Friday, February 1, 2019

In The present Mess Our World Is In, We Must Never Allow Ourselves To Be Overcome By Tribulations and Difficulties

The other day, I was reflecting on the present state of the world.
Whoa! What a mess we are in!
Clergy sexual abuse scandals that seem never-ending. Lying Bishops and Cardinals. And Priests and Deacons, too. All of these happening the world over!
Legally aborting full-term babies as they are delivered through the birth canal.
Legalized, publicly retailed Marijuana.
Extreme weather events and major natural disasters.
Man-made environmental damage and disasters causing large-scale involuntary migration due to water crises and famine crises.
Large scale cyber attacks and massive incidents of personal identity theft and data fraud.
Fake news.
Major economic and political confrontations/frictions between major powers.

Then, while searching for a document on my computer, I stumbled upon an article about our Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI. The article related Benedict's teaching concerning prayer and tribulations. 
I thanked God The Holy Spirit for leading me to it (and for preventing me from deleting it from my hard drive).

Way back, in May of 2012, then Pope Benedict XVI was teaching the nature of Christian prayer according to St. Paul.

Pope Benedict saw St. Paul's prayer experiences as true  individual encounters with God the Father, in Christ, through the Holy Spirit.

These encounters, these two-way dialogues, teach us the reality of the faithful "yes" on the part of God and the trusting "amen" of the faithful.

In his explanation of this relationship, Pope Benedict concentrated on the Second Letter to the Corinthians  
[1:3-4 New International Version NIV], where the Apostle writes:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

Comfort, the Pope explained, is not to be understood as mere consolation, but as an exhortation not to allow ourselves to be overcome by tribulations and difficulties.

We are invited to experience every situation in unity with Christ, Who takes all the suffering and sin of the world upon Himself in order to bring light, hope and redemption.

Thus, Our Lord Jesus enables us, in our turn, to console those who are afflicted by any kind of suffering. Profound union with Christ in prayer, and confidence in His presence, predispose us to share the sufferings of our brothers and sisters.

Pope Benedict explained that "our life and our Christian journey are often marked by difficulty, misunderstandings and pain. In a faithful relationship with the Lord, in constant daily prayer, we are able to feel the consolation that comes from God. This strengthens our faith, because it means that we enjoy a concrete experience of God's 'yes' to man ... in Christ, the faithfulness of His love which went so far as to give His Son on the cross."

Our faith -- our personal faith and the Faith of our Holy Catholic Church -- is a gratuitous gift of God. It is rooted in His fidelity to us, in His "yes," which leads us to understand how to live our lives while loving Him and our neighbor. The entire history of salvation is a progressive revelation of God's fidelity to us, despite our own infidelity and our constant denials.

Pope Benedict pointed out that God's way of acting is quite different from that of man. "Faced with conflicts in human relationships, often even within the family, we tend not to persevere in gratuitous love, which requires commitment and sacrifice. However, God never loses patience with us and, in His immense mercy, precedes us always and comes out to meet us. ... On the cross He offers us the measure of His love, which is not calculated and has no limit. Such faithful love can wait even for those who reject it. God always seeks man and wishes to welcome him into His communion, to give him fullness of life, hope and peace."

On to the"yes"of God is grafted the"amen" of the Church, the response of faith with which we conclude our prayers.  Our "amen" expresses our own "yes" to God's initiative.

"In our prayers, we are called to say 'yes' to God, to respond with an 'amen' which is an expression of adherence, of faithfulness to Him with all of our lives.
"But we can never achieve such faithfulness by our own powers.  It is not only the result of our daily efforts; it comes from God and is founded on the 'yes' of Christ. ... We must enter into Christ's 'yes' by following God's will so that, with St. Paul, we too can affirm that it is not we who live, but Christ Himself Who lives in us. Then the 'amen' of our individual and community prayers will embrace and transform all of our lives."

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.  If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.  And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
2 Corinthians 1:3-7
New International Version NIV


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Immaculate Conception: Being Heroically Holy

In 1854, with the Papal Bull, Ineffabilis, Pope Pius IX solemnly proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception: "We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which asserts that the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God, and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, was preserved free from every stain of original sin is a doctrine revealed by God and, for this reason, must be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful."

