Godlessness Fears Truthfulness

Fake news? Says who? Extremist speech? According to who? The latest craze in secular rhetoric is to disqualify truth by labeling it as fraudulent, dishonest, cruel, or unjust.  The secular super powers who control the information are becoming the arbiters of what information is worthy of being seen, read or heard. Today, it’s political speech. Tomorrow—and this is already starting to happen—it’ll be moral speech.

The European Union has drafted a law that would force sites to remove extremist content. In an article on engadget.com, Jon Fingas writes,

“[T]he EU is drafting legislation to force Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other internet companies to delete material when law enforcement flags it as terrorist-related.”

He goes on to talk about how the law, if passed by the EU and member nations, could be a logistical nightmare for small websites who don’t have the staff or resources to respond to the ‘take-down’ mandate within the legally mandated hour of it being flagged. But he suggests that, on a positive note, “A law could [still] help by encouraging sites to think about anti-extremist strategies from the get go, but it might also create logistical headaches for sites with limited staff and tight budgets.”

While he sees some concern for worry, his worry is logistical, and not moral or ethical.  Because nowhere does the author mention the problem of a lack of credible, central authority, or the problem of authoritarian rule over free speech.  Who decides what content is “extreme” or too extreme for people to have access to it? Who decides what content is “terrorist-related”?  In a world that views the communication of certain truths as “hate speech”, or speech that does “harm” to the emotions of others, it would seem that anything could be flagged as “extremist”, based on a whim, a misunderstanding, or worse, based on personal bias.  Though the article, site, or video could be completely true, accurate, and fair, it could be taken down by Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or others with the “authority” of this new law behind them.

There are real reasons to be worried about this trend.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which seems to be a de facto authority and reference for which groups should be considered “extreme”, or “hate groups” labels “radical traditional Catholicism” as “extremist” and “hate groups”. Even the Department of Defense had classified Catholics and evangelicals as extremists just a few years ago.  Whether or not some traditionalist Catholic groups are actually extreme or not is irrelevant. The Southern Poverty Law Center has no credibility, competency (with regard to Catholic theology, Vatican II and so on), and therefor no authority to make that determination.  For example I don’t personally care for The Remnant, and I would personally call them extreme. But I wouldn’t call them “extremist” or a hate group, nor would I call them too extreme for the eyes and ears of the general public. I say let the public make that determination themselves.  Yet The Remnant is one of many groups that made the SPLC’s list of “extermist hate groups”.

An interesting article at the Catholic Herald discussed this same concern of Christians possibly becoming victims of the government’s crackdown on Islamism.  In truth, without an objective measurement (which the secular world intentionally never provides), it’s not at all fantastic to imagine that Catholics and Catholic groups who say abortion is wrong, that marriage is between a man and a woman, that sex is unitive, and procreative and reserved to the sacred institution of marriage, or who “injure” the emotions of others by saying that hell is real could be labeled as hate groups, or as extremists, or both.  In todays world, these basic truths of the faith are extreme, and are challenging enough in such a morally disfigured world that a person could consider them “harmful” or “hate speech”.

Another article on engadget.com today has this headline: “Jack Dorsey [CEO of Twitter] explains why Twitter is reluctant to fight fake news“.  Again, who is the authority that determines what news is “fake”?  Is it Jack Dorsey?  Is it Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook?  Why should they have this authority?  And by what standard to they determine what news is “fake” and should therefor be censored?  Would it be news that they don’t like? News that conflicts with their misunderstanding of the facts? News that opposes their political perspectives?

In 2009 the Washington Post wrote an article titled “Condoms, HIV-AIDS and Africa – The Pope Was Right“. It’s based on the research of Dr. Edward C Green; a non-religious, non-conservative researcher who had determined that the Catholic Church’s approach to AIDS (behavior change) is actually the only one proven to work. Not condoms, but Catholic truth!  Mr. Green’s conclusions are based on empirical evidence. But today I would bet that the article would be labeled as “fake news” because it bucks the system, and opposes the current narrative that condoms actually save lives?  Perhaps, being published on The Washington Post, it would get a pass (and perhaps not, given the gravity of the topic), but if a similar article were published on an independent news site or blog, it’d be sure to get flagged and blocked. The work, and conclusions of a bona fide researcher in the field would likely never be seen or heard about, because some intern at Facebook or Twitter would flag it as “fake news”, and it would be deleted, or hidden and never seen.

