Monday, January 28, 2013

A new form of atheism....have we succumbed to it?

"I had a little tea party this afternoon at three.
Twas very small - three guests in all - just I, myself and me.
Myself ate all the sandwiches, while I drank all the tea.
Twas also I who ate the pie, and passed the cake to me."

                                   - Author unknown.

In his January 19th audience with workers and leaders of Catholic charities and members of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, Pope Benedict XVI warned that while there is "a growing consensus today about the inalienable dignity of the human being" and people's interdependence and responsibilities toward others, there are also many "dark spots" that are obscuring God's plan.

The Holy Father warned of a new form of atheism which views people as independent and autonomous with happiness lying solely in realizing one's own self.  Here the Pope is referring to those who are crippled by the sin of selfishness, a sin as old as humanity which has taken deep root in the heart of "modern man."  As Archbishop Fulton John Sheen reminded us, "Selfishness does not mean that there is not to be a proper love of self.  Our Blessed Lord told us: 'Love thy neighbor as thyself' (Mt 19: 19).  God made 'self' the standard by which the neighbor is to be loved.  This could not be, if love of self did not have a legitimate basis.  Selfishness, is the love of the wrong self; that is, the self that is indifferent to the feeling and the interest and the safety of others.  People are not selfish because they wish to earn enough to raise a family, but they are selfish if they consult only their own gains regardless of the losses that they may bring on others." (Essay entitled Selfishness).

The Lord Jesus has put us here on earth to serve Him and not ourselves.  Many today, and sadly even within the Church, have succumbed to a philosophy of self-indulgence which is often indicative of pride and may even represent a failure to trust in the Lord, a practical atheism which renders others invisible and irrelevant.

Damien Fisher, writing for The Gardner News, relates the story of Vietnam veteran Jesse Stallings, a soldier who became invisible and irrelevant to those around him who should have welcomed him.  Mr. Fisher writes, "Jesse Stallings served in Vietnam, and then came home to a difficult life.  His trouble coming back and becoming part of society again was partly because of the negative attitudes many had about the Vietnam War, and by extension, the men who fought it.  Mr. Stallings' troubles also stemmed from post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition not widely understood at the time, and not well-treated either...Mr. Stallings was proud to put on his uniform to march in the parade in Fitchburg, one of the first in the region to welcome Vietnam vets....But his long hair and beard did not mesh with how the other, older veterans wanted him to look.  He was sent away.  Dejected after leaving the parade ground, Mr. Stallings went home and killed himself." (MVOC opens new Winchendon campus, January 26-27 edition of The Gardner News).

Have we become so self-indulgent that others have practically become invisible to us?  We can answer this question only through honest self-examination.  Hence the need for frequent sacramental confession.  Self-deception is so very easy.  As Saint Francis de Sales noted, "Self-love is cunning; it pushes and insinuates itself into everything, while making us believe it is not there at all."

If we wish to deepen our relationship with the Lord Jesus and to be of genuine service to Him, then we must struggle against self-deception and be completely honest with ourselves, petitioning the Lord to reveal to us our hidden motives and attachments.  And then we must, with the help of His grace (without which nothing is possible), reorder our priorities.

Related meditation here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Bishop McManus calls for prayer and fasting to instill spiritual stamina and fortitude

In an editorial published in this week's Catholic Free Press and entitled 'Proclaim the Gospel of Life," Bishop Robert J. McManus, Bishop of the Worcester [Massachusetts] Diocese, reflecting on the 40th anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade decision, writes, "As we reflect on this unspeakable tragedy, we recall that Jesus told us that certain evils are only overcome by prayer and fasting.  Currently we are assailed by many increasing threats in our culture, most especially in the ongoing assaults on life, marriage and religious liberty.  In light of these unprecedented attacks on these most fundamental pillars of society, the U.S. Bishops recently launched a special initiative that will continue throughout the Year of Faith.  This Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty is something that all of us can participate in both personally and communally....I wish to personally invite everyone to take this opportunity to increase our spiritual stamina and fortitude by joining with our fellow Catholics across the country through participation in the monthly holy hours that will be offered in our parishes, saying the rosary regularly, fasting and abstaining from meat on Fridays, and other devotions and events that will take place in the diocese..."

