Love, Sacrificially.

I admire poets and authors of books. I read quite often, and never come away without some better understanding of life or the pains and anxieties of existence. The need for social interaction, the common weaknesses and episodes of life. Why should we seek an explanation when often enough, none is needed. Our events just happen, and they are profound when it hits our head deep enough – because we are brought to life, to the realization of our actuality – the fact that we are alive, and that what we do has implications in this world because God has deigned us to love one another. The absence of our love for the other is often an action costing great price.

God is love, and when we ignore our duty to love at the truest and divinest, we fall quite a distance from the Lord and His direction. Tonight, I was reading the great author Flannery O’Connor, an American Catholic who lived in the deeply Protestant state of Georgia. I often find her short stories to be both a criticism of racism, but at the same time, a moving allegory of the nature of divine grace. With further reading, I came upon this quote.

The operation of the Church is entirely set up for the sinner; which creates much misunderstanding among the smug.

Our contemporary understanding of religious life scarcely remembers this fact. The media will skew us, and paint us with a brush, as if being Catholic – or Christian, for that matter, was a lifestyle choice. The public will do anything now, to erase the fact that the western world was once deeply religious. The New World was evangelized by Roman Catholic and Church of England missionaries, Ireland was once a bastion of the faith, and Great Britain was a churchgoing island. Lately, the Irish have spat in the face of God Almighty, and have voted to allow the slaughter of the young and innocent: the unborn.

My conclusion is that this modern world is, indeed, becoming far too smug. We trod all over the religious, religion, and the sacred. It is our way, or no way. God’s way isn’t on the ballot anymore.

The Anglican Communion has been crumbling from the top down – the Episcopal Church has been sanctioned, the Church of England is considering “gender change” services and treating them as if it were a sacramental occasion. The Anglican Church of Canada has continually pressed forward against scripture and tradition, voting to adopt language in the Prayerbook for same-sex marriage. These moral tragedies, these impossibilities: of course, all in the name of love and mercy.

But, you see, the root of the problem is sentimentality. We wish to be open to all, but in being open to all you lose the meaning of religion. If everything is allowed, we are but animals who receive communion on Sundays. Thanks be to God I was born in the true Church of Christ, receiving leadership since Christ ascended through His Vicar.

The symptom of all this is our lack of love for another. True love is sacrificial, but yet firm and grounded in the scriptures of Holy Writ. If we’re all happy now, and all lovey dove, then we have the abandonment of our eternal happiness written on our foreheads. Yes, our God forgives each and everyone of us – but to be granted that forgiveness, we must rely upon the assistance of His grace throughout our every trial. Acceptance for “the way you are” isn’t true happiness. It is a ladder, well balanced, which can fall at any kick or strong breeze.

There is nothing for us to do than to cleave like a new-born to Our Lord, and receive our sacraments, pray our rosaries, and love one another with a smiling and open forgiveness; never to forget our duty to spread the wonderful and dizzying news of the love of Him who made us, sustains us, and redeems us. O’Connor says that the Church is set up for the sinner. This is so true. Everything the Church has to offer us is, indeed, for each and everyone of us individually for our eternal happiness and for the making of great saints who love their Lord, and His Blessed Mother, His saints, and each other. For we are all His creation, and so we come from this equal and level ground beneath the cross. We, being flesh and bone, are all of the same seed. Therefore it is our duty to get our friends to heaven. Allowing our friends to sin, without revealing them the true nature of their actions, is a sin itself.

And now, let us pray to the Lord for Ireland. Let us all pray for the wee unborn, for mothers contemplating the termination of the life of their little one, for troubled families, for the depressed and the suicidal and those who struggle with anxiety.

Let us pray that those suffering might find relief in Christ, whose Sacred Heart burns for us, and all who suffer. He is suffering with them, with us, and His mercy will never abandon us.

Let us pray to the Blessed Mother, the Mother of God, who is also our mother. All we need to do is say her name and like a loving mother, here she will be.

And finally, thank your Guardian Angel for loving and protecting you.