We are living in times where the culture is shaped, ruled and governed by the godless, and by godlessness.  And this world is waging war on God and His truth.  Current trends in the culture, in media and social media are creating an atmosphere where telling the truth can get you silenced, and in time perhaps even penalized.  The godless fear the truth. That has been true since the Old Testament.  But even the sinful Ninevites were wise and honest enough with themselves that they repented at the preaching of Jonah. What will become of this modern day Nineveh? Will they repent at the preaching of the Church, or will they crucify the truth, and feed the truth-tellers to the wild animals of the modern culture?  Pray!

Ave Maria, virgo fidelis!

The Sex Scandal, and the Deeper Issue in the Church

Here we go again! The sex abuse crisis in the Church is, once again, all over the news, and various priests and bishops are, once again, offering commentary and expressing sadness, shock, shame, while calling for changes and remedies within the Church. It’s like 2002 all over again. But the real problem will continue to be ignored or overlooked. The real problem in the Church isn’t sexual misconduct. That’s just a manifestation of the problem. If the real problem isn’t addressed, then the manifestationS (plural) will never really go away. That real problem that no one is talking about is that the blood of the Church is diseased by bad theology, a lack/loss of spirituality, an openness to secularism, an over-eagerness to please and to appease, and a resistance to humility and submission to Jesus Christ.

Until the Church returns to God completely (Theologically, spiritually, morally), the Church will continue to bring pain and suffering to the faithful and to itself; whether that pain is personal, spiritual, psychological, or physical and emotional. So as far as I’m concerned all this talk about “change and renewal” is just lip service. What needs to be changed is the attitude of the collective Church, and what needs to be renewed is the heart and mind and soul of the Church, which has become corrupt not by scandalous behavior (which is the fruit) but by secular and atheistic attitudes (the root). Our troubles aren’t just about pedophilia or actively gay, predatory priests. Our troubles are far broader than that. Sexual misconduct and abuse, especially of children, is the most destructive and harmful manifestation, but some in the clergy are harmful in other ways.

Not every priest is a pedophile. Some are just liars and traitors to the truth. Not every priest flirts with seminarians. Some just court heresy. Not every priest acts in the interests of his secret sex life. Some simply act in the interests of their secularized agendas. Not every priest takes license to act out his vices. Some just give that license to the souls in their care—either by word, or by omission. Not every priest is a King Herod. Some are just Judas Iscariot. And others are the other 10 apostles who, though faithful, still fled and hid while Our Lord hung on the cross, and Our Lady wept at his feet. Our Lord’s mystical Body is beaten, bloody, and crucified anew in our time. Our Lady weeps again for the body of Christ.

It should be said that while one apostle betrayed Jesus, and 10 fled and hid while Our Lord was crucified, there was still one apostle who stood at the foot of the cross by Our Lady’s side—St. John. The Church today still has her Saint Johns. There are priests who are pious, saintly, brave, and devoted to Jesus, to the Church, to the Gospel, to truth, and to goodness. They should be the rule, but I feel they are the exception. We need more priests like them. Priests who enact the truth rather than theorize about it. Priests who are very spiritual, not just intellectual. Priests who contemplate the great mysteries rather than intellectualize them. Priests who are formed by the faith rather than by the philosophies and attitudes of the secular world. Priests who understand mercy from the perspective of the creator and not from the self-centered point of view of His creatures.

