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!

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!

Angel of God, My Guardian Dear

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As a child living in the jungle interior of Suriname, South America, I frequently would visit the home of my widowed aunt and her two children who lived on the same mission compound as my family. One of the things in her home that captured my attention was the painting of the guardian angel watching over two small children crossing a very unstable bridge over a river full of rapids. The children seem so unaware of the danger, perhaps because they are young and innocent, but maybe because of the protection of their guardian angel.

Beyond that painting I don’t remember being taught that I had a guardian angel, yet I can also say nobody taught me to the contrary. Jesus actually teaches about guardian angels in the Gospel of Matthew (18:1-10 NRSV).

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling block comes!

“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than to have two hands or two feet and to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into the hell of fire.

“Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven.

And if that wasn’t enough the writer to the Hebrews (1:14) tells us: “Are not all angels spirits in the divine service, sent to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” I can almost guarantee dear reader, that at some point in your life, you have a time in which you sensed protection from an invisible force, when you have looked back and maybe even declared, “God must have sent me an angel!”

God has assigned us this protection from our guardian angel. This angel continually sees the face of our Father in heaven. What a wonderful and sweet connection! This is better than any secret service detail afforded to the president and other high level officials. We don’t own the angel; we can’t tell the angel what to do; we don’t name the angel or try to control the angel.

Here is the prayer that Catholic children learn early in life:

Angel of God
My guardian dear
To Whom His love
Commits me here
Ever this day
Be at my side
To light and guard
To rule and guide. Amen.

On this feast day of the Holy Guardian Angels, we pray, “O God, who in your unfathomable providence are pleased to send your holy Angels to guard us, hear our supplication as we cry to you, that we may always be defended by their protection and rejoice eternally in their company. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Image from Appalachian Magazine

The Little Flower

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When I went to Costa Rica and then Peru as a missionary with my wife and family I had to learn a new language—Spanish. In the early days of language school I found myself so frustrated because I could not express myself. In a matter of weeks I had gone from being the pastor of a congregation who could say what I needed or wanted to say with a good deal of fluidity and flexibility. I could use synonyms and really didn’t have to worry about verb tenses. The only issue I had was when my Michigan congregation would laugh at my Hoosier vocabulary or accent. What did they know?

This became my experience another time in my life when after 33 years of pastoral/missionary ministry I entered into the field of health insurance. Overnight I had a whole new vocabulary and way of expressing my work thrust upon me. It was like learning a new language with a lot of technical terms you don’t use in general conversation outside of work. Yet I got to the place where I could do a credible job communicating.

Perhaps the most impactful change in my life as been the learning curve that has come my way in becoming Catholic at the tender age of 59. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but maybe I’m not such an old dog after all. I have truly enjoyed discovering the ancient and ever new faith that I find in the Catholic Church. There are some differences in vocabulary of course, “prayer requests” become “intentions”, a “call” becomes a “vocation”, etc. Bigger shifts have come in the Sacraments, going from two—baptism and communion—to seven in the Catholic Church, and coming to understand the Communion of the Saints.

Even before coming into the Church, learning about the saints and their role in the Church Triumphant was such a blessing and encouragement to me. How much I appreciated seeing the seamless tapestry that is Christ’s Church in the Church Triumphant, the Church Suffering and the Church Militant.

One of the saints that early on became significant to me was Thérèse of Lisieux, the French saint that lived from 1873 to 1897. Today she is not only canonized (1925 by Pope Pius XI), but was declared to be a Doctor of the Church in 1997 by Pope St. John Paul II. We know a great deal of her life and desire for holiness through her autobiography The Story of a Soul, a spiritual memoir. There we learn about the “Little Way of Love.”

I will seek out a means of getting to Heaven by a little way—very short and very straight, a little way that is wholly new. We live in an age of inventions; nowadays the rich need not trouble to climb the stairs, they have lifts (elevators) instead. Well, I mean to try and find a lift by which I may be raised unto God, for I am too tiny to climb the steep stairway of perfection. […] Thine Arms, then, O Jesus, are the lift which must raise me up even unto Heaven. To get there I need not grow; on the contrary, I must remain little, I must become still less.

One other quote of St. Thérèse that stood out to me as I was coming into the Church and praying for God’s will to be done in my life and in the life of my wife Charlotte was, “I will spend my Heaven doing good on earth. I will send a shower of roses.”

In February 2015, there was no doubt in my heart and mind that I was to follow God’s leading to enter the Catholic Church. At that point though Charlotte was not ready or willing. I assured her that I would not do anything until she was ready. I would wait (and pray). I decided to pray a novena (a nine-day prayer) asking for the intercession of St. Thérèse about next steps and that Charlotte would have clarity of heart, mind, and spirit. The novena ended in the final days of February. On March 1 Charlotte woke up in the middle of the night (winter in New York City) to an overwhelming smell of roses that lasted but a few seconds. As she tells it, she knew immediately that she was to respond to God’s call to come home to the Church of her childhood.

