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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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Responding to an Attack Upon Catholicism

PAUL:  You people are very sick.

FATHER JOE:  You are very angry and judgmental about Catholicism.  Are you a fallen-away Catholic?  Many Catholics find comfort and helpful guidance in Catholic faith and values.  You are too quick to tear down and attack that for which you seem to lack authentic understanding. Sin is the sickness, not religious faith.  You are no better than the people you ridicule.  You are also a weak sinner who needs Jesus and his mercy. 

PAUL:  The Catholic Church has made so many “rules” that do not even exist in the Bible.

FATHER JOE:  The Catholic Church has rules for good order, but the commandments and the ecclesial precepts find their basis in the Decalogue given to Moses and the two commandments of love from Christ.  We also believe in natural law.  God gave us reason to appreciate the harmony and order of his creation.  Values that reflect divine positive law and natural law are not capricious.

PAUL:  Since when do “men” speak for God or Christ?

FATHER JOE:  As for men speaking for God, such is the witness of the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles.  Our Lord, himself, while critical of the hypocrisy of Pharisees, admonished the Jewish people to do as they say and not as they do.  Jesus establishes a new covenant people and gives the Church’s leadership something of his authority.  The Church is entrusted with the Gospel and even collects the books and letters that would constitute the New Testament and the complete Christian Bible.  Men in the Church have also been responsible for the translation of the Scriptures.  Apart from the community, and men wise in the ways of God, you would not even know God’s Word.  If men and women did not pass on the faith, you would not know Jesus or the story of salvation.  The Catholic Church was preaching the Good News before there was a complete Christian bible and while the Gospels were only an oral tradition.  

PAUL:  Where in the Bible does it say one should confess sins to another man, say a few Hail Marys, Our Fathers (and of course put some $$$ in the box!) to be forgiven? PLEASE show me this. IT does not exist.

FATHER JOE: 

Jesus, being God, knew the hearts of men.  Nevertheless, sinners still needed to repent and believe.  Priests have the authority to forgive sins, but few have the power to read souls or minds.  That is why the confession of sins is crucial, making possible an adequate penance and counsel.  The prayers or acts of penance and/or mortification show God our thankfulness for his mercy and make a certain degree of reparation for temporal punishment due to sin.  There is precedent for confession in the Old Testament: Leviticus 5:5, Leviticus 26:40-42, Hosea 5:15, Job 33:27-28, Joshua 7;19, Jeremiah 3:13, and Proverbs 28:13.

Tithing or support for the Church is a Christian obligation; however, it is not normally an element of penance arising from the Sacrament of Confession.  The Lord gives priests something of his authority so that they might perpetuate his ministry of reconciliation. We read in 2 Corinthians 2:10-11:  “Whomever you forgive anything, so do I. For indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for you in the presence of Christ, so that we might not be taken advantage of by Satan, for we are not unaware of his purposes.”  St. Paul goes on to write:  “And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). Another important text is 1 John 19: “If we acknowledge [confess] our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.”   There is also James 5:16: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.”  Looking at the Gospels, texts like Matthew 16:19 and Matthew 18:18 are important.  Often cited is John 20:21-23:  “(Jesus) said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’”

PAUL:  What good does it do me to pray to Mary? She cannot save ANYONE. Only Christ can forgive your sins. Pray to him, not some guy in a fancy box who will then give you his recommended “Penance.” How ridiculous!

FATHER JOE:  Yes, only Christ can forgive sins, but the ministry of Jesus is perpetuated and mediated within the saving community of the Church.  Penitents receive absolution from a priest, but the proper object of the prayers is always God.  Indeed, even prayers to Mary and the other saints, while they invoke intercession and solidarity, are still directed to God.  Those who have already made it to the promised shore continue to love and pray for us.  The graces from the deposit of the saints can also be accessed.  Nothing is lost.  Christ is present and his saving work is active in his Mystical Body, the Church.  Confession is a sacrament that can be conducted behind a screen or face-to-face.  There is nothing ridiculous about this.  Indeed, it is beautiful.  God loves us and gives us all we need for spiritual perfection.

PAUL:  Catholics need to read their own Bible and quit making up their own human rules!

FATHER JOE:  Catholics have wonderful bibles and the Scriptures are proclaimed at and substantiate the Mass and Reconciliation.  Human rules or disciplines in the Church amplify the law of God and give order to our Christian discipleship.  Such is the mandate given to the apostles and their successors as our lawful shepherds.

PAUL:  Please tell me where in the Bible sins are labeled as “mortal”? — MORE Catholic rubbish.

