Get Real

 

Gentle Reader: I hope your Lent 2021 A.D. is off to a strong start! Keep it up! If you need inspiration, find the daily Mass readings; often available in your Church bulletin, the USCCB website, or EWTN.  I find reading the Psalms, at any time, to be very powerful and meaningful. Also, never forget the Rosary. If there is anything Satan really hates, it’s the Rosary and Our Lady. If you enjoy poking and pestering others, as I do (hence this blog – lol), whip out that Rosary with a hearty: Take that, you devil!

Some days, I wonder why God said he would never bring The Flood again. It is a metaphor for our Baptism which explains why Catholics believe if you are validly Baptized, even outside the Catholic church, you only need it once. Somedays it seems, though, that another Flood to purify the earth may be a good thing. But, honestly, who would God pick to be Noah this time? Probably, not a politician. Not even sure it would the Holy Father.

I digress. I am trying not to be all gloom and doom. When we (I) talk about Catholicism, we are often finger wagging and “no” and negative in perception. Why be Catholic if negativity is all there is?

Why am I Catholic? Still and always?

I’ll tell you what brought me back and I'm never leaving again  – the Real Presence

You know – that “thing” in the Eucharistic Host that very few professed Catholics, according to recent surveys, know about and/or believe in.

I suspect, like myself, they were very poorly catechized. I pray for them and I’m offering my Lent for their conversion and realization.

I am a post – Vatican II child. I don’t remember the Traditional Latin Mass or even Latin in the Mass. I was only 2, or so, when the Novus Ordo, the Mass most of us in the West are familiar with, was implemented. I have, however, actually read many of the documents of Vatican II – the actual documents NOT the summary interpretations by the media, theologians or religious. I’ve learned a hard lesson over time that most people have an agenda and that agenda may or may not be in conformity with Christ or His Church. Sometimes, people are honestly ignorant, other times, they know exactly what they are doing.

I remember my CCC instruction in the 1970s to be a lot of guitar music and picture books. Form but no substance. We learned HOW to make our First Confession (oh, excuse me, First Reconciliation as “Confession” was apparently too scary of a word to use or we were not smart enough for it) but absolutely nothing as far as why it matters and the importance of the Sacrament. We learned nothing of its beauty. It was presented as an annoyance, an age specific box to check on our way to the next Sacrament to check off the list.

I digress again – I think!

Sitting down and reading documents, whether of Vatican II or otherwise, it’s not where the minds of most of our youth are at these days. Honestly, I don’t think it is realistic to expect most adults these days to read a book that you hand to them and recommend they read the chapter on Eucharist or the Gospel of John.  Eventually – sure. But I would not start out with that.

Experiential knowledge is the best. If you are blessed enough to live in a Diocese with a regular schedule of Eucharistic Adoration – GO!  If not, attend Mass early and sit in front of the Tabernacle (wherever it may be located in your church or chapel) or stay after Mass and sit in front of the Tabernacle for a while. If the janitor or the parish priest asks what you are doing: tell them you are not sure you believe God is here but I’m willing to give Him a chance.  Hopefully, they will leave you alone or maybe you can have a teaching moment together.

If you can find a parish with Eucharistic Adoration and you attend you will find there a consecrated Host exposed in a monstrance. Visible. Ask yourself – why would the Host be displayed in this glorious artifact? Why are other faithful here? Why is no one here? Why should someone be here? Why am I here? Ask and listen. Kneel down or sit. Pray or look. I heard someone say once they don’t pray or read or recite the Rosary at Adoration – they look at God and He looks at me. Sing. Talk. Especially if you are alone with Him – why not? If you may be disturbing others, maybe hold on the noise as others praying will likely find that annoying.

Build up to spending more time  - an hour is typical but for some that can be unrealistic with family and work schedules or too much to start off with.

I never learned about the Real Presence. I was never taught that during the Consecration of the Mass, when the Priest holds his hands over the bread and wine, the bread and wine literally become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord. NOT a symbol, literally the Last Supper. The hard teaching. The reason some of the disciples left. It was world shattering. It still is.

