Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Another Anniversary

January 15th, 2017, Promulgated by Diane Harris

The story continues to intrigue me. Previously I’ve written about “failed leadership”  but today’s anniversary prompts more. It was 8 years ago today that Captain Sullenberger set his US Air Flight down on the Hudson River.  I was particularly stunned by the transcript of 3 minutes and 33 seconds, from the call “Birds!” to a wet fuselage in the Hudson, on the focus and concentration, the irreversible decisions, the Hands of God.


















Here is more worth looking at:



Here’s what I am sharing, which I wrote soon after:

“Hello Friends,
I have been very moved this week by the “Miracle on the Hudson” and I feel compelled to share a few thoughts.  Actually, I was especially attentive to what was written in the newspaper because I took one look at the pilot’s picture and I know I have flown with him before.  His face is quite familiar; I believe I’ve flown with him several times, given all the miles I’ve logged with US Air.  And I have often taken off from LaGuardia, over the Bronx, and sometimes toward Rochester, sometimes down river to other points.  All feels very familiar.  Yet, I didn’t particularly “notice” him at the time as more than the pilot, or even particularly reflect on each trip that this was the human being who would have my life in his hands.  But I do have a memory of him standing near the cockpit saying hello and goodbye to passengers.  I wonder if it goes through his mind each time, the responsibility he is carrying?
The article opened with the words:  “Chesley Sullenberger spent practically his whole life preparing for the five-minute crucible that was US Airways Flight 1549.”  And the other startling words in that article were the pilot’s words recounted by the passengers: “Brace for impact.”  It was reported that the pilot delivered those words in a “calm, cool, controlled voice.”  One passenger said “It was a testament to leadership.”  He was doing what needed to be done; he was doing ‘his duty.’
What has most struck me is the metaphor in those words for our spiritual life.  We go about our days doing what we are called to do, parents caring for children, workers delivering a fair day’s work, friends being friends, and so much more.  We pray, we go to Mass, we go to bible study.  And day after day seems not so much different from the prior days, just as flight after flight was perhaps not so much different for Captain “Sully.”  But he apparently went about that work with a consciousness, with an introspection, with a receptivity for learning.  He didn’t know when or even if  all that preparation would be on the line, but he was prepared.  And he was called upon to bring all to bear when the engines sputtered and died, when he had to make a split moment decision and choose what would be life or death for himself, his co-pilot and 153 (a very biblical number, taken from the water, with nets almost breaking) other people [155 including the pilots.].  It strikes me that everything we do spiritually, as well as that which doesn’t seem particularly spiritual but can be done with a spiritual consciousness and attention, prepares us for those few minutes of our own crucible, sometime and somewhere. 
We don’t know when, but we can learn from others’  crucibles, can’t we?  When Christ stepped forward in Gethsemane to say he was the One the soldiers were seeking, when various saints and martyrs faced their moment of call for the Lord (Edmund Campion re-entering hostile England, Thomas More refusing to sign an Oath that would put King before God, Isaac Jogues returning to the Iroquois who had tortured him, and my personal favorite: Eleazar in Maccabees who declined even giving the perception of having abandoned his faith)….all were moments of decision and action.  It is perhaps a blessing for most of us that we don’t know when the few minutes of crucible are coming, and for some it may come as the loss of a loved one, an ominous diagnosis, a deathbed torment.  Yet Capt. Sully shows us in the temporal realm what being well-prepared means; it seems that spiritually we wouldn’t want to do any less.  Each soul depends upon such preparation, and sometimes the souls of others as well.
We know who prowls the world seeking the ruin of souls.  Holy Mother Church, and Holy Scripture continually tell us “Brace for Impact.”  Is every such encounter with temptation a reason to “Brace for Impact,” to prepare for the crucible, to do spiritual aerobics for our souls?  Sometimes we fail as Peter did when he denied the Lord.  Often we are given another chance.  But some moment, some crucible, may be the final one, the one for which we’ve prepared all our lives, the one for which we have been prepared for the benefit of others.  Reflecting on Capt. Sully’s experience, the need is more obvious than ever to “Brace for impact” with the secular world.  It is often a brutal impact, but one we can use to prepare for the next impact, for the next crucible.  No matter how many kudos Capt. Sully gets (and he deserves them all), none will compare with “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Praise our Good and Generous God who still does miracles, and allows us to learn from them.   Amen?”
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CAR and SJBS Open House

January 9th, 2017, Promulgated by Ben Anderson

From the CAR/SJBS Facebook page:


Open House at St. John Bosco Schools
and Chesterton Academy of Rochester
Wednesday, January 18
6:30-8:30 p.m.
501 Garfield Street
East Rochester, NY 14445

There will be an Expo in the gym, school tours, and panel discussions.

Come meet our teachers, students, and parents!

These are the only schools for Catholic, classical education in the Rochester area.

Downloadable pdf here.


Jesus was found in the Temple, not found in sin!

January 6th, 2017, Promulgated by Diane Harris


In the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, the Sunday readings do not change from year to year as they do in the three year cycle of the Novus Ordo.  As we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family, i.e. the Sunday after Epiphany (this year, Jan. 8th), at the Latin Mass we can again expect to hear from Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 2, about finding Jesus in the Temple. (Of course, He wasn’t ‘lost;’ as some commentary indicates;  He was exactly where He wanted to be).

Few Gospel homilies annoy me as much as what I have heard in a variety of parishes, and from a diversity of preachers, regarding Luke 2: 42-52.  Especially irritating is the preacher who tries to endear himself to parents of teenagers with the line that even Mary and Joseph had trouble with Jesus. Or we may hear that even Jesus failed at times, at least  before He was baptized.  Or the preacher makes Jesus’ retort to Mary and Joseph seem more like a flippant teenage “whatever” than a holy and special pronouncement. No. No. No.  I personally think that this episode is one of the most misunderstood Gospel readings. But there is difficulty in understanding more deeply because comparing to other Gospel authors is not possible, since the event is mentioned only in Luke.  Thus, we need to go deeper into what is there, into practices at that time, and back to, for some phrases at least, the original Greek.  (A disclaimer* is needed here on any lay bible study. See footnote #1 below.)


Why did Luke put this incident in his Gospel?

