Friday, October 30, 2015

Praying for the Exoneration of Venerable Pope Pius XII

There is a lot of controversy regarding Pius XII. Many people believe he silently watched as Jews around Europe were being carted off to death camps. Books, plays, and movies have been written about the subject. When I was considering becoming a Catholic, I had already heard how the Church did very little for the Jews in World War II, so I was concerned about Pius XII; how could I defend such inaction? How can I join a church that did so little for Jews? As God would have it, I was drawn to a book from the library entitled The Myth of Hitler's Pope: Pope Pius XII And His Secret War Against Nazi Germany, written by Rabbi David G. Dalin. I thought that since I've already heard one side of the Pius story, let's give the other side a shot; and the fact that it was written by a Rabbi stood out to me because I honestly cared about what Jewish people thought about the rumor. As it turns out, the best way to learn about someone with a controversial story is to look at his or her contemporaries. How did they perceive the Pope's actions, or lack thereof?

This is not an exhaustive writing, to say the least, but just an attempt to skim the surface and encourage an open debate about this passionate subject.

Prior to becoming Pius XII, he was known as Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli, born March 2, 1876 and died October 9, 1958. He worked a tremendous amount of time in the Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, which was a sub-office of the Vatican's Secretary of State; therefore, he did a LOT of diplomatic work around the world. He was eventually made the Apostolic Nuncio of Germany, which is the Church's version of the role of Ambassador; here is where many anti-Pius people think he got cozy with Germany and Nazism, but we shall see Germany's horrified reaction to Cardinal Pacelli's election to the papacy in a little bit.

During his time in Germany, he saw the rise of Nazism firsthand. Being concerned about this, the pope at the time - Pius XI - worked with Cardinal Pacelli in the release of one of the Church's only papal letters NOT to be released in Latin - it was released in German in 1937 and was directed at the German people, informing them that the principles of Nazism are incompatible with Christianity. Hans Dieckhoff, an official in the German Foreign Ministry, wrote that the "Encyclical contains attacks of the severest nature upon the German Government, calls upon Catholic citizens to rebel against the authority of the State, and therefore signifies an attempt to endanger internal peace."

With Pius XI's death, Pacelli was elected to the papacy in 1939, taking the name of Pius XII. Germany was very unhappy. Two days after Pacelli's election, Joseph Goebbels wrote in his diary: "Midday with the Führer. He is considering whether we should abrogate the concordat with Rome in light of Pacelli's election as Pope." The Germans were the only government to not send representatives to Pius' coronation ceremony. According to the Jewish Chronicle in London on March 10, quoting an anti-Nazi speech Pacelli delivered in Lourdes in April 1935 and reporting on the hostile statements expressed about him in the Nazi press, the Chronicle said, "It is interesting to recall... on January 22 [1939], the Voelkischer Beobachter published pictures of Cardinal Pacelli and other Church dignitaries beneath a collective heading of 'Agitators in the Vatican against Fascism and National Socialism.'" The Chronicle also reported that upon the election of Pacelli, the "Vatican received congratulatory messages from the Anglo-Jewish Community, the Synagogue Council of America, the Canadian Jewish Congress, and the Polish Rabbinical Council." When Pius XII appointed Luigi Cardinal Maglione as the Vatican's new Secretary of State, the Zionist Review in London said that the Cardinal's appointment "confirms the view that the new Pope means to conduct an anti-Nazi and anti-Fascist policy."

Jimmy Akin writes: Dr. Joseph Lichten, a Polish Jew who served as a diplomat and later an official of the Jewish Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, writes: "Pacelli had obviously established his position clearly, for the Fascist governments of both Italy and Germany spoke out vigorously against the possibility of his election to succeed Pius XI in March of 1939, though the cardinal secretary of state had served as papal nuncio in Germany from 1917 to 1929. . . . The day after his election, the Berlin Morgenpost said: ‘The election of cardinal Pacelli is not accepted with favor in Germany because he was always opposed to Nazism and practically determined the policies of the Vatican under his predecessor.’ " Hermann Goering, in explaining the need to crush the Church, said, "Catholic believers carry away but one impression from attendance at divine services, and that is that the Catholic Church rejects the institutions of the Nationalist State." Hitler condemned Pius XII as "a Jew lover".

Former Israeli diplomat and now Orthodox Jewish Rabbi Pinchas Lapide wrote "Of the forty-four speeches Pacelli gave in Germany as papal nuncio between 1917 and 1929, forty denounced some aspect of the emerging Nazi ideology." In 1935, Pacelli wrote a letter to the bishop of Cologne and described the Nazis as "false prophets with the pride of Lucifer," and as "bearers of a new faith" who were attempting to create "a mendacious antimony [false dichotomy] between faithfulness to the Church and the Fatherland". In his address at Lourdes in 1935, Pacelli said in front of 325,000 pilgrims, "The Church will never come to terms with Nazis as long as they persist in their racial philosophy." In 1937, at Notre Dame in Paris he named Germany as "that noble and powerful nation whom bad shepherds would lead astray into an ideology of race." According to Joseph Bottum, Pacelli in 1937 "warned A. W. Klieforth, the American consul to Berlin, that Hitler was "an untrustworthy scoundrel and fundamentally wicked person," and called Hitler "diabolical" in a talk with the French ambassador.

Two months after Hitler's invasion of Poland and the start of World War II, Pius XII released the letter Summi Pontificatus, which condemned totalitarian, racist and materialistic theories of government. The head of the Gestapo, Heinrich Mueller, commented that the encyclical was “directed exclusively against Germany.” The American Israelite in Cincinnati praised the Pope's letter, "In decrying totalitarianism, Pope Pius XII called the individual 'the end' and the state 'the means' of bringing out the fundamental equality of men, because men are endowed with reason...This concept of democracy is reiterated in the Pope's Encyclical, stressing again the inviolability of the human person as a sacred being..."

In 1940, the Jewish Advocate in Boston reported that on the Pope's orders, Vatican Radio broadcast about the atrocities being committed in Poland. "Jews and Poles are being herded into separate ghettos, hermetically sealed and pitifully inadequate for the economic subsistence of the millions designed to live there." The Allied forces continued to deny that this was happening; only the Vatican was reporting it at the time. Later in 1940, Hitler sent Joachim von Ribbentrop to Rome in an attempt to intimidate the Pope into lying down in the face of Nazi brutality and might. "Von Ribbentrop...went into a lengthy harangue on the invincibility of the Third Reich, the inevitability of a Nazi victory, and the futility of papal alignment with the enemies of the Führer. Pius XII heard von Ribbentrop out politely and impassively. Then he opened an enormous ledger on his desk and, in his perfect German, began to recite a catalogue of the persecutions inflicted by the Third Reich in Poland, listing the date, place, and precise details of each crime. The audience was terminated; the Pope’s position was clearly unshakable." The New York Times' headline read JEWS’ RIGHTS DEFENDED and the article remarked, "The Pontiff, in the burning words he spoke to Herr Ribbentrop about religious persecution, also came to the defense of the Jews in Germany and Poland."

In the December 23, 1940 issue of Time Magazine (p.38), Albert Einstein is quoted saying, "Being a lover of freedom, when the revolution came in Germany, I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but, no, the universities immediately were silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom; but they, like the universities, were silenced in a few short weeks...Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler's campaign for suppressing truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom. I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly."

In 1942, in his address for Christmas, Pius XII continued to condemn what the Nazis were doing to Jew & Gentile throughout Europe, and he continued to call for peace. The New York Times reported: "This Christmas more than ever Pope Pius XII is a lonely voice crying out in the silence of a continent. The pulpit whence he speaks is more than ever like the Rock in which the Church was founded, a tiny island lashed and surrounded by a sea of war... When a leader hound impartially to nations on both sides condemns as heresy the new form of national state which subordinates everything to itself; when he declares that whoever wants peace must protect against 'arbitrary attacks' the 'juridical safety of individual'; when he assails violent occupation of territory, the exile and persecution of human beings for no reason other than race or political opinion; when he says that people must fight for a just and decent peace, a 'total peace'--the 'impartial' judgment is like a verdict in our high court of justice." The California Jewish Voice reported on his address, "Religious persecution and oppression of minorities must have no place in the world of the future, declared Pope Pius XII in his annual Christmas Eve message." Reich Central Security Office responded: "In a manner never known before, the Pope has repudiated the National Socialist New European Order.... Here he is virtually accusing the German people of injustice toward the Jews and makes himself the mouthpiece of the Jewish war criminals."

As a former diplomat, Pius XII was conscious of the repercussions that may occur due to something that a leader might say; therefore, he desired that the Vatican, bishops, and clergy work behind the scenes in efforts to save Jews and other persecuted minorities from Nazi oppression and death. This fear of reprisal was realized in the vicious persecution of Jews in Holland after the Archbishop of Utrecht openly condemned Nazism after the Vatican requested silence. Nazi orders came down swiftly and even Jews that had converted to Catholicism were swept up and ushered into the death camps; this is when Carmelite nun St. Edith Stein met her doom, since now even monasteries and convents were busted open to look for Jews.

Even though the Vatican was militarily powerless to stop Nazi atrocities, they did what they could to tend to the needs of the victims. Rabbi Naftali Adler and Dr. Max Pereles, the representatives of thousands of Jewish refugees interned at the Ferramonti concentration camp in southern Italy, wrote the Pope to thank him for sending an abundant supply of clothing and linen to the camp for the children. "This noble and generous gift proves anew what the whole world knows and admires that Your Holiness is... also the paternal guardian and promoter of the ideal of humanity for all mankind." Pius XII lifted cloister restrictions, allowing religious houses throughout Europe to offer refuge for Jews. He allowed the issuance of false baptismal certificates to Jews, delivered food to ghettos, and encouraged clergy around Europe to do what they could to save lives. In the fall of 1943, the Jewish communities of Chile, Uruguay, and Bolivia sent letters to Pope Pius XII, and thanked him for assisting Jews.