Change, renew, repeat. We heard all of this back in 2002. While our children are safer, the disease in the Church hasn’t gone anywhere. Because no one is tending to the sickness, we’re just tending to the lesions generated by it. Until the Church, or more correctly those in the church collectively, returns to God, to truth, to spirituality, and abandons secularized “Catholicism”, nothing will change, and nothing will be renewed. The mystical body will continue to rot from the inside out; and that rot will show itself not just in sexual misconduct, but in general moral disfigurement and confusion.

Ave Maria, Virgo fidelis!

Who Do You Say that I Am?

Who do people say that the Church is? A Church of scandal? A Church of soft spoken spiritualists? Half hearted moralists? Do people see who the Church truly is as they observe how “she” acts?

In the 16th chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel Jesus poses a question to the apostles, “Who do the people say the Son of Man is?”. The apostles replied that some believed Jesus was John the Baptist come back from the dead, while others believed he was Elijah or Jeremiah.  Jesus then asks, “Who do you say that I am?” to which Peter replies “You are the Christ. The Son of the living God”

Way to go, Peter!

The people got it wrong. Peter got it right.  Peter correctly identified who Jesus truly was because God had enlightened his reason, but also because Peter knew, and observed the fullness of Jesus’ being—how he spoke, how he lived, his actions, his miracles.  Peter’s observations of Jesus informed his understanding of Jesus.  The people, on the other hand, were confused by false expectations which caused them to see Jesus through a flawed prism, thus distorting “who” he was, in their minds. Still, what they observed informed their understanding of Jesus, albeit through a flawed prism, which is why their conclusion was incorrect.

The point is, what “the people” observe forms their understanding.  So with that in mind, what can we say about the Church? What do people observe when they look at the Catholic Church? Who do they say that she is? 

I would offer that when we listen to what is said of the Church we get an idea of who they say that the Church is.  What is it that people talk about, when talking about the Church? What has their attention?

Scandal

As I write this blog, what seems to have the attention of the masses is the recent revelation of scandal in the Church in Pennsylvania, and the scandals of Cardinal McCarrick. That tidal wave of pain and bad publicity regarding sexual abuse by priests has been going on for almost 20 years, but these new scandals have created fresh wounds to the mystical body, which still has yet to heal from the bombshells of 2002 when the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church really became public.

So when people look at the Church and see scandal on top of scandal, who do they say the Church is?  A boy’s club of child molesters? An institution of people who are psychologically and emotionally so damaged and disfigured by dogma and doctrine, and made to uptight by “rules, rules, rules!” that the faith turns us into monsters, or causes us to secretly live out the most wicked vices whenever we can get away with it?

Criticism

In the mid 1900s the Church still had tremendous moral authority for most people, Catholic or not.  But as we approached the new millennium many in and out of the Church had lost their regard for the Church’s moral voice. They didn’t stop believing that the Church’s moral voice was authoritative, they simply stopped caring about it; in the same way that teenagers and young adults continue to believe in the authority of their parents, even as they disobey or ignore them.  And so even though many had stopped respecting the moral voice of the Church, they were still forceful with their critiques of the Church’s moral teachings even into the 1990s. Why?  Because, the answer to “who do the people say that I am?” was still “The only credible, authoritative moral voice on earth”. Though people were losing their personal respect for that voice, they continued to recognize its authority, they just didn’t honor it.  And because they recognized the Church’s authority on moral teachings, they were less than gentle, meek, and silent when criticizing the Church. They recognized the force of the Church (its credibility and authority) and, logically, they responded with a force of their own.  If they didn’t recognize the Church’s authority, there would be no forceful response or reaction to the Church’s teachings, they’d just laugh-it-off every time the Church, through her agents, said anything challenging or substantial. Yep…they’d laugh it off.  See where I’m going with this?

Laughing it off

I’m starting to see a new pattern.  While at least the Church’s teaching on abortion still ignites a godless crowd into a fiery frenzy, most people don’t get too worked up over the Church’s moral voice anymore. Not only do people not take the Church’s moral authority seriously anymore, they don’t even take the Church itself seriously anymore.  If ever the Church (through her agents) says something challenging or of substance, it’s usually laughed off, as if spoken by someone who is known to be insane and irrational.  No one gives it a second thought.  Why?  Because we have, at least in significant part, informed their understanding of who we are.

