Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Crisis in the Church, Then and Now

I guess I tend to think of the crisis in the Church as a recent problem, largely brought on by a watering-down of the teaching of the faith in the post-Vatican II era.  Yes, I do know that there have been problems and issues in the Church always and ever, because of our fallen human nature, and because satan roams around seeking to exploit our weaknesses. But consider this, from The Life and Revelations of Anne Catherine Emmerich:

We are shocked at the small number of those who then comprehended these words of St. Peter: “Scientes quod non corruptibilibus auro vel argento redempti estis, sed pretioso sanguine quasi agni immaculate Christi.”[1] It was a period in which perfect silence was kept, both in the pulpit and schools of theology, on the mystery of Redemption, sacrifice and satisfaction, merit and sin; a period in which good works and miracles had to yield to hollow “theories of revelation”; a period in which the Man-God, to be at all endurable, had to be presented as the “Friend of men, the Friend of sinners, the children’s Friend.” His life was, as they said, “a lesson”; His Passion, “an example of fortitude”; His death, “fruitless love.” The catechism was taken from the hands of the faithful and replaced by “Bible Histories,” in which the absolute want of doctrine was veiled under “simple language adapted to the understanding of all.” The books of piety, the ancient formulas of prayer, the time-honored canticles of praise, were exchanged for modern productions as miserable and impious as were those by which the Missal, the Breviary, and the Ritual were replaced.

This intellectual debasement might pass at first sight for a transient aberration, a false direction of the spirit of the age; but before God it was a direct attack on the Fatih, imperiling the salvation of numberless souls, an expression of the deepest contempt for His love and justice. All this had to be expieated by an innocent victim who was to be treated not otherwise than Jesus Himself and His work of redemption.  
The startling grandeur of His bloody sacrifice and His rigorous satisfaction for sin are a stumbling block to many; in like manner Sister Emmerich was a cause of offense by reason of her mysterious signs and, even for her nearest friends, she was an insupportable burden [largely having do with the supernatural implications of her stigmata and the reactions of the world to her.]

These words could be written (and practically have been) about the state of our poor Church today! Yet, Sister Emmerich died in 1824, so clearly there was a crisis then, as well; I think the problems underlying and emerging from Vatican II were a culmination of prior crises. (That is not to say that I don’t think the current crisis is unprecedented: I do, and that is largely due to the internet and the ready availability of Church documents, news reports on current papal and episcopal announcements, etc.)

But today, who do we have bearing the brunt of the sins of the world as Sister Emmerich did? I think that in the world today, people would not even believe that a person such as she could even exist; it would be seen as fraud by most (as it was in Blessed Anne Catherine’s time).

And so, who will do penance for the evils of our Church leaders, and for the sins of the laity, and for our own grievous sins? I guess it is up to each of us to do our best to live our lives in prayer and penance, to the extent that our state in life allows.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

[1] “Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things as gold or silver…but with the Precious Blood of Christ, as of a lamb unspotted and undefiled.” (1Peter 1:18,19)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Mending the Torn Cloak

From The Sayings of the Desert Father:

A soldier asked Abba Mius if God accepted repentance. After the old man had taught 
him many things, he said, “Tell me, my dear, if your cloak is torn, do you throw it away?”

He replied, “No, I mend it and use it again.”

The old man said to him, “If you are so careful about your cloak, will not God be equally careful about his creature?”

I read this soon after our return from Florida, and as the situation with my daughter’s friend weighs on my mind and heart, I thought of him. I even showed this “saying” to my daughter (and as a sign of the times we live in, she whipped out her phone and took a picture of it, presumably so she could either refer back to it later, and/or so she could share it with others).

I thought it was a good way to think about others, not just ourselves in relation to God and our own sinfulness. My daughter’s friend seems to me to suffer much from “survivor guilt”, and my limited experience with people with that issue suggests that they need to believe that God accepts their repentance, and they also need to forgive themselves.  But I’m afraid too few get the help they need along those lines; usually, they will just hear a constant chorus of “well, it wasn’t really your fault.” It seems to me that it might be a greater help to have the person examine just exactly what fault they think they have in the matter, then have them confess it (if it is a sin, or maybe even if it’s not, so that a priest can clarify it for them), and then have them do penance for their fault.

