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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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Dark Powers & Principalities

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It is a contention of mine for some time that we are in the midst of terrible battles with dark powers and principalities… consciences are being numbed to the truth, especially about the dignity of persons and the sanctity of life. The demonic influences earthly minions, seeking to corrupt both civil society and the life of the Church. Individuals are being infected with a self-righteous and prideful hubris… in terms of basic opinions, the presence and will of God, dissent and misplaced toleration, etc. When we target this dark power, there is disbelief, cynicism and anger… even from those who feign Catholicity or basic belief in God. The Christian is denounced as ignorant or as a bigot. White becomes black and black becomes white. We need active efforts at exorcism and spiritual deliverance!

Why do exorcists ask demons to reveal their names?

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Stuck Between the Rock & a Hard Place

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Who are we going to punish? I worry about this as a priest in reference to the distribution of Holy Communion, absolution in the sacrament of Penance and in terms of preaching a faith message from the Scriptures that might immediately be interpreted as “hate speech.” Passivity and toleration is not enough to appease certain people… it is being demanded that conventional Christians become advocates for sinful behavior. If a priest gives the sacraments to anyone, no matter what their views and lifestyle, then does he not become an accomplice in their sin? Would he forfeit his own immortal soul for causing scandal and violating conscience, the commandments and his sacred duty? For the sake of accompaniment, can a bishop or even pope force a priest to say or do something that he views as sinful and wrong?

The Devil Dances on the Graves of Priests

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I have this mental image of the devil dancing wildly on the graves of priests? Why is this? Do the eyes of the soul see the true agent behind our many troubles? Within a lifetime we have witnessed a terrible collapse of the Church… almost unbelievable scandal, massive defection, the end of a society with Christian values and a priesthood that has gone from being deeply revered to widely scorned. The character John Adams in the musical 1776 sings, “Is anybody there? Does anybody care? Does anybody see what I see? … Come what may, come what may– Commitment!” Many good priests share such sentiments, albeit for the Church. We will continue to love and care for our people. We will pray for the children who were catechized and forgot us. We will do our duty.

Pope Urges Use of Exorcists

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It is no wonder that Pope Francis is urging the appointment of more exorcists!

CRUX reported:

According to Pope Francis, confessors should not be averse to referring their penitents to exorcists if they suspect demonic activity is at work, and after consulting psychological professionals. The pontiff said the ministry of confession takes place on the “peripheries of evil and sin.”

Pope Francis stated:

Discernment is necessary also because those who approach the confessional may come from the most desperate situations; they could also have spiritual disturbances, whose nature should be submitted to careful discernment, taking into account all the existential, ecclesial, natural and supernatural circumstances. When the confessor becomes aware of the presence of genuine spiritual disturbances – that may be in large part psychic, and therefore must be confirmed by means of healthy collaboration with the human sciences – he must not hesitate to refer the issue to those who, in the diocese, are charged with this delicate and necessary ministry, namely, exorcists. But these must be chosen with great care and great prudence.

LINK: Audience with participants in the Course on the Internal Forum

Not Quite Alone in the Dark

scare7I will begin with the admonishment, “Beware of what lurks in the shadows!” Properly forewarned, I will tell my story. My brothers and I delighted in scaring one another and/or testing our courage. We would tell scary stories in closets. We would make faces in the dark and then shock one another with a flashlight showing a devilish grin or eyes popping out. I was probably the best with scary faces. Even today, young mothers should probably remember this when babies spy me over their shoulders and start to cry. Did I make a face or am I just naturally scary looking?

My parents had added two bedrooms to our small house. There was an interconnecting hallway room with three doors. There was no light in the small space. When all the doors were closed, it was quite dark. Mike, Danny, Paul and I would play in the room. The hard tiles made marbles exceptionally good fun. We would also play dare games, sitting in the blackened enclosed space, making eerie sounds and telling scary stories, daring each other to be the first to open a door and run for it. I was quite good at this game.

I recall one in particular . . .

“Hey, Joe, come and play!” I heard my baby brother Paul call out.

Okay, I thought, this will be good. He’s the easiest one to scare. I entered the dark space and closed the door behind me. Surrounded by pitch darkness, I sat down on the floor, facing where my brother was obviously sitting.

I started, “Booooo! Muhahaha! I’m coming to get you! Muhahaha!”

“I’m not scared,” Paul cried, “now it’s mine turn.”

“I’m coming to get you!” he parroted in baby fashion.

I interrupted, “Oh come on, try something different.”

“Let me finish!” he complained.

“All right, go ahead, give it your best shot.”

“I will, I really will,” he responded. His voice had taken on a shrill quality. Hum. He was getting better at this. “I’m coming to get you! I’m not your brother! I’m coming to get you! I’m not your brother.” His speech entered into an up-and-down sing-song kind of pattern. It was really quite unusual. “I’m coming to get you! I’m not your brother! I’m a demon from hell! I’m not your brother!”

He really was getting good at this. The voice he was using was now nothing like it was usually. I tried to interrupt again. “Uh, that’s pretty good, but it’s my try again,” I said.

Nevertheless, he did not quit. It was as if he no longer heard me.

“Stop it, I said, it is my turn,” I argued.

Still he continued in the peculiar rhythmic speech. “I’m not your brother! I’m a demon from hell! I’m coming to get you!”

I could not believe it, I was actually getting scared. He would not stop, that was unlike him. Paul always listened to me. His voice got louder and he began to hold the vowels longer. The words were clear but the inflection was all wrong, as if he did not know how to speak as a human.

“I’m not your brutheeer, Joooooe! I’m a deeemon from hell! I’m going to get you! I’m right next to you! Ready to grab you! Take you with me to hell! I’m not your brother! I’m a demon from hell! A demon from hell! From Hell!”

