Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Some Cardinal Questions

February 14th, 2017, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Is Cardinal Sarah being forced out?

Lifesite News is doing a masterful job of following the roller-coaster of Vatican politics.  Jan Bentz writes: “While Cardinal Sarah (Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments) seems to have perfectly continued the Benedictine idea of the ‘reform of the reform’ of the liturgy, it does not seem that Pope Francis sees much value in putting these kinds of questions into a public discussion. That is why he has asked Cardinal Sarah not to follow up on this thought [of the ‘reform of the reform’] in his function as prefect for the Congregation for Liturgy and also not to use the term ‘reform of the reform’ anymore.”  This came in the wake of Pope Francis’ changing all of the people who served in the dicastery headed by Cardinal Sarah to a more liberal breed.   More of the apparent recent silencing can be read here: https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/is-cardinal-sarah-being-silenced

Is Cardinal Coccopalmerio a Vatican chess piece? 

Is Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio’s new booklet an attempt to answer the dubia? An attempt to destroy 2000 year old teaching?  A move to suppress dissent? “The Eighth Chapter of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia” seems to argue for violating the fundamental principle that adulterers should refrain from receiving the Holy Eucharist, a principle of millennial standing.

https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/canonical-cardinal-clashes-with-doctrinal-cardinal-over-communion-for-adult and http://hotair.com/archives/2017/02/14/did-the-vatican-ok-communion-for-some-divorced-and-remarried-catholics/  and https://cruxnow.com/global-church/2017/02/14/vaticans-legal-chief-says-desire-change-enough-communion/

Is Cardinal Burke being harassed?  

Is he a ‘victim soul’ for love of the Church?   Is the Malta situation being used as a straw man to defame Cardinal Burke? https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/corrected-questions-swirl-about-role-of-cardinal-burke-in-crisis-at-knights?utm_source=LifePetitions+petition+signers&utm_campaign=45ddf3b4ab-Catholic_1_171_17_2017&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c5c75ce940-45ddf3b4ab-398792133

Are all the Cardinals still Catholic?

Well that is harder to assess. Pope Francis set up a little cabinet for himself of geographically diverse Cardinals, called the “Council of Cardinals.”  IMO this shows the serious stress created in any institution when some are given more power and influence than colleagues previously seen as “equals.”  The endower of such distinction usually expects a certain level of personal loyalty for having differentiated such members of the inner circle, and eventually the chit is called.  Apparently that has just happened with the little cabinet. It is hard to serve two masters.  Read it carefully. What is “his” magisterium? And how is it different from the Church’s magisterium?  https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/breaking-council-of-cardinals-pledge-allegiance-to-pope-francis?utm_source=LifePetitions+petition+signers&utm_campaign=45ddf3b4ab-Catholic_1_171_17_2017&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c5c75ce940-45ddf3b4ab-398792133  And a follow-up to the Vatican intrigue: https://www.lifesitenews.com/opinion/unrest-at-the-vatican-reassurances-backfire

Cult of Obedience — a Danger to Souls?

There seems to be a poison running through the veins of the Vatican and in my opinion it stems from the mindless obedience of the Jesuit order historically.  To read more on the problem of dehumanizing control, read the second part of an excellent article on Rotate Coeli here: http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2017/02/article-on-formal-correction-of-pope.html  Scroll down to II. “True and False Obedience.”  If ‘ordered’ to support and agree with Pope Francis, those who subscribe to this as a required obedience simply see any guilt they may have as transferred to the person doing the ordering.

I have personally experienced this attitude even in the Diocese of Rochester.  Twice I heard a priest preach:  “If the Pope said something was black and I could clearly see it was white, I would say it is black.”  I asked “Father, how could you say that?  You would be lying!” Nevertheless, he maintained that is what he would do.  For me, it was simply a warning to stay far away from such Jesuitical and Clericalist influence, as I believe it is a threat to souls. How can anything built on falsehood not be an affront to God?

