Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Francis condemns "lazy" Catholics who aren't interested in his idea of change: Jettisoning the perennial teaching of the Church

Francis just said: “Lazy Christians, Christians who do not have the will to go forward, Christians who don’t fight to make things change, new things, the things that would do good for everyone, if these things would change. They are lazy, “parked” Christians: they have found in the Church a good place to park. And when I say Christians, I’m talking about laity, priests, bishops… Everyone. But there are parked Christians! For them the Church is a parking place that protects life, and they go forward with all the insurance possible. But these stationary Christians, [read faithful to Tradition] they make me think of something the grandparents told us as children: beware of still water, that which doesn’t flow, it is the first to go bad.”

Now, Catholicism is a religion of Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium, the fullness of the Faith, handed down to us from the time of the Apostles. It never was, is, or will be a religion of “evolution” or “change” related to dogmatic truths and morals. Yet, Francis continues to maintain an inordinate fascination with “change,” which amounts to a “divinization” of change.."

Precisely.  What exactly does Francis mean by change?  His is not the change which is so necessary and so beautifully articulated by the Saint for whom I was named. Writing to the Ephesians, St. Paul said, "Put off the old man who is corrupted according to the desire of error, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind: and put on the new man, who according to God is created in justice and holiness of truth" (Eph. 4:22-24).

And as Dr. Von Hildebrand explains, "These words of St. Paul are inscribed above the gate through which all must pass who want to reach the goal set us by God. They implicitly contain the quintessence of the process which baptized man must undergo before he attains the unfolding of the new supernatural life received in Baptism." (Transformation in Christ, p.3).

Dr. Von Hildebrand goes on to explain in this work of critical importance that there is a certain type of man, "who, while not lacking a certain elan, refuses to take account of his limitations and is thus driven to magnify his stature artificially." He continues: "Suppose he is present at some discussion of spiritually relevant topics: he will take part in the debate as though he were fully equipped to do so; he will claim impressions as deep as the others; he will not yield to any other man as regards intellectual proficiency or even religious stature. Thus he works himself up, as it were, to a level which he has not reached in reality - and which he may not even be able to reach, so far as it is a matter of natural capacities. He is not without zeal; but that zeal is nourished at heart by pride. He misjudges the limitations of the natural talents which God has lent him, and consequently lapses into pretense. He is fond of speaking of things which far transcend the limits of his understanding; he behaves as though a mere mental or verbal reference to such subjects (however poorly implemented with actual knowledge and penetration) would by itself amount to their intellectual possession. This cramped attitude of sham spirituality is mostly underlain by an inferiority complex, or by a kind of infantile unconsciousness. Stupidity in its really oppressive form is traceable to this pretension to appear something different from what one is in fact, and by no means to a mere deficiency of intellectual gifts." (Transformation in Christ, pp.23-24).

Why am I relating all of this? Because, Dr. Von Hildebrand teaches us that such false self-appraisals actually hinder our readiness to change or to "put on the new man" as St. Paul instructs us to do. And what Dr. Von Hildebrand refers to as a "cramped attitude of sham spirituality" is part and parcel of this papacy.  We are witnessing a pontiff who forgets that we stand on the shoulders of giants.  A man who believes it is the Church which must change and that this is so because he is "wiser" than all previous Popes, Saints, Doctors and Fathers of the Church.

It was Pius XII, in his encyclical letter Mystici Corporis, who taught that:"..The Church, which should be considered a perfect society in its own right, is not made up of merely moral and juridical elements and principles. It is far superior to all other human societies; it surpasses them as grace surpasses nature, as things immortal are above all those that perish...The juridical principles, on which also the Church rests and is established, derive from the divine constitution given it by Christ.."

Authentic Catholics accept the teaching of Vatican I that, "...the pastors and the faithful of whatever rite and dignity, both as separate individuals and all together, are bound by the duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, not only in things which pertain to faith and morals, but also in those which pertain to the discipline and government of the Church which is spread over the whole world, so that the Church of Christ, protected not only by the Roman Pontiff, but by the unity of communion as well as of the profession of the same faith is one flock under the one highest shepherd. This is the doctrine of Catholic truth from which no one can deviate and keep his faith and salvation." (Dogmatic Constitution I on the Church of Christ, Session IV).