It's real nice that Bishop McManus is finally beginning to wake up to the realities of our times by recognizing that only through prayer and fasting will certain evils be driven out since there is an element of the demonic behind them.  But before Catholics can convert the culture, they must first convert themselves.  About a month back I wrote Bishop McManus about his promotion of Servite Sister Joyce Rupp, a confused religious who promotes New Age spirituality and dissent from the authoritative teachings of the Magisterium.  Specifically, I asked His Excellency if he felt that it was truly appropriate for the Chancery to be offering her books for sale given her peculiar beliefs [such as the "godess" Sophia] and her angry, hate-filled attacks on the Church's hierarchy [see my previous posts on Joyce Rupp].  His response?  There was none.  So much for increasing spiritual stamina and fortitude.  Or perhaps His Excellency believes that it is only the laity who are in need of metanoia?

If the Bishop has no time for a Christian believer who accepts, promotes and defends the Magisterial teaching of the Church and cares little for the right of the faithful to receive Catholic teaching in its purity and integrity [Veritatis Splendor, No. 113], then it is a safe bet that his own prayer life is suffering.  It was Pope John Paul II who wrote that, "A bishop should try to ensure that as many as possible of those who, together with him, make up the local Church can come to know him personally.  He for his part will seek to be close to them, to know about their lives - what gives joy to their hearts and what saddens them.  Such mutual acquaintance cannot be built through occasional meetings: it comes from a genuine interest in what is happening in their lives regardless of age, social status, or nationality, whether they are close at hand or far away....It is very important for a bishop to have a rapport with his people and to know how to relate to them well...Interest in others begins with the bishop's prayer life: his conversations with Christ, who entrusts 'His own' to him.  Prayer prepares him for encounter with others." (Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way).

If a bishop cannot even maintain a rapport with faithful Catholics in his own diocese, then it is difficult to take him seriously when he writes, "Let us unite our hearts and minds through special acts of prayer, fasting, and uphold the inherent dignity of all human life from conception to natural death."

Where was the bishop's recognition of my "inherent dignity" when I wrote him a letter detailing how one of his priests was encouraging a couple in their senior years to live together while assuring them that any sexual acts outside of marriage were not sinful at their age and mentioned my interest in pursuing a priestly vocation within the diocese?  Readers of this Blog know that this letter of mine also received no response.  And I had requested the Bishop's blessing each time I wrote him!  Dignity?

Long before Bishop McManus' call for prayer and fasting, I issued a similar call.  In fact, over the years, I have issued this call.  See here and here for example.  But along with prayer and fasting, we Catholics - all of us - must first take the plank out of our own eyes if we are to see clearly enough to take the speck out of the eyes of our fellow citizens throughout the broader culture.  And this goes for our priests and deacons and religious as well.  More so, for they should be shining examples of the faith life.  Needless to say, this sort of behavior will never convert our broken, sin-sick culture. 

As Father Vincent Miceli, S.J., reminded us some years back, "Rampant immorality is [an] obstacle opposing the work of evangelization.  Since conduct follows from convictions, once Catholics cancel their creed from their lives, their conduct inevitably becomes depraved....The decay on all sides of Christian morals makes it not only difficult to bring in those outside the Church, but even to stay in themselves and hold their fellow Catholics within the Church." (Essay entitled The Evangelization of the United States).

It is a spiritual maxim that we cannot give to others what we ourselves do not possess.  The Bishop of Worcester, and the priests who serve with him, should reflect very carefully on this truth.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"...a confederacy of evil, marshalling its hosts from all parts of the world.."

Many of the commentaries which examine the final persecution of the Church during the reign of Antichrist insist that the army of Antichrist will be composed of orientals or those people who live in that part of the world which is now Russia.  Reverend Pascal Huchede, in his History of Antichrist, explains that, "According to Saint Bellarmine, Gog will be the Antichrist himself and Magog will be his army.  Because Ezechiel always designates Gog as a leader and Magog as a region [Ezech. 38-39], Magog, it is true, is regarded as being the Sythian nation.  In Genesis [10:2] the second son of Japeth is said to have borne this name, and the country in which he settled was naturally called after him, and this country, according to Josephus, is scythia.*  In employing this term to designate the army of Antichrist, we are led to infer that the men composing it will be orientals, or what seems more plausible, that his soldiers will possess all the brutality of those barbarous people." (History of Antichrist, p. 25).

Saint Augustine, Father and Doctor of the Church, in his City of God, Book 20, explains in detail how the army of Antichrist will be made up of all depraved men scattered over the surface of the earth who have a hatred for truth: "...the binding of the devil is his being prevented from the exercise of his whole power to seduce men, either by violently forcing or fraudulently deceiving them into taking part with him...But when the short time comes he shall be loosed.  For he shall rage with the whole force of himself and his angels for three years and six months; and those with whom he makes war shall have power to withstand all his violence and stratagems..."