Even Peter and John had the experience with the Sanhedrin of being ordered by high level religious authority: “And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered:  We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:27 – 29). How much is this ‘blind obedience’ factor influencing what is occurring in Rome? How much does it deform souls and their ability to discern rationally?

 

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A Crisis of Relevance or a Crisis of Faith?

February 10th, 2017, Promulgated by Ben Anderson

It is useless to propose solutions if one hasn’t clearly defined the root of a problem. We all know there are major problems in the Catholic Church today; around the world as well as in our backyard. One major problem is that young people are leaving the Church. Of the few who stay, even fewer have given the slightest consideration to the priesthood or a religious vocation. These are serious problems that will impact all of us. The existing institution cannot be maintained as it is. We are supporting an unsustainable system. Catholic-Lite is a dying institution. As serious as these problems are the fundamental/root issue goes even deeper. Here is where the progressives and the orthodox diverge in their opinions. The progressive claims that the church isn’t relevant enough. If she would just change a few things here and there, then we could get it all back on the rails (for those progressives who even care – many don’t care that the Church is dying). The orthodox claims that the problem is one of faith. If there is a problem of faith, there is absolutely nothing we can do that will bear fruit. Faith in what the Church teaches is the bare minimum. It’s the starting point. If you don’t have it, you will fall right out of the gate. To reject just one article of the faith is to reject the whole thing. Most young people can’t even be blamed with rejecting the faith because they truly have no idea what the faith is. Many young people are lost well before they would even be interested in reading the Catholic Courier (even the hipster version). This orthodox position is the only valid position. History confirms it. Recent statistics confirm it. God confirms it. There is no denying it.

This is long winded introduction to mention a depressing article I saw in the Catholic Courier a little while back.
Courier, parishes seek young adults

SIDE NOTE: Mark Hare is the D&C journalist who rallied for same sex marriage in NYS (among other unorthodox positions). To my knowledge he has not publicly repented of this position. Mark, your efforts are futile until you embrace God’s teaching in its entirety. To the Catholic Courier, why is Mark Hare on your board?

The reason I find this article so depressing is because of how little attention is given to the root of the problem and the real solution to it all. The article clearly leans toward the “crisis of relevance” opinion. It reads very much like proposed solutions to the failing city school districts… we just need more money, more technology, more … school… and we can turn it around. I’ll let you judge and comment for yourselves, but in response I would simply say that bolstering faith in God and His Church is not all that much of a mystery. It doesn’t require spending countless hours working on mission statements and forming committees. We already have our mission statement (Scripture, Magisterial documents, the writings of the Saints) and our committee (the Saints). Finding spiritual success really is very easy. God does all the hard work for us. If we simply provide good, reverent, and prayerful liturgy (not just the Mass, but Vespers, Adoration/Benediction, etc), provide more than 30 min of confession times each week, teach the people all of the truths (not just liberal politics) and challenge them that you expect them to accept them and live by them, encourage spiritual reading, mental prayer, etc. Teach about the Saints. They are amazingly inspiring. Teach the Scriptures, not just your favorite 2 parts from the Sermon on the Mount. It really isn’t rocket science.

Besides my ramblings, I’ll present our Bishop who understands the root of the problem:

Youths excel with encouragement, prayer, example

Throughout the history of our church, young people have been recognized for their heroic virtue and declared blessed or saints by the church. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati… St. Stanislaus Kostka … St. Elizabeth of Hungary … St. Thérèse of Lisieux … These are only some of the young people who have been declared blessed or saints at a youthful age. Our youths are capable of extraordinary accomplishments. What they need is our encouragement and, above all, our prayers and good example: the practice of our faith and the example of our lives lived in union with Jesus Christ.

and this:
Mass on Feb. 26 will recall heroic priest, nun

A priest and nun who died heroically in a church fire will be commemorated with a 50th-anniversary Mass Sunday, Feb. 26. Bishop Salvatore R. Matano will celebrate the liturgy at 10:30 a.m. at Church of the Annunciation, 1754 Norton St., Rochester.

many have regarded Father Weinmann and Sister McLaughlin as martyrs for their deeds. The tabernacle from that 1967 tragedy is now housed in the eucharistic chapel at Rochester’s Sacred Heart Cathedral.