FATHER JOE:  For someone who argues “sola scriptura,” you seem to be in great ignorance of biblical truths.  It is sad that someone who claims to be a Christian would insult learned believers who take their faith seriously.  The Bible teaches degrees to sin.  All sin, even “venial” or lesser sin, is disobedience and a failure to love as we should.  However, certain sins are most grave and bring upon us the sentence of death, in other words, these are “mortal” sins which kill the soul and breech our relationship with God.  The Old Testament admits to degrees of sin (see Genesis 18:20).  The New Testament amplifies this truth (see John 19:11).  Just as our Lord could raise the dead, the absolution in the sacrament of penance can restore a contrite soul back to life.  “If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly” (1 John:16-17).

PAUL:  Just step into our church, sit down and let us read you a few verses, then we’ll pass the basket around again for a few more of your hard earned dollars… I have been to Rome and viewed all the wealth the Catholic Church has managed to gather from “devout Catholics.”

FATHER JOE:  Participation at church is more than just going through the motions.  Most parishes and Catholic pastors struggle to be good stewards of the resources given us by God’s good people.  We do not preach a prosperity gospel but witness in a way that brings the truth to ignorance, healing to the hurting and hope to the oppressed.  The Church is a treasury of the Western world’s history and culture.  But she is also the refuge of a billion people in this world and many more in the next who count Jesus Christ as both their personal and corporate Savior.  The Pope intervenes annually for the poor and collections are taken the world over to cover the shortfall.  Would you have us sell all our churches for secular condos and for shopping malls?  Your bigotry betrays your reason.

PAUL:  My wife was refused entry into the famous “Vatican” because her shoulders were not completely covered. Christ said bring ALL sinners, He has no Dress Code for his house! I found it very funny how a young girl in line ahead of us (most likely 8 years of age and obviously a virgin) was allowed in without her shoulders covered at all, yet a married woman was not! MORE Catholic B.S.!

FATHER JOE:  The dress code for the Vatican and meeting the Pope is well documented.  The problem was that you and your wife did not respect the Holy Father enough to make proper preparations.  Comparing the status of an adult woman with a child and then making a comment about her sexual condition shows the great depth of your spiritual sickness and moral depravity.  All churches have dress codes of one sort or another, the same for synagogues and mosques.  Would you have churches allow people to enter with vulgar tee-shirts or naked?  As for our Lord, he told a parable that you have evidently forgotten:   “But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’  Many are invited, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:11-14).  Every Mass is a sacramental participation in the heavenly marriage banquet.  Our dress and posture should show the proper respect, not simply to the Pope, but to almighty God.  Tell your wife to cover up next time.   

PAUL:  NO ONE could ever convince me that this cult called Catholicism is true followers of Christ. The weak minded will believe ANYTHING these “men” tell them and empty their pockets if they are convinced it will get them to Heaven.

FATHER JOE:  If you believed Catholicism was a cult then why would you even try to enter the Vatican?  Were you up to no good?  The weakness of argument and mind is yours.  You throw out straw man arguments that are parroted from old anti-Catholic sources.  I hear a lot of prejudice and anger speaking, but little in the way of reasoned argument.  Typical of your type, you falsely characterize Catholic beliefs and then you attack what you yourself have fashioned.  No one can buy his or her way into heaven.  The Catholic Church has taught for 2,000 years that Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life.  Jesus is the anointed one or Christ.  He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. 

PAUL:  All people really need to do is READ THE BIBLE THEMSELVES and understand that ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL!

FATHER JOE:  The Bible was once used in arguments for slavery.  You cannot use the Bible like a moral manual.  However, I will admit the there is much in the Scriptures, particularly in the message of Christ, which stresses the inherent worth and dignity of all men and women.  St. Paul makes mention that in Christ there is neither free nor slave, Jew nor Gentile, male nor female… all are called to the saving grace of our baptismal faith.  Man was made in the image of God.  The forgiveness of sins restores our full likeness.

PAUL:  Just because some guy wears a fancy robe (and a KKK hat) doesn’t make him (or her) any “holier” than anyone else on this planet. Nor does it give him (them) the divinity to make some “new heavenly rules”!

FATHER JOE:  The racist KKK is also historically anti-Catholic and you are mouthing many of their old slanders against the Catholic Church.  The robes do not give our shepherds their authority.  It is given to them by Christ.  They share in the apostolic succession that keeps us in both historical and spiritual unity with Christ.  The apostles passed on their authority and we still proclaim the ancient faith.  Christianity did not begin as a book religion.  As I have written before, the Church was proclaiming the Gospel and baptizing new believers even before there was a New Testament.  The Magisterium does NOT invent new heavenly rules.  Rather, the Church passes on what she has been given.  The problem is not that Catholicism added anything; rather, it is that anti-Catholic fundamentalists like you have subtracted out elements of the faith given us by Jesus Christ.