Saint Augustine then cites Revelation 20: 7-9 - "And when the thousand years are finished Satan shall be loosed from his prison, and shall go out to seduce the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, and shall draw them to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea."  And then he writes, "This, then, is his purpose in seducing them, to draw them to this battle.  For even before this he was wont to use as many and various seductions as he could contrive.  And the words, 'he shall go out' mean, he shall burst forth from lurking hatred into open persecution.  For this persecution, occurring while the final judgment is imminent, shall be the last which shall be endured by the holy Church throughout the world, the whole city of Christ being assailed by the whole city of the devil, as each exists on earth.  For these nations which he names Gog and Magog are not to be understood of some barbarous nations in some part of the world...For John marks that they are spread over the whole earth when he says, 'The nations which are in the four corners of the earth,' and he added that these are Gog and Magog.

The meaning of these names we find to be, Gog, 'a roof,' Magog, 'from a roof' - a house, as it were, and he who comes out of the house.  They are therefore the nations in which we found that the devil was shut up as in an abyss, and the devil himself coming out from them and going forth, so that they are the roof, he from the roof.  Or if we refer both words to the nations, not one to them and one to the devil, then they are both the roof, because in them the old enemy is at present shut up, and as it were roofed in; and they shall be from the roof when they break forth from concealed to open hatred." (City of God, Modern Library edition, p. 729).

Cardinal John Henry Newman was a prophet. He saw the foundations being laid for apostasy in his own time [ the Apostasy which has now arrived]. He was able to see the signs of sickness within the Body of Christ as surely as a physician today is able to detect a cancer in the human body. In a sermon dealing with the times of Antichrist delivered more than a century ago, his Eminence asked, "And is there no reason to fear that some such Apostasy is gradually preparing, gathering, hastening on in this very day? For is there not at this very time a special effort made almost all over the world, that is, every here and there, more or less, in sight or out of sight, in this or that place, but most visibly or formidably in its most civilized and powerful parts, an effort to do without religion? Is there not an opinion avowed and growing, that a nation has nothing to do with religion; that it is merely a matter for each man's own conscience,-which is all one with saying that we may let the truth fail from the earth without trying to continue it? Is there not a vigorous and united movement in all countries to cast down the Church of Christ from power and place? Is there not a feverish and ever busy endeavour to get rid of the necessity of religion in public transactions? for example, an attempt to get rid of oaths, under a pretence that they are too sacred for affairs of common life, instead of providing that they be taken more reverently and more suitably? an attempt to educate without religion,-that is, by putting all forms of religion together, which comes to the same thing? an attempt to enforce temperance, and the virtues which flow from it, without religion, by means of societies which are built on mere principles of utility? an attempt to make expedience, and not truth the end and the rule of measures of state and the enactments of law an attempt to make numbers, and not truth, the ground of maintaining, or not maintaining this or that creed, as if we had any reason whatever in Scripture for thinking that the many will be in the right, and the few in the wrong? An attempt to deprive the Bible of its one meaning to the exclusion of others, to make people think that it may have a hundred meanings all equally good, or in other words, that it has no meaning at all, is a dead letter, and may be put aside? an attempt to supersede religion altogether, as far as it is external or objective, as far as it is displayed in ordinances, or can be expressed by written words,-to confine it to our inward feelings, and thus, considering how transient, how variable, how evanescent our feelings are, an attempt in fact, to destroy religion?

Surely, there is at this day a confederacy of evil, marshalling its hosts from all parts of the world, organizing itself, taking its measures, enclosing the Church of Christ as in a net, and preparing the way for a general apostasy from it. Whether this very apostasy is to give birth to Antichrist, or whether he is still to be delayed, we cannot know; but at any rate this apostasy, and all its tokens, and instruments, are of the Evil One and saviour of death. Far be it from any of us to be of those simple ones, who are taken in that snare which is circling around us! Far be it from us to be seduced with the fair promises in which Satan is sure to hide his poison! Do you think he is so unskillful in his craft, as to ask you openly and plainly to join him in his warfare against the Truth? No; he offers you baits to tempt you. He promises you civil liberty; he promises you equality; he promises you trade and wealth; he promises you a remission of taxes; he promises you reform. This is the way in which he conceals from you the kind of work to which he is putting you; he tempts you to rail against your rulers and superiors; he does so himself, and induces you to imitate him; or he promises you illumination,-he offers you knowledge, science, philosophy, enlargement of mind. He scoffs at times gone by; he scoffs at every institution which reveres them. He prompts you what to say, and then listens to you, and praises you, and encourages you. He bids you mount aloft. He shows you how to become as gods. Then he laughs and jokes with you, and gets intimate with you; he takes your hand, and gets his fingers between yours, and grasps them, and then you are his."

