Msgr. Charles Pope – We are very close to the new year, 2015 AD. And most of us at the new year have it in mind to
pray for the future year not only for ourselves, but also for our family, country, and culture. With that in mind, there is something of an admonition to us all that I would share from Scripture. For while we look to the new year with hope, we do well to soberly assess the warnings of God that are seemingly more applicable than ever. Above all we must pray so as to avoid the otherwise necessary chastisements of God and the inevitability of ruin at our own hand if we do not soon repent.
We have good reason to have concern for what we have come to call Western culture. Our last century was nothing less than a blood bath of world wars, cold wars, killing fields, mass starvations, abortion, and euthanasia. It is conservatively estimated that 100 million were put to death for ideological purposes (e.g., in Hitler’s camps, Stalin’s mass starvations, Pol Pot’s killing fields, Mao’s camps, Rwanda’s genocide, the Balkan genocides). Add to this the war dead and the victims of abortion and the number easily reaches 200 million.
In the middle of that period in the West, we threw in many social revolutions: the sexual revolution, the revolution against authority, the widespread use of hallucinogenic drugs, radical feminism, abortion on demand, contraception, and no-fault divorce. The solitary boast of the tainted 1960s was the civil rights movement, largely granted to it by the 1950s.
It is no surprise then that Americans, still reeling from these selfish and egotistical revolutions, find that most baby boomers are now in various combinations of drug rehab, AA, SA, Overeaters Anonymous, or even jail. Add to this situation vast amounts of psychotherapy, psychotropic drugs, and a self-esteem-driven culture with endless distractions to keep the revolutionaries and their children sane. Then throw in large amounts of antibiotics to treat the sexually transmitted diseases … would someone please call in the exorcist?
We have sown the wind and we are reaping the whirlwind. Enter now the desperate confusion of the “rainbow,” a once beautiful sign of hope that now only bespeaks sexual confusion of a colossal degree. And let no heterosexual gloat until he ponders rampant fornication, easy divorce, abortion, and the disgraceful lack of self-control that has helped usher in the sex-is-just-about-pleasure-and-means-whatever-I-say-it-means culture. Confusion, from top to bottom!
So here we are in 2015. And if we have any sense and any faith at all, we need to fall on our knees and pray for miraculous conversion. I love this country and Western culture. I do not think anything finer has ever graced this globe. But we have become collectively corrupted. Our freedom has become licentiousness; our sense of human dignity has been debased; our comforts have made us lazy and inimical to the Cross and to discipline.
And thus we do well to heed God’s warnings of old to other cultures that had become similarly corrupted.
A little over a week ago, as we wrapped up Advent, Isaiah uttered a warning to a pompous and self-secure empire (Babylon) that its might and power, its wealth and poise, were soon to come to an end. Of special mention was the scorn that God had for Babylon’s arrogant presumption that she would never fall or suffer loss and that her power would be forever. And yet too often this same arrogance besets us today. Listen to what God says to ancient Babylon at the zenith of her power:
Come down, sit in the dust, O virgin daughter Babylon; Sit on the ground, dethroned, O daughter of the Chaldeans. No longer shall you be called dainty and delicate. I will take vengeance, I will yield to no entreaty … Go into darkness and sit in silence, No longer shall you be called sovereign mistress of kingdoms …
Now hear this, voluptuous one, enthroned securely, Saying to yourself, “I, and no one else! I shall never be a widow, or suffer the loss of my children”—Both these things shall come to you suddenly, in a single day: Complete bereavement and widowhood shall come upon you For your many sorceries and the great number of your spells; Because you felt secure in your wickedness, and said, “No one sees me.”
Your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray, And you said to yourself, “I, and no one else!” But upon you shall come evil you will not know how to predict; Disaster shall befall you which you cannot allay. Suddenly there shall come upon you ruin which you will not expect (Isaiah 47: 1-15 selected).
Be soberly attentive, dear reader, and pray. For it is hard to read words like these and not see how they apply precisely to an age like ours! And before you exultantly say, “Bring it on!” please consider how instantly different our lives would be. Are you really ready for a world with no electricity, no Internet, and no central government with a Bill of Rights? Are you ready to live without roads, running water, and trash collection? Repentance is a far better solution. So pray for a miracle!
What was (is) Babylon? At one level, it is an historical nation-state at the time of the ancient Jews. There were others: Egypt, Assyria, Medo-Persia, and later Greece and Rome. But all these powers, though real historical places, also symbolized the world and all its glories arrayed against God and His kingdom.
