A Messenger’s Prayer

 

A prayer that I have composed by saying variations of it every morning before I start my day.

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I pray to you, O Lord, to give me the strength, perseverance, and understanding throughout the trials of my day. I ask that you keep me safe, and allow me in the image of your angel, St. Gabriel, to bring messages of goodness and joy with great speed, and messages of sadness and despair are brought with Your eternal mercy and compassion.

Amen.

Dante and The Spiritual but Not Religious

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First published on newsforcatholics.info 

I am currently writing either a short story or what may be a full-length book. During my long working days, I’ve been listening to audio books, and the titles that I have been attempting to choose are Catholic Classics. Two of the titles that I have listened to during the past couple of weeks are commonly known by most folks: The Divine Comedy by Dante and Utopia by Thomas More. The titles have inspired me to combine the two elements of the story to form a modern update for our own period. I will be using the guided journey model of the Divine Comedy with the satire model from Thomas More explaining the beliefs of the Utopians. Of course, my version will be the product of our modern secular world, which at times isn’t far off from More’s satire warning. I am continually researching aspects of scripture, the books mentioned, and scientific advancements to include into the title. It appears my story will fall into the dystopia genre, although modeled after Utopia.

Notwithstanding, I wanted to talk about an early part of the Divine Comedy in the Inferno, or I should say prior to entering the gates of Hell. I believe it to resonate with many in our current society and how they view their own culture and morality.

Prior to when Dante and Virgil enter Hell, they encounter the spiritually neutral in Inferno Canto III: 22-69.

“Here sighs, complaints, and deep groans, sounded through the starless air, so that it made me weep at first. Many tongues, a terrible crying, words of sadness, accents of anger, voices deep and hoarse, with sounds of hands amongst them, making a turbulence that turns forever, in that air, stained, eternally, like sand spiraling in a whirlwind. And I, my head surrounded by horror, said: ‘Master, what is this I hear, and what race are these, that seem so overcome by suffering?’

And he to me: ‘This is the miserable mode in which those exist, who lived without praise, without blame. They are mixed in with the despised choir of angels, those not rebellious, not faithful to God, but for themselves. Heaven drove them out, to maintain its beauty, and deep Hell does not accept them, lest the evil have glory over them.’[1]

The audio account that I had listened to was a broadcast reproduction of sorts, and it gave a specific name to these race of souls. I imagine it to be something of the nature of “outlanders” or “outliers,” but no longer remember. I was very much struck by this part of the narrative because I felt it explained many in our current society. Many of us have heard the phrase, for instance, “I am spiritual, but not religious.” Of course what this means is that they have been convinced by the ideology that religious institutions such as churches are antiquated, to say the least.

Part of this ideology has been birthed by the so-called “enlightenment” and the philosophy of Classical Liberalism formed around the same period to govern. Many historians and popular culture for that matter have found it necessary to promote the myth of scientific revolution of leading us out of the Dark Ages of Christianity into an Enlightened state of “thinking for oneself.” Of course, this is the message that one who takes the middle road of saying, “I’m spiritual, but not religious,” and these folks would be included with those who Dante writes about in the Inferno.

People feel the need to liberated from institutions that are cast in a negative light by popular histories, and people feel the need to be liberated from institutions who promote a morality that is contrary to the mainstream hedonistic culture. Addressing the first issue, the best thing that Catholic, or any Christian can do is call out false narratives for what they are…false. Rodney Stark, a Lutheran, and professor at Baylor, writes about these false narratives in his book Bearing False Witness that continue to be retold about the Catholic Church, the Dark Ages, the Inquisition, the Enlightenment, and Protestant modernity. For example, Stark writes, “Incredibly, not only was there no “fall into “Dark Ages,” this was “one of the great innovative eras of mankind,” as technology was developed and put to into use’ one a scale no civilization had previously known.”[2]

The second point is addressed by today’s Gospel reading, Luke 12: 49-52:

Jesus said to his disciples:

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

Although I prefer Matthew’s version, Mt. 10: 34-39:

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;36 and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. 37 He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.

By accepting the authority of Christ’s bride, the Church, we do become religious and we are required to be religious to be spiritual. By declaring our faith in Christ and submitting to the authority of his Bride, the Church, we will certainly create divisions amongst our fellow modern friends and relatives by honoring the morality that has been dictated by God, and rejecting the relative morality of our current society.
Fr. Dwight Longenecker has wrote on the topic, writing:

“Spiritual but not Religious?” This just means the person is too lazy to look beyond their adolescent bias. They are too lazy to learn what it means to be truly religious. They are too smug and shallow and immature to ever regard anything greater than themselves as greater than themselves.

