How You Can Recognize the 5 Stages of Religious Persecution

By Msgr. Charles Pope, National Catholic Register:

Never forget: Those who suffer for proclaiming the faith, and for living it boldly, are of highest honor in the Kingdom of God.

I was surprised and grateful for the wide readership and support on an article I wrote here at the Register recently: Comfort Catholicism Has Got to Go. In it I argue that clergy and other leaders in the Church need to retool and prepare God’s people for increasing persecution and martyrdom. I note that the Church, both clergy and lay, is largely unprepared to meet the coming challenges to our faith and religious liberty, many of which are already here.

But firmly resisting or refusing to comply with immoral and unjust laws, whatever the consequences, is simply not in the mindset of most Catholics who have long been content (and even counseled) to get along with everyone, to be pleasant and nice, and to blend into the American experience.

The strong emphasis has been that God is here to comfort us and would surely not ask things of us that are too difficult. Martyrdom (both red and white) has usually been thought a thing of the past or for other nations — but not here, not in America. I argue that those days are vanishing, if not already substantially gone.

Some, predictably, responded that I am alarmist and that things are not so bad. I wonder if they are living in a parallel universe, or some isolated place. Ask believing photographers, caterers, bakers and pharmacists if things are bad or not. Ask healthcare providers and healthcare workers if things are just fine. Ask employers who provide healthcare benefits. Many of them have already been compelled to act against their religious beliefs or be forced out of business.

If things are “not that bad”, why are we being summoned to courts, threatened with fines by government, and being forced as Christians to sue for our rights? What are pharmacists in Washington to do who are required by law to provide abortifacient “emergency contraception”? The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear their appeal. Justice Samuel Alito in his dissent spoke of this refusal — and the law that now stands — as “an ominous sign” and goes on to show how those who are concerned at the steady erosion of religious liberty have good cause to be concerned.

We are winning some of our cases, but other significant cases in places like Washington State and California have delivered serious blows to religious liberty and seek to further marginalize Christian churches and groups from participation in the national conversation and commonwealth that is theirs as American citizens. The Washington case has no appeal and a Catholic pharmacist has to risk losing his livelihood by refusing to comply.

I argue that a pharmacist should take that risk. But we in the Church have not really prepared our people for this. It is time to do so. We must resist the temptation to hide our faith under jargonistic “solutions” that are usually a mere compromise with evil and unjust laws.

THE 5 STAGES OF PERSECUTION

For those who think examples listed here are just odd situations and not really indicative of where we are as a culture, I would like to represent something I wrote on almost four years ago: The Five Stages of Persecution. The five stages are not unique to me. They come from the world of sociology and political theory and are commonly observed in cultures that eventually turn against segments within them.

As you will see, persecutions do not come out of nowhere. They build in a culture over time until they boil over into often-horrific acts wherein those who inflict them actually feel justified in what they do.

As we consider the descriptions of the five stages, it is hard to argue that we are not well into the fourth stage here in America and edging into the final stage.

Here, then, are the five stages. My commentary focuses on religious persecution.

Stage 1. Stereotype the targeted group

To stereotype means to repeat without variation, to take a quality or observation of a limited number and generalize it to describe the whole group. It involves a simplified and standardized conception or view of a group based on the observation of a limited sample.

And thus as the 1960s and 1970s progressed, Catholics and Bible-believing Christians were often caricatured in the media as “Bible thumpers,” simpletons, haters of science, hypocrites, self-righteous, old-fashioned, and backwards.

Catholics, in particular, were also accused of having neurotic guilt and a hatred of or aversion to sexuality. We were denounced as a sexist institution filled with clergy who were sexually repressed, homosexuals, or pedophiles. We were labeled an authoritarian institution stuck in the past, one with too many restrictive rules.

Basically, as the stereotype goes, Catholics and Bible-believing Christians are a sad, angry, boring, backward, repressed lot. To many who accept the stereotype, we are a laughable — even tragic — group caught in a superstitious past, incapable of throwing off the “shackles” of faith.

To be sure, not everyone engages in this stereotyping to the same degree, but those are the basic refrains. And the general climate of this sort of stereotyping sets the foundation for the next stage.

Stage 2. Vilify the targeted group for alleged crimes or misconduct

As the stereotyping grew in intensity, Catholics and Christians who did not toe the line in the cultural revolution were described as close-minded, harmful to human dignity and freedom, intolerant, hateful, bigoted, unfair, homophobic, reactionary, and just plain mean and basically bad people.

The history of the Church is also described myopically as little more than a litany of bad and repressive behavior as we conducted crusades and inquisitions, and hated Galileo and all of science. Never mind that there might be a little more to the story: that the Church founded universities and hospitals, that many of the great scientists were priests, that the Church was a patron of the arts, and that she preached a gospel that brought order and civilization to divided and barbaric times in the aftermath of the Roman Empire. The critics won’t hear any of that — or if they do, they’ll give the credit to anyone or anything except the Church and the faith.

As with any large group, individual Catholics and other Christians will manifest some negative traits — but stereotyping, vilifying, and crudely and indiscriminately presuming the negative traits of some to be common to all is unjust.