Egypt with its power, its fleshpots, and its leeks and onions was something the ancient Jews were always pining after. Abram ran there during a drought instead of trusting God to sustain him in the Holy Land. When Moses led the people out, they were always looking back, forgetting the slavery and remembering the fleshpots. They loved the world and trusted it more than God.
In their fear against invaders, the Jews were ever succumbing to the temptation to make alliances with Assyria and Egypt (i.e., with the world and its power). “Trusting God is too risky. Let’s trust in Egypt or Assyria. Let’s trust in the world to come through for us.”
In Babylonian exile, the Jews left, singing that they would never forget Jerusalem. But after 8o years in Babylon (a symbol of the world and its empires) most had no interest in returning to the Promised Land (a symbol of Heaven) when they were allowed to do so. They preferred Babylon and its hanging gardens to God’s kingdom. Only a small number returned. “Why should I go back to Israel? I have a pretty nice little jewelry shop I run here in Babylon on the corner of Tigris and Euphrates Avenues …”
And thus places like Babylon, Egypt, Sodom, Assyria, and later Greece and Rome, were not just city-states; they were symbols of the world arrayed against God and vying for that place in our heart that belongs to Him. The prophets often accused Jerusalem herself of having become Sodom, Egypt, and Babylon.
But no kingdom of this world can or will stand. In the age of the Church, and even prior to that in the Old Testament period of the Church, kingdoms came and went. Nations rose and fell. Empires emerged and collapsed. Where is Nimrod now? Where is Pharaoh Necho? Where are Cyrus the Persian, Alexander the Great, Caesar Nero, Napoleon, Stalin, and Chairman Mao?
But what of us? All those ancient kingdoms fell not merely because their time was up, but because of sin and the collapse that pride and sin bring. And as for us, how can a nation or culture stand that is increasingly permeated by pride, godlessness, corruption, fornication, abortion, sexual confusion, families in crisis, lack of sexual self-control, gluttony, drug use, alcoholism, rampant pornography, and ridicule of authority, tradition, and faith?
Consider a similar passage from the Book of Revelation (Chapter 18) warning the faithful about “Babylon.” (By 90 AD Babylon was actually long gone. Thus “Babylon” here is a symbol for the world and its tendency to fall into corruption.) John was saying that the “Great City” (Jerusalem – the great city which is allegorically called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified – Rev 11:8) had become Babylon. And he develops this theme in Revelation 18. Sadly, by 70 AD, having been given 40 years to repent, Jerusalem was sacked, burned, and utterly destroyed just as this prophecy had warned.
Have America and the West become like Babylon? Does the chilling judgment that came on Jerusalem and many other ancient cultures now apply to us? It would seem so unless repentance comes quickly. Hear and heed the warning given to ancient Jerusalem (which had become like Babylon) on this eve of the new year. Babylon is
I. Dominated by Demons - The text says, After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority; and the earth was made bright with his splendor. And he called out with a mighty voice, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! It has become a dwelling place of demons, a haunt of every foul spirit, a haunt of every foul and hateful bird; for all nations have drunk the wine of her impure passion, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich with the wealth of her wantonness.” Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. Render to her as she herself has rendered, and repay her double for her deeds; mix a double draught for her in the cup she mixed (Rev 18:1-6).
And as ancient Jerusalem was said to have the abomination of desolation (Mat 24:15), so too has our age embraced and even celebrated many abominations: abortion, fornication, homosexual acts, and the greed that becomes injustice to the poor. Scripture speaks of four sins that cry out to Heaven for vengeance: murder (Gn 4:10), homosexual acts (acts of sodomy) (Gn 18:20-21), oppression of the poor (Ex 2:23), and defrauding workers of their just wages (Jas 5:4). There are also sins against the Holy Spirit, sins that harden a soul by rejecting the Holy Spirit. Six sins are in this category: despair, presumption, envy, obstinacy in sin, final impenitence, and deliberate resistance to the known truth.
Welcome to America after the social revolution. Pre-revolution America (prior to 1968) was no paradise, but there was more of a sense of basic right and wrong. Now everything is up for debate, and what used to slink around in back alleys now parades down Main Street in broad daylight.