Spiritual but not Religious”? They have dismissed religion before they have even seriously considered it or studied it, and even if they have had a chance to consider it, what kind of religion have they been offered to consider? The state of Christianity in the United States is so dire, I’m not surprised any kid with half a brain rejects it. The culture encourages passivity and being a spectator. No wonder they reject religion for religion requires commitment and hard work and wonder and fear and self sacrifice and guts.”[3]

Furthermore, Fr. Longenecker is right to equate this philosophy to the age old enemy of Christianity, Manichaeism. A Christian cannot be spiritual and not religious without falling into an age old heresy of the Church. Many feel that it is an ‘evolved’ state of being for modern man when in reality It falls into the realm of Gnosticism that always denied the physical aspects of the Church, its sacraments, and the words of Christ to St. Peter.

Pray for those who feel compelled to this philosophy for they will always be on the outside looking in as exemplified by Dante’s poem.

[1] Dante Alighieri. Trans. Kline, A.S. The Divine Comedy (Poetry in Translation) 2000, 18.

[2] Rodney Stark, Bearing False Witness ( West Conshohocken: Templeton Press) 2016, 76.

[3] http://www.patheos.com/blogs/standingonmyhead/2012/01/spiritual-but-not-religious.html

‘Recovering Catholics’ and the Flytes

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First Published on http://newsforcatholics.info/ : a great source for Catholic News, Commentary and general information on the faith

It was toward the end of a hot day. I was in the midst of a “small talk” conversation of sorts with an acquaintance and the topic of religion came to the surface. Of course, when pondering the conversation, I can’t help but think that it was a peculiar topic to randomly come up amongst two strangers. However, the topic did somehow naturally develop between acquaintances when my fellow conversationalist told me that he had gone to Catholic School. At this point, I thought perhaps I had stumbled upon a new friend of mutual lifestyles and my reply to his revelation was “Oh, I’m Catholic too.”

The response of my acquaintance was a bit deflating as he said, “Oh, I am a recovering Catholic.”

I’ve heard the phrase before, and I’ve always thought it odd. How do these folks perceive their recovery? Do they feel that they have been so indoctrinated as a child that the foundation that had been forged in their youth causes them to relapse from their newfound clarity back to Catholicism or is it an ongoing process to cleanse them from their attachment to Catholicism much like the doctrine of purgatory?

Regardless, I didn’t continue further with the conversation because I felt that there was little more that I could say on the matter. However, I’ve been reminded recently of two particular parts of Brideshead Revisited after the conversation. My current employment has been a blessing that I am able to listen to many audio books, and when seeing that Brideshead was narrated by Jeremy Irons I could not resist, but it has allowed for little to no time for blogging.

(Although I do try to keep up on reading and browsing my favorite blogs)

As I began listening to Irons read the timeless words of Waugh with the conversation fresh in my mind, I couldn’t help but focus on the particular passage in this great title:

“Bridey, you mustn’t be pious,” said Sebastian. “We’ve got an atheist with us.”

“Agnostic,” I said. (Charles Ryder)

“Really? Is there much of that at your college? There was a certain amount at Magdalen.” (Bridey)

“I really don’t know. I was one long before I went to Oxford.” (Ryder)

“It’s everywhere,” said Brideshead. (pg. 86 ebook Little Brown Book Company)

Prior to this clarification by Charles, Charles and Sebastian have a conversation on the topic of Sebastian’s Catholicism:

“Who was it used to pray, ‘O God, make me good, but not yet’?”

“I don’t know. You, I should think.”

“Why, yes, I do, every day. But it isn’t that.”

He turned back to the pages of the News of the World and said, “Another naughty scout-master.”

“I suppose they try and make you believe an awful lot of nonsense?”

“Is it nonsense? I wish it were. It sometimes sounds terribly sensible to me.”

“But my dear Sebastian, you can’t seriously believe it all.”

“Can’t I?”

“I mean about Christmas and the star and the three kings and the ox and the ass.”

“Oh yes, I believe that. It’s a lovely idea.”

“But you can’t believe things because they’re a lovely idea.”

“But I do . That’s how I believe.” (p. 82)

As I was listening to these two scenes that are very near each other, I kept thinking in my mind “Recovering Catholic” over and over. I suppose it’s because in many ways both Julia and Sebastian attempted to be “recovering Catholics.” Charles, in a discussion with Julia about his love for her and her brother, commented on Sebastian being the “forerunner.” The two were so very much alike in many ways it’s not entirely surprising that Charles shared a love for both of them.

