Archive for category Church

Sin By Participation

I once had a discussion with a woman in her twenties who found more than disagreement with Sidewalk Counselors outside abortion clinics who offer prayer and outreach with hope and help for the abortion-vulnerable parents.  This woman maintained that the Sidewalk Counselors were judgmental and accusatory toward “those in need” of an abortion.

 

I sought to dispel the false notions she had of the Sidewalk Counselors and explained that what she says is nonsensical as likely forty percent of all Sidewalk Counselors, maybe even more, have had or participated in an abortion themselves.   There is enormous sensitivity among Sidewalk Counselors that we are there to help dissuade others from putting themselves at risk of suffering what so many of them already do suffer.

 

The woman quickly countered that she wasn’t relying on hearsay, but instead had experience on the sidewalk when escorting a friend to get the “needed” abortion.

 

Not to give too strong a focus on this aspect of the conversation, I quickly mentioned that if her claim was true then she had objectively sinned herself and sought to return to a discussion of Sidewalk Counselors.

 

She quickly interrupted me and asked how she could have sinned if she didn’t have the abortion.

 

This was a teachable moment for me.  We have fallen to a state that our relationship with Christ and His Church is so intensely legalistic and blind.  Though she had gone to Catholic School for sixteen years, it escaped her that one can sin through the cooperation of another’s sin.  This is a teach of the Church, the teaching of a loving relationship with Christ, with which could refresh my Examination of Conscience.

 

In rereading the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Section 1868 explains that we cooperate with another’s sin when we

approve of their sin;

knowingly benefit from another’s sin;

command the sin of another;

counsel another to sin;

concealing the sin or by not hindering them from sinning when one has the obligation to do;

defending the sin;

praising their sinning behavior; or

by facilitating the sin.

 

The issue is less the legal quest for a loophole and much more the trust we give to Jesus Christ is being our God to whom nothing is impossible.

Devotion as Mother to Christ As Old As The Church

The first affirmation Jesus Christ intended for those who do the will of the Father to be His mother is found in the Gospels.  Three of the Gospels recount when Jesus once being informed that His brothers, sisters, and mother are outside.   Jesus responds by raising His hand over His disciples while stating that, “Anyone who does the will of the Father are my brothers, sisters, and my mother.”  See Mark 3:31-35, Matthew 12:46-50, Luke 8:19-21

 

Blessed Isaac of Stella (ca. 1100AD – 1169) entered the Cistercian Monastery of Citeaux of France.  Isaac be became an abbot of the Cistercian monastery of Stella.  He was known for his holiness and the teachings he gave his monks on the spiritual life. (See http://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/library_author/90/Isaac_of_Stella.html and the Liturgy of the Readings)

 

Blessed Isaac of Stella is one who later highlighted this statement of motherhood to Jesus when in a sermon of his he wrote the following:

 

In a way, every Christian is also believed to be a bride of God’s Word, a mother of Christ, his daughter and sister, at once virginal and fruitful. These words are used in a universal sense of the Church, in a special sense of Mary, in a particular sense of the individual Christian. They are used by God’s Wisdom in person, the Word of the Father.
     This is why Scripture says: I will dwell in the inheritance of the Lord. The Lord’s inheritance is, in a general sense, the Church; in a special sense, Mary; in an individual sense, the Christian. Christ dwelt for nine months in the tabernacle of Mary’s womb. He dwells until the end of the ages in the tabernacle of the Church’s faith. He will dwell forever in the knowledge and love of each faithful soul.  

 

Here Blessed Isaac of Stella relied on what Jesus said.  Blessed Isaac of Stella saw the reference in physical terms for the Blessed Virgin Mary while he saw this comment in spiritual terms for the rest of the members of the Body of Christ, the Church.  Clearly this is further validation for a devotion to the Preborn Christ who Christians bear Liturgically and Sacramentally and are destined to become the on-going incarnation of Jesus Christ.

Structures of Sin Can be Undermined and Destroyed

In yesterday’s blog posting, there was a reference to Blessed John Paul II’s explanation of “Social Sin” or rather “Structures of Sin.”  Blessed John Paul II, in his Encyclical, “On Social Concern,” went beyond just saying that these Structures of Sin will only be undermined and dismantled through personal holiness.   In short, this statement is true, but is also an incomplete exposition of all that Blessed John Paul II had written as the means to rid society of a Structure of Sin.

 

Blessed John Paul II had written of three specific elements necessary for each person to pursue and put into regular practice in order to take down Structures of Sin.  The first is personal holiness supplemented with solidarity with the victims of the structure(s) of sin and then followed with personal choices that reflect concrete practice of virtue overcoming temptation to contribute another sin to the already accumulated sin.  The latter two certainly grow from personal holiness that will also fortify the solidarity and personal choices.

