Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Restoring the Calendar, Reset Priority

"Not to labour a point I've been making a lot recently, what has been happening since the 1960s is not, generally speaking, a clear, authoritative, rejection of traditional teaching. It is highly significant that reformers took so much away from the honour given in Mass to the Blessed Sacrament, but we can't conclude that the Church stopped believing in the Real Presence. After all, the Blessed Sacrament is still give some honour in the Novus Ordo. Its significance lies in the fact that, first, the teaching is no longer conveyed so effectively, so the people become less certain about it and may even forget it altogether, and, secondly, that it became possible for priests and theologians to deny it, without their denial being immediately contradicted by the Mass. The vacuum created by the official liturgy ceasing to teach the doctrine clearly, could be filled by unofficial progressive preaching against the doctrine.

That's what they want to do with marriage, by getting rid of the Church's visible discipline on remarriage after divorce."

I have never been one to hide my enthusiasm for the FIUV Position Papers, nay, rather I guess I am ready to shout it from the house tops: take and read! Joseph Shaw has just published another on Septuagesima, Vigils and Octaves with respect to the calendar changes which took place in the Roman Rite. The paper is great, but the above quote comes from an introductory comment on the LMS Chairman's blog. Well worth your time and reflection, both.

Cancer as Friend

"Many people are living with chronic and life-threatening illnesses, especially various forms of cancer. I remember often the advice given me, when I was thirteen and had contracted polio, by a neighbor whose daughter began her experience with the disease a year before. He came to my house, ran my leg through some exercises and said that I was not as severely affected as his daughter. Then he told me: “There is always someone who is worse off than you. Don’t ever feel sorry for yourself.” I have recalled this advice many times, in different circumstances over the years. It was the best advice I ever received. It enables me to encourage others, and many now write to tell me that they have found courage to face their own illness because I am still doing, in an increasingly restricted way, what I have been called upon to do by my office. At the same time, God also purifies us, and I have a sense that I’m being taught to let go, to put aside many of the concerns that have shaped my life, even as a bishop. I welcome that “purification of desires,” because it brings the “Unum necessarium” into clearer focus."
Cardinal George has much to say in an America magazine interview, but I gladly carry this paragraph, especially the last two sentences with me. Saint Francis of Assisi talked about "sister death", but I suspect for most people today the shock effect would come from treating cancer as a friend or companion.

I offer a prayer of petition for myself and the world today: for a purification of desires!

Monday, October 27, 2014

To Release from Bonds

The Gospel for today's Mass is no doubt a text to stir emotions in the light of all the controversy surrounding the recent extraordinary synod in Rome:
     "One sabbath day Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who for eighteen years had been possessed by a spirit that left her enfeebled; she was bent double and quite unable to stand upright. When Jesus saw her he called her over and said, ‘Woman, you are rid of your infirmity’ and he laid his hands on her. And at once she straightened up, and she glorified God.
     But the synagogue official was indignant because Jesus had healed on the sabbath, and he addressed the people present. ‘There are six days’ he said ‘when work is to be done. Come and be healed on one of those days and not on the sabbath.’ But the Lord answered him. ‘Hypocrites!’ he said ‘Is there one of you who does not untie his ox or his donkey from the manger on the sabbath and take it out for watering? And this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan has held bound these eighteen years – was it not right to untie her bonds on the sabbath day?’ When he said this, all his adversaries were covered with confusion, and all the people were overjoyed at all the wonders he worked." [Luke 13:10-17]

The question is really what is involved in untying bonds. Apart from physical healing such as that worked by the Lord Jesus for that dear woman on a sabbath, I think clarity and direction, living in and witnessing to the fullness of truth as it comes to us only from Christ is at the essence of freedom. The man or woman who is enabled to live in the light of truth is unbound, unchained. I think that is the whole point of taking the ox or the donkey out for watering each day, isn't it?

I am praying that this year which separates us from the ordinary synod might be graced by a profound experience in the Church of the true freedom which comes from embracing the truth which comes to us from God alone. We really need to come home to Christ in lots of ways; we need to be led and not just given our head.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Parable of the Wicked Tenants

"Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.” [Matthew 21:43-44]

I had the great joy and privilege in these last couple days of sharing in the annual gathering of Europe's Oriental Catholic Bishops hosted this year in Lviv by the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church (UGCC) against the backdrop of the 25th Anniversary of that Church's emergence from over 40 years of illegality and persecution by the Soviets. 

It was great that so many brother bishops from other Churches of central and eastern Europe which had suffered a similar fate could be here to rejoice with the UGCC, today a youthful and flourishing Church. Lviv was the city where the Church reemerged twenty-five years ago and on Saturday morning we celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the church whose pastor had been one of the ring leaders of the "pseudo sobor" (a synod without bishops) of 1946, which ratified the soviet dictates for the destruction of the Church and received all its property on behalf of the Orthodox. This same church was the first in 1989 to come back to Catholicism and to hear the Holy Father's name commemorated once again in public within the Divine Liturgy. 