Our modern world questions the Catholic faithful much like Charles does of Sebastian’s faith especially when our Catholicism is counter to the prevailing wisdom of mainstream secular morals. When it comes to topics like the sacrament of marriage, unborn children, and rejection of material culture the world replies, “You can’t seriously believe it all?” Of course, when the faithful respond, “But I do. That’s how I believe.” The faithful will be mocked for being anti-science or anti –intellectual. In fact, when Julia is struggling with the realization of her own sins in the world, in a way, Charles mocks the idea in the narrative saying:

“Of course it’s a thing psychologists could explain; a preconditioning from childhood; feelings of guilt from the nonsense you were taught in the nursery. You do know at heart that it’s all bosh, don’t you?” (p. 272)

Julia’s replies: ““How I wish it was!”

“Sebastian once said almost the same thing to me.”

So what does this mean for “recovering Catholics”? What does Waugh attempt to tell us in his passages to a man who during those particular points in the story speaks just like our modern world? Waugh attempts to tell us to recognize God’s Grace in action. I didn’t say anything to my acquaintance, mainly because I thought I would do more harm than good, but we have to remember the words of the Venerable Fulton Sheen, “Actually, there are only two philosophies of life: one is first the feast, then the headache; the other is first the fast then the feast.” And so according to the precepts of Christianity, it comes down to a choice between picking up one’s cross or not. Preparing one’s treasures in heaven or on earth. However, a “recovering Catholic” may yet have the tools necessary to choose to accept God’s Grace.

7 Things You Must Know about St. Benedict’s Medal

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By SPL Contributor, November 9th, 2012

via 7 Things You Must Know about St. Benedict’s Medal

5. The Medal Wards Against

1. To destroy witchcraft and all other diabolical and haunting influences;
2. To impart protection to persons tempted, deluded, or tormented by evil spirits;
3. To obtain the conversion of sinners into the Catholic Church, especially when they are in danger of death;
4. To serve as an armor against temptation;
5. To destroy the effects of poison;
6. To secure a timely and healthy birth for children;
7. To afford protection against storms and lightning;
8. To serve as an efficacious remedy for bodily afflictions and a means of protection against contagious diseases.

 

6. How to use the medal

1. On a chain around the neck;
2. Attached to one’s rosary;
3. Kept in one’s pocket or purse;
4. Placed in one’s car or home;
5. Placed in the foundation of a building;
6. Placed in the center of a cross.

The use of any religious article is intended as a means of reminding one of God and of inspiring a willingness and desire to serve God and neighbor. It is not regarded as a good luck charm or magical device.1

A Prayer of Pope St. John Paul II

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During my fasting from blogging and reading City of Saints: A pilgrimage to John Paul II’s Krakow,  I composed a short prayer to pray for his intercession for current persecutions on Christians.

Pope St. John Paul II, I (we) ask you to intercede on the behalf of the charity of Christ and ask God to protect us against the wickedness of governments who have become instruments of Satan, attempting to ruin the souls of men and women.

I beseech thee, O Lord, to give us the strength to persevere on the rough waters of our instituted persecution until the Son, on a cloud, returns for the judgment of the living and the dead.

Amen.

The San Damiano Crucifix

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I have a foundational connection to this crucifix from my youth. I was introduced to the remarkable piece of artwork during my years at Catholic school. Our parish priest, as I remember it, had traveled to Rome for some sort of priestly activity and during his time there he found an extraordinary print of this crucifix. I remember the detail of the image to be quite exquisite, like something that truly carried the sanctity of heaven. An image that truly carries the words of St. Augustine as a visible sign of invisible Grace. Our priest had the image custom made into a  processional cross for the altar boys of our parish to carry in and out of Mass. The image was customed framed with a dark wood that bordered the image, but also had the design of the mystical vine that the image carried itself. I remember having the great honor to carry this crucifix as an altar boy it to the altar.

The processional cross was large and weighed a great deal. It wasn’t hard for an altar boy to imagine the weight of Christ’s cross as he carried it to the place of the skull either during Mass or especially for stations of the cross. The honor to be around such an image at such a young age has continued to resonate in my heart that I still carry this crucifix with me every day around my neck, and it hangs on the wall of my office where I now type these words.

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The Church has a historical connection to the crucifix, as according to tradition this is the crucifix that spoke to St. Francis of Assisi at San Damiano. It was through this holy image that Christ spoke to St. Francis to give him the mission to rebuild his church that had fallen into despair. St. Francis would certainly rebuild Christ’s church in San Damiano as well as other areas nearby, but the Franciscans hold that Christ’s message was the foundation of their order.

The Crucifix appears to be odd for the region of San Damiano, Italy, but scholars point to the image to be painted by an unknown Umbrian painter in the 12th century who had been influenced by Syrian monks that were in the region. The artist created within the crucifix the story of the Passion of Christ, the bridge to our salvation. Eastern tradition teaches that the Crucifix Icon is a personal encounter with the living God.