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The Comfortable Words

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you. St Matthew 11:28

These are comfortable words, whom anyone leading a life full of strife or difficulty can take particular enjoyment in. They are the opening words to the funeral liturgy of the Ordinariate, of many Anglican traditions, and are included in common Gospel readings at Requiem Masses throughout the English-speaking world.

Perhaps I am going out on a limb to say that we live in a world disenchanted with its past. A world, a society of people, collectively less aware of God although He makes Himself known. However, anyone with an open mind, if it is truly a mind receptive to establishing the truth of existence, ought to give these words some credence. We never truly grow old. We are always little children, gasping for air and for stability. We can fall on any bridge we wish, and quite often those bridges are made of wood near splintering into a thousand pieces; not close enough to open a gap quite yet, but near the point. We get up on the bridge and cross it many times, going one place at a time yet dependent on where we have fallen. We claim it as ‘life’s lot’, and accept it as our life’s purpose.

But then the bridge opens wide. We fall through. We hit the icy water below. We cannot breathe. We cannot swim. Our feeble hands claw and scrape at that river, yet we cannot find a ledge or a rock to cling to that could keep us steady or grant us a gasp of fresh air. Seldom do we find it. Thus, we hit a crisis. What was wrong? I thought I was on my feet. I thought the bridge that allowed me to travel to all corners of life was steady; a few cracks are normal. We aren’t perfect.

The bridge was a human construction, with human imperfections, made for the world’s use and was therefore unstable. Some of us, when we cooperate with the Grace we are given, fall upon a bridge that has weathered many a storm. It has been beaten and pelted with salty ocean waves, but it has dried and the wood was restored again and again. In fact, this particular structure was so susceptible to the acts of nature that sometimes we didn’t cross it for fear of the life we saw growing upon it. Moss, fungi, other green and brown things we cannot know of. However, when we really needed to come safely home, we could only cross this bridge. Eventually, after the length of time the wood stood, interrupted only time and time again by footstep, it petrified. The whole bridge became a solid rock.

Often our faith is like this isn’t it? Trust and obedience, dependence and doubt. We experience these in fluttering diversions, sometimes hitting us like arrows, mostly the safety net that ought to catch us should we ever fall through. To the non-believer, coming to belief can often be like this. Like walking a new bridge over a deep crevasse. Do you understand the imagery?

We know God would never ever build us an unsafe bridge. In fact, His bridges are perfect – the bridge saints trod. Yet they are filled with obstacles, many our own, many to test us, many to strengthen us. Today’s trials are the cause of tomorrow’s triumph.

The Psalmist St David, in Psalm 139: 6-9 has this to say:

Whither shall I go then from thy Spirit: or whither shall I go then from thy presence?
If I climb up into heaven, thou art there: if I go down to hell, thou art there also.
If I take the wings of the morning: and remain in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there also shall thy hand lead me: and thy right hand shall hold me.

The Lord Jesus Christ never departs from our presence. Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday (or perhaps today is, depending which part of the globe you live in). You are going to be reminded, with the placing of a cross upon your forehead, that ‘thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return’, Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.

Remember, O Man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.

Meditate on these words. A cigarette only lasts you a couple minutes, and palm leaves burn in less time than that. Our life, because we alone experience it as we can, is but a burning star in the glimpse of time God allows. On the last day, our Lord will announce the faithful of the elect. The Roman Canon asks God to “Be mindful, also, O Lord, of Thy servants and handmaids…who are gone before us with the sign of faith and who sleep the sleep of peace. To these, O Lord, and to all who rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light and peace. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.” Therefore, God wills that we all be saved through Him, through the prayers of the Blessed Mother, and of the saints: yet only we can decide whether to cooperate with that grace He alone gives us, through the various ways He does. We can receive His very body, blood, soul and divinity. He give us Himself. His arms are open to the heavily laboured, the afflicted, the poor, the sinner.

Our abandonment of our pride, our excess, to His will; to let go of our hubris, to ask God where we belong.

