Jesus Inevitably Brings Division

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Roman Catholic Man

The Youth Synod is Rome is mercifully in its last week. Reading and watching reports coming out of the Vatican has been like watching an impending train wreck in slow motion. You can see what is happening, you are in anguish, you even cry out to give warning, but to no avail. The car crossing the tracks will be obliterated by the oncoming train whose conductor is either asleep at the controls or willfully planning to ram into the car.

Now that may sound uncharitable or judgmental, but sometimes the truth is hard to say and hard to hear. This morning’s Gospel reading is one of those passages where our Lord speaks and we jerk ourselves to attention and say, “What?” In case you weren’t in Mass this morning, you can read it here:

Jesus: A Cause of Division.“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:49–53 NABRE)

This is one of those passages that we would like to say that Jesus obviously doesn’t really mean what he is saying. Isn’t he the Prince of Peace? Didn’t the angels announce at his birth: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14)? He is, and they did!

We are uncomfortable with a Jesus who says he has come to set the earth on fire and he wishes it was already blazing. Bishop Robert Barron this morning in his devotional based on this passage writes, “He’s throwing fire down, much like the God who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.” He’s right and it’s the same God! This does not fit with the popular concept of Jesus “meek and mild” who looks and acts more like a 1960s flower child then the eternal holy God of the universe.

Jesus came to our world with a specific purpose. “There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!” The only way that we can be brought to peace with God is through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ His Son. But that doesn’t mean we get to say, “Thanks, Jesus! We’re good! I’ll quote you and give lip service to you, but for the most part I’m going to keep doing what I want to do and live in the way that makes me happy.”

And then Jesus asks that all important question: “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” Human beings want their cake and eat it too. We want peace without the cross. Oh, it’s OK in our minds that Jesus died on the cross, but don’t ask us to get anywhere near the cross ourselves. “I don’t want to die. I want to live. I want to be happy. I want to be fulfilled. I want to be free to express myself in the way that I determine is best for me.” Those words are heard and read everyday of the week and when they come from the lips of “Christians” they are lukewarm puke that Jesus can’t stomach.

Following Jesus causes division! In the family, in the workplace, in society, in the nation, and in the world. When we deny the rightful place of Jesus to apply his fire and sword to our lives in order to conform us to His righteousness, we automatically divide ourselves from him.

That’s what’s so disturbing about what seems to be happening in Rome this month. A Protestant theologian who writes for First Things and other publications, Carl Trueman, wrote today in Public Discourse, the Journal of the Witherspoon Institute the following:

Whatever side one chooses in the Reformation of the sixteenth century—be it Bellarmine or Calvin—one thing is for sure: the Tridentine Catholics and the Magisterial Protestants were debating matters of real, ultimate significance. I am a Protestant by conviction and have very serious disagreements with Rome, but I regard traditional Catholicism as asking the right questions and providing substantial answers about the nature of sin, redemption, grace, faith, the sacraments, and eternal destiny. Christianity is a religion with a holy God and a tragic vision of a magnificent but fallen humanity at its core, so tragic that only a bloody sacrifice—the sacrifice of God Incarnate—can atone. I may reject the Mass but I can at least see that it marks the centerpiece of a serious theology and ecclesiology and is attempting to address the complexity of the human condition. By contrast Instrumentum Laboris (Synod of Youth) points to a church that seems to be losing sight of those central issues. The Catholic Church could well be exchanging her theological birthright for a Mass of sociological potage.

Jesus promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church and only He can rescue her from “this present darkness.” “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Amen.

We Have Been Given a Trust

Today’s Gospel reading picks up where yesterday’s reading left off. Jesus tells a parable about a home invasion. He says, “Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come” (Luke 12:39–40 NABRE).

Then Peter, speaking for all of us, asks, “Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?” (Luke 12:41). Jesus then teaches an important truth that is universal for all of us: the more we are entrusted with from God, the more is required of us. In fact, he says:

“Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more” (Luke 12:48).

At this point we can echo Peter’s question: “Lord, is this…meant for us or for everyone?” I know my mind went immediately to those in Christian ministry, especially after spending more than 30 years in evangelical pastoral ministry. In my present circumstances I think of my priests, the bishops and cardinals, even the pope. They are the ones who have been entrusted with much and even still more.