I would encourage the Catholic Courier not to spend too much time on a wild goose chase and instead realize that tradition is for the young.

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Sheltering in Place: Part I: Commitment

February 7th, 2017, Promulgated by Diane Harris

ScreenShot445This posting begins a multi-part new series.  I pray to have the energy, time and guidance to bring it to fruition, and that others will participate, and especially that it will be for the good of souls. We are all treading on some unfamiliar ground.

There are already related posts, comments and links on Cleansing Fire regarding the evolving Vatican situation, and its reverberation through the ranks of the faithful. The division in the Church, the silent lack of direction, the apparent deviations among the  hierarchy from God’s own Teaching, the unanswered dubia of Four Cardinals, and the challenges to us, “the little ones” in the pew, all testify to the problems. There is no need to reiterate what has already been made obvious.  Whether or not we are entering “end times” is even a question some of us may have, especially as we deeply consider Christ’s own words:  

 

“… when the Son of man comes, will He find faith on earth?”  (Luke 18:8)

 

Sheltering in Place – Part I: Commitment

As a child, when the school siren sounded, I hid under my classroom desk and pulled my green-and-every-conceivable-color plaid woolen coat over my head in anticipation of a Russian nuclear attack.  A few years later, when we no longer fit under the desks, we’d gather in the hallway, face to the wall, waiting for the Russian bombs.  The memorable scenes include the mild disappointment that nothing – NOTHING — ever happened.  Eventually a bell rang, and we quietly filed back into Sister Mary Liguori’s math class.

What we did, in those days, is described today as “Sheltering in Place.” It’s the same advice for dealing with several modern threats, especially terrorism of various kinds, whether in schools, malls, churches or theaters.  Don’t try to make a run for it; stay together; go into lock-down mode until the threat has passed.

Recently, regarding issues of concern in the Church today, I suggested we share some thoughts about personally navigating such a difficult period, waiting and hoping for the Lord Himself to intervene. Musing about the history of the people of God, whether they were trying to make bricks without straw, hiding out in catacombs, or being subverted by heresies seemingly held by many who should know better, we can see that persecution is always just around the next corner. Today’s persecution in the U. S. may not be as dramatic as the bloody martyrdom being horrifically suffered elsewhere, especially in Syria, but the stakes are the same. The objective of evil is consistent; what is being stalked is the soul. Knowing that, many other decisions are somewhat easier to make, and of paramount importance.

Where would we go?

In the Gospel of John, Chapter 6, dozens of disciples are scandalized about Christ’s words, repeated several times, in essence: “For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.  He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.”  (John 6:55-56). Christ did not back off His Teaching; rather, He made it even more emphatic. In Chapter 6, verse 66 (note the 666 combination), are the heartbreaking, life-destroying words:  “After this many of His disciples drew back and no longer went about with Him.”  Jesus does not try to stop them; He did not soften His words then, and He does not soften His Teaching now. Instead, He honors man’s free-will and asks the Apostles:  “Do you also wish to go away?”  Then we read: “Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that You are the Holy One of God.’” (John 6: 67-69).

About the current situation in the Catholic Church, we ask what Peter asked: “To whom shall we go?”  For we realize, with crystal clarity, there is NO ONE else to whom we can go, no other Church or faith group has what Christ gave to His Church; i.e. the words of eternal life. And not just the Words, for He, Himself, is the Word, and nowhere is that Word more fully present than in the Catholic Church.  Until we fully realize that Peter’s reality is our reality, anything else we do to “Shelter in Place” will be built on sandy soil, eventually reaching a point of erosion. Without the Sacrament of Reconciliation, without the Holy Eucharist, there is no foundation of support (whatever else may lurk under the shade of “ecumenism.”)

