Sunday, February 26, 2012

Lent -vs- Feeding The Pets From Hell

    Imagine that you’re invited to dinner at the home of a new neighbor, a really pleasant, friendly man.  You accept his invitation — because you are curious about him.  It’s very plain to see that the man is missing his right arm and two fingers from his left hand.      The next evening, you arrive at his front door and ring the doorbell, and your host welcomes you in. He invites you to relax, guides you to a comfortable chair.  You sit down.  A moment or two later, as your host is chatting with you, you hear noises — noises like animal claws scraping along the floor.  You turn your head to see a 12-foot alligator slithering into the living room. You jump out of the chair.  But your host starts laughing and telling you not to be afraid – because, the alligator is his pet.
     He tells you that he raised the alligator since it hatched from its egg. He even trained the alligator to eat right out of his hand.

     Hearing him say this doesn’t make you feel any less frightened.  But —  at least —  now, you know why he tells everybody to call him “LEFTY.”

“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and He remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.  He was among the wild beasts ... .” [The Holy Gospel According To Saint Mark, 1:12-15]

     We are told by Saint Mark's Gospel, that when Our Lord Jesus walked out into the desert  -- and fasted and prayed there for forty days -- He was among wild beasts.  Dangerous man-eating animals; poisonous snakes; scorpions.  Not exactly cute and cuddly creatures, right?
     Why would anyone want to keep a wild beast as a pet?  That’s crazy, isn’t it?  And  reckless, and totally irresponsible!  
     As if your could train that wild beast to ignore its instinct to attack you,  or sting you, or choke you. And eat you.  Foolhardy, right?  
     Well, then  ...  why are you keeping a wild beast as a pet?

You and I really do  have our very own pet wild beasts — which scratch and bite and wound us.  And even though they constantly try to injure us and kill us, still, we do not get rid of them!
     When Our Lord Jesus left the desert after forty days, He left the wild beasts behind.  However, you and I deliberately, intentionally keep wild beasts around us.  We freely choose to treat the wild beasts as pets!  
     But our pets aren’t vultures, or cobras, or jackals, or scorpions.  Our pets are beasts we have created for ourselves — non-material creatures.  Spiritual wild beasts, cheerfully housebroken by Satan to feed on us and through us, the people around us! 
       We nourish these wild beasts —  with our sinfulness and selfishness, our laziness, or cowardice.  They have unusual names, our pet wild beasts.  Have you ever heard of the wild beasts named:  
  • Eating too much?  
  • Sleeping too much?
  • Shopping too much?  
  • Working all the time?
  • Always at the computer?  
  • Always watching TV?
  • Always playing video games? 
  • Always wearing your Walkman with the volume turned up to drown out other people?
Have you ever heard of the wild beasts named: 
  • Drinking too much booze?  
  • Smoking pot?
  • Popping pills?  
  • Shooting dope into your veins?
  • Looking at pornographic websites or TV shows?  
  • Having sex with your boyfriend or girlfriend?  
  • Committing adultery?  
How about the wild beasts named: 
  • Being angry all the time?
  • Not praying?  
  • Not going to Confession?  
  • Not going to Mass?
  • Blaming God for your bad decisions?
  • Blaming other people for your bad decisions?

By feeding and sheltering these spiritual wild beasts,  we allow them to devour all the peace in our souls!  We allow them to cripple or kill the love, hope, justice, and mercy  in our hearts.

“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and He remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.  He was among the wild beasts ... .”

     Since last Wednesday — Ash Wednesday — you and I entered the desert of Lent for forty days.  Supposedly, we are doing this:
  • To confront our own wild beasts.  
  • To return to God. 
  • To change our sinful and selfish ways.
  • To accomplish these will require us to stop feeding the wild beasts  that inhabit the places in our hearts and minds where  God  should be!  
  • To stop making pets out of our sins and personal evildoing.
     Our Lord Jesus Christ invites to join Him in His desert experience by journeying into the depths of our heart and conscience, into that sacred place within us that belongs to God alone.

