suffering

My View of My Breast Cancer Diagnosis

September 8, 2015

Calvaert, Agony in the Garden

Calvaert, Agony in the Garden

Today I find myself in a situation I never imagined I would be. After working hard for years to improve my health, the unexpected entered my life with a bang. I never saw it coming.

A mammogram in early August revealed some abnormalities and I was called back for more pictures plus ultrasound. On that day the radiologist spoke of “suspicious areas” and I knew that I was in some kind of trouble. Subsequent biopsies revealed cancer – not a really big one, but nonetheless, growths, cancerous and pre-cancerous that can’t be left alone. And so, it’s time to consider the spiritual aspect of my bilateral mastectomy coming up.

I’ve written here before about the permissive will of God. He never wills evil, but always brings good out of it. There’s no point in asking, “Why is God letting this happen?” because the answer will be revealed later in His good time and I don’t need to know the answer now. That all cancer is evil and a result of our fallen nature can’t be disputed. After all, if we didn’t have a fallen nature we wouldn’t have disease of any kind. We would, in fact, already be in heaven with our glorified bodies and this earth would be gone. Clearly the challenge here is to step forward in complete trust that He is giving me an opportunity to act on what I believe and that He will be with me all the way. My trust has not been unwarranted.

All the medical people I’ve encountered on this journey are outstanding in their competence and manner. Nobody could ask for more supportive individuals when going through a serious illness. I picked none of them. However it was that they were assigned to me, I believe that God arranged it, and that is truly comforting.

Without a doubt, meeting Dr. Ken Sharlin and taking such a positive turn for the better by following his advice within the functional medicine paradigm has positioned me to get through surgery with few, if any difficulties. Starting a new career doing what I love gives me something to look forward to, and really helped me arrive at the decision to let go of yet more body parts rather than engage in a prolonged struggle to hang on to them. Faithful friends and family standing with me just can’t be replaced.

Above all, I can do this because in prayer I came to this conclusion:

Contrary to what radical feminists and the pro-death agitators believe, our bodies belong to God. He gave them to us as part of our being. I believe we are to take care of them to better do His will. If He wants to take body parts away from us, it’s His right just as it is His right alone to take all of our body at death and bring our soul to be with Him. By surrendering this sacrifice freely we imitate Jesus in the Garden of Olives. There can be only one response by a servant of God in a situation like this; “Thy will be done.” Moreover, a chance to participate in the redemptive suffering of Christ when it comes right to one’s doorstep should not be passed up.

I am in a good place, thanks to the prayers and support of many people. This is nothing but a large boulder I must simply, with God’s help, move around and get on with my life. If you can say a prayer for me, too, I’d surely appreciate it.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Tuesday, September 8th, 2015 suffering 12 Comments

Living in Todays Chastisement

September 27, 2014

Winged demon, Exterior Relief, Catedral Nueva de Vitoria-Gasteiz. Wikimedia Commons

Winged demon, Exterior Relief, Catedral Nueva de Vitoria-Gasteiz. Wikimedia Commons

It seems likely that every demon in hell has been loosed upon this world. How else are we to make sense of the hatred and chaos all around us and the unconscionable suffering of our fellow man but to recognize the hand of the evil one stirring hearts against one another and the Lord? Make no mistake about this; we are in a major chastisement for the sins of all nations. Moreover, we delude ourselves if we think we will be spared the consequences of the sins of the world and our own nation just because we are personally doing our best to follow Christ.

A couple of years ago someone asked me where in the Bible does God show us that wars, bad weather, plagues, etc. are His punishment on us. After all, a lot of good people are hurt by these events. I gave the answers in a simple way, not going into much depth, but this past week I read an excellent post by Rich Maffeo explaining it all, complete with Bible quotes. Please read his commentary because it’s quite clear and convincing and then come back here for my thoughts.

No Escape

We gain nothing and garner greater pain by denying what is right in front of our eyes and in our own back yards. The beheading this week, and not a one off case, of an employee at Vaughn Foods in Oklahoma City by a follower of Islam who reportedly shouted the Muslim cry repeatedly as he attacked her is a prime example of the bloodshed coming our way unless we as a nation perform a Nineveh (Book of Jonah) and embrace the Lord. But how likely is that to happen? The murder of innocents is enshrined now not only in Roe vs. Wade, it’s in the Obamacare laws, and I’m speaking not only of abortion, but the denial of care to those most in need, especially the elderly, that has and will have the effect of their premature deaths if not outright murder. We could show many more examples of laws and rulings touching our everyday lives that not only produce evil effects materially, but also violate our freedom to choose God before mammon.

We are not going to be able to escape these evils any more than most Jews were able to escape Hitler’s death camps because the depth and breadth of personal sin results in deathly harm to all. When enough people push an ungodly agenda it inevitably becomes law, and the law is used to justify expanding the sin by force. St. Paul minces no words in Romans 1:28-32 in describing the sins and the fate of those who persist in them:

And as they liked not to have God in their knowledge, God delivered them up to a reprobate sense, to do those things which are disgraceful; Being filled with all iniquity, malice, fornication, avarice, wickedness, full of envy, murder, contention, deceit, malignity, whisperers, detractors, hateful to God, contumelious, proud, haughty, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, foolish, dissolute, without affection, without fidelity, without mercy. Who, having known the justice of God, did not understand that they who do such things, are worthy of death; and not only they that do them, but they also that consent to them that do them.

What to do

Unfortunately, living in a nation where these evils are now forced upon us shows how personal sin tortures the corporate body of society. So what shall we do, given that we who follow Christ are the anawim Zephaniah speaks to in Chapter 2:3? St. John Paul II gives us a hint in his General Audience of May 23, 2001 where he expounds on Psalm 149:

5. There is a second term which we use to define those who pray in the Psalm:  they are the anawim, “the poor and lowly ones” (v. 4). The expression turns up often in the Psalter. It indicates not just the oppressed, the miserable, the persecuted for justice, but also those who, with fidelity to the moral teaching of the Alliance with God, are marginalized by those who prefer to use violence, riches and power. In this light one understands that the category of the “poor” is not just a social category but a spiritual choice. It is what the famous first Beatitude means:  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:3). The prophet Zephaniah spoke to the anawim as special persons:  “Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, who do his commands; seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of wrath of the Lord” (Zep 2:3).

First, we must embrace the suffering that comes from living in a Godless world the same way that Christ embraced His suffering for the sins of the world. Why? Father F. J. Remmler tells us in his book, Why Must I Suffer? that

Public and national sins must be expiated in this world for the very simple reason that they cannot be expiated in the next. In the world to come families, cities, provinces and nations will have no continued corporate existence. There, men and women will exist merely as individuals, without being united by those social, civil, political, and national bonds which are necessary in this life for the welfare and preservation of the human race. In eternity, they will individually enjoy the fruits of their life on earth – the good will possess the kingdom of God in Heaven, while the wicked shall suffer for their evil deeds in the unquenchable fire of Hell. But public sins require public expiation, and as this expiation cannot be made in this next life, it is clear that it must be made on this side of the grave….