I am a reader so I read about the Real Presence but I know not everyone is. I, also, spent time in Adoration. Adoration changed my life. Truly. It was scary at first. What are you supposed to do? Nothing. Seriously. There is no prescribed way to attend Adoration. It is expected to kneel or genuflect and meditate in reverent silence – though if you are alone I would bend a bit on the silence part!

I think, as Catholics, we are often easily scared. We scare ourselves. We scare each other. Confession scares us – oh, what if I forget the formula! So, they don’t go. What if Father knows who I am? So, they don’t go. What if Father is horrified? So, they don’t go. Adoration – similar. What am I supposed to do? What if I cannot handle an hour? In both cases, just go! In the case of Confession, unless you are the first Confession the priest has ever heard, he has probably heard it all before from someone else and maybe “better” or worse! Take a crib sheet with you and a flashlight if you are afraid of forgetting the formula or fear Father will not help you.

I built up to Adoration as, initially, I was doing what I called “drive by Adoration”. I would “pop in” for a few minutes and leave. Then, a funny thing started happening. I enjoyed the peace I found there and I kept going back. More and more and longer and longer. Eventually, I signed up for a standing hour at my parish. Once per week in the very early morning, I visited with the Lord. I had concentrated time to shut out the world and pray or not pray and sit or stand or kneel. I got to look forward to 6 a.m. on Tuesday morning as a highlight of my week.

Since those days of ardor, I still have ardor but I no longer live in the same area. I have to seek proactively seek Him. I live in a rural area where it is more challenging to find Adoration, even Mass. But, I found a parish 20 minutes away that has Adoration on Monday. I head there, after work, when I can.

With the pandemic, it is even more necessary to be proactive and assertive. Don’t wait for your priest or your bishop to just “do something” ask for Adoration time.  I’ve seen it done before and after Mass – especially when/if your priest has to cover multiple parishes and travel great distances between them.

As a Catholic, you have the opportunity to actually receive the Lord. Literally. No other community of faith believes in that or practices that. You see now why watching Mass on TV, to a Roman Catholic, is NOT the same and, ultimately, not satisfactory.

When you accept and believe the Real Presence you will find, as I did, other teachings will make sense to you.  The “why” and the seamless garment of the faith will all fall into place in your mind – like pieces of a puzzle that you are staring at and you suddenly realize what pieces you need to select to get your roadblock resolved and then there is no stopping you  - suddenly the pattern is clear and you see how to fit all of it together now.

More later. That is enough for now. Probably more than enough! Thank you for reading. May God bless you.

Got to Get Back to the Garden

 

Over the last week the first reading from the Lectionary of the Mass Year B (ICEL) is from the first three chapters of the Book of Genesis ending with today’s reading about the Fall of Man. Even someone with a cursory knowledge of Christianity knows the sketch: Adam and Eve are tricked by the serpent into eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and are expelled from Eden, Paradise.

I’ll spare you a recitation of the content of the distorted and convoluted interpretations of the meaning of this passage that I have read or been taught in the past and cut to how I read it today with a conscience that I hope is properly formed by Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium – the 3 foundations that define the Catholic Faith.

Basically, man enjoys an opportunity to share the companionship of God for eternity and loses it acting upon the temptation of Satan in the guise of the serpent. It is one thing to listen, as Eve did, it is another to act as both Eve and Adam did by eating the fruit.

God did not forbid them to eat the fruit because He wanted them to be ignorant. Don’t read the passage with the eyes of one, as we all are, who is fallen and knows only the wiles of the fallen world. Read the passage, try, assuming the Fall never happened.  Our definition, today, of ignorance is the serpent’s. We all, today, act like our own god.

Adam and Eve lived in a world where there was no shame, they didn’t know what shame was. To our modern eyes, to run around naked is sinful and shameful and weird.  They didn’t know what any of that meant. They lived to exist and exist in the world God created for them and they enjoyed, literally, walking with God day in and day out. They knew God at the level of a friend and companion.

