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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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Dealing with a Transgendered Spouse

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I am a Catholic and I am seeking your help. My husband of thirty-one years has told me he is gay. He says he has felt this all his life. I am crushed. I feel my entire marriage has been a lie. He moved out of our house to live with a twenty-seven year old transgendered prostitute. Honestly, I am at a total loss. My heart is broken and I am deeply pained.  My thoughts about all this preoccupy my waking moments and I cannot eat and sleep.  My husband wants a divorce. I have decided to grant him the divorce because I cannot handle his cheating and deception.

Please help me through this time. I do not know where else to turn.  I have prayed to God for guidance.  But I still feel hurt and betrayed. Is there a prayer you would suggest? Any help would be gratefully appreciated.

Response

Your life together was not a lie… not for you. Remember the good times. His defection from you is like a death. There is anger and grieving. But eventually you have to let go. Do not allow this to drag you down. Move on and make a new life for yourself.

You are not responsible for his deception and infidelity. Given that he married you and that for many years you were unaware of his sexual deviancy, there is no certainty that he is honest even now about his orientation. You have every right to be upset. Since he left you to pursue a life of depravity, no one would fault you for giving him the divorce he wants. (However, it should be documented that he abandoned you— he is at fault.) Further, make sure that you are financially or materially secure.

As for what prayers should be offered, the Rosary is always efficacious. Instead of any particular prayer, that for which you pray might be the more important. Try not to hate your errant husband but rather pray for him as a poor sick man who has lost his way. He may not come back to you (indeed you may not want him back in your life) but you can ask the Lord to save his soul. You should also pray for peace in yourself. There is so much we cannot change. Suffering touches us all. We should not despair. Our Lord was also betrayed and made his passion the means of saving us. Offer your heartache with that of Jesus on the Cross. It is in Jesus that the dark elements of life can be made redemptive.

Blame When a Child Falls Away

Question

My son was three years old when my husband had a serious car accident. My husband ended up having a traumatic brain injury. That was nearly twenty years ago. Obviously, this caused multiple issues in my family. My son is now claiming to be an atheist. I am blaming myself for this. I struggled to pass on the faith and raised my son largely on my own.  Given how much there was on my plate, I feel that I was not a good parent. How can I bring my son back to God?

Response

I know families that pray daily, go to Mass every Sunday and had their children catechized to receive their sacraments… and still there are some that stray from the faith. Blaming yourself will not help. We live in a society where modernity targets faith for ridicule. What can you do? Pray for your family and continue to witness by your life what the faith means to you. Maybe in time this testimony of yours will bring your son home to the safe harbor of faith?

The Importance of Fatherhood

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A person may have trouble seeing God as a loving spiritual Father when one’s biological father has caused sexual abuse and physical trauma. Is one still culpable when past abuse makes faith in God difficult?  Does God understand why some of his children hesitate to call him by the title Father?  I know counseling helps but it does not make the problem go away.

Response

God understands everything, but the appreciation of God as our heavenly Father is a constitutive element of Christian revelation. We would short-change ourselves by eliminating this title that identifies the deity as a “personal” God who has created us out of love. Today there are many families where the father is missing and the mother is the sole parent. This is a terrible loss although these mothers are often very courageous and sacrificing for their children. The question is asked: How can these children possibly come to an appreciation of God as Father when they have no role model of fatherhood in their lives? It is a problem. But instead of eliminating any paternal theme, it is properly argued that we should accentuate it. Why? The fatherhood of God might be the only Father that many people will ever know. It should be a corrective to deadbeat dads or men who corrupt themselves through abuse or the abandonment of their families. If there be genuine healing, then an understanding of true fatherhood has to emerge. Otherwise, the spiritual life becomes stunted. Indeed, the familial relationships of the next generation are also damaged. How could one who flees the notion of fatherhood ever fully embrace healthy spousal love where the couple becomes mother and father?

Grieving & Angry at God

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My sister recently lost her husband to cancer at the age of 55. My teenage nieces are having a difficult time coping. They are angry at God and refuse to go to Mass.  I am looking for advice or words of comfort.

Response

The Blessed Mother lost her son Jesus when he was between 33 to 35 years of age. Our Lord rose from the dead and promised us a share in his life. We are all mortal and we will all die. But, there is hope in Christ. I would urge them to attend Mass and to pray for their father. We can intercede for souls and assist them into heaven. Our heavenly Father did not spare his own son. However, we are urged to trust Jesus when he says that he goes ahead of us to prepare a place for us. Instead of getting mad at God, this should be a time of increased devotion. The mystery of the communion of the saints is that we are still attached to our beloved dead in Christ. We can apply the fruits of the Mass for poor souls in purgatory. It is in Jesus that love is stronger than death. Despair and anger is not the answer. Tell them to find hope and peace.