 

A devotion to the Preborn Christ opens up all sorts of possibilities in terms of solidarity with those who are dependent, the defenceless, the confined,  and the threatened among so many others whose very existence and dignity remains unrespected and unprotected.

 

A devotion to the Preborn Christ is dependent on a touch of grace that overcomes so many cultural prejudice that first needs the opening of one’s eyes to Jesus in the womb.  Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed. John 20:29

Let’s pray for all of us who are blind that we too may see the Preborn Christ as Elizabeth did when filled with the Holy Spirit during the Visitation.  May her words of exclamation then be ours too, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”  Luke 1:42

 

 

 

There Is Always A Prayer Offered For You

In talking with a middle-aged Catholic the other day, I was sharing with him some brochures that I collected while visiting Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin.   He saw a picture of a sister kneeling before an altar that I explained was where the Eucharist was exposed.  I continued to explain that at all times there is at least one Sister is before the Eucharist interceding for us.  There is never moment that anyone of us is without prayer.

There, adjacent to Viterbo University are the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration who have a convent that includes a chapel that is open to the public.  The chapel that is situated behind the main  Church altar is  Eucharistic Procession that has been on-going, continuous, and without interruption for over 135 years.  The Sisters knew of a 24/7/365 presence well before select McDonald’s or other fast food restaurants decided to operate the 24 hour drive-up window.  These Sisters hold the nation’s record for the nations longest continuous prayer.  Such can only be done in the context of a community and every member’s dedication to the cause.  Like the Preborn Christ who intercedes from the womb of His mother, Mary; the Franciscans of Perpetual Adoration offer their adoration and intercession to the True Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist within their convent.

This young man was surprised at such dedication and slowly came to admit the need for such continuous prayer.  He’s not alone in being slow to understand the value of, or rather need for such a prayerful presence.  It seems so difficult for so many of us to understand that our health and prosperity are provided by God’s bounty and not of our hard work, though it is by our hard work that we can harvest God’s bounty.

The greatest threat to the future of this Perpetual Adoration is the decline in vocations and the decline in support for the religious by the lay people.  A life-long vocation of prayer is simply not encouraged by most parents because such a life is so often misunderstood.  This lack of understanding is growing about all of the religious.  The mission of these Sisters and so many monasteries and convents around the world seem to escape so many in the secular world.  These religious communities are not merely praying for themselves but are actually joining with Jesus in His ministry of intercession for all mankind before God the Father.  In prayer, they offer praise, reparation for sin, intercession for the good of all  and thanksgiving on behalf of all men, women and children for His Divine Providence.

Imagine a world lacking such religious intercession before God on our behalf.  What would such a  world be like?  Hopeless and in despair.  Looking at the world we live in, is it any surprise that there are less religious engaging in adoration than in the past and more who are choosing to cohabitate than in the past?  Cohabitation is only one of the alternative life styles that are competing with a religious life, but it is one with consequences that will certainly become inter-generational.    Not to mention the rise in violence, illicit sexual relations, and decline of general morality.  These religious are dealing in an economy that many are not even aware exists, that is the economy of salvation.  In the economy of salvation it is grace that serves as currency, if you will.  It is those who pray who are the equivalent to the capitalist producer in our market economy.  It is those who pray who help with begging for God’s grace and they also help to direct that needed grace.

As religious practice and faith in our society decline, are we prepared to take up the slack in prayer that is bound to occur with the decline of the praying religious?  What can we do to do better?  What can we do to encourage such a vocation of life-long prayer?  Please offer the religious who pray for us a prayer in return.  Consider sponsoring them financially.  Encourage young adults and children to consider such a  vocation.

An Anniversary to Note

Tomorrow will be the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and is worthy of celebration.

 

Tomorrow will also be the anniversary of the first man-made nuclear explosion that occurred at Trinity site in Los Alamos, New Mexico on July 16, 1945 at 5:29 am.[1]

 

In less than one month from that date, two more such nuclear bombs will be detonated over two sites, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The human death toll for each is conservatively set at 150,000 for Hiroshima and 75,000 for Nagasaki.

 

Nagasaki was the Catholic capital of Asia, and the Cathedral of Nagasaki was ground zero for the second bomb.  A Mass began in the Cathedral at 11:00 am, and the bomb would explode at 11:03 am.  The Eucharist was reposed in the tabernacle during the Mass, but also served as ground zero for the bomb, though not designated as such.

 

The dropping of the bombs proved to be with controversy as some have contended that the bombs should not have ever been used, in part due to the impossibility to spare civilians from the effect of this bomb.  It has also been argued that the sacrificial death of many spares the deaths of many more who would otherwise die.  Others have taken from Hiroshima and Nagasaki the lesson that technology saves lives.