In July 1944, American Hebrew in New York published an interview with Chief Rabbi Israel Zolli of Rome. "The Vatican has always helped the Jews and the Jews are very grateful for the charitable work of the Vatican, all done without distinction of race." After the war, Rabbi Zolli converted to Catholicism, taking the name "Eugenio" — the Pope’s given name — as his own baptismal name.

Many Catholics, clergy and lay, worked to save Jewish lives. Irena Sendler, a devout Polish Catholic, would sneak into the ghettos for humanitarian efforts, but would always leave with children smuggled out in tool boxes, crates, and false compartments in ambulances; she was severely beaten for her efforts, but remained silent about what she was doing, saving all the records in a jar buried in her yard so that after the war the children could be matched up again with their parents. In Croatia, Pius XII gave all the help he could when requests were made to save Jewish lives. Chief Rabbi Freiberger appreciated "the limitless goodness that the representatives of the Holy See and the leaders of the Church showed to our poor brothers." The future Pope St. John XXIII, saved thousands of Jewish lives while serving as apostolic nuncio to Turkey during World War II, creating false documents and papers for Jewish refugees seeking to escape into Palestine. He formed a network of other Church officials and neutral politicians whom he enlisted to assist him in his efforts to save and protect the Jewish people. Rabbi Pinchas Lapide records that "in Rome we saw a list of 155 convents and monasteries...mostly extraterritorial property of the Vatican, which sheltered throughout the German occupation some 5,000 Jews in Rome. No less than 3,000 Jews found refuge at one time at the Pope’s summer residence at Castel Gandolfo; sixty lived for nine months at the Jesuit Gregorian University, and half a dozen slept in the cellar of the Pontifical Bible Institute." Thirty-six Jewish babies were born in the Pope's apartment, and even in his own bed at Castel Gandolfo! None of this could have been done without the Pope's knowledge and approval.

But to today's eye and ears, the perceived silence from the Vatican is a deafening condemnation; however, contemporaries understood the "silence". Catholic Answers writes: "A Jewish couple from Berlin who had been held in concentration camps but escaped to Spain with the help of Pius XII, stated: "None of us wanted the Pope to take an open stand. We were all fugitives, and fugitives do not wish to be pointed at. The Gestapo would have become more excited and would have intensified its inquisitions. If the Pope had protested, Rome would have become the center of attention. It was better that the Pope said nothing. We all shared this opinion at the time, and this is still our conviction today."

Jean Bernard, Bishop of Luxembourg, who has detained at Dachau, later wrote, "The detained priests trembled every time news reached us of some protest by a religious authority, but particularly by the Vatican. We all had the impression that our warders made us atone heavily for the fury these protests evoked."

There are too many reports to list here, but you get the idea - there is Jewish, Catholic, and secular proof that Pius XII condemned Nazism and that Germany saw him as no friend of Hitler or the Nazi cause. Throughout the war, the pope tried to contact Hitler in attempts to encourage peace. Von Ribbentrop at the Nuremburg war trials, said, "I do not recollect [how many] at the moment, but I know we had a whole deskful of protests from the Vatican. There were very many we did not even read or reply to."

When Pius XII died, the Jewish leaders of the time mourned his passing and praised his efforts. Israeli Foreign Minister Golda Meir said, “When fearful martyrdom came to our people in the decade of Nazi terror, the voice of the Pope was raised for the victims. The life of our times was enriched by a voice speaking out on the great moral truths above the tumult of daily conflict. We mourn a great servant of peace.” Alexander Shafran, Chief Rabbi of Bucharest, wrote: "It is not easy for us to find the right words to express the warmth and consolation we experienced because of the concern of the Supreme Pontiff, who offered a large sum to relieve the sufferings of deported Jews.... The Jews of Romania will never forget these facts of historic importance". Dr. Raphael Cantoni, a leader in Italy's Jewish Assistance Committee said, "The Church and the papacy have saved Jews as much and insofar as they could Christians. Six million of my co-religionists have been murdered by the Nazis... but there would have been many more victims had it not been for the efficacious intervention of Pius XII." Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Jewish Congress, wrote: "With special gratitude we remember all he has done for the persecuted Jews during one of the darkest periods in their entire history."

Upon his death, an outpouring of compliments and sympathy came from such organizations as the World Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League, the Synagogue Council of America, the Rabbinical Council of America, the American Jewish Congress, the New York Board of Rabbis, the American Jewish Committee, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the American Jewish Committee, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the National Conference of Christians and Jews and the National Council of Jewish Women. The Chief Rabbis of London, Rome, Jerusalem, France, Egypt, Argentina and many other Jewish newspapers also paid tribute to the late Pope.

So, what happened? Why, forty to fifty years later, does most of the Western world condemn Pius XII? It's partly due to the fact that there's not much research done these days. Another reason is because people have an already biased view of the Church and can only see through those lenses. A third reason is because modern man has a knack for viewing past generations with contempt thanks to the very haughty benefit of "hindsight". This is why I instead turned towards the contemporaries of Pius XII. Even in Protestant and secular eyes, the Church was doing a lot to save the Jews and oppose Hitler.

The big "scandal", though didn't come until the 1960s when a Communist German Protestant named Rolf Hochhuth published the play The Deputy, where Pius XII was portrayed as "a cigarette-smoking dandy with Nazi leanings." The movie Amen is based on this play, showing Pius XII as "an icy, cynical and uncaring" pontiff "more interested in Vatican investments than human lives." Historian Robert Graham said that Hochhuth actually admitted that "on the level of action, Pius XII generously aided the Jews to the best of his ability." However, there was an agenda and that was to discredit the Church's moral voice in her opposition to Communism. John Cornwell, author of the discredited, but still scathing attack on Pius XII entitled Hitler's Pope, wrote of The Deputy that it was, "historical fiction based on scant documentation…(T)he characterization of Pacelli (Pius XII) as a money-grubbing hypocrite is so wide of the mark as to be ludicrous."

Despite all of that, today's generation believes the lies because it's taken completely out of context. Pius' role in World War II is not talked about and the negative reaction to the play is often unheard of. Instead, it's all taken as fact and none of the charges are challenged...until today! I am thankful that so many websites, organizations, and books have been written - along with releases of information from the Vatican archives - in the attempt to clear this good and holy Pope's name. Our Lady of Fatima warned that the lies of Russia could spread, and the lie about Pius XII is proof of that. The Soviet Union tried its best to silence the Church, even going so far as to attempt the assassination of St. John Paul II; it's only fitting that he credited his survival to Our Lady of Fatima. I pray to Our Lady of Fatima that, if it be God's will, may the scornful lies about Pius XII - and, by extension, about the Catholic Church - be refuted so that many may come to believe. On my own faith journey, had I discovered that it was indeed true that the Church turned a blind eye to the Holocaust, I don't know if I could have entered full communion. How could I listen to the Church's moral authority when it had failed so catastrophically? That's what the Communists want us to think, which is why we need to work at exposing the truth behind the lies. The Church is the voice of the oppressed and the voice of Truth. By God's good graces, I was blessed with learning the truth behind Pius XII. It is my prayer that, thanks in part to this writing, you may be inspired to seek the Truth and shake off the lies of the world, of the Evil One, and come to the Truth.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Purgatory & Indulgences

Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Mat 18:18).

Halloween is quickly approaching and with it, the month of November, which is dedicated to praying for the souls in Purgatory. With Advent begins a new liturgical year, but prior to that, as our current liturgical year comes to an end, the Church has us focus on the four last things: death, judgement, heaven, and hell. In thinking about our own mortality and what lies before every person when they die, we're also asked to think about the innumerable amount of people whom have died before us (Catholic and non-Catholic), offering prayers and seeking indulgences for them, in the hopes that the Lord blessed them with salvation, but that they might currently be in Purgatory; this is why special indulgences have been granted for All Souls' Day and the first eight days of November.

We've already gone over the Catholic origins of All Hallow's Eve and how the secular celebration of Halloween was originally devised as a way that non-Catholics made fun of us for our devotion to the saints and praying for the dead. I imagine we looked weird, standing in graveyards saying prayers. Today I thought we'd go over what the Church actually teaches about Purgatory and indulgences, since there are many misconceptions about them.

The Church is grouped into the Church Militant (you and I, fighting the good fight here on earth), the Church Triumphant (those saints currently enjoying the full presence of God), and the Church Suffering (those in Purgatory). Today, partly due to the influence of Protestantism and secularism, many people ignore purgatory and think of it as something the Church invented, instead assuming that our loved ones automatically went directly to Heaven; even in Catholic circles, the belief in Purgatory has started to wane. This blog post is not meant to be an exhaustive essay on Purgatory and indulgences; there are plenty of great Catholic websites, books, talks, and blogs on the subject - we're only going to lightly touch upon things, just to skim the surface to encourage more research on your part, if interested.

It must first be acknowledged that a big reason for Luther's (and, therefore, Protestantism's) rejection of Purgatory was due to the horrible abuses he was seeing in Germany; many German prelates swindled faithful Catholics out of a lot of money with false promises of indulgences for loved ones in Purgatory and we should weep for our part in the division of the Body of Christ and the loss of faith of so many people. The biggest part of Luther's crusade was twofold: he rejected the Church's authority to bind and loose (Mat 16:19, 18:18) and therefore rejected the Church's power to grant indulgences in the first place. But then, this furthered his question of whether or not there was Biblical evidence for Purgatory; he insisted there wasn't, but that's easy to say when you tear the books out of the Bible which contain verses pertaining to it!

