When a Lie Becomes a Teaching Tool

It seems there remains a large segment of the Church that puts sentiment over reason, and fiction over facts.

From Catholic News Agency“A priest of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis [Fr. Nick VanDenBroeke] has apologized for a homily that described Islam as the biggest threat in the world to the United States and to Christianity.”

Whoa! My first thought was that this sounds like pretty risky substance for a homily and I could see why it may have ruffled some feathers in his Archdiocese. But then the tide changed for me when I got to the priest’s apology, which I presume was compelled by his bishop.

From Fr. VanDenBroeke’s statement: “My homily on immigration contained words that were hurtful to Muslims. I’m sorry for this. I realize now that my comments were not fully reflective of the Catholic Church’s teaching on Islam,

The Catholic Church’s teaching on Islam??  Since when does the Catholic Church issue teachings about another religion?  The Church does in fact give us some thoughts on other religions, but I wouldn’t call that a teaching on Islam.  You can read it from the Vatican II Document Nosta Aetate  which discusses our relationship with other religions.  Section 3 of the document is where Islam is specifically mentioned. And ONLY in section 3…which is merely a ten-lines long paragraph in which the word “Islam” appears only once, and Muslims (or “Moslems”) appears but twice.  Rather scant, for a teaching, isn’t it? Is that what we’re calling a teaching these days?  It’s a very deficient one, if it is.  In fact it is not a “teaching”, but merely the Church’s reflection, and an exhortation to charity and mutual understanding with those of other religions—Islam, in this case.

Here is Section 3 of Nosta Aetate on Islam, with my interjections in brackets.

From Nostra Aetate, Secion 3:

The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth,(5) who has spoken to men [So far so good, except in Islam God has not spoken to men, he has only spoken to Mohammed, and Mohammed handed down these teachings to men. Don’t underestimate the significance of that middle man!]; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself [The trouble here is that link is not real, it’s imagined.  Islam’s root is Muhammed, not Abraham. God entered into a covenant with Abraham, not with Muhammed.  Abraham is the father of nations. Muhammed was a warlord who conquered nations.] submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting. [Again, all true, and all good stuff.]

So what this document tells us is that there are similarities between Catholicism and Islam. But it does not offer a teaching on Islam, as was alluded to in Fr. VanDenBroeke’s statement.  If you want a teaching about Islam, you have to go to Islam, not to the Catholic Church.

VanDenBroeke’s homily should not be viewed in, or judged by the light of a Vatican II document whose intent was merely to inform our relationships with non-Catholics. That wasn’t the subject of his homily.  If you want to understand, or even judge, Fr. VanDenBroeke’s homily, view it from the perspective of a grounding in History, and from the point of view of Islam’s own claims. If VanDenBroeke’s homily was about tensions between Islam and Christianity, history has a lot to teach us about that.  In fact, it even got a brief mention in Section 3 of Nostra Aetate, too!

“Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.”

“Not a few quarrels”??  There has been war between Islam and the West (at one time, Christianity was “the West”) since the days of Mohammed. And in just about every case where war has erupted, it’s Islam that causes it to erupt.  That’s not “…a few quarrels”, that’s 1500 years of active tension, and of history repeating itself again and again.

On a positive note, I agree completely with the sentiment of the document, despite having issues with some of its substance.  And as someone with several very close friends who are muslim, and are are good and wonderful people, I deeply appreciate the direction of Nosta Aetate which exhorts us to be good to each other and understand each other on a human, personal level, and to base our friendships and relationships, with muslims on the quality of their characters, not on the history between our religion and theirs; to view them as fellow children of God first and foremost, and to build relationships on what we have in common, rather than be divided by our differences.  But we can’t, as some interpreters of Nosta Aetate incorrectly assert, pretend that our religions are not different, or ignore what those differences mean—and historically have meant—in practice.  When Christianity gets so hot that it boils, it produces saints. When Islam gets so hot that it boils, it produces jihad.

