Padre Pio Christmas Meditation

Far into the night, at the coldest time of the year, in a chilly grotto, more suitable for a flock of beasts than for humans, the promised MessiahJesus – the savior of mankind, comes into the world in the fullness of time.

There are none who clamor around him: only an ox and an ass lending their warmth to the newborn infant; with a humble woman, and a poor and tired man, in adoration beside him.

Nothing can be heard except the sobs and whimpers of the infant God. And by means of his crying and weeping he offers to the Divine justice the first ransom for our redemption.

He had been expected for forty centuries; with longing sighs the ancient Fathers had implored his arrival. The sacred scriptures clearly prophesy the time and the place of his birth, and yet the world is silent and no one seems aware of the great event. Only some shepherds, who had been busy watching over their sheep in the meadows, come to visit him. Heavenly visitors had alerted them to the wondrous event, inviting them to approach his cave.

PPInfantJesus.jpg (17808 bytes)

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What is the Solution to our Stressful and Anxious Lives? Go to the Center. | Archdiocese of Washington

In yesterday’s Gospel for the First Sunday of Advent, the Lord described a kind of self-destructive cycle that assails us and then proposed a solution. In this post there is an attempt to focus in a bit more on the solution proposed by the Lord.

But to review the problem, the self destructive cycle recall this text from yesterday’s Gospel:

Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. (Luke 21:34-35)

To describe the cycle of the problem in more modern terms:

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Beauty is the Radiance of Truth

Graduale Aboense, hymn book of Turku, Finland....

Has the Church of the late 20th and early 21st century forgotten the importance of beauty for the soul’s search for truth and her longing for God? We continuously hear from the elite that music and art play no real significance in the Church or Her liturgies. But I wonder if that is so. In a previous article I wrote about the aspects of the Divine Love which let us recognize His Presence hidden among us: for instance, in Truth, Light, Goodness and Beauty. If one cannot see Christ’s connection in life to beauty then such a man displays a withered soul in need of the Eternally Beautiful that it might stimulate him.

Our art and our music are significant in that they can, when inspired, move our souls to the peace, love and tranquility that are but reflections of the One who gives the soul her true rest. Have we modern men forgotten how to love, how to expand our souls, how to be transported to another world by these mediums? Are we no longer humans, with a longing for beauty? If so, I am afraid that we have lost our sense of holiness just as we moderns have lost our sense of sin.

It would seem that this may be so if we were to walk into a modernistic church designed in the minimalist motif or listen to the modern hymns that transport the soul not to God but to an auditorium full of children gathered for a sing-a-long. Our hearts and souls contract when confronted with the inexpressive lines of minimalism. It shouts that there is nothing to say, nothing to long for, nothing to aspire to; it is just utilitarian in form and design and that is all that life can offer. In contrast to a gothic church, we do not see the hope for something timeless and eternal but instead see what is stark and sterile.

The same can of course be said of music which contracts our souls and sets our hearts square on the world. It was the other worldliness of Gregorian chant that once moved man’s heart, mind and soul to places it had never dreamed of going. It was a glance into the heavens and it expanded the souls of those who would listen to be transported as it were into a heavenly world full of angels, awe and mysteries of unspoken beauty. Our hearts ache for beauty as the human heart has always done. I do not believe, nor will I ever believe that the human heart and soul has lost its relish for beauty, goodness and love: we long for it and thirst for it as a foretaste of the All Good, the All Beautiful, the All Loving God of our dreams. It is a means through which we glimpse God Himself.

These external and superfluous additions to liturgy are not therefore pointless and they do not take our mind off of the mysteries and the incomprehensible goodness of the sacraments. Instead they draw one closer and expand our hearts to better receive Him, our God, our Love and the All Beautiful Christ into our longing souls who wait with awe and who thirst for His Holiness. For holiness consists, in part of unspoiled beauty, unspoiled goodness, unspoiled truth and unspoiled love.

When man no longer recognizes beauty he will no longer recognize God. I cannot for a minute think that man’s innate love for beauty was place within our hearts and souls for no reason. I do not find it of little value and little worth as we seek our Divine End for which we were made.