The Bible

Scholarship has shown that the Old Testament quoted by Jesus and the Apostles is the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament, which is the version that contained the seven books that Luther later removed. This means that when St. Paul said, "All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim 3:16-17), he was referring to the Old Testament Scriptures that were most in circulation at the time - the Septuagint. In this version of the Scriptures, we find the two books of Maccabees; Catholics always cite 2 Maccabees 12:39-46 as "Biblical proof" of purgatory:

On the following day, since the task had now become urgent, Judas and his companions went to gather up the bodies of the fallen and bury them with their kindred in their ancestral tombs. But under the tunic of each of the dead they found amulets sacred to the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. So it was clear to all that this was why these men had fallen.

They all therefore praised the ways of the Lord, the just judge who brings to light the things that are hidden. Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out. The noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen.

He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection in mind; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be absolved from their sin.

There are other references to being "in prison", such as when Jesus told the parable (Mat 18:21-35) about the servant whose massive debt was forgiven, but then when he didn't show mercy to his slave's debt that was so small, he was taken and thrown into prison until his debt was "repaid to the last penny". St. Peter compares purgatory to a prison (1 Pt 3:18-20) when he wrote, "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey..."

St. Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 3:12-15), wrote about laying the foundation of Jesus Christ and that "if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble — each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day [of Judgement] will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire." This is the final purgation - Purgatory - which purifies us so that we're prepared for Heaven, for He promises, "nothing unclean shall enter" Heaven (Rev 21:27).

Lastly, we have the peculiar promise from Jesus that, "whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come" (Mat 12:31-32). Catholics rightly ask, "What's the 'age to come'? If when we die we either go to heaven or hell, then how are we supposed to be forgiven in 'the age to come'?" This can only mean that there is a way to be forgiven after our death.

The Catechism & Councils

The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers three paragraphs on Purgatory within its chapter dedicated to life everlasting, (Chapter 3, Article 12). Those three paragraphs, for the most part, are saying things that have already been covered here, so we won't say much except that in paragraph 1030 it is explained: All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. So, unlike how Purgatory has been portrayed in the past by non-Catholics, we do not believe that Purgatory is a "second chance" at Heaven, but - like St. Paul said - it's when our impurities have been burned up "as by fire".

Paragraph 1031 of the Catechism says: The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent, so let's take a peek at what those Councils actually said.

The Council of Florence was held between 1438 and 1445, and was meant to heal the division between the Latin West and the Greek East (spoiler: it didn't work). Honestly, after pouring through the contents of the Council, I can only find one mention of Purgatory, which basically said that the Church is upholding this teaching to be part of the Catholic faith as it was passed on by the earliest Christians. The Catholic Encyclopedia's entry on the Council mentions this: Preliminary discussions brought out the main points of difference between the Greeks and the Latins, viz. the Procession of the Holy Spirit, the azymes [leavened vs unleavened bread for the Eucharist], purgatory, and the primacy [of the pope]. During these preliminaries the zeal and good intentions of the Greek Emperor were evident. Serious discussion began apropos of the doctrine of purgatory. Cesarini and Turrecremata were the chief Latin speakers, the latter in particular engaging in a violent discussion with Marcus Eugenicus. Bessarion, speaking for the Greeks, made clear the divergency of opinion existing among the Greeks themselves on the question of purgatory.

Sidebar: Greek Views on Purgatory

What exactly do the Orthodox believe about Purgatory? That opinion varies upon whom you ask; Coptic Pope Shenouda III rejects it on Biblical grounds, citing various verses which, incidentally, were already countered in St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica. Orthodox sources acknowledge this and offer a variety of thoughts on the subject, such as:

Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Kallistos Ware acknowledges several schools of thought among the Orthodox on the topic of purification after death. This divergence indicates that the Catholic interpretation of purgatory, more than the concept itself, is what is universally rejected. Also, there are Orthodox sources that indicate some sins can be forgiven after death, but which also reject the notion of purgatory because of the indulgences and idea of purgatorial fire that are tied to it...

This difference of view still exists between East and West, although for the Catholic Church, this shouldn't be a source of contention. Whereas in the time of Florence we were demanding the East agree with our teaching, some members of the Orthodox churches have acknowledged that (as mentioned above) it's not so much the idea of Purgatory that they reject - it's more the Catholic explanation of it that they reject. So, perhaps this is something that East and West can continue to talk about and together develop further...

The Council of Trent, held between the years 1545 and 1563, was called in response to the Protestant Reformation. The Council explored all of the teachings of the Catholic Church, in light of the rejections of the faith being presented by the Reformers, and the Church made her own reforms based on the Council. Part of the Council's 25th Decree was regarding Purgatory, which the Council declared:

Whereas the Catholic Church, instructed by the Holy Ghost, has, from the sacred writings and the ancient tradition of the Fathers, taught, in sacred councils, and very recently in this ecumenical Synod, that there is a Purgatory, and that the souls there detained are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, but principally by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar; the holy Synod enjoins on bishops that they diligently endeavour that the sound doctrine concerning Purgatory, transmitted by the holy Fathers and sacred councils, be believed, maintained, taught, and every where proclaimed by the faithful of Christ...

Also, in Chapter 2 of Session XXII, the Council teaches: Wherefore, not only for the sins, punishments, satisfactions, and other necessities of the faithful who are living, but also for those who are departed in Christ, and who are not as yet fully purified, [the Mass] rightly offered, agreeably to a tradition of the apostles.

Simply put, Purgatory and prayers for the dead are long-held teachings of the Latin Church, but anything suspicious in orthodoxy or that which are perceived to be superstitious practices or teachings about Purgatory should be rejected and suppressed so as to not mislead or scandalize the faithful who may not know what the Church actually teaches on the matter (which the Council admits is still uncertain in some aspects).

Visions of Purgatory

Many modern-era Catholic theologians no longer see Purgatory as this place of immense torture and fire, although that's how visions of Purgatory have been described by Catholic saints and mystics. As mentioned above, many Catholic theologians today see the fire of Purgatory as symbolic of God's burning love for us, that by moving closer to God, his love is SO INTENSE that it is in effect "burning" away our impurities, as St. Paul described to the Corinthians. Even still, we have to remember that as we explore some of the visions saints have experienced regarding Purgatory, they see flames, they see the torment on the faces of the souls who are SO close to entering Heaven, but aren't quite ready yet - I'm sure part of the torment on their faces involve the fact that we so often forget about the souls in Purgatory, and so they sit - waiting for our prayers - but those prayers never come.

Twentieth Century saint Faustina Kowalska recorded visions of Purgatory in her famous Diary; one such vision recorded in her diary (20) is:

I saw my Guardian Angel, who ordered me to follow him. In a moment I was in a misty place full of fire in which there was a great crowd of suffering souls. They were praying fervently for themselves, but to no avail; only we can come to their aid. The flames, which were burning them, did not touch me at all. My Guardian Angel did not leave me for an instant. I asked these souls what their greatest suffering was. They answered me in one voice that their greatest torment was longing for God. I saw Our Lady visiting the souls in Purgatory. The souls call Her 'The Star of the Sea'. She brings them refreshment. I wanted to talk with them some more, but my Guardian Angel beckoned me to leave. We went out of that prison of suffering. [I heard an interior voice which said] ‘My mercy does not want this, but justice demands it.' Since that time, I am in closer communion with the suffering souls.

There are many visions by saints regarding the souls in Purgatory, such as HERE and HERE.

Prayers & Indulgences, for us & for the Dead

The most beautiful and prominent holy day regarding indulgences can be found on the feast of Divine Mercy, but we don't have to wait for the Second Sunday of Easter in order to seek this gift - Christ's Divine Mercy is forever near, if we just seek it in all humility and obedience.

As Catholics, we believe that through the authority of Jesus Christ, sharing with his Church his power to bind and loose, the Church in her mercy has created ways in which - through a multitude of prayers and actions in cooperation with Christ - we are blessed with an indulgence, either partial or full (plenary). I believe that part of our Lord's commandments to 'Love thy neighbor' and to 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you', involves praying for the souls in Purgatory. After all, who among us wouldn't want people to pray for us if we've been blessed with salvation, but must spend some time in Purgatory? When I was in Halifax, I walked through a cemetery where Prime Minister Sir John Thompson is buried and upon his tombstone is etched the words 'Pray for me', which I did. It's an act of charity that we're asked to perform and is listed as one of the spiritual works of mercy: To pray for the living and the dead.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church in Part Two, Section Two, Chapter 2 explains the beautiful Sacrament of Reconciliation (aka Confession). Within this section on mercy in the Catechism, the Church explains what an indulgence is in further detail (see 1471 - 1479). Simply put, an indulgence is being spared the punishment that we've earned by committing sins that have been confessed and forgiven. The Scriptures - and the testimony of the early Church and even from the days of the Old Testament - tell a story that, although we've been forgiven our sins if we are truly sorry for them and have confessed them, we still need to "make up" for committing them, which is most commonly done through penance and our time in Purgatory (read more HERE). Indulgences free us - or souls already in Purgatory - from this period of cleansing that most Christians need to endure in order to be worthy to be in the presence of God.

According to the law of the Church, how does a Catholic obtain a plenary (full) indulgence? It's so simple, and yet so difficult:
1. Confession of sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and therefore, you are in a state of grace.
2. To have a complete detachment to sin, including venial sin - in other words, to deeply desire a life of grace and holiness.
3. Receive the Eucharist.
4. Pray for the intentions of the Holy Father. This is commonly done by praying an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be for the pope and the pope's intentions.