What touched me deeply about all the events of these days was the sense of awe which was all pervasive. There was no triumphalism at all but profound gratitude for this work done by God Himself: freeing the Church and then despite the imperfections of the people involved, prospering the work of their hands in the course of these twenty-five years. It could have been someone else elsewhere, but God in His mercy chose to prosper the Church of Kyiv, of the Baptism of the Kyivan Rus! The lot fell to the UGCC!

At some point during an historical presentation on the struggles of these last years and hopes for the future, in light of an honest admission of both the strengths and the weaknesses of the UGCC, the above words from our Lord and Savior came crowding into my thoughts. What do we know about how long the Lord's favor might last? It is more than urgent that we be good tenants of His vineyard, that we prove faithful and prudent stewards of His manifold grace.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Elijah on Mount Horeb

Humanae Vitae
Paul VI, Pope
 (2011-02-16). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.

"Consequently, if one does not want to see the mission of generating life exposed to the arbitrary decisions of men, one must of necessity recognize certain absolute limits to the possibility of a human being’s dominion over his or her body and its functions, limits that no one, whether a private individual or someone invested with authority has any right to exceed. And such limits cannot be determined except by the respect owed to the integrity of the human organism and its functions, according to the principles recalled above and according to the correct understanding of the “principle of totality”, explained by our predecessor, Pius XII." (Kindle Locations 204-209)

I must confess that I had a bit of an attack of melancholy when I learned that Blessed Paul VI was not getting an altar upstairs in St. Peter's Basilica. For some reason I presumed an altar for him somewhere, which would then become a focus for respect life devotion and pilgrimage on the Vatican Hill. At any rate, this disappointment moved me on Sunday to pick up and read his great 1968 encyclical again and let it once again work its magic in my soul. 

This short pamphlet is mighty. My first reading at age 18 was disturbed by all the static emanating from the rebellious world around me. At 28, I had the good fortune of attending a seminar and listening to a series of tapes by a Catholic philosopher, a married laymen, eager to share the conversion which the encyclical had worked in his life, eager to confess his sins and omissions in living out his marital vocation with its mission of generating life.

Subsequent decades have always granted new insights and greater courage in defense of marriage and family and allowed me sadly to witness the prophecies therein contained fulfilled and human life, matrimony and family degraded by contraception and the mentality which has opened the floodgates of state interference into the noble mission which is the essence and the crown of Christian matrimony. The decades go by and the quiet whisper of Humanae vitae is still to be heard, not unlike that faint sound which the prophet Elijah experienced on Mount Horeb, calling him back to his prophetic destiny for the sake of the life of the world.

Altar or no, I wish to entrust the precious gift of human life, its generation and defense, to the faithful prophet, who amidst the fright and turmoil of his day, shared with us what he had heard all alone on the mountain of God, Horeb. Blessed Paul VI, pray for us!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Getting the Word out

Today would have started better if I had been on retreat without access to the various means of social communication. As it is, via Facebook, Twitter and my two "Readers", I am sharing the pain of lots of folks burdened by the lies and impositions of others. You might say that in a less virtual world maybe one or two at the most of these people could have shared with me something of what was upon them and I could have communicated back effectively registering my understanding, solidarity and full confidence in the Lord of All. Instead, well, I use Skype to dump on another friend, who pulls out his best emoticons to cheer me up. Nice world we live in!

Truth to be told, not even the human exchange or closeness of Gethsemane was all that consoling (see the Passion Account of Matthew's Gospel):

"Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.” And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.”

Let us just say that it all seems to be part of it, although I would pray that the Lord would grant deliverance and show us His merciful kindness! Through the intercession (of a Saturday) of His Most Blessed Mother!

Maria, breit den Mantel aus,
mach Schirm und Schild für uns daraus;
lass uns darunter sicher stehn,
bis alle Stürm vorüber gehn.
Patronin voller Güte,
uns allezeit behüte.

Dein Mantel ist sehr weit und breit,
er deckt die ganze Christenheit,
er deckt die weite, breite Welt,
ist aller Zuflucht und Gezelt.
Patronin voller Güte,
uns allezeit behüte!

Maria, hilf der Christenheit,
zeig deine Hilf uns allezeit;
mit deiner Gnade bei uns bleib,
bewahre uns an Seel und Leib!
Patronin voller Güte,
uns allezeit behüte!

O Mutter der Barmherzigkeit,
den Mantel über uns ausbreit;
uns all darunter wohl bewahr,
zu jeder Zeit in aller Gefahr.
Patronin voller Güte,
uns allezeit behüte.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Good News to be Shared

I am personally profoundly grateful to Cardinal Dolan for having the Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic on his radio program. It is well worth a listen (here).