How do we prepare to “Shelter in Place?”

Before identifying in subsequent posts in this series such practical steps as stockpiling a few Catechisms and Bibles before they get revised, or protecting against “fake ‘church’ news” from suspect media, the most important thing we can do is to discern prayerfully where we are personally in our individual commitment to what Christ taught.  To do that effectively, the first step is realizing that there really is nowhere else to go.  It is an essential realization, to deepen our resolve.

Having ‘nowhere else to go’ is a strategic resolve; it is the reason some fighting forces through history have burned bridges behind themselves, making escape or running away impossible.  God brings us to a Red Sea that we can’t cross, so that we know when we do cross it, the help came from Him and not from our own strength. That same resolve also echoed in Churchill’s words to his countrymen, mobilizing the commitment of the English people: Never give in.  Never give in.  Never, never, never, never …. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

Even more to the point, we can remember Christ’s setting His Face to go to Jerusalem, and how, therefore, the Samaritans would not receive Him: Luke 9:51-53. Without such commitment, it is tempting to reject the fabric of belief, a piece at a time. But “setting our face” to faithfulness to the Lord is almost guaranteed to be met with hostility from others.  Such hostility can even be a sign of opposition to righteousness. But faithfulness requires that we set hand to the plow and not turn back. No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62.)

For a final inspiration regarding commitment we have the words of the second successor of St. Peter in Antioch, St. Ignatius, in his writings when he was on his way, in chains, via ship to Rome, to be thrown to the lions http://www.passionistnuns.org/Saints/StIgnatiusAntioch/index.htm.  The Office of Readings for Oct. 17th, the Memoria of the Bishop St. Ignatius of Antioch, contains the following resolve from his writings:

“… I am writing to all the churches and assuring them that I am truly in earnest about dying for God – if only you yourselves put no obstacles in the way. I must implore you to do me no such untimely kindness; pray leave me to be a meal for the beasts, for it is they who can provide my way to God.  I am His wheat, ground fine by the lions’ teeth to be made purest bread for Christ. So intercede with Him for me, that by their instrumentality I may be made sacrifice to God.”

Most of us don’t have the strength to echo St. Ignatius’ words. That is probably a good thing; reasonable fear keeps us preserving life, and doing the work we’ve been called to do. The resolve of an Ignatius is a gift from God, as is His timing.  What we are called to do, especially if it requires the ability to endure and persevere, needs God to open the Way.  And, if it is His Will, then He gives the grace when needed. Our role is prayerful discernment and commitment. For us, we must be “all in” or we are not “in at all.” This is a crucial basis of all that comes next.

Discernment, Sharing, Wondering

The situation today, and likely what lies ahead, needs deep discernment. I don’t claim to have it, only to need it.  Christ’s words are clear that we need to discern and prepare, and to count the cost: “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build, and was not able to finish.’”  Luke 14:28-30.  Commitment has a very big cost.

The thrust of the planned posts will be to share how we are preparing ourselves for what already is one of the worst threats to Faith since the Arian Heresy, not to take sides or to teach, but to share possible answers to the question of how we prepare ourselves for what might become even more difficult times, a threat to souls, and how we embrace our own personal responsibility.

We may wonder why this broad weakening in commitment to Church Teaching is happening in our time? On our ‘watch,’ so to speak. “Why” is always a difficult question about the Holy Spirit’s timing, but we might consider two possibilities.  The first is a gift – the opportunity to pick up our crosses and follow Christ as He commanded, and with all that entails.  The second is Uncle Mordecai’s explanation to Esther: “Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4: 14c). And perhaps those two possibilities are actually the same one?

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Monthly Prayer Requests for Priests – February 2017

February 1st, 2017, Promulgated by Ben Anderson

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

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

Comfort for the Afflicted.

That all those who are afflicted, especially the poor, refugees, and marginalized, may find welcome and comfort in our communities.

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I kid you not ….