Sadly these authentic Catholics are not being fed by an authentic Shepherd in Rome. Instead, they are being assaulted by a man who wants to see the Catholic religion neutralized in preparation for the rise of the Man of Sin.

 It was Pope Pius XII, in his encyclical letter Mystici Corporis, who taught that:"..The Church, which should be considered a perfect society in its own right, is not made up of merely moral and juridical elements and principles. It is far superior to all other human societies; it surpasses them as grace surpasses nature, as things immortal are above all those that perish...The juridical principles, on which also the Church rests and is established, derive from the divine constitution given it by Christ.."

And so I challenge Francis to acknowledge that it is he who has become lazy, comfortable in his own distorted notion that this perfect society, which derives its constitution from the Lord Jesus, must change.

No Francis.  Jesus doesn't err.  It is not the Church which must conform to the world.  It's the other way around.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Catholic Church has always baptized infants...

The bulletin for Saint Mary's Church in Orange, Massachusetts acknowledges that, "The Bible does not limit baptism to adults.  Several passages point to infant baptism.."  But the same bulletin asserts that, "In the early Church, only adults were baptized."

This is actually not true.

The Catholic Church has always baptized infants because Christ wills it. We know this because He said, "Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come to me." (Matt 19:14).

According to the Apostle Paul, one cannot truly come to Christ except through Baptism. (Rom. 6:3-4).

We read in Sacred Scripture that the Apostles baptized "all the people" (Luke 3:21) and whole households (Acts 16:15, 1 Cor. 1:16). We can deduce that "all the people" and whole "households" included infants.

Christ said that Baptism is a necessary prerequisite for salvation (John 3:5), and He certainly desires the salvation of infants.

The primitive Christian Church, which had fresh firsthand knowledge of Jesus' Will, baptized infants. The ancient catacombs of Rome include inscriptions on the tombs of infants which make mention of their having been baptized. One such inscription reads: "here rest Archillia, a newly-baptized; she was one year and five months old; died February 23rd."

Prayer intentions?  Send them to:

paulanthonymelanson@gmail.com

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Bishops of Malta depart from the Faith...

As this EWTN article makes clear:

"In "Concerning the Reception of Holy Communion by Divorced-and-Remarried Members of the Faithful" the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in a letter to the world's bishops on October 14, 1994 said,

7. The mistaken conviction of a divorced-and-remarried person that he may receive holy communion normally presupposes that personal conscience is considered in the final analysis to be able, on the basis of one's own convictions, to come to a decision about the existence or absence of a previous marriage and the value of the new union. However, such a position is inadmissible. Marriage, in fact, both because it is the image of the spousal relationship between Christ and his church as well as the fundamental core and an important factor in the life of civil society, is  essentially a public reality. [/library/curia/cdfdivor.txt]

By this document the Holy See affirmed the continuous theology and discipline of the Catholic Church that those who are divorced and remarried without a Decree of Nullity for the first marriage (whether that marriage was made within or outside the Catholic Church) are in an objectively adulterous union that prevents them from honestly repenting, receiving absolution for their their sins, and receiving Holy Communion. Until the marital irregularity is resolved by a Marriage Tribunal, or other procedures which apply to marriages of the non-baptized, they may not approach Penance or Holy Communion. As Pope John Paul II pointed out in Reconciliation and Penance, the Church desires such couples to participate in the Church's life to the extent possible (and this participation in Mass, Eucharistic adoration, devotions and so on is a great spiritual help to them), as they work toward full sacramental participation."

The Bishops of Malta, inspired no doubt by Francis, have rejected this perennial teaching of Holy Mother Church founded on the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ.

They have just declared that:


"With 'an informed and enlightened conscience,' a separated or divorced person living in a new relationship who is able 'to acknowledge and believe that he or she is at peace with God,' the bishops said, 'cannot be precluded from participating in the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist.'"

For the Bishops of Malta, the teaching of Christ Jesus is something irrelevant.  Relegated to the garbage basket as well is the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church that the Eucharist is properly the Sacrament of those who are in full communion with the Catholic Church (CCC, 1395).