So let us look for clues in the text as a way to shed more light on the meaning of Luke 2: 42-52.  The first question we might ask is why it was so important for Luke to recount this event, and only this event, from the childhood of Jesus. Perhaps some other authors did not have the same opportunity to learn of the event as Luke who, it has been believed, had access to speak to and learn from the Blessed Mother herself, the one who, in the final line of the passage, kept “all these things in her heart.” (Of course, John the Evangelist would have had opportunity to learn of this event from the Blessed Mother, but his Gospel is not one of the synoptics; his is a different Christologic approach in writing). Secondly, if Luke did have such access, he likely received even more information than he chose to recount. Why did Luke extract this particular material for Chapter 2, and only this material, from whatever he learned of Jesus’ growing up years?  Why was this event important enough to be used by Luke, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit? If Jesus had simply been a disobedient teenager, it would hardly merit Luke’s attention.  Besides, if it were misbehavior on Christ’s part it would contradict other Scripture which asserts His sinlessness, as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”


Christ’s Age is a Clue

The next clue is that Jesus had completed 12 years and was into beginning His 13th.  In some cultures, a person would say “I am 12 years old,” but in others he would say “I am in my 13th year.” It is the same thing. It is during that time frame that a Jewish boy would celebrate what we’d call “bar mitzvah,” at least a symbolic passing from boyhood to life as a young man. Even today, there is at least some cursory examination of the readiness of a young Jewish boy to be “bar mitzvahed,” to become a son of the law. (Mitzvah is a precept or commandment, or a good deed done from religious duty.)

A candidate for a bar mitzvah, depending on the practices of his faith community, often must learn to read from the Hebrew text of Sacred Scripture, and become more participative in the worship.  (An analogy in Catholicism might be the preparation and examination of candidates for their readiness for Confirmation.)

Jesus’ age might also explain some of the confusion about which caravan He had joined – the men’s as He stood on the threshold of manhood, or the women’s caravan, being still a child?  Such confusion delayed the realization that He was not in either caravan, prompting the return to Jerusalem of Mary and Joseph. And what parent can’t appreciate the heavy hearts and burdensome walking back to Jerusalem?  Perhaps even looking for Him injured by the wayside, or worse?


A kind of “Bar Mitzvah”?

Searching for why this event (and only this event of Jesus’ childhood) is worthy of Gospel mention, leads us to perceive the possibility that Christ was participating in a high-level examination, a rite of passage, and doing so in the Temple where He had been presented to God (Luke 2:22 and 27).  He was choosing to do so where the skill, knowledge and rhetoric would have perhaps been at a high level of challenge.  Jesus not only submitted Himself to questioning by the teachers, but by the third day was “… sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions and all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers” (verses 46-47). The “sitting among” implies some equality or respect by the teachers for His knowledge, as opposed to His “standing before them.  (A side point for meditation: Might we not wonder if,  20 years later, any of these ‘teachers’ was in the Sanhedrin, voting to send Christ to the Cross?)

But there is further and special evidence of this event’s being a rite of passage, which Mary and Joseph apparently did not understand at the time. Treating Him as a boy, the Virgin Mother asks: “Son, why have You treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for You anxiously.” This is the last time “father” is used for St. Joseph.  (Matthew 13:55 does quote discussion in the synagogue at Nazareth calling Christ the “carpenter’s son,” but the context is quite different.)


My father or My Father?

Then Christ’s response is indeed the defining moment of the text, when He replies not as Joseph’s son, but as the Son of God the Father:  “How is it that you sought Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). This is a moment recording the rite of passage, from status as boy of Joseph to the eternal Son of God. It is NOT ‘becoming’ or starting-to-be Son, but rather recognizing, acknowledging and asserting the Truth. The main reason we might consider for the importance of Luke’s adding this episode to his Gospel is to record Jesus’ showing the blessed mantle of Sonship, and in the company of what we expect would have been at least 10 Jewish men, a legitimate gathering, and in the Temple!  It would seem that just as Jesus yielded His Body to circumcision, so too He is yielding to examination by the teachers in His 13th year, an examination which turns into Jesus’ examining the teachers and teaching the examiners. Moreover, Christ does take the matter into His own Hands, so to speak, as that is perfectly consistent with what a boy in His 13th year is expected to be responsible to do – fulfill his religious obligations.

Although the word in Greek is the same “father” for St. Joseph as for God the Father (pater) the distinction is clear. The Blessed Mother frames the question meaning St. Joseph; Christ answers meaning God the Father. It is not disrespectful to either Mary or Joseph, simply a statement of the Truth, an opportunity to refute those who would claim that Christ had no understanding of Who He was, or of His mission, until after He was baptized. For this very sufficient reason, Luke includes this milestone in the life of the Lord.

St. Joseph, does not question Jesus.  One might consider that St. Joseph understood well his own role, and would have been aware of the practice which “affirms that, until the thirteenth year, it is the father’s duty to raise his son.”   (See Footnote #2, regarding the 13th year and Bar Mitzvah at the time of Christ.  See also Footnote #3 regarding age 13 for the obligation to observe the mitzvoth.)

(An additional side point for consideration: Is there an echo of our own being called to recognize God as our Father, in a special and unique way consistent with but rising above earthly fatherhood, in the words of Matthew 23:9:  “And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.”)


The Things of God

Before leaving this study, one further point deserves clarification. There are basically two biblical translations of Jesus’ reply:

  • RSV, NAB: “And He said to them, “How is it that you sought Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?”
  • NKJV: “And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”

At least in English translation, the words “house” and “business” are quite different; which is it?  The answer from the Greek would seem neither. A closer translation would seem to be “Did you not know that I must be about the things of My Father?” The Sacra Pagina commentary uses “about my Father’s affairs.”  We have skipped over other relevant but more widely recognized verses, such as the 3 days in the Temple mirroring (or prefiguring) Christ’s 3 days in which the Temple of His Body is in the tomb, and then “missing.”



When viewed from this perspective, the episode in the Temple of Jerusalem is very significant. Jesus answered the call of His Father to the Temple, even at the risk of causing distress to His earthly parents: “And they did not understand the saying which He spoke to them” but Jesus understood very well. This ability to follow God’s call, even when distressing to parents and family is what God asks of all of us, sometimes especially to priests, after righteous discernment. Jesus teaches that lesson well. He then humbly submits Himself, in His manly will, by choice, to the earthly parents the Father has provided, “… and was obedient to them”, increasing “in wisdom and in stature” (verse 51-52).