Let me pause here for a moment and say that it is incumbent upon us to pray earnestly for those who are responsible for our spiritual care. There is a string of passages in Hebrews 13 that speak to this:

Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

17 Obey your leaders and defer to them, for they keep watch over you and will have to give an account, that they may fulfill their task with joy and not with sorrow, for that would be of no advantage to you.

18 Pray for us, for we are confident that we have a clear conscience, wishing to act rightly in every respect. 19 I especially ask for your prayers that I may be restored to you very soon.

At the same time that we pray for our spiritual leaders, we have to recognize that we too have been entrusted with much: life, health, talent, treasure, family, time, and especially as Christians, the call to make a difference with our lives. How are we stewarding that trust?

A. W. Tozer, an American evangelical pastor of the past century was fond of challenging his listeners and readers to “live with eternity’s values in view.” I quote him:

“The spiritual man habitually makes eternity-judgments instead of time-judgments. By faith he rises above the tug of earth and the flow of time and learns to think and feel as one who has already left the world and gone to join the innumerable company of angels and the general assembly and Church of the First-born which are written in heaven. Such a man would rather be useful than famous and would rather serve than be served. And all this must be by the operation of the Holy Spirit within him. No man can become spiritual by himself. Only the free Spirit can make a man spiritual.”

I know of no better way to recapture eternity’s values than participating in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, as in that moment in time we on earth are united with heaven celebrating the timeless sacrifice of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, everything in the universe, cry out:

“To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor, glory and might,
forever and ever.”

The four living creatures answered, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped. (Revelation 5:13–14 NABRE)

With a full and grateful heart join with the angelic chorus today! You have been entrusted with much!

Gird Your Loins

Do what? This morning’s Gospel reading in the Mass is taken from the New American Bible Revised Edition and uses terminology that is not common in our everyday vernacular. When was the last time you “girded your loins?”

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Gird your loins and light your lamps
and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding,
ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.
Blessed are those servants
whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.
Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself,
have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.
And should he come in the second or third watch
and find them prepared in this way,
blessed are those servants.” (Luke 12:35–38 NABRE)

Still not sure what it means? I took at look at other translations and found these options:

  • “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit” (NRSV)
  • “Be ready for whatever comes, dressed for action and with your lamps lit” (GNT)
  • “Be ready and keep your lamps burning” (CEV)

That helps, doesn’t it? Jesus is speaking to his disciples, and that includes us. He is speaking of a future event, particularly of his Second Coming. He will come unannounced. He will not send a two-weeks’ notice. He will appear suddenly, and therefore he is cautioning us, instructing us, even warning us to be ready.

Jesus says we should be like servants that are awaiting the return of their master. In Middle Eastern world in which Jesus lived, it was not appropriate for a master to arrive home and have to wake up his servants in order for them to serve him. Their responsibility was to be alert and ready at a moment’s notice to open the door and let him in and wait on him. Jesus says that the servants who are vigilant for the return of the master are to be blessed.

If Jesus is speaking to us, how are we to be vigilant for his impending return? At least seven times in the New Testament we find the answer to this in a three-word phrase: “Watch and pray!” Another five times we are told to “be alert.” How are we doing? It seems Jesus was concerned about our tendency to nod off and get distracted. In Luke 18:8 he asks this question: “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (NABRE).

We don’t know when Jesus is coming; that’s the point of this teaching. We do know that Jesus will return for a second time “coming upon the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” (Matthew 24:30 NABRE). We should also know that Jesus could come for you and for me at any moment. Will he find us ready?

As a life-long evangelical and now Catholic convert I look our readiness from an interesting perspective. I grew up in a church that gave great credence to the Second Coming of Jesus. Perhaps that is why we were “busy” with the things of the Lord. Part of our practice as Christians was to be in church every time the door was open: Sunday school, morning worship, evening service, midweek prayer meeting, monthly missionary service, reading Scripture and family prayer. Little by little though those practices became cumbersome and even a little “legalistic.” One by one these expressions dropped off until we were focusing solely on a Sunday morning worship celebration with lively music and well-honed sermons. Now we ask why people are not engaged in Scripture and why the lives of so many evangelicals resemble the lives of the pagans around them.