That's it. You can obtain a plenary indulgence once a day, every day, for the rest of your life. You have up to 20 days from your confession in order to "perform the indulgenced act", so as long as you remain in the state of grace, the Church gives you plenty of time in order to pursue this gift. And it is a belief of the Church that, upon their release from Purgatory, the souls will be granted knowledge of what you've done for them and they will continue to pray for you throughout the rest of your life!

Would you like to see how badly the Church desires that we obtain indulgences for ourselves and our brothers and sisters in Purgatory? Just check out this list, which is a summary of the Enchiridion of Indulgences, promulgated by Blessed Paul VI and which continues to be in force today - even piously making the sign of the cross in a state of grace allows us to gain a partial indulgence! Or devoutly reading Scripture for 30 minutes. Or adoring the Blessed Sacrament for 30 minutes. There are SEVENTY devotional and penitential prayers and practices where we can obtain either partial or plenary indulgences for ourselves or the souls in Purgatory!

Pope Leo XIII approved the 'Heroic Act of Charity' as a prayer (not bound by the penalty of sin, and which can be revoked by the person making the act); this heroic act asks that every single satisfactory work in your life may be offered to the souls in Purgatory instead of being used for yourself; the general belief is that, for such a heroic act of charity, your own time in Purgatory (if it is even needed) would be reduced by the God of All Mercy for such a loving commitment to our brothers and sisters in Purgatory. Perhaps every October 31 this heroic act may be prayed and renewed, reclaiming Halloween for the Church and focusing our works towards their relief year-round instead of only for one month:

Heavenly Father, in union with the merits of Jesus and Mary, I offer to You for the sake of the poor souls all the satisfactory value of my works during life, as well as all that will be done for me after death. I give You my all through the hands of the Immaculate Virgin Mary that she may set free whatever souls she pleases, according to her heavenly wisdom and mother's love for them. Receive this offering, O God, and grant me in return an increase of Your grace. Amen.

For all your loved ones, as well as those most forgotten of souls in Purgatory, may God grant them eternal rest. Amen.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

An Emotional Moment With St. John Paul II

One of the perks of being an altar server was that I could get very close to various relics that the rector would bring on certain feast days of the Church. One such moment was on the day they announced that John Paul II was beatified. I had walked into the Shrine for our typical Wednesday evening Mass when I saw a new reliquary on the altar. Walking up to it, I saw the name: Ioannes Paulus PP. II. I asked the priest about it and he explained how he came into possession of the first class relic. He and another priest had been in Rome years earlier and there is a custom of giving the pope a new zuchetto - he will take his old one off and give it to you as you pass him the new zuchetto. They did just this and it wasn't until later at the hotel when his friend noticed that there were several of the pope's hairs embedded in the material of the zuchetto! Forward thinking that he was, he carefully removed the hairs and preserved them, knowing deep in his heart that one day we'd have Pope St. John Paul II on the liturgical calendar, which we do now (October 22). So, the hairs were placed in reliquaries and one was given to the priest at the Shrine.

When he announced at the end of Mass that he had this relic, I could hear a gasp from someone in the crowd behind me. As I cleaned up the altar after Mass, every time I passed by the altar - after genuflecting at the tabernacle - my eyes were glued to that gold/grey hair in that reliquary. Finally I asked the priest, "Is it ok if I venerate his relic?" to which the priest said it was ok. We both walked to the altar and he handed the relic over to me. As I gazed at it, thinking about the great man from which it came, I stood frozen in time. My marriage had ended. Every day was in pain and misery, and if I wasn't crying, I was eating until I couldn't move. This "Pope of the Family", this great man who penned the "Theology of the Body", which I had tried to incorporate into my was his relic in my hands. And I had failed my family, my marriage. What should I say? What could I say? Did he already know? I imagined his kind face and his strong eyes. In my imagination, I could see him, not saying a word, but gently closing his eyes and slowly nodding his head, as if he already knew the pain and anger I felt in my heart. In the deepest recesses of my broken heart, I could barely muster a wimpy and silent, "Please pray for me," as I kissed the relic. Not wanting to let it go, I sighed a deep and everlasting sigh and handed it back to the priest, never to see it again for he never brought it back to the Shrine between then and his departure for a new parish.

As I now gaze at the icon of St. John Paul II on my wall, I think back to that time when in front of Our Lord at the altar, I could imagine spiritually gazing into the eyes of this great saint and, without saying a word, longed to hear his words in my heart: "Be not afraid," but afraid is all I've become. Please pray for me, St. John Paul...

A Very Quick Summary of a Complicated, Lengthy Subject

As I was getting older, I used to see myself as your typical "conservative", adoring capitalism, hating unions, and demanding little to no regulations. "Let the market decide," I would say in my good 'ol psuedo-libertarian way. However, as time went on I started to find trouble with this mindset. I saw the abuse of the worker first-hand, first when I worked in a factory filled with Latinos who openly admitted that they had fake papers (and would typically work 60 hours a week), and secondly in my current workplace where in violation of the law we get paid only once a month and aren't paid for overtime, all in the name of saving money and trying to be "cash flow positive", however never missing a payment of our CEO's $300,000/yr salary or paying for the executives to take trips to Milan to sip champagne with potential customers.

The West is sick. Whereas we used to break up monopolies, now there seems to be no concern whatsoever as company after company continues to be bought out by bigger and more powerful corporations. Farming isn't even safe anymore for Americans due to Monsanto controlling the seeds and Japan experimenting with "robotic farms" where vegetables can be grown and harvested without the need for human workers; if that works, it will go global. Meanwhile, many of us (myself included) find it hard to pay the bills or save for the future and several coworkers have started looking for second jobs (and nearly every coworker is searching for a new primary job). A two-income family today earns less than the same family earned 30 years ago with only one income, thanks to high taxes, fees, inflation, and stagnant wages. No good jobs, no money saved, no hope for the future. I now find myself siding with Lefties regarding labor unions, taxing the wealthy, and workers' rights. Experience of getting shafted will do that to you.

I've seen many people screwed because companies are choosing profit over people. In order for "free trade" to work, you need to minimize cost and maximize profit, which drives salaries down and sends jobs overseas. However, the entire world is embracing this new, anti-worker system. Mexicans are flooding over the border and seeking jobs in the US because our cheap, genetically-modified corn is driving corn prices down so much that these Mexicans have no choice but to sell their farms and migrate north to work in our factories and on our plantations. Slavery exists all throughout the world in order to give us "low prices - always." Never have American workers made so little and yet banks and corporate executives made so much. The CBC's research estimates that American corporations are hiding over $2.1 TRILLION offshore to avoid over $58 billion in taxes. American foreign aid policy hinges on forcing pro-life, traditional countries to accept homosexual "rights", abortion, contraception, and sterilization in order to receive aid. And it's not just us; these policies of eugenics and conformity - what Pope Francis calls 'ideological colonization' - are practiced throughout the West. The Guardian has reported in the past how the UK government spends tens of millions of pounds to sterilize India's poor - meanwhile, wealthy Western women are using India's poor to be surrogates. And yet, if you protest this, people call you a socialist or communist or fundamentalist or radical. I am none of these things - I am just a faithful Catholic.

The secular world is never more confused than when it reports on Catholic social doctrine. To them, they feel we're being good little charity workers, instead of seeing the reasons behind what we're doing, which is fighting for the upholding of the dignity of man since man is made in God's image. Since the press has been so wrong about Pope Francis' comments on capitalism and what the Church teaches about economics, I thought I'd write a short summary, just touching the subject. Volumes have been written about this, with more volumes needed, so I can't write anything here in comparison to those works. However, I can at least plant some seeds for more research on your part.

Part Three, Section Two, Chapter Two, Article 7 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is on the Seventh Commandment, You shall not steal. This is a great section for people who want to learn about the Church's teachings on private property, the goods of man, and other economic teachings. I won't cover all of that here; it's just important to know that the Church teaches:

The Church's social teaching proposes principles for reflection; it provides criteria for judgment; it gives guidelines for action (2423).
A theory that makes profit the exclusive norm and ultimate end of economic activity is morally unacceptable. The disordered desire for money cannot but produce perverse effects. It is one of the causes of the many conflicts which disturb the social order (2424).
A system that "subordinates the basic rights of individuals and of groups to the collective organization of production" is contrary to human dignity. Every practice that reduces persons to nothing more than a means of profit enslaves man, leads to idolizing money, and contributes to the spread of atheism. "You cannot serve God and mammon" (2424).
The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modem times with "communism" or "socialism." She has likewise refused to accept in the practice of "capitalism," individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labor. Regulating the economy solely by centralized planning perverts the basis of social bonds; regulating it solely by the law of the marketplace fails social justice, for "there are many human needs which cannot be satisfied by the market." Reasonable regulation of the marketplace and economic initiatives, in keeping with a just hierarchy of values and a view to the common good, is to be commended (2425).

I think most "Right-leaning" people agree with all of this. Incidentally, this is basically what Pope Francis has been saying about capitalism, that when it is UNBRIDLED capitalism, a capitalism without restraint, it turns into an idolatry of money and reduces people to just cogs in a machine, just property to be used and discarded. It is the secular media that translates this into "Pope Francis Condemns Capitalism." That's not what he's saying.

There are aspects of the Church's social doctrine which will sound uncomfortable to the ears of conservatives, that is true. Such as:

A just wage is the legitimate fruit of work (2434). [An 8.25/hr minimum wage is NOT a just wage, for instance]
Recourse to a strike is morally legitimate when it cannot be avoided, or at least when it is necessary to obtain a proportionate benefit (2435).
Rich nations have a grave moral responsibility toward those which are unable to ensure the means of their development by themselves or have been prevented from doing so by tragic historical events. It is a duty in solidarity and charity; it is also an obligation in justice if the prosperity of the rich nations has come from resources that have not been paid for fairly (2439).
The goods of creation are destined for the entire human race. The right to private property does not abolish the universal destination of goods (2452).

