Monday, August 29, 2016

The Passion of John the Baptist

Caravaggio's "Salome with the Head of John the Baptist"

"Amen, I say to you, among those born of women
there has been none greater than John the Baptist..."

(Mt 11:11a)

The question for John centered on God's revealed plan for marriage and family. The Baptist saw the situation clearly, and he courageously followed his convictions from prison to the platter.  There was no "personally opposed but..." for this very public figure.

Yet how would a post-modern and allegedly pluralistic people view this story?  Might they ask whether John went to his gruesome death needlessly?  Might they wonder whether he was simply out of touch with the times, or whether he was just too outspoken about his private opinions?

Even more dramatically, by today's standards might people view the Baptist as being guilty of judging Herod and Herodias--and, therefore, rightly condemned for such "hate speech"?

And what about the fact that Jesus praised John for such an intransigent and seemingly intolerant stance? Did Jesus himself have the whole marriage thing wrong?  By today's standards many people might wonder how the "Face of the Father's Mercy," as Pope Francis describes the Lord Jesus, could be so harsh as to say, "Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others...Whoever can accept this ought to accept it" (Mt 19:12). 

According to the deconstructive claim of radical secularism, the only truth about marriage is that there is no truth about marriage.  If the reality of marriage is not something given, then it must be  something determined by those in power.  Marriage and family become whatever the Herods and Herodiases of our time say they are.  Anyone who dares to challenge this so-called new normal--with questions such as "Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’"? (Mt 19:4)--must be silenced.


The obvious challenge for Christians of the 21st century remains the same as the one which the Baptist confronted:  How to speak the truth with love?  John clearly struck a chord with Herod, who used to like to listen to him, even though the Baptist perplexed him.  John was unafraid of the fact that darkness always strives to swallow up the light; he knew that the only constructive stance against injustice is to dissent.  Complicity with a lie only perpetuates the silencing of truth. 

John was able to speak with love of the one who is Love by rooting his life in the simple Christ-centered prayer: "He must increase; I must decrease" (Jn 3:30).

The question of our day regarding marriage and family: Whenever our moment(s) of Christian witness may arrive, will we have the courage of the Baptist to protect and promote God's beautiful vision for human love?  Will allow our worldly desires to decrease so that the very presence of the Lord might increase in our minds and hearts?

If so, then we may well find ourselves sharing in the passion of John the Baptist--served up on some proverbial platter.  But we will have the joy of hearing these reassuring words from the Lord:

"...yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he" (Mt 11:11b).

Monday, August 22, 2016

Praying for a Gratitude Attitude

Good and Loving God...

A gift is neither earned nor guaranteed;
help me embrace each day as your gift to me.

"All good giving and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights"
(Jas 1:17);
prompt me to pause and offer a Pater noster at the first signs of light.

Your grace and blessings come in disguise throughout my daily life;
surprise me with your presence where I would least expect it.

Asking for eyes to see and ears to hear gives me a heart to love;
ensure that my love never looks, sounds or feels ungrateful.

Ingratitude is the aboriginal temptation from the ultimate Ingrate;
may the Queen whose soul "proclaims the greatness of the Lord"
crush its callous head. 

Heavenly gifts to which I cling soon shrivel up
like yesterday's manna in the desert;
empower me to cheerfully give away all I've received.

Giving thanks conduces to thanksgiving;
remind me that the perfect act of thanksgiving
is one offered with and through Jesus in the Eucharist.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit...

Monday, August 15, 2016

NOVENA FOR OUR NATION: Help Change the World

When children are anxious or afraid, when they feel threatened either from without or within, they naturally turn to their mother for encouragement, guidance and protection.

This is why Jesus gives us his Mother as our mother.  This is also why Holy Mother Church gives us devotional opportunities to help transform both our own hearts and the culture in which we live.  Please consider joining prayerful souls across the country in response to the following invitation:

Cardinal Burke Calls our Nation to Pray 54 Day Rosary Novena

“There is no doubt that our beloved nation is in one of the worst crises which it has ever experienced, a profound moral crisis which generates division on all levels and results in an ever-greater more pervasive violence and killing. For Roman Catholics, who have always been known for their faith-filled patriotism, the first response to this crisis is fervent prayer and, in particular, prayer through the intercession of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, Mary Immaculate who is also the patroness of our nation.

"One of the most powerful prayers which is ours in the Church is, in fact, the Holy Rosary. I think, for instance, of the Battle of Lepanto and the victory which was won on October 7, 1571, over the Saracens who were bent on conquering Christian Europe. Let us now turn to the powerful prayer of the Holy Rosary, asking Mary Immaculate to intercede with Our Lord to bring healing to our nation and to inspire in her citizens the holiness of life which alone can transform our nation.