God asks for extreme courage in trusting Him and in loving others.  For someone to be united fully to the Holy Spirit,  a person must respond with strength that seems to be almost like God’s strength.  As impossible as it may seem,  the Blessed Virgin Mary did this!

You know,  it would have been a lot easier for our Blessed Mother, if she had been asked to bring forth Christ in secluded, cloistered security somewhere.

It would have been so much easier for our Blessed Mother had she received from the Angel Gabriel at least a guarantee of safety for herself and for the Precious Burden -- Jesus -- growing within her.

But our Blessed Mother did not have it easy just because she said “Yes” to God.

Our Blessed Mother consented to bear her own Child, Jesus, only!

When our Blessed Mother said "Yes" to the angel Gabriel,  she agreed to bear Jesus Christ into her own lifeBut she also agreed to bear Jesus Christ into all lives,  into all times,  in every human being: Not only into secure, protected lives, but into the lives of people troubled by poverty, by fears and temptations; people subject to disease, to persecutions, to chance, to misfortunes.

And while Mary, our Blessed Mother, consented to give birth to Christ, Christ Himself  consented to become completely dependent on Mary during His advent into our human lives.   Christ was absolutely helpless.  He could only go wherever Mary chose to carry Him.  Her breathing supplied His breath.  His heartbeat was enveloped within her heartbeat.

Today and in the future,  Christ is still dependent on human beings.   
Christ depends on us, like the Blessed Mother, to bring Him forth -- to carry Him into our world as it is right now!  Christ dwells within us  through the same Holy Spirit who dwells in the Blessed Mother.

Christ’s dependence on us  shows that He places a great deal of trust in us.  
We must carry Christ in our hearts  to wherever He desires to go -- and there are many places Christ may never go ... unless you and I take Him.

That calls for courage. Courage like Mary’s. Courage to be heroic. To be heroically holy!

Many, many people have the idea that  they can attain heroic holiness only if God sends them a special revelation,  perhaps through an angel;  a revelation from God for them to do something awesome. They can imagine themselves going cheerfully to be thrown to the lions,  or to be burned at the stake,  or to be drawn and quartered! 

But if God doesn’t send that mystical revelation to them, they think that God has not called and chosen them to be heroically holy and to bear witness to their faith in Christ to others.

And so, 

  • If God seems to let us go on ...   working at our usual jobs ... or doing our household chores day after day;   
  • Or if God asks us to continue being patient and gentle towards a cranky spouse or uncooperative children;   
  • Or if God asks us to just continue with our daily lives ...   and to face the anxieties and perplexities of living in the third millennium --     
Then,  we are not willing to become heroically holy and carry Christ within us to others.  We will not trust God to know His Own Will for us!

At times, it may seem to us that there is no glorious, Divine purpose to our going to work every day, or working around the home year after year.  
But it may be that God has placed us right where we are -- because, if it were not for us being there, then Christ would not be there!  If our being there means Christ is there,  that alone makes everything worthwhile.

The Blessed Mother’s Visitation to Elizabeth shows us this is true!   Mary -- carrying the Son of God within her --  set out to Elizabeth’s,  proceeding in haste.

If you and I go “in haste” and with eager wills to wherever our life’s circumstances compel us  -- because of our faith that Christ desires to be in that locale, with these people, in that situation  -- Then, we will find that we are driven more and more to act on the impulse of Christ’s love within us. And to act as the Blessed Mother acted all her life,  saying over and over again to God, ‘Yes -- let it done as YOU say.  I am the servant of the Lord!'

Mary’s “Yes” was her consent to become a living tabernacle,  carrying Jesus Christ,  allowing Him to take flesh, and to grow -- in silence, in humility -- within her.

It takes courage to bear Christ to others.  
It takes courage to trust in God’s word.
It takes courage to be holy in today’s world.   
God asks you and me for extreme courage in trusting Him and in loving others.
For us to united fully to the Holy Spirit, we must respond with strength that seems to be almost like God’s strength. Mary did this!

That’s why we pray with our Blessed Mother on this Feast day of her Immaculate Conception. 

May her example  help us to realize that we  are  carrying Christ within us amid all of the troubles,  anxieties, uncertainties, and sufferings that we face courageously -- day by ordinary day.