Man is being conditioned to worship himself. The crisis of faith is a crisis of the supernatural. Once this crisis of faith has reached its zenith, once men have deified themselves, the one whom St. Paul calls "the man of iniquity" will reveal himself to the world. For he can only reveal himself within the context of apostasy, loss of faith - open rebellion against God. Until then he is restrained.

*  Scythia was an ancient country lying partly north and northeast of the Black Sea and partly east of the Aral Sea in what is now Russia.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Infected by a self-centered spirit and a silly parochialism, some who claim to be Catholic persecute the Children of Mary

In the latter times right up to the Reign of Antichrist, the enmity between the children of Mary and the children of the Devil will intensify. St. Louis de Montfort: "Mary must become as terrible as an army in battle array to the devil and his followers, especially in these latter times. For Satan, knowing that he has little time - even less now than ever - to destroy souls, intensifies his efforts and his onslaughts every day. He will not hesitate to stir up savage persecutions and set treacherous snares for Mary's faithful servants and children whom he finds more difficult to overcome than others.

It is chiefly in reference to these last wicked persecutions of the devil, daily increasing until the advent of the reign of anti-Christ, that we should understand that first and well-known prophecy and curse of God uttered against the serpent in the garden of paradise. It is opportune to explain it here for the glory of the Blessed Virgin, the salvation of her children and the confusion of the devil. 'I will place enmities between you and the woman, between your race and her race; she will crush your head and you will lie in wait for her heel' (Gen. 3:15).

God has established only one enmity - but it is an irreconcilable one - which will last and even go on increasing to the end of time. That enmity is between Mary, his worthy Mother, and the devil, between the children and the servants of the Blessed Virgin and the children and followers of Lucifer.

Thus the most fearful enemy that God has set up against the devil is Mary, his holy Mother. From the time of the earthly paradise, although she existed then only in his mind, he gave her such a hatred for his accursed enemy, such ingenuity in exposing the wickedness of the ancient serpent and such power to defeat, overthrow and crush this proud rebel, that Satan fears her not only more than angels and men but in a certain sense more than God himself. This does not mean that the anger, hatred and power of God are not infinitely greater than the Blessed Virgin's, since her attributes are limited. It simply means that Satan, being so proud, suffers infinitely more in being vanquished and punished by a lowly and humble servant of God, for her humility humiliates him more than the power of God. Moreover, God has given Mary such great power over the evil spirits that, as they have often been forced unwillingly to admit through the lips of possessed persons, they fear one of her pleadings for a soul more than the prayers of all the saints, and one of her threats more than all their other torments." True Devotion, Nos 50 - 52).

The Spotless Virgin, the Immaculata, has a special "ingenuity" in exposing the Devil's plans and tactics. Which is why the Devil often uses others - sometimes other Catholics - to try to influence us to abandon our devotion to Mary, or at least to water it down under the pretext that it is "excessive" or "harmful to ecumenism."

The Devil knows that those consecrated to the Immaculata will be protected in a special way in this time of Apostasy. Which is why he attacks their true devotion. Again St. Louis de Montfort: "Since Mary alone has crushed all heresies, as we are told by the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (Office of B.V.M.), a devoted servant of hers will never fall into formal heresy or error, though critics may contest this. He may very well err materially, mistaking lies for truth or an evil spirit for a good one, but he will be less likely to do this than others. Sooner or later he will discover his error and will not go on stubbornly believing and maintaining what he mistakenly thought was the truth." (True Devotion, No. 167),

In other words, those who practice true devotion to Mary will be better disposed toward the truth and will receive special graces against error.

The Devil knows this. So he tries desperately to undermine such true devotion: "It's harmful to ecumenism," "It is excessive," "It is too pre-Vatican II," "It is Medeival." Don't you believe the lies. Consecrate yourself daily to the Immaculata. Pope John Paul II, in a General Audience of November 15, 1995, said that to honor Mary is to go to Jesus. How then can our devotion to Mary be said to be "excessive"? During the same General Audience, the Holy Father places "such as Lourdes, Fatima, Loreto, Pompei, Guadalupe and Czestochowa" [this list is not exhaustive]...are "a wonderful testimony to God's mercy, which reaches man through Mary's intercession.."