If You Thirst, Drink

St Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897) was one of t...

If you are thirsty, then drink. “If any man thirst, let him come to me, and drink.” (John 7:37).

It is common sense and yet we wrestle with demons within ourselves and find no peace. We all have many decisions in life that require some internal search to enable us to choose wisely: careers, friends, ideologies, political beliefs and such. However, the vocational struggle is the most soul wrenching of all. To live a married life, a single life, a life alone, a life in community, a life for God Alone are the toughest on the mind, heart and soul: for they are the essence of how we should live for the rest of our lives. They are the game changing decisions. Careers, friends, ideologies and the like are all decisions that may mutate and change as we come to see our lives differently and we grow in knowledge but the vocational decisions are deep and lasting. They are reminiscent of our choice to choose God and act upon the gift of faith that God pours into our earthen vessels. If we refuse to act by exercising our gift of free will, then our call to faith will seep from us slowly causing us to wither and live our lives in accordance to the ways of the world rather than the divine call to holiness.

If you are weary, then rest. “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee…” __ St. Augustine

Were my children wrestling with a decision concerning the spiritual life or the worldly life I would hope that they might have help from a Spiritual Director who knows the deepest desires of their souls and has examined their character for some appropriate amount of time. I would be much too emotionally invested and not objective enough in my evaluation. After all, it is not my decision. It is between God and the soul He calls and, God willing, a Spiritual Director who can advise and console the deep gut wrenching struggle taking place in the seeker’s soul.

That being said, I do however think that there is some wisdom in answering a call from Christ when it causes a soul a great deal of pain in evaluating. I say this because of the following; the evil spirits do all they can to dissuade souls from entering into a decision of living a life for God Alone. If you are thirsty, drink. If you are weary, rest. Christ is there to quench our thirsts and to give us rest. It is abandonment to divine providence.

I know a woman who had become a sister in a convent in France when she was much younger. It was all she ever wanted to be. However, she got sick and the order sent her home. Ever since, she has lived her life according to the rules of her old order, as sort of a hermit or consecrated virgin. She had not envisioned anything like this but God must have known that it suited her soul better to be alone rather than live in community. We must accept God’s decision once we put the decision on His shoulders.

Therefore, she did not fight and wrestle with the call to be a religious and live her life for God Alone. This woman made the plunge without any reserve. So after her dismissal, her health recovered and she now lives a life that suits her. She is a contemplative in her prayer life and subsists on very little money which I think was derived from her family; for much of her life is hidden even though I know her well. She is a type of ‘desert prophet’ of the ancient Church living in the midst of people who don’t really see her or know who she is. They would never know who she truly is by simply looking at her.

So in my simple way of thinking, it may be better perhaps to let go of the demons one is wrestling with and put the onus on Christ’s shoulders by choosing to let Him lead you to your vocation. Why else would you be wrestling if He had not put the thought in your heart and mind to begin with? Once you let go of the decision, you can step either to the left or right as you think is right. If it is wrong, then God will eventually put it right. I don’t think he would leave a soul, who gave themselves over to Him completely, to suffer in a vocation to which they did not truly belong.

I’m no spiritual director and only speak from my own knowledge: mostly from books and my dear friend, the sister in hiding. There are plenty of retreats to ponder a religious vocation that are offered in most dioceses. But, in the end, everyone must make their vocational decisions themselves, hopefully through prayer and deep meditation. I only wish it weren’t so painful for those poor souls who wrestle with these problems and also for their friends and families to witness their pain as well. But God is the Physician of Souls and we need trust that He will get them through it.

Pray for those who are considering a religious vocation as there are many demons that vex the mind and heart of these poor souls during the time of their discernment.

Failure to Commit

"It is love alone that gives worth to all...

“It is love alone that gives worth to all…” _ St. Teresa of Avila

Sometimes a failure to commit is telling us something quite different than what we usually take away from the experience. For instance, in my case, I have a long history of these events and they have carried over in life to the present day.

