Catholic Church remain open to all, welcoming all to be living members of the family of God.

No matter how difficult a personal history or situation may be, there is always a solution for those who are open to doing God’s will. And all those who are entrusted with the pastoral care of souls must be kind, patient, compassionate, understanding and willing to spend a lot of time ministering to all those who seek their loving care.

This past Friday, we celebrated Saint Valentine’s Day.  The annual celebration of this beautiful day provides married couples to renew their love for each other.  This feast day also provides young people who are preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage to live a profoundly chaste love.  Chastity is the antidote to lust.  Lust is a distortion of love.  Chastity is true love.

Originally posted at:  Father James.org

Why Is There A Famine Of Love And Family Life In Our Country?

We Must Get Back To The Basics Of Family Life!

Fr. James Farfaglia – This Sunday, that Catholic liturgy draws our attention to the Holy Family.  In light of today’s feast day, let us consider marriage and family life.  

If we were to make a synthesis of the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the definition of marriage, we will understand that marriage is the intimate communion of life and love between a man and woman, joined together by God.

The purposes of marriage, as defined by the Catholic Church, are the good of the spouses, the procreation of children, and the education of children.  This communion of life and love has been established by Our Lord as one of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church.  This intimate communion of life and love is exclusive, indissoluble, faithful and open to the procreation of children.

Consent and consummation are the two essential dimensions that make a marriage valid.

The consent is expressed by the  I do pronounced in the marriage vows.  The  I do must be free of pressure and impediments, it must be without conditions, forever, faithful and open to life.  The I do is an act of the will to enter into a life-long covenant of love.

The total and free gift of each to the other expressed in the exchange of the marital vows comes to fulfillment in the consummation of their yes through the gift of themselves to each other in the marital act.  The act of consummation is a profound expression of giving their entire beings, body and soul, to each other, in the marital embrace of love.  And as we have already noted, “Authentic married love is caught up into divine love….”  “The personal beauty and interior truth of conjugal union lies in its establishment of a true communion of persons so intimate and profound as to image something of the interior life of the Trinity and the marriage of Christ and the Church.”

Check this out – (Further reading: The Sociological Reasons Not to Live Together Before Marriage)

Communion of course is only possible if both husband and wife live the theological virtue of charity with Christian authenticity and maturity.  The spouses live out, within the ordinary circumstances of their lives, the daily program of Christian love so beautifully explained by Saint Paul in this Sunday’s second reading: “Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.  And over all these put on love, that is the bond of perfection” (Colossians 3: 12-14).

This program of love is certainly nothing easy to live out within our daily existence.  However, it is possible to live this life of love if we have a mature spiritual life.  Our encounter with the God of love will renew and strengthen our love every day.

Our relationship with God is a personal relationship; a love relationship of two persons.  Yes, we are a community of believers; but better yet, we are a community of people who are in love.

Break open the Scriptures.  Immerse yourself in the Word of God.  Spend time with our Eucharistic Lord every day: daily Mass and adoration.  Be a part of the people who are always in love.

As we consider the Sacrament of Marriage and family life this Sunday with the celebration of the Feast of the Holy Family, I would like to remind all of you of the two fundamental aspects of family life that will help keep your marriage strong and your family together.  The first thing is the family dinner and the second thing is keeping Sunday holy because it is the Sabbath.

First of all, a healthy family lives around the kitchen table.  So many good memories are created in the kitchen and in the dining room.   Having supper together every night as a family is an essential aspect to family life. 

A survey from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) says that the more often children have dinners with their parents, the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use drugs, and that parental interaction fostered around the dinner table is one of the most potent tools to help parents raise healthy, drug-free children.

The CASA found kids that have dinner with their parents fewer than three times a week, are two times more likely to drink or smoke tobacco, and are one and half times more likely to smoke marijuana.

Secondly, we need to remember that Sunday is the Lord’s Day.  We live out the Sabbath by attending Mass every Sunday unless we are sick or severe weather keeps us inside our homes.   We also live out the Sabbath by not doing any unnecessary physical work.

Family dinner each night of the week, attending church together as a family, and being together as a family on Sunday are all basic aspects of family life that foster and develop healthy and successful families.