That's something I had to come to grips with - as a Catholic, some of our solutions sound "progressive" and some solutions sound "conservative", but these are false descriptions; it's Catholic, first and foremost.

My 13 months of unemployment was both a blessing and a curse - although my life shattered a bit in that time period, I was blessed with having some time to read some things that really helped me learn more about these issues, free from the dangerous secular lenses the news and pundits want you to wear.

I learned of an economic system called 'distributism', which is based on Catholic social teaching. Great minds like Belloc and Chesterton wrote extensively on this, as did many priests and theologians contributing to the "Return to the Land" movement of the early 20th Century. In a most simplified story, during the Industrial Revolution - with its advancements, but also with its unfair and dangerous factories, mines, and such - Pope Leo XIII began these Catholic teachings in his letter Rerum Novarum. Barbara Lanari's article Rerum Novarum and Seven Principles of Catholic Social Doctrine sums up the purpose of Catholic social doctrine nicely. She writes:

All Catholic social doctrine is based on the dignity of the human person. Man derives both his dignity and his social nature from the fact that he is made in the image and likeness of God. God is a community of loving relationships between the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity. Man similarly seeks out loving relationships in his life on earth. As man by his very nature desires to live in loving community with others and with God, Catholic social doctrine seeks to support all that facilitates this endeavor, and seeks to eliminate all that hampers this endeavor. While the Catholic Church is primarily concerned with the salvation of souls and with one's eternal destiny, it is also genuinely concerned with man's earthly existence and his temporal welfare during his pilgrimage to his eternal home.

Catholic social doctrine - which could be described as how to live out the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity - basically tries to offer solutions in order for us to have a world and lifestyle that will never inhibit our freedom to love God and neighbor. Distributism is an effort to incorporate the Church's social doctrine into modern economic life. The popes have written several times on her social doctrine, first with Leo XIII's Rerum novarum (1891), and continued through Pius XI's Quadragesimo anno (1931), St. John Paul II's Centesimus annus (1991), and Benedict XVI's Caritas in veritate (2009); some consider Francis' apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (2013) and his encyclical Laudato Si' (2015) as developments and restatements of the Church's social doctrine. At this moment, I think it's obvious to point out that what Pope Francis is saying is actually nothing really all that new; it's just that for some unknown reason, the press is starting to pay attention and report on some things. And you'll also find that if you read the Pope's comments in context, he's talking about our pursuit of Mammon, whether it's capitalist, communist, or any other method - when our focus is on materialism, wealth, and profit and not on the plight of our nieghbors and the poor, we are no longer living the Gospel; or, we've created a distorted view of the Gospel. The Catechism cites the parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31) and Jesus' promise that we will be judged on how we take care of the least among us (Mat 25:31-46).

For a much deeper understanding of these letters - all in the context of the Gospel and the Catechism - one could read them all, which isn't a bad idea. For a summary, however deep it may be, one can turn to the Church's Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. As I said, it's a summary of the Church's social doctrine, but it still clocks in at over 200 pages! And inside it says things that will calm many Right-wing ears, like: "The free market is an institution of social importance because of its capacity to guarantee effective results in the production of goods and services," and "the free market is the most efficient instrument for utilizing resources and effectively responding to needs"; it also says things that make Left-leaning ears happy, such as how labor unions, "while pursuing their specific purpose with regard to the common good, are a positive influence for social order and solidarity, and are therefore an indispensable element of social life," and "Authentic economic well-being is pursued also by means of suitable social policies for the redistribution of income which, taking general conditions into account, look at merit as well as at the need of each citizen."

And before you're led to believe something different, the social doctrine of the Church doesn't just involve economics; as we've said, the Church cares about the whole person, so the chapter headings in the Compendium cover a variety of important subjects regarding mankind: God's Plan of Love For Humanity; Jesus Christ, the Fulfillment of the Father's Plan of Love; God's Plan and the Mission of the Church; the Nature of the Church's Social Doctrine; the Human Person as the Image of God; Human Rights; the Principle of the Common Good; the Fundamental Values of Social Life; the Family, the First Natural Society; Marriage, the Foundation of the Family; Biblical Aspects of Human Work; the Rights of Workers; Morality and the Economy; the Democratic System; the Crisis of the Relationship Between Man and the Environment; the Failure of Peace: War; For a Civilization of Love; etc. The point the Pope (and the Church) tries to make is that all of this stuff is connected; we cannot compartmentalize our lives. From the way we treat nature to the way we act on the highway to the way we run our business to the way we vote to whether or not we're open to life during marriage - all of it is connected. All of it is either an attempt at the Christian life, or it's not.

It's a complicated subject that the media tries to squeeze into a headline and a minute or two of summarization, broadcast through the lens of Left-leaning, mostly atheist reporters. They have no interest in learning the Church's teachings, nor do they care that they take the Pope - and 124 years of social doctrine, coupled with 2,000 years of Church teaching - out of context. This is a much more difficult subject and the Church does not pretend that there is a "one size fits all" kind of solution to every problem we face; she instead offers Christian principles to apply to our work lives so that in our pursuit of economic, social, environmental, and political development, we don't forget who we are and where we're destined to be after this life. As the Catechism teaches, "True development concerns the whole man. It is concerned with increasing each person's ability to respond to his vocation and hence to God's call" (2461). When our fallen nature gets in the way, everything - even the positive aspects of capitalism - can warp our senses, pollute our noble efforts, and leave many people behind to suffer; the Church is just trying to get us to remember that. As former Vatican Bank president Ettore Gotti Tedeschi said, "Separated from ethical considerations and assuming a moral autonomy, the economy ends up in the hands of people who transform it into an instrument of power, including political power." The Tower of Babel already failed, as man attempted to create a great world culture without God - there's no need to attempt to build it again, just so the same conclusion can be reached. Instead, we're asked to build up the Kingdom of God (Eph 4:11-13).

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

My "Diet" Journey Thus Far

There is an overload of nutritional information online that has left me completely confused. Depending on who you listen to, you can be lead to believe anything. You never know who to listen to anymore. Online there are so many voices, all claiming to have the latest research as to why you shouldn't ingest wheat, dairy, tap water, bread, animals, etc. Stevia is good for you....WAIT! Not when it's been refined - then it's not natural! Chew on Stevia leaves instead! Hey, are you cooking your vegetables?! No, eat them raw! Hey, you're eating vegetables? Don't you know that our ancestors used to eat mostly raw animal meat? Animal meat? No, our ancestors ate seeds and tree bark, washed down with pond scum and hemp seeds. You should eat nothing but fruit and veg - but what you're eating isn't organic, so now you're great-grandkids are going to have testicular cancer and be born without eyes! And so it goes, on and on - you just never know who to listen to anymore. We've always heard that a little bit of dark chocolate is healthy for you, right? In today's Daily Mail there is an article warning that chocolate causes more cases of bowel cancer than red meat! And how about kale? We've all heard how healthy it is, but now studies warn that kale - a vegetable loaded with vitamins and minerals - can give you bloating, thyroid problems, and HEART problems! I watched a documentary the other day that said dairy and meat is causing cancer and other health problems in the Western world, so we should all adopt a vegan-style diet. That's all well in good, until you look at how unhealthy many vegans can be - just look at India, where so many birth defects occur. In their research, they compared cancer levels in the US with those in Japan; my thought was, "Ok, Japan - a place where they eat seafood." Plus, nothing changes the fact that so much research has shown that the eating habits of people around the Mediterranean is the most heart-healthy diet, and that diet includes fish, lean meats, and dairy. Again, in today's Daily Mail there is an article saying that the Mediterranean diet - due to all the fish, fruit, and veg - can help prevent the brain from shrinking as you age, which helps with your mental health. I'm sure next week there will be an article warning that the Mediterranean diet causes sterilization and tongue cancer...

Any readers of this blog knows that I am always thinking about making some changes to what I eat. Now, I admit that I enjoy pizza, chips, pretzels, ice cream, and tons of BBQ, plus everything in between! But, do I *really* enjoy that food? Not only do I gain massive amounts of weight, but - according to what I've been reading from Overeaters Anonymous (OA) - many of these items are "trigger foods" that cause an "allergy of body" - eating them (or certain ingredients they contain) cause me to react to them differently than "normal" people; much like an alcoholic can't just enjoy a drink, but instead it leads to an irrational, uncontrollable binge, so do certain foods that I consume - without being able to stop, I will inhale as much of it as I can). It would not be unusual for me to eat in a responsible, healthy manner during the day, but have a dinner menu at home such as this:

Monday: a medium, two-topping pizza, along with a giant pile of fries topped with two cheeses, bacon bits, and ranch dressing, followed by a dessert of some sort.
Tuesday: a General Tso's chicken combo with pork fried rice, egg roll, and an appetizer of fried pork dumplings (sometimes ALSO an appetizer of fried crab rangoon)
Wednesday: a giant cheeseburger topped with a couple slices of pork roll with cheese fries, a giant piece of tiramisu, and if I ordered dinner a bit too early, perhaps also a chicken caesar wrap for later
Thursday: nothing but junk food because it's the day I usually go food shopping; so *dinner* would be a bag of cheese popcorn, a pint of ice cream, a Hot Pocket, perhaps a mac & cheese from Stouffer's, and maybe some Combos or a candy bar. Or, perhaps it could be the ice cream and some chips or pretzels, along with an entire package of cheese dogs on potato hot dog rolls.
Friday: time for more pizza, but because it's Friday, just with extra cheese, please. And can I get the cheese fries without bacon today?
Saturday: I still have some junk food from Thursday night's binge, so I can finish that up for breakfast and lunch, but what's for dinner? I just had pizza...maybe another order from the burger place....or oh! I haven't had a burrito from Chipotle in a while! Or maybe just a 20pc chicken McNugget with a large fry...
Sunday: Ok, time to get serious - tomorrow is Monday and I can't keep living like this! I've got to change my ways! So, let's finish up all the junk food left in the house, plus the beer. Maybe some vodka, too. Eh, let's order ONE more meal....maybe some Chinese again....
Monday: Damn work! Keeping me there so late. *sigh* I'm starving - worked so much I didn't eat....damn. Pizza sounds good....