God knew that when they ate (because He knew it would happen) of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil they would, then, know both and do both.  Because they would now do evil, they were no longer automatically worthy of the same level of companionship with God. Something would have to be done to restore man to the level of worthiness to be in the company of God for all eternity. God wants nothing more than union for all time with the souls of those He created. We should want that to. This time on earth is only preparation for that eternal time with God – IF we are worthy.

God knew, ultimately, He would have to send someone to restore the chance and humans would have to say “Yes” to that promise and that opportunity but what to God is but a bat of an eyelash is to man centuries. Jesus descended into Hell in the 3 days He was in the tomb to bring up those who were worthy who died between the Fall and the Crucifixion. Praise God!

It is easier for us as children of the New Testament to enter Heaven either directly or after a time of Purification, than it was for the children of the Old Testament – unless your name is Elijah.  We have to say “yes” to Him and like Adam and Eve we have to resist the message of the serpent.  Evil is in the world but God overcomes the world.

Lent is approaching which means Easter – the day The One God Sent suffered, died, was buried and rose from the dead for us so that we may be restored to unity and communion with God – is approaching as well.

Lent is not a time to roll your eyes and give up ice cream and eat fish on Fridays and call that “good enough”. It is a time to prepare. Pretend, as you should every day, the End is near. What if God came for you tomorrow – would you be ready and found worthy?

There is nothing wrong with fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and abstaining from meat on Fridays in Lent – in fact of most of us it is expected as a Catholic in good standing.

Is the minimum, though, really enough? I admit that while I have become better at daily prayer and Scripture reading all year long, I tend to bump up “my game” during Lent. I usually read at least one book with an Imprimatur (meaning it is free from error) during Lent and I try to make a plan. Admittedly, my plan weakens as Lent goes along and sometimes I end up finishing the Triduum strong as I bombed out the rest of Lent. I’m really weak at sticking to my resolution to attend Stations of the Cross every Friday in Lent – I usually get to one.

It is important, however, to have a plan and try to stick to it. Life happens and we are fallen humans. We tire easily and listen to the serpent all too often. The serpent wants your only plan to not plan to spend time with God.

For all of us especially in these days of upheaval and uncertainty, I think for Lent 2021 A.D. do 2 things if you are not so strong with them: Mass (attend in person at least once if your health permits – ideally on Easter) AND take the opportunity to get to the Sacrament of Confession. If someone asked me what I believe are the most critical Sacraments it is an easy answer: Eucharist and Confession. If your priest does not regularly offer Confession or during hours you can get there, ask for it. I’ve never met a priest who did not tell me that he forgets sins confessed to him as soon as he leaves the Confessional and he considers forgetfulness a blessing of his ministry.  My priest in St. Paul was offering Confessions outside in the parking lot last Spring. If you are afraid of the coronavirus, ask father to meet you outside to hear your Confession. I’m being completely serious. I once received the Sacrament on my front doorstep. Priests are fallen too and sometimes they need to hear from the faithful that the Sacraments are important.

There is, for me, no bigger feeling of relief and liberation than during and after Absolution.

Do your soul a favor. Do you really want to spend eternity wondering somewhere east of Eden and locked out of Paradise or singing the Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus in front of the Holy of Holies? Like Adam and Eve – you have a choice.

May Lent 2021 A.D. be our best ever!


Crisis

 Gentle Reader: I apologize for being scarce. I'm currently struggling with being very busy at work and I'm trying to digest the recent executive actions and disturbing bypass of constitutional process. In short, I'm spending more time in prayer and preparation. I used to think I would live to be 90 or older, now I'm preparing for death at any time as I'm half expecting to be sacrificed by the state when they seize my money and property to pay for all the giveaways and the debt from the COVID restrictions.  I'm not "woke" by today's terms in any way shape or form; as a practicing Roman Catholic, I'm clearly not in alignment with the dominant paradigm.  I don't figure it will be much longer before cancelling will mean more than online social media silencing.