     No wild beast is too small to be harmless — or too big to conquer.
When we emerge from the desert of Lent,  we are supposed to leave the wild beasts behind us.

     When Our Lord Jesus exited the desert after 40 days, He left all of the wild beasts behind Him.  If we remain with Him for the next five weeks, He will show us how our fasting and praying and penances will send all those beasts back to where they really belong — back to a howling, lifeless wasteland called Hell, with Satan, their zookeeper.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Pope Benedict: The Church Is A Pilgrim In The "Wilderness" Of The World And History

Vatican City, 22 February 2012 (VIS)  On Ash Wednesday, during his general audience, Pope Benedict dedicated his catechesis to the subject of Lent, the period of forty days leading up to the Easter Triduum, memorial of the passion, death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Benedict XVI reminded the 7,500 pilgrims gathered in the Paul VI Hall that, in the early days of the Church, Lent was a time in which catechumens began their journey of faith and conversion prior to receiving Baptism. Later, all the faithful were invited to participate in this period of spiritual renewal. Thus "the participation of the whole community in the various stages of the Lenten journey underlines an important dimension of Christian spirituality: the fact that redemption is available not just for the few, but for everyone, thanks to Christ's death and resurrection".

"The time leading up to Easter is a time of 'metanoia', a time of change and penance, a time which identifies our human lives and our entire history as a process of conversion, which begins to move now in order to meet the Lord at the end of time".

The Church calls this period "Quadragesima", a period of forty days which has precise references in Holy Scripture. Indeed, "forty is the symbolic number with which the Old and New Testaments represent the most important moments of the People of God's experience of faith. It is a figure which expresses a time of expectation, purification, return to the Lord, awareness that God is faithful to His promises; ... a time within which we must make our choice, shoulder our responsibilities without further delay. It is a time for mature decisions".

Noah spent forty days in the Ark during the Flood, then had to wait forty days more before he could return to dry land. Moses spent forty days on Mount Sinai to collect the Commandments. The Jewish People spent forty years wandering in the desert, then enjoyed forty years of peace under the government of the Judges. The inhabitants of Niniveh made forty days penance to obtain God's forgiveness. The reigns of Saul, David and Solomon, the first kings of Israel, lasted forty years each. In the New Testament, Jesus spent forty days praying in the wilderness before beginning His public life and, following the resurrection, He spent forty days instructing His disciples before ascending to heaven.

The liturgy of Lent, the Pope explained, "has the aim of facilitating our journey of spiritual renewal in the light of this long biblical experience. Above all, it helps us to imitate Jesus Who, in the forty days He spent in the wilderness, taught us to overcome temptation through the Word of God. ... Jesus went into the wilderness in order to be in profound contact with the Father. This was a constant aspect of Christ's earthly life. He always sought out moments of solitude to pray to His Father and abide in intimate and exclusive communion with Him, before retuning among mankind. But in the 'wilderness' ... Jesus was beset by temptation and the seduction of the Evil One, who suggested a messianic path, a path which was far from God's plans because it involved power, success and dominion, not love and the total gift of self on the Cross".

Benedict XVI went on to suggest that the Church herself is a pilgrim in the "wilderness" of the world and history. This wilderness is made up of "the aridity and poverty of words, life and values, of secularism and the culture of materialism which enclose people within a worldly horizon and detach them from any reference to transcendence. In such an atmosphere the sky above us is dark, because veiled with clouds of selfishness, misunderstanding and deceit. Nonetheless, even for the Church today, the wilderness can become a period of grace, because we have the certainty that even from the hardest rock God can cause the living water to gush forth, water which quenches thirst and restores strength".

"During Lent", said the Holy Father in conclusion, "may we discover fresh courage to accept situations of difficulty, affliction and suffering with patience and faith, aware that, from the darkness, the Lord will cause a new day to shine forth. And if we have been faithful to Jesus, following Him on the way of the Cross, the luminous world of God, the world of light, truth and joy, will be ours again".