Holy Mary,  Mother of God,  prays for us sinners and teaches us how we have been consecrated by God as living vessels for the Lord Jesus,  carrying Him everywhere He desires to be found.

Monday, December 7, 2015's Wonderful "Advent In 2 Minutes" Video Is Great! A Catholic "Must See"!

Greetings, Academicians, and Happy Advent!

Here's a great video --  Advent In 2 Minutes from Busted Halo ( --  that succinctly explains all the salient facts about the Catholic Church's celebration of the Advent Season.  And its animated graphics and the catchy version of Tchaikovsky's "The Dance Of The Prince & The Sugar Plum Fairy," from his Nutcracker Suite, make it fun to watch.

Here's the byline from Busted Halo: 
Not quite sure about the relationship between Advent and Christmas? 
Check out Busted Halo's two-minute video that describes why we celebrate Advent and wait to celebrate Christmas.

I found the video to be right on target.  I hope you find it helpful.

The "Assistant Headmaster"

Friday, October 30, 2015

How To Make "Soul Cakes" For All Saints Day and All Souls Day

On All Souls Day, November 2nd,  in many Central European countries - Germany, Belgium, France, Austria, Spain, Italy, Hungary, and Slavic countries - Catholics will attend All Souls Day Mass, and then visit the graves of dear departed ones.  Visiting the gravesites of deceased loved ones is considered a duty of such importance, that many people will travel great distances to their home towns to perform this obligation of love and piety.

It is also an ancient All Souls Day custom in Catholic sections of central Europe to ring the church bells at the approach of dusk on All Saints' Day, to remind the people to pray for the souls in Purgatory. 

When the pealing of these bells is heard, the families gather in one room of their home, extinguish all other lights except a blessed candle (kept from Candlemas Day) which is put on the table. 
Kneeling around it, they say the rosary for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. 
Ancient All Souls Day Chasuble

The boys and men lead the prayer by reciting the first part of the "Hail Mary" while the girls and women respond with the second part.

Along with these pious customs came the baking of special breads - "Soul Cakes" - in honor of the Holy Souls.  

The Soul Cakes are handed out to children and the poor.  The cakes are made of braided strands of sweet dough.

The recipe below is gratefully duplicated from the Catholic Cuisine blog via the Catholic Missionary Family blog. 

It was submitted by Lisa at Catholic Missionary Family, found at
and posted by Jessica on October 26, 2011 on the Catholic Cuisine Blog, at



1 cup butter
3 3/4 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon allspice
2 eggs
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
6 tablespoons milk
powdered sugar, to sprinkle on top


1. Using a pastry blender cut 1 c. of butter into 3 3/4 cups of flour. I bought my first pastry blender just for this occasion.

2. Blend in the sugar, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon and allspice. Allspice smells like Christmas.

3. In a separate bowl beat eggs, vinegar and milk together. I would like to add a little shout out here to my amazing mother-in-law, who is always gifting me with amazing things for my kitchen, like these awesome Pyrex measuring cups, Thanks!

4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix.

5. Kneed thoroughly to form a stiff dough. You really have to work this dough, I thought there was no way it was moist enough, but once I mashed it all up it was just right.

6. Roll out to a 1/4 inch thickness and cut out 3 inch circles with a cookie cutter or glass.

7. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

8. Sprinkle with powdered sugar while still warm. I use a slotted spoon for this.

9. Eat, yummy.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Beginning Friday, July 31, 2015, Radio Maria USA Will Feature Topics Found In The Catholic X-Files.

Beginning Friday, July 31st, we invite you to listen to and phone in to Radio Maria USA, which is offering a new program featuring the "Academy's" Father James Reynolds.

The program will elaborate on many of the topics you have read here, on The Catholic Jedi Academy / The Catholic X-Files.  

The program is entitled Occult and the New Age.

See You On The Radio!