st-francis

Once upon a time, Catholics weren’t shy about preaching to the muslims. This painting is in a Church in Cordoba, Spain, depicting St. Francis of Assisi before sultan Melek el Kamel

There are some things that are problematic about Islam. Many things.  In Islam jihad is a real thing. That isn’t an invention of some extremists in a remote desert somewhere.  Domination and subjugation of non-muslims, and non-Islamic cultures is a real directive in both the Quran and the Hadith.  Not all Muslims want to kill infidels but the vast majority of Muslims in the world believe that infidels should be conquered one way or another (war, legislation, breeding-out, institutional discrimination against non-muslims), and they believe Sharia law is superior to Western principals (Check out this research from Pew Research Center on views held by the world’s muslims, also Key Findings in the US and around the world) .  These are truths. They are truths that have been demonstrated over 1500 years of history, and continue to be demonstrated today, not just in the past.  They are truths that come from the teachings of Islam, contrary to the so-called “teachings on Islam” by the Church (there is no such thing!)

When you take these realities into account, you can understand why a priest, or any other reasonable person might claim that Islam is the biggest threat to Christianity, to the United States, and possibly to the Western world.  I’m not making that claim, because I haven’t given it enough thought to make a claim one way or the other.  But whether the claim is correct or not is another conversation. The fact is it’s a reasonable claim, from a reasoned analysis of the facts, of history, present times, and Islam’s own teaching. It should be noted also that Father VanDenBroeke was talking about Islam—an ideology. He didn’t seem to attack persons who are muslim.  Not every Muslim is a whole-hearted one. Many Muslims know very little of the dictates of the Quran, even though they believe in God and pray/worship regularly. Well I guess I found yet another similarity between Catholicism and Islam—lukewarm members!

Whether or not Father VanDenBroeke’s homily was borderline uncharitable, I think it’s insane that he was forced to issue an apology.  But what I think is worse is that he apologized for something honest by telling a lie: There is no Church teaching on Islam, and the Church’s exhortative language in Nostra Aetate does not equate Christianity and Islam and the document itself is not intended to inform geopolitical philosophy, but merely to direct behavior and promote mutual understanding between persons, which is all quite different from how it was leveraged in Fr. VanDenBroeke’s [presumably compelled] apology.

If we continue to be a Church that finds enmity with truth, as we see all too frequently observe in what we hear from so many bishops and priests; if we continue to reject facts because they’re inconvenient, to reject reason because it leads us to painful truths, to reject reality because our fantasies are less challenging, we will cease altogether to be the Catholic Church and will become, instead, a clubhouse of secular moralists who declare friendship with Christ but who actually court friendship with the world.

Pray for the Church!

Ave Maria, Virgo Fidelis!

In Good Care

Growing in holiness is hard work. Growing in virtue, and ridding ourselves of our vices is hard work. We do battle with temptations from the world, from the flesh, and from the devil. The book of Job tells us that “Life upon earth is warfare” (Job 7:1), and I think that characterizes how I feel about my own life, and probably how many of you feel about yours. It’s warfare. There is goodness and beauty in this life, to be sure, but when we’re making that climb toward heaven, we are climbing up a road that is hard, perilous, and it makes the climb arduous, even if there are some beautiful things to see and experience at times on that road.

But through it all I feel very blessed, because God has given me (us) so much help on this journey. One of the most beautiful and vital things he has given us is the thing we often complain the most about—the Church. But complaining about the Church (the crisis she is living through, etc.) just seems so strange to me, because while I recognize that the Church is going through a dark period in our day, what is most significant in my experience is that I always feel like my soul is in her good and competent care.

The Church is going through a rough time these days. I won’t take the time to enumerate all of the issues. But I will say that we spend too much time thinking about them. The issues in the Church don’t effect me, and they shouldn’t effect you.