But when you've made yourself your own God, the Commandments of the Lord Jesus are easily disposed of.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Francis: The attack on Our Lady's modesty...

As this Catholic website notes:


"For over twenty-five years the late Father Bernard Kunkel, who died in 1969 and who was the pastor of St. Cecilia's in Bartelso, Illinois, waged an almost impossible fight for purity and modesty [scroll down]. Even then the customary clothing was indecent. Here are some some of the things he wrote in  1969 issues of Divine Love magazine and in an issue of the 1957 Marylike Crusader:

"One of the strange phenomena of history is the fact that the Devil has succeeded so well in keeping concealed the existence of the corrupting Body of Satan, with its long-range program for the destruction of the Church. Catholics just do not seem to be aware that, as soon as Christ instituted His Church---His Mystical Body---the Devil likewise organized his anti-church, his corrupting body. St. Augustine, St. John, St. Paul and other Saints have referred to it, as well as Pope Leo XIII and other Church leaders. The corrupting body of Satan still exists in our time and is very well organized in its efforts to use the modem fashions, filthy literature, indecent movies, pagan TV shows, drugs, drink, etc. to break down morality among Catholics in order eventually to destroy the Church and Christianity. Its most effective weapon was to be corruption from within.

"Since the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, Satan has been able to use the weapon of impurity very effectively In the 16th century he used as his tools the founders of the two Parent-Protestant religions in Germany and England, Martin Luther and King Henry VIII. The first founder entered a sacrilegious marriage, the second an adulterous one. Our Mother Most Chaste being dethroned from their hearts, there was no other logical course for them, than to exile Her from their man-made churches and from the hearts of their millions of followers. But the devil could not hope to corrupt completely Christ's Mystical Body, the Catholic Church, unless he could first succeed in dethroning Mary, the Mother Most Chaste, from the hearts of Catholics. 

"Our Blessed Mother, in all Her apparitions, is fully covered. At Fatima in 1917 she appeared in a world that was beginning to cut sleeves and necklines and to curtail skirts. Shouldn't she, the model for girls also in the 20th century, show some signs of following the modern trend? True, as Heavenly Queen, she is attired in queenly robes. Even so, she could do a little cutting on the sleeves, neckline and skirt. Why so determined to cling to the traditional standards? Why doesn't she give the modern girl a break, and give some sign that she approves a little cutting here and there? 

"The answer is, because she does not approve of the modern trend of uncovering those parts of the body as the chest, upper arms, shoulders, and the thighs. She disapproves. In fact, she came down from Heaven to earth to warn against this disrobing trend. Listen to what she revealed to little ten year old Jacinta of Fatima, while Jacinta lay dying in a hospital in Lisbon, Portugal in 1920: 'Certain fashions will be introduced which will offend Our Divine Lord very much. Those who serve God ought not to follow these fashions. The Church has no fashions. Our Lord is always the same.' And she also revealed to Jacinta that 'the sins that lead most souls to hell are the sins of the flesh.'

"The devil seeks, therefore, to destroy that veneration which the faithful have always paid to Mary's chaste and virginal Body through which Christ entered this world. For centuries he has sought to find a way to remove Mary as their perfect model of chastity and modesty. Only then could he hope to bring about that mass corruption which might lead Catholics to his 'world religion'---the impure worship of the body and unrestrained sex gratification. 

"This is apparently what Satan attempted through his agents, the powers of corruption, during the French Revolution. For, on Dec. 10, 1793 an angry mob rushed into the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, seized the statue of the Blessed Virgin on the altar, and dashed it to the floor. Hatred against the Mother of God? Quite evidently. But their hatred was directed chiefly against the Virgin with modest attire, the model of purity and modesty. This is clear from their subsequent action of enthroning on the altar in Mary's place a nude woman, the Goddess of Reason.' To this day Paris remains the capital of the semi-nude fashion world.