On this the feast day of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, I say “thank you” and ask her to pray for others who need to take the next step in obedience to Jesus Christ.

image from YouTube

Begin now what you will be hereafter

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Each day can be seen as a new beginning, a fresh start. With every sunrise we have the opportunity to commend the new day to God and amend our ways. St. Jerome, whose feast day is today once wrote, “Begin now what you will be hereafter.”

St. Jerome is an unlikely saint, you might say. We could even call him a “prickly” saint. Before his conversion, in spite of his Christian upbringing, he led life as he wished and was not concerned about what others thought concerning his actions and practices. As a young man he lived in Rome where he continued his wild ways. “To alleviate the feelings of guilt he often felt afterwards, Jerome would visit the crypts … and imagine himself in hell. He did so every Sunday, even though he was not a Christian. Jerome succeeded in frightening himself, but not in changing his ways.” (Catholic Online)

Eventually, at the age of 24 he converted and was baptized by Pope Liberius. Jerome spent much of his life writing and translating. He is best known as the translator of the entire Bible into Latin, what is called the Latin Vulgate Bible, still the official Latin translation of Sacred Scriptures. He also wrote commentaries, established a religious community, and spent a great deal of his life in Bethlehem where he died on September 30, 420.

But he was a “prickly” saint. He struggled in his relationships with other Christians. He even exchanged heated words with St. Augustine. Eventually they repaired their relationship and were able to correspond as friends and colleagues. St. Jerome should give us hope as we aspire to be saints.  I feel “prickly” even this morning as I read the critique of a coworker on email, or as I try to keep my mouth shut about things going on in our world, especially when opening it causes more harm. Confession: I scuttled the first blog I had written for today for that very reason.

“Begin now what you will be hereafter.” — St. Jerome

I am encouraged by Jerome and some of his pithy quotes can help us to begin fresh today:

  • Instead of speaking saintly words we must act them.
  • Be ever engaged, so that whenever the devil calls he may find you occupied.
  • If then you remain constant in faith in the face of trial, the Lord will give you peace and rest for a time in this world, and forever in the next.
  • We must love Christ and always seek Christ’s embraces. Then everything difficult will seem easy.
  • There are things in life that are bigger than ourselves. Life is short, live it well.
  • The Scriptures are shallow enough for a babe to come and drink without fear of drowning and deep enough for theologians to swim in without ever reaching the bottom.
  • Be at peace with your own soul, then heaven and earth will be at peace with you.

O God, who gave the Priest Saint Jerome a living and tender love for Sacred Scripture, grant that your people may be ever more fruitfully nourished by your Word and find in it the fount of life. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

An Angelic Gift for Charlotte

Today holds special significance for a project I worked on for 15 months from January 2017 until April 2018. The project was a gift for my dear wife Charlotte who, although it was a gift, was aware of it and watched its progress. The project was a cross-stitch design measuring 18 inches by 13 inches and featuring St. Michael the Archangel defeating Satan in battle. The significance is that today is the feast day of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. Check out my blog from September 11 for more information on the archangels.

I had never before attempted a project this detailed or involved. It consisted of 54,000 cross-stitches over nine pages of solid design and called for 30 different colors of floss, mostly blues and browns. In the early days there was a sense of excitement about what I was doing for my wife, but as the months passed, there were times that I wondered if I would ever finish. Maybe somewhat related or exacerbated by the effort I began to experience severe pain in my left wrist. I later was diagnosed with advanced degenerative joint disease. But God gave me the grace to push through and I learned to offer up the pain for people close to me as I prayed for them. I also tried to remember to pray the St. Michael prayer each time I picked up the project.

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan and all evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

As you can see below the cross-stitch project, finished on April 8, 2018, Divine Mercy Sunday, now hangs on the living room wall of our apartment. It is a daily reminder to us that the battle is not ours. God is fighting for us. And if God is for us, who can be against us?

St. Michael

St. Michael the Archangel


 

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!

Charity + Humility = Holiness

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Today’s saint is Vincent de Paul. Many of us are familiar with this French saint because of his many works of charity. Many Catholic parishes have a St. Vincent de Paul Society that seeks to provide food and shelter to those in need. St. Vincent de Paul lived from 1581 until 1660. He was canonized in 1737 by Pope Clement XII.

The St. Vincent de Paul Society was founded in 1833 by French university students and is present in 132 countries. This charitable organization is dedicated to the service of the poor. I have heard wonderful stories of loving service from the local society in our St. Peter’s Parish.