Yet all of this has the effect of creating a self-righteous indignation toward believers and of making anti-Catholic and anti-Christian attitudes a permissible bigotry for many today.

Stage 3. Marginalize the targeted group’s role in society

Having established the (false) premise that the Church and the faith are very bad and even harmful to human dignity and freedom, the critics proceed in the next stage to relegate the role of the Church to the margins of society.

To many in secularized culture, religion is seen as something that must go. They will perhaps let us have our hymns, etc. within the four walls of our churches, but the faith must be banished from the public square.

In this stage it becomes increasingly unacceptable and intolerable that anyone should mention God, pray publicly, or in any way bring his or her Christian faith to bear on matters of public policy. Nativity sets must go. Out with Christmas trees. Even the colors red and green during the “Holiday Season” are forbidden in many public schools!

Do not even think of mentioning Jesus or of publicly thanking him in your valedictory address; you could very well have a judge forbid you to do so under penalty of law. You may thank Madonna the singer, but not the Madonna.

The LGBTQIA club is welcome to set up shop and pass out rainbow-colored condoms at the local high school, but Christians had better hit the road. No Bibles or pamphlets had better see the light of day anywhere in the school building. Separation of Church and State, you know…

Stage 4. Criminalize the targeted group or its works

Can someone say HHS Mandate or Washington State Pharmacy Case?

But even prior to these and other egregious attempts to violate our religious liberty there have been many other times we have had to go to court to fight for our right to practice our faith openly. An increasing amount of litigation is being directed against the Church and other Christians for daring to live out our faith.

In addition to some of the cases noted above, some jurisdictions have sought to compel Catholic hospitals and pro-life clinics to provide information about or referrals for abortion and just like the pharmacists above, to provide “emergency contraception” (i.e., the abortifacient known as the morning-after pill). Several branches of Catholic Charities have been de-certified from doing adoption work because they will not place children with gay couples. In 2009, the State of Connecticut sought to regulate the structure, organization, and running of Catholic parishes. And recently a number of Christian valedictorians in various states have suffered legal injunctions when it was discovered that they planned to mention God in their addresses. (More details can be found here.)

Some of these attempts to criminalize the faith have been successfully rebuffed in the courts, but the number and frequency of the lawsuits, and the time and cost involved with fighting them impose a huge burden. It is clear that attempts to criminalize Christian behavior is a growth sector in this culture and it signals the beginning of the steady erosion of religious liberty.

Many indeed feel quite righteous, quite politically correct, in their work to separate the practice of the faith from the public square.

Stage 5. Persecute the targeted group outright

If current trends continue, Christians — especially religious leaders — may not be far from facing heavy fines and/or incarceration.

Already in Canada and in parts of Europe, Catholic clergy have been arrested and charged with “hate crimes” for preaching Catholic doctrine on homosexual activity.

In this country there are greater provisions for free speech, but as we have seen, there is a steady erosion of our religious liberty and many Catholic dioceses are very familiar with having to spend long periods in court defending basic religious liberty. The persecution takes forms that are increasingly heavy from the loss of employment, lawsuits, large fines, and ultimately jail for those who refuse to comply.

Unlikely you say? Alarmist? Well, stages one through four are pretty well in place. One may wish to “whistle past the graveyard,” but it looks like we’re pretty well set for stage five. You decide.

This is why we need to prepare.

For those who think God would not allow or demand this of us, remember: God has slated some ages, and place and people for persecution since day one. Jesus did not exempt himself from this and, enduring the world’s hatred told us we would be hated too (e.g. John 15:18-25). And the Book of Revelation says:

If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God’s people. (Revelation 13:10)

So the Lord does appoint some to suffering and martyrdom of various degrees, for the sake of the faith, and asks us to endure. None of us seeks this, but to some of us in this more militantly secular culture, persecution with increasing intensity and frequency will come. But never forget: Those who suffer for proclaiming the faith, and for living it boldly, are of highest honor in the Kingdom of God.

Stand firm in your faith.

© 2015 EWTN News, Inc. Reprinted with permission from the National Catholic Register.  Published 09/07/2016

Priest Praying at a Planned Parenthood Clinic Calls for Prayerful Protest

Msgr. Charles Pope

Msgr. Charles Pope Prayerfully Protesting Outside a Planned Parenthood Clinic

Msgr. Charles Pope: I am prayerfully protesting the imminent opening of a Planned Parenthood mega Center not far from my parish in Washington DC. Please join me in prayer that this terrible facility will never in fact open; pray also that many thousands of children will be saved. Please Lord, not here, not anywhere! Last year Planned Parenthood reports having killed 327,653 children through abortion nationwide. It calls this slaughter “abortion services.”

 

Modesty and Beach Volleyball

By Msgr. Charles Pope, Community in Mission:

One of the less edifying aspects of the Summer Olympics in Rio is the attire of the women’s beach volleyball players from Western countries. Most of the women wear a tiny bikini with the bottom being especially tiny. (I do not show a picture here because I deem it immodest to do so. Instead, I show a picture of some of the men, whose attire I mention below.)