Yes the Devil knows this too well.  And so he persecutes the faithful servants of Mary (as opposed to those whose devotion to Mary is not authentic - see True Devotion to Mary, 188).  In my own parish, I cannot even participate in the Rosary without being attacked.  I am not permitted to participate in parish ministry.  I cannot even have a Mass said for my father.  St. Louis de Montfort explains, "...sinners continually hate and persecute the elect, openly and secretly.  The elect are a burden to them.  They despise them, criticize them, ridicule them, insult them,, rob them, deceive them, impoverish them, hunt them down and trample them into the dust; while they themselves are making fortunes, enjoying themselves, getting good positions for themselves, enriching themselves, rising to power and living in comfort." (True Devotion to Mary, 190).   Infected by a self-centered spirit and a silly parochialism, some within the Church would exclude those with a true marian devotion, decreeing thereby that there is not room for such within the Mystical Body of Christ.  And in so doing, they make themselves enemies of Christ Jesus Himself!

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Liberal columnist Bonnie Erbe: the Christian era is crumbling and this will be liberating

In their Pastoral Letter on Freedom of Conscience and Religion, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, citing Blessed John XXIII's Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris, No. 14, remind us that, "Every individual has the 'right to be able to worship God in accordance with the right dictates of conscience....Besides being free from external coercion, everyone must be able freely to exercise the right to choose, profess, disseminate, and practice his or her own religion in private and in public.  This includes the freedom for parents to educate their children in their religious convictions and to choose the schools which provide that formation.  Moreover, the State has the obligation to protect this right by means of a legal and administrative framework and to create a suitable environment where it can be enjoyed...Unfortunately, religious freedom is far from being effectively guaranteed everywhere.  Sometimes it is denied for religious or ideological reasons.  At other times, although it may be recognized in law, it is hindered in practice by a legal system or social order which enforces strict control, if not a monopoly, over society....

More subtle threats to religious freedom arise from the cultural predominance of radical secularism and 'a subliminal relativism that penetrates every area of life.  Sometimes this relativism becomes aggressive when it opposes those who say they know where the truth or meaning of life is to be found.' (Pope Benedict XVI, Address to Central Committee for German Catholics, Freiburg in Breisgau, September 24, 2011).

This aggressive and hate-filled secularism which Pope Benedict XVI refers to aims at forcing religious believers - and especially Catholic Christians - to keep their religious convictions to themselves while insisting that atheists, agnostics and the "non-affiliated" should not be held to the same restriction.  The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops rightly declare that such an aim amounts to nothing less than "an expression of religious intolerance."

This intolerance is embraced by liberal columnist Bonnie Erbe.  In a column entitled "Christian leaders losing power, and I'm fine with that," which was carried by the Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise, Ms. Erbe argues that America is morphing "from one nation under one Christian god to an amalgam nation under many gods" and that it is "liberating" to know that the non-Christian population is increasing even as the ranks of Church-going Christians decreases.

Ms. Erbe rails against the Catholic Church in particular because the U.S. Bishops have had the audacity to stand up for religious freedom against the Obama administration's contraception mandate which would violate the First Amendment guarantee of religious liberty.  She writes, "Clearly, they and other Christian church leaders still see us as one nation under one god.  But...this is changing.  Another Pew poll released two years ago on the 'millennial' generation and its relationship with faith should be even more troubling to Christian leaders.  It showed the following, quoting from the Pew website: 'Americans ages 18 to 29 are considerably less religious than older Americans.  Fewer young adults belong to any particular faith than older people do today.  They also are less likely to be affiliated than their parents' and grandparents' generations were when they were young.'

For Ms. Erbe, this is all just great news.  She writes joyfully, "One day, Christian leaders will wake up and recognize that their era is crumbling.  If that means they will have decreasing power in the political realm, it will be a blessing for all of us..."

In other words, if the rights and freedoms of Christians are to diminish as their ranks grow smaller, such will represent a blessing to those who oppose the Christian Church.  Having succumbed to the Father of Lies (John 8: 44), Ms. Erbe could not possibly understand that the growing apostasy will not represent a "blessing" for pagans, atheists, agnostics and the "non-affiliated."  On the contrary, the Holy Spirit assures us through Saint Paul that the day of the Lord will not come "unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition" (2 Thessalonians 2: 3) and that, "The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved." (2 Thessalonians 2: 9-10).

The coming of the lawless one (the Antichrist for the scripturally illiterate) will set off a sequence of events culminating in the complete destruction of those who have "refused to love the truth and so be saved."  Jesus refers to this mystery in John 5: 43.  After this destruction comes, we will have a new heavens and a new earth where nothing unclean shall enter (Revelation 21: 27).

Now that will be a blessing!

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