Friday, February 24, 2012

Lent: Ahh, Sweet Misery! -or- Lent Exposes The Truth Of Who We Really Are

     Annually, as the Lenten Season begins, a memory usually pops into my mind.  The memory is from a long time ago, back in the late 1970s.  I was in the college-seminary at the time. One of the seminarians had a poster on his door. (For the younger among us, posters were a big deal in the 1970s.)

     The poster was a photo of a stuffed doll — a housewife doing laundry in a laundry room — who was caught in a clothes wringer and was being pulled through the wringer and flattened out.  The caption on the bottom of the poster read, “The truth shall set you free but, first, it shall make you miserable!*

     I thought that poster was great — because it humorously presented the truth: the truth about being a disciple of Christ, and the truth about the results that a successful Lent produces.

     Discipleship is a process of being caught up in the truth. The truth about who we really are.  The truth about Who Our Mysterious yet Loving God is.  That’s why the poster of the woman being pulled and flattened through the clothes wringer was so appropriate!

     You see, once you get caught up in true following of Christ — true discipleship — it IS like going through a wringer!  Because, all the lies, all the untruths and fantasies and sinfulness in our lives slowly get squeezed out of us — like dirty water being squeezed out of laundry in a clothes wringer.  Evilness, sins, and dishonesty are squeezed out of us until only the real, true us remains — with no artificial coloring, flavorings or additives!  Nothing to taint or interfere with our love for God and for one another.

Being a true disciple of Christ is incredibly demanding — but, oh, so rewarding!  And, so, Lent is here to put it to us very simply: The truth will set you free but, first, it will make you miserable!
So, may your observance of Lent 2012 set you free but make you miserable first! Ahh, sweet misery!

“The truth shall make you free, but first it shall make you miserable” was credited to Gestalt therapist Barry Stevens (1902-1985) in 1977. The saying soon appeared on posters and bumper stickers.

Pope Benedict On Lack Of Humility And Catholics' Religious Illiteracy

Vatican City, 24 February 2012 (VIS) - On February 23, 2012, the Holy Father met with priests of the diocese of Rome. Following a reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians, Benedict XVI delivered a long, off-the-cuff commentary on the Gospel passage.
Here are a few of his comments:
     The Apostle says: "I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace... ." [Ephesians 4:1-6]
... Humility is the virtue of the followers of Christ Who, "being equal to God, 'humbled Himself, accepting the status of servant, and obeying even unto the cross.' [Philippians 2:5-11]  This was the Son's journey of humility, which we must imitate. 
     "... The opposite of humility is pride, the root of all sin. Pride means arrogance, which above all seeks power and appearance. ... It has no intention of pleasing God; rather of pleasing itself, of being accepted, even venerated, by others. The 'self' becomes the centre of the world; the prideful self which knows everything. 
     "Being Christian means overcoming this original temptation, which is also the nucleus of original sin: being like God, but without God."
     By contrast "humility is above all truth, ... recognition that I am a thought of God in the construction of His world, that I am irreplaceable as I am, in my smallness, and that only in this way am I great. ... Let us learn this realism; not seeking appearance, but seeking to please God and to accomplish what He has thought out for us, and thus also accepting others. ... Acceptance of self and acceptance of others go together. Only by accepting myself as part of the great divine tapestry can I also accept others, who with me form part of the great symphony of the Church and Creation. In this way, likewise, we learn to accept our position within the Church, knowing that "my small service is great in the eyes of God."  Lack of humility destroys the unity of Christ's Body. Yet at the same time, unity cannot develop without knowledge. 
     "One great problem facing the Church today is the lack of knowledge of the faith, 'religious illiteracy'", the Pope said. "With such illiteracy we cannot grow. ... Therefore we must re-appropriate the contents of the faith, not as a packet of dogmas and commandments, but as a unique reality revealed in its all its profoundness and beauty. We must do everything possible for catechetical renewal in order for the faith to be know, God to be known, Christ to be known, the truth to be known, and for unity in the truth to grow."
     We cannot, Benedict XVI warned, live in "a childhood of faith." Many adults have never gone beyond the first catechesis, meaning that "they cannot - as adults, with competence and conviction - explain and elucidate the philosophy of the faith, its great wisdom and rationality" in order to illuminate the minds of others. To do this they need an "adult faith." This does not mean, as has been understood in recent decades, a faith detached from the Magisterium of the Church. When we abandon the Magisterium, the result is dependency "on the opinions of the world, on the dictatorship of the communications media."
     By contrast, true emancipation consists in freeing ourselves of these opinions, the freedom of the children of God. "We must pray to the Lord intensely, that He may help us emancipate ourselves in this sense, to be free in this sense, with a truly adult faith, ... capable of helping others achieve true perfection ... in communion with Christ."
     The Pope went on: "Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God."
     "Where there is truth, there is charity", the Pope concluded. "This, thanks be to God, can be seen in all centuries, despite many sad events. The fruits of charity have always been present in Christianity, just as they are today. We see it in the martyrs, we see it in so many nuns, monks, and priests who humbly serve the poor and the sick. They are the presence of Christ's charity and a great sign that the truth is here."