To listen to a live feed from Radio Maria USA click on this URL:

To listen to podcasts of previous programs in Radio Maria USA's archives click on this URL:  

To see Radio Maria USA's Program Schedule click on this URL:

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Glorious Majesty Of The Commonplace

Ordaining Of The Twelve Apostles (1886-1894) by James Tissot

From the Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark [6:7-13]
   Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits.
   He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick -- no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic.
   He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave. Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them."
   So they went off and preached repentance. The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

Familiarity breeds contempt”, the old proverb says.  Familiarity causes us to see things according to our prejudices. 
   The result is, that we do not see things as they really are. We fail to see things as GOD sees them. We overlook the majesty of the commonplace!
   Our Lord Jesus sent the Apostles out as messengers. He sent them out without anything to lean on or to help "sell" the message of His Gospel. That's because Our Lord Jesus wants the Gospel to "sell" itself. 
   The appearance, the clothing, the packaging of the messengers must never interfere with the proclamation of the message! The truth of the Gospel is what will persuade the hearers.
   And that is why, for over 2000 years, GOD has revealed His power and glory through the glorious majesty of the commonplace!

   GOD saved the world through a commonplace Carpenter from a commonplace town called Nazareth. To make sure that the messengers of His Gospel would not lose their closeness with His Heavenly Father, the Lord Jesus sent them out with nothing — nothing but the message of the Gospel. That way, His messengers could remain dependent only upon GOD for their success. The central focus of their lives would remain Christ and His Gospel message — NOT their clothes or jewelry or luggage.
GOD has repeated this pattern of using the commonplace, the familiar, the ordinary throughout the history of salvation. 
   For example: In The Book of the Prophet Amos [7:12-15]:
Amaziah, priest of Bethel, said to Amos, "Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah! There earn your bread by prophesying, but never again prophesy in Bethel; for it is the king's sanctuary and a royal temple."
Amos answered Amaziah, "I was no prophet, nor have I belonged to a company of prophets; I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores. The LORD took me from following the flock, and said to me, 'Go, prophesy to my people Israel.'"

 Amos was from the poverty-stricken Southern part of Israel. He was a shepherd and a gardener. Amos looked, dressed, and conducted himself like a poor and simple shepherd and gardener. 
   Yet, GOD sent Amos to prophesy to the wealthy, decadent people in the North of Israel.  Because, GOD's Word — not the appearance of the messenger- is all-important!

   The Gospel passage above reveals that Our Lord Jesus does not call superwomen and supermen to be His messengers, His disciples. 
   The Lord called 12 ordinary people to do extraordinary things: to cast out demons and heal the sick. Our Lord Jesus was not very interested in powerful, exceptionally beautiful, or well-educated people to spread GOD's Word. He called the commonplace: the fearful, the weak, the timid, the ordinary.

   Our Lord Jesus is calling you and me to the same discipleship that existed 2000 years ago. His call is an invitation and a challenge to deliver His message to the people/the evils/and the injustice in the world of our time.
   Once we realize the enormity of GOD's love for us, we ordinary people can be empowered by Our Lord Jesus to cast out the demons of our times -- to work with Jesus and for Jesus in redeeming the miseries of the world.

   However: Our Lord also expects US to recognize and accept His Presence and His Message of Salvation being delivered to US in the glorious ordinariness of the people around US — even people we think could not possibly be messengers of Christ's Gospel. He is sending the messages all the time; but are we receiving them?

   For instance, messengers who are attractive, appealing, popular - may complicate or hinder the message of the Gospel. That's why we must ask ourselves: 
✠   Do I ignore someone who could be Christ's messenger challenging me to 
     live the Gospel? 
✠   Am I withholding my attention because of the messenger's appearance? 
     Clothes? Lack of sophistication?
✠   Do I "tune out" the messenger because the messenger happens to be flawed, 
     scarred, or unhealthy? 
✠   Do I fail to notice Christ's messenger to me — because the messenger speaks with 
     an accent? Or is of a different race or culture than my own? Or because the messenger
     is elderly? — or a teenager? — or a little child?

   Remember: throughout the history of salvation, GOD has repeatedly employed the ordinary, the commonplace, to achieve His saving plan for each one of us. GOD sent Someone who seemed to be just a Carpenter to save us from our sins and evil. That Carpenter sent uneducated fishermen and farmers to spread His message that we can be redeemed by becoming completely dependent on GOD.

   The prophet Amos; the 12 apostles — all heard GOD calling them to discipleship - to be His messengers. They labored to fulfill their mission as perfectly as they could. WE also have heard the call. Are we truly trying to fulfill our mission?