While attending Long Island University in Brooklyn back in the 60’s I had a desire to get my degree in philosophy and eventually teach at the college level. However, as a philosophy major, I blamed the philosophy courses and especially the teachers for being second rate at best. So, using the wisdom of my twenty some years of life, I changed majors to English Literature and after a few more years of boredom quit college to pursue my real attraction: worldly distraction. It was a fall not unlike that of Adam. Strike one, for failing to commit. The question which I now pose to you is, was the fault in someone else or within me?

After bouncing around New York, earning rent and food money driving a cab, it struck me that it would be nice to follow my latest dream of being a blues guitar player. With guitar in hand I left for Boston. So I entered Berklee School of Music and pursued music along with some very talented people. But once again, I failed to commit. My excuse this time was that I just wasn’t good enough to continue this dream. The way I looked at it, was this: if I were an artist, my genius would most likely be in painting pictures of Elvis on black velvet with glow-in-the-dark colors. So whether or not I had the talent is not the question anymore because, for all my excuses, Berklee had accepted me into their musical studies program. Therefore, in their opinion, I had the ability to succeed. Strike two, for failing to commit. So I was back to driving cabs again; this time for many years. Was that failure based on lack of talent or lack of motivation or just plain sloth?

God had a plan to rescue me and I almost failed to commit here as well. But thankfully I did commit to my wife of thirty-four years who I fortuitously met while earning a meager living as a cab driver. Well it was about time that I committed to something. Halleluiah, for commitment number one! Was this commitment made because I saw the imperfections in my wife or in myself that would destine us to failure? Obviously not. True love it seems, makes the imperfect, perfect. It heals the wounds of life while making the impossible, possible. We become blind to any obstacles that might stand in our way.

Well life proceeds and I earned a living selling industrial products, becoming adept in electric motors, solenoids, transformers and industrial fans, to name a few. It supported my family a whole lot better than driving a cab and took me all over the country. I committed to a career in life which was made not because I loved selling and loved what I did but because I loved my family and their well-being. This commitment was also made for love and not for my own fulfillment. Another lesson to be learned.

My wife was a Catholic and I was a ‘nothing’ at the time we met and married. I had always been interested in religion but again, I could find nothing that I was willing to commit to or fully have faith in. I was a fallen-away protestant.

Years before I met my wife I had become a lover of Buddhist writings, especially in Tibetan Buddhism. But I did not get Buddhism: it was for an Eastern mind and that was just too abstract from my nature. However, some Buddhist writer, who I cannot remember, suggested to his readers the works of St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila. So I read Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross as well as another Catholic Book he suggested; The Cloud of Unknowing which had been written anonymously. Both of them are on Catholic mystical prayer. They had more impact on me than I realized at the time because I read them through the spectacles of Buddhist thought.

Years later, my wife was raising our children in the Catholic faith and as a dutiful but unbelieving father I would accompany them to Mass on Sundays. It was during this period, inspired by the Franciscan Monks who were the pastors of the church I attended (which looked like a Spanish mission from the Middle Ages), I began to read again the mystical writings of Catholicism. My reading accelerated as I became convinced of the truth of what I read. God tested my commitment by delaying my entrance into the Church by almost 3 years as I watched with sadness the old Franciscans, who were becoming a bit senile, forget that I was even getting religious instructions from them. So I awaited a new pastor and after he got his footings in his new assignment, I again started the whole process anew with him. Yes, maybe I can form a new habit of commitment after all: this was commitment number three. I had committed to read about the faith, to go through with the sacraments to gain membership to the faith and to abide as best I could, to the teachings of the faith.

My intentions and my desires, however, were not to merely be a pew sitter. I wanted more. I wanted what St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avilla had: a real substantial union with God while still in my human condition. In other words, I wanted to be a saint in this life; to enter by the “narrow gate.” My desire drew me to Carmel and to spiritual retreats given by traditionalists who said Mass according to the Missal of 1962; which is sometimes referred to as the Tridentine Rite or the Extraordinary Rite. I attended classes for the Third Order of Carmelites or OCDS. Once again, I saw my interest wavering. I judged everyone and everybody and only saw an order that did not live up to what I had imagined in the writings of the Carmelite Saints. Was it the Order that was changed by the modern world or was it me, once again? I could not commit and therefore retired to my own hermitage hidden within my family life. Strike three, you’re out!