God is still God. He is with us. He is within us. We receive the Lord Jesus in the Holy Eucharist every week, or every day, for those of us who are able to. The sacraments haven’t gone anywhere. They’re still here, we can still participate in them, and they still have effect. The mass is a kiss between Heaven and Earth, and we have an encounter with God every time we attend. The 2000 year legacy of Catholic wisdom is as available to us today as it ever was; the works of the saints, doctors of the Church, mystics, encyclicals of Popes and so on are at our fingertips, ready and waiting to be read, pondered, learned from. Our souls are in very good care! All we have to do accept that care, with faith and hope, in spite of the issues the Church faces today,

I know the Church’s issues are often confusing, and even infuriating, but they needn’t be. I don’t let the Church’s issues confuse me. God, the saints, and my spirituality keep me grounded and pointed in the right direction. In fact even the Church keeps me pointed in the right direction, because her teachings haven’t changed, and the volume and breadth of her wisdom throughout 2000 years continues to educate, enrich and guide me. Furthermore, the Church’s issues don’t infuriate me, because I don’t allow myself to think about them. I’m spending too much time thinking about the right things, and have no time, no interest, and no energy left to think about dark things. My soul is in good care, even as the Church suffers through this crisis which God has permitted. Though things are rocky from parish to parish (some parishes are better than others), I always feel like my soul is in good care, even at my parish. I am so thankful to God for the parish, the priests, the priesthood, the masses and the sacraments. Without this parish-level care, I’d have no hope. Without the Church, her wisdom, I’d have no hope. Without the saints, and without God (all of whom would be foreigners to me without the aid of the Church, with the direct assistance of her parishes), I’d have no hope. But I have all hope, because I know my soul is in good care.

I offer this to you to encourage you to take heart, as I do. I am so thankful to God for what he has given to me. He’s given me, indeed to all of us, the Church, the sacraments, the mass, the saints, our guardian angels. He’s given us so much to help us in this war, in this battle to become holy and to rid our lives of vice. He’s gives us so much! Please, let’s not get caught up, lost, disoriented or even worried about this dark time that the Church is living through. Our souls are in good care. Have faith and have hope. “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (Psalm 43:5).

Ave Maria, Virgo Fidelis!

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!

Catholic Civil War, Part 1 – Political Catholicism

There is war afoot. It’s taking place within and throughout the Catholic Church.  It’s a practical schism that threatens to lead to an actual schism.  While we should be focussed on the real battle against the “powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil”, as St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Ephesians (Eph. 6:12), we’re overly busy waging war against each other, and against the Church.  This war is being fought by, and between various camps; Political Catholics, Traditionalists, and Modernists.

This is the first of a series of posts where I’ll make my best attempt to describe and explain these camps, why they’re destructive to the Church, and why they are a recipe for disaster in a time when we most urgently need a strong, unified, clear thinking Church/Laity.  The first camp I’ll talk about here is what I call political Catholicism.  I’ll also briefly talk about Traditionalism and Modernism which I’ll give a more thorough treatment in subsequent posts.  I’ll provide links to those posts here, as they go public.

The Catholic Civil War

This Catholic Civil war is real.  Just as the American Civil War split the nation in two, the Catholic “civil war” is also dividing us, damaging us, making us weaker, and preoccupied with the insignificant, or with minutia, when there is real evil going on all around us, and—very likely—more on the way.

Fighting the American Civil War left America vulnerable to foreign attack. We’re fortunate that foreign enemies didn’t take advantage of our division.  As Catholics our situation today is more grave.  As the ancient enemy—satan—is inching toward the borders of the civilizations of man, we’re too busy, too otherwise invested to track his movements, to grow in strength and holiness, to plan and mount our personal or collective spiritual and cultural defenses. By being divided, and by wasting our time and resources on in-fighting, we are vulnerable.