   Familiarity breeds contempt, the old proverb says. Familiarity causes us to see things according to our prejudices. The result is, that we do not see things as they really are.
   That is why we must constantly pray for 20-20 spiritual vision to recognize Christ's Body and Blood present in the Holy Eucharist and coming to us in what seem to be ordinary bread and wine.  Christ is offering His Body and Blood, His Divine Life, to be received by imperfect, unlikely, yet nonetheless redeemed people: You and me!

   Thanks be to GOD for revealing His love, and power, and glory — through the glorious majesty of the commonplace! 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Should Churches Allow Politicians to Speak at Mass?

Yesterday, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, was invited to speak at St. Jude parish in Canarsie, Brooklyn.  The issue was tax credits for students attending private schools, including parochial schools.  The New York State Catholic Conference is understandably supportive of legislation providing these tax credits; but, at what expense?  At the expense of virtue and credibility in my opinion.

While politicians are always eager to garner support from the electorate, the Church should be circumspect about being willing pawns in the political game; even if the results appear to be beneficial.  Does anyone truly believe that Governor Cuomo cares a whit how education tax credits will help the Church?  He didn't seem to care about the Church's position when he was "muscling" same sex "marriage" through the legislature without permitting a popular vote on the issue.  He has tried year after year to expand abortion in New York, a State that is already known as the abortion capital of the U.S.  His pro-abortion agenda includes making any attempt at parental notification laws and informed consent laws illegal.  He wants to permit non-physicians to perform first trimester abortions and remove any sanctions for abortions after 24 weeks (see this article).  Is this the kind of person Catholics want to give a photo op on Church property?

And, the most upsetting aspect of Cuomo's use of the Church in his political strategy, was that we gave him the forum to speak AT HOLY MASS!!  Honestly, this fact is so disturbing as to be almost unbelievable.  So many courageous people in this diocese pour themselves out praying and counseling at the abortuaries that plague our area.  The decimation of the minority population of Brooklyn and Queens through the slaughter of the unborn truly cries out to heaven for justice.

So, when our local Church cooperates with the politician who is hard at work expanding the slaughter of the innocents, it is disheartening to say the least.  To paraphrase the words of St. Thomas More in the classic A Man for All Seasons,  "Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world...but for a tax credit?"

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Joys And Fruits Of Frightening Love

From The Holy Gospel According To John  [15:9-17]
 Jesus said to his disciples:
 “As the Father loves me, so I also love you.  Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,         just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.
 “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete.
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing.  I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.  It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.  This I command you: love one another.”
Once upon a time, a priest received an emergency sick call to go to a hospital's Intensive Care Unit.  

An elderly woman was near death.  She wanted to talk to a priest.  When the priest got to I.C.U., he discovered that the woman was 102 years old.  Her mouth was gaping open, and she was drooling out the side of her mouth.   

The priest spoke gently to her, heard her confession, and assured her that he and the parishioners would be remembering her during Mass.  Then he asked, "Mrs. Kelly, before I leave, is there anything you would like me to do?"  She requested that he pray for her: pray right then.  The priest said, “Yes, of course,” and asked if there was something specific she would like him to pray for.   She answered, "I'd like you to pray for me to be healed, right now."  "Right now?," he asked.  "Yes, Father, right away."

Realizing the hopelessness of her situation, the priest thought to himself, "Uh Oh!"  But, reluctantly, he offered a beautiful prayer: "Loving Father, if it is Your will,  please heal Mrs. Kelly;  and if it is not Your will, then to help her and her loved ones adjust to the situation and place their hope in You. Amen."

Suddenly, 102-year-old Mrs. Kelly sat up in bed and exclaimed, "Wow!"  She threw her feet over the side of the bed, stood up, flexed her muscles, and cried, "This is unbelievable!  I feel wonderful!"    Then she walked down to the nurses station, announcing, "I think I'm well!  Hey, everyone, I think I'm well!"

The priest left the hospital, walked to the parking lot, got into his car, and offered his own words to God: "Lord...  don't You ever do that to me again!"
The priest had been frightened by the intensity of love for Mrs. Kelly that GOD 
revealed through the priest.  The priest had never realized how much God loved him 
and listened to him -- until that incident.