When Mother Theresa came to this country for the first time, she said:

“I suppose that some of you are feeling that you would have to buy a plane ticket and travel to India if you were to give effective help to the poor.  There is no need.  The poor are right here in your own country.  In the third world, there is often a famine of the stomach due to the lack of food, but the people are rich in love.  They share what little they have with one another.  In developed nations like yours, there is an abundance of food.  But there is often a famine of the heart due to a lack of love.  The victims of this famine of love are the new poor.  And who are these poor people?  They are the people sitting next to you.”

Why is there a famine of love in our country?  The answer is simple and clear: we have become so self-absorbed and we have made work, money and material things our false gods. 

A good resolution for the new year would be a firm commitment to get back to basics:  have dinner every night as a family, attend church every Sunday as a family and stop working on Sunday so that you can spend time together.

Originally posted at:  Father James.org

The Unitive And Procreative Marital Act Cannot Be Separated By Contraception!

Contraception Is An Intrinsic Evil!

By:  Father James Farfaglia

The Inseparable Connection

CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) In his landmark 1968 encyclical where the Church reaffirms its’ teaching that contraception is intrinsically evil, Pope Paul VI argues that every marital act must keep together “the inseparable connection , established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act” (Humanae Vitae, 12).

The basis of the Pope’s argument is the Church’s understanding of natural law, human nature and God’s plan for marriage, sexuality and family life.  Paul VI writes, “.they must also recognize that an act of mutual love which impairs the capacity to transmit life which God the Creator, through specific laws, has built into it, frustrates His design which constitutes the norm of marriage, and contradicts the will of the Author of life. Hence to use this divine gift while depriving it, even if only partially, of its meaning and purpose, is equally repugnant to the nature of man and of woman, and is consequently in opposition to the plan of God and His holy will.”

Why then is it true that the unitive significance and the procreative significance of the marital act cannot be separated?

Pope Paul VI lays out the principles and the reasons.  However, it is John Paul II that brings the subject to an entirely new level of understanding.

JP II’s Love And Responsibility

Father Karol Wojtyla had a profound love for young people.  We have all heard about his camping trips with university students when he was a young priest.  The long discussions about the nature of God, the meaning of life, the nature of marriage and questions regarding sexuality provided lengthy material for his famous book Love and Responsibility which was published in Polish in 1960.

But, it was as John Paul II, that he used his weekly General Audiences to develop what is now known as Theology of the Body.  His discourses, (129 teachings from September 5, 1979 – November 28, 1984), comprise a monumental work which is the most profound and most complete compendium of  Catholic teaching on the subject of human nature, marriage and sexuality.

By carefully reading Pope Paul VI’s prophetic encyclical, students of John Paul’s Theology of the Body will notice familiar language.   For John Paul II, Humanae Vitae launches him into its’ defense through a more profound development of the principles already contained in Paul VI’s work.

Why then is it true that the unitive significance and the procreative significance cannot be separated?

Perhaps most people have never even asked themselves this question.  Perhaps our modern conditioning has already reduced the conjugal act to a mere biological act.

The Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage reminds us that there is a theological dimension to marriage and sexuality.

This is why we must gain a new vision of sexuality.

For John Paul II, the beginning principle is the spousal dimension of the human body.

What Does This All Mean?

Think of it this way.

For Christianity, all of existence is immersed in a giant ocean of love.  God is defined in the Sacred Scriptures as love.  Creation, as described in the beginning of Genesis, is an outpouring of God’s love.  Man, as a rational being, is the only creature that can correspond to the gift of creation by being a gift to God and a gift to others.  Thus, everything is seen through the prism of marriage.

Sexual intercourse, the marital embrace, is an image of God who is love and gift.  The human body makes the invisible reality of God’s love visible.  God created the human person for the purpose of being loving persons who freely choose to love.  Through love, they give themselves as a total gift of themselves to each other.  Thus, by being a total gift of themselves, married spouses, through the marital embrace, make visible the invisible reality of God who is love and God who loves us unconditionally.

“(Married love) is a love which is total-that very special form of personal friendship in which husband and wife generously share everything, allowing no unreasonable exceptions and not thinking solely of their own convenience. Whoever really loves his partner loves not only for what he receives, but loves that partner for the partner’s own sake, content to be able to enrich the other with the gift of himself” (Humanae Vitae, 9).

Women Instinctively Know That This True

Interestingly, women instinctively know that all of this is true. Women know that after the conjugal act a couple seems unusually close on an emotional level.  Husbands often open up with their wives in a way not usual or even characteristic of them, but in a way that women crave from them all of the time.