At the center of our vulnerability is a lack of Catholic identity.  That’s the nature of these “camps” I’ll discuss.  We Catholics are largely un-Catholic. We’re nationalists, we’re Democrats or Republicans, we’re conservative or liberal, we’re traditionalists, we’re progressives, we’re this or we’re that, before we’re Catholic.  Across the spectrum that means we’re un-Catholic. Consequently we are in a position to be overrun and conquered, because we are everything else before we are Catholic—I don’t mean Catholic by identity, or by name, but by our very being.

Traditionalism divides and harms the Church by taking a position that the Church’s Sacred Tradition precludes its organic growth through time. It confuses the Catholic faithful by imposing a false belief that the Church should not only be bound by Tradition, but should be hamstrung or stunted by it. Modernism harms the Church by taking a position that the Church’s Sacred Tradition has no binding authority, that the Catholic Church was effectively born, or born again, at Vatican II, and that the organism of the Church doesn’t simply need to grow over time, but needs to change with time.  It imposes a false identity on the Church and on the faith, and it poisons the faithful. Political Catholicism, which I’ll discuss now, harms the Church by subordinating the faith to secular political philosophy political party lines. That’s exactly what the Chinese government does to the Church and the faithful in communist China.  Through political Catholicism, Catholics in the Western World choose to do to the faith what the Chinese government forces on Chinese Catholics.

Political Catholicism

The first way in which many of us have become un-Catholic is through political Catholicism.  It’s an attitude of Catholicity where a Catholic identifies first as a member of a political party or political affiliation, instead of identifying primarily as a Catholic. Their politics inform their faith, rather than their faith informing their politics.

Those in the Church with conservative or liberal political views are at odds, as each attempts to claim the title of “Catholic”, and use their political views to define what it really means to be “Catholic”.  Sometimes one or both of those groups will get it right. Sometimes they don’t. But overall when a person’s Catholicity is defined according to their political identity first and foremost, the person exists in a state of error, and what follows progressively are problematic or dangerous beliefs that are guided by worldliness before holiness.

For example, conservatives rightly defend life, pointing to Catholic teaching on the dignity of the human person.  Liberals often support abortion laws, and that support is attributable to a gross misunderstanding of the Catholic principal of compassion. Compassion for women, in this case.  Pro-life conservatives support the right to life, but, more often, with exceptions. For instance they may support abortion in cases of rape, or they support the death penalty.

On the other side, liberals rightly refer to the Catholic teaching on social justice as they defend the average person, and average worker from the greed made possible by predatory capitalism.  Conservatives tend to leave others to fend for themselves, even if the odds are stacked against them. But a liberal’s understanding of the Church’s teachings on social justice is so warped that it takes precedent over other doctrines.  They’ll give a poor person a sandwich with one hand, and a condom with the other.  The cure for poverty, according to many of them, is to practically sterilize the poor.

Political conservatives and political liberals are both wrong, because neither group is Catholic first. They’re Republicans or Democrats or Americans first, and Catholicism becomes secondary. That’s why they get some issues right, and others wrong, and the issues that they get right aren’t even consistent in their rightness, but go astray with just a little nudging.  Their identity is first informed by their political affiliation or political views, and their faith is forced to be a backup singer, rather than the band’s front man.

Catholics need to remember that we are Catholic first. Our faith has to inform every other aspect of our being—our behavior, our ethics, our national identity and our politics.   If Catholicism takes a back seat, we may be  the ones in the driver’s seat, but it’s the devil who hitches a ride, rides shotgun and becomes the navigator.  Be Catholic. Nothing else is as important.

In later posts this week I’ll write more about Traditionalism, Modernism, and plain ol’ Catholicism.

Ave Maria, virgo fidelis!

The NY Daily News: Secular Liberal Propaganda that Opposes Life

This cover of the NY Daily News really got under my skin.

“They do royal weddings. We do school kids’ funerals.”