 

Can we blindly accept the technological imperative over the human imperative?  Can we make decisions by merely comparing prospective body counts?  What does this make of us and what unseen, unintended consequences follow such abandon?

 

From the shock of the new era in technology, Los Alamos director J. Robert Oppenheimer, stated shortly after the explosion that, while watching the test, he was reminded of a line from the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu scripture: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”[2][3]

 

Lets take note of this anniversary and not just the awe-full power we have in hand, but of the mindset that has been unleashed.

 

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trinity_(nuclear_test)

2.  ^ Variants on       this quotation exist, both by Oppenheimer and by others. A more common       translation of the passage, from Arthur W. Ryder (from whom Oppenheimer       studied Sanskrit       at Berkeley in the 1930s),       is:

Death am I, and my present task

Destruction. (11:32)

Since the Gita’s first translation into English in 1785, most experts have translated not “Death” but instead “Time”. A further elaboration of the supposed Oppenheimer quote often cited is taken from Robert Jungk‘s 1958 Brighter than a Thousand Suns:

If the radiance of a thousand suns

were to burst into the sky,

that would be like

the splendor of the Mighty One—

I am become Death, the shatterer of Worlds.

For an extensive discussion of the quote, its various translations, and its various reported forms, see James A. Hijiya, “The Gita of Robert Oppenheimer” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 144:2 (June 2000).

3.^ Richard       Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb       (New York: Simon and Shuster, 1986). Quotes after the test from p.       675–676.

 

 

The Vocation of Motherhood

On the subject of motherhood, the soon to be canonized, Pope John Paul II offered the following insight in his 1995 Encyclical entitled, Evangelium Vitae, section 99:

In transforming culture so that it supports life, women occupy a place, in thought and action, which is unique and decisive. It depends on them to promote a “new feminism” which rejects the temptation of imitating models of “male domination”, in order to acknowledge and affirm the true genius of women in every aspect of the life of society, and overcome all discrimination, violence and exploitation.

Making my own the words of the concluding message of the Second Vatican Council, I address to women this urgent appeal: “Reconcile people with life”.133 You are called to bear witness to the meaning of genuine love, of that gift of self and of that acceptance of others which are present in a special way in the relationship of husband and wife, but which ought also to be at the heart of every other interpersonal relationship. The experience of motherhood makes you acutely aware of the other person and, at the same time, confers on you a particular task: “Motherhood involves a special communion with the mystery of life, as it develops in the woman’s womb … This unique contact with the new human being developing within her gives rise to an attitude towards human beings not only towards her own child, but every human being, which profoundly marks the woman’s personality”.134 A mother welcomes and carries in herself another human being, enabling it to grow inside her, giving it room, respecting it in its otherness. Women first learn and then teach others that human relations are authentic if they are open to accepting the other person: a person who is recognized and loved because of the dignity which comes from being a person and not from other considerations, such as usefulness, strength, intelligence, beauty or health. This is the fundamental contribution which the Church and humanity expect from women. And it is the indispensable prerequisite for an authentic cultural change.

St. Gregory’s Parenting of the Preborn Christ

St. Gregory of Nyssa (330 – 395) was a Father of the Church who recognized that the Church did teach that the Christian is a Christ-Bearer who must be concerned with the growth of Christ Who dwells within.  A passage from his writings address the importance of this concern as he explains failure to cultivate Christ within the Christians results in not only the loss of Christ’s interior presence, but the spiritual self-abortion of the individual.  St. Gregory’s passage from a homily found in the Liturgy of the Readings that explains just this understanding is as follows:

 

Birth is likened to salvation by the prophet Isaiah. Salvation reaches its full term

and is not stillborn when, having been conceived by the fear of God, the soul’s

own birth pangs bring it to the light of day. We are in a sense our own parents,

and we give birth to ourselves by our own free choice of what is good. Such a

choice becomes possible for us when we have received God into ourselves and

have become children of God, children of the Most High. On the other hand, if

what the Apostle calls the form of Christ has not been produced in us, we abort

ourselves. The man of God must reach maturity. Hom. 6:PG44, 702-703

 

St. Gregory describes the need to become like one’s own parent, speaking particularly in terms of the practicing the spiritual disciplines in life.  These disciplines lead to the forming of Christ within each of us, or rather lead to Christ becoming greater while I become lesser.  These are not only to be described as the means to parent or mother the preborn Christ, but also for one to grow in Christian maturity.

 

This is a very good passage to read every day as a means for one to re-focus on the responsibilities one has as a Christ-Bearer to the Preborn Christ and to oneself.

He Took the Form of a Slave

For our Salvation, Jesus Christ emptied himself, taking the form of a slave. Phil 2:7  From Heaven, He left His Father’s side and assumed the likeness of sinful flesh and for the sake of sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, Rom 8:3 being hung on a tree as God’s accursed because of sinCf. Duet 21:22-23

 

Paul’s Letter to the Philippians full seventh verse reads:

 

But emptied himself,

   taking the form of a slave

   being born in human likeness.