To all this demonic influence, celebration of depravity, and excessive passion comes the plea, “Come out of here, my people!” Otherwise we will share in Babylon’s punishment. Make no compromises with this modern age, which has become the dwelling place of demons. Celebrating its secularism, our age, in rejecting God, has delivered itself to the machination of demons and all sort of human foolishness.
Stay sober, my friends, and see this age for what it is becoming: the dwelling place of demons, the haunt of every foul spirit, impure passion, and wanton desire. Have custody of your eyes and guard your heart!
II. Defiant in Depravity – As she glorified herself and played the wanton, so give her a like measure of torment and mourning. Since in her heart she says, ‘A queen I sit, I am no widow, mourning I shall never see’ (Rev 18:7).
Yes, no matter how high the body count rises from abortion, from the broken lives of children raised without fathers, from exposure to pornography, from the celebration of greed and whatever is base or decadent—the modern West is too drunk to notice the harm she inflicts on herself. 70 million abortions, more than half of children raised in fatherless homes and in chaos … never mind all that! We are liberated. We will do as we please. We will not be told what to do!
And thus defiance and even the celebration of what is wicked and cries to heaven for vengeance continues apace. Despite all sorts statistics that say we are in real trouble, most go on calling “good” or “no big deal” what God calls sin. But God will not be mocked and ultimately we cannot avoid the consequences of our increasing depravity. At some point, God will have to end it if we do not repent.
Sadly, our defiance makes it seem unlikely that we will repent.
III. Destined for Destruction - So shall her plagues come in a single day, pestilence and mourning and famine, and she shall be burned with fire; for mighty is the Lord God who judges her … Alas, alas, for the great city where all who had ships at sea grew rich by her wealth! In one hour she has been laid waste. Rejoice over her, O heaven, O saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!” Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “So shall Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence, and shall be found no more; and the sound of harpers and minstrels, of flute players and trumpeters, shall be heard in thee no more; and a craftsman of any craft shall be found in thee no more; and the sound of the millstone shall be heard in thee no more; and the light of a lamp shall shine in thee no more; and the voice of bridegroom and bride shall be heard in thee no more; for thy merchants were the great men of the earth, and all nations were deceived by thy sorcery. And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth” (Rev 18:8, 19-24).
Jerusalem, the great city, the holy city, was utterly destroyed. 1.2 million Jewish people lost their lives in the conflagration. Jerusalem was burned, and when the Romans were finished, not one stone was left on another. Jesus had warned of this day in the Mt. Olivet discourses (Mark 13, Matthew 24, Luke 21) and had wept over Jerusalem: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate (Matt 23:37-38).
And what of us? Will we repent? Or will we be defiant and destined for destruction? Pray for America. Pray for the West. Pray for our culture, which still has great goodness but has succumbed to much corruption.
IV. Depressing in Desolation – And the kings of the earth, who committed fornication and were wanton with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning; they will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say, “Alas! alas! thou great city, thou mighty city, Babylon! In one hour has thy judgment come.” And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo any more, cargo of gold, silver, jewels and pearls, fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet, all kinds of scented wood, all articles of ivory, all articles of costly wood, bronze, iron and marble, cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves, that is, human souls. “The fruit for which thy soul longed has gone from thee, and all thy dainties and thy splendor are lost to thee, never to be found again!” The merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her, will stand far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud, “Alas, alas, for the great city that was clothed in fine linen, in purple and scarlet, bedecked with gold, with jewels, and with pearls! In one hour all this wealth has been laid waste.” And all shipmasters and seafaring men, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning, “What city was like the great city?” And they threw dust on their heads, as they wept and mourned, crying out, “Alas, alas, for the great city” (Rev 18:9-19).
Here’s the bottom line: Satan sails a sinking ship. Nothing of this world can stand except on the firm foundation of Christ and His Church. Too many Christians are in a compromised state with a sinful world. Scripture says, For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God (Heb 13:15-16).
In this new year, pray for our Western world as never before. We have brought great gifts to the world through our marriage with Christ. But now, acting like an angry divorcée, we have forsaken Him and turned to great wickedness. But God still seeks us and wants to renew His covenant with us.
Pray. And before you exultantly say, “Bring on the destruction!” please consider that this is no “made-for-TV movie.” Think about how instantly different our lives would be! Please consider the bloodshed and loss of life. Again, would you be ready for a world with no electricity, no Internet, and no central government with a Bill of Rights? Are you ready to live without roads, running water, and trash collection? Repentance is a far better solution. So pray for a miracle! It doesn’t have to end in destruction. Jerusalem could have repented, and we still can.