The sufferings endured by the good have a much greater atoning value than those endured by the wicked. Hence, the more good persons there are to join in making the required atonement, the more quickly will it be made. Besides, God is easily moved , out of consideration for the sufferings of the good, greatly to mitigate His punishments, and sometimes even to cancel them altogether.

Such sufferings afford the good an opportunity of making full atonement for their personal sins. For there is no one so holy and so confirmed in grace that he has not committed some sins, such at least as are venial. “Even the just man shall fall seven times,” i.e., frequently. But it is an unchanging law that every sin, even the smallest, must be fully expiated either here, or hereafter in Purgatory. But expiation made here is vastly more profitable than that which is made after death.

Second, we must constantly study God’s teaching in the Bible and its truths in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Knowing and accepting God’s truth gives us the power to call out and refute evil. It enables us to speak and live as a good example to others according to our state in life.

Third, we must frequent the sacraments and nurture the grace from them just as the good servant made the talents the Lord gave him grow from five to ten (Matt. 25). The Sacrament of Confirmation strengthens us through the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit to do what we ought and not shrink from necessary controversy.

Fourth, we must prepare ourselves to weather the onslaught through prayer, fasting, and self-denial, performing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. If we are to die directly from the evils we face, we must make sure that we are in the state of grace and the confession of Christ is on our lips.

Finally, we must trust in God’s mercy and care for us personally, always seeking to see as God sees and to love others as He loves them. These are the ways that we can bear victoriously the onslaught of evil and join our King for eternity.

Psalm 149

Sing ye to the Lord a new canticle: let His praise be in the church of the saints.

Let Israel rejoice in Him that made him: and let the children of Sion be joyful in their king.

Let them praise His name in choir: let them sing to Him with the timbrel and the psaltery.

For the Lord is well pleased with His people: and He will exalt the meek unto salvation.

The saints shall rejoice in glory: they shall be joyful in their beds.

The high praise of God shall be in their mouth: and two-edged swords in their hands:

To execute vengeance upon the nations, chastisements among the people:

To bind their kings with fetters, and their nobles with manacles of iron.

To execute upon them the judgment that is written: this glory is to all His saints. Alleluia.

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Saturday, September 27th, 2014 Catholic culture, penance, psalms, spirituality, suffering 9 Comments

The Silence of Christ

March 26, 2013

Crown of Thorns, 1520-25, Lucas, Cranach the Elder (b. 1472, Kronach, d. 1553, Weimar), Oil and tempera on limewood, Private collection

Crown of Thorns, 1520-25, Lucas, Cranach the Elder (b. 1472, Kronach, d. 1553, Weimar), Oil and tempera on limewood, Private collection

Bossuet, in his Meditations for Lent, wrote:

Few people like to suffer, and to suffer in silence in the sight of God alone. And if it is rare to find those who like to suffer, it is still rarer to find those who suffer without trying to tell the world of it.

This comment isn’t just for Lent, but for all the times of our lives. I don’t think Bossuet was trying to be funny here, but really, the second half of the second sentence really is funny because it so perfectly describes our human nature. There is a reason for that marvelous Yiddish word, “kvetch”.

Who among us can truthfully say that we have never whined or complained to anyone who will listen about things that pain us most deeply? It is at those times we are trapped inside our own little world, maybe throwing tantrums over the injustices or ill fortunes of life, and wanting somebody to take pity on us and rescue us. While grieving over certain losses is normal and it is healthy to let someone care for us until we get back on our psychological feet, when we let our suffering control our lives to the point that it consumes our outlook and relationships with others, we are in trouble. Why? Because we are looking everywhere but to Jesus for the answer.

Jesus endured a thousand injuries, insults, and indignities from all manner of persons. He was falsely accused by his cruel enemies, the scribes and the Pharisees. They said He was a blasphemer, a rebel, a breaker of the law, and a disturber of the peace, that He had contempt for the Roman taxes, and finally, that He was misleading the people with His new doctrine.

And we get bent out of shape when somebody makes the slightest false accusation against us! But Jesus made no attempt to defend Himself. He bore the blows of the Jews and their accusations in His illegal midnight trial, the scourging and crowning with thorns all without a word. While the sadistic Roman soldiers spit on Him and struck Him viciously, He was silent. And when the hedonistic Herod, a slippery piece of work, tried to get Jesus to speak, He remained silent. He didn’t try to get out of fulfilling the purpose the Father sent Him here to accomplish.

We, too, have a purpose in our suffering: to share in the suffering of Christ for the salvation of souls. Our suffering with this purpose keeps us focused not on ourselves but on eternal life which we will spend with God and our whole, huge, joyful and loving family of saints and angels.

Bossuet writes:

…[O]ur souls are tested and marvelously improved when, by a truly Christian generosity, we are able to rise up above all that troubles and opposes us, and, like Jesus, we keep a profound silence, even when there is something to speak about, whether for our justification against an unjust accusation, or amid a raging tempest of trouble. A truly generous soul must defend itself with silence, which will be its calm and peace amid the storm. Jesus will send an interior sweetness into the depths of the hearts of those who, by a little courage, reject and abandon the help of creatures for the sake of His love.

In our sufferings and contradictions, let us not look to secondary causes. We must not pander to our self-love by a vain search for someone to blame for our sufferings. We must instead lift our sights to heaven to see that it is God Himself who has allowed these things to happen to us, and that they will be for the sake of our salvation if we know how to profit from them.

Suffering in this life is not optional, but our interior attitude towards it is. Let us imitate the silence of Jesus as a way to strengthen our character, build virtue, and enjoy an ever closer relationship with Christ.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 Spiritual reading, spirituality, suffering 3 Comments

Mortification, Penance, Suffering Seen through the Holy Spirit

March 8, 2014

Flower Sellers of London, Gustave Dore, Google Art Project via Wikimedia

Flower Sellers of London, Gustave Dore, Google Art Project via Wikimedia

Comprehending the value of the Cross, of suffering, of willful mortification and penance is impossible with the human eye alone. We need the light of the Holy Spirit to live through that which is visited upon us just as Jesus was seized and killed by worldly powers. In the eyes of the world he was just a man, one certainly with extraordinary power to heal both hearts and bodies, but in the end, just someone who could be killed to be gotten out of the way.

To the world, suffering makes no sense. It is a mystery. Mortification and penance make no sense. The world cannot conceive the hidden meaning and value of suffering and so it vainly seeks to end it by purely earthly means – this program and that, but oddly enough only creating more suffering. When by the grace of the Holy Spirit and with a generous heart charity seizes us, we can not only accept that which is beyond our control, but also choose to take advantage of all the many instances we find daily to deny ourselves and follow in the footsteps of the Lord.

In Meditation #97 of Divine Intimacy Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene writes:

The spirit of mortification has more than a purely physical aspect of mortification; it also includes renunciation of the ego, the will, and the understanding.