Click “read the rest of this entry” for footnotes.
Read the rest of this entry »


Monthly Prayer Requests for Priests – January 2017

January 2nd, 2017, Promulgated by Ben Anderson

It’s time to print out your January 2017 calendar. Thanks to the good folks at for providing these calendars freely available to all on the Internet.

Also, here are the Holy Father’s prayer intentions for January:

Christian Unity.

That all Christians may be faithful to the Lord’s teaching by striving with prayer and fraternal charity to restore ecclesial communion and by collaborating to meet the challenges facing humanity.


Blessed Christmas!

December 26th, 2016, Promulgated by Hopefull
Rembrandt's "Adoration of the Shepherds"

    Rembrandt’s “Adoration of the Shepherds”




















Wishing everyone a Joyous Christmastide!






Ed Feser lays it all out

December 18th, 2016, Promulgated by Ben Anderson

There is no point in snipping out any of this article because it’s long and worthy of serious consideration. For anyone who already has or desires to think through the current issue in the global Church, you would do well to read this thoroughly.

Denial flows into the Tiber


Looks like Risk of Schism to me ….

December 16th, 2016, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Tonight’s LifeSiteNews story is alarming, disgusting and threatening. It is the most unpleasant reading I can ever remember about Church matters, and only shows signs of escalating.  If the Church is not already in Schism, it is hard to believe under Pope Francis that she won’t soon be in such a position. Ever since Pope Francis uttered the words “Who am I to judge?” he has expounded an incredible amount of judgment, against everything from Catholic mothers to traditional liturgies, from seminarian clothing to dark motivations of clergy who don’t agree with him.  I have avoided repeating and publicizing most of the stories and anecdotes over recent months, even though from highly credible sources.  And perhaps part of the reason I’ve been reluctant to do so is because we know there is a certain amount of suffering we can’t avoid.

However, when statements are made which contradict the Faith held for two millennia, when “changes” weaken rather than strengthen, when Luther’s statue is added prominently to the Vatican gallery, when inter-communion appears to be on the way to encouraging the forbidden practice, and adulterers seem to be invited to approach the Most Holy Sacrament, how much longer can the laity (or faithful clergy) put their heads in the sand and make believe all is well? How can we not address the issues and care for each other when it is the very souls of our sisters and brothers in Christ that are being threatened with destruction? We do have some heroic clergy who have arisen in our midst; that doesn’t free laity from our own obligations.  Rather, it strengthens the need to respond.

This is the article I am asking all readers of this blog to examine before another day goes by, and to please weigh in with your comments: 

We have some very difficult decisions to make about how to pursue such matters, how to protect the weakest, how to stand for Truth and all that is right, and how to be Faithful.  How is God calling us to react in this situation?  I have about 10 points (+ or -) that I want to share with our readers, points to consider when coping in this situation, but I’d like to hear that it matters  to those who follow Cleansing Fire.


Declaration of Fidelity to the Church’s Unchangeable Teaching

December 5th, 2016, Promulgated by Ben Anderson

If you haven’t done so yet, I’d encourage you to sign the “Declaration of Fidelity to the Church’s Unchangeable Teaching”

“Let marriage be honored among all” (Heb. 13: 4)

Join thousands of concerned bishops, priests and Catholic faithful declaring their fidelity to the unchangeable teachings of the Church on marriage and Her uninterrupted discipline.

Errors about true marriage and family are widespread today in Catholic circles, particularly after the Extraordinary and Ordinary Synods on the family and the publication of Amoris Laetitia.

In the face of this reality, this Declaration expresses the resolve of its signatories to remain faithful to the Church’s unchangeable teachings on morals and on the Sacraments of Marriage, Reconciliation and the Eucharist, and to Her timeless and enduring discipline regarding those sacraments.


Peeling Away the Silence

December 3rd, 2016, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Sometimes there are articles so worthwhile, that just to quote from them leaves too much unsaid.  Therefore I have taken the liberty of reproducing an entire article from The Catholic Thing,” which is a source of much solid and thoughtful consideration. In reparation, I will make a donation and apology, and remove this post if they ask; however, I would consider it neglectful to omit it entirely or to use poorer word choices than the author, Father Mark A. Pilon uses.  Instead, I have simply shown in red-italic a few of the lines which “grabbed” me, but I left them in context. Hopefully, it will give us all an opportunity to realize what dangerous and unusual times we live in now, with such events transpiring; possibly such exposure will help to peel away the silence, our own included.  There is a note at the bottom of the article regarding how to support The Catholic Thing. Please do!

The Dangerous Road of Papal Silence

“The letter of the four Cardinals to Pope Francis, and the decision to go public with this document certainly constitute a stunning affair in the history of the Church. When has anything like this ever taken place? There’s the sad history of Ignaz Von Dollinger, which eventually led to his excommunication, but Dollinger was simply a priest-historian, and no Cardinals ever joined his challenge to Vatican I’s solemn teaching on papal infallibility.

This present event is a dramatic challenge to Pope Francis who, ironically, has several times called for a shaking up of the Church. The Cardinals are all well respected and strong supporters of the papal primacy and the papal office of teaching. Their letter to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is a sincere effort to gain some clarity on positions advanced in Amoris Laetitia. For their troubles, the head of the Roman Rota has openly threatened them with the loss of their status as Cardinals.

It’s worth noting that only one of the five questions posed for clarification by the Cardinals had to do with admitting divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to the Eucharist. In a way, the other four questions point to even more significant problems relating to the existence of intrinsically evil acts, the objective situation of grave habitual sin, and the critically important formation of an objectively true conscience.

The five dubia were very carefully and succinctly written and followed the traditional method of presentation of such questions to the Holy See. They ask the pope to explain how certain statements in Amoris Laetitia were to be understood in the light of the authoritative teachings of his predecessor Pope John Paul II as found in Familiaris Consortio 84 (reaffirmed in Reconciliatio et Paenitentia 34, and Sacramentum Caritatis, 29 (dubium 1); Veritatis Splendor 79 (dubium 2); (Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts (dubium 3); Veritatis Splendor 81 (dubium 4); Veritatis Splendor 56 (dubium 5). These texts are foundational for the Church’s teaching on moral principles, for an upright confessional practice, and for sacramental discipline.