 

Frankly, playing volleyball in a tiny bikini seems quite unnecessary. I would argue that it detracts from the sport because it distracts from the sport. The attention doesn’t seem to be drawn to the ball, shall we say. I would further argue that the attire encourages the focus not even on the women, but on certain aspects of the women’s bodies.

I can understand that swimmers (male and female) wear tight and sometimes abbreviated swimsuits to lessen drag in the water. Gymnasts, too, often wear brief and/or tight clothing to improve their performance and maximize the mobility of their limbs. The clothing is thus at least somewhat performance related.

But I can see no performance enhancement brought about by the wearing of tiny bikinis. Some will point out that the bikini top in question acts as a sports bra. Fine, but men wear supportive attire, too; but they do so under their shorts, not out in the open.

 

The Egyptian women’s beach volleyball player shown in the above photo illustrates that it is possible to compete quite well without wearing a bikini. One could argue that having short sleeves and shorter leg coverings might be cooler for the players. The impact on performance of wearing the hijab is debatable, but it is worn tucked in and did not seem to bother the women who wore it. These women played and competed well in a sport that is relatively new to their country and region.

Men’s beach volleyball attire also illustrates that near nudity is not required to play the sport well. The men do not play wearing tiny swimwear. They wear ample shorts along with t-shirts or tank tops.

I realize that each time the question of modesty has come up on this blog there are some readers who want to dismiss such discussions and emphasize the right of people to dress as they please. They believe that any sexual temptation aroused is almost wholly the fault of the viewer, not the one wearing the attire.

Modesty should avoid excessively burdening people. It seeks a middle ground wherein the one who dresses and the other who sees share responsibility. The one wearing the attire should not be burdened with difficult requirements, nor should the viewer be burdened by facing undue temptation. Mutual charity and concern are the goals.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of modesty as protecting the mystery, chastity, and dignity of the human person.

Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love. … Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. … Modesty is decency. It inspires one’s choice of clothing. It keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity. It is discreet (CCC 2521-2522).

As always, comments are appreciated, but I have found in the past that discussions about modesty are often difficult to have in a way that is helpful or charitable. Reasonable people may differ on the details of modesty. Modesty does involve a range of options, influenced by circumstances and the sensibilities of cultures. I have articulated here that I see no need for tiny bikinis in this sport and that I think more modest attire is important. If you disagree, please explain the relationship you see of the brief bikini to the sport, considering that men in general and women from other cultures who compete do not see the need to wear so little. If you agree, please remember in your comments that the imputation of motives to individuals is a sketchy and usually uncharitable thing to do. Everyone, please use care when commenting.

4 Wild Misconceptions Concerning the Mass and Their Corrections

By Msgr. Charles Pope, Community in Mission:

There been much tension regarding the Mass as both a meal and a sacrifice. A necessary corrective was introduced in the past twenty years to rectify the overly strong emphasis, heavily advanced during the 1970s and 1980s, on the Mass as a meal. The purpose of the corrective was to bring back needed balance with the root of the Mass: the cross and the overall paschal mystery.

While we cannot dismiss the idea of the Mass as a meal, we must understand what sort of meal it is. When most people today hear the word “meal,” they do not think of a holy banquet or wedding feast, but more of an informal meal. And informality in American culture has become very informal indeed! We rarely dress up anymore; formal banquets, black-tie dinners, and the like are rare.

Thus our understanding of the Mass as a meal is colored by our culture’s informal definition, which is not intended in the Church’s understanding of the Mass. Permit, then, some of the following correctives:

I. The Mass is a meal, but it is no ordinary meal. The Mass is a sacred meal or banquet (Sacrum Convivium) and also the great Wedding Feast of the Lamb, for which one should be properly clothed (see Rev 19:6-9; Matt 22:12-13). This meal is not an informal one; it is a great banquet that should be esteemed and for which one should be prepared.

There are many people today who emphasize the “table fellowship” that Jesus had with sinners. They argue the Eucharist should be open to all, Catholic or not, saint or (even the worst) sinner. It is true that Jesus was often found at the table with sinners, where He ate with them.

But the Last Supper, at which the Eucharist was first given, was not just any meal; it was a Passover meal. The Passover meal was not an open one; it was a family meal and one rooted in the Jewish faith. People were instructed to celebrate this meal with their own families. And while several smaller or poorer families could come together for the meal, that was the exception rather than the norm.

Hence, the Last Supper is not to be compared to the open “table fellowship” Jesus had with sinners. Only the Apostles were formally gathered for the Last Supper.

So, to the extent that we can speak of the Mass as a meal, it is not an ordinary one with a “come-one, come-all” and/or “come as you are” mentality. It is not informal. It is a sacred meal that should be received worthily, celebrated with reverence, and which is integrally linked to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger wrote substantially on this topic back in the late 1990s, and I presented and reflected on his writings here: Worthy Reception.

II. The Mass is not a reenactment of the Last Supper. It surely includes aspects of the Last Supper (most crucially the words of Institution of the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist).