Instead, what I have seen is that people don’t get that kind of advice or help (or don’t take advantage of it), and they end up feeling that they are a torn cloak that should be thrown away rather than mended.

I’m pleased that my daughter wants to see her friend “mended”, and that she is praying for that to happen, and giving him as much support as she can. And I pray that through her actions and words, he gets the message that he is indeed worth “mending”. 

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Spiritual Journey to Florida

The trip to Florida was odd in many ways.

I haven’t traveled like that in years; I think it has been 10 years since I was last on a plane. I don’t like even the thought of the security lines and all that. But lo and behold, while my daughter was subjected to the usual take-off-the-shoes-and-everything-else-including-the-kitchen-sink routine, I had been identified as “precheck” or some such thing. I went through the express lane. I kept my shoes on, sent my carry-on bag through the scanner, and stepped through the metal detector in record time.

I have written before about being away from home and my chapel and feeling lost because I am unable to stick to my usual schedule for the Divine Office. I was expecting this trip to be even worse on that front, because we would be gone for a full week. My spiritual director helped by dispensing me from my usual schedule and offering some advice which consisted mostly of “pray the Rosary”. And so, though I took a couple of prayer books and prayed Laudes and Vespers a couple of times, I let go of the rest of it and prayed as I could. And I did not feel lost or discombobulated in any way.

While we were in Florida, it seemed as if time stood still. It was forever, but it was only a moment. It was like being in the Twilight Zone. I enjoyed the time there, though it was not without stress. I was happy to be there with my daughter, and to have her help in navigating through the busy highways. When we arrived home, instead of being disoriented and feeling like I had a lot of catching up to do, I felt as if I hadn’t been gone at all.

...except that we came home to sub-freezing temps and snow...
Generally, I have never felt so much as if I were in the right place at the right time, and participating fully in God’s perfect will.

But it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. The main purpose of the trip, if you recall, was for my daughter to meet the young man with whom she had been corresponding via This is where the story becomes complicated.

The first couple of days were great; but then satan threw in his monkey wrench: the young man abruptly became emotionally distant and less available to spend time with my daughter. At first, we were both dumbfounded and completely confused; but then he explained some things to her and it all became clear.

This young man suffers from PTSD, for one thing, and a critical factor in his emotional withdrawal was the fact that the anniversary of the main precipitating incident of the disorder occurred while we were there. He explained the circumstances to my daughter, and she explained them to me. Ahh…it is such a sad, sad story. He is under such a horrible attack through this disorder and through the situations he experienced that led to it!

I have never felt so compelled to pray for anyone as I am for this young man. And my daughter has had the same reaction. The young man feels he is not fit for a committed relationship now, given his reaction to the anniversary etc. But my daughter feels more committed to him than ever. She is willing to wait for him to make some progress in dealing with all of this, and has told him that.

I think that a lot of people would tell her that he is pretty much a lost cause; she might as well move on and find a healthy man. But my daughter told me, “Even messed up people deserve love.” Yes, they do, and I am proud of her. She sees who he is under the “messed up” part, and I saw that, too.  Of course, that doesn’t mean she has to marry him. She can help him and support him as a friend. The thing is, she wants to marry him, and hopes he comes to the same thought. Even though I warned her that he won’t be “healed” overnight, and that likely there will be issues for him (and her) to deal with for the rest of their lives together, she is willing (perhaps with the naivete of youth!) to commit to that.

I cannot discourage her, because I think God gave me an insight into the whole plan – the amazing providence that led me to suggest CatholicMatch to her, that led his mother to do the same for him, that brought them together online, that sent us on an outlandish trip from one corner of the country to the other, that led to a “crisis” in his PTSD, that led to…what? A renewed commitment on her part, and a compulsion to pray for him on mine. I can’t explain exactly what I “saw” as I prayed one night, but it was definitely a dim picture of God’s plan. I saw the plan for my daughter, and for the young man, and even for the way I myself fit into the whole picture of their relationship. I think there is some small part for my prayers to play in the redemption of this young man.