The letter’s authors insist that their only intention is to remove the confusion: “theologians and scholars have proposed interpretations that are not only divergent, but also conflicting. . .thereby provoking uncertainty, confusion and disorientation among many of the faithful.”

Cardinal Burke, in an interview with the National Catholic Register, stated that they chose to go public only after they learned that the pope had decided not to respond, which decision is a stunning response from the Chair of Peter. One might almost call it reckless, given the very real potential for dividing the Church. Indeed, Cardinal Burke addressed this possibility in the interview when he stated that the letter “has also been undertaken with the greatest respect for the Petrine Office, because if the Petrine Office does not uphold these fundamental principles of doctrine and discipline, then, practically speaking, division has entered into the Church, which is contrary to our very nature.”

Pope Francis already had an agenda for “reshaping” the Church in certain areas of discipline when he came into office, as seems clear from the speed with which he announced the Synod on the Family. It was a perplexing event. His predecessor, Saint John Paul II, had convoked a Synod on the same topic and had issued a brilliant exhortation, Familiaris Consortio.

It was even more telling that little in the preparatory documents, or in the exhortation following the Synod, seemed to have much reference to that earlier exhortation. In retrospect, that Francis had it in mind to alter certain determinations of that earlier Synod and John Paul II’s exhortation appears all but certain.

Now, it is not only Catholic scholars like the eminent philosopher Robert Spaemann who in 2015 recognized that “This pope is one of the most autocratic [popes] that we have had in a long time.” In a recent Reuters article, “Pope Francis the manager – surprising, secretive, shrewd,” Philip Puella argues that Pope Francis, whom he admires and strongly supports, is more like an autocrat than a typical, saintly pontiff. For instance, Puella says “Francis likes to break rules and then change them once the shock has died down.” And that “after he was elected, he appointed trusted people to lower or mid-level positions in Vatican departments, where they can be his eyes and ears.”

Looking back, the pope’s invitation to Cardinal Kasper to speak to the bishops months before the first Synod on the Family seems almost certainly now to have been a bit of management. The pope was behind the proposed change from the beginning and was determined to provide access to the sacraments by the divorced and remarried, even if the Synod Fathers did not support it – which they didn’t.

Pope Francis certainly had no mandate from the Synod Fathers to make such a drastic alteration in the Church’s sacramental discipline. Quite the opposite, which should have suggested he would be entering dangerous waters should he choose to do so. But he did, nonetheless, and has since tried to portray his critics as fundamentalist, legalistic, and rigid Catholics, who are troubled and are troubling the Church.

The upshot of all this, as Australian Cardinal George Pell remarked in a lecture in London earlier this week, is that “a number of regularly worshipping Catholics” are “unnerved by the turn of events.” More seriously, there is now widespread confusion about the role of conscience in Catholic moral thought.

Well, now four cautious and conscientious churchmen have openly sought a solution to all this turmoil. Cardinal Burke suggested what might follow if the pope remains silent:  “There is, in the Tradition of the Church, the practice of correction of the Roman Pontiff. It is something that is clearly quite rare. But if there is no response to these questions, then I would say that it would be a question of taking a formal act of correction of a serious error.”

This really would be quite awful, forcing Church leaders, priests, and lay people into taking sides – a kind of practical schism. Let’s pray it never comes to this. But to avoid such divisions and worse, Pope Francis will now have to do something.”


Note from Robert Royal: I’ve heard from many of you – far more even than I expected – that The Catholic Thing is the first thing you look at online every morning. (Me too, but for different reasons.) Lots of you also express a sense of urgency about knowing what’s happening in the Church. Our staff and team of writers are committed to bringing you the very best news and analysis in the coming year. But we can only continue to do our jobs if you do your part. We’ve made great progress towards meeting our end-of-year target, but we still need many more of you to act. Lots of people complain about what’s going on in the Church and the world. Here’s a chance to do something. If you haven’t already, please, right now, make your tax-deductible online donation nowno amount is too small, or too large – or if you prefer, write a check, to assure the future of The Catholic Thing. – Robert Royal


Monthly Prayer Requests for Priests – December 2016

November 30th, 2016, Promulgated by Ben Anderson

It’s time to print out your December 2016 calendar. Thanks to the good folks at for providing these calendars freely available to all on the Internet.

Also, here are the Holy Father’s prayer intentions for December:

Universal: End to Child-Soldiers

That the scandal of child-soldiers may be eliminated the world over.

Evangelization: Europe

That the peoples of Europe may rediscover the beauty, goodness, and truth of the Gospel which gives joy and hope to life.


An End-Times Issue?

November 22nd, 2016, Promulgated by Diane Harris

For Thanksgiving, I want to share how studying Sacred Scripture is a matter of great joy and gratitude in my life.  It is all due, of course, to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Who seems never to tire of teaching more and more to those with a hunger for the WORD, Who gives increasing delight to the student of scripture in receiving insights and understanding from others on the same path. That is not a claim to any personal achievement at all; every bit of new understanding is because the Holy Spirit chooses to clarify something at some point in time, perhaps even for some unknown reason or timing. I think our gratitude must be shown by sharing, and by receiving openly without resistance; i.e. by being malleable under His Wings.  Authentic understanding, even if “new” to the person reading, is profitable for our learning and will never contradict biblical revelation, or the teachings of the Church. Therefore, if we know those teachings, it is not necessary to trouble ourselves about any contradictory writing of humans.

When some unexpected insight or understanding persists for a period of time, or grows into other applications, perhaps it is an encouragement to share what otherwise might only be a personal note in a prayer journal.  Such occurred last summer, while I was facilitating a Scripture Study session among neighbors (none of whom is Catholic.)  I say ‘facilitating’, not ‘teaching’, remembering St. James’ caution in his epistle: “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness.” James 3:1.  So I am happy with the word “facilitating,” or “sharing,” or even “studying.” It was our third summer of meeting.  Having completed Matthew in 2014, and Mark in 2015, we tackled Luke.

End Times?

In our prior studies we’d found a number of verses which seem to refer to the fall of Jerusalem, or to end times, or both. We especially noted Christ’s teaching His Apostles the signs of the end times, particularly in Mark Chapter 13.  While we don’t know when this will happen, since only the Father knows the time, Jesus nevertheless did give us signs of the end times, and told us in verse 37 to “Watch.”  It’s hard to imagine He doesn’t want us to do so.  Christ also offers a key point in verse 31: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”  We keep watch for the signs of the end times, but we also keep watch over ourselves in preparing for our own ‘end-times.’