As with Peter’s confession of Jesus, the observation of scandal in the Church, and criticisms of the Church’s teaching, the answer to “Who do the people say that I am” is based on what the people observe, and how correctly they understand it.  What the people observed in Jesus, and what Peter observe in Jesus informed their respective ideas of who Jesus was. What the people observed in the Church’s scandals partly informs their ideas of who, or what the Church (or the faith) really is, too. In the past what people observed from the Church, with regard to her moral voice—during a time when the Church was more bold and fearless in her speech—informed what they thought of the Church.  What informs the people today? What behavior do they observe?  It is nothing less than this: The Church seems to have gone silent, says little or nothing of pertinent or poignant substance, has adopted secularized rhetoric, and is fearful of speaking truth. What’s more, the demeanor and character of many of her clergy seems to show that they do not take themselves, or the faith seriously anymore.  Given all of this, the answer today to “Who do the people say that I am” seems to be “Nobody!”  Nobody special. Nobody important. Nobody at all.  The “church” acts silly, sounds silly, behaves ridiculously and says ridiculous things.  The “church” doesn’t take itself seriously at all, and so neither do those who observe the church.

Like Jesus’ contemporaries, it’s possible to observe behavior and actions, and arrive at an erroneous conclusion as to the identity of the person executing those actions or displaying that behavior.  Does the Church take itself seriously? It surely does. But is that actually what’s on clear display? In my opinion, no. At least not commonly.  Do the clergy take the Church’s teachings seriously? Most of them do. But, again, is that what’s on clear display? Whether at mass, during talks and seminars, or in online videos, most of the priests and bishops I listen to seem to dance around Church teaching, stopping short of contradicting it, yet undermining it or practically hiding it.

We’re showing the people fearfulness, we’re showing them shame, we’re showing them a deficient understanding or low regard for our own teachings, and we’re sounding crazy. That’s what informs their understanding. The consequence is that we attract converts, but retain very few of them. We have many Catholics who stop coming to mass, or, while living as practical-pagans, decide to drop by on the occasional Sunday or holy day.  We attract many to communion (whether Catholic or not, whether in a state of grace or not) but none to confession.  We titillate more than we inspire.  We confirm in error (even if by omission)  more than we admonish, or inform, and orient to holiness.

I know it’s not all bad news.  There are great priests, bishops, and laypeople in the Church. There are tremendous conversion or reversion stories, and amazing examples of true saintliness both in the clergy and the laity.  But let’s not fool ourselves. The world has a very different reaction to a Church of saints than it has to the Church of today.  A Church of saints attracts many, and infuriates many more, because there is almost no lukewarmness in a world that finds a Church of saints alive within it.  The Church of today however attracts few, in the way of persons, and attracts much in the way of laughter and disregard.  We have to clean up our act, we have to take ourselves and the faith seriously.  Be merciful and be just. Be charitable and be brave. Be in the world but not of the world. Talk like the saints, not like politicians. Behave, in every way, like we are the apples of God’s eyes, rather than like the worms in the apples that have fallen and rotted on the ground.

The world is in great need of the Church. And the Church needs to be exactly who she is, and exactly all that she is, if the world is to have any hope of finding even it’s own humanity again, to say nothing about finding God again.

Ave Maria, virgo fidelis!

When Catholic Talk is Cheap

Talk is cheap. Only actions have high value.  That is universally true because talk doesn’t directly make change.  Actions do. Talk

I’m increasingly confused and frustrated by the Church’s modern rhetoric. Too often it seems to be an extension of the secular mind, rather than of Catholic thought.  The secular world—particularly today—focuses on flavor-of-the-month issues. Who and what determines the popularity of those issues, and the urgency with which they must be addressed usually boils down to public opinion, which is shaped by media talking points, and formed in propaganda pouring from the mouths of politicians.  In other words, these “issues” come largely from fantasy, or from a fantastic spin on actual facts, rendering the issue itself false.