"But why should women be the first victim of the Devil's plot? Because women have a much more delicate sense of modesty, and that is exactly why the devil strives first to destroy this feminine sense of modesty which makes womanhood the guardian of chastity in the world.
"Even with the success of the French Revolution, the demon of lust was too cunning to reveal immediately his full program of moral destruction to be carried out by his human agents. To escape detection, he must develop it gradually. Had the entire program been unfolded at once, Christian women would have risen up in open rebellion. Yet, long before feminine gowns became modem'. a portion of this secret, graduated, program was disclosed by a French paper, 'The French Woman' as follows: 'Our children must realize the ideal of nakedness... Thus the mentality of the child is rapidly transformed. To escape opposition, progress must be methodically graduated; first, feet and legs naked; then, upturned sleeves; afterwards the upper and lower limbs; the upper part of the chest; the back; ...in summer the children will go around almost naked.'

"In other words, applying this to our day, keep the children in sun suits, or next to nothing, as long as possible, that becoming accustomed to this, they will see nothing wrong with exposing the body later on. Make the blouses sheerer year after year; the sweaters and jeans tighter; the shorts, shorter; the daytime dresses, sleeveless; the formals, strapless or with thin straps at best; the bathing suits more daring; all with the idea that the fashions should reveal as much as possible, rather than conceal. Who but the Devil could devise such a clever scheme, knowing the inevitable result that would follow because of fallen human nature caused by original sin?

"This plan was published many years ago, but we see from the current fashions how modern women have fallen for it, including many Catholics. Since it was done so gradually, without their being aware of any organized program, is it any wonder our young girls ask, 'What's wrong with the modem fashions?' Having been reared in them, many from the time they were children, they see nothing wrong with them, nor the dangers to themselves or to others."

Where does Francis fall on this question?  He just said:

“Since the ceremony (The Holy Mass) is a little long, someone’s crying because he’s hungry,” the pope said in Italian, referencing the noise of a crying baby. “That’s the way it is. You mothers, go ahead and breastfeed, without fear. Just like the Virgin Mary nursed Jesus.”

What is this if not a direct attack on Our Lady and her modesty?

Let's recall what Pope Pius XI said in his encyclical "On The Christian Education of Youth":


" These principles [i.e. of the basic difference between the sexes], with due regard to time and place, must in accordance with Christian prudence, be applied to all schools, particularly in the most delicate and decisive period of formation, that namely, of adolescence; and in gymnastic exercises and deportment, special care must be had of Christian modesty in young women and girls, which is so gravely impaired by any kind of exhibition in public."

Friday, January 06, 2017

To see others...

"The man whose heart was hardened by wealth went to Rabbi Eisig. The Rabbi said to him: ''Look out of the window, and tell me what you see in the street.' 'I see people walking up and down .' Then he gave him a looking glass: 'Look in this and tell me what you see.' The man replied: 'I see myself.' 'So you do not see others anymore? Consider that the window and the mirror are both made of glass; but, since the mirror has a coating of silver, you only see yourself in it, while you can see others through the transparent glass of the window. I am very sorry to have to compare you to these two kinds of glass. When you were poor, you saw others and had compassion on them; but being covered with wealth, you see only yourself. It would be much the best thing for you to scrape off the silver coating so that you can again see other people.'"


- Jean de Menasce


Visited mom at therapy today as I do every day.  Mom's roommate is an elderly lady named Martha.  Martha's husband, also a veteran, died many years ago and is buried in Baldwinville. As mom and I talk, I always include Martha in the conversation.  Perhaps because I can appreciate the pain of feeling excluded or left out.  The three of us kid and joke and it's obvious that this brings her joy - her face lights up and radiates happiness.  I offer to get Martha a cup of coffee or cocoa when I get mom one.

These are little things.  But the difference we can make in a person's life is something we will never fully appreciate in this one,  only in eternity.

"By this will men know that you are My disciples.  That you have love for one another."

Meditation here.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Father Nicola Corradi and spiritual schizophrenia...

From Sputnik News:

"Pope Francis and the Roman Catholic clergy failed to take action to sanction Rev. Nicola Corradi, the 82-year old priest arrested in late November on charges of sexually abusing deaf children, despite knowing of Carradi’s alleged exploits, according to an Argentine prosecutor.

At least 24 students of the Antonio Provolo Institute for the hearing impaired, in the Mendoza province of Argentina, sent the Pope a letter in 2014 naming Corradi as a rapist, but the Pope only acknowledged the letter this year, the Belfast Telegraph reported. Prosecutors in the case expect more victims to come forward and have argued that the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was told about the allegations.