I went on a hermitage retreat to my favorite retreat center for 2 nights. I offered the visit for victims of Christian genocide; past, present and future. I prayed or the grace of a happy death and conversions and reversions. I joined the Word On Fire Institute at the recommendation of my Confirmation sponsor, and have been spending time, when I can, on those courses.

There is a very thought provoking article by Eric Sammons in Crisis. Upsetting and honest. I read it weeks ago and had to ponder my reaction. I posted my comment on the article but am reprinting it below:

_______________________________________________

I am posting here in the prayerful hope that someone in an authoritative position to act will consider my words. I live in a very rural area in the far western edge of a very large, geographically, diocese. I live on the border of 3 dioceses.  What I pray is the USCCB meet, in earnest and soon, to discuss the post – COVID -19 Roman Catholic Church in the USA.  Global discussion is also needed but in the USA we have an even more critical need because of the new Presidential administration.

My small town Roman Catholic parish is, just flat out, not going to survive. We have already clustered in the last 5 years and we have had some priestly and diocesan scandals so we are already in a “holding pattern” of administrators as we wait for a permanent Bishop to be assigned. On top of all that is the coronavirus restrictions. We had less than 20 people at our one Sunday Mass last Sunday and little to no tourist/visitor traffic last summer due to coronavirus fear and restrictions. We did not meet our diocesan financial obligation in 2020 and I don’t expect we will in 2021 either. The older parishioners are dying – we lost 10 last year and our current parish roll is about 30 families – many of whom infrequently attended even before the coronavirus and now they don’t attend at all and many have not continued their stipends for a variety of reasons. We have not had a Baptism or a Marriage in years but our Funeral schedule is about 1-3/month.

It is a fact that parish closures and consolidations are coming and more of us are going to have to drive further for Mass and the other Sacraments. The truly faithful will go to any length to attend a Mass, the already lukewarm can barely bother to attend Mass now so further away I would not expect them, the cold and fallen away will not attend Mass no matter where it is.

I am going to risk sounding dispassionate, and Bishop Barron would probably be saddened at what I'm about to say, but it’s time to get real. We need to stop aligning the Mass and the parishes for the “potentials” and realize they are lost and make the tough decisions to solidify what we know we have.  If we make the Mass reverent we can prayerfully hope the faithful and the unchurched come to us or come back but we cannot afford, financially and ministerially, to keep holding on to the way things are always done due to a fear of angering or offending someone who, frankly, is probably always mad and probably already thinks the Mass and the parish life is all about them or are upset when they realize it is not about them.

This means Bishops also need to be prepared to actually back up their priests and each other and may also mean Bishops are going to lose some of their diocese. If we have fewer faithful and infrastructure in a diocese, we don’t need multiple dioceses in every state. This means the power sharing structure also needs to change.  Maybe some Bishops need to get out of the Chancery and into the Rectory and the School more often?

I’m all for the TLM and Latin but I think it needs to be phased in or we need a return to the true intent and documents of Vatican II – Novus Ordo but Latin for the 5 parts of the Ordinary and vernacular for the rest. Ad orientem is desirable but  the wretched architecture of the last 50 years or so makes this more challenging, not impossible, but may be negotiable.

It is going to take all of us. We are a remnant already but we need to be prepared and plan for an even smaller one.

 


Speak Up!

Gentle Reader: Times are tough. The Mass readings today for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time could not have resonated more with me. "The World in its present form  is passing away" . You can say that again, or, please Lord make it so! Alas, that we will not all of us repent like Ninevah from the highest to the lowest. Either it is the older I get I look forward more to the next life - God willing it is with Beautific Vision - or my increasing alarm at a world that appears to be increasingly on the side of Satan.

I have spoken on other posts about choices to be made, hard choices. There is another choice that we will, those of us who regularly attend Mass and strive to live in accordance with Holy Mother Church, will face. How will we treat those who return to church or who are there in open dissent. Yes, those individuals we will always have with us. However, I think there will be more.