The Church will survive. God’s will shall prevail. But what of our beloved country and the West? That is up to us.
So pray at this dawn of the new year. Pray a lot. Only then will it be a “Happy New Year!”
For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world!
The term “busybody” usually refers to one who is intent on the matters of others but looks little to his own issues. Busybodies also tend to focus especially on the faults, foibles, and troubles of other folks. Seldom are they chattering away about good news related to other people; more often it is the scurrilous and scandalous that occupy their minds.
Merriam-Webster online defines a busybody as “a person who is too interested in the private lives of other people.” It is a form of sinful curiosity.
Now personally I have never been a busybody, but I have known many of them … But more seriously, this is a human problem. Many of us are far too interested in things that are really none of our business. That alone is problem enough. But the problem is compounded in that the busybody is almost always too little concerned about his own ”issues” (we used to call them sins). When our attention to, fascination with, or scorn about sin is directed outward, we lose the proper introspection that properly examines our own need for repentance. The pointed index finger too easily ignores the three folded fingers pointing back at oneself, and those three fingers symbolize the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit urging us to look to our own vineyard.
Indeed, Scripture says,They made me keeper of the vineyards; but, my own vineyard I have not kept! (Song 1:6) For we who would be prophets too easily ignore the word of God as directed to our own souls.
Further, it is a common trap of the devil that he keeps us focused on what we cannot change so that we do not focus on what we can change. In other words, it is more difficult to change others and less difficult to change ourselves. Thus the devil would have us focus on others, who are hard to change, so that we will not focus on our very self, whom we can more easily change.
Thus, being a busybody is not only obnoxious, it is a trap the devil enjoys laying for us.
Pope St. Gregory the Great has a meditation near the end of his Pastoral Rule wherein he ponders the problem of the busybody. He uses the story of Dinah from the Bible. He does not use the term “busybody,” but the related concept of “self-flattery.” Let’s review some of his observations.
Frequently the crafty enemy … seduces [the mind] by flattery in a false security that leads to destruction. And this is expressed figuratively in the person of Dinah. For it is written,
Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the women of the land; 2 and when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he seized her and lay with her and humbled her. 3 And his soul was drawn to Dinah the daughter of Jacob; he loved the maiden and spoke tenderly to her (Gen 34:1-3).
For [pertaining to us] Dinah “goes down to see the women of that region” whenever a soul neglects to consider itself and concerns itself with the actions of others and wonders beyond its own proper condition and order. And Shechem “takes the soul by force” inasmuch as the Devil corrupts the mind that is occupied by external matters. “And [Shechem’s] soul was conjoined to her” because the devil considers us conjoined to him through iniquity. And … the devil calls before our minds a false sense of hope and security … Thus it is written that Shechem “spoke tenderly to her” when she was sad [humbled]. For to us the devil speaks to us of the greater offenses committed by others … [Pastoral Rule III.29].
In effect, Gregory uses the story of Dinah as an allegory of the trouble we get into when we focus too much on the lives of others and look not enough to our own souls. For Dinah gets into trouble when she tours the land to see the pagan women (the Hivites) and inquires, with a sort of fascination, into what they do. And one of the men of that land seduces her, taking advantage of the vulnerability caused by her sinful curiosity. But even after being humbled and sinned against, she still lets him speak tenderly to her. She is far too fascinated with the Hivites. And thus her rapist, Shechem, was able to speak tenderly to her and win her heart, a thing no rapist should be able to do.
But so it is with us. We are far too fascinated with the sins and struggles of others. Like busybodies we go out to consort with the people of the sinful world. And being focused on and fascinated by them, rather than looking to our own selves, we open ourselves up to being taken advantage of by both the devil and a sinful world. We are an easy target when we do not look to our own soul but rather are preoccupied with the scurrilous details of the lives of others.
And then the devil seizes us and has consort with our soul. He speaks “tenderly” to us telling us how, compared to others, we are not really so bad. Here is a false security indeed. We have been sinfully curious as to the sins and struggles of others, and now we are in the devil’s clutches being reassured by him.
We should be angry with him for raping our vulnerable soul in the first place! But instead, we let him sweet-talk and reassure us.
And thus we are prey two times over. First, we indulged our sinful curiosity into the struggles of others, and then having done so, allowed ourselves to be falsely reassured by the devil of our relative innocence.