Trouble Finding Godparents for Baptism

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I am a Catholic and my wife is a non-Catholic.  We had a son together and I am facing a dilemma about choosing his godparents. My best friend is a pastor at a Protestant church and he and his wife would be great role models for my son. I have family members who could be his godparents but they would not be as exemplary in their witness for Christ.  What should I do?

Response

Were you married in the Catholic Church and are you practicing your faith? If so, then the child should be baptized in a Catholic Church. Given that your friend is baptized, he can stand in as a Christian Witness at the baptism in place of one Catholic godparent. The other sponsor should be a Catholic godparent in good standing. Of course, everyone affirms the Apostles’ Creed. Would your pastor friend be okay with this?  Your friend may be a wonderful role model as a Christian, but the Catholic godparent is also a witness for the Church. Granted this spiritual bond, the godparent pledges to pray for the child and to do all in his or her power to assist the parents in raising the child in the Catholic faith.  During the early days of formation, this means insuring that the child receives religious education and the other sacraments.  The Catholic godparent should be practicing the faith and in a state of grace.

Facing Anxiety as People of Faith

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How might one who is living a very anxious and fearful life learn to trust in God?  I am always worried about what is coming next instead of finding joy in the many blessings and consolations of the present.

Response

First, I think there are personality types that are more prone to anxiety. Are introspective introverts more susceptible… maybe, I am not sure. It may that some will always deal with such feelings. Second, I think a prayerful abandonment to divine providence may be helpful. We have to trust that whatever comes, God will not abandon us. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee of smooth sailing in life. We will face hardships, suffering, betrayal, sickness and dying. Can we trust the Lord in both the bad times and the good times? I suspect that is where we find the test of faith.

Do Our Sins Wound or Hurt God?

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My question is when we do something that might hurt others— does it hurt God, too?  If our sins wound God, does this mean that he has emotions like us?  Does God love and feel as we do?  This confuses me because we also sometimes speak about God as if he is something utterly alien, perfect in every way and unmovable.

Response

This is a question I repeatedly get asked. God as an immutable and perfect spirit cannot be harmed. Our sins have dishonored the supreme dignity of God. God the Father does not have human emotions. However, God can be honored or dishonored. The justice of God demands that we maintain the correct posture before him. Sin offends him.

It is only with the incarnation, God becoming man, that we can speak of a divine Person being targeted by our sins and wounded.  All the sins of the world, throughout all time, and in every place, found their terminus in Christ and his Cross. Jesus embraces his Cross and surrendered his life as a sin offering for the whole world. The suffering Sacred Heart of Jesus is precisely the betrayed, scourged and crucified Christ. Our Lord’s Paschal Mystery takes place in time and yet it is not locked in human history. The Mass through an unbloody but real re-presentation brings us back to the sacrifice of the Cross and permits us to offer ourselves as an acceptable oblation to the Father, albeit joined to Christ. Jesus knew betrayal, abandonment, suffering and death. The risen Christ can never suffer or die again. But the sacrifice of Calvary has an eternal dimension.

Confusion about emotions in God is often due to the many definitions given to love. The Gospel understanding of love is not as an emotion although human beings often relate to love as an emotion or as chemistry. Theologically, love is an act of the will, not of the emotions. Our participation in divine love or charity is the infusion (with saving grace) of the virtue of love within the rational will. It is this supernatural love that would have us embrace or even sacrifice ourselves for those whom we have trouble in liking. This is the meaning behind loving those who hate you, giving to those who take from you and forgiving those who hurt you.

Thomists speak of God as the Unmoved Mover. God as such is a perfect Spirit and there is no biological chemistry or emotions. He possesses every perfection. He creates us with our emotions, even though because of Original sin, we must deal with concupiscence. Jesus is the incarnate God and in him there is both divinity and humanity, the latter including a body (with its emotions) as well as a human soul and his divinity. Of course, Jesus is the All Holy One and is not subject to the brokenness we experience because of the primordial fall. Jesus is defined as a Divine Person, not a human person. This is his ultimate identity. We are saved by Jesus who is God.

The Scriptures will sometimes resort to anthropomorphic language because this is all that we know. That is why God, especially in the Old Testament, often seems to reflect human wrath. Our language and categories are strained in trying to express the deity who reveals himself to us. For instance, ours is a jealous God. What does this mean? It actually says more about us than God. We were made for God. Separated from him and we are frustrated in terms of our ultimate ends.

What does it mean when we say that GOD IS LOVE? It is appreciated within an understanding of the Trinity. The Love of God is eternally generated between the Father and the Son. This perfect good will or the Holy Spirit is a divine interior power that harmonizes our hearts with that of Christ. God moves us to participate or to share in his love; a love that the Cross shows us is sacrificial. We are summoned to love one another as our Lord has loved us. This “personal” divine power or energy (not an impersonal force like Star Wars) always calls us to conversion or transformation. Hardened hearts are softened or changed within the body of the Church. This is what it means to witness the love of God to the world around us. We are made adopted sons and daughters to the Father. We are invited to abide within the Trinity (the inner life of God) forever.