Is not the renunciation of understanding one of the most difficult challenges we face? We all want immediate certainty about our earthly endeavors. We want to know why things go wrong and we want to know why certain things are happening to us.  Really bad things may be going on and we want to create an alternate reality to dodge the emotional pain because we don’t understand. We can’t bear not to “get it” when we are apparently in the dark. We are impatient with God. We become afraid. Sometimes we actually run away through drugs, booze, affairs, and fantasies because we don’t want to have to deal with realities we don’t understand or know how to deal with. With our ego life is all about us; with our will life is all about getting what we want, with our understanding life is all about getting rid of uncertainty and taking control.  

The spirit of mortification is really complete when, above all, we seek to mortify self-love in all its many manifestations…. There is little value in imposing corporal mortifications on ourselves if we then refuse to yield our opinion in order to accommodate ourselves to others, if we cannot be reconciled with our enemies, or bear an injury and a cutting word with calmness, or hold back a sharp answer…. As long as mortification does not strike at our pride it remains at the halfway mark and never reaches its goal.

I will add to the specifics above, without understanding the need to mortify self-love and doing it, we cause immense pain to others, especially those close to us. This is how abuse of all kinds is passed down in families, how some people decide to kill themselves rather than to take the hand God is extending to them, how generations end up poisoned with hateful behavior patterns.

Without the spirit of mortification, we gain nothing and give no spiritual goods to others because we just go through the motions on the outside but have not rent our hearts on the inside (Joel 2: 13). We are fakes.

The true spirit of mortification embraces, in the first place, all the occasions for physical or moral suffering permitted by Divine Providence. The sufferings attendant on illness or fatigue; the efforts required by the performance of our duties or by a life of intense labor; the privations imposed by the state of poverty – all are excellent physical penances. If we sincerely desire to be guided by Divine Providence in everything, we will not try to avoid them, or even to lighten them, but will accept wholeheartedly whatever God offers us. It would be absurd to refuse a single one of those providential opportunities for suffering and to look for voluntary mortifications of our own choice….

It is exactly the same in the moral order. Do we not sometimes try to avoid a person whom we do not like, but with whom the Lord has brought us into contact? Do we look for every means of avoiding a humiliation or an act of obedience which is painful to nature? If we do, we are running away from the best opportunities for sacrificing ourselves and for mortifying our self-love; even if we substitute other mortifications, they will not be as effective as those which God Himself has prepared for us. In the mortification offered to us by Divine Providence, there is nothing of our own will or liking; they strike us just where we need it the most, and where, by voluntary mortification, we could never reach.

So much suffering in this world is going to waste because too many people do not see the supernatural  value of suffering, of renunciation of the ego, self-will, and understanding. Too many people are not willing to “let go and let God” as the various Anonymous organizations teach. Too many people are in misery because they do not know God and no one is drawing them to Him.

This Lent, let us consider our mortifications to be not only for our own spiritual development and formation in Christ, but offer them up for those who do not know God, that He will manifest Himself to them in love through us and others.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Saturday, March 8th, 2014 spirituality, suffering Comments Off on Mortification, Penance, Suffering Seen through the Holy Spirit

21st World Day of the Sick

January 28, 2013

The Good Samaritan - Van Gogh

The Good Samaritan – Van Gogh

Vatican City, 28 January 2013 (VIS) – Benedict XVI will grant a Plenary Indulgence to the faithful participating in the 21st World Day of the Sick to be celebrated 7–11 February, in Altotting, Germany according to a decree published today and signed by Cardinal Manuel Monteiro de Castro and Bishop Krzysztof Nykiel, respectively penitentiary major and regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary.

Persons following the example of the Good Samaritan, who “with a spirit of faith and a merciful soul, put themselves at the service of their brothers and sisters who are suffering or who, if sick, endure the pains and hardships of life … bearing witness to the faith through the path of the Gospel of suffering” will obtain the Plenary Indulgence, once a day and under the usual conditions (sacramental Confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer in keeping with the intentions of the Holy Father), applicable also to the souls of deceased faithful:

A) each time from 7–11 February, in the Marian Shrine of Altotting or at any other place decided by the ecclesiastical authorities, [check with your bishop] that they participate in a ceremony held to beseech God to grant the goals of the World Day of the Sick, praying the Our Father, the Creed, and an invocation to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Faithful in public hospitals or any private house who, like the Good Samaritan, charitably assist the ill and who, because of such service, cannot attend the aforementioned celebrations, will obtain the same gift of a Plenary Indulgence if, for at least a few hours on that day, they generously provide their charitable assistance to the sick as if they were tending to Christ the Lord Himself and pray the Our Father, the Creed, and an invocation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, with their soul removed from attachment to any form of sin and with the intention of carrying out as soon as possible that which is necessary to obtain the plenary indulgence.

The faithful who because of illness, advanced age, or other similar reasons cannot take part in the aforementioned celebrations will obtain the Plenary Indulgence if, with their soul removed from attachment to any form of sin and with the intention of carrying out as soon as possible the usual conditions, spiritually participating in the sacred events of the determined days, particularly through liturgical celebrations and the Supreme Pontiff’s message broadcast by television or radio, [check out the EWTN schedule or visit NEWS.VA] they pray for all the sick and offer their physical and spiritual suffering to God through the Virgin Mary, “Salus Infirmorum” (Health of the Sick).

B) Partial Indulgence will be conceded to all the faithful who, between the indicated days, with a contrite heart raise devout prayers to the merciful Lord beseeching assistance for the sick in spirit during this Year of Faith.

The Pope is making it really easy to gain grace from God through both corporal and spiritual works of mercy during these days.  Let’s mark our calendars and remember the sick in our families, towns, and nation.  Let’s especially remember those with mental afflictions, in particular our war veterans who suffer with PTSD from battle conditions and those in depression and despair.  Let us remember all the neglected and poorly supervised children who are depressed and despairing as well as those little ones in foreign countries who don’t have access to adequate medical care.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Monday, January 28th, 2013 Catholic Church, suffering 2 Comments

All Souls Day – the Faithful Departed

November 2, 2012

An Angel Frees Souls from Purgatory c. 1610, Ludovico Carracci, oil on canvas, Pinacoteca, Vatican

Yesterday we celebrated the feast of the Church Triumphant – all those who ran the good race and by the grace of God finished.  When we are agitated and troubled over events or situations in our lives, we can be comforted by the fact that we have an enormous crowd praying for us, cheering us on toward that perfect charity that comes from the mercy seat of God.

Today we celebrate the feast of the Church Suffering – all those who having departed this life, are still being purified and readied to join the Church Triumphant. St. Odilo, Abbot of Cluny (Benedictine), established in his Order towards the end of the tenth century a general commemoration of all the faithful departed which soon spread to the whole Western Church. This is why we say, “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.  May they rest in peace. Amen” at the end of every hour of the Divine Office.  Praying for the dead is so important that the Church makes it part of our sacred liturgy.

The Church Triumphant, the Church Suffering, and we, the Church Militant, are bound together by the bonds of charity. We practice acts of mercy, charity, and piety when we pray for the dead.

St. Augustine wrote:                                                                      

Grant, O Lord, that I may experience a reasonable sorrow at the death of those who are dear to me, shedding tears of resignation over our mortal condition, yet soon restraining them by this consoling thought of the faith: in dying, the faithful have only withdrawn a little from us to go into a better world.