The bottom line is that busybodies are easy prey for the devil. By looking not to their own lives, but instead prying with sinful fascination into the lives of others, they wander into sin easily. And all the while, since they look not to themselves, they are easily deluded by the thought that at least they are not as bad as so-and so.
Then only problem is, “being better than so-and-so” is not the standard for eternal life. Jesus is the standard. Only grace and mercy can help us meet that standard.
The busybody is busy about all things except the one thing necessary. As St. Paul says, If we would judge ourselves truly, we would not be judged (1 Cor 11:31).
“To you, upright men and women, who for any reason whatever, give thought to the fate of the family. The future of humanity passes by way of the family. It is therefore indispensable and urgent that every person of good will should endeavor to save and foster the values and requirements of the family.” – Pope John Paul II, FAMILIARIS CONSORTIO #86
What is urgently needed is the Church’s heroic witness, proclaiming with courage the teachings of Jesus Christ. It is in charity that Saint Pope John Paul II calls us, “upright men and women,” to transform hearts and minds to the Gospel of Life, rejecting the secular ideals of the day which lead to sin, suffering and lost salvation.
The future of humanity passes by way of the family. www.familiam.org
Leaving a person in the state of sin is not an act of charity, but is rather misguided compassion. No matter the circumstance, true charity leads a person out of sin. Loving our neighbor means accepting him where he is, while at the same time, guiding him to Truth – to Jesus and His teachings.
Take the Biblical example of the woman accused of adultery. Jesus’ language was authentic and clear: “Neither do I condemn you. Go, [and] from now on do not sin any more.[John 8:11].” This is the same language needed today, not the secular jargon – soft, ambiguous and misleading language – saturating the culture.
Saint John Paul II understood the centrality of the family in cultivating, building and sustaining a healthy society. We must defend the family according to God’s original design if we are to be serious about resolving the issues plaguing society today. Families are threatened by an insidious secular culture driven to redefine the family in opposition to the Creator’s Will. And wherever secularism takes hold, the ill effects cause marriages and families to suffer. These threats enslave people to the consequences of sin: contraception, abortion, cohabitation, gender ideologies, euthanasia, same-sex unions and divorce…threats that HLI has opposed for over 40 years.
What uplifts and encourages me the most are the affirming voices of many cardinals and bishops. I applaud their outward rejection to a liberalized approach to Church teaching. Christ’s teachings reveal to every person the “ultimate reality of the love of God,” as Saint John Paul II insists, therefore, the work of all Christians is to outwardly affirm and profess the Truth in charity.
This has been the very work of HLI since its inception. In the footsteps of Father Paul Marx, we persevere as “Apostles of Life,” endeavoring to save the future of humanity in Truth.
It is why now, more than ever, I implore your prayers and support for HLI, continuing the work to defend life and family around the world for the glory of God.
Saint Pope John Paul II, pray for us!
Father Shenan J. Boquet is the President of Human Life International. He has traveled around the world spreading the Gospel of Life. Father Boquet is a priest of the Houma-Thibodaux Roman Catholic Diocese in Louisiana, his home state, where he served before joining Human Life International in August 2011.
“… He who does not gather with me scatters.” —Mt 12:30
A strange phenomenon is taking place in American society. More and more of our institutions are experiencing diminishment because there is a trend to “go it alone.” This can be seen in the drastic drop in the number of Americans getting married. In fact, the number of marriages has plummeted since the early 1970s. It can be seen in the difficulty experienced by both religious and secular organizations in getting and retaining members. Researchers have indicated that one of the traits of younger Americans is that they are not “joiners.” Even in our Catholic Church across America, the statistics related to the youngest adults indicates that many of them are aloof when it comes to Church membership.
All sorts of sociological theories could be put forward as to why this is happening. It could be related to the widespread breakdown of marriage and family life; it could be due to the effects of technology which gives the false illusion of being connected while eliminating the occasions for real human interaction; it could be the result of the deep influence of the radical individualism so pervasive in secular culture. It could be any one of these, and a number of other factors, or it could be a combination of all of the above. Whatever the reason, the trend is sure to have serious negative consequences.