In an article found on the website aleteia.org, blogger Philip Kosloski writes: “Two hallmarks of Vincent’s spirituality are attention to the poor and a healthy dose of humility.” The two virtues together led him to a life of holiness and can serve as a blueprint for our lives as we follow him in holiness. In that spirit, here are some quotes from our saint that will encourage and challenge us to live holy lives in our own time.

  • The poor are your masters. You are the servant. 
  • Humility is nothing but truth, and pride is nothing but lying. 
  • Be careful to give no credit to yourself for anything; if you do, you are stealing from God, to whom alone every good thing is due. 
  • The most powerful weapon to conquer the devil is humility. For, as he does not know at all how to employ it, neither does he know how to defend himself from it. 
  • Go to the poor: you will find God. 
  • We should spend as much time in thanking God for his benefits as we do in asking him for them. 
  • Make it a practice to judge persons and things in the most favorable light at all times and under all circumstances. (A good reminder in the Kavanaugh hearing) 
  • Fear not; calm will follow the storm, and perhaps soon. (A good reminder in the Church scandals) 
  • Virtue is not found in extremes, but in prudence, which I recommend as strongly as I can. 
  • There is nothing good that does not meet with opposition, and it should not be valued any less because it encounters objections. (A good reminder as we seek to live as faithful Catholics!)

St. Vincent de Paul, pray for us!

Image from Vinformation

Thor’s Mighty Oak

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Recent events in the city of Chicago remind me of an earlier event in the history of Christianity. Winfrid, born in Wessex in Anglo-Saxon England in the year 672, is better known as St. Boniface. Boniface (which means “good fate”) is considered the apostle to Germany. In 721 Boniface went to Hesse in central Germany to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. After the conversion two chieftains Dettic and Deorulf, who were twin brothers, thousands of Germans converted to Christianity.

Upon hearing news of this successful mission to the Germans, Pope St. Gregory II called Boniface to come to Rome at which time he consecrated him as bishop of all of Germany, even without an episcopal seat. Boniface took an oath at that time that is very significant and powerful:

I, Boniface, by the grace of God, bishop, promise to thee, Blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and to thy Vicar, the Blessed Pope Gregory and his successors, by the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, undivided Trinity, and by thy most holy body, to proclaim the whole Catholic faith in all its purity; and by the help of God, to remain steadfast in the unity of that faith, in which, without doubt, is the Christian’s hope of salvation. Never, at the bidding of anyone, will I do anything against the unity of the One Universal Church; but, as I have said, I will in all things be faithful and helpful to thee and to the interests of thy Church (to which God has given the power of binding and loosing), and thy said Vicar and his successors…. This oath I, Boniface, a lowly bishop, have written out with my own hand; and, according to what is prescribed, have placed it on the most holy body of Blessed Peter, and, in the sight of God, have sworn to keep it. (from Warren H. Carroll, The Building of Christendom).

With his new ecclesiastical authorization, Boniface returned to Hesse the following year. There he found that many had gone back to their pagan ways. He confirmed those who had stood fast in the faith and directly challenged “entrenched paganism by personally chopping down the ‘Thunder Oak’ of Giesmar, a huge old tree dedicated to Thor.”* He did not act alone but in consultation with the Hessian Christians who knew culturally and religiously that this would be “the most effective way of dramatizing for these largely barbarian people the powerlessness of their old gods and the victory of Christ in their land.”**

Commenting on this episode, church historian James Hitchcock writes: “The Germans expected Boniface to be struck dead, and when he was not, they concluded that the power of his God was greater than that of their own and used the wood of the tree to build a church.”*** As a result the true religion was firmly established in Germany and many others from Boniface’s native England came to help with catechesis as the task of converting pagan Germany was vast.

Now back to Chicago. Until Saturday Fr. Paul Kalchik was the pastor of Resurrection Church in Avondale, a community area of Chicago. Fr. Kalchik has been pastor there eleven years. A survivor of homosexual rape twice, once by a homosexual priest, he has been faithful in his call to “love the sinner, but hate the sin” and at the same time be faithful to the teachings of Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium.

Recently he found the rainbow banner with a cross superimposed that earlier had been a fixture in the church, hanging in the sanctuary, from when it was dedicated by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, as the “gay parish” of Chicago. In the example of St. Boniface, Fr. Kalchik announced he would burn it. However, he evidently heeded his bishop’s warning not to, but a small number of the parishioners took the banner and burned it last week. On Saturday, under the direction of Cardinal Cupich the priest was removed from his parish.