Carradi had been reassigned from his post in Italy to Pope Francis’ native country of Argentina, where students say they were subjected to sexual abuse. "They always said it was a game: 'Let’s go play, let’s go play' and they would take us to the girls’ bathroom," one student told AP.

Four employees working at the institute, including 55 year-old priest Horacio Corbacho, were taken into custody along with Carradi. Police discovered $34,000 in Carradi’s apartment at the time of arrest.

The victims’ families claim that Vatican leaders knew about Carradi’s abuses as early as 2009. At the time, Carradi was publicly accused of assaulting students at the Provolo Institute in Italy.

On multiple occasions Pope Francis spoke of the Roman Catholic Church’s "zero tolerance" policy, but critics point out the Pope’s failure to sanction Carradi and his henchmen is abysmally inconsistent with the policy."

Inconsistent to say the least.  Francis has said that Bishops who fail to act in such cases should be removed.

And this past October, he preached that, "Hypocrisy is an internal division. We say one thing and we do another. It’s a kind of spiritual schizophrenia. In addition, hypocrisy is a dissembler: they seem good and polite but they have a dagger behind their backs, right? Look at Herod: terrified inside but how politely he received the Magi! And then when he was bidding them farewell, he told them: ‘Go on your way and then come back and tell me where this child can be found so that I can go and worship him!’  To kill him!  He’s a two-faced hypocrite, a pretender.  Jesus when speaking to the doctors of the law, said: these say this and don’t do it:’ this is another type of hypocrisy. It is an existential nominalism: those who believe that by saying the things that everything is done. No. Things must be done not just said. And a hypocrite is a nominalist who believes that by saying it, everything is done. In addition, the hypocrite is unable to accuse him or herself: they never find a stain on themselves, they accuse others.Think about the splinter and the log right? And it’s in this way that we can describe that leaven which is hypocrisy.”

Things must be done, not just said.

Indeed.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Father Zuhlsdorf: I doubt Francis will respond to the five dubia; in other words, he is like a limb beginning to rot

In a Blog post which may be found here, Father John Zuhlsdorf of WDTPRS asserts that Francis probably will not respond to the five dubia over Amoris Laetitia.

In her own day, St. Catherine of Sienna found much corruption within the Holy Church. Homosexuality and many other deeply rooted problems were found among the clergy and Our Lord spoke to this Doctor of the Church about these problems (pride, loss of sacred identity, loss of faith, worldliness, and sensuality). These conversations were laid out in St. Catherine's book entitled "Dialogue," and most especially in that portion of the book labelled "The Mystical Body of Holy Church."

While St. Catherine cautions her readers not to engage in blanket condemnations aimed at the clergy in general (using scandals as an excuse to denigrate priests in general), and refers to such people as "irreverent persecutors" of the clergy, still, she was told by Our Lord that those who will not receive correction and those who will not give it are like the limbs of a body beginning to rot.

In our sacharrin society, medicinal rebuke is often mistaken for a "lack of charity" when in actuality such constructive criticism aids in healing. In his excellent work entitled "Liberalism is a sin," Fr. Felix Sarda Y Salvany writes:

"If the propagation of good and the necessity of combating evil require the employment of terms somewhat harsh against error and its supporters, this usage is certainly not against charity. This is a corollary or consequence of the principle we have just demonstrated. We must render evil odious and detestable. We cannot attain this result without pointing out the dangers of evil, without showing how and why it is odious, detestable and contemptible. Christian oratory of all ages has ever employed the most vigorous and emphatic rhetoric in the arsenal of human speech against impiety. In the writings of the great athletes of Christianity the usage of irony, imprecation, execration and of the most crushing epithets is continual. Hence the only law is the opportunity and the truth.

But there is another justification for such an usage. Popular propagation and apologetics cannot preserve elegant and constrained academic forms. In order to convince the people we must speak to their heart and their imagination which can only be touched by ardent, brilliant, and impassioned language. To be impassioned is not to be reprehensible----when our heat is the holy ardor of truth.