My Miraculous Medal rosary;
each bead is a little
Miraculous Medal.
And even if what I “saw” was something I created out of my imagination, I know that there is nothing wrong with my daughter “waiting” for this young man, at least for a while. And there is nothing wrong with praying for him, of course! And he CAN be healed in an extraordinary way if God desires and if the young man himself cooperates to some extent. 

How long should my daughter wait? I don’t know. But God does. And I believe God will make it clear to her when and if she should stop waiting and “move on”.

There is more to all of this than I can tell you here; but you get the big picture, I think. In your charity, will you also pray for this young man? I don’t want to mention his identity here, but God knows his name and I’m sure He will honor your prayers.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

St. Raphael, pray for us.

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Few More Florida Photos

I want to write about the spiritual aspects of our trip to Florida, but that will take a little time. Meanwhile, here are a few more photos from our little trek to Mt. Dora. There is a lovely city park there on the shores of Lake Harris (I think that was the name of it!), with a long, sturdy boardwalk. Apparently, alligators are often seen there, though we only saw one small one.

It was a beautiful park, though! Here are the photos:

The alligator! It was hard to get a photo, but you can probably see it.


Not sure what it is, but it's pretty!

We also went to Clearwater Beach:

Looks like a postcard, doesn't it?! 

This is the church where we went to Mass on Saturday night. They had two kneelers to serve as a communion rail for those who desired it. There were lots of statues in this little church! They also had a choir loft with an organ - and a good organist! Not sure why there was no veil on the tabernacle.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Florida Photos

My daughter and I are still in Florida...I haven't been away from home this long in just about forever.

We had a fun little adventure the other day, though: we visited a little state park and went on a short hike. As we paid the entrance fee, I said to the attendant, "Let me ask you a tourist-y question: Are there alligators in this park?" He assured me that there were, and we did see this warning sign. However, we did not see any alligators on our walk.

We did see other creatures, though. There were some very healthy-looking squirrels; I suspect they have been fed by human visitors to the park despite the admonitions not to do so. 

And we also saw armadillos! I had never seen one "in the wild" before, and since we didn't even know we might see them, my daughter and I were both surprised. Later, when we stopped at an ice cream parlor, and the server asked if we'd been doing anything interesting, I said, "We saw armadillos!" My daughter quickly clarified that we are from Oregon; the waitress said, "No armadillos in Oregon?!" She was surprised we don't have alligators too...hmm. Anyway, apparently armadillos are not viewed by native Floridians with the same sense of surprise and wonder we experienced.

"They walk across the road and get run over a lot," said our waitress.

We saw a lot of little lizards, too, and a kind of butterfly I've never seen before:

Here are a few more pretty pictures of our hike. God's creation is so grand!

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

With St. Raphael As My Guide

The view from the window of the plane.
I have never had the slightest desire to visit Florida…and yet here I am, in the “Sunshine State”, for a week-long stay. The things I do for my daughter!

I mentioned previously that my daughter “signed up” for, in search of a good Catholic husband. Well, she has been communicating with a young man who lives in Florida, and they were so enamored with each other in their virtual relationship, it seemed appropriate to make this trip to see how the “in person” reality would unfold. (The young man is a student with a rather inflexible schedule, while my daughter has a lot more leeway in her work schedule; that is why we are making the trip to Florida instead of the young man coming to our neck of the woods.)

So here we are. Things seem to be moving in a positive direction, but Satan is having his hand in it. My daughter has been sick with a cold for a week, and is still not feeling her best. Moreover, even though most of her friends are unaware of this developing long distance relationship, she was contacted by 2 former boyfriends just before we embarked on the trip! Plus, we left at the end of her graveyard shift at work, which meant she had had no sleep.  
For my part, I was also unable to sleep that night, and got about 45 minutes of  not-so-peaceful slumber before having to arise, pick up my daughter, and drive 2 hours to the airport.

My main concerns have been about the driving portion of the trip once we arrived in Florida. We rented a car at the airport, and then I had to drive it to our motel, a half-hour’s drive away…on a busy freeway. I hate busy freeway driving on a good day! I was a bit stressed about the prospect.