To love as Christ loves us means, first of all,  to put aside our own hesitation, our own fears in order to relieve the fears of others.  

To love as Christ loves us means to let go of our own hopes and wants, and instead seek the hopes and wants of others.  

To love as Christ loves us means  to care for and care about others, regardless of the sacrifices demanded of us.

To love as Christ loves us means to be ready always to make the first move to forgive and to heal.

That kind of love can be so overwhelmingly demanding that we may sneak away 
from the prospect. This kind of love frightens people!

Do you and I really believe that our love toward another person can heal that person? Restore that person? Give hope and bring peace to that person?

I think that most of us know at least one incident, wherein, we were able to love someone like Our Lord Jesus loves that person.   

I think that most of us know at least one time when someone had loved us like the Lord Jesus does.

To experience Christ’s divine love is an incredible joy!   His Divine Love reaffirms our gut-feeling that we do have a purpose in our lives.  

Christ’s Divine Love penetrates our being, and we experience completeness, wholeness, from giving and receiving pure, unadulterated love, the love Our Lord Jesus Christ has for you and me.

So, we must not forget:  It was not you and I who chose Christ, but Christ who chose us -- to go forth and bear much fruit.

And our fruit must endure,  so that all we ask the Father in Christ's name He will give us.
The command the Lord Jesus gave us is that we love one another -- first ... last ... always! 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Fat Tuesday Reflection: My Three Hours As A Leper

From the holy Gospel according to Mark  [1:40-45]
A leper came to Jesus and, kneeling down, begged Jesus and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.”  Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.”  The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.  Then, warning  him sternly, Jesus dismissed him at once.  He said to him, “See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed;  that will be proof for them.”
The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.  He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere.

I personally identify with all of the lepers in the Gospels because, I too was a "leper" once -- for three hours, on July 1st, 1976.  

At the time, I was a college student with a  Summer job in Queens, New York City. One morning while on the Subway and heading to work at 6:30 a.m.,  I suddenly felt myself getting very ill; feverish, dizzy, and unable to stand up straight.  

Not knowing what was happening to me, I got off the subway train at 14th Street to find a men's room.  It was all the way down at the other end of the station platform.  Just as I was walking into the men's room, I passed out.  Falling face forward onto the filthy men's room floor, I landed on my chin, and was knocked unconscious.  About an hour later, I came to and was dizzy, feverish, confused, and frightened. Stumbling out of the men's room, I was covered with blood and with the disgusting filth from the floor of the public facilities.   At first, I couldn't remember where I was and what had happened, but I could see blood dripping down on my shirt.  The only thing I knew was that I must be bleeding heavily from somewhere on my head (from my chin, actually).

Because I was frighteningly weak, it took about 30 minutes just to climb the stairs up to street level. During that time, not one person approached to ask if I needed help. Arriving at the concourse, I stumbled toward the station’s token booth, all the while with people staring and backing away from me.  When I finally got to the token booth, the clerk cursed at me and told me to go away.  No one would listen as I asked for help.  

I stumbled up the next stairway onto the street.  Weaving down the sidewalk, people cleared a path around me, pretending I didn't exist.  I was asking for someone to get the police, to call an ambulance.  They all ignored me.  I approached several people, all of whom angrily screamed at me to get away, cursing at me. 

Eventually I found a pay phone and, with hands shaking, called home to Brooklyn.  My Dad and brother were just leaving for work.  They asked where I was.  I was so dazed I couldn't even focus my eyes to read the street signs.  They told me to try to get a taxi back to Brooklyn.  I started to hail taxis; they all ignored me.  A police car cruised by and also ignored me.  

As I was just beginning to pass out again,  a taxi pulled up across the street, discharging a passenger.  I tried to jog over to the rear of taxi, but the driver couldn't see me and started to drive away.  When I started banging on the trunk he stopped, got out looking angry, staring at me.  Before he could say something, I told him I’d had an accident and needed to get to a doctor.  I showed him a $20 bill, got into the cab and told him where to take me.  

During the entire one hour trip in morning traffic, the cabbie stared at me in the rearview mirror.  And at one point, he tossed me a filthy rag and said that I was bleeding on his rubber floor mats and that he wanted them to stay clean, so he told me to clean up the mess. 