PAUL:  Personally I follow the guidance delivered by The Bible, not a bunch of men and women who think they are “cleaner than the rest” because they supposedly don’t have sex (let’s not talk about the altar boy molestation that has occurred time and time again and mostly hidden or covered up by the Great Catholics!)

FATHER JOE:  The scandal of abuse by clergy is indeed a terrible business.  But most priests are good men who love the Lord and try to make a positive difference in the lives of the people they serve.  Speaking for myself, my one great ambition is to go to heaven and I would like to take a few of my friends with me.  We have different roles to play in the body of the Church.  We need each other.  We all need Jesus.  Priests do not imagine themselves as “holier than thou.”  Even the Pope regularly goes to confession.  We acknowledge in the sacrament, and at the beginning of every Mass, that we are sinners in need of a redeemer.  LORD, HAVE MERCY ON US.  CHRIST, HAVE MERCY ON US.  LORD, HAVE MERCY ON US.  A priest who hears confessions and offers absolution is humbled that God would make him into an instrument of healing and mercy for others.  The priest Confessor counts himself as the first among sinners.  He is not perfect either.  That is why all priests are to be guarded about hypocrisy and self-righteousness.  As for the Bible, you speak as if I and all Catholics are ignorant about God’s Word.  That is not true.  Of course, we could all know it better.  I think you have a long way to go before you can make a claim upon teaching biblical truth.  Why do I say this?  Not only do you show your lack of biblical formation again and again, you demonstrate nothing of the heart of Christ’s message.  There is nothing of charity in what you say.  Without charity, you have nothing.  I tell you this because, even though you have upset me, I am required to forgive and share the sacrificial love of Jesus.  I want you to be in good standing with the Lord.  You do not seem to have any awareness that attacking the Church, which is all the Christian people and not just buildings or clerics, you attack Jesus Christ.  

PAUL:  Jesus said it is good if a man CAN abstain, he never said you MUST abstain to spread his word, another Catholic “invention.”

FATHER JOE:  No, it is your invention.  One does not have to be a celibate priest in order to spread God’s Word.  The Roman Catholic Church prefers a celibate priesthood, although various Eastern rites of the Catholic Church have married clergy.  Our deacons are also given Holy Orders and the vast majority of these Catholic ministers are married men.  They witness marriages, perform baptisms, offer funeral services, work as chaplains and bring Holy Communion to people.  They do the very things we see Protestant ministers doing and more.  We also have religious brothers, sisters and members of the laity who teach the faith and proclaim the Gospel by word and witness in the larger community.  Further, there are growing numbers of Catholic lay evangelists, who are married and single.

PAUL:  I have also never seen anything in the Bible that said masturbation is a “Mortal Sin.” Wow! I guess this means that about 99% of all men will rot in Hell— ANOTHER Catholic rumor.

FATHER JOE:  Do you have a hang up about sex, Paul?  Sexual sins are serious because we are corporeal beings.  Our bodies are not robotic appendages or extensions, but are intimate elements of our identity as persons.  Masturbation as a sin constitutes serious matter, but all good confessors also give weight to issues like habit, passion, an erotic society and media, etc.  Anything that takes away freedom necessarily affects the consent.  As a priest my concern about any of the sins is not to steer people toward hell but to direct them to heaven.  You may have passed over into the dark area of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit.  I would plead that you be careful about this.  The Old Testament and the rabbinic tradition placed a great emphasis upon fertility and the blessing of posterity.  Masturbation is a trespass against this good of God.  Masturbation or Onanism is condemned by God (see Genesis 38:9).   Complicating matters further, it is a matter of course that masturbation is inextricably connected to lust and adultery in the heart.  Such is also condemned by God (see Matthew 5:28-29).           

PAUL:  I am sorry, but the God I believe in would rather a man touch himself then take advantage of another.

FATHER JOE:  This is why I am worried about you.  Men can struggle with chastity and still not take advantage of others.  The lines of dichotomy that you draw are false.

PAUL:  All the Catholic Church wants is MORE Money. You have to make your monthly payment to get to their heaven…

FATHER JOE:  Up until a few months ago, I was driving a 1995 used car.  Now I have moved up to a 2002 used car… still nine years old!  I wear shoes until there are holes in them.  I think I live fairly simply.  Compared to the Protestant ministers in my neighborhood, I am probably the poorest man among them.  Most Catholic priests would be in this category.  Yes, we ask for donations, but to pay the bills.  We also feed the poor and help those who are hurting.  Money is raised not to buy anyone’s way into heaven but to help relieve the hell that people suffer here on earth.  You have it all wrong.  Your false judgment against “all” the Catholic Church is nothing less than a sin.