But these aspects of the Last Supper are summarized and referenced, not reenacted. If it were truly a reenactment, then when the priest says that Jesus gave thanks, blessed and broke the bread, and gave it to them saying, “This is my body …”, he should send the host around immediately. And then when he takes the chalice and utters the words of consecration, he should tell all the people to drink from it immediately.

A literal reenactment might also require that we all recline on the floor on our left elbows at low, U-shaped tables. The Last Supper was not served at a modern, American-looking table, or even at one as Da Vinci imagined it. And perhaps the priest should recite the lengthy, priestly prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper, as recorded in John’s Gospel. Maybe a foot-washing should take place at every Mass. But even if we don’t absolutize the notion of reenactment, the point remains that the Mass is not a re-staging of the Last Supper.

Even at the Last Supper, in giving us the words of consecration Jesus points beyond the Last Supper itself. He says of the Bread, “This is my Body, which will be given up for you.” Thus He points beyond the meal to the cross. He says of the wine in the chalice, “This is the cup of my Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal Covenant, which will be shed for you and for many …” Here, too, He points beyond the meal itself to the cross.

Hence, while the connection of the Mass to the Last Supper is clear, it is not the only or even most important connection. The meal itself points to the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. And since at Communion we receive a living Lord (not a piece of dead flesh), the Mass also points to the resurrection.

III. When the priest speaks the words of Consecration at Mass, he is not addressing the congregation. This is another common point of confusion today. Not only is the Mass not a mere reenactment of the Last Supper, even when the priest speaks the words of Consecration at Mass, he is not addressing the congregation. These words, like all the words of the Eucharistic prayer, are directed to the Heavenly Father. They serve as a kind of basis and context for our sacrifice. When saying these words, the priest is speaking in the person of Christ and indicating that this act of our worship, as members of the Body of Christ, is united to the once-for-all, perfect sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross.

The essential point is that the words are directed to the Father. For a priest to gaze intently at the congregation and/or show the bread dramatically as he says the words of Consecration is to send the wrong signal, because it is not the people who are being addressed.

In the rubrics, the priest is directed to bow a little (parum se inclinat) as he says the words. He is not to be like an actor on a stage reenacting the Last Supper with all sorts of gestures and engagement of the faithful as if they were the Apostles. He is to bow as he speaks to the heavenly Father of what Jesus did and said in the institution of the Eucharist.

To reiterate, the entire Eucharistic Prayer is addressed to the Heavenly Father. Thus we are not “pretending” or reenacting the meal that was the Last Supper.

IV. What most makes the Mass a meal is the food that we receive. The food we receive is Jesus the Lord, who feeds us with His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. O sacrum convivium in quo Christus sumitur! (O Sacred Banquet in which Christ is received!) It is not necessary or even essential to engage in theatrics or to insist that the altar look like a simple, modern meal table (though noble simplicity has its place).

Thus the Mass is truly a meal as well as a sacrifice. But we must understand that the meaning of the word “meal” in the context of the Mass is distinct from some of our modern notions. It is a formal, sacred, exclusive meal for those of the household of faith who are in a state of grace. Proper attire and formality should be balanced with noble simplicity. And although the Last Supper is surely integral to the Mass, it is not merely reenacted; it is taken up in its essence (not merely in its external aspects), which points to the cross.

7 Highly Effective Traits of Merciful Fathers

By Msgr. Charles Pope, Community in Mission:

7 Traits of Merciful Fathers

I. The merciful father loves the mother of his children.

One of the most merciful things a father can do for his children is to love their mother with tender affection and gentle, protective support. Children bond with their mother very closely, especially in their early years. They are reassured by seeing love, tenderness, and support shown to their mother.

In contrast, when children see their mother dishonored or, even worse, abused by their father, they are easily struck with fear and a sense of dread.

How beautiful is this mercy of a father! It also helps his sons understand how to treat women, and helps his daughters understand how men should treat them.

II. The merciful father attends to his own healing and maturity.

All of us have character defects and “issues” that affect others around us. Some have anger issues; others are too fearful and non-assertive. Some have problems with drinking; some with pornography. Still others can be lazy or impatient.

A father can show mercy to his children by working on whatever ails him and thereby avoid inflicting frustration and pain on his children. Scripture says, They made me keeper of vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept (Song 1:6).

It is a work of mercy for a father (and a mother, too) to work through his own issues and thereby spare his children pain. There is an old saying, “If I get better, others get better too.” In doing this, not only are children spared pain, but they are better able to grow in virtue.

III. The merciful father does not allow his career to eclipse his vocation.

Whatever career a man has, his vocation as husband and father is more important. And while the two are not wholly separate (since a father provides for his family), there is far more to being a father than being a breadwinner.

Children need their father in their lives, not merely off in the distance sending money. It is a great work of mercy for a father to cherish his children and to share in their lives. It is a necessary component of their maturity for him to manifest the masculine genius of being human even as their mother manifests the feminine genius.

Children want their father’s support, encouragement, and approval. A young man deeply needs his father’s model. He also needs his father’s affirmation as he grows into manhood. There is perhaps no greater mercy than for a son to hear his father say, “I’m proud of you; you’ve done well.”