IMG_5594bReally? Where was the Daily News when a baby named Alfie Evans was basically sentenced to die by the British socialist healthcare system that liberals are in love with?  The UK not only does royal weddings, they also sentence defenseless toddlers to die.  But so do we. Except we execute these sentences against defenseless unborn children.

Here’s the reality of the situation. The royal wedding is not worthy of any attention whatsoever. It’s only the pop-culture addicts who care about that.  So the NY Daily News shows how petty and shallow the publication really is (as are the political philosophies to which the newspaper gives voice) to even hold up this event as a sort of standard of joy and civility.  It’d be like me saying “The Easter Bunny gives kids candy, while we give them ritalin.”  Yes, giving out ritalin like candy is a problem, but giving out actual candy is not the solution. Plus there’s no such thing as the Easter Bunny (Sorry kids!), so this is a false premise and standard on all sorts of levels.

The royal wedding doesn’t show us the standard for civility and happiness in society. It shows us how empty and sad modern culture has really become, how fixated on make-believe it is, and how readily we ignore values in favor of novelty. And the champions of all these errors is the collective political left (i.e. their mouthpiece-in-print, the NY Daily News).

Now, having disqualified the standard, let’s analyze the abstraction. There are many ways to secure our schools and protect the children in those schools. But Liberals aren’t really interested in securing schools, they’re only interested in undoing the second amendment.  The congress can make schools safe rather easily by ordering basic safety measures to be put in place in school buildings. Maybe that should involve armed security. Maybe check-in posts or metal detectors.  There are many ways to secure our schools, but the democrats won’t do it.  Why? Because protecting schools and school children isn’t really part of their agenda. Dismantling the constitution is, and they only use school shootings as political platforms to advance that agenda.

What’s more, the tragedy of school shootings is the result of human brokenness. What exactly is breaking these human beings who choose to commit mass murder?  When guns were even easier to get we didn’t have all these school shootings. So what’s changed? People have.  And so it’s people that needs to be addressed.  Why is no one interested in dealing with that problem? Part of what leads to human brokenness is that teenagers and twenty-somethings today have grown up in a world that says human life in the womb has no inherent dignity and is not entitled to protection under the law.  That has a real effect on how we value human dignity and human life—our own lives and the lives of others.  If human life has no value in the womb, we perceive that it has no inherent value at all—or at the very least, a low value negotiable to zero—even outside of the womb.

We also force young people into boxes with social media and separate them from human contact, we tell them to obey their impulses rather than their reason by over-sexualizing them (and sex isn’t the only impulse they obey over a period of that conditioning), and enable promiscuous behavior.  We cheapen them with popular social cultural trends, we confuse them and detach them from a true sense of self through gender theory, and we have spent decades particularly cheapening and confusing and disempowering young men.  We have systematically created this problem, bit by bit, piece by piece, by turning from God, and then by removing God and holiness from their human experience.  This isn’t a problem of the second amendment, it’s a problem of the Liberal prime directive—to create a godless nation detached from tradition and truth, and to form human thought-bots to advance the causes of cultural Marxism.

If the left and the NY Daily News are really interested in protecting life, let’s see them act like it. Let’s see them address what the problem actually is, rather than what the problem isn’t.

The loss of human life is tragic. Whether in schools, or in the womb.  We need to act if we are to bring about change, and cultivate real civility charity in the world.  But right results require right actions, not propaganda and talking points.  Pray, be holy, go out into the world with the courage, conviction, gentleness and steadfastness of saints.  Bring goodness into the world, starting with your own homes and your communities.  Above all pray to the Holy Virgin to bring us all closer to Her divine Son.  In Jesus we find peace.  God bless you.

There’s Just Something About Mary!

Some people have a natural gravitas. We’re drawn to them, sometimes beyond our power to control. In the 1998 film, There’sJust Something About Mary, Ted, played by Ben Stiller was pursuing his high school crush, Mary; a woman he thought he was in love with, but later came to realize that he was just fixated on her.   It turns out several people who came in contact with Mary throughout the movie shared Ted’s infatuation with her, and this love train of infatuation formed the basis for the plot of the movie.