Apparently not in God’s game of baseball. We get many balls to hit and many strikes that we take while we just watch them cross the plate, right in the sweet spot, without even taking a swing.

So here I am, still drawn to a life of prayer, to which I am not willing to commit. I pray but I am no prayer warrior. I am weak and suffer from the capital sin of sloth. My inabilities to commit in life always show me the same things should I care to watch and listen: commitment comes from love and sacrifice not just because we want it. Pray for me, that Christ might increase my faith, my hope and my love: and that through this increase find the courage necessary to make a sacrificial commitment to Him through my prayer and all my actions. Commitments are sometimes hard to make and even harder to keep. Pray for me, as I also pray for thee.__ a favorite form of ‘goodbye for now’ from my old and honorable friend and mentor, to whom I simply refer to as Monsignor. May his prayers from heaven have even more effect now than they did while he walked this earth.

Listen to the Silence

Vigil Mass

Let all mortal flesh keep silent, standing there in fear and trembling, let all things of earth vanish from our thoughts; for the King of kings, the Lord of lords, Christ our God, is about to be sacrificed and to be given as food to the faithful. Before Him choirs of Angels go, clothed with power and dominion, with faces veiled, chanting the hymn, Alleluia. __ St. James Liturgy, 4th Century.

What is the value of silence? It is nothing, it is emptiness, it communicates nothing and yet by abiding in it we gain all, we find fullness and learn everything we must know; God Alone. It is the desire of the Church that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass be observed and participated in with a certain type of spiritual quiet. The instruction for the Missal requires that a period of silence be observed after the hearing of the Gospel and also after the reception of the Eucharist. It allows us to quiet our spirits and meditate on the moment. We do not obtain this stillness in a conversation with our friends or in the waving and holding of hands in Mass. Nor do we find it by smiling at all our friends that we spot in church. It is found in interior solitude. The exterior stillness is only a help and a symbol to aid the soul who wishes to enter that moment. The St. James Liturgy, the oldest existing liturgy known to us, knew the value of the silence of which I speak, as you can quickly see from the excerpt above.

Silence is the ultimate reverence. It is the humility and homage that Christ should demand of us. And if He doesn’t, we should demand it of ourselves. It is an expression of true dignity, respect and worship. How dare I make a sound lest I miss His whispers within my soul?  “What we need most in order to make progress is to be silent before this great God with our appetite and with our tongue, for the language He best hears is silent love.” (St. John of the Cross)

As a dog shows his love by lying silently at the feet of his master, so too should a soul lay in quiet expectation for the slightest movement that His Lord might make: for whatever the Lord demands, that we should faithfully, willfully and lovingly fulfill. It is how we come to a complete reliance on God while ridding our minds of any consideration of self.  “The most generous choices, especially the persevering, are the fruit of profound and prolonged union with God in prayerful silence.” (Pope John Paul II)

Silence informs our prayers. We cannot possibly pray as we ought if we do not allow God to speak to us and our prayers become merely a list of personal requests and demands. “God speaks in the silence of the heart, and we listen. And then we speak to God from the fullness of our heart, and God listens. And this listening and this speaking is what prayer is meant to be….” (Mother Teresa of Calcutta)

We live in a noisy and busy world where we find it difficult to find time to be alone with God and feel continuously oppressed by the demands of our lives. Somehow, we need to make room for the benefit of both our minds and our souls. “Let us allow ourselves to be ‘infected’ by St. Joseph’s silence! We need it greatly, in a world that is often too noisy, that does not favor meditation or listening to the voice of God.” (Pope Benedict XVI)

May we all find at least an hour during our week, especially during Mass, where our souls might have an opportunity to plumb its depths to that stillness, that quiet spot within our souls, where God abides, God speaks and we silently listen.