"I wholeheartedly endorse the Novena for Our Nation (Starting August 15) and the Rosary Rally on October 7th next, the 445thanniversary of the Battle of Lepanto. I urge as many as are able to participate in these great spiritual works for the sake of our entire nation. In a special way, as the spiritual advisor to the Holy League, I urge all members of the Holy League to give strong leadership in this great campaign of prayer for our nation.”
+His Eminence, Cardinal Raymond Burke
For for information, go to

Monday, August 8, 2016


"The first effect of not believing in God
is that you lose your common sense."

+G.K. Chesterton

Chesterton may not have known about social-media-generated movements, but he certainly understood that being Catholic means being in touch with reality.

When people live their lives as if God does not exist, they embrace a "practical" atheism. This denial that we live and move and have our being in the presence of God results in the erosion of common sense. Life itself quickly becomes confused and confusing.  Witness some of the mounting evidence of today's common senselessness:

* We condemn others for solving problems by resorting to murder, yet we condone our own summary executions via drone strikes.

* We proclaim ourselves to be the "land of the free," but the federal government tries to coerce the Little Sisters of the Poor to pay for contraceptives and abortion services against their well-formed consciences.

* We think that any combination or constellation of adults has a right to have a child by any and all means, but by no means do children have a right to both a father and a mother.

* When civil and cultural powers-that-be claim that kids don't need mothers and fathers, governmental agencies then act like they don't need mothers and fathers to raise these same kids.

* We embrace an atheistic anthropology which insists that the unchangeable reality of being born either male or female is malleable, and that the malleable feelings people have about their respective genders are unchangeable.

* We act like tolerance is the only moral absolute, but we condone bullying and intolerance of all kinds toward anyone who disagrees with the frantic redefinition of gender.

* We allow the ACLU to act like people have a constitutional right to use whatever bathrooms or locker rooms they feel like using, even as it ignores the fact that the free exercise of religion is the first of our nation's civil liberties.

Catholic common sense helps us see the world as it is, and ourselves as we are.  It helps us ask the right questions, such as this one from St. Paul,"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?" (1 Cor 7:19)

Monday, August 1, 2016

"The Experiences and Challenges of Families" (AL, Ch. 2)
"The welfare of the family is decisive for the future
of the world and of the Church."
(AL, n. 31)

Have you been worried that Pope Francis is out of touch with the "real world" problems that confront--and often divide--families?  If so, then the second chapter of Amoris Laetitia should help ease your concerns.

Entitled "The experiences and challenges of families," this chapter addresses a wide array of challenges and questions. Here is a brief sampling of three fundamental issues:
1. Extreme individualism "which weakens family bonds and ends up considering each member of the family as an isolated unit, leading in some cases to the idea that one's personality is shaped by his or her desires, which are considered absolute" (AL, n. 33).

What if my family is not all about me?  With his now typical flair, Pope Francis warns about thinking of the family as a "way station, helpful when convenient"; he knows that "it is easy nowadays to confuse genuine freedom with the idea that each individual can act arbitrarily, as if there were no truths, values and principles to provide guidance, and everything were possible and permissible" (AL, n. 34).  In the face of this persistent threat, the pope calls Christians to present the deeper, more meaningful motivations for choosing marriage and family.

True freedom is expressed only through an authentic gift of self: only those who lose themselves for the sake of Christ and his Gospel will find themselves.

2. Openness to grace is the key to understanding and living family life, rather than just "stressing the doctrinal, bioethical and moral issues" (AL, n. 37). Christ does not propose an impossible ideal.  Rather, He offers the necessary and sufficient strength to make the ideal become the real. 

So, what if living the Christian life is possible only with the help of God's grace? Trust in God's grace alone can reform and transform my conscience. Christians need to "present marriage more as a dynamic path to personal development and fulfillment than as a lifelong burden" (AL, n. 37). After all, God's grace breaks the bonds of narcissism, which "makes people incapable of looking beyond themselves, beyond their own desires and needs" (AL, n. 39).

As St. Paul recounts for us, Christ's grace is sufficient, for in our weakness his power reaches perfection.

3. Ideological colonization.  What if "rights" and "equality" are being used as powerful weapons to deconstruct marriage and family? Just as the old-fashioned colonization involved a take-over, a redefining of the rules of engagement, and a coerced complicity with the new world order, so the contemporary colonization proceeds apace.

In the words of Pope Francis, an ideology of gender "denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without sexual differences, thereby eliminating the anthropological basis of the family....Consequently, human identity becomes the choice of the individual, one which can also change over time" (AL, n. 56). As created beings, we ought to accept our existence as a gift.  This includes accepting the fact that "biological sex and the socio-cultural role of sex (gender) can be distinguished but not separated" (AL, n. 56).

This is not a matter of "judging" people, of course, but a matter of exposing and resisting "ideologies that attempt to sunder what are inseparable aspects of reality" (AL, n. 56).

Finally, even though this chapter addresses a number of other challenges, Pope Francis concludes by reminding us that "We should not be trapped into wasting our energy in doleful laments, but rather seek new forms of missionary creativity" (n. 57).  Amen, Papa Francesco!

For the sake of the world and of the Church, let's pray that the Holy Family continues to intercede on behalf of families everywhere--


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