It is difficult to lower ourselves, yet we have every means to do it. What can you lose? Death. What can you gain? Life. Be mindful of your sins, and use the sacraments to assist you on your life’s journey. For it is so very short, and eternity is…forever. Hell is real. Heaven is your home.

Throughout this Lenten season, my dear readers, we all must do penance and seek contrition for our downfalls. It is the time. You’re given no other day than the present, for the past is gone and the future doesn’t exist yet. Remember the words of the psalmist when you become weary, and the gospels when you despair. Remember the constant presence of God, who has given us everything, including His Own Son. His Own Mother. His Own Body. His Own Church. We need not fear Clothos, we need not fear the slowing draw of the thread of life. We need only to hope, to fear, to adore, to glorify, to adore the passion of Our Lord. Go to confession.

Go to Him, all of you that labour and weep, all who face darkness, and ask Him to be your eyes: go to Him, let Him embrace you. For you are His. He will give you rest.

 

The Banality of Hell

This evening at the vigil Mass, we had a visiting priest – or rather, a priest originally from our town returned to offer Mass. He was always very intelligent: spiritually, theologically, liturgically. His heart truly carried each word of the beloved sacrifice to his lips, visibly stirred his soul.

Now, for a long while we have been under the, um, regime of a rather particular vicar who years ago was silenced for speaking out in support of same-sex marriage™ but somehow was reconciled to stable ministry. Today, during the intercessions, I watched a pleasant rouge fade to a placid grey as the intercessor, through no fault of his own, beseeched us all to “pray for people of all faiths, that we may come to know the truths in all the religions of the world.” This was quite a trick on behalf of our regular parish priest; an intentional shot from the arrow of contempt for good and solid theology, and the sensibility of a pious priest.

Notice the wording. I trust my memory in this case, because it disturbed my conscience that we as Catholics should be praying for others to basically remain pagan and not led home to the truth of the Church. Notice the banality of it – for people of all faiths – know the truths in all the religions of the world – we could interpret that in various ways, really. But the common individual would hear “all religions are equal and good.” In addition, one could think that by virtue of the word “truth”s perhaps it really is a plea for conversion, as the truth can only be found in one spot in fullness; a thing cannot be half true or a quarter truth. But the Church, in her holy wisdom, does not deny that people of diverse belief can come to know some truth: quantity vs. substance.

But recall the nature of ourselves: somewhat genteel, or possibly selfish. We often tend to follow the crowd, as the pack mentality consumes our more definable individuality – we see this in the world: the rise of socialist politics and self-entitled teenagers whining because they refuse to work for an education and want it on the taxpayers wallet, or, the “public purse.” See how they riot? In New Orleans a group of protestors wanted to tear down a statue of St Joan of Arc, confusing her with some civil war figure or other. Notice this new iconoclasm of sorts? History repeats itself.

But now, more than ever, we ought to be apt in claiming the truth of God’s glorious redemption; His redeeming love, and His Mother’s role in salvation. Now, more than ever, in this age of nihilism and absurdity – we should strive to lead souls HOME to Christ, not confirming their position in Buddhism. We were warned by the Lord to not be lukewarm.

There is truth. Let’s stick to it. Why are we so adverse to obedience? Why do our own members reject our own teaching! We need to pray. We need to love and protect and pray for our priests and bishops. They are how God communicates with us, and those men are whom God chose to be His soul-keepers.

Medicine for the Young

What we need most in order to make progress is to be silent before this great God with our appetite and with our tongue, for the language he best hears is silent love.

Who said that? St John of the Cross, the counter-reformer whose writings many Catholics have come to love. I resign myself to complete humility before the sight and gaze of these greats, these treasures of our tradition. I, myself, have a heavy cross. I often meditate on the more sanctified souls – how great then do they bear the wood of the cross? I say this because we have forgotten the way, in this world, to understand how badly we need the mercy of God!