February 1st, 2017, Promulgated by Hopefull

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March for Life: time-lapse

January 27th, 2017, Promulgated by Diane Harris
https://www.lifesitenews.com/pulse/time-lapse-rooftop-video-reveals-gigantic-numbers-at-2017-march-for-life
1 minute 28 seconds; click on lower picture in the link.
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What prayer being answered looks like:

January 24th, 2017, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Headline from LifeSiteNews 

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Now is not the time to stop praying…. at least to say “Thank you, Lord.”  But much more is still at stake.  So let’s continue to pray for our nation to be crowned, not by man, but by the righteousness of God.

http://us1.campaign-archive1.com/?u=3b519162c561a81f1ee4736a3&id=3f1e9a0b59&e=1ad6c33a4e

 

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Bergoglian Persecution Begins?

January 22nd, 2017, Promulgated by Diane Harris

One of the links http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com  we have carried on Cleansing Fire for quite some time is Rorate Caeli, and its top two stories tonight are shocking. Both reflect the great crisis and division in the Church today, worsening by the day.  For the sake of souls, may the Good Lord be swift in His Intervention, and give all of us the stamina to endure what Rorate Caeli dubs a “Bergoglian Persecution.”  And let us pray for any emerging martyrs in such a persecution, especially Father Luis of Colombia. Both stories are short. Please read.

http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2017/01/urgent-bergoglian-doctrine-persecution.html#more

http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2017/01/bishop-of-rockford-repeals-summorum.html

 

Note: a comment has been deleted that made unsubstantiated allegations (without any references from respected sources) against prior popes who are in no position to defend themselves.

Below are further references on how the Malta situation is being “handled”:

https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/pope-francis-reinstating-fired-condom-promoter-after-taking-over-knights-of?utm_content=bufferb1427

http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/pope-francis-declares-all-of-fra-festings-recent-acts-null-and-void

https://www.lifesitenews.com/opinion/the-ideological-purge-at-the-vatican

 

 

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High-lights and Low-lights regarding “Amoris Laetitia”

January 18th, 2017, Promulgated by Diane Harris

At the top of stories to read, to catch up on the disastrous fall-out from Pope Francis’ “Amoris Laetitia,” is one particular shining statement of truth and commitment: A pastoral letter from Bishop Steven J. Lopes of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter: “No Communion for unchaste divorced and remarried couples; no ‘at peace with God’ exceptions!”

What’s that business about “at peace with God”?  Well the Maltese bishops have abdicated their responsibility, as described in the link, which includes the Fritos comment.  One other point about this article and the picture of Pope Francis. It will probably be taken down soon, as it includes what is seen as an obscene gesture in some parts of the world.

One of the Dubia Cardinals (+ Caffarra) is quoted as saying that it would be ‘suicidal’ if the Pope taught that conscience trumps Revelation. That story can be found here. 

And that is just from tonight’s stories.  Yesterday there was more detail on the Maltese bishops’ “disastrous” position.  Another story from yesterday involved the firing of a Dutch  Catholic Editor who wrote about “Catholic Truth” in the light of serious questions about “Amoris Laetitia”.

Here are other articles rounding out less than a week just on “Amoris Laetitiae” and it’s fall-out:

Random thoughts on difficult times for us all

These are extremely difficult times in the Church. Laity and priests alike don’t want it to be true that we are really in a situation hovering on the edge of heresy, or the possibility that it has already happened.  There is a lot of  ‘acting’ as if nothing is really amiss, when we are in times that require deep prayer, probably more than any other time in our lives, even for those who remember the shadow of the bomb in the late 40’s and early 50’s. That was about bodies; this is about souls. In the Church, I really believe we are akin to the time of the Arian heresy, when half the Christian world had gone Arian.

