For by Grace You Have Been Saved…

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast. For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them. (Ephesians 2:8–10 NABRE).


Today’s first reading in the Mass is Ephesians 2:1–10. In this passage St. Paul powerfully describes how once we were dead in transgressions and sins,  and in following the ruler of this world we were children of wrath. But God, who is rich in mercy and who loves us so much, brought us to life with Christ through grace and has saved us.

The final three verses of the passage quoted above reminds us that by grace we have been saved through faith, but not by what we have done, it is through the gift of God, so that we cannot boast.

We are his handiwork. We are created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God had prepared in advance for us to participate in. Our good deeds are free acts of love and gratitude. This is good news! This is the gospel! Thanks be to God!

For by Grace You Have Been Saved…

Going Back to Christ or Forward to Him

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I am home from a vacation that took me to Maine and points in between. I had the opportunity to interact with other “rigid” Catholics like myself who are certainly concerned about what is going on in the Church, specifically the lack of action on the current crisis and the “silly” daily synopses coming out of the Youth Synod in Rome.

This morning I found a post from David Warren, a writer that I enjoy and often laugh with, and most times he hits the bull’s eye with his description on current events. I will share one quote from his latest blog here and then give you a link to read the entire blog.

Reactionary thought for today:

It is wrong to long for the recent past — to wish we could go back to the ’nineties, the ’seventies, the ’fifties. We are enduring today the consequences of just such rotten decades. We must go back to Christ; or forward to Him, which is the same thing. The only alternative is to go to Hell.

Read more of David Warren here.

I look forward to resuming my regular blogging tomorrow, if I can find something to say that will do you any good! Have a wonderful day!

 

Going Back to Christ or Forward to Him

When Jesuits were, well…Jesuits!

The Society of Jesus was founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola in 1540. The Jesuits have a historic and dramatic past. Following the lead of Ignatius and Francis Xavier the Jesuits impacted the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Today with their checkered present it is important to remember the faith and valor of the Jesuit forefathers.

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Today is the feast day of the North American martyrs: eight Jesuit missionaries who were martyred at different times in the mid-17th century in Canada. Chief among these were St. Isaac Jogues (1646) and St. Jean de Brébeuf (1649). They and their six fellow missionaries ministered among the Hurons in what is now southern Ontario and upstate New York.

Isaac Jogues was born in Orléans, France in 1607. In 1636 he was ordained a Jesuit priest and in that same year after hearing the stories of missionaries to the New World, set sail for New France to begin his work. When he arrived in Quebec he wrote to his mother: “I do not know [how] it is to enter Heaven, but this I know—that it would be difficult to experience in this world a joy more excessive and more overflowing than I felt in setting foot in the New World, and celebrating my first Mass on the day of Visitation.”

Jogues lived among the Huron for six years and acclimated himself to their diet and customs. Then he was captured by the Mohawk nation and thus began his trial by fire:

“…in retaliation for comforting a tortured Frenchman, the Mohawk beat Jogues with sticks, tore out his fingernails, then gnawed the ends of his fingers until finger bones were visible. The war party then took their captives on a journey to a Mohawk village. There, the villagers marched them through a gauntlet, which consisted of rows of Iroquois armed with rods and sticks beating the prisoners walking in single-file. Afterwards, the Iroquois forced Jogues and the prisoners onto an elevated platform where they were mocked. A captive Algonquin woman then cut off Jogues’ thumb. At night, the prisoners were tied spread-eagled in a cabin. Children threw burning coals onto their bodies. Three days later, Jogues and the prisoners were marched from one village to another, where the Iroquois flogged them in gauntlets, and jabbed sticks into their wounds and sores. At the third village, Jogues was hung from a wooden plank and nearly lost consciousness, until an Iroquois had pity on him and cut him free. Throughout his captivity, Jogues comforted, baptized, heard confession from, and absolved the other prisoners.” (Wikipedia)

With the help of a Dutch official, Jogues was able to escape and returned to France. Due to his tortures he could no longer celebrate the Mass as he was missing the fingers (thumb and forefinger) required to touch the the host. Pope Urban VIII called him a “living martyr” and gave him a dispensation to celebrate the Mass despite his missing digits. It would have been totally understandable if Isaac Jogues would have settled down in France and lived out the rest of his years in “retirement,” but he didn’t. After a visit to see his mother in Orléans, he prepared to return to New France to continue his work in the missions.