We need other people
Human beings are social by nature. We need others physically, psychologically, and spiritually. Researchers have shown how infants who do not have the regularity of a human embrace, the sound of a human voice, the warmth of a smile and look on a human face, are seriously harmed. Human beings are best brought into the world and raised in a communion of persons called the family. God, in gathering scattered humanity to himself, does so through a “people,” his family, which we call the Church. “It is not good for the man to be alone,” God said at the beginning of creation (Gen 2:18). And yet, many men and women are deliberately choosing to be alone by foregoing not only marriage, but also other forms of community and belonging. Many, for instance, indicate that they have faith but no need for a church. This is often captured by the phrase, “I’m spiritual but not religious.” In effect, there are many people today who make up a church in which they are the only member.
No Christ without the Church
This trend presents new challenges and opportunities for Christianity and evangelization, but these will only be effective if we are more intentional about being the community of faith and love that Christ intends. If the Church does not “walk the walk” so to speak, it creates a kind of scandal. If Christians live and act no differently than the world, then it will be difficult to convince others of the beauty and truth of Christ. We must be intent on giving ourselves for the good of others.
Christianity is not a do-it-yourself project. The sacraments by their nature are ordered toward joining us more intimately with Christ and those who belong to him. I cannot love Christ without also loving his body, the Church. We must be more knowledgeable about explaining the necessity of the Church in the Christian life and one’s salvation. The Church is not an optional part of Christianity. There is no Christianity without the Church. Christ now identifies himself with the Church as he did when he asked Saul on the road to Damascus, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4).
An often-overlooked effect of the Holy Spirit’s action at Pentecost was the undoing of the division and scattered-ness experienced by the human race. This was evidenced by the miracle of everyone hearing the apostles in their own language—an undoing of the events at the Tower of Babel! The work of the Holy Spirit to gather scattered humanity, begun at Pentecost, continues today in the Church.
In my last column, I remarked on Pope Benedict’s observation that hell is absolute, total, and eternal isolation. God in his very nature is not alone. He has revealed a truth about himself, that he is a mystery of communion among three divine persons, and is One. We are mysteriously made in his image. God’s revealed desire for every person is communion, a being with; communion with himself and those who love him and wish to be with him eternally. What could be better? That is a big part of the good news we have to deliver to those who mistakenly think they can be happy going it alone.
One of the promises that was drilled into me during my time in the seminary was the promise the ordained make when being ordained to the diaconate, and continue to abide by in the priesthood and episcopacy.
My Spiritual Director informed me that this carries with it a “grave-responsibility.” That is to say that praying the Liturgy of the Hours is necessary for my salvation as a priest.
Whenever we say that something is gravely immoral, or that there is a “grave responsibility” it is to say that there is such a great importance attached to this practice that without it, great harm is done to the Church, to ourselves, and in our relationship with God.
The Liturgy of the Hours, therefore, if not prayed by those who have made such a promise to God, commit mortal sin (provided all the criteria the Church gives to mortal sin is fulfilled).
This then teaches us that the Prayer of the Church bestows upon the Church the graces that bring about and preserve the grace of salvation in others. A priest or religious who refuses or out of sloth neglects this prayer is also neglecting his people in a grave manner.
This speaks of the Church’s belief in the power of prayer. Without it, we are lost, and no matter how smart or educated we think we are, we are ultimately hating God and his people without it.
The commitment and promise that we have taken is also important to reflect upon. Don’t be two faced. If you are going to make a promise to God, mean it. This also is true with respect to the oath of fidelity the ordained take.
If you cannot honour your commitments to God, you can’t really honour your commitments to your neighbour. That is, if God is owed the most respect, how can we ever think that we will respect our neighbours who deserve less honour than God?
Let our yes be yes, and our no be no.
Practice Catholic Devotions
Fr. Charles Nwora Okeke
A journey back to recovery of our traditional Catholic Practices: A syllabus of popular Catholic Devotions seldom practiced today.
No matter what you want, pray to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin and St Joseph; if you need money, pray to St Joseph, as he was the provider for the Holy Family and went through the same economic difficulties as yours; if you are seeking the grace of true repentance, pray to St John the Baptist; if you want to advance in studies and purity, pray to St Aloysius of Gonzaga, the patron of youths; if you want to advance in music, pray to St Cecilia; if you are in domestic difficulties, go to St Rita of Cascia, who had many of them herself; if you yearn for a clearer understanding of religious questions, pray to St Thomas Aquinas, St Bonaventure, or St Augustine of Hippo; if you want help in the conversion of a sinner, pray to St Monica, who herself besieged heaven many years for her son Augustine’s conversion and lived to see it; if you have throat trouble, pray to St Blaise; if you want a husband, pray to St Catherine; no matter what you want, pray to St Anne; St Peter of Alcantara is a wonderful helper, whose prayers, according to a statement by Christ to St Theresa, will always be answered. If you are a struggling penitent, pray to St Mary of Egypt or St Margret of Cortona, who were converted women of shame. If you want to find something that is lost, pray to St Anthony.