May I not weep as do the pagans who are without hope.  I may have reason to be sad, but in my affliction hope will comfort me.  With hope so great, it is not fitting, O my God, that Your temple should be in mourning.  You dwell there, You who are our Consoler; and You cannot fail in Your promises.

St. Gregory Nazianzen wrote:

O Master and Creator of the universe, Lord of life and death, You give our souls being and fill them with blessings: You carry out and transform everything by the work of Your Word, at the time foreordained and according to the plan of Your Wisdom; receive, today, our deceased brethren and give them eternal rest.

May You welcome us, in our turn, at the moment pleasing to You, after having guided us and left us in the body for as long as You think useful and salutary.

Made ready in Your fear, without trouble and without delay, may You receive us on the last day.  Grant that we may not leave the things of this world with regret, like those who are too much attached to earth and the flesh; grant that we may advance resolutely and happily toward that blessed and unending life which is in Christ Jesus Our Lord, to whom be glory forever and ever.  Amen.

For more on purgatory, Why the Catholic Church Prays for the Dead, Easy Chaplet for the Poor Souls, Indulgences Applied to the Poor Souls, and Pie Jesu Domine – Gabriel Faure.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Friday, November 2nd, 2012 Catholic Church, liturgy, suffering 4 Comments

A Sudden, Unprovided Death

May  8, 2012

A 37 year old man was found dead on Cox South Hospital’s grounds March 15, 2012 in Springfield, Missouri, but the story was reported only last Saturday in the local paper.  A construction worker spotted the body from a walking bridge spanning a busy street below and connecting two parts of the hospital complex.  The body lay in a cluster of evergreens near a retaining wall, between the wall and the street.  The area is usually only accessed by grounds crews in the summer months, but hospital employees and visitors who are smokers frequent the nearby sidewalk 24 hours a day. 

Initially, the construction worker thought the man might be sleeping and told a hospital security guard who didn’t take it seriously, thinking a drunk had passed out, and went back to his paperwork.  Later that day, the construction worker noticed birds pecking at the body and again reported to security.  The police were called and a sad and ironic story unfolded.

Daniel Dupree had likely been dead there for at least two months or more according to the coroner.  He died of alcohol poisoning in the arms of his mistress, Lady Vodka, residing in a nearby bottle. 

In mid-December Dupree checked into Cox North through the emergency room for alcoholism treatment and was transferred to Cox South.  After several days of treatment he was discharged. Records show he was a patient the next night, December 22, at Mercy Hospital’s emergency room several miles north from Cox, but was released that evening.  When he was found, he had a Cox patient bracelet on his wrist.  Cox only says an internal investigation found no wrongdoing, and won’t release any information because of the ongoing investigation by police who don’t suspect foul play.

How none of the smokers smelled a rotting body all that time remains a mystery as we had a very mild winter with frequent days above 40 degrees and very little snow.  Sadly, the lack of visibility from the street and the time of year worked against the discovery, but one wonders how many overpass users saw the body before March 15th and said nothing.

Dupree was not someone many would care about anyway.  The media described him as a “transient.”  His wife, who reported him to the police as missing on December 24th, thought he ran off with his ex-girlfriend, but when she checked with the girlfriend, she hadn’t seen him either.  The last record of anyone trying to find Dupree was December 29th when a woman, not his wife, called police to ask for a “well-being” check.

Dupree died alone, a sudden, unprovided death we pray to be delivered from in the Litany of the Saints  during Easter Vigil.  He died this way because of choices he made and perhaps because no one was praying for him.  Every aspect of this story is sad with no hero but the persistent construction worker.  Were it not for him, Dupree would most likely still be lying under the pine tree unnoticed or ignored and unsought by anyone.

If nothing else, the lesson from this story is that those of us who take our faith seriously should pray frequently for “poor sinners” as Our Lady of Fatima asked us.  Jesus died for Daniel Dupree just as he did for every person.  Whether Dupree is with Him now we don’t know, but he is just the kind of person Jesus had in mind when He brought St. Faustina the Divine Mercy Chaplet and asked her to spread the devotion worldwide.

Have you prayed for poor sinners today?

“Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”

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Tuesday, May 8th, 2012 prayers, suffering 5 Comments

Ascending and Descending

March 9, 2012

Chapter 7 of the Holy Rule of St. Benedict is all about humility, as are the meditations this past week in Divine Intimacy.  So much can be said about humility, its importance and value, how to become humble, how much God loves humility, etc. that a number of books could be written of it without repeating a thing or exhausting the topic.

Humility comes from the Latin humilitas which in Church (ecclesiastical) Latin means “meekness” and is related to the Latin word humus meaning “earth”, “soil” and humi, “on or to the ground”.  Jesus told us in Mt. 11:29: “Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls.”

When I was thinking of the meaning of humility and its Latin origins, the Way of the Cross came to mind.  There we pray, among other things, on the three times Jesus fell on the way to Calvary.  Each time he collapsed under the weight of the cross, He must have eaten dirt as His lips were crushed in the grit and filth of the path.  He was literally “on the ground”.  Jesus tells us plainly that learning His humility of heart will bring peace to our souls.  Learning His humility of heart means we are going to have to eat dirt, too, an absolutely repellant thought to our human nature.

Jacob's Dream, 1660-65, Bartolome Esteban Murillo, State Hermitage Museum


In the beginning of chapter 7, St. Benedict says:

We must by our ascending actions erect the ladder Jacob saw in a dream, on which angels appeared to him descending and ascending.  By that descent and ascent we must surely understand nothing else than this, that we descend by self-exaltation and ascend by humility.

Father Gerard Ellspermann, O.S.B. then comments:

The choice of this phrase by St. Benedict enables us to comment again on his use of Scripture.  Note that, he appeals first to the incident in Jacob’s life when he saw in a dream angels ascending and descending.  The literal meaning has to do with Jacob only and this particular incident in his life.

But St. Benedict now takes that text and applies it to another ladder, and by means of this parable is prepared to show us how by ascending the rungs or steps of this ladder of humility we may eventually come to the heights of heavenly exaltation in heaven.  He is, therefore, using a Scripture text in an accommodated sense and even fills out his own details to further explain his twelve steps which, as St. Bernard remarked, “it is better to climb than to count. The two sides of the ladder are our body and soul.  For we call our body and soul the sides of the ladder, and into these sides our divine vocation has inserted the different steps of humility and discipline we must climb.”

Throughout the entire chapter on humility St. Benedict continues the paradox.  The heights of heaven to which we are striving are reached by the very opposite of exaltation, i.e. the lowliness of humility.

RB 1980, of which I’ll say something in another post, contains a thematic index explaining the steps of humility:

  1. Awe
  2. Not to love one’s own will
  3. Subject self to a superior
  4. Hold fast to patience in obedience
  5. Confess evil thoughts
  6. Be content with the lowest
  7. Believe oneself inferior to others
  8. Follow common rule and example of superiors
  9. Be silent
  10. Be not prompt to laugh
  11. Speak humbly
  12. Be humble in heart and manifest it.