PAUL:  I went to Catholic school for the first five years of my education. It finally reached a point where my mother could not afford the tuition. She was told by the clergy that she would go to hell because she removed my sister and I from the school… Pretty cool huh? What a bunch of sickos….

FATHER JOE:  Given how you have misrepresented so much else, I have a hard time believing what you write about this anonymous priest.  The poor man may have had a bad day or what you say is an exaggeration, but such a tale is hardly a good reason to turn against the Church.  I was turned down for Catholic school entirely.  Sister told my mother that I was “sickly and stupid,” and so I went to public schools all the way through High School.  I failed first grade and the public school teacher wanted to send me away to a special school for “retarded” children.  Yes, that was the word she used.  Another teacher came to my rescue and helped me to stay in the school the following year.  I did not give up on life or learning.  Neither did I turn away from the Church.  I became a priest.  I am sorry that you did not have such strength of conviction or faith.

PAUL:  Oh and one more thing (sorry, I forgot!). The God I believe in would rather a couple use a condom to prevent the spread of disease and an unwanted child. There are enough sick people and starving children on this planet.

FATHER JOE:  Men and women are not simply animals in heat.  The marital act is non-contraceptive intercourse between a husband and wife.  Regardless of age and fertility, it is that TYPE OF ACT that is open to the generation of new human life.  Condomistic intercourse is not the marital act.  Not only is it closed to the gift of children, it also places a barrier between the spouses in terms of their mutual fidelity.  The natural law is circumvented in regards to the giving and receiving between spouses.  They are to surrender everything they are to the other and become one flesh… not one flesh divided by a piece of latex.  This is not simply a mechanistic reservation, condomistic intercourse is an entirely different TYPE OF ACT from the marital act, an act that renews the marital covenant, a covenant elevated by Christ to a sacrament which points to his unity with his bride, the Church.  If marital couples are faithful to each then there is no chance of HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases.  As for the contraceptive intent, it is the handmaid of abortion.  You display this slippery slope in your language about “an unwanted child.”  No child should be unwanted.  Once we start thinking like that, we become enemies of the Gospel of Life proclaimed by Jesus and the Church.  If couples hate, or do not want children, then they should not get married.  Couples who are not married have no right to the sex act.  Our Lord prophesied during his passion about such an attitude as you display.  “A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him. Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children, for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.’ At that time people will say to the mountains, ‘Fall upon us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ for if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?’” (Luke 23:27-31).    

PAUL:  Sex is a wonderful experience shared between two people in love. But according the Catholic’s way of thinking you need to have a newborn at least once a year because birth control is a MORTAL SIN… How stupid is that?! They just want MORE Catholics to send them more money!

FATHER JOE:  The marital act is indeed a beautiful expression of love between a husband and wife; however, not every form of sexual expression is legitimate or worthy of our humanity.  But I guess you have a problem with any restrictions.  Once again, though, you falsify the Catholic stance toward the propagation of the species.  Natural family planning can help couples space births and to have children.  As long as it is used unselfishly, such family planning has value.  Artificial contraception is deemed immoral but there is no Church requirement that people reproduce like rabbits.  Next, you connect the matter of sex to money… the two topics that seem to obsess you.  The Church embraces millions upon millions who have little voice except that of the Church seeking justice.  She does not write them off or give preference to the rich.  Indeed, despite how they tax the resources of the Church, the late Pope John Paul spoke about the vast multitudes of the poor as the true treasure of the Church.  The Church has a preferential option for the poor.   

PAUL:  I pity you all for being so brainwashed. But then again look at the other cults of the world (including the one run by Jim Jones) who have convinced weak minded individuals to follow them!

FATHER JOE:  You would compare the Church to a cult where a madman murdered his followers?  The Church does not brainwash people or seduce weak minds.  But the enemies of the Church do precisely this, and it appears to me that you are one of their victims. 

PAUL:  Stand up for yourselves people and pray. God WILL listen to you. Some people do need a little guidance along the way but NEVER believe things “men” speak of. There is no need to obey rules made up by a cult intent on controlling your life. Read your Bible and you will learn what GODS will is, not some guys making up the rules as they go…. Catholicism = The Earth’s Greatest Cult (good luck with that!)

FATHER JOE:  Our good Catholic people do pray, sometimes standing and sometimes on their knees.  Catholics are increasingly knowledgeable of their bibles and have the wisdom of the saints, the Church fathers and theologians and biblical exegetes.  We are not afraid of learning.  Ours is an informed faith.  These sources of Christian doctrine are far more reliable than that of one ignorant and angry anti-Catholic fundamentalist.  You offer no reasons why anyone should follow you over the 2,000 year old institution established by Christ.  Do you belong to a church or are you a cult of one.  If Catholics read the Bible and study their faith, then the ignorance, prejudice and treachery of men like you is immediately exposed.  Catholicism = Christianity, pure and simple!  