 

St. Paul’s writing is clearly guided by the Holy Spirit as we see that Jesus is described as taking the form of a slave before He is noted as being born in human likeness.  Certainly God chose in what manner Jesus would take on human nature.  He could have appeared on earth in the manner Adam appeared, but God chose to spare no one from His grace.  More importantly, He wanted no question among men that God’s grace extended to all human persons.  Jesus was no less the person of Jesus even as He was taking the form of a slave.  He was a complete person with the dual natures from the conception of His single cell, human body. And each human person is like Jesus, Who became like His brothers in every way, except sin. Heb 2:17, Heb 4:15

 

If Jesus is born in human likeness, what could be meant by saying that before birth Jesus had taken the form of a slave? 

 

Consider again that Jesus became like His brothers in every way as we also consider the near universal treatment of the preborn around the world by the laws of each government.  There are few, if any,  countries that recognize the preborn person as on par with the person born.  In many countries,  they are held lower than chattel, personal property.  In many countries, there are no protections extended to the preborn from the mother’s or father’s choice.  In many other countries, the preborn is not safe from a government’s choice.  An aborted person’s body parts are most likely collected and sold on the open market.  Those preborn persons who are formed in a Petri dish by joining the egg with sperm are without any protection in law.  Unless such a person is placed in a womb and implants within a woman, they are subject to required destruction prior to their twentieth day development, or rather when the cells begin clear differentiation.   Such people are certainly slaves as they are valued for their body parts, not their inherent dignity.  Into just such a state Jesus entered the world.  Any questions what that means?

The Embryo Recognized

As an “embryo” is how a Catholic version of the Bible recognizes the human person with a well-formed and developing body.  In the New Jerusalem Bible Psalm 139, in describing the wonder of God creating each of us and a human body for His Son within the womb of a woman, verse 16 reads, “Your eyes could see my embryo.”

According to Catholic.org, the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) is a Catholic translation of the Bible, published in 1985, that has become the most widely used Roman Catholic Bible outside of the United States.   Cardinal George Basil Hume gave this version of the Bible his imprimatur.

The Church, with the wonder of modern science, can now properly understand and more fully express the delicate beauty of God creating each human person within his mother’s womb.   The text continues with reference to the embryo as a person’s form, implying a distinctiveness from any other person’s body, or rather embryo.

Psalm 139:16 has a number of differing attempts at describing the “embryo” as we read in The Jerusalem Bible, “You had scrutinized my every action.”  The New American instead reads, “Your eyes have seen my action.”  The New Revised Standard words this verse as, “Thy eyes beheld my unformed substance.”The Douay-Rheims Bible states it, rather accurately, as, “Thy eyes did see my imperfect being,” as an embryo is most certainly a formed substance, but still an incomplete and developing form.

Let’s consider this revelation from the Church here as this passage takes a fuller meaning with a careful praying of this passage’s context as written in the New Jerusalm version of Psalm 139.

 

Psalm 139: 11-18

 

I will say, ‘Let the darkness over me,

and the night wrap itself around me,

even darkness to you is not dark,

and night is as clear as the day.

 

You created my inmost self,

knit me together in my mother’s womb.

For so many marvels I thank you;

a wonder am I,m and all your works are wonders.

 

You knew me through and through

my being held no secrets from you,

when I was being formed in secret,

textured in the depths of the earth.

 

Your eyes could see my embryo.

In your book all my days were inscribed,

every one that was fixed is there.

 

How hard for me to grasp your thoughts,

how many, God, there are!

If I count them, they are more than the grains fo sand;

if I come to an end, I am still with you.

 

The Core of the Gospel of Life

On this anniversary of Roe v Wade, many polls are telling us that we are a prolife nation. The difficulty here is that we each get to decide what constitutes prolife beliefs and we self-assign this label if we choose. These polls do not include objective criteria on definitions.
Let’s consider what Pope John Paul II wrote in his Gospel of Life in 1995 in section 81 on what the core of the Gospel of Life is:

1. It is the proclamation of a living God who is close to us,
2. who calls us to profound communion with himself and
3. awakens in us the certain hope of eternal life.
4. It is the affirmation of the inseparable connection between the person, his life and his bodiliness.
5. It is the presentation of human life as a life of relationship,
6. a gift of God,
7. the fruit and sign of his love.
8. It is the proclamation that Jesus has a unique relationship with every person,
9. which enables us to see in every human face the face of Christ.
10. It is the call for a “sincere gift of self” as the fullest way to realize our personal freedom.
The prolife movement would be well-served if we were each well versed in this summary.