We will learn more of these 12 steps as we meditate on chapter 7.  Meanwhile, Father Gerard continues:

The allegory of the ladder is a favorite with the old writers.  St. Basil, in a homily on the first psalm about the two ways of living, compares the progressive exercise of the Christian life to the ascent of Jacob’s ladder.

We can acquire humility only by the grace of God.  To begin, we must be completely convinced of an essential truth about ourselves: that we can do nothing and be nothing without God. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene in Divine Intimacy gives us the following considerations in meditation 107:

It follows then that everything we possess in the order of being — qualities, gifts, capacities — and everything we have accomplished in the order of action, is not ours but all, in one way or another, are gifts of God, all are acts performed with God’s help.  “What hast thou that thou hast not received?  And if thou hast received it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (1 Cor. 4:7).

…Of ourselves, then, we have only the one capacity which belongs to our limited nature, injured by original sin: the capacity to fail in our duties and to sin. If we take away from ourselves what is of God, we will find that of ourselves we are nothing, or rather less than nothing, for nothingness is incapable of offending God, while we have this sad capability.

Father Gabriel gives us the following prayer:

Reveal my nothingness to me, O Lord, reveal it so well that, not only shall I understand it, but I shall also have a practical, profound conviction of it.  You know how painful that is to my proud nature!  My intellect cannot resist the evidence of truth and is obliged to admit that I am nothing, have nothing, and can do nothing without You, yet my ego is always trying to attribute something to itself, to take the credit for this or that and to take as much pleasure in it as if it were its own.  Help me, O Lord, to triumph over this pride which, as You see, steals Your gifts and makes my life sterile by preventing me from receiving the abundance of Your graces.

Grant that I may know my nothingness, O Lord, for the more I recognize it with simplicity and humility of heart, the more You will take pleasure in being my All — You are All, I am nothing; You, He who is and I, he who is not!  Glorify Yourself then in my nothingness!  May Your love and grace triumph in this nothing, but may Your mercy also triumph, for I am a nothing which has sinned.  Peccavi, Domine, Miserere mei! [I have sinned, O Lord, have mercy on me!]

As I write this post I am acutely aware that in today’s world many scorn what Jesus asked of us and what St. Benedict has written in his Rule.  Those of us who ascribe to the truth of humility are likely to be branded mentally ill or masochistic. Humility is not prized but derided and despised. Children are led down the path of false encouragement to “feel good about themselves,” not facing faults or areas where they need to improve.  But we can glory in doing nothing or being nothing without God because that fundamental orientation is alone what allows Him to work in us for His glory. In other words, it allows us to get out of His way so that He can accomplish, through us, the salvation of many souls as we share in the mission of Christ and the Church. “My kingdom is not of this world…” (John 18:36).

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Friday, March 9th, 2012 suffering 4 Comments

How to Persevere in Spite of Suffering

February 10, 2012

The past two days’ reflections on the Holy Rule of St. Benedict have contained some excellent comments on suffering by Father Placidus Kempf, O. S.B.  Since this blog theme is suffering with joy, the relevance to the Rule is most welcome. We are still in meditation on the Prologue where St. Benedict has already warned us that there will be difficulties along the way but…

When one shall have advanced in this manner of life and in faith, he shall run with his heart enlarged and with an unspeakable sweetness of love on the way of God’s commandments.

We’ve considered the truth that without the cross we have no heaven, so the question becomes, how do I perceive my cross?  How do I bear it and run with an enlarged heart, a heart filled with such love that it becomes unthinkable to set down the burdens God has laid on me? Father Placidus lends us his perspective:

Whether suffering comes from God or from men, it can always be borne if we continue to pray and to be faithful to the duties of our state. Does not time, too, that wonderful invention of God’s mercy, in some sort wear away and lessen our pain?  Even in this world suffering will not last forever.  How long will it last?  As long as God wishes, as long as there remains in us something that must be burnt away. Therefore the duration of suffering depends in part on our generosity.

After many years of pondering St. Teresa of Avila’s prayer, “Lord, either to suffer or to die,” I know that to be willing to suffer for the salvation of not only my soul, but the souls of others is only possible through the grace of God. To endure cheerfully and generously (the enlarged heart) whatever He sends us is only possible through His grace.

The cheerful and generous part prevents suffering from overpowering us and driving us into dark despair.  It keeps us from letting suffering rule us and from being centered on ourselves. It also helps us avoid giving ourselves a pass when we sin through frustration and weakness as we bear our burdens.

“An important thing to be considered,” says Father Faber, is “that our physical difficulties have to be sanctified just as much as our spiritual difficulties. The monstrous assumption, which most of us make, is that some corporal annoyance, which accounts for our irritability or any other sin, also excuses it. If we once begin to do this, we have not merely taken a step off the right road, but we have fallen over a precipice.”

The Example of Jesus

From the Prologue:

Thus, never departing from His guidance, but persevering in His teaching until death, we may with patience share in the sufferings of Christ that we may merit to be partakers of His kingdom (Col. 1:11-12).

Father Placidus writes:

In days of joy as well as of pain we must ever keep our minds the admonition of our Blessed Savior: “He who has persevered to the end shall be saved (Matt. 10:22).  What a beautiful example of perseverance Jesus gave us!  What would have happened to us had He stopped carrying the cross of our sins after the first or second fall? No, He must carry the Cross to the top of Mt. Calvary, be nailed to it, hang upon it in the greatest agony and die on it that we might have eternal life.

Patience comes from the Latin word, patior, “I suffer.”  Patience in suffering and perseverance are twin sisters. They must accompany us on life’s highway, of which Joyce Kilmer has written so beautifully —

They say that life is a highway,
And its milestones are the years,
And now and then there’s a toll-gate
Where you buy your way with tears.
It’s a rough road and a steep road
And it stretches broad and far,
But at last it leads to a Golden Town
where Golden Houses are.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Friday, February 10th, 2012 Spiritual reading, spirituality, suffering 5 Comments

Christian Patience in Suffering

September 22, 2011

Because I watch quite a bit of Asian art films and drama, I am struck by the fatalistic response to suffering that is an outgrowth of Buddhist beliefs and finds its expression in the dialogue of many of the works.  Life without Christ is so grim.  If I had to believe that the trials of this life were karma and that I was going to have to come back and deal with this world all over again I’m not sure how I would handle it. Fortunately we have a loving Father who sent His Son to redeem us from the misery of this world and to make sense out of suffering in the human condition.

St. Teresa of Avila, Peter Pawel Rubens

Father Gabriel writes in Divine Intimacy for today:

Christian patience is not the forced resignation of the fatalist or the philosopher who submits to suffering because he cannot escape it, nor is it the attitude of one who submits because he is not able to react through lack of strength and resources; it is the voluntary acceptance of suffering in view of God and eternal happiness, an acceptance sustained by the knowledge that suffering is absolutely necessary to purify us from sin, to atone for our faults, and to prepare us to meet God.  Christian patience incites us to accept suffering serenely, and gradually to esteem and love it, not because we see it as an end in life, but rather as a necessary means for attaining the end, which is love of God and union with Him. If Jesus willed to live a life of martyrdom and to die on the Cross in order to kindle the fire of charity in us and restore us to friendship with God, how can we expect to attain the plenitude of love and intimacy with God if we do not follow in His footsteps?