Look at the youth: look at our inheritance, our younger generations. Look at whom we have to bear our torch. The world is in complete misery, and young men and women who have been brought up either anti-theist or without any faith have no means of coping with the anxiety of this world. They have no reason, religious nor existential, to make a leap of faith. Instead, the rates of suicide go up – why not? They’ve no reason to be here. One switch of a blade and it’s all over. Binge-drinking? Why not? There’s no spiritual nature to the cleanliness of our body and soul, no consequence for our actions. All we must do is carry the stone of this existence until it’s over! Why not escape while we can? Do a few drugs, lift our brains to Ganja, metaphorically if not spiritually. Nihilism has crept in, taken over, and redefined existence in the modern eye.

So therefore, the human condition makes no progress but regresses into a primitive state, perhaps one before man became respondent. Did not our loving Creator form mankind out of clay, in His image? Is this not the greatest act of love? But we live under the conditions of the greatest act of disobedience, destroyed by Christ on the cross. We are each cleansed of the structure of original sin at our baptisms, yet as humans we recognise our weakness and susceptibility to giving in to that which we know is bad for us. When we lack faith, we self-medicate, and turn into robotic things freely choosing our poisons when we know there’s something better in the world. We are rowdy, bashful, loud.

Our ears are closed.

Our lips constantly apart.

We crave nothing but what satisfies our heart for the mean time, until when its over we crave another temporary satisfaction.

We end up hating ourself, unaware of infinite mercy and forgiveness that God extends to every creature on the face of His green Earth.

He forgives us for forgetting the sovereignty, He forgives us for rejection our dominion. He forgives us for all that we repent for, and He takes us and hides us deep within His wounds until we go kicking and and leap out. We can do this a thousand times, and He will forgive us because He never tires of forgiving.

Aren’t we lucky? Don’t we have a vast and immense privilege to be children of Love itself?

Social Justice post

With news from good ol’ county Armagh ta-day. A certain high school, known with renown for it’s love of the marginalised – the persecuted LGBT people in our society, has decided to take the courageous step and meet at the Pride parade, as if it were the very thing they should do to promote Catholic values and commitments.

Sponsa. Capite nobis vulpes parvulas quæ demoliuntur vineas: nam vinea nostra floruit.

Now, call me stupid, please go ahead and do it, but gay pride has not a single thing to do with Catholic values.

Pride in oneself, in ones abilities, are. To support against the marginalisation of LGBT people, is as well. The affirmation of the sin of pre-marital, same-sex sexual acts of any time, isn’t. You can argue that Pride isn’t about that. I’d listen to that argument too, and I wouldn’t say anything because I haven’t got a clue about what Pride is to begin with. I only know what I’ve experienced first-hand.

To be quite honest, one of my closest friends is homosexual. I’d support him in anything he did, help him along in school, take him in were he ever out of the house for some reason. However, he knows I will not be on board with, in any circumstances, a same-sex relationship, and he understands why. Education breeds understanding, as the progressive crowd likes to say.

What the group of students did here was approach the issue of LGBT rights from the modern, progressive, “common” angle. As Catholics, it’s quite important that we are familiar with our own faith and dis ain’t how it’s done.

It’s true that we live in a sex-obsessed culture, and on all sides of every political spectrum, it is the main choice of conversation as of these past few months. The pride parades that I’ve witnessed were a show of a few different things. The biggest aspect was the promotion of sex-based love, that however you choose to have a relationship, the most important thing was good sex and common sexual interests. I know for a damn sure fact that just like heterosexuals, homosexuals are no different: they need to be loved, and to love, and sex isn’t the main priority. I also know for sure that we can’t group people into two groups as homo/hetero-sexuals. This is the reductionist terminology that the Church warns us against.

L – lesbian, G – gay, B – bi, T – trans, and the rest of the LGBT alphabet of people have been denied the opportunity to be treated as individuals. A boy that is attracted to other boys is seen as a “gay”, and likewise the girl that is attracted to other girls as a “lesbian”, and a boy or girl that has an attraction to both sexes as a “bisexual.” From what I’ve seen first hand, especially in my age group, we are defined by our sexuality alone. What Tristian does is so gay, because he’s gay. What Aisleen does is even gayer, because she’s such a lesbian. It’s no longer about the beauty of Tristian’s personality, or Aisleen’s sense of humour.