Modest Swimsuits at Last!

This is a REPOSTING of a post I made back in 2007.  It is amazing how many hits the MODEST SWIMSUITS post received (30,667 hits as of today). I guess that topic is something virtuous people regularly plug into search engines in the desperate hope of finding something for themselves and for their children to wear.

My earlier post was done somewhat tongue-in-cheek and yet the concern is a real one for people. Good Christian girls might not want to disguise their beauty to the extent of some of the Moslem styles, but neither do they want skimpy outfits that are little better than all-out nudity. I suppose more mature women want suits that stress their femininity while not exaggerating the few pounds that come with age and childbirth. Given his celibacy, I joked about priests unable to go to the beach, but have things reached such a point that the beach represents a real danger to any Christian and the family? 

One final qualification, while this posting does poke a little fun, the subject matter is serious and the good Muslim ladies are a wonderful witness to modesty, with all kidding aside.  I understand that a number of people even followed the links here and gave them some swimwear business.  While I might think there coverage is a bit much, they have earned my respect for daring to be counter-cultural and cherishing both modesty and chastity. 

wildbeachgals.jpg

Yes, I am talking about the weaknesses of the flesh and acts of passion, but also about possible abuse and assault. Spiritually, there is the matter of the soul, too. Can a man admire bikini clad young girls and simply praise God for the goodness of creation? Or is a man more likely fantasizing about them? When plenty of flesh is literally delivered to the senses on a platter, a person might not need a wild imagination or much further motivation for sinful thoughts.

Similarly, women are increasingly joking about male bulges and butts. They are not immune to sexual fantasies either, and such can constitute immodest thoughts and, as with the men, even adultery in the heart. When was the last time any of us heard someone teach about the moral imperative to maintain a “custody of the eyes”?

FOLLOWING IS THE ORIGINAL POST.  I HOPE YOU HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR.

swimm1.jpgTraditional Catholics and Homeschooling parents are always lamenting the fact that they cannot find modest swimsuits for the young women in the family. Everything is designed these days to show ballooning cleavage and legs extended past the waistline, or so it seems. It is all a very scary business, especially if there are young men and teenage boys on the beaches too. Remember, the most dangerous thing for a teenage girl is a teenage boy! Many of us have not visited beaches in years so as to preserve the custody of the eyes. Well, if you are tired of parading your young daughters to the ravenous beach wolves, there is hope in sight. It comes from a highly unlikely place, the Muslims.

Less willing to go naked as many so-called Catholics and other Christians these days, these girls also want fun in the sun, laying on the beach, and swimming in the surf. But, they do not want to forfeit their virginity or be prey to voyeurs in doing it. It is here that we can take a lesson from their book.

moslemsuit1.jpgSPLASHGEAR MODEST SWIMWEAR has been designed with loose-fitting swim shirts (yes, even that pretty neck is covered!), swim pants (legs, what legs?) and hair covers (which she can use at Mass, too!). Why these girls look almost like boys they are covered so effectively. Fathers will no longer have to worry, indeed, they can get modest swim-gear for their wives too (they come even in jumbo sizes!).

An article about these wonderful swimsuits ran in an AP (Feb 18, 2007) article by Peter Prengaman that you can read in full at the Splash Gear site:

“America is predominantly coed, and increasingly the norm is skimpy swimsuits. Enter the new-and-improved all-body suit. The suits are also increasingly stylish, with aqua to purple to hot pink colors, intricate sequin designs and miniskirts that go over long pants. ‘We want to be modest, but we also want to be fashionable,’ said Shereen Sabet, who last year founded Splashgear, an online swimwear store for Muslim women based in Huntington Beach.”

moslemsuit4.jpg

The flipside to all this is that it will help us save our young Catholic boys from corruption, too. No matter how we raise them, let us be honest, when it comes to the flesh, the male of the species is weak. Girls flirt and shamelessly show themselves off to boys, arguing that it is okay as long as they do not get the boys’ engines running. Silly silly girls, boys are born with their motors running. Sexual morality will always be what young women want it to be. If most girls set limits and said “NO!” more often, boys would accept it and be better off. These swimsuits will help…out of sight, out of mind. All the bumpy parts are covered, even down to the ankles. Strategic scarves cover necks and chins and the headgear on other outfits goes all around the chin. Some might regard the hair-guard as optional, but don’t you chance it! Who knows what a pretty neck or a rosy cheek might do to a hormonal crazy boy! The Bible talks about the allure of a woman’s hair, best to keep that under cover as well.