A challenging verse regarding the end times is found in Luke 18:8:  “…when the Son of man comes, will He find faith on earth?”  One might figure that Christ wouldn’t have mentioned those words if He expected faith to be thriving when He returns.  That thought fits with Pope Benedict’s remarking, e.g., that the Church is likely to get smaller, what some have even called a remnant church because the tyranny and anarchy of secularism will have seduced many away.  One can see the effects in the world today, a kind of ‘self-selecting’ oneself into wheat or weed, into sheep or goat, as a personal choice prior to Christ’s Judgment. (There are many other end time prophecies and speculations in the Bible, but it is not necessary to include all of them here in order to make the following point.)

Noticing Something ‘New’

In last summer’s bible study there was something I’d never noticed before.  (It is one of the miracles of studying scripture how a verse can be read 10x and not noticed until the 11th reading.  When the soul is ready or ‘stirred up’ the Holy Spirit seems to ‘in-joy’ giving.)  The point that drew  our attention in that particular study was the juxtaposition of two verses in Luke 16, seemingly unrelated, and even in some translations they are separately paragraphed.  The first verse obviously supports Mark 13:31, mentioned above:

“But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one dot of the law to become void.”  Luke 16: 17.

Simply put, no matter what else happens, God’s Word and Law are not going to pass away, are not going to change or be changed, by anyone on earth. But what verse did Christ give immediately after warning that the law cannot be made void? What prime example did He give of NOT making His Words invalid? Not a verse about repentance! Not one about charity to the poor! Not even one about worship! Rather, He gave in answer what is both the warning and “the hot-button” of today:

“Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”  Luke 16: 18.

Of course, Christ knew where we would be challenged over the centuries, and also at this very moment. And He answered it for us, 2000 years ago.

But there is more.

In Luke 16, while verse 18 may at first seem disconnected from verse 17, is it really?  Is there not, in this very linkage, a particular warning sign that a prime threat to faith will be by demeaning the earthly marriage covenant?  Christ clearly labels the situation of true marriage, divorce and attempted “remarriage” as adultery. Have we not, then, been warned explicitly about a most dangerous, even catalyzing, factor in loss of faith, our faith, The Faith. Our obligation is to obey in faith and it seems that obedience is an essential aspect of the ‘faith’ that Jesus wonders if He will find on earth when He returns. Moreover, implicit in disobedience would be the risk that the Bride of Christ, the Church, would violate her own covenant with the Bridegroom if she taught heresy or omitted what Christ taught.  Does that not shed even further light on Luke 16: 17-18 if the Church or members of her hierarchy were to try to set aside Christ’s teaching?

This very issue in the Church today is  setting various levels of the hierarchy on different paths of contention. Not since the Arian heresy has the Church been so rocked internally.  But we need not be rocked internally ourselves. There are big questions for the laity.  What role we are expected to take when parts of the hierarchy apparently aren’t able to pursue clarification in truth? How do we communicate when the righteous exercise of canonical rights is met without courtesy and resolution for the good of souls? What do we do when turmoil ensues, and many are afraid to enter the arena?  At first I thought we’d all need to become moral theologians to untangle the knots; rather, I think we must simply remember that NO ONE, not even a Pope, can give permission to change Christ’s teaching by making sin into ‘no-sin.’ Any Pope, and the entire hierarchy, has the obligation to defend the doctrine, and an obligation not to change it.  From that point of view, there are no footnotes to argue over, no Chapter 8 wording to debate, no mis-translations to allege.  Holy Scripture is already clear.  Clarity is a sign of the Holy Spirit; ambiguity isn’t. Actually, deliberate ambiguity may be a sign of an intrusive spirit, opposing the Will of God.

Courage also comes from the Holy Spirit

So, too, if we need more encouragement, St. Paul is clear in Galatians 1:8-12: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed. Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ. For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Scripture is also clear that someone in serious sin who receives the Eucharist is bringing judgment upon himself: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.”  St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 11: 27-29.  It is not inconceivable, for the sake of honoring Christ’s Teaching, that laity who are Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion would be forced to remove themselves from serving in that role, at least as a matter of conscience.

It has not been a complicated matter for 2000 years; it is still not a complicated matter.  Difficult for some, perhaps, but not complicated.

So, as I was pondering what was happening in responses to the post-Synod writings, the juxtaposition of these two seemingly unrelated verses “jumped out at me,” looking for understanding and obedience. All I mean to do here is invite others to think about whether or not these two verses in Luke constitute a warning about where the threat to Faith will arise, and so be called to be especially on guard, and of course to pray.  Really, it is not that complicated.  And, in this simplicity, we also will find out which churchmen will follow Christ and which won’t.  That knowledge is important for a soul. Knowing the truth is always a blessing.


St. Peregrine Relic for Cancer Healing Intercession

November 21st, 2016, Promulgated by Hopefull

screenshot375Relic of St. Peregrine* the “Cancer Saint” is coming to St. Ann’s Church in Hornell, NY December 12 – 14, 2016 at 7 PM, as part of the parish’s 3 day mission. The 3 day parish mission is called, “God’s Healing Mercy during Advent” featuring talks by Fr. Chris Krymski, National Director of St. Peregrine Ministries in Chicago. Fr. Chris will talk on God’s healing mercy in conjunction to Saint Peregrine the healing Saint for those with cancer and serious illness. Fr. Chris will also bless everyone present each night with the relic of St. Peregrine.

*Saint Peregrine is the patron of sick people, cancer patients, and AIDS patients. He was initially a fiery anti-Catholic until he struck Saint Philip Benizi who offered him the other cheek in return. Saint Peregrine had a conversion from the experience. He had a vision of Christ which resulted in the cancer in his foot being healed. Saint Peregrine is an incorruptible saint. St. Peregrine’s feast day is May 1st.


Pastoral Hearts of Four Cardinals

November 15th, 2016, Promulgated by Diane Harris

It is simply a “yes or no?” letter to Pope Francis.  Five questions; only five answers needed.  But it is brilliant!