Remember that each day of the week has its special devotion: Sunday, the Holy Trinity; Monday, the souls in Purgatory; Tuesday, the holy angels; Wednesday, St Joseph; Thursday, the Blessed Sacrament; Friday, the Sacred Heart and the Passion; Saturday, the Blessed Virgin Mary.
I’ve had a very similar conversation with several different people at multiple parish assignments.
The same person will ask two questions maybe a few days or weeks or months apart:
1) “Father, why do you talk about missing Mass and mortal sin? It’s so off-putting and mean.”
and then, at some other point:
2) “Father, why have my kids stopped going to Mass?”
If no one tells the next generation that going to Mass is SERIOUSLY important, and that their salvation is on the line, then why would they go?
Canon Law, 1247: “On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass.”
The Catechism, 2180: “The faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants)…Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.” “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
What is temptation? Temptation is the work of Satan to drag you to Hell. And Satan can read you like a book and play you like piano. Do not exaggerate his power, but do not underestimate it either.
Some of his subtlest work is done in the area of religious observance. There, he can cloak himself quite easily in the lamb’s clothing of piety, but, wolf that he really is, distort it, either through excess or defect, thereby destroying you with what is good. Beware what some spiritual writers call the “traps of the pious.” Consider some examples:
He can discourage you with prayer by saying, “If only you would pray a little longer, God will give you what you seek.” But the deception is that if we can pray a little longer, then we can never have prayed enough. Thus though we pray, we only feel guilty and inadequate. And since we can never have prayed “enough,” prayer increasingly turns into a burdensome task; God becomes a cruel taskmaster demanding longer and more precise prayers. Or prayer becomes a superstitious endeavor whose outcome we somehow control by the length and type of our prayers. Jesus counsels us that the Father knows what we need and that we should not think that merely multiple words and pious actions are necessary. We may need to persevere in prayer over time, but God is not a cruel tyrant demanding endless incantations.
Satan can take the beautiful practice of praying the rosary, or attending daily Mass, or other devotions and slowly incite in us a feeling of smug superiority, elitism, or pride. Gradually, others are thought to be less devout, even in error, because they do not do or observe what is optional or encouraged but not required. What is beautiful and holy is thus employed to incite ever-growing pride and cynicism. A most extreme form of this comes from those who take the beautiful and powerful devotion to our Lady of Fatima and allow Satan to set them against even the Pope and all the world’s bishops by claiming that they failed, either ineptly or willfully, to properly consecrate Russia. And thus one of our most beautiful and informative apparitions can engender in some people distrust of the Church and disunity from her, from multiple popes, and even from Sister Lucia herself. It is an astonishingly crafty work of the evil one to take what is good and religious and corrupt it in the minds of some.
Satan can also take what IS required and turn it into a kind of religious minimalism, a way of keeping God at a distance. And thus he tempts some souls with the notion that Sunday Mass, a little something in the collection plate, and a few rushed prayers are the end of religion rather than the beginning of it. Such observances become a way of “checking off the God-box” and being done with God for the week, rather than a foundation on which to build a beautiful and ever-deepening relationship of love with God. Such minimal practices become a form of “God-control” for those tempted in this way; it is as if to say, “I’ve done what I am supposed to do, now God and the Church have to leave me alone. God also needs to take care me now since I’ve done what I’m required to do.” And thus the Church’s beautiful laws and the requirements describing the basic duties or foundation for a deepening relationship with God, become a kind of “separation agreement,” insisting on very strict visiting hours and specifying who gets what.
Satan can take religious zeal and corrupt it into harsh and uncharitable zealotry. He can take a love for the beauty of the Liturgy, ancient or new, and turn it into a persnickety insistence on exactly the right ingredients, at the expense of charity and at the cost of ridicule, false superiority, and disunity. And thus, charity thrust aside, we say, “Just make sure you celebrate the liturgy the way I like it. Anyone who doesn’t like what I like is antiquarian, a knave, or an uncouth troglodyte and must obviously hate the Church that I love so beautifully …”
Satan can take the beautiful love for the poor and corrupt it into an enslaving paternalism that locks them into dependency, or does not address their spiritual needs by speaking to them respectfully of their sins, or does not seek to deepen their spiritual and family lives. And thus the beautiful corporal works of mercy are either set at odds with the spiritual works of mercy or are considered adequate in themselves. Satan can send many to serve the poor, armed with half-truths and approaches that merely bandage deeper wounds without addressing them.