All Vocations have their Center in Christ

The Exhortation to the Apostles

There are a number of vocations that Catholics might consider before embarking on life’s journey. In brief, they could probably be categorized as the married life, the single life, the religious life, the priesthood, and the hermit or consecrated virgin. Such are the choices we have to choose and all are good and efficacious means to minister to one another and to keep Christ as the center of our lives.

The married state is the most common vocation and should be considered by those who have a great love of life. Those who are desirous of giving their selves completely to one another and who wish to be generous in that gift of self by dedicating themselves to their families: always keeping their expressions of love open to the prospect of new life. If one is not capable of such self-surrender, another vocation may be a better choice. The married state mirrors the life of the trinity – in as much as there is a certain unity expressed in various persons: the father, the wife and the children. Together they form but one family unit and separately they each have an equality of love and worth.

The single life is at times not chosen but thrust upon individuals who never found another person that made them desirous to surrender themselves to another entirely. Or, if they did, were rejected or went unnoticed by the other. In this case the individual desires to live in the world and should try to live a chaste life in service to others. These persons are usually quite suited to working with the poor, the sick, the old or the orphaned. Christ again should be at the center of their life and they should consider themselves as other Christ’s walking among us to relieve suffering to those in need and want. We might say that their lives mirror that of Christ as healer.

The religious life is a calling that is not often heard though many may be called to it. Those souls who heed this call desire above all else to find God Himself continuously present in their life. They wish to make Christ their life’s constant companion and the spouse of their souls. These religious men and women strive through work and prayer to advance daily in humility, virtue and prayer that they might become holy in honor of the One who is Holiness Himself. It is necessary that these individuals are attracted to living in community with others who have the same aspirations. They must be generous and eager to live their lives in complete obedience to their superiors and to the rules of their order. They do not mind this structured life, in fact they desire to give up their personal likes, dislikes, pleasures and the like for the higher good. It is a total giving of self to God and so their natures are generously given over to a life lived without any say in any aspect of their day to day service. One might say that this life mirrors the heavenly union of the Bride and the Bridegroom, the Church and Christ, lived out on this earth within each individual.

The priesthood, obviously only available to men, is for those who wish to serve as an example to others, teaching their flocks about the love of God and dispensing the graces that were given them by their ordination.  This is accomplished by the application of the Sacraments entrusted to the Church and given to them in their apostolic function of the Church. They are the fathers of the family of God who looks out for the well-being and health of their flock: a spiritual physician that applies Christ’s ointments for healing and the strengthening of souls. Again many are called but many do not heed this invitation. For these rare men, seem to mirror Christ’s care for His Apostles and disciples. They are the very real embodiments of the powers that Christ gave to His closest friends: the Apostles. They act among us as an alter Christus[1] and they function while distributing the Sacraments, in persona Christi.[2]

The last of the vocations might be called that of an anchorite. These are the men and women who have withdrawn from the world to live their lives completely hidden from the world. Some live these lives among us and others live them in seclusion. It is a life that draws those who are desirous to live humbly and to never be recognized in this life. They are persons that are models for us in their humility and mirror Christ’s desire to veil His Divinity from us. Enfleshed as man Christ walked among us and opened the spiritual eyes of man to see the Reality of His being through sacrificial love. As Christ’s servants, these consecrated virgins, hermits and unknowns are quietly setting examples for all who might enter into contact with them. It is sufficient for them, that Christ knows them and that is all they truly desire in this life.

The last group of people I would like to speak of are not a specific vocation at all. They are, I think, the highest calling of all of humankind though they are not given any choice in it. They can come from any of the above vocations at any time or they can be born into it. They have been called and chosen by Christ to suffer for the rest of us. They are those taken ill or made helpless by natural misfortune. They are babies and children born with defects and illnesses who inspire us to find ways to serve them and attempt to ease their suffering during this life. They become helpless and sometimes abandoned and hopeless, as Christ Himself experienced when tortured and accepted an agonizing death upon the cross. These special individuals then represent Christ in the most glorious way of all: their union with the sufferings of Christ Himself. Some of these special individuals are known to us as victim souls. And through their sufferings, countless other souls are saved and a multitude of sins forgiven for those who are moved to help them, pray for them, and work unceasingly to ease them from their suffering.