Which is why I’m so surprised that some in the Catholic Church—those who should be functioning on a higher, and more astute level, intellectually and spiritually—are playing along.  It’s not a bad thing that the Church (or some in the Church) are talking about cultural and societal issues, bringing Catholic ideas to the table. The real trouble is that they are bringing bringing those ideas to the table the way a grownup brings real sugar and milk to a child’s tea party of empty, tiny plastic cups, along with real butter for the make-believe scones.  Bringing something real to a make-believe tea party may be fun to do, but you cannot dress imaginary scones with real butter, you cannot dress imaginary tea with sugar and milk, and you cannot address issues that are equally imaginary.  Yet that’s what we’re seeing more of. 

It’s cheap talk: Talk that amounts to nothing, because it’s addressing a nothing.  It sounds good, but sounding good is the only good that comes of it.  Catholic cheap-talk is the worst, by far, because it sounds authoritative and risks fooling more people than does the cheap talk of the secular world.

Two of the many issues that are triggering Catholic cheap talk are racism, and immigration.  These may sound like real issues, but from the perspective of reality they are not.

Racism

A recent article on CNA reported on a pastoral note written by Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron. In it the Archbishop has a lot of great, true, important things to say about the Gospel, the transformative power of repentance, about human dignity stemming from the image of God in every human being.  All of that stuff was beautiful, and powerfully articulated.  But the crux of the pastoral note, “Agents for the New Creation”, was the evils and sin of racism..of all things!  Of all the things we need to hear churchmen addressing (gender theory, the assault on human sexual identity, the dangers and errors of the gay lobby, the modern Catholic’s loss of reverence for the Eucharist or faith in the real presence, the dangers of allowing politics to define our purpose or the evils of letting our families become secular think tanks rather than domestic Church’s…) racism is, in my view, very low on the list.

I don’t believe racism exists in the way that people often talk about it today.  As long as humans exist, racism will exist, somewhere, but it isn’t the widespread evil that it was in the past.  The way we talk about racism today, you’d think slavery were still legal, or that Jim Crow laws were still in effect.  In reality widespread, systemic discrimination against minorities does not exist anymore. You can work, you can own a home, you can become president, simply by being capable, qualified, and dedicated to working hard. The color of one’s skin doesn’t change that, one’s choices in life does.   I’m not saying that racism doesn’t exist in some individual people; I know that it does.  There are some people who are especially broken and they discriminate against others based on their race/ethnicity/skin color.  But that’s some people, not most people.  They do not compose the whole of the modern human order, they compose the exceptional fringe.  Most people don’t care about your skin color, they care about the content and quality of your character.

Racism, culturally speaking, was more of an issue into the 50s and 60s.  In 2018 cultural discrimination and racism sits in our collective roads-past. It’s in the rear view mirror, not the passenger seat.  Yet there are political points to be won, social currency to be gained, and credibility to be earned (however fraudulently) by resurrecting this monster, animating it like a lifeless puppet, and telling the world “This is REAL!”  I’d expect that silliness from the secular world, but not from Catholics, let alone priests or bishops.  

Immigration; Trump “Muslim Ban”

Then there’s the issue of immigration. Specifically in this case, the so-called “Trump Muslim Ban”, which was upheld by the Supreme Court just yesterday.  The court confirmed that the President of the United States has constitutional authority to restrict inbound travel from foreign countries if the President deems it necessary for national security.  President Trump has not banned muslims from entering the United States, but has imposed a temporary travel ban from some muslim-majority countries.  The ban does not include all countries with a muslim majority, and it does not list every country with a majority muslim population. It also doesn’t include some countries with a greater muslim majority than the countries on the ban list.