The nightmare -- my "leprosy" -- ended after three hours, when the taxi pulled up in front of my home.  I became a human person again.  My family brought me to a hospital emergency room. 

Inserted back into my non-leper’s life, for many weeks I pondered the frightening lesson in the ways that sin has made our human nature diseased and narcissistic.

In the incident recorded in Saint Mark’s Gospel (above),  Our Lord Jesus' curing of the leper shocked those who witnessed it.  Our Lord Jesus did not drive the leper away as would be the norm under the Law of Moses.  Instead, Our Lord Jesus reached out and touched him.  Our Lord Jesus did not see an unclean leper, nor a disease, but a human soul in desperate need.   

That three hour nightmare I endured back in 1976 pummeled me with a distressingly cold truth: The physically leprous in our society may suffer from a medical affliction,  but it is we -- the non-lepers -- who can be the sick ones.  It is we who can be spiritually diseased from sinfulness and selfishness.  We may be suffering from self-inflicted spiritual leprosy.

The biggest disease of the Third Millennium is not Leprosy, nor Ebola, nor A.I.D.S., nor Tuberculosis.  Rather, as Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said, 

“The greatest disease today is ... the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for and deserted by everybody... The greatest evil is the lack of love and charity, the terrible indifference towards one’s neighbor.”

Moved with pity, Our Lord Jesus stretched out His hand to touch the leper and to say to him, "Be made clean!"

Ash Wednesday is tomorrow, another yearly gift from Our Lord to approach Him and be helped to rid 
ourselves of our sins and hypocrisies.

May each of us have faith and trust in Christ to approach Him during our Holy Communion when we attend Mass on Ash Wednesday, and say, "Lord Jesus,  if you wish, you can make me clean.  If you will to do so, you can cure me of my spiritual leprosy."

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Bishop of Bling vs. Bishop of the World

It appears to be time to keep an eye on the German Bishops' Conference, where things are a bit off kilter and aiming to possibly get worse.  Normally, it wouldn't be so much of an issue for the universal Church, but the Germans seem to be taking center stage in recent Vatican discussions on Church teaching and practice regarding marriage.  So, what happens in Germany doesn't necessarily stay in Germany.


 Some of these latest shenanigans are being brought to light in a comparison of two mega diocesan building projects.  The first one, as you may have heard, concerned the archbishop of Limburg, Franz Peter Tebartz van Elst, who was ultimately deposed as the ordinary of his diocese in 2013 because of supposed excesses in spending on a new diocesan center and bishop's residence.  The press in Germany and elsewhere went after van Eltz like wolves after wounded prey.  He was called names like "the bishop of bling" and "bishop swank."  Rumors swirled of a  gilded bathtub and other excesses, most of which could not be documented by the swarming press even after diocesan books were opened.  While the press and public were screaming for blood, Bishop  Tebartz van Elst did not get much support from his brother bishops.  Only the outgoing bishop of Cologne, Cardinal Meisner,  stood up for van Elst and spoke eloquently about his moral character and theological acuity.  Among those who had no good words to say was Cardinal Marx, the archbishop of Munich and current head of the German bishops conference.

Fast forward to this year and another massive diocesan building project in downtown Munich.  The cost of the project as ballooned from 31 million Euros in 2011 to 130 million Euros today.  The person responsible for this project?  Cardinal Reinhard Marx.  While the press and the people were calling for Bishop van Eltz's head in Limburg, the reaction to Cardinal Marx's spending spree is ...crickets. (Hillary White has a very informative article about the situation over at LifeSite News. )  What could be the reason for the difference?

Cardinal Marx is not especially known for his simple lifestyle.  According to Hillary White's article, he drives a top of the line BMW.  His bishop's residence (a palace) was recently renovated at the cost of 8 million Euros. He gets to stay in a cozy guest house in Rome while working on Vatican business (a building valued at approximately 10 million Euros).  In addition, he draws a German bishop's salary of 11,500 Euros per month (yes, you read correctly - per month!!).  This is an equivalent salary of about $177,000 per year.   Not a very austere lifestyle for someone who is on Pope Francis' inner advisory council!