I have learned that there have been many changes in the Catholic Church as well. I have written about some of these in earlier blogs. In the Catholic Church, as well as in the evangelical communions, the past fifty years have been lean in spiritual expression. For Catholics there has been a precipitous drop off in Mass attendance, in participating in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession), praying the Rosary, and in many shortcuts and “modernizations” of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The St. Michael prayer was placed on the shelf by many American churches in the 1960s, and only recently is being prayed again as we find ourselves in the worst crisis American Catholicism has ever faced.

And we wonder, Christians of all stripes, why our culture has lost its way and has become so opposed to true Christianity! Jesus’s words ring in our ears today: “Gird your loins and light your lamps!” “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.”

And what will Jesus do with those he finds watching and praying? “Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them. And should he come in the second or third watch and find them prepared in this way, blessed are those servants.” Wow! and Amen!

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!

 

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!

From the Bottom Up

I trust you have been encouraged, challenged and informed by this blog. In the weeks to come expect to find new blogs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 

Yesterday my local parish, St. Peter’s in Merchantville, New Jersey, began the annual Forty Hours of Prayer. The focus for this year’s forty hours is “Reparation, Healing and Renewal”—reparation for the evils committed by a handful of priests and bishops, healing for the victims of sexual abuse, and renewal of the Church at the local, diocesan, national and universal Church levels.

At the inaugural Mass at 3:00 p.m. yesterday, my pastor Fr. Tim Byerley gave a homily outlining these three aspects of our prayer focus. I want to highlight his thoughts from the third point: Renewal or reform. Last week Fr. Tim attended a conference in Washington, DC, the NAPA Institute’s Principled Entrepreneurship Conference. Two of the speakers at this conference were Gerhard Cardinal Müller of Germany and Dr. Scott Hahn. Cardinal Müller spoke of the importance of renewing and reforming the Church from the top down. He reminded the attendees how God has raised up saints in the past to call the Church back to holiness, and how at times God has even employed visitations of the Blessed Virgin Mary to speak truth to the Church, for example at Fatima, just over one hundred years ago. We must pray that there will be men and women who will faithfully speak truth to leadership as St. Catherine of Siena did to Pope Gregory XI convincing him to leave Avignon and take his rightful place in Rome; as Saints Robert Bellarmine, Charles Borromeo, and Philip Neri who were instrumental in the Counter-Reformation and the Council of Trent to restore and reform the Church from within. Who will be that saint or group of saints today?

Dr. Scott Hahn spoke of the importance of the Church being renewed and reformed from the bottom up. This is also very important and Dr. Hahn spoke to the conference as a layman himself. His focus was on the importance of lay Catholics living holy lives. He specifically referenced the need for couples to live out the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony and through their sacrament to honor each other, have children and raise those children to love God and the Church who will then became faithful priests, religious, and married couples who will in turn do the same. If Catholics would be faithful to do this, in one generation the Church would be renewed and reformed and the society would be impacted for the good.

He mentioned some specific ways in which married couples could achieve this, and all by God’s grace being poured out into their lives:

  • Lifetime commitment to marriage. What God has joined, no one should separate.
  • Rejection of contraception. Every couple must be open to life and using birth control is not something a Catholic can practice.
  • Rejection of pornography. Pornography is insidious in our culture. Back in 1964, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said of pornography, “I know it when I see it.” Today we are so inundated by a culture of pornography that we sometimes struggle to recognize it when it gently laps on our shores, then before you know it the tide has come in and we are completely immersed. It’s time to reset our filters and reject what will destroy us, our marriages and our families, especially our children.
  • Commitment to raise godly children and grandchildren. Our children and grandchildren will not become holy by osmosis. We cannot expect that their education, religious or otherwise, their peers, the media and the culture in general will lead them to God. At best it will be neutral. It is our role and responsibility and God-given commission to “train up” our children and persist in their religious upbringing. We would not leave their nutrition, health, and general education to chance. Why would we put their immortal souls at the risk of hell by not leading them into the way of truth?