Any of us can experience that which drowns us in sorrow or pain. Though burdened by these maladies, those who suffer can also offer their pain and suffering to Him Who suffered before us so that we might not suffer in eternity.

God loves us all and we should never forget that to whatever vocation or state we have drifted into, that Christ was meant to be at the center of our lives; that is if we live them as He would have us live them. Everyone is called to holiness. He wants each and every one of us to be a Saint with Him in Heaven.


[1] Another Christ

[2] In the Person of Christ

The Real World

St Catherine's Monastery

What is it that is so inspiring about the monastery or convent life? Those men and women who live sheltered lives in remote out of the way places. Their lives seem totally useless to a world full of abundant trappings, so it seems for many. If one does not have the eyes to see, it appears a total waste of a person’s life.

There are those who do not understand the life but are drawn to these souls for what seems to be unknown reasons. What, one might ponder, is worth giving up everything in this world for a life of solitude and hard work? What is worth the effort and the sacrifices these men and women make? Are they merely running away from life or hiding from a past they would sooner wish to forget?

I too, pondered over these souls when I was young. For nothing in this life seemed to have an allure like it. You never forget the shock of finding out that there are people on this earth that count everything of this earth as nothing and look joyous in their trials and labors while separating themselves from the draw of the world and from their very nature as human beings.

Most people, I gather, take little notice of these men and women. They go about their lives in the real world and never give the religious life a thought. They fill their days striving for love, affection, money, honor or skills that might make their lives useful and fulfilling. It is the road we all follow, is it not?

Apparently not! The religious, if asked, might very well expound on the meaningfulness and excellence of the religious life led in seclusion. They might go into detail as to having found the real meaning in life. In short, they would counter that they are living in the Real World: a world that was created by God, held in existence by God, and which glorifies God. They suffer no delusions. It is our honor and our duty to live our lives for our Creator, to pray to Him for all our needs and unceasingly give praise to Him throughout the day and night. Their lives are ordered to their Lord and Savior as the only truly important activity that the human soul can perform – a total gift of themselves. They are ordered to their final end: an eternity of Love Itself.

Now if we were to take the time to evaluate who leads the better life, we might begin to see the futility of our lives lived in the world. Our goals and dreams are met and lost, good and evil comes and goes; and when all is said and done, it turns out to be vanity. It was much ado about nothing. Dust to dust. “Remember O man that thou art dust and to dust thou wilt return.”

So when ever asked about the courageous religious lives of those in the monastery or the convent, I simply remark that those are the people who chose to live in the Real World.

Is the Episcopal Church a Bellweather for All Churches?

Bishop Don Johnson; pioneering female photogra... The story about the collapse of the Episcopal Church might be a canary in the coal mine for the rest of us. For years the Episcopal Church has led the way in changing the structure of their church to align itself more closely to the modern world and has now evidently found their belief structure being reordered right along with all the other changes.

It would seem that when we start down a road that tries to include everyone and please everyone we find ourselves struggling to have any real identity of our own. Some of this may be creeping into all Christian churches in one form or another. The desire to be all things to all people is only natural. “To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak. I became all things to all men, that I might save all.” __ I Cor. 9:22    But we cannot assume that the Apostle meant that he would be sinful to gain the sinful. Such would be a real stretch of the scripture passage.

Yet in the Episcopal Church besides women priestesses, we now see openly homosexual priests and bishops and transsexual priests teaching that their sins are no longer sin at all. The mental gymnastics that they go through to justify their acceptance of sin is no small accomplishment: i.e. that the real sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was that the people were not welcoming. So the moral teachings are thrown out under the good intentions of including everyone and being relevant in the modern world. Unfortunately, people are looking to the Church to be more than what they get out of modern society: they want holiness.