The marital act is designed by God to be completely and unreserved sharing of the “I do” and of the “husbands love your wives as Christ loves the Church.”  The totality of the gift: no reservations and no selfishness at all.

If the Catholic Church knows this and is so sensitive to the inner nature of marriage and the conjugal act, even of its’ emotional content, she can be fully trusted when she affirms and teaches that the unitive significance and the procreative significance of the conjugal act cannot be separated.

Are You Deaf And Dumb?

Are You Deafened By Pride?  Or Does Humility Allow You To Hear Truth?

By Father James Farfaglia (slight editing for length)

Father James.org

In this Sunday’s Gospel passage, the story of the deaf and dumb man healed by Jesus shows us what happens when we encounter the Lord.  Our journey with Jesus begins at our baptism; however, this journey continues and deepens as we make our way toward eternal life in heaven.

As we break open the gospel passage and begin to explore some unique qualities. We discover that the man whom Jesus heals possesses those characteristics exemplifying the way in which we must live Christianity each day if we are to continually encounter the Lord Jesus.

Humility Is The Key To Acknowledging Truth

We notice that the man is open, in need and accepting of our Lord’s help.  These qualities characterize the deaf man’s humility.  Humility is a basic virtue of the Christian way of life and a necessary virtue if we wish to walk with Jesus and experience his presence in our lives.  Unfortunately, many simply do not want to hear the truth of the Gospel.  Many reduce truth to their own criteria.  Regrettably, we are frequently deafened by pride.  We allow ourselves to hear only what we want to hear.

Nevertheless, the increasing number of people, especially young people, earnestly seeking the truth is encouraging. The possession of the truth becomes a liberating experience.

Pope Benedict XVI said, “The Truth is the Truth and there is no compromise. Christian life requires, so to speak, the daily ‘martyrdom’ of fidelity to the Gospel – that is the courage to let Christ grow in us and direct our thinking and our actions. But this can only happen in our lives if there is a solid relationship with God” (Wednesday General Audience, August 29, 2012).

The truth can only be discovered if the human person is open to discover it and to know it.

Our Culture No Longer Hears The Voice Of Truth

In our own society, we continue to argue over moral issues.  A cacophony of yelling and name calling exists because false ideologies do not leave room for dialogue.  Instead, modern man finds himself trapped in a dark and silent cavern of blindness and deafness.

Many cry out that a woman is autonomous from God’s law and natural law, thus allowing her to make any decision that she desires over the life of her unborn child.  She is free, in the name of “reproductive health,” to end the life of her own child.

Many cry out that because of love, a man should be able to marry a man, and that a woman should be able to marry a woman.  But is this true love or is this is an infernal obsession with lust?

Can men and women be so deaf and blind that they can no longer recognized the truth of their own bodies?  Can they be so deaf and blind and to the truth of sexual act as God and nature intended it to be, that they turn on themselves like ravenous animals?  And yet, the root of this collapse into the abyss can be traced back to the massive rejection of one fundamental principle which is rooted in God’s law and natural law: “the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act”  (Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae, 12).

Separating Sex From Procreation Has Had Dire Consequences

Once a deaf and blind humanity separates sex from procreation, a deaf and blind humanity can kill an unborn child because the child becomes an unwanted result of a sexual act that is no longer open to procreation.

Once a deaf and blind humanity separates the unitive dimension from the procreative dimension of the marital act, this same blind humanity, obsessed with sex, can pervert the unitive dimension of sex by erroneously thinking that sex between two men or sex between two women is the same as sexual intercourse between a man a woman.   Saint Paul has already warned us about this sad scenario of our times.

 “…since they refused to see it was rational to acknowledge God, God has left them to their own irrational ideas and to their monstrous behavior” (Romans 1:28).

British historian and philosopher Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975) once said: “Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder.”  What is the solution?  The solution is not what; it is who“And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hands on him.  He took him off by himself away from the crowd.  He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, ‘Ephphata! – that is, ‘Be opened!’ – And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly” (Mark 7: 32-35).

We Must Hear The Gospel Message And Proclaim It Boldly

In meditating on today’s passage from the gospel, we might note the direct relationship between deafness and speech.  Jesus first touches the man’s ears and then he touches his tongue so that he may speak.