A daughter delights in twirling her skirts and in being the apple of her father’s eye. He models for her the love of a man who loves her for her own sake, without lust. This can help her learn to distinguish love from lust and to develop the self-esteem that will help her to navigate the complex years of courtship and to discern a good husband.

A man who is more wedded to his career than to his family is too seldom around to have these crucial effects, which are far more precious than the extra money or additional possessions earned by long hours at the office.

Be careful, fathers. Career can be big on the ego and it can easily ensnare you. Home life may be less glamorous and less immediately rewarding in terms of money, but there is no greater satisfaction than to have raised your children well. The rewards will be enormous for both them and you. And this is a very great mercy.

IV. The merciful father is the spiritual leader of his home.

He establishes the structures of grace. In our culture, too many men leave the spiritual and religious lives of their children to their mother. But Scripture says,Fathers … bring up your children in the training and discipline of the Lord (Eph 6:4). This does not mean that the wife has no role, clearly she does.

A father is to be the spiritual leader in his home, sanctifying his family (see Eph 5:25-27). He should be the first one up on Sunday morning, summoning his children to prepare for Holy Mass. His wife should not have to drag him along to Mass. He should read Bible stories to his children and explain their meaning. He should teach them God’s law. While his wife should share in this, the father ought to lead.

Surveys show that the highest predictor (by far) of children going on to practice the faith in adulthood is whether their father practices the faith.

A father should also seek to establish his household with the structures of grace. He should live under obedience to God and insist that his children do likewise. This makes for a home that, while not free of sin, makes it easier to live the Christian faith rather than more difficult.

All of this is a great mercy that a father extends to his children. Through his leadership, a father molds his family into the beloved community where God’s justice and mercy are esteemed and exemplified. By God’s grace this mercy reaches his children.

V. The merciful father listens and teaches.

It is a beautiful work of mercy for a father to actively listen to his children and to give them his undivided attention whenever possible. It bestows on them a sense of dignity, because they see that what they say and think matters to their father. And it reassures them that he cares for their welfare and what is happening in their lives.

After listening, a father should also respond and teach, giving his children guidance. Too many children today are not being taught by their parents, especially regarding the critical moral issues of our day. If parents do not teach their children, someone else will! And that “someone” is not likely to be an individual with godly views. More often it will be some pop-star, musician, or teen idol. Perhaps it will be a gang leader or a rogue school buddy. Maybe it will be the police officer or a judge in a legal proceeding.

Fathers, it is a great mercy to teach your children. You have their best interests at heart. You want what is truly good (not merely apparently good) for them. Their lives will be much simpler and more productive if you insist that they do what is right from an early age. Otherwise, hardships and painful lessons await them. Show them mercy. Instruct them in the ways of the Lord.

Scripture says, Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). He who raises a fool does so to his sorrow, And the father of a fool has no joy (Prov 17:21). A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to the mother who bore him (Prov 17:25).

When a father brings up his children in the discipline of the Lord, it is mercy not only to them, but to others as well!

VI. The merciful father praises and punishes.

Children are delighted to get their father’s esteem and approval. They love to be praised, especially when they believe they have done well.

A paradoxical form of mercy is for a father to punish his children. The purpose of punishment is to allow the child to experience in a small way the consequences of his transgression so that he does not experience the full and more painful consequences later. Scripture says,

My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son … For what children are not disciplined by their father? … We have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it (Heb 12:5-11).

And thus punishment, properly understood, is a great mercy, because it saves children from great woes later on. Clearly, punishment cannot simply be a father venting his anger or exacting revenge. Punishment is not for the benefit of the father; it is for his children’s sake.

VII. The merciful father uses his authority and has his children’s long term interests in mind.

The cultural revolution of the late 1960s was not just about sexuality, drugs, and feminism; it also ushered in a wide-scale rejection of authority from which we are still reeling. And it is not just that those under authority reject it, but that those who have authority have become reluctant to use it. Too many clergy and too many parents do not make necessary decisions, enforce important policies, or punish when appropriate. Too many who have lawful authority are more concerned with being popular; they do not want to risk being questioned or resisted.

Authority involves a lot of effort and brings with it a great deal of stress. Many seek to avoid all this and thus those who need leadership and guidance often do not get it. Scripture says, And indeed if the trumpet gives an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle? (1 Cor 4:18)

Whether they like to admit it or not, children need their father to be strong and to lead. And when he does this it is a great mercy. It may not always be appreciated in the moment, but most children eventually recognize with gratitude the leadership of their parents, of their father.

Every leader needs to know that he will sometimes take some heat for his decisions, and he must be willing and courageous enough to make those decisions anyway. A father must remember that he has to be more concerned with his children’s long-term interests than with their current, short-term happiness. Their anger or discontent in the present moment will usually be replaced gratitude and relief in the future.

A good father will mercifully hold the tension of the moment and keep his children’s best interests at heart. He will serve their true good (not merely their apparent good) through the use of his authority and through his decisions on their behalf. And this is a very great mercy!