I think we have to start examining the Catholic Church at some point concerning the effects of the Second Vatican Council and the Novus Ordo (New Order) Mass. Though the new order of Mass can be uplifting when done as intended, it still cannot measure up to the 1962 Missal known as the Tridentine Rite. One of the observations made by the late Dietrich von Hildebrand has always stayed with me because it portends a major flaw in the new Mass. He asked, “Do we better meet Christ by soaring up to Him, or by dragging Him down into our workaday world?” I think it is a question that we might all want to be asking ourselves.

The Vatican has tried to clean up the mess that ensued after the release of the Novus Ordo Mass but we are still a long way from getting ourselves back to the inspiring holiness that we were honored to participate in during the Mass they replaced. The last 2 Popes have tried to stop the overuse of extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, banal liturgical music and the inane English translations of the Mass that were doctrinally unsound, gender neutral and full of inclusive language. Recently, they have finally made many good fixes to the English Missal but have yet to stop the glut of extraordinary ministers and syrupy music more fitted for a youth camp than the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

In addition to the above problems we are awash with compromises and collaborative changes which affect the function of our local parishes and the laity’s participation at Mass. We seldom find an altar rail anymore as they ‘separate’ the clergy from the people. Presumably this is a compromise with our world’s modern outlook of equality of persons. We no longer receive communion on the tongue though it is still the ‘ordinary’ form of reception as instructed by the Church. This too seems to be a new found equality that proposes that our hands are no different from the consecrated hands of our priests and we therefore have the right to touch the Blessed Sacrament. And of course our relaxed posture of receiving our Lord standing instead of in the humble posture of kneeling before the Lord has taken its toll psychologically.

English: Tridentine Mass celebrated on Palm Su...The priest no longer takes the very manly stand of being the leader of men praying to God, in persona Christi (in the Person of Christ), with the congregation behind him as he pleads to God for all our needs. He is acting as our intercessor to the Most High. The new stance of the priest, ad populum (toward the people), places the priest in an awkward stance with his back to God and facing us as though his only purpose is to be a participant and simply another member of the congregation. I find these to be destructive symbolic gestures that instill within us unprecedented self-esteem and pride. These I place in the first tier of faith-killing changes that I hope and pray will someday be rectified.

In the second tier, we must not forget that since Vatican II men have to a large extent given up their active participation in the Mass. Our good women have taken up the slack and sadly have cast a more effeminate pall over the Mass. Women now serve our particular parishes in roles such as lectors, ushers, extraordinary ministers, while our little girls are supplanting our young boys as altar servers which served as the breeding ground for future priests. Overall there is a feminization of the Mass that is quite stark when you view it against the Mass according to the 1962 Missal.

Protestant ideas have flooded into our Church as well in song and in parts of the Novus Ordo Mass replete with the evangelical holding of hands and raising them to heaven though there are no rubrics (instructions in the Missal for the actions of the people and priest) that would lead one to thinking that they are participating as the Church has asked them to do. This I would classify as third tier problems.

Lastly, and this may rise above the other tiers as described above, there is the overall sense of comfort in who we are, comfort in our sin, lack of a guilty conscience (leading to the emptying of confessionals), and arriving before our God in the most awful raggedy clothing we seem to be able to find. Some of the ladies might want to think about their modesty. They often arrive in tight jeans, short shorts and other revealing clothing when they attend the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Altar. The men now arrive in t-shirts, shorts and sandals as if they can’t wait to get to the barbecue or some televised sporting event fast enough. The overall feeling is that we are not in awe; we have no reverence and we feel no sense of sacredness in the Church space or in the Mass itself. We chatter about our workaday lives to one another before, during and after Mass, disrespectful of those who may be attempting to pray amid the din. This I think is proof of the prophetic question that Dietrich von Hildebrand imparted to us as a warning:  “Do we better meet Christ by soaring up to Him, or by dragging Him down into our workaday world?”