I yelled at him to stop but he wouldn’t. I had all I could stand. This was a little too scary and on top of that I had to go to the bathroom. I opened the door. Light poured into the small chamber. I stared at my brother, well I would have, except there was one small problem. He was not there. I had been in the dark space alone. I stared in disbelief and ran to the kitchen where mom was cooking. My brother Paul was eating a cookie. He had been there the whole time. I had been by myself or worse, maybe not? I can still hear the shrill sing-song voice after all these forty plus years, “I’m not your brother! I’m a demon from hell!”

The darkened space was created by the addition of two rooms upon the house. We had neglected to have that section blessed and there were no holy pictures or crosses in the enclosed space. Maybe this oversight was all the thing that I had encountered needed to violate our home. Or, perhaps it was all the overworked imagination of a young boy?

One evening not long after, I recall awakening in the middle of the night and putting my hand out into the hallway beyond my bedroom door. Again, in the darkness there was absolutely no light to see. Everyone was in bed asleep except for me. I dared myself to get over the fear I had experienced in the connecting space to the new rooms. There was nothing in the dark that was not there in the light, right? I had to prove it to myself. I would not be a coward. I stretched out my hand as far as my arm could reach. Just as I was ready to dismiss my earlier experience, something grabbed at my finger tips and I quickly withdrew my hand. I shook with fear in my bed. The grownups were wrong. There was SOMETHING IN THE DARK that was not there in the light!

Humanity has always feared the unknown associated with the darkness. We cling to the light. Many of the dying saints have begged to have a lantern or candle burning by their bedsides so that they might not have to die in the darkness. May we take comfort and courage in the true Light of the World who leads us out of the darkness of sin and death.

The Apostles’ Creed, the Righteous Dead & Hell

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Bob brings up an interesting inquiry regarding the Apostles’ Creed.  He writes:

“During the celebration of the Mass and reciting the Creed we say, ‘He descended into hell.’ The classroom posters for the children say, ‘He descended unto the dead.’ Now I was taught that our Lord Jesus descended into hell to show Satan and his followers that he is the Light of the World and that he has the power over sin and death; but based on research, professors of theology are using the Greek word “Hades” meaning place of the dead and as I remember it was similar to purgatory. Please give your thoughts on this.”

Sorry to say, it sounds like Bob and others were taught wrong. The current translation of the Creed at Mass uses the word HELL. The poster has the previous liturgical translation of the Creed, UNTO THE DEAD. It changed with the newer and corrected translation of the Roman Missal. A translation that was popular in Anglican circles rendered it as UNTO THE QUICK. Hell is a more literal translation; unfortunately, it can also be misunderstood. It refers not to the hell of the damned but to the more generic abode of the dead, what the Church termed as THE LIMBO OF THE FATHERS. Such a place no longer exists. Sin had breached humanity from God; the gates of heaven were closed with the sin of Adam and Eve. None could enter true heaven until the coming of the Christ. The righteous dead (Jews and Gentiles) awaited their Savior. Jesus descends into hell or unto the dead or into the limbo of the fathers so that they might now be translated into heaven. The Eastern churches have an icon where Jesus flies from the flames carrying Adam and Eve out by the hair. Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life. There is no way to the Father except through him. He is the bridge or “pontifex.” His saving Cross makes possible our passage. We have been redeemed by the Lord. He pays the price for our entry. It is an affirmation that none are saved apart from Christ. As I said, the limbo of the fathers is not hell of the damned, not heaven of the saints and not purgatory. Those three realities still exist. However, at the final consummation and judgment, purgatory will also cease to be. The poor souls would have completed their passage to the heavenly shore.  Then there will be two realities, heaven (the victory of love) and hell (the frustration of hatred and the wrong kind of loving).

Can the Most Wicked Be Forgiven?

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Mike asked a few questions about forgiveness that I have heard from others and are worth sharing.

1.  I have been wondering about forgiveness in general. Are there any sins so bad that they will never be forgiven, regardless of how much you repent and accept Jesus?

As long as you are alive, there is hope. If you are sorry, you can be forgiven. However, after death, our orientation and choice becomes permanent.  Of course, we are creatures of habit.  The longer we wallow in our sins, the less able and willing we might be to crawl out of the hole we have made for ourselves.  God wants to save us; but, we must also want to be saved.

2.  As an extreme hypothetical, if Lucifer suddenly repented and asked for forgiveness from God, would he be forgiven?

This is regarded as a nonsense question. It contains within itself a self-contradiction. The devil is a pure spirit. He lives outside of time. He has turned away from God. He cannot turn back. He hates God. This status is forever. Hell is more than a place. It is also a disposition. That is why the devil can say, “I am hell.” We should not feel sorry for or romanticize about the devil. We in our mortality are capricious in our choices. But the angels and the souls of the dead live in eternity. All they know is the eternal now. They are what they are. There is neither the desire nor the opportunity to change. Just as the saints are safely in their heaven forever and ever; so too are the damned fixed in their perdition, lost forever. The fallen angels define something of their angelic natures by their rebellion. They cannot be remade.

3.  Does God’s forgiveness only apply to humans, in other words?

Yes, only “living human beings” can avail themselves of God’s mercy. The demons would have none have it. Indeed, they hate the Divine Mercy, itself.

Another question came from Sarah.  She writes:

I did the Blasphemy Challenge years ago and regret it now that I’m re-discovering faith. Was it an unforgivable sin?

As long as there is breathe in your body, sin can be forgiven.  The atheists who promoted the “challenge” did not understand hyperbole and the correct reading of Scripture.  Sin is only unforgiveable when there is no sorrow for sin and repentance.  One cannot simultaneously reject God’s mercy and invoke it through contrition.  Are you sorry for your sins?  The Divine Mercy is ready and desirous of forgiving you.