Friday, February 17, 2012

The HHS Mandate: Bishop Lori's Parable of the Kosher Deli

Academicians: This post IS BORROWED FROM


Bishop Lori: The Parable of the Kosher Deli

Testimony of Most Reverend William E. Lori Bishop of Bridgeport
On behalf of the United States Conference Of Catholic Bishops before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform United States House of Representatives
February 16, 2012

Thank you, Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the Committee, for the opportunity to testify today.

For my testimony today, I would like to tell a story. Let’s call it, “The Parable of the Kosher Deli.”

Once upon a time, a new law is proposed, so that any business that serves food must serve pork. There is a narrow exception for kosher catering halls attached to synagogues, since they serve mostly members of that synagogue, but kosher delicatessens are still subject to the mandate.

The Orthodox Jewish community—whose members run kosher delis and many other restaurants and grocers besides—expresses its outrage at the new government mandate. And they are joined by others who have no problem eating pork—not just the many Jews who eat pork, but people of all faiths—because these others recognize the threat to the principle of religious liberty. They recognize as well the practical impact of the damage to that principle. They know that, if the mandate stands, they might be the next ones forced—under threat of severe government sanction—to violate their most deeply held beliefs, especially their unpopular beliefs.

Meanwhile, those who support the mandate respond, “But pork is good for you. It is, after all, the other white meat.” Other supporters add, “So many Jews eat pork, and those who don’t should just get with the times.” Still others say, “Those Orthodox are just trying to impose their beliefs on everyone else.”

But in our hypothetical, those arguments fail in the public debate, because people widely recognize the following.

First, although people may reasonably debate whether pork is good for you, that’s not the question posed by the nationwide pork mandate. Instead, the mandate generates the question whether people who believe—even if they believe in error—that pork is not good for you, should be forced by government to serve pork within their very own institutions. In a nation committed to religious liberty and diversity, the answer, of course, is no.

Second, the fact that some (or even most) Jews eat pork is simply irrelevant. The fact remains that some Jews do not—and they do not out of their most deeply held religious convictions. Does the fact that large majorities in society—even large majorities within the protesting religious community—reject a particular religious belief make it permissible for the government to weigh in on one side of that dispute? Does it allow government to punish that minority belief with its coercive power? In a nation committed to religious liberty and diversity, the answer, of course, is no.

Third, the charge that the Orthodox Jews are imposing their beliefs on others has it exactly backwards. Again, the question generated by a government mandate is whether the government will impose its belief that eating pork is good on objecting Orthodox Jews. Meanwhile, there is no imposition at all on the freedom of those who want to eat pork. That is, they are subject to no government interference at all in their choice to eat pork, and pork is ubiquitous and cheap, available at the overwhelming majority of restaurants and grocers. Indeed, some pork producers and retailers, and even the government itself, are so eager to promote the eating of pork, that they sometimes give pork away for free.

In this context, the question is this: can a customer come to a kosher deli, demand to be served a ham sandwich, and if refused, bring down severe government sanction on the deli. In a nation committed to religious liberty and diversity, the answer, of course, is no.

So in our hypothetical story, because the hypothetical nation is indeed committed to religious liberty and diversity, these arguments carry the day.