The view out the motel room window.
But everything went very well. I thank my guardian angel and the Archangel Raphael for that! I have been beseeching them for help since we planned the trip a few weeks ago. They have come through with flying colors. Despite the fact that I had not been able to sleep the night before, I was not nearly as nervous about the driving as I have been other times. And the driving itself ended up being much less stressful than I anticipated, because we beat the rush hour traffic.

Every time I sort of stepped back and observed how well things were going and my relative lack of stress, I was struck by the fact that my prayers had been answered and that I was being well-l00ked-after by my angels and saints! What a comfort and consolation this has been!

And so I trust St. Raphael also to guide my daughter and this young man in their discernment process as they get to know each other “up close and personal”. I have a positive impression of him, so that’s good for starters!

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!
St. Raphael the Archangel, pray for us!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Impoverished Prayers

I am dismayed sometimes (okay, oftentimes!) at the poverty of spiritual development that seems to be displayed in my glimpses of parish life. The particular parish where I attend Mass weekly does have a good priest who is more traditional in his outlook than most of the priests in this diocese, but he is timid in expressing it.

So it was with his homily last night. The Mass was billed as the “vigil” of the Commemoration of All Souls (that parishes call their Saturday-evening-instead-of-Sunday-morning Mass a “vigil Mass” is a pet peeve of mine, but…moving on…), and so the pastor addressed All Souls. But since it was the end of a day in which he had celebrated Mass for the Solemnity of All Saints, he wanted to talk about that, too. Every year there is this kind of confusion on many levels regarding the two feasts, and so I think that in the Novus Ordo it should just be called “All Sails”.

Father gave a decent homily; I mean, he mentioned purgatory! He said those souls in purgatory need our prayers, but he didn’t really give a very strong reasons why. He didn’t mention that they can no longer do any works for their own salvation, and that they are being purged of sin, and that they are suffering even if they do know that Heaven is on the horizon. And he kept coming back to the notion that “we’ll see them again in Heaven some day”. Well…not if we don’t strive to be saints!

Once upon a time, I was the secretary at this parish, and I remember well scheduling Mass intentions. Every day was filled with an intention for the repose of the soul of a deceased loved one, or with “special intentions” for the living. That was then, and this is now: although the parish bulletin lists the Mass intentions for each Mass, there are more blank lines than filled ones. People are not offering Masses for the dead. Why not? I was hoping Father would talk about that a bit, but he didn’t; although there is a message in the bulletin about offering Masses for the dead during November. They can use them all through the year, though.

I wish every priest would read and recommend the book Hungry Souls to help people better understand the dire straits of the souls in purgatory! I wish they would talk more about the fact that those people we love who have died are probably not in Heaven, and that they probably were not the “saints” we declare them to be in their absence, and that we will meet the same fate!  I wish people would just wake up!

Finally, there was a prayer in the bulletin that kind of sums up the childish level of faith I see here – granted, it is in the “Religious Education” section, so it is geared toward children, but still, what are we teaching them? The suggested prayer is this:

O God, we miss family members and friends who have died. We know that they are happy with you, but sometimes it is difficult to remember that when we think about them. We pray today for all people who miss someone who has died. May we all one day be united with you. Amen.

Well, for one thing, we don’t know that they are happy with God in Heaven, and that’s why we pray for them! We WANT them to be happy with God, but are we so sure they are saints already? And if we pray for their souls and they are already in Heaven, the merits of those prayers will be applied to a soul that needs them. So, better safe than sorry! I still pray for the souls of people who died many years ago.

Also, the above prayer seems more like a prayer for the living than the dead. It’s “all about me” – that pray is for “me” because I’m sad that people I love have died; it’s for other living people who are also missing their loved ones. What about the souls of the dead? Sure, it’s meant for kids, but let’s teach them a Catholic view of death and purgatory and hell. Will it scare them? Maybe, a little. Maybe enough to think about living a virtuous life!

I pray our Church leaders come to their senses soon and start teaching the faith. I also pray that people will be motivated to learn the faith despite the lack of sound catechesis in many parishes.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.