Whether you are participating in a Forty Hours of Prayer or not, set aside some time to pray, fast and seek how you may follow after our Lord in this challenging time. This is not something we can take lightly. Our destiny and the destiny of the next generation depend upon our faithfulness to respond to God.

Saints Catherine of Siena, Robert Bellarmine, Charles Borromeo and Philip Neri pray for us!

The Worship Wars: 2.0

In early part of the twentieth century the world came together to participate in a very devastating war that was in that era called “the war to end all wars.” Such was the magnitude of warfare and the loss of human life that it seemed humanity would learn a vital lesson and never repeat such a travesty. However, one hundred years later, that war is not now called by the phrase coined at its conclusion, but rather we know it as World War I. We all know what happened. Within twenty years of the armistice signed on November 11, 1918, the prelude for what we now call World War II was playing out on the world stage. The second war was even more devastating and deadly than the first. And in many ways the world has not fully recovered from its ravaging effects.

The bottom line seems to be that humanity does not learn from experience or from history. Even when we see the devastation of power mongering and false ideologies we have the naïve impression that this time it will work. Someone has said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Many of you dear readers will remember that I spent nearly 60 of my tender years in the protestant evangelical tradition of Christianity. In my early years worship was what we would now call “traditional.” What that meant is that we would sing from the hymnals and be accompanied by an organ and piano, or in smaller churches by only a piano. If a church was big enough it would have a choir and those choir members would wear choir robes, unless it was too hot, in the days before air conditioning.

Then somewhere in the 1970s the “war” began. We called it the “worship wars.” It started as we truly believed there was a “generation gap”, like the one that the general culture had been talking about since the 1960s. So we (my generation—late baby boomers) began to sing choruses, play guitars, clap, and if we were really daring, raise our hands in worship, not in the main service, but in youth services or conferences or conventions. And as those late boomers began to move into leadership, we decided that we probably should have two services, a traditional one for our parents and grandparents, and a “contemporary” one for us and our kids. That contemporary service has morphed down through the years to include drums, bass guitars, strobe lights, and smoke machines. The hymnals were forgotten as we started using overhead projectors and finally PowerPoint. We have arrived and our hearing is shot.

Yet so many of our young people are turned off by the “contemporary” scene and they are looking for roots, quietness, tradition, liturgy, “smells” and “bells” and something of substance. Many of these young people have found themselves in Anglican, Orthodox and Catholic churches to recover the traditional worship.

I have been in the Catholic Church since March 2016, and in that short time I have grown to deeply love the worship in the Mass. Thank God I have never experienced the abuses in worship after Vatican II which took place here in the U.S. I have heard horror stories of “hootenanny” Masses and celebrants dressed as clowns. May God forgive such sacrilege! Yet, I also know we have lost something as we turned away from the Traditional Latin Mass and its incredible history and glory.

That brings me to the Youth Synod currently underway at the Vatican. Over the past year young people have been asked what they wanted to see in the Church. It seems that many of their concerns have been substituted for an agenda held by “progressive prelates” who didn’t get enough at Vatican II. The youth show, that they like their counterparts in evangelicalism, they long for the history and richness of the Mass. Young people, couples, families and singles show up at the Traditional Latin Masses. They are not asking for the Mass to be modernized or “protestantized.”

And yet we hear from Paolo Ruffini speaking for some of the Synod Fathers that we need “a Liturgy that is better suited to present times, more participatory, more understandable, otherwise the youth might consider it dull…” In response to this a Catholic priest on Twitter who goes by the handle “Father V” wrote: “It’s almost as if the higher-ups have developed amnesia about the net effect of felt banners, guitars, insipid music, and burlap bag vestments. Mass attendance plummeted and continues to fall everywhere.”

Lord have mercy! Keep praying for this synod that continues through the month of October.

From Satanist to Saint

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This is not your typical story of a saint. This account takes us way out of our comfort zone, to the point that we have to confront the reality of Satan and the demonic and the battle against the souls of men and women.

Blessed Bartolo Longo (1841-1926) was born in Latiano, Italy. His father (both parents were devout Catholics) died when he was 10 years old, a loss that greatly affected the boy. Not only did he lose some of the stability of his home, but his homeland was undergoing turmoil as many changes were happening in Italy to begin to make it the modern state it is today.