moslemsuit3.jpgmoslemsuit2.jpgThe Church should start its own line, and we could sell to “good” Catholics and Muslims alike. But until then, the Muslims have online and mail-order catalogues! If our kids are afraid that others might make fun of them, we can start groups that will go to pools and beaches together. Catholic homeschoolers and Muslim girls can swim together and urge authorities to force those nasty boys to go somewhere else! With strength of numbers, our families and girls can admonish the other so-called Catholic females on the beach: “Have you no shame for exposing yourselves in underwear? Protestants, I mean Prostitutes wear more clothes than you! Why don’t you save money and just wear a couple pieces of cotton thread instead of that $500 string-bikini! Your butt is fat! My newborn baby sees you and all he wants to do is nurse!” You’ll have those immodest sirens running from the beaches in tears.

swimm3.jpg

Compare this girl to the ones shown in modest-wear above! It is no comparison! This girl is nothing but temptation and sin looking for trouble. Look at her with that “come-hither” stare–disgusting!

Let us make a revolution for purity and modesty today!

On the Net:

Splashgear: http://www.splashgearusa.com/

Primo Moda http://www.primomoda.com/

Ahiida: http://www.ahiida.com/

If everyone starts wearing these new outfits, we will finally be able to take our clergy on beach vacations and not have to be embarrassed by the local sights. Take back the pools and beaches for the Lord and for us modest believers. We can make a difference! Finally we have found something worthwhile we can do with our Muslim neighbors!

CLICK HERE for Discussion About Modest Swimsuits #2

Hold Fast to God

“Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20). These words when offered to the People of God by Moses were an encouragement to follow the commandments, and thus to seek God’s blessing and not his curse. So often this translated into the naive understanding that if one were good, only good things would enter one’s life. However, in the book of Job and then in the life of Jesus himself, we become well aware that sometimes suffering and even death can inflict the very best of people. The Christian appreciation of this text is very deep. Like a child trusting utterly in his or her parent, we are to rely upon and to be faithful to God — no matter what. Jesus lived out this passage, because as ironic as it might seem, by allowing himself to be betrayed, mocked, tortured, and murdered — he was choosing life for us. Now, in response to his sacrifice, we too have to open ourselves to a share in this life — a life which will ultimately be beyond the reach of pain and death. Notice what the Scripture said, we are to love God, heed his voice, and cling fast to him. We are to hold on so tight that no storm of sin and weakness can drive us away from him. This will require that our love for him always be fused with obedience, just as Christ was obedient unto the Cross. The secret is not to give up on God even when the times become difficult. What is more, we need desperately to find the peace and joy which comes with perfect discipleship in this life, despite the cost, loving God entirely for his own sake.

In our tradition we often recall the Cyrenian who reluctantly was forced to help Jesus carry his Cross up to Calvary. Do we hesitate? Do we despair and give up? Do we run away from our responsibilities? Jesus did not. (see Luke 9:22-25). May we be so filled with the love of God, and therefore deny our very selves, that we may pick up our crosses willingly in traveling in the footsteps of Christ.

For more such reflections, contact me about getting my book, CHRISTIAN REFLECTIONS.

The Struggles of Priests: A Discussion

I thought the following remarks were worthy of a posted dialogue or brief reflection. 

GUEST OPINION: Sometimes parents and grandparents lament the choice of a young man to become a priest. Given the stories about abusers and gay clergy, will the heterosexual man find himself the odd man out or one among a brotherhood of normal men who embrace single-hearted love? Parents want grandchildren and worry about his happiness.

FATHER JOE:  There is nothing more wonderful than the priesthood.  It is worth the greatest sacrifices.  The scandals around sexuality are tragic and devastating to the Church’s reputation.  But there have always been weakness, confusion and sin.  We see the same with marriage, especially today when half of all unions end in divorce, often under the grounds of adultery.  Scandals should no more prevent men from answering a call to ministry than they should deter good Christian couples from pledging their love to each other within the covenant of marriage.    

GUEST OPINION:  Many berate “celibacy,” while even clergy are often quiet and/or resentful about their chosen lifestyle. They talk about the Church DEMANDING it instead of about themselves CHOOSING and EMBRACING it. It is a discipline of the Catholic priesthood, but sacrifices might be joyfully pursued and can open all sorts of doors for discipleship. Strangely enough, I have known some who were energetic in the defense of our religion and rigorists about the rules, not because they were on fire with fervor for the faith and their promises, but because they were trying to convince themselves.

FATHER JOE:  No sooner do you say something good that you ruin it.  Celibate love opens a man to single-hearted love of God and selfless service to the community.  You are right that it opens all sorts of doors to responding to God.  While a few might be pretentious in living out the demands of priesthood; I would hope that most men do so out of a conviction and excitement about the faith and the part they play in the work of salvation made possible in Christ Jesus. 