Well, you see, in a certain sense, any virtue will do. Satan can make use of any of them and will seek to corrupt all of them, even the religious ones. He will just as surely go to work in the life of someone in a church pew, as in a brothel or the gutter. No one is exempt from his work of temptation; his goal is to drag us to Hell.
What makes his work of corrupting virtue so insidious is the subtlety of his work, for he takes something that is intrinsically good and seeks to corrupt it, either by excess or defect, or to turn it into some sort of caricature of itself.
Virtues, of course, are meant to work in combination with other virtues that balance them. For example, charity should be balanced by truth and truth by charity. Without charity, the truth can bludgeon; without truth, charity can become harmful, patronizing, and wickedly affirming. Charity and truth are meant to balance each other and to work alongside other virtues in a delicate interplay.
One of Satan’s tactics is to take one virtue and isolate it from others. Beware of these subtle tactics of Satan, who disguises himself well in the robes of virtue. But they are detached virtues, virtues out of balance and proportion.
Denigration of Bishop Finn intensified in 2010 after he learned from his vicar general that a diocesan priest had inappropriate pictures of young girls on his personal computer. The diocese immediately notified a ranking Kansas City police officer, and the pictures were provided to legal counsel as well. Both opined that the photos did not constitute child pornography as they did not contain sexual conduct or contact as defined by Missouri law.
The priest was immediately called and told to appear at the chancery the next day, but he did not. He was instead found unconscious in his garage after an attempted suicide. He remained unconscious for four days, and was not expected to live.
After recovering and undergoing psychiatric care, Bishop Finn removed the priest from pastoral duties, and said he was not allowed electronic devices or any interaction with children. When the priest breached those restrictions, the diocese turned him over to civil authorities. Detectives then discovered images of a pornographic nature at the priest’s family’s home, and he was charged that same day.
Misdemeanor charges were filed against the bishop and the diocese. In order to spare the victims a drawn out jury trial and have the charges against the diocese dropped, which would have likely resulted in crippling insurance increases, Bishop Finn submitted to a one day bench trial and was indicted and found guilty of a misdemeanor for not reporting suspected child abuse.
Many see what took place as a political vendetta against the bishop for his orthodoxy and an obvious attempt to make him an example in the Church sex abuse scandal, as the specifics of his case do not involve him perpetrating or willfully facilitating abuse.
The independent investigation ordered by Bishop Finn did find fault with the diocese’s handling of some parts of the process, but the lapses do not amount to criminal conduct, according to Missouri attorney Michael Quinlan, who said the statute under which Bishop Finn was charged, in fact, doesn’t even apply to the circumstances of the case.
“Bishop Finn has always been a solicitous and loving spiritual father to our community since the moment he welcomed us,” she said. The prioress’ affirming and joy-filled assessment refutes the negative caricature of the bishop rendered in the public eye.”
“Bishop Finn has only striven to carry out the mandate given to him before all else by the Church – the salvation of souls,” Mother Cecilia stressed. “But many have forgotten that the Church exists primarily and fundamentally for this: to seek first the Kingdom of God.”
She praises the bishop’s gracious response in the face of attack.
“Regarding the hostility and persecution shown toward our Bishop, I must say with complete admiration, that he has never displayed or spoken in a manner showing any anger or hostility in retaliation of the heaps of it he has himself received,” said Mother Cecilia. “He has always accepted it meekly, and simply continued on faithfully and perseveringly with the commission the Church has given him to build up the mystical body of Christ in truth and charity.”
She credits his caring and committed regard for her sisters as integral to the blooming of the Benedictines.
“He has been a tremendous source of inspiration to each of the sisters,” Mother Cecilia said. “His heroic witness to the faith of the Church, and his quiet determination to reform the diocese despite tremendous opposition is like having one of the saints you read about in history right before your eyes.”
“I guarantee you that Church history will be looking back and telling a different story about this man than the newspapers are at present,” said Mother Cecilia. “There have been many saints that have not been vindicated until long after their death. I have no doubt he will be one of them.”