That is the first error that I’ve seen at these parades. The reduction of men and women into three, two, or seven letter words. Their souls and individual personality are completely neglected. As Catholics, it is our duty and our joy to “love one another, as we love ourselves.” We wouldn’t want to be kicked out of our homes and thrown out into the streets for professing to be a Catholic by our parents, and in like manner, nor do boys and girls who are attracted to the same sex.

We must always remember that we are our own people, we all are created unique in the likeness and image of God. There is no “a” breed, “b” breed, “c” breed. We are different, yet united in faith and in humanity. What’s more amazing is that we are united in that Christ himself died so that we would sin no more – his sacrifice for our debts, because God loved us so very much. Yet here we are, going against His will in the name of “promoting Catholic values.”

The choice made by this high school to allow their Catholic school to be represented here is counter-productive, because it doesn’t promote the authentic message of Christianity. How? I just explained that to you. The authentic message is that God is love, and the Lord himself has said:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and thy whole soul and thy whole mind. This is the greatest of the commandments, and the first. And the second is this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

The regular idea of a Catholic school is to foster a great love of God, and love of neighbour, and knowledge of our faith. The catechism reads:

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfil God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

I know I might be preaching to the choir, but it’s important to talk about this from my perspective. I’m going into my last year of high school. If we loved our neighbour as ourself, it would pain us to see them fall into sin. If my friend, who I love as the best friend I have EVER had, were to fall into this sin I wouldn’t be seven seconds out the door to give him a hug and ask him to reconsider – talk to him genuinely, truthfully, ask him to help me understand, and for him to understand me. I’d do anything for to make him happy as he could be, and that trap of false happiness is an easy one. I’ve fallen into it, and do, on a regular basis.

I’m not sure who is to be blamed – the administration or the students. It’s the teacher who is supposed to promote a moral education – this isn’t happening. We need to say a big prayer for this High School – a daily, nightly, afternoonly prayer for the students and teachers of this otherwise exemplary institution. Have you seen their A-grades? I’m jealous!

Dear Lady of Knock, Queen of all Ireland, pray for us that have recourse to Thee – and pray for St Paul’s. We should offer up a sacrifice for all of Ireland both Northern and the republic. We cannot pray too much, it’s impossible so ya know.

 

The prose, I suppose

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give thine angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for thy love’s sake. Amen.

The above prayer comes from the Book of Common Prayer’s Compline service. Please don’t gasp that I’m quoting the Book of Common Prayer, but give me a minute to explain.

Falling asleep some nights proves itself no easier than swimming from Dublin to Norway. It takes the matchless prose such as above to get me over the torrential winds that anxiety sometimes is. However, that causes me to think: it’s not the prose, it’s the prayer. God has heard my cry, and he has come to my aid. O Lord, make haste to help me! Thy goodness like the sweet honey, and Thy mercy deeper than any ocean.

Some nights I’ll put on a tape of the Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen to listen to his speeches and homilies. I understand my faith much more because of those half-hour “episodes.” I’m reminded of his description of Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. The Venerable Archbishop asked if we could go and create our mother, wouldn’t we make her as flawless and as perfect as any mother is? Wouldn’t we make her the most beautiful lady on earth? Such was God’s mother: for He came down to Earth through the spotless vessel that is the Blessed Mother. The sinless, immaculate Virgin he created, for he loved her before all Creation was made. Our Lady was in His design and plan since the beginning, and that is her vital role in the mystery of Salvation.

That’s a good and comforting thought.  If the younger generations today could receive a good catechism, a good lesson in religion, a lot of the anxieties and crosses that younger people bear today would become a much lighter load.

Now to conclude, let’s end with the scripture translation that I will review come noon. The Common English Bible sums up John 16, one of it’s more better translated spots:

 Thomas asked, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”