Within six months of arriving in Mohawk territory, Isaac Jogues was martyred by being beheaded with a tomahawk. Jogues often said, “He [Jesus] was making us share his sufferings, and admitting us to participation in his crosses.” Jogues regarded his torture, and the death he thought would follow, as allowing him to imitate, and thus participate in, the passion of Jesus (Allan Greer).

The life, ministry and death of Jogues and his fellow martyrs challenge each of us, causing us to ask just how deep is our faith and how strong is our desire to serve even in the face of death. These men lived their lives with an exclamation point!

St. Isaac Jogues and companions pray for us!

Image: Martyrdom of Father Isaac Jogues S.J. | Engraving by A. Malaer | Wellcome Images
When Jesuits were, well…Jesuits!

Peculiar People

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Often when the American Republic experiences crisis we fondly remember those early founders that seem to have had such crystal clear foresight and strength of conviction that got them through the difficult times of establishing a nation. We look back to George Washington, Patrick Henry, John Adams and others to give us courage and in that way believe that we can return to their ideals.

The Church in her wisdom has given us the gifts of the saints who in forsaking all, picked up their cross and followed our Lord Jesus. For many it left them with the moniker of “strangers,” “foreigners,” and even “peculiar” (KJV). For many others it meant torture, suffering and death. We remember these precious and powerful men and women on specific days that we call feast days. Today is the feast day of St. Ignatius of Antioch (A.D. 35–108). Check out the dates of his life! Today’s saint was born right after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

On route to his martyrdom under the Emperor Trajan, Ignatius wrote a series of seven letters to different churches. Once he arrived in Rome he was thrown to the lions and gained the martyr’s crown.

In honor of his feast day and to encourage us in this hour of trial that we are enduring in our own time, allow me to share words of encouragement and challenge from this great saint.

  • “Now I begin to be a disciple. Let fire and cross, flocks of beasts, broken bones, dismemberment come upon me, so long as I attain to Jesus Christ.”

  • “Do not have Jesus Christ on your lips, and the world in your heart.”

  • “A Christian is not his own master, since all his time belongs to God.”

  • “I would rather die for Christ than rule the whole earth.”

  • “Christianity is greatest when it is hated by the world.”

  • “Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful to baptize or give communion without the consent of the bishop. On the other hand, whatever has his approval is pleasing to God. Thus, whatever is done will be safe and valid.”

  • “Take care, then, to be firmly grounded in the teachings of the Lord and his apostles so that you may prosper in all your doings both in body and in soul, in faith and in love, in the Son, and in the Father and in the Spirit, in the beginning and in the end, along with your most worthy bishop and his spiritual crown, your presbyters, and with the deacons, who are men of God.”

  • “Be obedient to the bishop and to one another, as Jesus Christ was in the flesh to the Father, and the apostles to Christ and to the Father and to the Spirit, so that there may be unity in flesh and in spirit.”

St. Ignatius of Antioch pray for us!

Peculiar People

God’s Surprises?

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A banner hanging on the side of a church in New England prompted me to ask some questions about “continuing revelation.” Is God still speaking in the sense that He is giving new revelation? Is God changing what His Word and the Tradition of His Church has maintained for 2000 years and even longer when you consider the ancient writings of the Old Testament? Are there “surprises” that we are just discovering that updates God and His revelation to our 21st century practices and new normal?

That’s an important question and one that seems to be the theme of the current Youth Synod and the Synod on the Family before it. Just last week one of the sub groups led by Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich asserted that we need to be prepared for new definitions of the family going forward. This seems to fit into the idea that God is rethinking what He has given us as timeless truth and the Church better get “woke” and optimized to version 21.0!

This summer our local book group read Pope Francis’s latest encyclical “Rejoice and Be Glad” that was a follow up to Amoris Laetitia and the Synod on the Family. In three separate paragraphs the Holy Father refers to “surprises.” If this had been written in 2013 I probably would not have thought much about it, but now, in the light of what led up to the encyclical it seems to infer that God is still speaking and our traditional ways (the last twenty centuries) will not serve today’s church.

41. When somebody has an answer for every question, it is a sign that they are not on the right road. They may well be false prophets, who use religion for their own purposes, to promote their own psychological or intellectual theories. God infinitely transcends us; he is full of surprises. We are not the ones to determine when and how we will encounter him; the exact times and places of that encounter are not up to us. Someone who wants everything to be clear and sure presumes to control God’s transcendence.