 

Do You Suffer From One of the 5 Stages of Sin?

five stages

Like Any Progressive Disease, Sin Has Stages

By , Community in Mission;

How does it happen that so many people insist on living obstinately in sin until they are ultimately lost? As with all progressive diseases, sin is a sickness that moves through stages, further debilitating and hardening the sinner in his ways.

St. Alphonsus Liguori laid out five stages through which sin (if not resisted and repented of in its initial attacks) takes an increasing toll on the human person, making repentance less likely and more difficult.

While the names of the stages are mine, I am summarizing the insights of St. Alphonsus, who details these stages in his lengthy essay, “Considerations on the Eternal Maxims” (also called “Preparation for Death”) in Chapter 22, “On Evil Habits.” I have added some of my own additional insights as well.

The 5 Stages of Sin

Stage 1 – Impairment – The first effect of habitual sin is that it blinds the understanding. Scripture says, Their own malice blinded them (Wisdom 2:21). Yes, every sin produces blindness, and the more that sins are multiplied, the greater the blindness they produce.

A further effect of this blindness is a foolish and dangerous walking about. Scripture provides several references for this:

The wicked walk round about (Ps. 12:8).

They stagger as with strong drink, they reel in vision, they stumble in giving judgment (Is 28:7).

Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies. He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the pit that he has made(Ps 7:14-15).

And thus habitual sin leads to impaired vision and an impaired walk. Not seeing, the wicked stumble about and fall into a pit that they themselves made.

Stage 2 – Indifference – After an evil habit is contracted, the sins that previously excited sorrow are now viewed with increasing indifference. Scripture says the following:

Fools destroy themselves because of their indifference (Prov 1:32).

But he who is careless of conduct will die (Prov 19:16).

And to the increasingly indifferent and careless, the Lord gives this solemn and salutary warning: In little more than a year you who feel secure will tremble; the grape harvest will fail, and the harvest of fruit will not come (Is 32:10).

And thus, as unrepented sin grows, not only does the sinner stagger about and fall into pits, he cares less and less about the foolishness of his ways. The sins that once caused shame, or the thought of which caused sorrow and aversion, are either unnoticed or seem normal—even attractive.

Stage 3 – Improbability – As sin deepens its hold, the willingness and even the capacity to repent decreases. Why is this? St. Augustine answers well when he says, dum servitur libidini, facta est consuetudo, et dum consuetudini non resistitur, facta est necessitas(when lust was served it became habit, and when habit was not resisted it became necessity) (Confessions, 8.5.10). Sin deepens its hold on the sinner in this way.

Stage 4 – Incorrigibility – As Scripture says, The wicked man, when he is come into the depths of sins, has contempt (Proverbs 18:3). St. John Chrysostom commented on this verse, saying that habitual sinners, being sunk in the abyss of darkness, despise corrections, sermons, censures, Hell, and God; they despise everything.

A bad habit hardens the heart and the habitual sinner remains increasingly unmoved and mired in contempt for any correction or remedy. Scripture says of them, At your rebuke O God of Jacob, they have all slumbered (Psalm 76:7). An evil habit gradually takes away all remorse and supplants it with angry indignation at any attempted correction.

And then it happens that, instead of regretting his sins, the sinner rejoices in them, even laughing and boasting of them. Scripture says, They are glad when they have done evil and rejoice in the perverseness of evil (Proverbs 2:14). A fool works mischief as if it were for sport (Proverbs 10:23).

Thus they are incorrigible. They laugh at attempted correction and celebrate their sins with pride.

Stage 5 – Indisposition – When the understanding is deprived of light and the heart is hardened, the sinner ordinarily dies obstinate in his sin. Scripture says, A hard heart shall fare ill at the end (Ecclesiastes 3:27).

Some may say that they will amend their ways before they die, but it’s very difficult for a habitual sinner, even in old age, to change his life. St. Bernard said, “The man on whom the weight of a bad habit presses, rises with difficulty.”

Indeed, how can a sinner, weakened and wounded by habitual sin, have the strength to rise? Even if he sees the way out, he often considers the remedies too severe, too difficult. Though conversion is not impossible, he is indisposed because it all seems like too much work. In addition, his love has likely grown cold for the good things that God offers.

And thus, even on their deathbeds, many sinners remain unmoved and unwilling to change; the darkness is deep, the heart is hardened, and sloth has solidified.

In these ways sin is like a progressive illness, a deepening disease; it moves through stages much as does cancer. Repentance at any stage is possible, but it becomes increasingly unlikely, especially by stage four, when the sinner becomes proud of his sin and joyful in his iniquity.

Beware the progressive illness of sin!

Woe To A Generation That Refers To Evil as Good and Good As Evil!

By: Msgr. Charles Pope, adw.org archangel-michael

Satan, it would seem, does not act in an arbitrary manner when trying to tempt us. Rather, he is more a master hunter carefully setting traps, or a skilled fisherman studying behavior in order to choose the most effective bait. Satan is calculating and clever.

Sadly, most of us are far less calculating and clever in seeking to avoid temptation and sin. We often engage in the wishful thinking that no trouble will befall us. Our strategy seems to depend more on dumb luck than anything else. Would that we were as ingenious in holiness as Satan is in trying to trap us! Jesus sadly and ironically observed, For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light (Luke 16:8).

