Monday, August 25, 2014

Get in the Boat!

I'll be on retreat most of this week - despite the fact that my car looks like this:

(I'm taking  a rental while this one is repaired. my daughter was rear-ended in heavy traffic last Friday; there were no serious injuries, and she was able to continue driving the car while she visited a friend over the weekend.)

Pray for me! And I will pray for you.

In the meantime, ponder this quote sent to me by a good friend; it's from Father Fox, and seems a very good explanation of the teaching that extra ecclesia, nulla salus, or “outside the Church, there is no salvation”.

It is the teaching of the Church that “outside the Church there is no salvation.”

What does this mean?

Let me use an analogy. Suppose you are in the ocean during a storm. And you have a lifeboat. And this boat is special.

If you are in it, as long as you are in it, you can be absolutely, completely certain you will make it safely to port. I repeat: certain, if you’re in it.

But there are folks, in the water, who don’t get in. There are others, who are in, who fall out.

Are they doomed? Can they not find any other way to safety?

The answer is, maybe they can. God is not restricted to the lifeboat. With his help, they may yet find their way to safety.

But then again, they may not. So with the Catholic Faith, or even baptism.
Being outside doesn’t mean you can’t be saved; but why not just get in the boat?

Remember, salvation is God’s idea. So we have good ground for hope that he is working in people’s lives, even when they resist becoming Catholic.

The Council of Trent taught that no one can live a sustained life of virtue without the help of God’s grace. So all those people we know, who aren’t believers, but live virtuous lives? God’s helping them. That doesn’t guarantee their salvation; but it’s a sign of hope.

In the end, all who are saved, are saved by Christ – whether they knew at the time, or not. And in the end, everyone who is saved, will be part of him, and thus, part of the Church, in the fullest sense.

I have several close friends who are “outside the Church”, and a number of family members who are either pagans, Protestants, or fallen-away Catholics. I pray for all of them daily.
A couple of the Protestants have gone so far away from the boat that they think they themselves are the sole authority on all things theological; they say, “The Holy Spirit will teach me, and that’s all I need.”  They seem not to realize – or admit – that the devil can deceive them quite easily into thinking demonic thoughts are from God! That’s what happens when one does not have the full authority of the teaching magisterium of the Church behind one’s beliefs!

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Almost every morning, I take my cup of coffee and sit out on the front deck and watch the sunrise (while the dogs beg me to throw a ball for them). Sometimes I take photos. After a cup of coffee, I generally go for my Rosary walk, and some mornings I take photos of the scenery along the way.

Here's a sampling from this summer.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Kindergarten Catholicism

I went to my favorite place for the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, and though I was only there for 24 hours, I assisted at 3 Masses in the extraordinary form. I returned home Friday evening, and went to Mass (Novus Ordo) on Saturday evening to fulfill my Sunday obligation. It felt like there was not enough time to make the attitude adjustment back to the “new” Mass mindset, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles (as my mother used to say).

The pastor at our parish is a devout priest who feels helpless to effect much of a shift toward tradition amongst the parishioners. He almost always starts off his homily by reminding us of what a great gift God has given us in the Eucharist, and that he never fails to mention that we are about to receive the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.  

On Saturday night, as I listened to him, I thought about how he always says that same thing, and that it's a good thing to be reminded of...and then it hit me: in more traditional parishes – especially where the extraordinary form of the Mass is celebrated – that reminder doesn't have to be made by the priest in his homily at every Mass, because the reality of it is present in the very architecture of the church, the structure of the Mass, the posture of the priest, the words of the prayers, and even in the way the chant lifts one's mind to God. Our parish priest has to remind his flock about the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist because there are so few other reminders there to foster that knowledge.

The whole thrust of the typical Novus Ordo parish, in my limited experience, is earthbound. Fr. J generally seeks to bring the Divine down to the level of human existence on earth. There is something to be said for that; it's good to apply the Scriptures to our daily lives in some way, to live out the Gospel, etc. But there is so little emphasis on getting to Heaven. It's more about doing good here on earth, because Jesus did good here on earth, and he told us to feed the hungry and take care of the sick. But why do we do those things? And there is seldom any emphasis or even mention of the spiritual works of mercy.

I was struck by similar thoughts while singing the Office of Vigils of the Assumption and listening to the readings. For instance, in the 7th reading there was the statement that:

"Indeed there was no happier or more joyful day for Mary, if we duly consider the happiness of both body and soul granted to her on that day. Then especially, as never before, her spirit, soul and body rejoiced wondrously in the living God..."

And there were of course other gems in those readings. Then, in the sermon I heard at the Mass of the Assumption, the priest talked about why the Assumption is important for us. I never hear that kind of talk in the homilies I listen to at the NO parishes near me.  I thought of that during vigils. I thought, "How sad that so few people will read these readings or hear these thoughts expressed", and it occurred to me that that's what's gone so wrong with so many parishes. It’s been said in lots of other ways – catechesis is so bad, so watered-down, so…non-existent, it seems! But how many priests or bishops really encourage their people to think below the surface of these great feast days? Not too many, as far as I can tell.