And repeat. I saw a headline on TV that said Americans on average spend roughly $1800 a year on ordering out. I spent $10,000 last year, or nearly the same amount I paid in rent. If we weren't talking food, but talking cocaine or prescription drug abuse, I'd either be dead, arrested and in jail, or in rehab. But, because it's food, they just keep selling me more and I keep buying it because you need to eat. And the more I eat, the better I feel - until I finish, and then you get feelings of failure and regret that go away once you overeat again. And the cycle repeats and repeats.

Another issue that addicts have is obsession of mind - when the author of an OA workbook started to explain what that was, my jaw dropped because it's exactly what happens to me with food (and with some sinful behavior). The idea will get into my mind that I will NOT misbehave. I will NOT eat something nasty. But then, maybe it's later in the day...or the week...or the month, but eventually the temptation will arise where I'll contemplate eating something terrible, like an entire pizza. It's just a quick little temptation, easily pushed away by my supposed will-power. NO! I'm not going to eat that! But then, maybe an hour later, it peeks it's ugly head back into my mind. I push it away again, but it keeps coming back. Again and again, the temptation arises and my willpower gets chiseled away a little more, a little more, a little more, and then finally - after minutes, hours, DAYS, of obsessing over it, I finally give in. FINE! I'll order the stupid pizza, just quit bothering me about it!

Normal people don't act like this - addicts do. And I am an addict. I cannot eat like a normal person. Moderation doesn't seem to work for me. Having "cheat days" don't seem to work for me. I start to have an obsession about food, which will be heightened once I eat certain trigger foods, which set me off on a binge. So, part of one of the steps of OA is to make a list of all the different foods that I binge on in order to 1) rid my diet of them, and 2) see if they have anything in common with each other. For instance, if it turns out that all my binge foods have bread in common, it might mean that bread will always get my obsessions going.

The documentary I watched a few weeks ago was called Hungry For Change, and it was about how corporations manipulate food ingredients (just like how the tobacco industry manipulates their product) in order to keep everyone addicted and fat. For instance, research conducted in labs in order to study the affects of obesity will routinely fatten up mice in order to make them obese - they use MSG to do this. Now, MSG is a naturally occurring thing, but what they've done is concentrate it and they feed the mice food that has concentrated MSG in it - boom, they get obese because it makes the fat cells grow quicker and faster, but it also makes the mice hungrier for more food. Guess what? 80% of the processed food in the supermarket contains MSG under 50 different names! They are purposely putting it in there to keep us addicted and to make us fatter! How am I supposed to fight all of this? If the corporations are trying to keep us buying their poison, and I have an addiction to their poison, is the solution to just eat natural, whole foods?

I'm often told (even with OA) that the only way to be rescued from all of this is to let God do it for me, so I've often (even before learning about OA) tried to find spiritual help for my struggles. One day I ordered a book called Cravings, which was a Catholic's experience in dealing with weight issues. I read her book and it made a lot of sense; the author painted food in the context of culture and family, putting it in the proper perspective (eat to live, not live to eat) and how food should be as natural as it can be (avoid artificial ingredients and overly-processed foods). She mentioned the Benedictine monks a lot, which led me to a series of cookbooks that were assembled by a Benedictine; the recipes were grouped by which season you were in (Northern Hemisphere) and were actual recipes used in the monastery and made from the vegetables grown in their garden! So, very natural indeed! They were mostly vegetarian recipes, although there were a handful of recipes that used very small portions of meat. Lots of soups and even an entire "cookbook" of salad recipes; the monastery was basically vegan or vegetarian, which helps with self-sufficiency. I made several of these recipes and started to really enjoy that closeness with nature and buying according to the seasons (easier to get cheaper veg and go organic if you're not looking for something that typically doesn't grow at that time of the year). I wound up losing 20 pounds in only a month just changing to these mostly vegetarian recipes, with occasional South Beach recipes or meals of lean meats or fish served with veggies and maybe brown rice or whole wheat couscous. Sadly, after a month I went back to my old eating habits...

Ah, South Beach, where twice I lost over 100 pounds. The documentary I watched told me what I already knew - that diets are temporary by design and that most people, since they can't eat responsibly after a diet, wind up gaining all the weight back, and then some (guilty as charged). But what I learned from South Beach was that there is a quality level in food that most of us don't think about: some food, even if packaged and marketed to be healthy, really aren't healthy. Thanks to South Beach, I started to cook on my own, which I wound up loving to do at the time. I also learned to eat a LOT more vegetables and fruit on this diet. Lastly, I learned a LOT about grains and bread and how you need to seek out the bread that's least refined, the least processed.

That's how I shop now, even when I don't diet and am eating tons of junk food - I still try to have good snacks during the day and healthy breakfasts and lunches (it's just that I fall apart at dinner). So I won't buy the white breads or the regular pastas. I try my best to not buy something with high fructose corn syrup in it, if I can help it (since they are making it impossible to do).

I often think back to when I did South Beach the first time; I worked two jobs, one of which had me work overnights every Saturday. I spent three hours at church every Sunday because I was in RCIA. I wrote an article for the local Catholic newspaper every other week. I cooked these meals for South Beach. AND I somehow found time to date! Yes, I was about 10 years younger, but in the world did I have all that energy, determination, and discipline back then and yet today, if I have to work 9 or 10 hours in a day, when I get home I just plop on the couch, way too tired and annoyed to lift a finger to cook, clean, or do much anything else. What a difference 10 years make! I'm 40 pounds heavier this time than the last time I went on South Beach, but each time I had energy and determination.

I wish I could get that again. This week has been sort of successful, with eating healthy the last three days and with minimal junk food (I went to the bar for wings with a coworker). I just wish this was as easy as it had been in the past. It was hard work, but I could do it. I'm tired of hearing everyone I know telling me, "You did it before - you can do it again!" You don't think I know I could do it before? That much is obvious to me. The colossal question today is: Why can't I do it now?

I'm trying to see food from a more spiritual level. Food is from God's bounty. He has provided. I don't need to eat all that processed crap when I have the natural things (including animals) that God has provided for us. I'm not going to obsess over all this contradictory information people give me. Everything is good for you today, will kill you tomorrow, and will be back to being healthy for you the day after. For me it should be simple: if God gave it to us, then it's ok to eat (as long as it's not one of my triggers). And the Good Lord ate lamb, he ate fish, and he probably ate some rich foods those times he was invited to dine with Pharisees and tax collectors. Remember, he said that people were calling him a glutton and a drunkard (so it seems like he enjoyed his wine, too). Don't tell me bread will kill me or give me cancer because the God of the Universe came to earth, ate bread, and before his death on a cross took bread, gave the blessing, broke it, and said, "Take, eat. This is my Body, which has been given up for you." Don't tell me that drinking a glass of red wine every day will kill me, because after supper He took the chalice in his holy and venerable hands and, looking up to heaven said, "This is the chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the new and everlasting covenant, shed for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins." So, I'm not going to stress about that stuff. Organic or not organic, meat or vegan meals - I'll borrow a little from everyone, not limiting myself, but exploring recipes and having fun with it. I will try to eat more vegan meals, but I won't be scared to have meat, seafood, and dairy. I do think that, because of elevated cholesterol levels, perhaps I should try to get more calcium from plants and less from dairy; that's probably a good idea, to greatly reduce the amount of dairy I eat for cholesterol-related reasons.

I guess you can say that I'm going to try and eat like these monks. That's when I lost weight the last time, all without feeling hungry all the time. Plus, as I said, I have thoughts banging around in my head right now - a sort of "spirituality of food", an imitation of Communion, if you will. This will be a blog posting in the far future as I contemplate more on the subject.

My wish, my desire, my prayer, is that eating becomes so natural, so carefree, that "diet" entries are no longer necessary (except for maybe storing recipes). That's my goal - to no longer think about food like I do now, to instead just take it as it comes and not overdo anything. I'm inspired by the people who just graze all day on fruit and veg so that meals are never over the top because they aren't that hungry. I'd love that. That would be freedom. But maybe this is my cross, that I won't experience any freedom until that which comes at my last breath.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The world needs real freedom, liberation from sin

The following intervention was made by Dr. Anca-Maria Cernea, President of the Association of Catholic Doctors of Bucharest (Romania), at the Ordinary Synod on the Family on Friday.

Your Holiness, Synod Fathers, Brothers and Sisters, I represent the Association of Catholic Doctors from Bucharest.

I am from the Romanian Greek Catholic Church.

My father was a Christian political leader, who was imprisoned by the communists for 17 years. My parents were engaged to marry, but their wedding took place 17 years later.

My mother waited all those years for my father, although she didn’t even know if he was still alive. They have been heroically faithful to God and to their engagement.

Their example shows that God’s grace can overcome terrible social circumstances and material poverty.

We, as Catholic doctors, defending life and family, can see this is, first of all, a spiritual battle.

Material poverty and consumerism are not the primary cause of the family crisis.

The primary cause of the sexual and cultural revolution is ideological.

Our Lady of Fatima has said that Russia’s errors would spread all over the world.