Where is this money coming from, especially since so few people are practicing the faith in Germany?  Welcome to a concept known as the "church tax."  You won't find ushers going up and down the aisles in German churches.  They're not necessary; the government does the job for them.  If you want to be recognized as a Catholic in Germany and be able to receive the sacraments, you must register as such with the government.  Then, 8 to 9 % of your gross income will be deducted from your paycheck and sent directly to the Church.  No registration means no tax, but it also means no sacraments.  It's no wonder that the Catholic Church in Germany is wealthy.  In 2011, the tax dropped 5 billion Euros into Church coffers.  And, interestingly, the Catholic Church is the second largest employer in the country.

Does this amount to simony - charging the faithful for the sacraments?  Hmmm.  This is a different discussion for a different day, but it does raise a question.  For now, however, let's focus on the hypocrisy of the press and the public at large to the cases of two different bishops doing very similar things, but having very different reactions. What could the reason be for calling for the removal of the one and utter silence for the other?  The glaring difference between the two prelates that becomes obvious is the adherence to orthodox Church teaching by the one versus advocacy of accommodating the culture by the other.  While Bishop Tebartz van Eltz is strongly supportive of the Church teaching on marriage, divorce and homosexual practices, Cardinal Marx  advocates a more "inclusive" approach on these issues. Of course the press and the public would embrace the more worldly and expansive view of morality.  While, the more orthodox view - well you saw what happened to Bishop van Eltz.  (Edward Pentin has a very interesting article on this issue over at the National Catholic Register. )

German bishops have historically been known for pushing the envelope (and German priests, as well...we're looking at you Martin Luther).  On the other hand, they have also been great contributors to theological and philosophical discourse (Benedict XVI - need we say  more?).  Why these German prelates have such an outsize influence on ecclesial matters, especially today when the practice of the faith is withering on the vine in their country, is a question to ponder.  It will be very interesting to see how this plays out in the coming year as the Vatican moves toward the culmination of the Synod on the Family.   Will the increasing public emphasis on simplicity and frugality makes it way over to Germany?  Will the German bishops continue to push an expansive view of morality?  One can only pray and wait and see.  Saint Boniface, ora pro nobis.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

People Look East - No, Really, Look East!

The Merriam Webster Dictionary definition of the word orient is: To cause to face or point toward the east.  For centuries the Church had her priests facing east during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, signifying our perpetual readiness and yearning for the return of the Lord.   Sacred Scripture tells us that when Christ comes again He will come from the east in the same way that the sun rises in the sky. While not always an actual facing of the east (which could or could not be done depending on the structure of the church building), at least a spiritual intent to face the east was accomplished by facing the altar.  

The priest wasn't the only one facing east.  The people in the congregation were "oriented" in this direction as well (again, perhaps not physically, but spiritually by facing the same direction as the priest).  This was the practice of the Church until a liturgical movement of the 20th century literally turned things around.  What was lost in this "re-orientation" was a physical manifestation of the yearning for and expectation of the second coming.

Ad Orientem

As Advent approaches, Bishop James Conley of the diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, is embarking on a new practice in his cathedral of offering Mass "ad orientem" or toward the east during this season of anticipation.   Bishop Conley writes in the Southern Nebraska Register:

Jesus Christ will return in glory to the earth.
We do not know when he will return. But Christ promised us that he would return in glory, “as light comes from the east” to bring God’s plan of redemption to its fulfillment...
In the early Church, Christians expected that Christ would come soon—any day.  There was hopeful expectation. They were watchful—they looked to the sky in the east to wait for Christ. And because they did not know when he would return, they proclaimed the Gospel with urgency and enthusiasm, hoping to bring the world to salvation before Christ returned.
It has been nearly two thousand years now since Christ ascended into heaven. It has become easier to forget that he will come again to earth. It has become easier to forget that we must be waiting, we must be watching, and we must be ready.
Bishop Conley's  column can be read in its entirety at the Southern Nebraska Register site.  It's worth reading in its entirety.  Perhaps "turning eastward" can help us to more deeply anticipate the Lord's return and what His first coming meant for all people.

Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska

Men of The Catholic Jedi Academy are also Men Of Saint Joseph!

Men of The Catholic Jedi Academy are also Men Of Saint Joseph!
Join the Men Of St. Joseph group at Our Lady Of Mercy Church in Hicksville, NY! Take a moment and visit the MOSJ website.