Let us ponder for a moment the notion of the bait and the hook, to use imagery from the fishing world.

Let’s consider first the bait: It is of course the purpose of bait to be alluring, to be attractive. If a fisherman were to lower an empty hook, or a hook with a rock attached to it, no fish would come near. So he chooses a bait that appeals to the fish: an insect or some other morsel that seems to promise a meal.

Thus in choosing the bait to attach to his hook, Satan will strive to render it appealing, even beautiful. He often casts a spell to hide the ugliness of sin and to distract us from the presence of the hook.

In our time especially, Satan cloaks sins in exalted language, speaking of them as ways of giving us “freedom,” or of “fulfilling ourselves.” Abortion is not the killing of a baby; it is “reproductive choice,” or “reproductive freedom.” Many exalt sinful acts by disguising them in the language of tolerance and acceptance. Still others exude a false compassion in declaring it licit to actively kill the suffering or to terminate the lives of children in the womb who have been given a poor prenatal diagnosis.

In ways like these, evil masquerades as good. Sins once thought of as clearly awful and ugly are now presented as good and even beautiful.

Of course other more traditional bait is still used by Satan as well: sex, money, glory, power, and so forth. Not all of these things are bad in themselves, but they are presented in excess or in the wrong context. And how tasty, attractive, beautiful, and desirable they can seem!

And thus the bait is attractive, beautiful, and tasty. Scripture describes Eve’s assessment of the forbidden tree as follows: the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it (Genesis 3:6).

But then comes the hook—there’s always the hook with Satan. Never forget this: the hook is always there with Satan. No matter how beautiful, reasonable, or desirable the bait may seem, there’s always the hook.

With the bait of illicit sexual union dangled before us comes the hook. Perhaps it is addiction to pornography, sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS, teenage pregnancy, single motherhood, absent fathers, abortion, ruined marriages, broken families, improperly formed families, and terrible injustice to children.

With the bait of gluttony comes the hook. It can be obesity, heart disease, high cholesterol, hypertension, arthritis, addiction to alcohol or drugs, and even death.

With the bait of more and more possessions comes the hook. Perhaps it is credit card bills we cannot pay, or slavery to a lifestyle we think we cannot live without but which drives us to need two incomes and work long hours. And thus we never really know our children or even enjoy the things we think we need. Perhaps it is the supreme frustration to realize that no matter how much we have, it will never be enough. Our eyes are never really satisfied with seeing, or our ears with hearing, or our will with amassing. We seem to be insatiable; we want more and more as the hook of greed drives deeper within us, snaring our hearts so that Satan can reel us in.

But there is always the hook. Never forget that no matter how pleasing the bait may seem, there is always the hook.

We moderns are perhaps more foolish than those who came before us, for we live in a culture that is rather successful in at least temporarily hiding the consequences of many things. Our medicine and advanced technology may temporarily stave off the effects of too much food and drink or the diseases that come with sexual irresponsibility. So-called government safety nets, many of them well-intentioned and to some degree necessary, have also expanded over time to create the illusion that there are no consequences. Too easily and too repeatedly, many are bailed out from their foolish decisions. This makes is easier to maintain the illusion that the hook isn’t really there.

But the hook is there. The hook always follows the bait.

So just a simple reminder: don’t forget the hook. With the bait comes the hook. The bait is about the hook. First the bait, then the hook—always the hook.

Pulling Back the Veil, Unlocking the Key Messages of Revelation

The Book of Revelation Is a Sure
Guide to What Is Really Going On

by Msgr. Charles Pope, Community in Mission:

In the Office of Readings this Easter season, we are reading from the Book of Revelation. This choice might seem surprising, but there are good reasons for it.

While many suppose that the Book of Revelation is merely about the end of the world, it is about far more; it is also about what is happening right now. It was not written only for the end of the ages but for all ages. It is a book of glory that discloses the victory that Jesus has already won. Don’t get lost in lots of exotic theories; Revelation is a book of glory that prophetically declares what is really going on.

Its title in Greek is Ἀποκάλυψις Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (Apokalupsis Jesou Christou), which literally means “The Unveiling of Jesus Christ.” It is as if Jesus is pulling back the veil to show us what is really going on. He shows us the great drama of history and tells us that He has already won the victory. He declares that we should not to lose heart while the dust settles, while the wheat is separated from the chaff and the harvest is brought in.

We are too easily mesmerized or terrified by our limited view of history. We think that life depends on which political party wins, or whether a cure is found for some disease, or whether world leaders can reach rapprochement. But the battle is far higher and deeper than our little sliver of the early 21st century. It is far deadlier and is about more dramatic issues than what will happen to the GNP of the U.S. or which of the latest political theories will prevail.

This is a great drama between good and evil. It concerns the far more fundamental issue of where you will spend eternity. Yes, there is a great and cosmic battle in which we are all caught up; it is happening all around us. St. Paul says,

For we do not contend against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the high places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm(Eph 6:11-13).

Jesus is the Victor. Our King!