The supposed violence of modern Ultramontane journalism not only falls short of Liberal journalism, but is amply justified by every page of the works of our great Catholic polemicists of other epochs. This is easily verified. St. John the Baptist calls the Pharisees "race of vipers," Jesus Christ, our Divine Savior, hurls at them the epithets "hypocrites, whitened sepulchers, a perverse and adulterous generation" without thinking for this reason that He sullies the sanctity of His benevolent speech. St. Paul criticizes the schismatic Cretins as "always liars, evil beasts, slothful bellies." The same apostle calls Elymas the magician a "seducer, full of guile and deceit, child of the Devil, enemy of all justice."

If we open the Fathers we find the same vigorous castigation of heresy and heretics. St. Jerome arguing against Vigilantius casts in his face his former occupation of saloonkeeper: "From your infancy," he says to him, "you have learned other things than theology and betaken yourself to other pursuits. To verify at the same time the value of your money accounts and the value of Scriptural texts, to sample wines and grasp the meaning of the prophets and apostles are certainly not occupations which the same man can accomplish with credit." On another occasion attacking the same Vigilantius, who denied the excellence of virginity and of fasting, St. Jerome, with his usual sprightliness, asks him if he spoke thus "in order not to diminish the receipts of his saloon?" Heavens! What an outcry would be raised if one of our Ultramontane controversialists were to write against a Liberal critic or heretic of our own day in this fashion!

What shall we say of St. John Chrysostom? His famous invective against Eutropius is not comparable, in its personal and aggressive character, to the cruel invectives of Cicero against Catiline and against Verres! The gentle St. Bernard did not honey his words when he attacked the enemies of the faith. Addressing Arnold of Brescia, the great Liberal agitator of his times, he calls him in all his letters "seducer, vase of injuries, scorpion, cruel wolf."

The pacific St. Thomas of Acquinas forgets the calm of his cold syllogisms when he hurls his violent apostrophe against William of St. Amour and his disciples: "Enemies of God," he cries out, "ministers of the Devil, members of antiChrist, ignorami, perverts, reprobates!" Never did the illustrious Louis Veuillot speak so boldly. The seraphic St. Bonaventure, so full of sweetness, overwhelms his adversary Gerard with such epithets as "impudent, calumniator, spirit of malice, impious, shameless, ignorant, impostor, malefactor, perfidious, ingrate!" Did St. Francis de Sales, so delicately exquisite and tender, ever purr softly over the heretics of his age and country? He pardoned their injuries, heaped benefits on them even to the point of saving the lives of those who sought to take his, but with the enemies of the faith he preserved neither moderation nor consideration. Asked by a Catholic, who desired to know if it were permissible to speak evil of a heretic who propagated false doctrines, he replied: "Yes, you can, on the condition that you adhere to the exact truth, to what you know of his bad conduct, presenting that which is doubtful as doubtful according to the degree of doubt which you may have in this regard." In his Introduction to a Devout Life, that precious and popular work, he expresses himself again: "If the declared enemies of God and of the Church ought to be blamed and censured with all possible vigor, charity obliges us to cry 'wolf' when the wolf slips into the midst of the flock, and in every way and place we may meet him."

Fraternal correction is key to our spiritual growth.   In the words of
Monsignor Charles Pope, in a meditation last year:

The gospel from Sunday (John 15:1-8) presents us with an important meditation on the difference between love and kindness. Perhaps some further reflections from this gospel are in order today.
There is an unfortunate tendency in our times to reduce love to kindness. Kindness is an aspect of love, but so is rebuke. It is an immature notion of love that reduces it merely to affirming, or that refers to proper correction as a form of “hate.”

We saw in yesterday’s gospel that proper care involves the Lord “pruning” us so that we bear more fruit. But in soft times like these, many would not consider pruning, which is painful, to be proper care. Any reasonable, mature, balanced assessment yields the truth that pruning is necessary and is part of proper care.
Though I am less familiar with grape vines, I know my roses. And while I feed and water them, treat their common diseases, and pull the weeds that seek to choke them, I also prune them—sometimes quite severely. At this time of year, my fall pruning vindicates itself as proper care—the first rosebuds and the luxuriant foliage are in glorious evidence! Through the year I will continue all my care, including pruning, cutting away diseased branches, and shaping the plants. Who of you will question me for what I do to my beautiful roses?