This is not a ban on muslims, and it is not a ban against muslim nations. It’s a very calculated and deliberate measure to tighten our domestic security.  And yet here’s what the Church in the United States has to say:

“The travel ban targets Muslims for exclusion, which goes against our country’s core principle of neutrality when it comes to people of faith,”  and  “We are disappointed in the Court’s ruling because it failed to take into account the clear and unlawful targeting of a specific religious group by the government,” and “The Catholic Church takes a strong stand against religious discrimination, and we will continue to advocate for the rights of people of all faiths”

Do you see the pattern here?  You keep hearing “religious discrimination….religious discrimination…religious discrimination”.  So what is this boogyman’s name? It’s Mr. Religious Discrimination. But has the bishop proved religious discrimination?  No. He just just wants everyone to to grant, as he apparently grants, that this travel ban is religious discrimination, and so his entire objection, talking point after talking point, is based on that single false premise.  If the premise is false, the entire objection is false. Cheap talk!

So, again, the Church is bringing something real to an imaginary issue.  A real criticism of an issue that doesn’t exist; firing real bullets at a boogyman of the secular world’s overactive imagination.  And here’s why that’s so foolish:

  1. The President is exercising a constitutionally enumerated power of the executive branch.
  2. This is not a ban on muslims, but on citizens of some muslim-majority nations. Some! Not all, not most, but some muslim-majority nations. In fact two of the countries on the list—Venezuela and North Korea—aren’t muslim-majority nations at all!
  3. Our country’s “core principal of neutrality when it comes to people of faith” does not override our country’s natural right to exist in peace and security.  But that aside, the travel ban, as I said above, is not singling out muslims. It’s not about religion, it’s about domestic security.  If it were about muslims there would be a lot more countries on the “ban list” than just the 7 that are on the list now (only two of which are muslim countries). But if we’re being frank…refer to Item 4 below….
  4. There is a real and true threat in the world.  Extremists want very much to conduct terrorist attacks in the United States. Some of them are Americans, most are not. Most of them are muslims, and very few are not! Most muslims are peaceful, but there are more violent muslims than there are violent practicing Christians. Far more! Those are the facts. So this is a real threat, and whether we agree with the strategy or not, the President is acting reasonably by restricting entry into our country from nations that were identified by the Obama Administration as being hotbeds of Islamic extremism and hostility toward the United States

For anyone in the Church to adopt the same tired, grossly obtuse rhetoric and reasoning of the secular left—or even of some on the secular right—is embarrassing and sad.  I wonder how many of these priests/bishops lock their rectory doors at night, or lock their parishes during the day for security reasons, forbidding entry not only to Catholics who simply want to go in and pray, but also to strangers whose intentions are not known, and may be nefarious.

Consequences of Catholic Cheap-Talk

The referendum in Ireland to repeal the 8th Amendment to Ireland’s constitution protecting the unborn is a evidence of the consequences of the Church’s reticence to talk about real issues and preference to talk about fake ones.  Not long before that, the people of Ireland voted to legalize gay marriage—again, showing what happens when the Church is wasting its time talking about what doesn’t matter, and is too quiet about things that do matter.  This isn’t exclusively a problem in Ireland, though what we have seen in Ireland provides the clearest manifestation of the dangers, and the destruction that stem from what I call “cheap talk”.  The failure to talk truth, and to address real issues result in inaction, or disordered actions amongst the faithful, and their secular counterparts. Our modern day cheap talk in the Church is focused on nothingness—on non-issues of little or no substance. Our talk is not focussed on real issues that are doing real damage to persons, to families, and to society.

Meanwhile the secular heroes are calling infant baptism an abuse of human rights, are forcing religious orders to pay for contraception, and are attempting to force Catholic schools to teach error, are threatening to force Catholic hospitals to perform abortions.  The Church keeps talking about nothing while the secular world continues to mount attacks against truth, against the Gospel, against Christ, and against the Church itself.

Talk is cheap when it isn’t followed by actions.  But no talk is cheaper than Catholic cheap-talk which says something about a nothing, and does nothing about a something.

Save the Church! Start With Yourself.