“Christ, therefore, having suffered in the flesh, be you also armed with the same thought” cries St. Peter (1Pet. 2:1).  Let us embrace suffering then, with the same sentiments which Jesus had: to do the heavenly Father’s will to atone for sin and to give Him proof of our love.

Christian patience is not merely a passive attitude in the face of suffering; it is also active and voluntary.  The latter is the more important because it is this which makes suffering meritorious. A patient man is passive because he wills to be passive, because he uses his free will to submit to all the sufferings which he meets on his way, because he voluntarily bows his shoulders under the yoke of suffering, just as Jesus bowed His under the weight of the Cross, because He willed to do so, “quia ipse voluit” (Is. 53:7).

A Christian is not a forced Cyrenean, but a willing one, not in the sense that he goes spontaneously in search of suffering — this would not be feasible for all, and sometimes would be imprudent — but in the more modest sense whereby he accepts willingly all the suffering which he encounters on his way, recognizing in this the Cross offered him by God for his sanctification.

St. Teresa of Avila is known for this great quote, a few words of which you might see in a stained glass window of a Carmelite monastery like the one in my area:

O Jesus, what greater proof of Your love could You give me than to choose for me all that You willed for Yourself?  To die or to suffer: this is what I should desire (T.J. Way, 18; Life, 33- 11).

The Freudians would call us masochists.  We are, however, Christians with purpose sent to reach out to our fellow man and bring him the hope of the Cross.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever. Amen.

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Thursday, September 22nd, 2011 suffering 3 Comments

Gratitude and Hives

September 14, 2011

St. Dominic Adoring the Crucifixion, 1440s, Fra Angelico (b. ca. 1400, Vicchio nell Mugello, d. 1455, Roma), Fresco, Convento di San Marco, Florence

Today is the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and the effective date for implementation of Pope Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, in 2007.  Thanks again, Holy Father, for clarifying that all Catholics who wish to worship according to the 1962 liturgical books have a right to do so and that bishops must facilitate this wherever access difficulties arise.

Today’s meditation in Divine Intimacy was on gratitude.  Father Gabriel writes:

This is our position in regard to God: we have nothing of our own; all that we are and have comes from Him, and in return for His infinite generosity, we can do nothing but use His gifts to express our gratitude to Him.  “In all things give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you all” (Thes. 5:18).

Yow.  I needed this reminder.  For the past two weeks I’ve been suffering from awful hives.  Tuesday morning I cancelled my workout at the therapy pool because I woke up around 5:30 with my head, shoulder, arm and legs itching like crazy.  These are not small bumps.  They start small, swell, and expand to cover numerous square inches of skin, even joining one another, until the heat and itch is just awful.  They were not only on my scalp, they were around the edges of my face and on my ears.  I could feel the little devils wanting to spread all over my face and other body parts.  Last week my lower lip swelled like a wiener.  When they get that big, that’s when they become painful, too.

Every 4-5 years these crop up and continue for weeks, necessitating the use of prednisone and anti-histamines along with a sharp change in diet.   No doctor has been able to explain the cause except that they think it is caused by allergies and probably I’m being exposed to too many irritating substances in the air, food, and who knows what all other sources.  So I am not only not normally normal in what I can do, eat and drink, when these strike what has become normal has to be adjusted even further.

hives (urticaria)

St. Paul tells me I must be grateful for this scourge which will last for an unknown amount of time and which can barely be controlled.  Actually, I am grateful.

Thank God for the extra time to read, meditate, and pray since it’s hard to do some of the things I’d like to do.  Thank God for the medicines and herbs that help.  Thank God for another lesson in dependency on Him and self-discipline. Thank God for the chance to suffer in union with His Son on the Cross.  Thank God for a reminder that self-pity is useless and that He’s relieved me before and will do so again when He’s ready.  Thank God for giving me the faith to know that these hives are a gift from Him to make me a better person, and trust that the experience will bring forth good fruit.  After all, these attacks are nothing compared to what Jesus suffered for us.

So now I offer this to Him with a smile even though I don’t feel like rejoicing.  But then, faith, hope, and charity are not about feeling but about our free will conforming ourselves to the will of God.  May this make up for all the times I wasn’t grateful for His gifts, and for those who, like me, forget to be grateful.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever. Amen.

(Click on the link above to read why I am ending my posts with this.)

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Wednesday, September 14th, 2011 hope, penance, spirituality, suffering 7 Comments

Worthwhile Reading for Pentecost

June 9, 2011

Holy Spirit stained glass window by Bernini, St. Peter's basilica, the Vatican

With Pentecost coming upon us this Sunday, a number of Catholic bloggers are writing posts related to the Holy Spirit that are very interesting and informative.  Rather than write one myself on a particular topic, I’m linking to the ones I’ve found useful and hope you might like them, too.

Joe Heschmeyer wrote a post, The Charismatic Movement and the Catholic Church at Shameless Popery, a blog he and Father Andrew Strobl write.  This deals with something I hadn’t heard of before: the “continuationist” and “cessationist” view of the Catholic Church, tongues, and the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church.

Also at Shameless Popery Heschmeyer wrote The Gifts of the Holy Spirit: What They Are and How to Use Them in which I learned the difference between the Pentecostal interpretation of the Gifts and the Catholic viewpoint.  It comes down to gifts God gives to every baptized Christian and gifts He bestows on individuals.  I like how he brought up that the sacrament of Confirmation completes the gifts of the Holy Spirit we originally received at Baptism. Very interesting.

Reginaldus at The New Theological Movement wrote You’re not speaking in tongues, you’re just mumblingThis is not a put down of the Charismatic movement but an explanation of several Bible verses that have been misused or misunderstood regarding speaking in tongues and what “speaking in tongues” really means.

Could Jesus speak in tongues? is Reginaldus’s answer to a question that never occurred to me but provides deeper understanding of this charism.

Hardened Hearts and Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit by Mary at The Beautiful Gate deals with a topic I’ve meditated on over the years.

In view of the tendency of many Christians today to claim that God would not be so “mean” as to condemn angels and saints to hell forever and that somehow after death you can have a second chance, a correct understanding of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit and Christ’s assurance that it is the only sin that can’t be forgiven in this world or the next logically shows that hell is eternal for all who go there. This should be a strong motivation to give up sin, to avoid the near occasions of sin, and to live the Two Great Commandments, keeping our eye on the prize.

This is a great prayer to the Holy Spirit – one that will keep us from blasphemy of the Holy Spirit: Psalm 19: 14: Cleanse me from my unknown faults!  From wanton sin expecially restrain Thy servant; let it not rule over me.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever. Amen.

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Thursday, June 9th, 2011 blogs, Catholic Church, psalms, suffering 6 Comments

Rogation Days

May 30, 2011

We might find it strange that in Paschal time we would have several days of penance, but the Church has good reason for it.  We are approaching commemorating the final hours of Jesus walking this earth.  For those of us who have a hard time saying “goodbye”, we understand the grief the Apostles, disciples and Mary must have experienced.  So although we are in a time of rejoicing, we are also in a time of sorrow immediately preceding the Ascension.