The laity has an important role to play, but we seem to be learning it one person at a time.  For each, there is a moment when we see what is happening, and what we haven’t done. And there is a moment when we hear the call or find the courage to do what needs to be done. Personally, I put Cardinal Burke and the other three Cardinals submitting the Dubia in that category.  This is especially a time to draw close to those who teach doctrine faithfully, who celebrate the liturgy appropriately, whose words can stir up encouragement and ardor for Christ rather than for themselves or a local project, and who have peace instead of fear.

Many doctrinally faithful priests will still reiterate Church Teaching, but few put themselves at risk to prepare the laity for what might lie ahead, to inform as to what really are the obligations of laity in these situations.  And there are many who waive away concerns, valid concerns which would lead to prayer and repentance.  Some wait to see ‘how it goes’, as if prayer had nothing to do with it.  Some dismiss it all as a media event. In response to concern expressed, I’ve even been told “That’s above my pay grade.”  When there is fear of discussion, how can there be any teaching?

Yes, the Holy Spirit is in charge, but we aren’t to be lukewarm while He does all the work, are we?  This is a time of crisis, my friends, not of finding excuses to be uninvolved.  Let us also have some very special concern for priests who have given their lives into the service of a Church now in turmoil. Let us also have some very special concern for converts, especially recent converts. While they have the benefit of perhaps more recently deeply examining their spiritual decisions than many of us who might take what we had for so long for granted, nevertheless we can appreciate their vulnerability (often in families who haven’t converted) and also that this climate is not what they (or we) expected. Lastly, let us encourage each other, not by silence, not by wishful thinking, but by love of each other’s souls. I find the verse from the Book of Esther to be helpful to consider, as her uncle, Mordecai, tells her in a moment of crisis, when she either will take the risk of standing up or not, “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14b).

Biblical Comment and thoughts about Amoris Laetitia

Recently in reading the Gospel of Luke, something was opened to me that I hadn’t seen before, and I feel compelled to share it. In Chapter 16, verse 17, Luke writes these words of Christ “But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one dot of the law to become void.” Heaven and earth passing away clearly puts the words in an “end-times” context. And, then, to make His point, perhaps regarding what in the Law will be most threatened in the end-times, the Lord points out to us the issue on which the very threat will come, in very next verse: “Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”  This is the very issue on which Amoris Laetitia revolves. Invalid marriage cannot become valid marriage, and valid marriage is the issue on which John the Baptist was martyred.  It is the very issue on which the Catholic Church was willing to lose all of England rather than accommodate a king’s sin. Is it perhaps a sign of the very issue that will test how the Law will not and can not change?

ScreenShot424But Amoris Laetitiac, or perhaps I should say the wa0961rey it has been received by many in Church hierarchy, appears to go one step further than just trying to create a pathway to illegitimately permit setting aside a marriage.

The devastating step it next takes is condoning adulterers’ receiving the Eucharist.  We know that the evil one despises the Eucharist, so denigrating the Sacred Species through receiving in mortal sin adds to adultery the sin of sacrilege.  We have been warned. We have been warned.

 

Paul to the Galatians 1: 6-12

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel–not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 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.”

 

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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.

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Here is more worth looking at:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQVGglYOhEg

 

 

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

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.

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

January 6th, 2017, Promulgated by Diane Harris

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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 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.)   See footnote #4 regarding excommunicable offences from the Council of Trent.  

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.”  Beginning with this event, whenever Jesus speaks of His Father in the Scriptures, He means God the Father.  (Matthew 13:55 does quote discussion by others in the synagogue at Nazareth calling Christ the “carpenter’s son,” but the context is quite different, as well as in Luke 4:22 when the bystanders “…  said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” And in John 1:45 it is the prospective disciples who call Him “Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”  In the Bread of Life discourse the skeptics ask: “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?…” John 6:42.

 

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 Douay-Rheims: “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.”

 

Summary

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” (verses 51-52).

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

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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 mprp-roc.org 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.

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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!

 

 

 

 

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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

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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:    https://www.lifesitenews.com/blogs/climate-of-fear-in-the-vatican-is-very-real 

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.

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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.

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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

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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 mprp-roc.org 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.

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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.

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