GUEST OPINION:  The man looking at priesthood wants to take care of others, but who will take care of him? A priest friend told me that every ordination homily used to sound like a Mother’s Day sermon. The bishop assured the women that the Church would take care of their boys. Today pension plans are strapped for funds and the Church has reneged on long-term care for elderly and ailing priests. Has the Church broken a trust with these women and their sons?

FATHER JOE:  While creative, this writing is also fairly cynical. I understand the frustrations, but we have to be realists about the problems we face today as well. Men do not become priests because we want someone to take care of us. We become priests because the wondrous love of God has called us as caregivers for the salvation of souls. We want to make Christ’s sacrifice present and to be the dispensers of his sacraments, particularly the Eucharist. Empowered to forgive sins, we seek to bring divine mercy to our fellow men and women. When a man is ordained for the altar he is configured to participate in the one priesthood of Christ. He ministers, not in his own name, but as a representative of Christ and his Church. Priests are commissioned by Christ and authorized to function as extensions of their bishops. Instead of seeing tension between the shepherds, we should acknowledge the ministry of the Church as a whole and the unity that exists between her ministers. Mistakes might be made regarding practical matters, but the grace of God remains with his Mystical Body. The Church is still One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. The Holy Spirit safeguards the truth of the Gospel and empowers the weakest of men to teach and pass on the faith and morals revealed by God. Every priest is a servant or slave of the Gospel. We do not live for ourselves, but for God and others. When our lives are used up, we should echo Luke 17:10, “When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’”

GUEST OPINION:

The priest has no spouse or children to rely upon. Canon law says that the relationship of a bishop to his priests should be that of a father to a son. Is that always the case, especially when priests make mistakes, get in trouble, or just face sickness? It seems that legal expediencies and financial threats can quickly cause a vast divide. We forgive everyone, except our own.

We may have to rewrite the parable of the prodigal son. When the prodigal comes home, his father refuses to meet him and sends out a lawyer who tells him that he has severed his ties and must go his own way. Indeed, he has been disowned and can no longer be called his son. “You are laicized and maybe even excommunicated.” The elder son hears that there is a commotion and confronts the father. His father seemingly has amnesia about ever knowing the prodigal. Regardless, anything this person did could not possibly be his fault or connected to him. Unfortunately, there is more bad news because the farm is failing and the inheritance that the elder son expected will now have to go to the lawyers for legal expenses. “You face ever escalating expectations and demands for funds, reprimand for speaking too honestly and forcefully about moral issues from the pulpit, and may face a retirement, not in a priests’ home, but as a ward of the state.”

FATHER JOE: 

The guest opinion writer would normally be regarded as quite orthodox.  Concerned about the priesthood, he is wrestling over certain issues.  I must acknowledge that I deleted a few points of the opinion above because of coherence and my own personal preferences about the nature of this blog. It is for this reason that my response seems to go beyond the perameters of the opinion piece.     

A priest prays for his bishop every day in the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours. Most bishops are good shepherds of the Church and seek to support their brother priests. While there is a fatherly relationship in authority, there is also a brotherly affinity in love and service. The positing of an adversarial relationship is perverse and counter to Catholic ecclesiology. Priests are men under authority. In days gone by and in the present, they go where they are sent and do the work they are charged to do. The promise or vow does not expire when a priest retires. Given the need for clergy, even most retired priests still work hard. Genuine retirement for a priest comes when he closes his eyes for the last time and hears his Master’s voice calling, “Come good and faithful servant.”

It is true that we cannot excuse false teaching, ministerial indolence, or harmful scandal from the clergy. However, neither should the laity ridicule their ministers. God’s people must support their priests and bishops, helping them to become the shepherds we deserve and need. We can witness to one another by example in remaining steadfast in faith and true to our state of life.

Good bishops and priests love the people they serve. Do the people in the pews always love their priests? Are they appreciative of all the personal sacrifices these men make so that we might share the Eucharist and have our sins forgiven? Do we take account of the frightful challenges facing our bishops as they strive to insure the unity of faith, preserve our Christian legacy, and dialogue with a combative secular society?  We have many good people, but some of our worst enemies are so-called Catholics, themselves.  Today, there are critics who have nothing good to say about the Church. They tell jokes about priests and bishops, slandering good men because of a few renegades who played Judas. Particularly sad is how normally pious folk are now joining into the litany of criticism and venomous gossip that was once reserved to the Church’s enemies.

If you would like to share your opinion on this Blog, you can write the message in the ASK A PRIEST comment section or send an email to frjoe2000@yahoo.com. I always take editorial liberties and reserve the right to add a response.