Four distinguished Cardinals of the Catholic Church recognize the confusion of Amoris Laetitia and ask Pope Francis for clarification.  After about 50 days, with no answer received, they went public to the laity on what they had asked.  And, in turn, the laity can clearly see the departure from prior teaching, not in an argumentative way, but with simplicity and clarity. Of the four Cardinals, only Raymond Cardinal Burke has not yet reached retirement. But all four show on-going concern for the complex issue which has been foisted on the whole Church through lack of clarity.

Also see here for additional background information in LifeSiteNews, and a petition to Pope Francis available for signature.

Most recent is an interview with Cardinal Burke stating that it may be necessary to have a “formal” correction of papal error, a very rare occurrence indeed. But these are rare and difficult times in which we must pray ardently.  See also Edward Pentin interview in the National Catholic Register.

Personally, while I have read a number of calls by Pope Francis for dialogue, there seems to be a lack of a two-way direction, on the critiquing input to the Synod, and in silence on the Amoris Laetitia matters.  When I wrote the book “Half a Dialogue” last year, it was because I’d noted in the Encyclical “Laudato Si” an insistent call by Pope Francis for “dialogue” (25x), for “debate” (12x) and for “discussion” (6x).  I heard from more than 30 bishops and Cardinals, and was most impressed by response from Pope Benedict XVI who responded by sending me a copy of his first Encyclical, Deus Caritas Est.  But other than a formal letter from the Secretary of State that the book had been delivered to Pope Francis, I had no reply. It does make me wonder what a call for “dialogue” means, and why Pope Francis is not answering four of his own Cardinals.  I am not personally optimistic that a constructive dialogue is likely to occur in this matter with the four Cardinals:






Cardinals Raymond Burke, Joachim Meisner, Walter Brandmüller and Carlo Caffarra


Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow!

November 9th, 2016, Promulgated by Diane Harris

screenshot355Yes, today is definitely a day for Psalms of Praise, for Masses of Thanksgiving, Communions, Rosaries, Joy. It is not about a political victory, a platform or an agenda. It is not about personalities, campaigns and debates, or about points won or lost. Rather, it is about having another chance; it is about the Redemption of the Soul of America. We have the opportunity as a people to be lifted up the slippery slope (which usually goes in only one direction). It is about re-commitment to virtue, to the founding principles upon which we were given our first chance as a nation. And it must be about humility; we do not deserve this opportunity.

What happened yesterday, last night and in the wee hours of this morning was God’s intervention, if we allow it to be so. It was a chance to walk out of the confessional of God, shamed before the world for what we had become, trembling in the fire able to consume us, and to ‘begin again.’  And, in the tradition of how God works, He chose someone willing to go all the way with Him, as David did in standing without armor before Goliath. He chooses the most unlikely people to do His Work. And we were each individually given the chance to join God’s deliverance.

It is a spiritual, not a political battle. It is against principalities and thrones and dominions. Let us lift each other up in joy that, as a country, we have been chosen to participate in the ultimate battle, and not to be only weak sideline observers.  May God help us to always recognize His work, and be ready to report for duty.

Please add your thoughts and ideas as comments. In coming days I hope to add more. Today, it is all about “Thank you, God.”

Today, November 9th, is the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, the basilica which is called “Mother and Head of all the Churches of the City and the World.”

OPINION: The Moral Obligation to Vote for Donald J. Trump

November 6th, 2016, Promulgated by Ben Anderson

I finally got around to writing up my thoughts on the upcoming election… better late than never, I suppose. I decided to post them on a neutral site so that I could more freely share it rather than linking to this site. Here it is:
OPINION: The Moral Obligation to Vote for Donald J. Trump


Disappointment of Soul — Part II: End Times? Emerging Issues

November 4th, 2016, Promulgated by Diane Harris

End Times?

And, so, the questions of end-times understandably arise. What do we expect of the end-times?  I would like to write separately on many of the signs we presently see, but won’t burden this writing with those details.  I will only say there is nothing, in my opinion, wrong with keeping the eschatological reality in mind, because although Christ said only the Father knows, nevertheless the Lord gave His Apostles specific signs to watch for (Mark, Chapter 13, e.g.)

Rather, let us simply bring to bear the same question which Jesus asked His disciples in Luke 18:8: “… when the Son of man comes, will He find faith on earth?”  What strange words!  Jesus is sending His disciples forth to convert the world, yet He wonders aloud whether or not there is a kind of failure at the end? Or a natural ending when the ‘full number’ has entered the Kingdom? He warns them (and us) in John 15:18: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you.”  If indeed the “end(s) of the earth” have been reached, as witnessed by both Pope Francis’ election and his words, then what is the state of “faith on earth”? Would Jesus have asked those words if the whole world had been converted and was spiritually thriving? Or is the tapering off part of the end times, accompanied by a falling away among the faithful? Is a decrease in faith another sign of the end times? We remember the promise to the Church at Thyatira in Revelation 2:25:  “But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching*, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay upon you any other burden; only hold fast what you have, until I come.”  [*Read the preceding few verses in Revelation to understand more of what “this teaching” is and ask whether or not that has already entered the world.]

Issues in Pope Francis’ Papacy

I remember in those early months of Pope Francis’ papacy, looking for works he’d written, trying to learn more about his thoughts, inspirations, exhortations.  Unfortunately, I found little in English, and had to “wait and see.” A few months later, there were words spoken by Pope Francis on the plane returning from World Youth Day in Brazil: “Who am I to judge?” he said, when asked about matters relating to homosexual relationships. Those words raced like wildfire around the world to make the Pope seem as if he were going to relax some long held same-sex Church Teaching. Blame was placed on the media for not understanding, and for blowing words out of proportion. His words are among the most devastating because of the deliberate confusion between “judge,” meaning discern, as we are called to do, vs. “judge” as deciding on the state of another person’s soul. And those words pave the way for the laity to think they need to “back off” defense of the Faith, which is most unfortunate. But, as St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:2-3, we are reminded: “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, matters pertaining to this life!  Unfortunately, Pope Francis did not clarify his words spoken on the plane. I was very disappointed. It seemed a lost opportunity to reflect what the Church really teaches.