I admit not knowing all the inner details and particulars of this case, but where there’s smoke there’s fire. Blessed Pope Paul VI said in 1972, after Vatican II, “… We would say that, through some mysterious crack—no, it’s not mysterious; through some crack, the smoke of Satan has entered the Church of God. There is doubt, uncertainty, problems, unrest, dissatisfaction, confrontation.” The enemy still seeks to obfuscate his machinations with smoke and mirrors!

St. Boniface, pray for us!

*Carroll, The Building of Christendom, p. 276.
**Ibid.
***Hitchcock, History of the Catholic Church, p. 112.

In Silence No More!

One of my spiritual disciplines for 2018 is reading from “A Year with the Church Fathers: Patristic Wisdom for Daily Living” by Mike Aquilina. I find the excerpts challenging and edifying. Such was the case as I read from Day 264, an article that Aquilina titled, “We are all equal in God’s sight.” I was challenged to consider what should be expected of our political leaders and us who profess faith in Christ, and especially those who are  Catholic.

In the introduction Aquilina writes: “When riots broke out in Thessalonica, the emperor Theodosius (347–395) furiously ordered that the city should be punished. Thousands died when soldiers were let loose on their own fellow citizens. When Theodosius came home, the bishop, St. Ambrose, refused to let him into church until he had gone through months of public penance.”

Theodoret, a church historian, wrote about this in Ecclesiastical History, 5.17:

When the emperor arrived in Milan, he as usual went to enter the church. But Ambrose met him outside the outer porch and refused to let him cross the threshold.

“Sir, you don’t seem to understand what a bloody crime you have committed,” said Ambrose. “Your rage has settled down, but you still don’t understand what you’ve done.

“You rule, sir, over people whose nature is the same as yours. In fact, they are your fellow servants—for there is one Lord and Ruler of all humanity, the Creator of the universe.

“How will you look on the temple of our common Lord? How will you walk across that holy threshold? How will you hold up your hands, still dripping with the blood of unjust slaughter? How can those hands receive the all-holy body of the Lord? How will you lift the precious blood to your lips, when you in your fury poured out so much blood?

“Go. Do not try to add another crime to the one you have already committed. Submit to the restriction to which you are sentenced with the agreement of God, the Lord of all. He will be your physician. He will give you health.”

Theodosius was well learned in Scripture; he knew what belonged to priests and what belonged to emperors. So he bowed to Ambrose’s rebuke and went back to his palace, sighing and weeping.

Theodosius was excommunicated by the bishop of Milan, Ambrose, for the massacre. He was told to imitate the famous royal penitent David in his repentance as he had imitated him in guilt; Ambrose readmitted the emperor to the Eucharist only after several months of penance.

What would it look like if those in governmental leadership today were held to the same standard? The position taken by many Catholic prelates such as in the case of abortion and euthanasia is toothless and actually puts them and their sheep: Catholic political figures and Catholic voters in mortal sin and in danger of losing their souls. Tough language, but true!

Go back to 2004, when then Cardinal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, conveyed in a letter to then Cardinal McCarrick (Washington) and Cardinal Gregory (Atlanta) that denial of Communion is obligatory “regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia.” And further that a priest should warn “the person in question” of the consequences, including the denial of Communion. Ratzinger further said that if “the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it,” And then the final paragraph of the letter addresses those who knowingly vote for a pro-choice candidate: “If he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia,” that Catholic too “would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion.” (Quotes from The Washington Times, July 7, 2004).

Unfortunately ex-Cardinal McCarrick took it upon himself to misrepresent the direct order from Rome and told the USCCB that the decision was up to them. What happened next is “their bad” for voting 183-6 on a compromise statement allowing each bishop to decide whether to give Communion to pro-choice politicians or not. Fourteen years later we have to wonder what would have happened if the truth had been told, and even if not, if our bishops would have had the spirit of St. Ambrose.

We have an election on Tuesday, November 6, 2018. It behooves us to find out where the candidates for every office stand on the issues as they relate to our faith. I live in New Jersey where in the U.S. Senate race, incumbent Bob Menendez (D) is running against Bob Hugin (R). They are both pro-choice. I will not be voting for either one, and I have let them know that. I do appeal to Joseph Cardinal Tobin of Newark to take seriously his role of shepherd of Mr. Menendez, who is Catholic, regarding the grave position he places his soul to support abortion. I live in congressional district 1 where incumbent Daniel Norcross (D) is running against Paul Dilks (R). Mr. Norcross is pro-abortion and I have already informed him that I will be voting for his opponent, Mr. Dilks, who is pro-life.

I appeal to all Christians, but especially to my Catholic brothers and sisters to do the right thing. This is not something we dare take lightly.

St. Ambrose, pray for us!