Questions & Answers About Prayer, Fasting & Blessings

What is the prayer book from which priests and religious read?

Called the Liturgy of the Hours or the Breviary, it is one of the principal ways, along with the Mass, that the Church seeks to pray unceasingly throughout the world. Priests and religious use the Breviary as a staple in their prayer life. It is a form of prayer mandated for them and optional for the laity. It structures prayer during the day: Office of the Readings, Morning Prayer, Daytime Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline.

What constitutes this book?

It consists of Scripture lessons, readings from the Church fathers and saints, prayers composed by the Church, and most prominently, the psalms. The psalms are recited and chanted because they were the prayers Jesus would have known by heart and prayed daily. The psalms consecrate the Breviary as the prayer book of Christ. There are also hymns in the book. Several editions and translations exist. In the United States there is both an edited one volume and a complete four volume set.

What is the purpose?

It insures prayer and gives unity to the Church’s prayer all over the world. When used by priests, it allows them to imitate Christ in rendering constant intercession for the people.

What is the origin of the Angelus prayer?

Churches would call people to prayer three times a day by ringing the church bell. This was introduced by Pope Urban II in 1095 AD to invoke Mary’s protection upon the crusaders. After the conflict, it was retained as a special way to thank God three times a day for the blessings of redemption merited through Christ.

What is the Rosary?

What is it not? The Rosary is a collection of many prayers into one; and yet, it is a simple prayer, introduced by St. Dominic in the thirteenth century and highly approved by the Church. It is called the Rosary because it is composed of a series of beautiful prayers and meditations about the principal stages in Christ’s life, which are strung together one after the other like a garland, in other words, like so many beautiful and fragrant roses. Christ’s life is divided into the joyful, sorrowful, glorious and luminous mysteries.

Why do Catholics repeat the same prayers in the Rosary? Is it not vain repetition?

Is it vain repetition to breathe one breath after another? Does a lover ever tire of telling his beloved, “I love you”? No, there is nothing vain here. Like the angels who eternally praise God as “Holy, Holy, Holy,” we say certain holy prayers and praises over and over. The core prayer is the HAIL MARY, sandwiched between an OUR FATHER at the beginning of each decade and closed with a GLORY BE and an optional FATIMA ASPIRATION. There are five events recalled and meditated upon. The opening prayer is the APOSTLES’ CREED and after an OUR FATHER, three HAIL MARYs are said (for an increase of faith, hope, and charity). The Rosary concludes with the HAIL HOLY QUEEN.

Outside the Rosary, other prayers of importance for the Catholic would be the ACT OF CONTRITION, the REGINA CAELI (substituted for the Angelus during the Easter season), GRACE BEFORE & AFTER MEALS, the STATIONS OF THE CROSS, and various novenas and litanies, etc.

Why do Catholics also do things like fast?

Actually, there is far less of it than there used to be. Fasting and abstinence (avoiding meat) was once much more strictly regulated. Unfortunately, many people have misunderstood the change regarding Friday abstinence. It was not utterly revoked. Rather, one could substitute another form of penance or mortification. Many people either did not know this or simply failed to sacrifice something else. Catholics fast because Jesus fasted (Matthew 4:12). Indeed, he told us to fast (Matthew 1:16,18). Also, St. Paul fasted (2 Corinthians 4:10) and the other apostles did so too (2 Corinthians 6:5). Good people under both the old and the new dispensation have fasted as a sacrifice to God, to firm up their discipline, and to prolong their life (1 Corinthians 9:27).

Why do Catholics abstain from meat on the Fridays of Lent and are asked to render some similar penance on Fridays throughout the year?

It is not because meat is bad, but precisely because it is good. We abstain as a small sacrifice in remembrance of the death of our Lord on a Friday. Today, the Church requires that Catholics abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays of Lent. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, Catholics are both to abstain from meat and to fast.

What is a blessing?

It is a holy action whereby the priest invokes the divine blessing on persons or things, just as Jesus did when he blessed children, bread, fish, and other objects.

What does the Church bless through her ministers?

The Church blesses houses, fields, persons, and about any object that can benefit people.

Why does the Church use holy water?

It is a suitable substance, reminding us of our baptism and faith, to bless people and things. It is a wonderful symbol (sacramental) to wash us from venial sin and to protect us against the evil spirit.

When do Catholics use holy water?

Catholic Christians sign themselves with the water upon entering and leaving the church. They also use it at home: upon rising and retiring, before prayer time, upon going out, etc.

Why are people sometimes sprinkled with holy water at Mass?

It is because we should be cleansed and sanctified when we enter into God’s house and his abiding presence there. We also recall our baptism.

For more such material, contact me about getting my book, CATHOLIC QUESTIONS & ANSWERS.