The Church is always in need of rebuilding and renewal.  The Apostles were scattered at Gethsemane; only John, and the Holy Virgin were present at the cross.  So many disciples abandoned Jesus when the Word was too difficult for them to accept on that day that Our Lord said “If you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.”  Quarrels have divided the Church since the time of Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, which itself was divided by schism.  This spirit of division, of a lack of humility, and of misplaced allegiances has continued to sicken and weaken the Church throughout our history, one heresy at a time.  And throughout all of these periods, between today, going back to Gethsemane, the Church has always been in need of renewal and rebuilding.

Today is no different.  Many churches have become meeting halls or community gatherings rather than a holy place where the highest worship of God takes place.  Many priests and bishops have distorted the word of God, have silenced the moral voice of the Church by failing to teach and preach the truth in its name. Some have given themselves to scandal; some, to fear.  Some in the laity engage in politics before holiness, in gossip before the Gospel, in factions before discipleship.   Many talk about a crisis in the Church but do they know what the crisis in the Church really is?

We see a Church that has lost its edge and seems to have forgotten its own identity.  In these times many of us pray for a renewal of the Church, or a rebuilding of the Church.  But renewal only happens when the Church is poised and ready for it.  To wish for it is not enough. Often to pray for it is not enough, since we ourselves—individually or collectively—can often stand in the way of the very things we ask God for.  For there to be a renewal of the Church, we must live the renewal we pray for.  The Church is a body composed of many parts. Each of us is one of those parts.  For the Church to be renewed by God, its individual parts must be renewed by God.  That is a very hard thing.

When you pray for a renewal in the Church, or for a rebuilding of the Church, ask yourself, “Am I brave enough to accept what Im praying for? To be the change that I pray for?  Am I strong enough to encounter the Holy Spirit, whose power created the universe, incarnated the Word of God in the Virgin Mary, established the Church?  Am I strong enough, and humble enough to encounter that same power within myself now?

The Holy Spirit will renew the ailing Church. Not with a flash of magic, but with conversion.  Not in an instant but through trial and by fire.  The path is not tranquil or easy.  Are you ready to follow that path? Are you ready to take onto yourself the renewal of the Church that you pray for?

Jesus Falls

If Jesus in this picture is the Church, are we actually the Romans and Jews who taunt him and contribute to the cause of his fall? In the grand scheme of things, how do you think God sees it?

Recently I was reading a meditation on the third fall of Jesus by, then, Cardinal Ratzinger. In it he outlines some things that contribute to Our Lord’s pain on the way of the Cross.  I think it offers us many true and pertinent guidelines for our own renewal and the renewal of the Church

“How often is the holy sacrament of his Presence abused, how often must he enter empty and evil hearts! How often do we celebrate only ourselves, without even realizing that he is there!”

Do we receive the sacrament of Holy Communion worthily? No one is perfect, but do we at least approach the sacrament in a state of grace, with humility, with grateful hearts? Have we lost touch with how awesome a gift the Eucharist is?  Are we reverent in church, at mass, or in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament? Do we approach Communion with reverence and awe, or has it simply become routine—the next task we have to tend to on our Sunday?  Are we chatty before mass when we should be maintaining a state of reverent silence, at least within reason, and moved to prayer before the Lord who is in the Tabernacle in front of us?

“How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to him!”

Whether a priest or a layperson, do you belong entirely to Christ?  Is every decision you make for yourself, your parish and/or your family rooted first in Jesus?  When you or I look at ourselves in the mirror, can we honestly say “I belong entirely to Christ”?

How much “filth” do we bring to the Church whose renewal we pray for?  Do we bring nastiness, corrupt hearts, unforgiving hearts, an indifference to sin?  Are we a part of the destructive forces of the world when we should be apart from them?

“…and How much pride, how much self-complacency! What little respect we pay to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where he waits for us, ready to raise us up whenever we fall!”