St. Mamertus, engraving

The History of Rogation Days

Rogation Days (from Latin rogare, to beseech) are a wonderful example of what Vatican Council II meant when in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum concilium) it spoke of “organic growth.”  We owe these days to the churches of southern Gaul, specifically the church at Vienne.  This tradition dates back to the 400s under the great bishop St. Mamertus.

Just after the Burgundians had conquered the area of Vienne in the mid 400s, all sorts of calamities began to occur, not unlike today with earthquakes, floods, great winds, hail, sicknesses, starvation, etc. Crops were destroyed and many died.

The good bishop, unbeknownst to himself, began a practice in this time of trouble which has come to form a part of the sacred liturgy of the universal Church and which is Biblically based.  Remember that whenever the Israelites were suffering greatly, a good dose of penance and sacrifices accompanied by the psalms would bring them relief.

St. Mamertus prescribed three days of public expiation and supplication to God in which the faithful were to devote themselves to penance, walking in procession chanting appropriate psalms, and fasting.  The three days preceding the Ascension were chosen. Masters were required to dispense servants from work so that all could assist at the long functions that filled most of the three days.  In his time the procession lasted six hours as the people went from church to church throughout the countryside.  Before beginning, the people received ashes as on Ash Wednesday and were sprinkled with holy water.  Everyone walked barefoot, led by a cross of the principal church in charge of the observance.

A detail recorded by a monk of St. Gall’s tells us that Charlemagne would join the procession barefoot and walk from his palace to the stational church.  St. Elizabeth of Hungary did the same, for in 816 Pope Leo III brought this practice to Rome and from there it spread everywhere.  St. Charles Borromeo in the 1500s observed Rogation Days in his see of Milan, visiting over ten churches every day in procession.

Dom Prosper Guéranger, O.S.B. wrote in the 1800s in his great The Liturgical Year series:

If, then, we would have a correct idea of the Rogation days, we must consider them as Rome does – that is, as a holy institution which, without interrupting our paschal joy, tempers it. The purple vestments used during the procession and Mass do not signify that our Jesus has fled from us, but that the time for His departure is approaching. By prescribing abstinence for these three days, the Church would express how much she will feel the loss of her Spouse, who is so soon to be taken from her.

Abstinence is no longer an obligation for Rogation days, nor are they holy days of obligation. Ashes and sprinkling the faithful with holy water is not part of the ritual anymore.  Also, the diocesan Bishop may transfer these days to three other consecutive days which are more accommodating to local custom and need.

Purposes of Rogation Days

The Church observes the Rogation Days for two reasons:

  1. To, in Biblical terms, appease the anger of God and avert the chastisements which the sins of the world justly deserve, and
  2. To draw down the Divine blessing on the fruits of the earth.

Today the faithful chant the litany of the Saints during the procession as well as Psalm 69 (Deus in adjutorium meum intende or O God, come to my assistance).  When the procession is over, the Mass of Rogation is offered.

How to keep the Rogation Days if you can’t observe them at your parish

In all the 18 years of living in our diocese, never once have I heard “Rogation Days” mentioned even though we are a dominantly rural diocese.  Never once have I seen them observed and I am well informed of what is going on regarding the sacred liturgy here.  I suspect the same is true for others here and there.  But you can be sure they are observed in the 1962 liturgy and in various other dioceses around the world.

To join the universal Church in these celebrations you can pray the complete Litany of the Saints and Psalm 69 all three days. Simple, isn’t it?

Why we need to keep the Rogation Days

Let’s take a look at 2010 and 2011:

  • Major earthquake and destruction in Haiti
  • Major Gulf oil spill and loss of life
  • Civil war and rebellion everywhere in the Middle East
  • The Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami
  • Terrible flooding up and down the Mississippi this spring
  • Tornadoes throughout the South, the Midwest and eastern parts of the USA
  • Slaughter of Christians everywhere in the Middle East, Africa, Pakistan, India, etc.
  • Food shortages and extremely high food prices around the world
  • Riots spreading across Europe and Greece falling apart
  • Crop failures of all kinds the world over

I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few things that should be on the list.  Can anyone seriously say that we don’t need observance of the Rogation Days?  Are we not enduring great chastisements now? Do we not have troubles with planting and harvests the world over now because of many different calamities?

The Church gives us a great opportunity for instruction in the Catholic faith and spirituality with the observance of Rogation Days. Everywhere we have Catholic schools we have an opportunity to celebrate these days with the parish children in procession even if parents have to be at work.  Pastors can encourage parishioners to come for the sacred liturgy if they can and explain the meaning and purpose of these days to all.

As in so many instances, our sacred liturgy offers us the chance to re-orient ourselves to God – to reinforce a right relationship with Him. The world needs these days observed with a humble and contrite heart.  Remember that God told Abraham if he could find only ten just men, He would spare Sodom.  Can we not be among those ten just men today, calling God’s mercy on this sickened world?

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V.  Praised be Jesus Christ!

R.  Now and forever.  Amen.

(Click on the link above to read why I am ending my posts with this.)

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Joplin Tornado

May 23, 2011

Last night Missouri was hit by the worst tornado in its recorded history.  A funnel ¾ of a mile wide and six miles long tore through Joplin, ripping the roof off St. John’s hospital, blowing out its windows, and piling up mashed cars three deep.  A 300 lb. man was sucked out a hospital window.  X-rays were found in backyards of Springfield, Bolivar and Willard, all towns about an hour or so away from the scene. Large trees were twisted and shredded and steel beams took the shape of pretzels.  At least 90 people have died in this storm and entire neighborhoods destroyed.  Rangeline, the main drag, is unrecognizable.

St. Michael the Archangel Defeats Satan

We live in southwest Missouri in a house of less than 800 square feet.  We have no place to go on our property should we encounter such a storm.  All we can do is pray for God’s protection in these times.  Fortunately, the system that devastated so much of this area skirted the small town we live in, but I assure you I was asking God to send plenty of angels to guard us.  And not those effeminate looking ones depicted everywhere.  We needed St. Michael’s mighty muscle and we got it.

Perhaps most remarkable last evening was something that happened between the two major storms that passed through.  I looked up to see a strange pale yellow orange light through the window.  It was as if someone had put a colored filter in front of a camera lens.  Roger and I went outside to discover that the entire world was bathed in that light.  The sky from the north and west was full of this soft color and it affected everything it touched.  I’ve only seen this phenomenon a couple of other times and it’s always been evening storm related.  Amid the destruction great beauty shone.

Today I’ve tried to reach friends that live just a few miles south of Joplin but the phone calls won’t go through.  Many cell towers are down and land lines have been affected.  I will keep trying.

With last evening’s events fresh in my mind, I was struck by today’s Lauds psalm 28:7-9  where we pray:

The voice of the Lord strikes fiery flames; the voice of the Lord shakes the desert, the Lord shakes the wilderness of Cades.  The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests, and in his temple all say “Glory!”