The Book of Revelation is speaking to the same reality. It unveils the true and cosmic battle. In so doing, it declares without ambiguity who the victor is: Jesus Christ our King, who has already won. There are only two kingdoms, two armies, two sides. You must decide whom you will serve: the prince of this world or the King and Lord of all creation.

Revelation opens with a vision of the glory of Jesus the Great Lord and Son of Man:

I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead (Rev 1: 10-17).

Yes, here is our Lord Jesus in His resurrected and conquering glory! At the name of Jesus every knee shall bend in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth, and every tongue proclaim to the glory of God the Father that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil 2:10-11).

Yes, Jesus Christ is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming amid the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen (Rev 1:5-7).

We Must Resist

The second part of the Book of Revelation calls the Church and us as individuals to repentance and perseverance. The cosmic battle reaches the Church and individual disciples. The battle is in the Church and in the heart of every person. Thus, the letters to the seven churches. We are not to lose the love we had at first. We must be willing to endure hardship and persecution. We are to reject the fornicators and all those who propose any sort of sexual immorality. We are to resist syncretism and every form of false religion. We must resist all of the deep secrets of Satan; we must not be in any agreement with his ways. We must resist sloth and not fall back. We must resist lukewarmness and every sort of pride and self-satisfaction. The Church, clergy, and laity must fight the good fight, must persevere. We must endure hardship and always keep in mind the reward that awaits the courageous and the eternal disgrace that is coming to cowards and to all embrace the world, the flesh, and the devil.

John is then caught up into Heaven to see the glory of God and the heavenly liturgy. He has revealed to him what must take place soon. Historically, the Book of Revelation pointed to the destruction of Jerusalem and to the end of an era. Down through the ages, empires and nations have crumbled; eras and epochs have come and gone; only God’s Kingdom, as proclaimed and made sacramentally present by the Church, has or will survive.

Today we are arguably at the end of another era and epoch.

The West is crumblingand decadence abounds. Confusion about basic reality is so widespread that our current cultural situation can credibly be described as a lunatic asylum. Even within the Church, voices that should speak out prophetically are silenced by fear and infected by worldliness. There is among Church leaders, clergy, and laity a widespread softness and a feeling that the risk of speaking out is too great.

Here is the Answer.

The message of the Book of Revelation is a strong antidote to times like these as well as to times that have gone before and may well come after. The message is clear: be strong, be prepared, and be willing to suffer, realizing that no matter how powerful and glamorous evil may seem, Jesus is the victor. We must persevere and realize that we are swept up into a cosmic battle that is much larger than our current situation, but which reaches us nonetheless. We must choose sides. Don’t think that you can sit on the fence. Satan owns the fence and he is coming for you and will say, “You belong to me.”

The seals, the bowls, and the trumpets of Revelation are but a further description of the cosmic battle and the wretched defeats that ultimately come upon the defiant and disobedient. God will not leave unpunished those who despise His Kingdom and His holy ones. These seven ordeals times three are a call to repentance to those who survive. They are also a manifestation of God’s justice and ultimate authority over history.

A crucial battle comes in Revelation 12, when the red dragon with seven heads and ten horns besets Mother Mary, who is also an image of the Church. But note this: the devil cannot prevail in the war that breaks out in Heaven. He is hurled to the earth, where he unsuccessfully pursues the woman (who is Mary and the Church). He is a big loser, and in a rage he continues to pursue us.

For the time being, the cosmic battle continues. But Satan rages, for he knows his time is short. He is a big loser.

But even losers still have an odd ability to dupe and impress foolish, gullible people. And so Satan still flashes the cash, makes empty promises, and dangles passing pleasures before us. Sadly, many of the worldly and unspiritual foolishly fall prey to his pomp and lies. Mysteriously, God permits this until the full number of the elect are gathered in.

And then comes the end:

And fire came down from heaven and devoured Satan and his armies and followers. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new.” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true” (Rev 20:9-21:5).

Yes, it is good that we read the Book of Revelation. It is a pulling back of the veil, wherein the Lord tells us what is really going on and what the outcome shall be. He is telling us not to lose heart. “In this world you shall have tribulation, but have courage, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Be not dismayed, fellow Christians.

Do not be fearful of what is coming upon this world. Even if it is the end of the era or epoch, the Church has endured such sea changes before. Christ has already won the victory and has promised that the Church will remain indefectible. When the current foolishness has runs its course, we will still be here preaching the Gospel, even if we have become a small remnant and are preaching from jail!

Do not be fearful.

Do not be a coward. Preach boldly and with love. Continue to shine the light of the Gospel in the darkness. The Gospel will win; it always wins.

Don’t get lost in all the details about the Book of Revelation and miss its message. The message is one of victory in the midst of persecution and trial. It is a call to persevere. It is a pulling back of the veil to show us what the end shall be! Be strong, be courageous, be certain. Jesus has already won the great victory in the cosmic battle. The dust is still settling. But know for certain that Jesus has won and if you choose Him, so will you!

He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death (Rev 21:7-8).

Regardless of what you think is going on, this is what is really going on. Choose sides. I urge you to choose Christ with courage. Don’t look back. Come what may, Viva Christo Rey!