In response, those proposing the new law claim to hear and understand the concerns of kosher deli owners, and offer them a new “accommodation.” You are free to call yourself a kosher deli; you are free not to place ham sandwiches on your menu; you are free not to be the person to prepare the sandwich and hand it over the counter to the customer. But we will force your meat supplier to set up a kiosk on your premises, and to offer, prepare, and serve ham sandwiches to all of your customers, free of charge to them. And when you get your monthly bill from your meat supplier, it will include the cost of any of the “free” ham sandwiches that your customers may accept. And you will, of course, be required to pay that bill.

Some who supported the deli owners initially began to celebrate the fact that ham sandwiches didn’t need to be on the menu, and didn’t need to be prepared or served by the deli itself. But on closer examination, they noticed three troubling things. First, all kosher delis will still be forced to pay for the ham sandwiches. Second, many of the kosher delis’ meat suppliers, themselves, are forbidden in conscience from offering, preparing, or serving pork to anyone. Third, there are many kosher delis that are their own meat supplier, so the mandate to offer, prepare, and serve the ham sandwich still falls on them.

This story has a happy ending. The government recognized that it is absurd for someone to come into a kosher deli and demand a ham sandwich; that it is beyond absurd for that private demand to be backed with the coercive power of the state; that it is downright surreal to apply this coercive power when the customer can get the same sandwich cheaply, or even free, just a few doors down.

The question before the United States government—right now—is whether the story of our own Church institutions that serve the public, and that are threatened by the HHS mandate, will end happily too. Will our nation continue to be one committed to religious liberty and diversity? We urge, in the strongest possible terms, that the answer must be yes. We urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to answer the same way.

Thank you for your attention.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

It Has Begun...Priests for Life Associate Director Arrested Praying in Front of White House

Fr. Denis Wilde, OSA, the associate director of Priests for Life was arrested today for praying in front of the White House.  Father Wilde joined other clergy and laypeople in protest against the Obama administration's HHS mandate for churches and other religious institutions to include sterilization, artificial birth control and abortifacients in their insurance coverage health.

Pictures from Priests for Life website

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Pope Benedict On Jesus And The Leper: God's Love Is Stronger Than Any Evil

Vatican City, Sunday, 12 February 2012 (VIS)
At midday today the Holy Father, Pope Benedict, appeared at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to pray the Angelus with faithful gathered in Saint Peter's Square below. Benedict XVI introduced the Marian prayer by recalling how "Jesus, in His public life, healed many sick people, thus revealing that what God wants for man is life, life in abundance".

Today's Gospel reading shows us Jesus "in contact with a form of sickness considered at that time to be the most serious", leprosy, which made the sufferer "unclean" and excluded him from social life. While Jesus was preaching in Galilee a leper came up to Him asking to be healed. "Jesus did not seek to avoid contact with the man. Quite the contrary, moved by intimate concern for his condition, He stretched out His hand - breaking the legal proscription - and said: 'I do choose. Be made clean'. Christ's gesture and words encapsulate the entire history of salvation, they incarnate God's will to heal us, to purify us from the evil which disfigures us and blights our relationships.

"That contact between Jesus' hand and the leper broke down all barriers between God and human impurity; between the sacred and its opposite, certainly not in order to deny evil and its negative power but to demonstrate that the love of God is stronger than all evil, even the most contagious and terrible. Jesus took our infirmities upon Himself. He became a 'leper' that we might be purified. ... The victory of Christ is our profound healing and our resurrection to a new life".

In closing, Benedict XVI encouraged the faithful to pray to the Virgin Mary. "Through His Mother, it is always Jesus Who comes to us, to free us from all sickness of body and soul. Let us allow ourselves to be touched and purified by Him, and let us show mercy to our fellows".