It’s a question that I hope the Church comes to grips with soon. For I fear that if we allow this erosion to continue, we will no longer recognize the Church of our fathers and mothers and in the worse case might begin to see some of the collapse that is overtaking our brothers and sisters in the Episcopal Church. Pray for the restoration of holiness, sacredness, solemnity and reverence in our Most Holy Sacrament – the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Pray for our priests and for our Bishops that they may put an end to all abuses within the Church and may the men of our Church take up their proper roles and put an end to the denuded character that is engulfing our Church. We need to claim that which was ordered towards us and our Bishops should do what they can to restore this order. Religion is not just for women. Real men should properly be warriors for God as well. Lets take our rightful places back and not leave it to our wives to take up the slack.

The Virtue of Faith

Depiction of faith, hope, and charity (love), ...

The Virtue of Faith is found in the intellect (which aspires to truth) and the will, not in the emotions. This can often be confusing due to the fact that the gift of faith has as its goal Love (Charity), which in essence is God Himself. Likewise, our expressions of Faith are also motivated by the virtue of Love – the love of God and of neighbor as oneself, for the love of God. This Theological Virtue of Love is not, however, to be confused with emotional love though it quite often (but not necessarily) accompanies this virtue by the same name.

Love is the ‘form’ of the virtues as well as the ‘source and goal’ of their practice. (see CCC 1827)  And it is by the Virtue of Faith that we dare Hope for the Divine Promises. Our love of Christ (Truth) is a sure foundation for the Virtue of Faith while Theological Hope in these promises depends upon our acceptance and belief in Him Who is True. One can easily see why we have need for all 3 of the Theological Virtues (Faith, Hope, Charity) as described by the Church: for none can operate in isolation from the others. Only when we meet God face-to-face will we no longer have need of Faith and Hope though Love will always remain – our will becoming one with His Divine Will. It is God’s free gift of love that operates in us now and will someday sustain us in heaven; He has loved us first and this love moves our hearts to seek Him with our freewill through Faith, Hope and Love.

The similarity to marital love is quite striking. We can easily mistake the ‘magic’ of love for the selfless love necessary in a successful marriage. This ‘magic’ or emotionalism that accompanies a loving relationship can and often does fade in time. But a successful marriage is a movement of the will to sacrifice and surrender oneself to the other even in the absence of these emotions. Often the love-swoon of a new romance is sufficient to motivate many good and noble actions: not necessarily for the sake of True sacrificial love for the other, but in order to maintain this emotional nirvana. It is an old saying that some people are merely in love with Love. But even this love, which is wonderful in its own right, points to a higher Love – a Love still more complete. This Love is sacrificial in nature and devoid of self-satisfaction as its object. It is other-oriented and not egocentric. It is this kind of Love that God has for us and that we should have for Him. No wonder we speak of spiritual marriage between our souls and Christ.

Therefore, our spiritual quest should be consistent with this proper orientation. It should be Christ-centered rather than me-centered. A loss of emotional fulfillment is not necessarily a sign that one has lost his faith; although an abandonment of one’s duties to this faith may certainly indicate such. Faith does not leave us unchanged. It demands works of charity and obedience of faith, bearing witness to God. (CCC 2087) True faith and a healthy spiritual life are often found in those who have been denied the ‘feelings’ (instant gratifications) of faith but trudge ever forward into the seeming darkness. They are guided only by their unchangeable fiat, “not my will but Thine be done.” Their will is guided by Faith, Hope, and Love, though they operate in a way sometimes unseen or unfelt by the spiritual pilgrim.

If we seek only emotional consolation from our faith then we have not truly been tested in our faith. It is wonderful to be given such lights from our Lord and we should always thank Him for them. But we should never confuse these consolations for the True Gift of Faith. When we are tested in our faith by a loss of these comforts we should thank God all the more for the faith bestowed on us, which can only be practiced by our will which is accompanied by hope and love of God. Thus stripped of self-satisfaction, we stand naked before God, unashamed like the new Adam (Christ Jesus) when He willed to die an ignominious death on the cross for Love of us.

I believe it was the Curé of Ars who was once asked how a person might become a saint.  His answer was: “You will it.”