It was first done under a violent form, classical Marxism, by killing tens of millions.

Now it’s being done mostly by cultural Marxism. There is continuity from Lenin’s sex revolution, through Gramsci and the Frankfurt school, to the current-day gay-rights and gender ideology.

Classical Marxism pretended to redesign society, through violent take-over of property.

Now the revolution goes deeper; it pretends to redefine family, sex identity and human nature.

This ideology calls itself progressive. But it is nothing else than the ancient serpent’s offer, for man to take control, to replace God, to arrange salvation here, in this world.

It’s an error of religious nature, it’s Gnosticism.

It’s the task of the shepherds to recognize it, and warn the flock against this danger.

“Seek ye therefore first the Kingdom of God, and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.”

The Church’s mission is to save souls. Evil, in this world, comes from sin. Not from income disparity or “climate change”.

The solution is: Evangelization. Conversion.

Not an ever increasing government control. Not a world government. These are nowadays the main agents imposing cultural Marxism to our nations, under the form of population control, reproductive health, gay rights, gender education, and so on.

What the world needs nowadays is not limitation of freedom, but real freedom, liberation from sin. Salvation.

Our Church was suppressed by the soviet occupation. But none of our 12 bishops betrayed their communion with the Holy Father. Our Church survived thanks to our bishops’ determination and example in resisting prisons and terror.

Our bishops asked the community not to follow the world. Not to cooperate with the communists.

Now we need Rome to tell the world: “Repent of your sins and turn to God for the Kingdom of Heaven is near”.

Not only us, the Catholic laity, but also many Christian Orthodox are anxiously praying for this Synod. Because, as they say, if the Catholic Church gives in to the spirit of this world, it is going to be very difficult for all the other Christians to resist it.

Why St. Jerome Gives Me Hope

Thank God I am deemed worthy to be hated by the world...
- St. Jerome

Many Catholics are aware of the great St. Jerome, the man who crafted the first Latin edition of the Sacred Scriptures. But most Catholics are unaware that St. Jerome was....well....a bit of a jerk. In fact, some have nicknamed him the "Patron Saint of Grumpiness" or the "Patron Saint of Curmudgeons." This gives me great hope, as I struggle from day to day with having to force myself to be cheerful around people that drive me crazy or situations that try my patience.

He also struggled with lust, which all of us deal with. Fr. Mitch Pacwa often recalled how St. Jerome made a promise to himself that whenever he found himself struggling with lustful thoughts that he'd dive into his Hebrew lessons.

Giggles arise when Fr. Mitch then reveals how St. Jerome became the Church's foremost expert in Hebrew, alluding to the fact that St. Jerome struggled with a LOT of lustful thoughts!

He detested one of his contemporaries, St. Augustine of Hippo, one of the Church's most beloved saints! Argued with him, made fun of him in letters; he even accused Augustine of plagiarism! St. Jerome was a jerk.

From Fr. Dwight Longenecker, we get this summary of St. Jerome, the cranky old man:

"Jerome was kind of like the Michael Voris of his age. He attacked just about everybody for anything. He was at heart an extremist, a radical ascetic and a recluse...Jerome’s style was caustic, sarcastic and harsh so he made lots of enemies. They returned the attacks, gossiping about his relationship with the holy women who surrounded him, mocking his [walk], his smile, and his accomplishments..." recalls that St. Jerome was known for having a bad temper. Butler's Lives of the Saints recalls, "[St. Jerome] was, as someone has said, no admirer of moderation whether in virtue or against evil. He was swift to anger, but also swift to feel remorse, even more severe on his own shortcomings than on those of others. A pope is said to have remarked, on seeing a picture of Jerome striking his breast with a stone, 'You do well to carry that stone, for without it the Church would never have canonized you'."

Pope Benedict XV, in his encyclical Spiritus Paraclitus mentions St. Jerome a lot, and what he listed as Jerome's "qualities" would be very unpopular today, like how Jerome "never failed to lash with biting tongue any looseness in morals...How terribly he upbraids men who have degraded the dignity of the priesthood! With what vigor he inveighs against the pagan morals then infecting Rome!" (SP, 61).

I can definitely see similarities between St. Jerome and my crappy attitude; also in the ways he spends his time. How many days have I wasted writing in this stupid blog! Postumianus writes of St. Jerome, "He is wholly occupied in reading and with books; he rests neither day nor night; he is always either reading or writing something." As long as I don't have the television on, this is how I'd rather spend my time. And I enjoy the Sacred Scriptures; his Latin version became the definitive edition of the Church for over 1,000 years! His relics, once interred in the cave where he lived the life of a hermit in his later years, are now interred in the Mother Church of the West, in St. Mary Major's, next to the actual crib of our Lord! This cranky, accusation-throwing, sarcastic jerk has been referred to by Pope Benedict XV as "the Greatest Doctor of the Church". How much hope I have then that if this man has been blessed with eternal life in Christ, that perhaps I have some hope of reaching that eternal reward, as well.

St. Jerome famously said, "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." May he guide all of us as we contemplate the great mysteries of Scripture, which the Church teaches can give us that peace we're searching for. May our love of Scripture no longer contribute to our divisions, but may it be a source of unity. Pope Benedict XV writes, "May Jerome, who so loved God's Church and so strenuously defended it against its enemies, win for us the removal of every element of discord, in accordance with Christ's prayer, so that there may be 'one fold and one shepherd.'"

Obviously, none of this means that it's ok to be a jerk. I wish I was much more pleasant, especially around people who disagree with me or the Church, but I'll need all the grace the Lord can give in order to improve upon that! I can see why, after years of grinding his teeth, St. Jerome left to live in a cave in Bethlehem the rest of his life. Sometimes the only way to avoid the occasion of sin is to do something drastic.

St. Jerome - Scripture scholar, writer, theologian, Greatest Doctor of the Church, and cranky curmudgeon - pray for me, a sinner!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa

I just saw a headline: Australian archbishop says synod is 65/35 against Communion for the divorced and remarried, which means that (if accurate) 35% of the bishops assembled at the Synod are comfortable with violating Jesus Christ's own words that having sex with a divorced person is adultery. This is extremely troubling, but only in the here and now; if we look at the history of the Church, we can realize that this might just be "one of those things" that we go through every few generations - perhaps, then, we'll survive this and live on intact until the next time we are arrogant enough to want to improve upon Christ's design for his Church.

The Catholic Church Through the Ages: A History is a great history book; it's short, very heavy with its bibliography (the author points you towards TONS of resources to further your exploration), and it's brutally honest. Without taking anything away from the Church and her mission, the author is very open and honest about our mistakes and scandals, like when we dug up a dead pope and put him on trial. This is because every Catholic who is honest with himself will love the Church with all his heart, while at the same time mourning with great sorrow all the scandals, corruption, crime, and pain that we've been part of which has in turn pushed people away from full Communion with Christ.

There's a famous story, probably apocryphal, but the short of it is that Napoleon - often described as a Catholic on his death bed, but during life, anything but - had used a church as a stable for his horses and looking at the rector said, "I've conquered the Church," whereas the priest said, "If we haven't been able to destroy her yet, then what chance to YOU have?" Some of our saints haven't been any kinder towards how Catholics take the Church (and Christ's mercy) for granted. Pope St. Pius X said, "All the strength of Satan’s reign is due to the easygoing weakness of Catholics." Pope St. Pius V said, "All the evils of the world are due to lukewarm Catholics." And we can see that just in our "Catholic" politicians who are saying that it is their faith that causes them to support homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia, eugenics, etc.

With each and every generation that passes, a new scandal erupts in the Church. Maybe it's a heresy (like in the beginning of the Church's history) or maybe it's a scandal (like the indulgences that led Luther to rebel) or maybe it's corruption (which led St. Francis of Assisi to found his Order) or maybe it's crime (as we've seen with the homosexual "pedophilia" scandal). Throughout our 2,000 years the Church has been rocked again and again because Satan does not want us to win. He knows Christ has won, but the devil wants to drag as many souls to hell with him as he can.

I defend the Church with such passion because I see her glory - but the glory isn't hers in her own power, but her glory is a reflection of the glory of her head, Jesus Christ. The Church has taught throughout the centuries that the Church isn't holy because we're so great or because we don't sin; obviously, we're sinners and that's why Jesus gave us the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession), because as St. John told us, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us" (1 Jn 1:8-10). No, the Church isn't holy because of us - the Church is holy because of her founder, Jesus Christ, and the "life force" that flows within her, the Holy Ghost. As part of the Body of Christ, we can either be healthy cells or cancer - sadly, we've had a lot of cancer over the centuries, but that doesn't mean the rest of the Body is dying.

If we didn't have corrupt bishops cheating people out of their money in exchange for indulgences, perhaps Martin Luther would have died content as an Augustinian friar instead of becoming the poster child for the disastrous Reformation. If we hadn't allowed homosexuals to enter the seminaries in the 60s and 70s, perhaps we would have avoided the sex abuse crisis that has rocked the Church. If our Catholic politicians actually practiced their faith, then that 30% of Congress could make some really positive changes to this country and the world.

The point is that no amount of terrible Catholics - myself included - can change the fact that Jesus Christ is with the Church because he IS the Church; the Church is his Mystical Body. As St. Paul said, "Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it" (1 Cor 12:27). So no amount of sin can destroy the Church, for He promised, "[T]he gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Mat 16:18). Sadly, in this day and age, if there's even one bad priest or nun, if there's even one Catholic politician or pewsitter who supports sin, the entire world is aware of it. If we had the same media in the past that we have today, I believe the Reformation would have happened centuries earlier! NOT because the Church teaches heresy and has corrupted Christ's revelation, as Luther believed, but because our horrible, sinful behavior is under a giant magnifying glass today. And in a world which does not understand redemption, which ridicules second chances, which hates mercy and demands ruthless justice, a repentant sinner is just looked upon as a "hypocrite". The only saint we have that I believe can escape this unfair label is perhaps the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the world hates her, too!