138. We are inspired to act by the example of all those priests, religious, and laity who devote themselves to proclamation and to serving others with great fidelity, often at the risk of their lives and certainly at the cost of their comfort. Their testimony reminds us that, more than bureaucrats and functionaries, the Church needs passionate missionaries, enthusiastic about sharing true life. The saints surprise us, they confound us, because by their lives they urge us to abandon a dull and dreary mediocrity.

139. Let us ask the Lord for the grace not to hesitate when the Spirit calls us to take a step forward. Let us ask for the apostolic courage to share the Gospel with others and to stop trying to make our Christian life a museum of memories. In every situation, may the Holy Spirit cause us to contemplate history in the light of the risen Jesus. In this way, the Church will not stand still, but constantly welcome the Lord’s surprises.

Robert Royal of The Catholic Thing wrote this morning:

In the Synod, many participants, even bishops, often speak of the Church as if it were almost superfluous. We’re hearing it said, again and again, that the role of the Church is to facilitate an “encounter with Jesus”; that our faith is not in the Church – let alone in sinful Church members, including priests and bishops – all, of course, true up to a point.

More radically, it’s sometimes hinted that the current crisis might be viewed (in the words of Newark’s Cardinal Tobin, chosen for the Synod by Pope Francis but absent, owing to the abuse crisis in his diocese) as God “smashing old structures” to prepare the way for reform.

It’s a hazardous thing to pronounce on what God is or is not doing in your day, especially in terms of smashing things that he has already used for 2000 years, unless you are a prophet whose lips have been purified in advance with a burning coal – preferably by an angel.

I end this morning by stating that God has called the Church to be the instrument of salvation to all, not by being forced into the image of fallen humanity, but by calling fallen and sinful humanity to the person of Jesus Christ our Savior and the transformation that He brings. Jesus is the ultimate revelation. He is God’s final word. The only surprise remaining is that full surrender to Him is what makes us fully human!

St. Teresa of Jesus pray for us!

God’s Surprises?

Christ Is King!

“These [the kings of the world] are united in yielding their power and authority to the beast; they will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful” (Revelation 17:13–14 NRSV).

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It seems our Lord even has a tattoo on his thigh and a monogram on his robe. In Revelation 19:16 we read: “On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, ‘King of kings and Lord of lords'” (NRSV).

Since 1925 the Roman Catholic Church has celebrated the Feast of Christ the King, and in 1970 it was moved to the last Sunday before the beginning of Advent. This year it will be November 25. The feast has the highest rank of solemnity. This feast is also celebrated by the Anglican communion and many mainline Protestant denominations.

Back on October 7, a young blogger from the Diocese of Broken Bay (Australia) tweeted: “Most people want Jesus as a consultant rather than a king.” The archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge, responded to him saying: “Not too sure I want (or have) him as either.” Many have made much of his tweet. Many have asked for clarification. Then he wrote a few days later:

I worship Jesus reigning from the Cross, whose “kingdom is not of this world” and who “casts the mighty from their thrones”…I don’t favour royalist ideologies “of this world” which make Christ remote, the Church triumphalist, the Pope and bishops princely etc. (Tweet on October 10).

Twitter is probably not the best place to lay out your theology, even though now you have 240 characters instead of 120 to make your point. I don’t in any way pretend to know what Archbishop Coleridge means by his first or second tweet. Yet it does raise some concerns, not the tweet alone, but the other comments that this prelate has made in these times of fuzzy theology.

Back in 2015, after the Synod on the Family, Coleridge took exception to several phrases that are common and current in the Catholic Church and suggested that should be rethought:

  • The “indissolubility” of marriage
    “Keeping Church teaching intact can still open up a vast field of pastoral creativity…. Our danger, and not just the bishops but others in the Church, is to think that we’re condemned to dance in chains unless we can change the Church’s teaching.” (Crux)
  • The “intrinsically disordered” nature of homosexual acts
    In the case of the Church calling homosexual acts “intrinsically disordered” and homosexuality itself “objectively disordered,” for instance, he said that way of putting things leads to a “sense of alienation.” “Can the synod find a language that is in fact positive, less alienating, less excluding?” (Crux)
  • Calling divorce and civil remarriage “adultery”
    As for adultery, Coleridge argued that “to say that every divorce and remarriage situation is adulterous is perhaps too sweeping.” (Crux) He has also argued that using the word “adultery” for remarried divorcees needs to end. (LifeSite)
  • The old maxim of “love the sinner but hate the sin.”
    He stated that the Catholic saying “love the sinner, hate the sin” with reference to homosexuality no longer holds since the distinction “no longer communicates” “in the real world” where sexuality is “part of [your] entire being.” (LifeSite)