God did plenty of that yesterday.  When will all men glorify Him?

The next reading was 1 Chron. 29:10-13:

Blessed art Thou, O Lord, the God of Israel, our father from eternity to eternity.  Thine, O Lord, is magnificence, and power, and glory, and victory: and to Thee is praise.  For all that is in heaven and in earth is Thine.  Thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and Thou art above all princes.

Thine are riches, and Thine is glory: Thou hast dominion over all. In Thy hand is power and might: in Thy hand greatmess, and the empire of all things.

Now therefore, our God, we give thanks to Thee: and we praise Thy glorious name.

We often forget that everything belongs to God.  Even things we make, plant, or raise, because none of it can be done without His power.  Our conceit seems to know no end in today’s world.

I believe that God is visiting chastisements like these upon all the earth to wake us up.  Or rather, His permissive will is holding back very little of what He has set in motion because, as the conversation went between God and Abraham over Sodom, we have not enough just men among us. I wrote about God’s permissive will in Lent, the “Why?” of Suffering, and the Japanese Tragedy.

The state of the world today is why I personally am often praying Bible verses like the ones here and in my Three Favorite Scripture Verses, along with the ending of the Divine Mercy chaplet.  I believe God is not calling just me, but as many as will do so, to keep Him first and foremost in thought, word, and deed, praising Him.  This is the right relationship we must see restored for the good of man.

Remember the many people who started attending church after 9/11?  A lot of them quit after awhile.  Meanwhile, the good  along with the bad suffer, and we know that we do not know the day or the hour of our passing so we must always be ready.

Please pray for those who died or were injured in last night’s storm, and for consolation for their families.  May conversions result from this tragedy. Rescue efforts continue in Joplin where 50% of the area is ruined.

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V.  Praised be Jesus Christ!

R.  Now and forever.  Amen.

(Click on the link above to read why I am ending my posts with this.)

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Monday, May 23rd, 2011 conversion, psalms, spirituality, suffering 1 Comment

Perspective on Beatification of Pope John Paul II

April 28, 2011

On May 1, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI will officially assign the title “Blessed” to his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.  Our late pope was entirely devoted to Our Lady who always points us to Christ, so it is fitting that this ceremony is performed in May, Mary’s month.  Also fitting is that it takes place on the same day as the communist International Worker’s Day because Pope John Paul II was the ultimate threat to communism.

What does it take to be declared “blessed?” Verifiable practice of heroic virtue and one miracle obtained through the intercession of the person after death. This criteria has been met.  And although the Congregation for the Causes of Saints has four thick volumes of testimony on Pope John Paul II and one verified miracle, in subsequent years both the Church and the world will learn much more of the saintliness of this pontiff as his cause for sainthood advances.

Objections to the beatification

In recent weeks I’ve seen many people up in arms over the beatification.  The fury against it comes from many places.  Some cite the fact that he declared in Ordinatio Sacerdotales that the Church has no authority to ordain women to the priesthood.  They have a political feminist agenda.

Others cite his praise of Legionnaries of Christ founder, Maciel, probably the greatest fraud in the Church in recent years, and Pope John Paul II’s handling of the priest sex abuse scandals.  Yet others shoot flaming arrows in his direction for kissing the Koran and the two Assisi events.  And finally, many objections arise from the blatant liturgical abuse demonstrated at his public Masses.

I’ve also seen snarky comments about it taking money to be beatified and that the cause is supported by people with plenty of money. Some declare that the beatification puts a blessing on everything Pope John Paul II said and did.

Whatever Pope John Paul II’s intentions were in the many things he did, some caused scandal.  But who are we to judge what is in another’s heart?  God has spoken on the beatification by granting a miracle through his intercession.  That should be enough.  How dare we stand in the face of God and decry His judgment?

Pope John Paul II was human.  He was not perfect. No doubt he would be the first to say that sometimes he made bad judgments.  But who has never made a bad judgment?  I venture to say God’s mercy has saved all of us many times from our rampant stupidity.  And what do some bad calls have to do with living a life of heroic virtue?

The pope is not the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland.  He cannot rise up and declare, “Off with their heads!” if things happen that harm the Church from within or without.  Rather, the pope, and we know from testimony that John Paul II spent hours, often prostrate, in front of the Blessed Sacrament, must pray a lot to lead the Church prudently.

What strikes me about the aggressive nay-sayers concerning the beatification is that their problems come from abject ignorance of how the Church works in general – which is exactly as Christ founded it, their own political/secular agendas, and the appalling pride of “The pope didn’t handle his job the way I think he should have handled it so therefore, he should not be beatified.”

Prophetic Witness

Crown of Thorns, 1520-25, Lucas, Cranach the Elder (b. 1472, Kronach, d. 1553, Weimar), Oil and tempera on limewood, Private collection

I am convinced that the life of Pope John Paul II was a prophetic witness for our day and the future in the most fundamental aspect of existence – life and the dignity of the person. From that flows the sanctity of marriage and the domestic church – the family. Everything else hinges on life and dignity of the human person.

John Paul II set in motion something no other pope was able to do because of his time in history.  He presented himself de facto as the father of all people by traveling to so many countries and reaching out to so many people. The Vicar of Christ is the Face of Christ to the world.  He lived a life of the suffering Christ fearlessly and called everyone to Jesus in his travels.

Regardless of disagreements on decisions he made or how he chose to lead, established fact is that he has met the Church’s criteria for beatification. He was a loving, holy man and holy pope.  The Church is better for his pontificate and he cannot be blamed for the eruption of festering Modernism and outrageous disobedience to Church teaching that showed its ugly face after Vatican II.

In fact, the blame falls on all of us who failed to pray for our priests and bishops, who failed to pray for the conversion of sinners, who made Sunday attendance something to be gotten over with and not genuine adoration of God, and who thought we knew everything about our faith because we memorized the Baltimore Catechism.

Christ said in Luke 12:1-3: “Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed: nor hidden, that shall not be known. For whatsoever things you have spoken in darkness, shall be published in the light: and that which you have spoken in the ear in the chambers, shall be preached on the housetops.”

We have seen this Modernism, anthropocentrism, narcissism, and spirit of disobedience come fully into the light and broadcast everywhere.  It is a massive threat to the salvation of souls and can only be overcome by the power of God. Why do some people refuse to understand that Pope John Paul II did the best he could in the circumstances God placed him in?

I think it is because they have no spirit of submission to the will of God.

The Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, cannot be destroyed no matter what a pope does or doesn’t do. What we most need to do today is to follow John Paul II’s example of praying the rosary and participating in Eucharistic Adoration for the salvation of souls and reparation for the tremendous offenses against God.  We also must know our Faith inside and out and teach it to our children.

Let us rejoice in the beatification, imitate Pope John Paul II’s virtues, and devote time to living our duties and responsibilities in such as way as to become as holy as God wants us to be.  Let us leave the rest to God.

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V.  Praised be Jesus Christ!

R.  Now and forever.  Amen.

(Click on the link above to read why I am ending my posts with this.)

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