As the Venerable Archbishop Sheen said, "Judge the Catholic Church not by those who barely live by its Spirit, but by the example of those who live closest to it." So, perhaps the best way to evangelize the world is to encourage them to look more at St. Kateri Tekakwitha or St. Thomas More and less at Joe Biden or Jason Edwards. The Western world no longer has a discerning spirit, able to judge right from wrong, because the logical conclusion of the Reformation was that WE would decide for ourselves what is right and wrong. It started out that the Holy Spirit would guide us in the interpretation of Scripture, but then we had groups disagreeing on what the Scriptures say, so the Protestants split between the Lutherans and those who followed Calvin and Zwingli. More splits and more splits, with all members insisting that the Holy Spirit was guiding them. Now we have oodles of denominations, with new ones popping up every day, whenever members decide the denomination they are in are interpreting Scripture incorrectly. This exacerbates the plague of relativism that is in the world today, where there is a belief that there is no objective truth and that everyone has a different idea of what truth is and therefore everyone's truth is equal. I think this is mainly due to the fact that there are so many competing denominations - all insisting they teach the truth - and it's hard for any of us to feel confident in looking at everyone and saying, "But you're wrong." Because there's always this fear: what if I'M wrong?

What was started at the Reformation - basically radical self-determination - became the Enlightenment, which pursued radical self-determination, but freed from religious restrictions, which became the foundation of our secular, anti-religious culture in the West, with its antagonism towards faith, especially Catholicism. And so, the world has lost so much of its rich, Christian traditions (mainly derived from the Catholic Church) and the world has convinced itself that it's better off this way.

All because some members of the Church back in the 1500s decided that becoming a priest or bishop was a great "get rich quick" scheme. This should break every Christian's heart.

This is why history intrigues me - and why our sins should terrify us. Whom else has lost their faith because any one of us were silent in the face of sin? Or supportive of a scandal? Or were lazy in our faith? We'll find out at the general judgement at the end of time when God lets us know everything. However, here and now, the Church is going through yet another crisis. And there are plenty in the Church - some of whom are very active and not just the "Christmas and Easter" crowd - who think that the Church can change her Apostolic teachings and ignore Scripture, as if we're just a bunch of obstinate meanies. After all, haven't all the other Christian communities out there changed their teachings already? To me, that just highlights the truth that the Church has always taught, that Christ founded her and that the Holy Spirit guides her in all truth (Jn 16:13). So, although I am greatly concerned with the problems in the Church today - because these problems prevent us from helping the world as we remain focused instead on fixing ourselves - I am still not worried because, as history has taught us, a challenge to our faith in the Church is nothing new. We'll be ok because Jesus loves us, no matter how much the secular world hates us. And as that story goes, if WE haven't been able to destroy the Church yet, what chance does the secular world have?


Thursday, October 1, 2015

First Friday Devotion

"Borrowed" from the Catholic News Agency website:

"The prayer of the Church venerates and honors the Heart of Jesus...which, out of love for men, he allowed to be pierced by our sins."

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is of great antiquity in the Church. It was St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, however, who made this devotion widespread. In 1675, within the octave of the feast of Corpus Christi, our Lord appeared to her and said: "Behold this heart which, not withstanding the burning love for men with which it is consumed and exhausted, meets with no other return from most Christians than sacrilege, contempt, indifference and ingratitude, even in the sacrament of my love [the Eucharist]. But what pierces my heart most deeply is that I am subjected to these insults by persons especially consecrated to my service."

To those who show him love and who make reparation for sins, however, our Lord made a great pledge: "I promise you in the unfath­omable mercy of my heart that my omnipotent love will procure the grace of final penitence for all those who receive communion on nine successive first Fridays of the month; they will not die in my disfavor, or without having received the sacraments, since my divine heart will be their sure refuge in the last moments of their life."

The great promise of the Sacred Heart is most consoling: the grace of final perseverance and the joy of having Jesus' heart as our sure refuge and infinite ocean of mercy in our last hour.

To gain this grace, we must:

Receive holy Communion on nine consecutive first Fridays.
Have the intention of honoring the Sacred Heart of Jesus and of reaching final perseverance.
Offer each holy Communion as an act of atonement for offenses against the Blessed Sacrament.

Introductory Prayer

Almighty and everlasting God, look upon the heart of your well-beloved Son and upon the praise and satisfaction which he offers to you in the name of all sinners; and grant them pardon when they seek your mercy. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you for ever and ever.
R. Amen.

Reading: Jn 19:31-37
Since it was the day of Preparation, in order to prevent the bodies from remaining on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him; but when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.

He who saw it has borne witness-his testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth-that you also may believe. For these things took place that the scripture might be fulfilled, "Not a bone of him shall be broken." And again another scripture says, "They shall look on him whom they have pierced."


1. Love is revealed to us in the Incarnation, the redemptive journey which Jesus Christ made on our earth, culminating in the supreme sacrifice of the cross. And on the cross it showed itself through a new sign: "One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water." This water and blood of Jesus speak to us of a self-sacrifice brought to the last extreme: "It is fin­ished"-everything is achieved, for the sake of love. . . .

The fullness of God is revealed and given to us in Christ, in the love of Christ, in Christ's heart. For it is the heart of him in whom "the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily." Were one to lose sight of this great plan of God-the overflow of love in the world through the Incarnation, the Redemption and Pentecost-he could not understand the refinement with which our Lord deals with us.

2. Let us realize all the richness hidden in the words "the Sacred Heart of Jesus." When we speak of a person's heart, we refer not just to his sentiments, but to the whole person in his loving dealings with others. In order to help us understand divine things, Scripture uses the expression "heart" in its full human meaning, as the summary and source, expression and ultimate basis, of one's thoughts, words and actions. One is worth what one's heart is worth. . . .

So, when we talk about the heart of Jesus, we stress the certainty of God's love and the truth of his commitment to us. When we recommend devotion to the Sacred Heart, we are recommending that we should give our whole selves to Jesus, to the whole Jesus-our souls, our feelings and thoughts, our words and actions, our joys.

That is what true devotion to the heart of Jesus means. It is knowing God and ourselves. It is looking at Jesus and turning to him, letting him encourage and teach and guide us. The only difficulty that could beset this devotion would be our own failure to understand the reality of an incarnate God.

3. Jesus on the cross, with his heart overflowing with love for us, is such an eloquent commentary on the value of people and things that words only get in the way. Men, their happiness and their lives, are so important that the very Son of God gave himself to redeem and cleanse and raise them up. "Who will not love this heart so wounded?" a contemplative asks in this connection. "Who will not return love for love? Who will not embrace a heart so pure? We, who are made of flesh, will repay love with love. We will embrace our wounded One, whose hands and feet ungodly men have nailed; we will cling to his side and to his heart. Let us pray that we be worthy of linking our heart with his love and of wounding it with a lance, for it is still hard and impenitent. . . ."

But note that God does not say: "In exchange for your own heart, I will give you a will of pure spirit." No, he gives us a heart, a human heart, like Christ's. I don't have one heart for loving God and another for loving people. I love Christ and the Father and the Holy Spirit and our Lady with the same heart with which I love my parents and my friends. I shall never tire of repeating this. We must be very human, for otherwise we cannot be divine. . . .

If we don't learn from Jesus, we will never love. If, like some people, we were to think that to keep a clean heart, a heart worthy of God, means "not mixing it up, not contaminating it" with human affection, we would become insensitive to other people's pain and sorrow. We would be capable of only an "official charity," something dry and soulless. But ours would not be the true charity of Jesus Christ, which involves affection and human warmth. In saying this, I am not supporting the mistaken theories-pitiful excuses-that misdirect hearts away from God and lead them into occasions of sin and perdition. . . .

4. But I have still a further consideration to put before you. We have to fight vigorously to do good, precisely because it is difficult for us to resolve seriously to be just, and there is a long way to go before human relations are inspired by love and not hatred or indifference. We should also be aware that, even if we achieve a reasonable distribution of wealth and a harmonious organization of society, there will still be the suffering of illness, of misunderstanding, of loneliness, of the death of loved ones, of the experience of our own limitations.

Faced with the weight of all this, a Christian can find only one genuine answer, a definitive answer: Christ on the cross, a God who suffers and dies, a God who gives us his heart opened by a lance for the love of us all. Our Lord abominates injustice and condemns those who commit it. But he respects the freedom of each individual. He permits injustice to happen because, as a result of original sin, it is part and parcel of the human condition. Yet his heart is full of love for men. Our suffering, our sadness, our anguish, our hunger and thirst for justice . . . he took all these tortures on himself by means of the cross. . . .

Suffering is part of God's plans. This is the truth, however difficult it may be for us to understand it. It was difficult for Jesus Christ the man to undergo his passion: "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done." In this tension of pleading and acceptance of the Father's will, Jesus goes calmly to his death, pardoning those who crucify him.

This supernatural acceptance of suffering was, precisely, the greatest of all conquests. By dying on the cross, Jesus overcame death. God brings life from death. The attitude of a child of God is not one of resignation to a possibly tragic fate; it is the sense of achievement of someone who has a foretaste of victory. In the name of this victorious love of Christ, we Christians should go out into the world to be sowers of peace and joy through everything we say and do. We have to fight-a fight of peace-against evil, against injustice, against sin. Thus do we serve notice that the present condition of mankind is not definitive. Only the love of God, shown in the heart of Christ, will attain our glorious spiritual triumph.