In the USA a man was just elected to President who identifies as a Roman Catholic but has already, not even a week into his administration, signed executive orders and made statements, indicating a lack of conformity with Roman Catholicism - notably his positions on abortion, birth control and gender. He is not alone in proclaiming to be a Roman Catholic but practicing and saying, publicly, sinful and scandalous and just flat our wrong things.

Sadly, some of our Bishops, the men charged with shepherding the Faithful of God and His Church are not doing much better. 

Nothing new here - move on right? Look to yourself. Yes, and remember we do not follow men (or women).  If you read the Catechism, works by the Saints, works with Imprimaturs, Scripture and be mindful of centuries of Tradition, you will be alright. Continue to attend the most solid Mass you can find and if Father starts talking crazy (or lets others in the parish with no correction) about gays should be able to marry in the church or divorced and remarried Catholics, with no decree of nullity, should receive Communion, women should be ordained, abortion is just another option of birth control, Joe Biden is a Catholic role model and more evil lunacy tune him out and pray a Rosary in your head. Receive Communion, return to your pew and give thanks for the mighty gift of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity you just received and at the Dismissal get the hell out of there.

I toy with sending my money elsewhere and making it clear that if the Bishops don't start actually acting like shepherds, I'm not sending them one more cent. But, the Church is already struggling from the pandemic shutdown and, honestly, the nutty priests and bishops and nuns have wealthy Hollywood and other wealthy supporters so my humble withholding of money is not going to hurt them. Withholding my stipend will hurt the solid priests toiling away in the smaller communities, in other nations outside of the US; the solid nuns and monks teaching and praying for us. I don't want to inadvertently hurt them. They say; God loves a cheerful giver - not feeling very cheery these days.

Because the media and their favorite dissenting, or weak, priests and bishops are going to do all they can to minimize anything that looks like a chastisement or correction of President Biden, fallen away and dissenting Catholics are going to take their cues, and gladly, from this atmosphere of confusion and start showing up again in Church. No sacramental Confessions to be had from this crew, no repentance, gloating defiance. Biden is THEIR man, the Catholic they have always wanted.

Expect more glaring and fights in the Church hall over coffee after Mass and grumbling. It will get really bad if Father is put in the now difficult position of having to justify his solid homily about the traditional family in front of the gay couple that just showed up - after all, our Catholic President once presided over a gay "wedding".

Crap runs downward and the solid priests and nuns in the parishes and the solid parish councils are going to bear the brunt of this confusion at the top. Do you think Cardinal Gregory has to face a Legion of Mary group at the Cathedral asking him to "do something" about the lesbian couple who demands to have their picture in the parish directory?

So, we have choices: stay away and do damage to your own soul - an approach I don't, personally, recommend. Leave communion with Rome and join a different faith tradition - as I believe the Roman Catholic Church is the One Church founded by Christ and I pray you do as well - I don't recommend that either. Or fight - educate and correct. Get in their faces. No. No. No. You are incorrect. You are wrong. You are inaccurate and here is why. Now, some will not care and they are going to point to all kinds of heretical stuff as justification and they will try to shut you down. So, what? You did your job. You called them out. I think the dissenters have been the only ones speaking, or definitely the loudest, yahoo in the room for far too long. Speak Up!

Dissenters and apostates are, ultimately, not going to win. They are not going to win what truly matters. God's mercy is abundant and they should pray that is the case or they are in big, big, trouble. They are going to have a lot of explaining to do but just imagine their explanations are going to be weak. They need us to educate them. They definitely need us to pray for them.

Pray for President Biden. Pray for his conversion. I am now doing so on a daily basis. Pray also for Roman Catholics in leadership positions in this country. Pray for them to be solid. Pray for them to be true standard bearers of our Faith. Our Faith as it truly is - not the faith our current society wants it to be.

What Do We Do Now?

 Gentle Reader: I apologize that I've been scarce - not that I think I have a city sized readership eagerly awaiting every word from my keyboard anyway!