I sat there listening to the homily on Saturday night, and I thought about the whole Mass and the prayers of the faithful and all the usual “stuff” one experiences at the NO Mass (female altar servers, a contingent of lay women administered Holy Communion, guitar music, etc.), I thought, "This is Kindergarten."

A friend with whom I shared these observations suggested that what I have described here is the result of the modernistic philosophy of “immanentism” (go to that link for a very good, short description of immanentism vs. immanence).  Fr. John Hardon is said to have referred to immanentist apologetics as a “method of establishing the credibility of the Christian faith by appealing to the subjective satisfaction that the faith gives to the believer.” I think it is immanentism that lurks behind the dangerous notion of “a personal relationship with Jesus” as expressed by most Protestants who use that phrase.

Immanentism makes religion into a subjective mish-mash of feelings: Mass must make you “feel good”. I sat at Mass Saturday night, thinking about the fact that the powers-that-be seem to believe that Mass has to be entertaining and “easy”; it can’t require any hard thinking or any difficult examination of conscience. We have to be “inviting” and “welcoming”, and the way that is done is by emphasizing a “feel good” Jesus who loves us unconditionally (which, of course, He does) and who would never want us to feel bad about anything (which is far from the truth).

And that’s why I thought, “This is Kindergarten.” In Kindergarten, we invite little children to feel good about themselves, and to enjoy all the activities that are offered, and to become a part of a little “community”. We don’t expect much of them that would be considered difficult.

It’s the same at the Kindergarten Mass. Jesus loves me, this I know. Ah yes. But there is so much more to Him than that! Even the Protestant pastor whom I knew long ago had a more Catholic idea than that! He always said, “Jesus loves you just the way you are…and He loves you too much to leave you there.”

Sadly, our priests and bishops seem to be quite willing for us to remain just as we are. And sadder still, they seem to want to turn a blind eye to our sins, and allow us to do the same! Where is the charity in that? Where is the pastoral prudence in that?

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Our Lady of Sorrows, Iraq, and the Crisis in the Church

I have been praying to Our Lady of Sorrows for some time now.

I started by praying a “Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows” which I found on-line and which offered a sorrow and a meditation for each day of the week.  Each day, the chaplet instructs that at the end of the meditation for the day, seven “Hail Mary’s” are to be said, one for each sorrow. On the seventh day, three additional “Hail Mary’s” are offered in honor of the Blessed Mother’s tears.

Currently, every day I pray an Ave for each of the first three sorrows before praying Morning Prayer, and one for each of the last four sorrows before praying prime. Before praying Terce, I pray the three Aves in honor of Her tears.

And I was thinking about those tears recently.

Of course we can imagine that Our Lady observes the current persecution and genocide of the Christians in Iraq with great sorrow and many tears.

I also imagine that my own sins cause Our Lady to weep.

But there is so much in our Church today that must cause those holy eyes to weep copious tears. How many tears does Our Blessed Mother shed over the way the bishops have not only failed to teach the faith, but have actually misled the faithful in some areas? It’s not hard to find a Catholic who doesn’t believe that Jesus is Truly Present in the Blessed Sacrament. It’s not hard to find Catholics who support gay “marriage”, or even abortion. How sad this must make Our Lady.

I think about how sad She must be about the suffering of the Christians in Iraq, but I also think there must be some joy there as well – joy that people will not turn away from Her Son, even when threatened with torture and death. So many of those poor people have suffered, will suffer, continue to suffer awful physical atrocities at the hands of the IS, and many others are suffering and dying from bodily hunger and thirst. Many Iraqi Christians have died, and we can only wonder how many went straight to Heaven.

Many other Catholics, though, are suffering an affliction of the soul right here in the US, and many don’t even know it. The bishops have failed to teach the faith, and people are suffering for lack of that teaching. They are not suffering bodily hunger and thirst, but their souls are suffering.

How much more might Our Blessed Mother be weeping for the souls that are coming perilously close to being lost for eternity due to the errors of the bishops? How much does She weep for those very bishops who may have perhaps lost their supernatural faith and are quite possibly trudging down the road to hell even as they govern their dioceses? I would not want to be in the shoes of a wayward bishop, especially at the hour of death.

The bodies that are butchered and starved and dehydrated to the point of death have suffered immensely. But there is an end to that suffering.

Souls, on the other hand, are immortal. They can suffer for all eternity in hell.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us!

Friday, August 8, 2014

How Do You Forgive ISIS?

I have been following the events in northern Iraq – the violent takeover by ISIS and the eradication of the Christian population – probably with greater attention than I have ever paid to international events. It is just so horrifying.