Bartolo studied law at the University of Naples where many of his professors were ex-priests who “preached” hatred against the Church. Later he would write: “I, too, grew to hate monks, priests and the Pope and in particular [I detested] the Dominicans, the most formidable, furious opponents of those great modern professors, proclaimed by the university the sons of progress, the defenders of science, the champions of every sort of freedom.”

Rejecting his faith and the Church, he sought something to fill the void and began to visit mediums and was introduced to the occult. As those who have engaged in the occult  know, you cannot dabble and stay on the fringes. His thirst for more to fill the void led him into outright Satanism. He engaged in a period of intense study and rigorous fasting, to the point that he was no more than “skin and bones.” It was then that he was consecrated as a satanic priest and dedicated his soul to a demon. As a satanic priest he presided over “black masses” and preached boldly against God and Christ’s Church, calling them the true evils.

His family never stopped praying for Bartolo; they tried to talk him out of his error, but he would not listen. The family sought help from a professor from the university, Vincenzo Pepe, a devout Catholic. He met with Bartolo and after several encounters challenged him with these words:  “Do you want to die in an insane asylum and be damned forever?” Professor Pepe, through the power of the Holy Spirit, struck a chord in the darkened soul of Bartolo. He agreed to meet with a Dominican priest, Alberto Radente, who after three weeks of continual conversations welcomed Bartolo back to the Church and give him absolution. He also introduced him to the Rosary. Longo was 24 years old.

For two years he was in constant company with the Dominican priest and other dedicated Catholics. They provided him cover from the onslaughts of the evil one and offered him accountability in his long road to restoration from the demonic. At the end of this time he became a third-order Dominican. He began to serve the poor and downtrodden in the area of Pompeii.

Yet Bartolo was plagued with nagging doubts. He wrote: “One day in the fields around Pompeii, I recalled my former condition as a priest of Satan… I thought that perhaps as the priesthood of Christ is for eternity, so also the priesthood of Satan is for eternity. So, despite my repentance, I thought: I am still consecrated to Satan, and I am still his slave and property as he awaits me in Hell. As I pondered over my condition, I experienced a deep sense of despair and almost committed suicide. Then I heard an echo in my ear of the voice of Friar Alberto repeating the words of the Blessed Virgin Mary: ‘One who propagates my Rosary shall be saved.’ Falling to my knees, I exclaimed: ‘If your words are true that he who propagates your Rosary will be saved, I shall reach salvation because I shall not leave this earth without propagating your Rosary.’”

Bartolo spent the rest of his life propagating the Rosary and living out the Mysteries of the life of Christ contained therein. He helped to build the famous Basilica of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary in Pompeii, he “founded elementary schools and orphanages, inaugurated a print shop and technical school to give the children of convicted criminals the chance of a better life. He wrote books on the Rosary, composed novenas and prayer manuals. The former Satanist eventually became a friend of Pope Leo XIII, who had a great devotion to the Rosary. From Pompeii he also began the popular movement that led to the solemn dogmatic proclamation of the Assumption in 1950.” (Dominican Friars Foundation)

A little known fact is that Blessed Bartolo Longo was the source of inspiration for Pope St. John Paul II who introduced the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary that deal with Christ’s public ministry to the Catholic world in 2002. The pope beatified Bartolo in 1980.

Our saint’s life is a reminder that no one is too far gone. God’s love, mercy and grace reaches to the depths of our sin, cleanses us and puts us on the way to heaven.

Blessed Bartolo Longo pray for us!

He Who Sings, Prays Twice!

he_who_sings_well_prays_twice_postcard-r16e67d69b3544c448018f443941ea9e3_vgbaq_8byvr_307All my life I have enjoyed congregational singing, maybe a little too much. Why do I say that? Because I tend to sing gustily, hopefully not obnoxiously, and in the two parishes that I have been privileged to be part of since becoming Catholic, people have taken notice and told me that I should sing in the choir.