Cardinal Burke: Faithful Son of the Church

Cardinal Burke 2It was Cardinal Burke who stuck his neck out to “explain” what the Pope meant, on several occasions.  His explanations were good, solid, faithful to centuries of Church Teaching, and personally supportive of the Successor of Peter.  Perhaps the Pope did not want that kind of support. In the end, it was Cardinal Burke who was removed by the Pope, first in late 2013 as a member of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, which is responsible for recommending new prelates around the world to the pope, and a year later as head of the powerful Apostolic Signatura, unfortunately clearing the way for more local control of annulments, a kind of  “decentralization” which seemed to some prelates as striking at the heart of the Oneness mark of the Church. In what was perceived by media and Vatican-watchers as a demotion of Cardinal Burke, it was fascinating and ironic that Cardinal Burke’s new position, rather than being a powerless figurehead, actually gave him the opportunity to operate anywhere in the world as the Patron of the Order of Malta, and on a wide variety of matters.  See:  While I was disappointed in Cardinal Burke’s removal, nevertheless the work of the Holy Spirit seemed present in his new work being undertaken, and which is still growing and evolving.

Emergence of Cardinal Kasper – the Pope’s “Theologian”

Removal of Cardinal Burke was perhaps the first open shot across the bow of the more traditional wing of the Catholic Church. Instead of healing rifts, they widened and deepened. And during this period my disappointment also widened and deepened, although I clung to the hope that there was some rationale which would suddenly emerge, and delightfully surprise us.  Instead, Cardinal Walter Kasper emerged.  As a prelude to thescreenshot349Synod, in February 2014, the German Cardinal Kasper, whom I would characterize as a dissident to traditional Church Teaching on marriage / divorce / no annulment / remarriage was spotlighted by Pope Francis and given a stage to advocate the Cardinal’s own views, views I find difficult not to call ‘heretical.’  At the very least, the views are scandalous to at least some Catholics in the pew, and I believe divisive in the Church.  Rather than Pope Francis’ disciplining someone with such aberrant views, in advance of the Synod, he seemed very supportive of them. Again, the hope for clarification and action against those attacking church doctrine disappointed.  I felt as if I were watching the Synod unfold as the Arian debates all over again, but without Truth prevailing.

Then came the Synod in Fall 2014, just before Cardinal Burke was removed from the Apostolic Signatura. Cardinal Burke and a number of his colleagues rushed to press with a book speaking strongly for the Church’s traditional position on marriage (entitled: “Remaining in the Truth of Christ”).  The emergency response of publishing this book did not disappoint; it was a proactive defense of Christ Himself and well done. In time, I believe it will stand as a voice of righteousness, no matter what else happens, as a proof that at least part of the hierarchy did not collapse in cowardice , ashamed of Christ and His Teaching.

ScreenShot238It was reported that the distribution of the book to the Synod attendees didn’t happen because of a ‘mixup’ in the Vatican Post Office.  The traditional position expressed in that book was effectively suppressed while the “Kasper” position was advanced.  The English summary of the Fall 2014 Synod was inconsistent in several positions in the Italian, which eliminated three points voted down by attendees, but which nevertheless found their way into the English summary, causing quite a bit of consternation. The “voting down” still had a significant percentage of adherents to Cardinal Kasper’s positions, and I had hoped that the open opposition to Church Teaching would actually result in the Pope’s finally phasing out the disloyal and unfaithful. Rather, it seemed to be the opposite, even leading to elevation to Cardinal of some who dissented from one or more Church Teachings. By the second session in Spring 2015, Cardinal Kasper’s push to admit divorced Catholics (whose marriages were not annulled) to approach the Eucharist was stronger than ever. It was very disappointing that time and dialogue had only strengthened the upstart interpretation which denied Christ’s very clear words in Luke 16:18:

“Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”

The Church has always taught that those in a state of adultery must not approach the Eucharist. As a matter of fact, the desire to receive the Eucharist has brought many souls back to their faith, an impetus lost when sinners without reconciliation partake of Christ’s Body and Blood and add more sins to their souls. What would drive anyone to push for such sacrilege? Well, there is a significant tax remuneration to churches which is at stake in Germany, rather than the mercy Cardinal Kasper alleges; i.e. “The root of all evil!” Now THAT is disappointing! It is especially disappointing to me that the flock has been so endangered.

The Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, which is the Pope’s summary of both Synod meetings, is said not to have changed Church Teaching, “only” Pastoral Care, but some very credible Cardinals and bishops have written that we can’t have one without the other.  Rather than confronting the matter head on, the interpretation in Amoris Laetitia  is ambiguous, hinging even on an obscure footnote. Splits are emerging in the Church, with Argentina, Granada, Germany and others permitting what in the heritage of thought and teaching would be sacrilege. Even in Italy, it is said that the Diocese of Rome admits to communion those who will not be admitted in the Diocese of Florence. One can try to argue, with the passion that Cardinal Burke showed in loyally defending the Pope in 2013 and 2014, that teaching hasn’t changed, but that ignores the damage being done.  It is difficult to sort out all the details, and surely more will change or be corrected, but the uncertainty layered onto the faith is severely damaging. And some even see the “Year of Mercy,” at least in part, as having been orchestrated as preparation for ignoring violations of Church Teaching. What is devolving in the church, and for me personally, is Trust. I wish I found some of the accusations more difficult to believe, but an obvious track record is building.

–to be continued in Part III–


Answer is in the Platforms

November 2nd, 2016, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Making decisions on the upcoming election is not really as difficult as it seems.  The problem is that most people are listening to all the wrong things: a biased media, lies and more lies, emotional outbursts and gossip. The answer has been available for months, just compare the platforms and we are able to rise above the current innuendo, tirade or threat:

Republican National Platform: 2016

Democratic National Platform: 2016

For a quicker review, we might visit the words of Robert Knight, senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a columnist for The Washington Times.

The 54-page Republican platform calls for greater personal responsibility; decentralizing power; a balanced-budget amendment; reducing the size and scope of government; parental rights; gun ownership and religious liberty; tax incentives for economic growth; reducing taxes across the board; a crackdown on the Internal Revenue Service; overturning the Supreme Court’s rulings on Obamacare, abortion and same-sex “marriage”; rejecting any treaties not vetted by the Senate; rescinding President Obama’s executive orders granting amnesty to illegal immigrants; withholding federal funds from “sanctuary cities”; building a wall on our southern border; rebuilding American military strength, and exerting international leadership against ISIS and other threats.