It’s not just because those poor people are Christians that I care, of course. I would feel the same if those radical Islamists were persecuting, torturing, and slaughtering any group of human beings. (And it’s not just Christians who are being killed, either, from what I’ve read.) “Crimes against humanity” clearly applies in this case.

It’s just so…unbelievably horrific. And when I began to read about the beheading of small children, and saw some photos…well, that’s when I really became aware that I am struggling against the desire for angry vengeance against the perpetrators of those crimes. I found myself thinking things like “those monsters deserve to die”.  I’m not sure that is really the correct response. I do think, though, that it is appropriate to use force – and lots of it – against that Islamist group. That they have been allowed to kill and displace as many as they have already seems almost inexcusable.  Where has the world been?!

And what possesses those men to hack off the heads of fellow human beings? What can they possibly be thinking when they do the same to a little child?! How can an adult male be so calloused, so cruel, that he could do such a horrible thing to a little child? God help us. God help them. Surely it is Satan who orchestrates that kind of atrocity. I have seen video footage of Nazi atrocities and Russian massacres from times past. Those are brutal and disturbing as well, but those events happened decades ago. The awful events in Iraq, though...that's now. 

Still, I know that people are capable of evil without Satan’s help, too. I was always fascinated by the psychological studies of Stanley Milgram, who found that ordinary, everyday, “good” people would administer what they thought were high levels of electrical shock to a person in another room, just because an experimenter in a white lab coat (an “authority figure”) told them that “the experiment must continue.” We are all capable of doing wrong and even evil deeds, given the fact of fallen human nature.

But the kind of brutality that is being described in reports from Iraq…it is almost unbelievable. I find myself wondering if I should believe the photos are real; and yet I do not for one minute doubt that such things are happening.

If I were the mother of a beheaded child or the wife of a beheaded husband…if I actually lived in that place, if I were actually watching friends and family murdered in horrible ways, or die from thirst when forced into an arid mountain wasteland…would I be able to forgive those responsible?

I can barely bring myself to consider forgiveness from where I sit half a world away.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Life and Death in Nature

I’ve always been a “nature lover”, I guess. How can one NOT be? All of creation is so amazing, given that Our Creator is beyond amazing.

And yet, of course, “nature” as we experience it is not perfect, because it is a part of the fallen world. I remember in one of the latter Narnia books where the end of Narnia is described, and a new Narnia emerges that is even more truly Narnia. Everything is more vibrant, more real.

But here, I am stuck with the current version of nature. And it is not always pretty. Two examples come to mind:

You can see little downy tufts on its head. 
We have had a lot of birds around our property this year. I shared with you about the doves, I think, and they have continued their presence. There may have been more nests and babies, but they seem to be very secretive, so I’m not sure where the nests might be.

The robins, however, are not secretive. One clutch of robin eggs hatched, and the babies learned to fly and left the nest. And then it appeared that the mother was still using the nest; a quick trip to Google revealed that robins can have more than one clutch of eggs in a season. This one clearly did.

And unlike the doves, the robin babies are quite raucous at feeding time. You’d think there were a dozen babies in that nest, as opposed to the 2 or 3 that actually hatched there. But it seems to me that the robin babies are prone to leaving the nest a little too early. One year, we found a couple of dead ones on the ground – either they fell out, or were pushed out, but they were very immature and surely hadn’t tried to fly.

This year, though, I watched as one clutch of robin babies grew, and were fed, and their downy heads became feathered, and they sat on the edge of the nest. Then they tried to fly. They weren’t very good at it. They’d get a foot or so off the ground and then perch on a step or a fence rail. Since I was aware of them, I kept the dogs in the back yard, separated from the baby birds in the front yard. I gave the babies several days to figure out the mechanics of efficient flight.

But apparently I didn’t give them long enough. A few days later, one of the dogs paused in her generally preferred activity of chasing the tennis ball to chase a baby bird instead. The baby didn’t get far off the ground, and didn’t fly very fast, and the dog caught it, though she seemed a little confused as to what she might do with this moving object! The other dog joined her, and though I yelled and ran to rescue the baby, I was too late. It made me sad.

But…that’s “nature.”

A healthy doe and fawns from a previous year
The other example is occurred during my Rosary walk the other day. I noticed a doe and two fawns very close to the road. They had been bedded down in the sagebrush, and my passing by had disturbed them enough to rouse them. But as I paused to take a photo, I noticed that the doe seemed to be limping. Then I saw that she was actually dragging her right rear leg behind her, and what I guess would be called the hock (I’m not up on deer anatomy!) was quite noticeably swollen…as in HUGE.  As I stood there watching, she became more nervous and tried to increase her pace away from me; at that point she could only use three legs. I suppose her leg was either broken or dislocated. Or both.

That made me sad, too. It’s so easy to anthropomorphize! But I do hope the doe is able to resist death for a while so that the two fawns can receive as much sustenance and protection from her as possible.

Life goes on. Death ensues.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.