In New York, while part of the Church of the Good Shepherd, I used the delay tactic, and it worked as I was new and just getting my feet wet. I figured maybe later on I would consider it. Then, because of a job change we moved to south Jersey and found ourselves as part of the St. Peter parish. Once again I couldn’t help myself singing from the heart. I began to hear the same comments, “You should sing in the choir.”

One couple was lovingly persistent with the invitation, even our priest added his plea. Once the summer passed we had been at St. Peter’s one year. I really couldn’t use the “new guy” alibi. So last night I made my first appearance at choir practice. I was received warmly and thus began my second tour of duty as a choir member.

Much time has passed since I was a tenor singing next to Howard Goins at Westview Wesleyan Church in the mid 1970s. Now I’m singing tenor next to Adam Pasquale, and I’m even singing in Latin.

That makes me think of St. Augustine. He once said, “He who sings, prays twice!” Bishop Conley of the Diocese of Lincoln commented on this back in 2015: “The holy Bishop of Hippo meant that singing adds to our praise and worship of God—that our voices are gifts, with which we can make music to the Lord. Sung prayer expresses the joy of the heart, the happiness resulting from one who has encountered Jesus Christ and experienced his love.  Sung prayer reminds us of the choirs of heaven, with whom we are called to praise God eternally in heaven.”

Not every song sung at every Mass, in my humble opinion, achieves this. There are some songs I would rather never sing or hear again. Thankfully I don’t hear many of those in my parish. One thing I would love to see is that we don’t view the recessional hymn as our cue to make a quick exit from church. If indeed our singing is praying twice, then let’s sing and sing heartily or at least with conviction that Jesus is indeed Lord and King.

If we believe that we will more likely live it. And God knows our world really needs us to do that now!

St. Augustine pray for us as we sing!

Dressed for Success?

The year was 1970. The place was Mississinewa High School. The town was Gas City, Indiana, a sleepy former natural gas boom town, then better known as the home of Tote-a-Burger, whose slogan was “Where the Elite Meet to Eat!”

At the beginning of the school year, I was then a freshman, students walked out of classes and out of the school to protest the dress code. Those early radicals, I may have been one of them, I honestly don’t remember, wanted the right to wear what they wanted to wear to school and not what the “man”, in this case the school board, told them to wear. It was the times, the end of the long decade of the 1960s, but for me it was a harbinger of things to come.

My mother was a registered nurse. I remember as a child seeing her wear her white uniform, complete with white hose and white shoes, and the cap that she had worked so hard to earn. Little by little the expectations of how a nurse should present herself, and increasingly himself, changed and finally scrubs and sneakers became the fashion.

Men used to wear shirts and ties to the ballgame, and people dressed up in their Sunday best to travel by air. Now most people wear the most relaxing thing imaginable to fly and even some things that are unimaginable.

Speaking of Sundays, we used to dress up to go to church. I never went to church up through my high school years without a tie. You know how we go to church now; for some of us it looks like we’re going to a sporting event or a picnic in the park. Those changes even affected evangelical pastors. I was one of them and watched the dressing down of the person who was to declare the Word of God go from a suit and tie to flannel shirts and holey, not holy, jeans!

This didn’t just affect evangelicals. After Vatican II the dress code changed for a lot for Catholics, starting with the clergy and the religious. Cassocks were discarded and many priests only wore their “dog collars” at official functions, but not out in public. Religious sisters got out of the “habit” of wearing what their religious order had always worn. By the 1970s many nuns were only distinguishable, if even then, by the crucifix they wore.

Yet I wonder if the relaxing of standards of dressing to honor God was not something that was first accepted among Catholics and then bled over into other Christian communions. Whether we recognize it or not, the Catholic Church has served as the salt and light in our world for 2000 years. The great builder and sustainer of Western civilization has been the Catholic Church. So when standards were relaxed among Catholics, meaning the introduction of salt free and diffused light, the impact has been felt in general society. It’s been a little over 50 years since so much was changed and even thrown out from traditional Catholicism, under the guise of creating a church that could better relate to the culture. What was ignored was that the Catholicism that gave life and flavor to the culture and kept if from moral rot, now would become complicit in the hastening of the destruction of sanctity and sanity.

If you have any doubts about this, read today’s headlines!