Heading back to the kingship of Christ,Cardinal Raymond Burke said the following to the Rome Life Forum: “Catholics must consciously place themselves under the ‘Kingship of Christ’ in the face of enemies of the Church today attempting to ‘infiltrate the life of the Church herself and to corrupt the Bride of Christ by an apostasy from the Apostolic Faith’.” (May 2018) He added, “Christ as King reigns over his Bride the Church, over the world, and must also reign over human hearts.”

I find myself brought up short when I pose the question to myself: “Do I recognize Christ as King over the Church, the world and my heart?” if I answer in the negative. I have to do a systems check against Colossians 1:15–23, as does every bishop, priest and layperson in the Church.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everythingFor in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him— provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.

Christ is King! Christ is Lord! And if you, I, or anyone cannot express that with confidence, we have to ask, “Who is lord in His place?”

Christ Is King!

What Did Paul Say to Peter?

Last evening our Forty Hours of Prayer came to its conclusion with a procession of the Holy Eucharist through the church. It was a beautiful and moving experience at the close of a time devoted to praying for reparation, healing and reformation in the Church. Fr. Alexander Poccetto, an oblate of St. Francis de Sales, gave a short, but powerful homily that succinctly brought together the call to all Christians, especially Catholics, to be faithful to our Lord in these difficult times.

This morning the first reading at Mass was from Galatians 2. In the Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia, he describes his call by Christ and his loyalty to the gospel. He makes it very evident in the first chapter that he did not venture out on his own, but went through the proper channels to validate his mission. In 1:11-12 he writes: “Now I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel preached by me is not of human origin. For I did not receive it from a human being, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”

On that basis, I might be tempted to print up my business cards, start a website and begin a public ministry. After all, what I have to share is a direct revelation from Jesus Christ himself. But not Paul. He went out into the wilderness for three years and allowed Jesus to further prepare him. Then after three years he tells us, “I went up to Jerusalem to confer with Cephas (Peter) and remained with him for fifteen days” (1:18). Why is this important? Paul recognized the authority of Peter (Cephas is the Aramaic equivalent, meaning “rock” and the name that Jesus would have actually given to the apostle, upon whom he would found the Church). It was not only important, but vital that Paul be commissioned by the vicar of Christ, the one we recognize as the first bishop of Rome, the first in the long succession of popes in the Church.

It is interesting that Paul uses the Aramaic version of Peter’s name throughout his writings, even when writing to churches in the Greek world (1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:5; Galatians 1:18; 2:9, 11, 14). It’s not that he never calls him Peter, he does (Galatians 2:7, 8), but the use of Cephas seems to affirm even more his authority as the “rock.”

The passage that was read this morning refers specifically to Peter’s inconsistency at Antioch. Paul writes the following:

And when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he clearly was wrong. For, until some people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to draw back and separated himself, because he was afraid of the circumcised. And the rest of the Jews [also] acted hypocritically along with him, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not on the right road in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of all, “If you, though a Jew, are living like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Paul, as one of the apostles, saw the importance of “calling out” Peter regarding an inconsistency in his life and practice–something that would hinder the proclamation and practice of the gospel. Peter, even with his direct commission from Christ to be head of the Church, accepted Paul’s rebuke and later speaks highly of him in his second general epistle.

What can we learn from this Scriptural encounter? Paul never denied Peter’s leadership role, he honored him as the head of the Church. Yet when the very integrity of the Church was threatened, when other leaders close to Peter veered into potential error, Paul spoke up under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

We may be uncomfortable with recent calls to our Holy Father to state succinctly the faith that has been passed on to us, from the “dubia” cardinals and more recently from Archbishop Viganò, however, when these concerns are addressed by Pope Francis, the Church and the our witness to the world will be confirmed. Let’s pray faithfully for the Vicar of Christ and the College of Cardinals that together we will rebuild Christ’s Church through reparation, healing and renovation.

What Did Paul Say to Peter?