The Mary of the movie was beautiful on the outside, and kind-spirited on the inside.  She wasn’t exactly an oasis of moral virtue but she was a very nice person.  Men were infatuated with her because of her exterior beauty, which predicated their affection for her inner goodness.  If they had focused first on her inner goodness, which was present, but not exactly overflowing, they may not have become infatuated with her at all.

I’m “infatuated” with a woman, too. I don’t know what she looked like on the outside, but I’m all about the beauty she has on the inside, and it’s that inner goodness that has driven countless men—and women—to hopeless devotion to her for 2000 years.  There’s just something about Mary, the ever virgin Mother of God!

coronation

I have a pretty close relationship to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  I didn’t always.  I was always a practicing Catholic, but I didn’t give much thought to the Blessed Mother.  She wasn’t completely absent, but she wasn’t very present in my devotion.  Into my 20s I encountered more and more Catholics who had a pretty strong devotion to Our Lady.  I remember one guy who wore a t-shirt with the image of Our Lady of Fatima.  Talk about love!  You know you’re all about the Blessed Mother when you’re wearing a shirt like that.  Fashion statement?  Oh man…no!  But it was a statement of a kind, and one that I couldn’t understand

I didn’t understand it.  I knew Our Lady was great and everything, but you didn’t usually see a level of devotion like this in people in their 20s. That level of devotion usually only resides in Little Old Lady Land.  It was the grandmas and grandpas of the Church with Blessed Mother shirts, Blessed Mother pins, blessed-mother-this and blessed-mother-that.  They have all the merchandise of every apparition and every Marian title.  Their collection would put an Elvis fanatic to shame.  Wanna do a Shrine-off?  You don’t stand a chance against a Mary fanatic!

So I couldn’t grasp how these younger people were so on fire for Our Lady. What was I missing?  I brought this up with my spiritual director and, to make a long story short, that started the long road’s journey to where I am in my devotion to the Blessed Mother today.  It’s a devotion that is deep, fervent, mysterious, and joyful.

What is it about Mary?

lady-of-the-immaculate-conceptionOur Lady is perfect in virtue—in all virtues. She is what God designed humanity to be. She is the perfect human creature, truly human, and fully alive.  She is perfectly humble. Perfectly holy.  In human terms she seems to embody everything that is small.  But in reality she embodies total holy greatness and power, because she is so “small”.  She’s the most amazing creature that God has ever made, and when we grow in our understanding of her, we see how absolutely, unbelievably incredible God is.  Because we see a glimmer of his nature and character in the person of Mary. No wonder God chose her to carry his Son!  No one else was worthy, and no one else would have even been capable of bearing Our Lord.

The more we develop our relationship with the Blessed Mother, the more we understand her. What little there is written of her in scripture becomes like a volumes-long biography, or character profile. What the saints wrote of her goes from being intellectual, to being a loud and clear heralding of the truth and reality of the Holy Virgin, and therefor of God Himself.

For myself, I don’t wear an Our Lady of Fatima t-shirt, but these days I understand the devotion of those who do.  Because I share the devotion now.  So I try to emulate her virtues. I try to become who she is, every day. Because that’s how I will most become like Christ.

When I think about it as just an ordinary person, and not as a Catholic with a spiritual life, I don’t know why I love the Blessed Mother so much.  I mean, I could tell you “I love her because she reflects the Trinity perfectly, because she’s so perfect in virtue” and so on.  But that answer is almost cryptic.  I don’t know why those things make me love her so much, but I know that they do.  Deep in my heart I know why, but can’t verbalize it with words.  And now I understand why someone might wear an Our Lady of Fatima t-shirt.  And I hope you guys all strive to discover the reason, as I have.  It’s true…there’s just something about Mary.

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