The lesson here is very clear. Hearing the word of God is not enough; we must also proclaim the truth. During his first pastoral visit to the United States,

Pope John Paul II said: “And so, we will stand up every time that human life is threatened. When the sacredness of life before birth is attacked, we will stand up and proclaim that no one ever has the authority to destroy unborn life.

When a child is described as a burden or is looked upon only as a means to satisfy an emotional need, we will stand up and insist that every child is a unique and unrepeatable gift of God, with the right to a loving and united family.

When the institution of marriage is abandoned to human selfishness or terminated, we will stand up and affirm the indissolubility of the marriage bond.

When the value of the family is threatened because of social and economic pressures, we will stand up and reaffirm that the family is necessary not only for the private good of every person, but also for the common good of every society, nation and state.

When freedom is used to dominate the weak, to squander natural resources and energy, and to deny basic necessities to people, we will stand up and reaffirm the demands of justice and social love.

When the sick, the aged or the dying are abandoned in loneliness, we will stand up and proclaim that they are worthy of love, care and respect” (Mass at the Capitol Mall in Washington; October 7, 1979).

The solution to today’s challenges really rests with each of us.  Are we going to follow Jesus or are we going to continue down the path of self-destruction?

Please Pray: Holy And Courageous Priest Killed In A Tragic Car Accident

My Friend, Father Michael Jordan

The following article was submitted to Courageous Priest by Father James Farfaglia.  Father James has asked that Courageous Priest post the following tribute to Father Michael Jordan.  Please pray for Father James’s friend, Father Michael, who was tragically killed on July 10th.

By:  Father James Farfaglia

CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) – A flurry of phone calls, text messages, emails and Facebook notices began to circulate early Tuesday morning, July 10. My friend Father Michael Jordan, SOLT was dead; killed in a tragic car accident on Interstate 37, near Pleasanton, Texas.

The incident occurred about 90 minutes away from his SOLT residence in Robstown, Texas on Monday evening as he was returning from a Mission Appeal in Nebraska.

His community wanted him to take a flight back to Texas in order to be early enough for the SOLT General Assembly which took place last week in Corpus Christi, but that would mean that Fr. Ed Roche, SOLT would have to drive back from the Mission Appeal by himself.

Father Mike refused to take the flight in order to help a fellow priest with the driving.

Father Michael Jordan’s entire priesthood was a life of magnanimity.

As one of the founders of the SOLT mission in Rapu-Rapu, a remote island off the coast of the Philippines, Father Mike would frequently receive word that a dying parishioner was in need of his help in the middle of the night.

Rapu-Rapu is a place of extreme poverty.  Father did not have a car.  Instead, he would walk three hours to reach the needy parishioner.  He would hear the person’s confession, anoint him or her, and then walk three hours back to the mission only to be ready to celebrate the early morning Mass for his people.

Father Mike was always smiling and always filled with joy.

At the local abortion clinic, we would stand there on the sidewalk together many times.  Despite the sad circumstances of so many girls going into the clinic, Father would always be filled with kindness, compassion and love.

He was passionate about his regular visits to the local area prison facilities, the care of the poor in Robstown and the elderly in the nursing homes.  Characteristically he was late for his community events, simply because he would always stop to help an elderly priest confined to a wheelchair.

He was known for his long homilies, homilies that would last forty-five minutes.  Father Mike was in love with Jesus, in love with the Church, in love with his priesthood and he had a deep zeal for the salvation of souls.  Frequently, he would preach ardently against the great evils of abortion.

My favorite Father Mike story took place this past Good Friday.  I invited Father to hear confessions at my parish.  He started at Noon and continued until 7:00 PM.

He took one ten minute break for a glass of water.

One by one, people entered the confessional.  Father was known as a gentle, but thorough confessor.  He was always looking for conversions and he would always take the time to help his penitents grow in their relationship with the Lord.

At Noon, I led the Seven Last Words.  At three o’clock, we sang the Divine Mercy Chaplet and then we celebrated the Solemn Good Friday Liturgy.  After the Liturgy I also heard confessions, so between the two of us combined, we heard nine and half hours of confessions.

When we both finished at 7:00 PM, I figured Father Mike would be totally exhausted.  Instead, I found him beaming from one ear to the other, filled with his characteristic joy.

Father Michael Jordan used to introduce himself to new audiences by saying that he was the real Michael Jordan, and he certainly was for real.

He was a real friend, but must importantly he was a great priest.