An Excellent Video on HHS Mandate from CatholicTV

Here is Father Robert Reed of CatholicTV providing a succinct explanation of the issues on the HHS Mandate:

United States Catholic Bishops Fight for Conscience Protection

The United States Catholic bishops have a page dedicated to our fight for conscience protection.  It is entitled "Bishops Vow to Fight Coercive HHS Mandate."   Just to explain that title a little more fully... HHS is the Department of Health and Human Services.  This is the government agency charged with implementing the "Affordable Health Care Act" passed by Congress.  It is the law about which Nancy Pelosi famously remarked, "we'll have to pass the law so that we can know what's in it."  Well, now we know what's in it.  A requirement for Catholic institutions to violate their conscience by providing abortion inducing drugs, sterilization coverage and birth control in their health care plans.

A petition drive against the mandate has been started at  Please go there and sign on and object to this brazen attempt by the government to trample on religious liberty.

Also included at that site are the following quotes from three of our Catholic bishops:

"In effect,  the president is telling us that we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences."
- Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York
The Obama administration has just told the Catholics of the United States, ‘To Hell with you!’ There is no other way to put it.
- Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh
I am honestly horrified that the nation I have always loved has come to this hateful and radical step in religious intolerance.
- Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria

Here is a link to a short video put out by the bishops' conference on the fight for conscience protection.  If you don't have enough time to view the longer video in the previous post, take a look at this shorter one ( , but, please try to watch the longer CSpan video when you are able.

Educate Yourself on the Government Birth Control Mandate

Here is a link to one of the best discussions explaining what the Obama Administration's mandate for birth control coverage is all about.  The panel includes attorneys from the United States Bishops' conference, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and the Ethics and Public Policy Center.  It was hosted by the Catholic Information Center and moderated by Ryan Williams, a Catholic University student who did an exceptional job.

Please take the time to sit and watch this video through to the end.  There is a lot of confusing information circulating and this panel does a thorough job of laying out the facts and the history of the appalling threat to religious liberty that confronts us.

Here's the link:

(thanks to Kathryn Lopez of National Review for initially reporting on this, and credit goes to CSpan for the filming)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

"Why I Love Religion..."

Here is an excellent response to the rap video that went viral a few weeks ago.  The original video picked up on a theme of "religion - bad....Jesus - good."  This response shows why Catholics believe that religion is good because Jesus told us so and why the opposite view  leads so many people to atheism or the religion of themselves.

h/t Brandon Vogt at the Thin Veil blog.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

"We Cannot - We will Not - Comply With this Unjust Law"

So says Kansas City Kansas Archbishop Naumann who wrote these words in a letter to the Catholics of his diocese last Sunday.  The archbishop is one of almost every single Catholic bishop in the United States who has spoken out publicly about the Obama administration's decree that the Catholic Church and other Catholic institutions must violate their conscience and provide abortifacient drugs, contraceptives and sterilization to its employees through their health care plans.

Catholic has been providing great coverage on this issue and the groundswell of opposition to the unjust law.  Opposition that is coming from Catholics of every type.  Please call your Senator and ask them to support Senate Bill 1467 which is an attempt to protect the religious liberty that our country was founded upon.

Check with your diocese to see what statement your bishop has published and what steps are being promoted in your particular area to stand up for our conscience rights.

And here in New York, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn has issued the following letter calling all Catholics to action:

"Being Catholic Means Paying a Price"

Those are the words of Archbishop Vigneron to EWTN News during his ad limina visit to Rome.  In the midst of the Obama administration's breathtaking decision to strip the Catholic church of its conscience rights, the Archbishop reflected on the history of persecution of  the Church and her members.
"If we are not willing to pay a price for the grace of the revelation then it is a sign that we don’t really treasure it, And maybe that is what God is asking us to do – to re-appropriate our own conviction about how precious the knowledge of Jesus is to us.  When I see those tombs, I immediately think of Our Lord’s big recruitment speech to the apostles when he said ‘I am sending you out like lambs in the midst of wolves’ and I imagine them looking around at one another and saying ‘Is he talking to us.  And yet, Christ's prediction that “if they rejected me they’ll reject you,” is present for Catholics in every age even if it differs in how it takes its shape."

Read more:

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

Men of The Catholic Jedi Academy are also Men Of Saint Joseph!
Take a moment and visit the MOSJ website.