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The central image of the Crucifix is Christ; the image portrays Christ’s humanity and his victory over death. At the top of the Crucifix above Christ’s head is the ascension of Christ into heaven, as well as the hand of God. If you look at the hand, the hand has two fingers extended which are a representation of the Holy Spirit. The two figures under Christ’s right side is Mary and John, who were present at the Cross. Mary is wearing a white veil which is an indication of the purity of Revelation. Both John and Mary look at each other as Christ commanded them to behold their “son” and “mother” respectively. On the other side of Christ is Mary Magdalene, which gives her a special place near Christ. Mary Clopas and the Centurion of Capernaum stands next to her. There are two smaller figures in the portrait which are the Roman with the lance, and the Roman with the sponge. Finally, The image below Christ’s feet is that of unknown Saints, who scholars have debated and speculated who they are in the image.

There is also a rooster by Christ’s left leg, which is a bit difficult to see; of course, this connects to the denial of Christ by Peter during the passion story. It was always a favorite image that the children enjoyed when Father explained the story behind the images on this magnificent piece of artwork. I am so very honored to have such an experience with it.

Bishop Paprocki: Their ‘business practices’ stir emotions everywhere

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“My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Officials of Planned Parenthood complained bitterly about the use of what they called “deceptive” undercover tactics when a sting operation revealed last year that they were involved in the sale of body parts of aborted babies. The undercover videos showed senior Planned Parenthood staff members haggling over the prices they would accept in exchange for aborted baby body parts. In one video, one Planned Parenthood executive said she needed a good price for baby body parts because she wanted to buy a very expensive luxury car!”

Click on the link below to read the entire column:

http://ct.dio.org/bishops-column/message/their-business-practices-stir-emotions-everywhere/read.html?format=html

How does the Holy Spirit help us live like Christ?

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This post is a continuation of a previous post, I’d suggest you begin here, although you’re welcome to read this post as a stand alone as well.

In Luke Chapter Six, Christ commands us to love the entire world, which means to even love our enemies. Christ in every way has embodied this command by speaking to the women at the well and forgiving those who had just crucified him

Lk 6: 27-36 RSV

27 “But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from him who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to every one who begs from you; and of him who takes away your goods do not ask them again. 31 And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.

32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return;[b] and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

It’s very telling when Christ asks, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?” It is, of course, very easy to love those who treat you very well. However, it is difficult to love those who scorn, mock, beat, and even kill you and the ones you love. However, we must pray for these people, we must still do good by them, even if they reject us because they deserve the dignity of everyone in humanity being created in the image of God.

I use to be fairly active politically, my collegiate career was spent studying the Federalist Papers, Case Law, and the Early American Republic. I would quote John Locke, Edmund Burke, et al. However, just recently I took some classes to help change my career and I sat next to a gentleman who was Russian Orthodox. We spent many months talking about politics until I concluded that ultimately my view of the Constitution, The Federalist Papers, the Enlightenment philosophers, and Classical Liberalism was more or less Idol worship and not faithful to my faith in Catholicism. I reviewed my life and saw how politics had grown divisions between friends and even family. So, I decided to pick up my Bible, I ended all of my history/political blogs, and I no longer make political statuses on Facebook, but I share the Word with everyone. One of my old college roommates asked me, “When did you become so Jesusy?” I said, “Well, I always believed in God, I figured, I needed to start acting like it.”

It’s natural to ask, How can we possibly love our enemies? We must ask, through prayer, for the Holy Spirit to intervene in our hearts and minds by providing the fruits and gifts of the Spirit to our soul. The Spirit will provide us with patience and self-control over anger, The Spirit by giving us peace and gentleness will allow our soul to be charitable and generous to those who persecute us. We only have to have faith and ask for the Spirit to intervene as the sanctifier.

Updates on the Blog and from the Catholic World with the Latin Mass: Kyrie

I am currently detained in duties of house sitting for the next several days. I ask any of the other authors of the Latin Community to post if able as there will be plenty of schedule time to do so.

If any are interested, Servus–who writes for the Latin Community– has re-started his ecumenical blog discussing the issues that have been presented to all Christians in this increasingly hostile world. Here is a link:
https://allaroundthewesternfront.wordpress.com

A direct link to today’s post by Geoffrey:
https://allaroundthewesternfront.wordpress.com/2016/06/10/a-call-to-arms/

Also, I would like to draw readers attention to a documentary on Pope St. John Paul II and the Fall of Communism, which early this morning I read the NCR article about the movie. I have purchased the film and will give further comments after viewing.

http://www.ncregister.com/blog/joseph-pronechen/film-details-john-paul-ii-defeating-communism-to-free-the-continent

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For today, I have decided to leave the community my favorite rendition of the Kyrie composed by probably my favorite Catholic composer William Byrd. Again, all writers of the Latin Community, feel free to post anytime.