The 52-page Democratic Party platform promises a new War on Poverty and the Bernie Sanders-inspired Socialist War on the Rich [not their wording]; massive new public works projects; expanding federal programs at every level; more tax-subsidized abortions; cradle-to-grave health care; a “cradle-to- college pipeline”; free public college tuition for all; free childcare; mandatory national service; racial affirmative action; the LGBT political agenda; new regulatory mandates on businesses; a radical climate change agenda; leading “a broad coalition of allies and partners to destroy ISIS’ stronghold in Iraq and Syria,” and sky-is-the-limit confiscatory taxation, including a new levy on financial transactions, to pay for it all.


So–read both documents, discern, decide and vote.  It’s about duty.  It’s not as flashy as vituperative news stories, awkward political dinners with Cardinal Dolan, or plots and rumors, but it is as close to the facts as we can come. And we need to do it all with prayer, to enlighten discernment.

God bless America.


Monthly Prayer Requests for Priests – November 2016

November 1st, 2016, Promulgated by Ben Anderson

It’s time to print out your November 2016 calendar. Thanks to the good folks at for providing these calendars freely available to all on the Internet.

Also, here are the Holy Father’s prayer intentions for November:

Universal: Countries Receiving Refugees

That the countries which take in a great number of displaced persons and refugees may find support for their efforts which show solidarity.

Evangelization: Collaboration of Priests and Laity

That within parishes, priests and lay people may collaborate in service to the community without giving in to the temptation of discouragement.

Finally, if you haven’t yet printed out the novena for the upcoming election, you can print that out here (pdf link is underneath the image):

If you’re too late to make it a novena, your prayers will still help. Would that make it a heptena?


Is this Daniel’s Prophecy in Chapter 12?

November 1st, 2016, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Read for yourself:

Of all the responsibilities given to a priest, none can possibly exceed his protection of the Eucharist.  And no abuse can possibly be a bigger aspiration of the evil one, than to attack the Body and Blood of Christ, especially through the priesthood, through watered-down teaching or through compromise.

0961reCleansing Fire’s readers and contributors have spoken out often and strongly against many liturgical abuses in past years, but none ever so important as opposing any denigration of the Eucharist.  Quite frankly, that past effort was almost nothing compared to what could lie ahead.  We have 2000 years of consistent teaching, which no ‘feel good’ rituals can supplant.  And we have St. Paul’s words in Galatians 1: 6-12,  that even if an angel were to appear to us and preach a different Gospel, he should be accursed (anathema).

While we have been busy agonizing about an election, other matters, far more threatening, have been emerging.  And the laity are likely to be faced with many difficult decisions.  This is the time to pray and prepare.  Let’s be clear. What seems to be proposed between Catholics and Lutherans is nothing like the orderly, meticulous process followed by Pope Benedict in establishing the Anglican Ordinariate.  We welcome reunion and unity, but not compromise of our Faith or make-believe fellowship.

In some sense, I fear that changes have already started.  I was at a Mass recently where the priest said something along the lines of “When you receive communion you are not only receiving the Body of Christ, but you are receiving everyone else who is present here, and in your family, neighborhood, work and in the world.”  No, Father, I am not receiving any of those people.  I am receiving the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.

I have come to the conclusion, as a result of that event only a few weeks ago, that I must avoid all priests who themselves do not even seem to respect the Eucharist, who hardly acknowledge the Divine Presence in the Tabernacle, who preach novel ideas to itchy ears.

As long as I have the privilege and ability to write for Cleansing Fire, I will never, please God, compromise at all regarding my words about the Eucharist, and I invite us all to hold each other to those standards which have been traditional on this blog. Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!


Disappointment of Soul — Part I: The Resignation

October 31st, 2016, Promulgated by Diane Harris

In my desire to finish in one sitting the post on “Disappointment of Soul”, I uploaded the entire post in order to keep the story “together.” But I realize there is a lot of material in that post, so I’m breaking it into three parts, to invite discussion on the individual parts.  However, if someone does want to read it all at once, I am leaving the original post in place:

Several times I have approached the keyboard to write of disappointment.  I have no authority to write anything of specific judgment or condemnation, but only of hope and disappointment and more hope, so I’ll try to color within those lines.

screenshot350I remember February 2013, and the shock and disappointment I experienced when His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, announced his retirement. I wanted to wail “Nooooooo!” And I wondered “Why is he retiring?” Why had Pope Benedict chosen a different path than (now Saint) Pope John Paul II? Was it because he’d seen from the inside how difficult it can be with a leader of the Church wounded through illness? Was it because Pope Benedict is culturally private and reserved and perhaps personally not as apt to live out final days in the public view? Was it because of the wolves, the ones from whom he’d asked us to pray that he would not flee? Or one of a thousand other reasons?

A leader of almost any entity steps down when his health and energy no longer enable him to keep up the pace of office.  But perhaps it is different for popes, as Pope John Paul II was obviously not persuaded by such argument. Moreover, Christ did not come down from the Cross. Pope Benedict’s writings show that he was not in any way impaired in thought or expression by advancing age, and it was through his writings that we know more of his mind, heart and soul than we do of many others who have sat in the Chair of Peter.  His deposit of teaching is awesome, and recent events warn me to collect the rest of his writings I have not read yet, while they are available. It also came to mind that perhaps Pope Benedict saw the onslaught about to come, and believed his most crucial role would be in extended prayer for the Church. So Pope Benedict had a deep clarity in which to make his decision, and that was reassuring. Disappointing, but reassuring.

Is there a Biblical Element to the Papal Change?

Even an abundant field was left fallow for one year out of seven, to regain its strength.  Sometimes doing less can be the most fruitful protection of all.  From the installation of (now Blessed) Pope Paul VI in 1963, to Pope Benedict’s abdication in 2013, fifty years elapsed.  Biblically, the 50 year cycle is important to mark the Jubilee, leaving the land fallow after seven 7-year cycles, but what can it mean in the context of today’s Church?  We can ask, but the answer may not yet be clear.

Leviticus 25: 10-13: “And you shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants; it shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his family. A jubilee shall that fiftieth year be to you; in it you shall neither sow, nor reap what grows of itself, nor gather the grapes from the undressed vines. For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you; you shall eat what it yields out of the field. In this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his property.” 

–To be continued–