Pride. It’s deadly!  Are you ready to grow in humility? Are you ready to prune the tree of your own humanity? To cut from it those prideful branches that bear the fruits of malevolence, corruption and pain?  That will likely be the hardest part of one’s conversion to greater holiness. Ask the Blessed Mother to help you. She will help you, and with a mother’s patience and gentleness.  When you have a prideful moment either in action, or in your heart or mind, pray to her in that moment. Say “Holy Mother, teach me humility”, and follow it with a Hail Mary.

The Holy Spirit will renew the Church, but that renewal will start with us.  When we are poised and ready to be renewed—and we all need renewal—then so will the Church be.  Pray for the Church, and let us all live the renewal we pray for.

Ave Maria, virgo fidelis!

Jews Resist Secular Education. Who can blame them?!

This video from Fox News is part of a series on “insular enclaves of the ultra-Orthodox Jews” (Hasidic Jews), and “the struggles they face and the controversies that follow them”.

See the video here (because Fox’s videos won’t embed on WordPress sites!!!!)

Apparently the education system in Hasidic communities is too “ultra-orthodox” and not secular enough and it has some people concerned; namely Naftuli Master, founder of Yaffed, a nonprofit that works to improve the secular education in the Hasidic communities.

Education is important, and a lack of education goes hand in hand with poverty, and consequently a greater reliance on the government and welfare system.  Giving Hasidic children a good, complete, well-rounded education (Notice I resist using the term “secular” education) is vital not only to their survival and the survival of their families, it’s also necessary to their dignity and to advance their personal excellence. God didn’t make us to be simple minded. A complete, well rounded education brings us closer to what God intended for us, and created us to be.

But while God didn’t create us to be simple minded, he does want us to be simple.  He forbade Adam and Even to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge, he forbade man to participate in the occult (from the Latin Occultus, which means hidden [knowledge]), and His son told us to be like children—childlike, but not childish.  It is not for mankind, or for individual persons to know all things.  There is some knowledge that we should not have. There is some knowledge that is not empowering, but is corruptive. There is some knowledge that is not bad in and of itself, but is beyond our ability to leverage, and so possessing it is dangerous.

Case in point, I immediately had a problem with the opening of this video

“Hasidic Jews learn that beyond their communities lies a depraved world, fraught with evil and destructive temptations, bereft of noble values and hungry for immediate gratification.”

Ummmm…yeah!  The world is depraved, fraught with evil and destructive temptations. The world may not be completely bereft of noble values, but it is increasingly devoid of them.  And no one can deny that the world is hungry for immediate gratification.  All of that is true. So how can anyone criticize the Hasidic community for wanting to protect their children, in the most important years of their formation as persons, from the influences of the secular world?

I’m not saying that denying children—any children—of a well rounded education is good or prudent. But if what we’re saying is that a “secular education” is the standard to meet, I’d much rather the Jews stick to the Hasidic model, for their own sake.  A secular education these days usually includes sex education devoid of religious values or ethics, and often devoid of rudimentary sense. A secular education these days increasingly involves gender theory, and confused ideas about tolerance.  A secular education is responsible for a great deal of institutionalized rebellion against God—sometimes explicitly if not implicitly.  Why the hell would any God fearing mother or father want to subject their children to that? I wouldn’t.

Do I think the Hasidic model is ideal? No. I think Jewish children can have a well rounded education that empowers them and aids in their personal development while also protecting their persons and their minds from the evils of the secular system.  That would be ideal, and it wouldn’t even be novel.  We did it in the Catholic education system for hundreds of years. Today many Catholic schools have become the puppets and obedient subjects of the government’s Common Core program, but that is slowly starting to turn around.  More Catholics schools, seeing the errors and evils of a secularized Catholic educational platform, are returning to the classical system that was responsible for Catholic schools’ legendary reputation in the past.

The current Hasidic model isn’t best for Jewish children, but I think when anyone says that kids need a more secular education, they’re playing with fire. It may start out with the best of intentions, but when you’re trying to make anything more secular, good intentions fail to stand against the poisons inherent to secular influence.HR>