Like I suspect many of you, who live in the United States, the events of the last week or so have us reeling.  They have me reeling.

What do we believe? What can we believe? Who can we believe?

Speaking for myself, I have long since lost trust in the majority of main stream media reportage. I, literally, cannot read it and cannot watch it.  At one point in my life I, seriously, considered journalism as a career. I wrote for my college newspaper. In all honesty, I abandoned the idea when I perceived that trying to make a living as a journalist was unlikely to happen as, even then, newsrooms were downsizing or closing and starting to rely heavily on syndicated content and less on local, original, content.

It is more than clear to me that the main stream media (MSM) no longer just prints the facts or even leads with the "who, what, where, when, why" in the impartial sense of the story; rather the 5 W's are  the reporter or the editor's sense of the story.

I'm not entirely sure, blogging and social media are not, in some way, a partial reason for this shift to open bias.  I know, as a blogger, when I first blogged a decade or so ago, MSM was losing readership and I think they panicked when they saw more people were getting their news from blogs and bloggers. In an effort to remain relevant and contemporary, they started directing their reporters to act more like a blogger and insert some personal commentary into their stories.

From my fields of study, I learned that too much of a reliance upon one source of news or opinion is risky as it leaves you open to the potential for hard heartedness, ignorance and personal bias. Honestly, I ask if I was among the last generation (I'm a Gen X) who even remotely learned how to read and assess the news critically and, even more importantly, read multiple view points.

I know I was in my 30s, however, before I truly knew what "well formed conscience" truly meant. It doesn't mean: apply your own relative truth to everything. As a Roman Catholic, it is to apply the Truths of: Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium to all things and in all circumstances. Wow - heavy, right? You betcha. That is a lot to carry around!

In the local news a friend of mine who is adjunct faculty member of a MNSCU institution was at the Capital Rally last week. She and her husband were in DC and she openly admits she went to the rally to ask questions and seek understanding - what some call "dialogue". She wrote a commentary piece in the local paper where, to my ears, her compassion and honest attempt at seeing the light of Christ in all people, no matter how we may personally think they are misguided, shines through. She is being eviscerated by other editorialists and co-faculty of the institution she works. I fear she is going to lose her job - directly or leave voluntarily due to hostile work environment and fear for her family's safety.

What happened to institutions of higher learning being safe spaces, if you will, for exposure to ALL ways of thinking and honest and respectful discussions in the student union, in the classroom, in the hallways, in the dorms? Did that time ever truly exist? I wonder. I can say it doesn't exist now in schools; it certainly doesn't exist now in society.

Numbers of people are fleeing (or being kicked off) various news and social platforms for either an inability to engage in respectful discourse or an inability to virtue signal that they are part of the "woke" group think.

If we are only surrounded by people who think and talk exactly the same we may feel safer but there is no real opportunity for conversion or persuasion. I think, eventually, boredom will set in and with it depression and other dangerous reactions - like perhaps what we just saw in the last week. When people perceive they are not being listened to or they have no voice they do not always just go away and be silent - not indefinitely anyway.

I know where I work there is a obvious increase in individuals who are struggling with depression due to the pandemic isolation - that compounded with an inability to find an outlet online which is often the only socialization some areas of the country really have right now - does not end well.

I'm trying not to panic and trying to keep my eyes focused on Christ. I find myself more often reading or watching trusted Catholic news outlets more often: EWTN, New Oxford Review, National Catholic Register, Crux, Sirius Catholic Channel 129, Northern Cross (Diocese of Duluth MN paper) - even my small town weekly newspaper and the monthly tribal newspaper.

Attend Mass, read Scripture daily and receive  the Sacrament of Penance when needed.  I highly recommend Magnificat for daily Mass reading and meditation. I'm also currently doing the Consecration to St. Joseph from the book written by Fr. Donald Calloway.

Don't be like one of the foolish virgins. Be ready for the bridegroom to arrive at any time.