It is no less the case with us that the Lord must prune us. And who would question the Lord for this necessary work? Yet many in our times do question Him and His Body, the Church, for doing just this.

First of all, He does this by proclaiming His Word: You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you (Jn 15:3). In this proclamation is a kind of pruning of the intellect; our worldly thinking and priorities are pruned away by the truth of God’s wisdom and His Word, which is like a scalpel or pruning hook.

Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account (Heb 4:12-13).
The Word of God prunes away our error by shining the light of truth on our foolishness and worldliness; it exposes our sinfulness and silly preoccupations. It lays bare our inordinate self-esteem and all the sinful drives that flow from it: pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth. A steady diet of God’s Word prunes and purifies our mind, reordering it gradually.

Yet for many of us, the Word of God alone (while sufficient in itself) is not enough due to our stubbornness and tendency to rationalize our bad behavior and “stinking thinking.” Too easily we call good or “no big deal” what God calls sin and surround ourselves with teachers and “experts” who tell us what our itching ears want to hear (cf 2 Tim 4:3).

And thus further pruning is needed. Such further pruning can be accomplished in two ways: active and passive purification. Active purifications are things that we undertake ourselves such as fasting or other mortifications. These help to prune away what stunts healthy growth and the fruits of righteousness.
But honestly, none of us will ever really do enough active purification to accomplish what is really needed—not even close. Consider an analogy I have used before: could you perform an appendectomy on yourself? Of course not! First, you could not really see enough to be able do it properly. Second, you would never be able to inflict that much pain on yourself. Such things must be accomplished for us by others.

Therefore, since active purifications are not enough to prune us properly, we must also accept passive purifications. Passive purifications are those things that God does or allows in order to prune us. And frankly some of them are quite painful: serious losses or setbacks, struggles with our health, difficulties in marriage or other vocations, the death of loved ones, the end of relationships, humiliating occurrences, accidents, and so forth. Other passive purifications are less painful, involving minor irritations, disappointments, or discomforts.
And when these occur we cry out in pain. Pruning hurts. But it may well be just what we need. The honest truth is that we human beings are so gifted, talented, and capable that if we didn’t have a few things to keep us humble, we’d be so proud we’d just go to Hell.
So God prunes. And whether we like to admit it or not, it is a form of care. We need these passive purifications; we need the pruning that keeps us bearing the fruit of holiness and righteousness.
In soft times like these, when the application of limits or the use of the word “no” is deemed “unloving” or “hateful,” we who would be Christians and light to the world must become clearer ourselves about the need for pruning. Even in the Church there is a hesitancy to speak of this need or of anything considered “negative” or “challenging.” To all this we can only reply that it is necessary at times for the surgeon to wield the scalpel, the vinedresser to apply the pruning sheers, the Lord to use passive purifications. It is hard and painful at times, but there is no other way given our stubborn and sin-prone souls.
There is also a communal dimension to this that was mentioned in yesterday’s gospel: He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit (Jn 15:2). This is not the pruning of a single branch; it is the cutting away of any branches that do not bear fruit and thus sap energy from the others.

In these highly individualistic times it is harder for people to grasp the common good and why it is sometimes necessary for the Lord to wholly remove from His Body (the Church) those who refuse to bear fruit. But the common good really is the answer.

And now back to my roses: one of my rose bushes tends to go wild. In the last two years it has become gnarly, losing its shape. Its roses have lost their wedged-tulip shape and are becoming small and rounded. I have taken to pruning it severely in the hopes of saving it. So far this has yielded limited success. This year, if it does not respond and return from the wild side, I will have to remove it. This is not only due to my preferences; I am concerned that the other bushes will cross-pollinate with it and also lose their dignity and form. One wild rose bush tends to exert its influence on others. Who of you will question me for what I do to protect my roses?

And who of us should protest against God for what He does to keep His vine strong and Heaven pure?
Pruning is needed both to help us bear fruit and to save us. It falls to us, like a faithful remnant, to recover this notion and teach it without apology or embarrassment. God knows what He is doing. He knows what makes for good disciples and perfect souls. It is hard, though, and it’s OK to ask God to be gentle with us. But in the end, may God never do anything less than is necessary to prepare heavenly glories for us.
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