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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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The Intercession of the Saints

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Taking the side of the Pharisees over the Sadducees, Jesus testifies to life after death.  “That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called ‘Lord’ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive” (Luke 20:37-38).  While the gates of heaven were closed before the coming of Christ, our Lord speaks of a genuine communion between the living (on earth) and those heroes of faith who had come before.  Jesus will ultimately translate these souls from the limbo of the fathers into heaven.

Over the years in debates with fundamentalists about the communion of the saints, many of them insist that the saints are sleeping and others that they are alive but cannot possibly be aware of what is happening on earth.  Catholicism would argue that the heavenly saints are alive, aware of us and praying for us.  Admittedly, there is some question as to whether this awareness is part of the fabric of the afterlife or whether it is made possible through a special divine intervention.  We know that in Jesus Christ love is stronger than death.  While our loved ones are taken from our sight, we are still bonded to them in love.  This speaks to the profound mystery of the Church in pilgrimage, in purgation and in glory.

Some of our number have run the race and have won a share in the crown of Christ.  They remain in solidarity with brothers and sisters in the world who are still being tested.  “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us” (Hebrews 12:1).

I do not believe that our guardian angels and the blessed souls watch us as earthly voyeurs might watch a reality television program.  Instead, they are actively engaged.  They reach out to us with their love and worship God with orations of praise and incessant intercession.  They seek to protect us from malignant spiritual entities.  They would have us where they are.  Those in glory are not suffering amnesia about those they have left behind.  Indeed, I suspect they know us better than before because now they see us as we truly are, behind all our posturing and deception.  They cannot force us to the will of God.  But their witness and prayers may help some to find the path to eternal life.  One critic suggested that if the saints were to see their earthly family and friends sinning then it would bring them sadness— and this is contrary to heavenly joy. While it might be hard for us to understand, this is not the case.  Heaven will never be held hostage to sin or hell.  The saints cannot be sad because where they are has no room for sadness.  While they are aware of us, their sights are also always upon God.  The barrier or membrane between heaven and earth will allow such helps as happiness, counsel, and love to pass through; but never sadness, manipulation, hatred or despair.  The heavenly saints like our Lord are now impervious to pain.  This is one of the most profound mysteries for us who must still endure this veil of tears.  The saints implore grace that we might know repentance, conversion and faith.  They pray that we might be courageous in adversity.  They beseech the throne of God to be merciful to us.  Chief among the saints is Mary who loves and intercedes for us with her immaculate and “maternal” heart.

Christ is the way, literally the link between heaven and earth.  This is our lifeline.  This is the real reason why the saints are still aware of us and why we remember them as alive in the Lord.  We are not orphaned by God.  While we await the final judgment and the consummation of the world, we acknowledge that we have not been abandoned.  Christ is present in the proclaimed Word.  Christ is present in his priests who stand at the altar and who offer the forgiveness of sins.  Jesus is present in his person and in his saving activity at every Eucharist.  We receive the risen Christ in Holy Communion.  The Lord is with us when we gather to pray.  The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ.  No part of this body has been severed.  The Church is one:  the Pilgrim Church, the Church in purgatory and the Church in heaven.  We are one in the Lord.  We have been reborn and given a new identity by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

The saints are calling us to the other side of the rainbow.  The Lord calls us each by name.  Heaven beckons to us.

We Will Never Exhaust the Divine Mystery

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The souls of the dead in heaven are divinized as saints by grace but by nature are still human.  We will have a share in the risen life of Christ.  However, we will always be finite creatures.  There can be no boredom in heaven because by intellect and will we can never fully exhaust the divine mystery.  We will be drawn eternally into the depths of knowing and loving God.  This process begins in this world.  We come to the Lord with a faith realized in loving obedience.  God gives us sanctifying grace and we are made sons and daughters to the Father, kin to Christ, children of Mary and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven.  Death makes this orientation permanent.  We encounter Christ, not as strangers but as friends.  Indeed, restricting ourselves to this world, we find that all the saints of the Church demonstrated great holiness while many of their ideas, even in reference to religious faith, often fell short or were erroneous.  Error will certainly end when we pass through the door from this world to the next; but our capacity to understand and to contain the mystery of God will always be limited by our nature.  This truth applies to both angelic and human spirits.

I do suspect there is a profound openness to truth and the gift of love in heaven.  This would conflict with hell where the demons and lost souls know something of the truth but place a limit or barrier upon their knowing and loving.  We experience in this world a similar type of division and adversity where someone says, “I want nothing to do with you!  I don’t want to know anything more about it!  You mean nothing to me!  I disown you!”  The damned probably have a comparable mentality and stagnation of the heart.

Here on earth we receive the risen Lord in the Eucharist.  God feeds us.  There are no sacraments in heaven as there is no need for sacred signs.  The saints see God and the mystery directly.  There is no more faith because the saints see and know God (as well as his truths) in an immediate fashion.  There is no more hope because every aspiration has been realized.  The only theological virtue that can cross the threshold of heaven with us is love or charity.  This love draws us into the Trinitarian life.  The banquet of heaven is literally one course after another.  The pattern is established with the Pilgrim Church.  God will continue to feed us with himself.

As I said in my first paragraph, there can be no boredom in heaven.  This is a far cry from the popular image of lazy angels sitting on clouds playing harps.  The mystery of God can never be diminished.  There will always be more to know.  The more we know, the more we will love.  The more we love, the more we will want to know.  This is the pattern of the finite creature to the infinite Creator.

I can well appreciate that secular critics deny the soul and view the intellectual life as the operation of our brains.  Romantics might speak of the heart as the source of love, but in truth the brain is the place where material memories and thinking takes place.  As a Christian, I would suggest that as a composite of flesh and spirit, the efforts of the brain mimic the powers of the soul.  Brains are not all the same and all of them have limits in regard to learning and to the physical senses.  Brains can also become diseased, causing people to struggle with thinking and remembering the most basic of facts and relationships.  The brain is physical and like the rest of the body, it has parts that can break down.  Parallel to this, the human soul has no parts and is indestructible.  It grants us a self-reflective knowledge that goes beyond the ability of the brain.  We are more than thinking meat.  Memories are not merely stored as electrochemical processes used by neurons but also make lasting impressions upon the human soul.  Just as we are often surprised by the detail of dreams; I suspect we will also be surprised as to what the soul retains after death.  What would a human being be if he was never to forget and we were to ponder matters with perfect clarity?  I suspect that the material brain both enables rational knowing and reflection as well as impedes it.  (In any case, I would not want to define the soul as simply a hard drive or cloud backup of what is in our brains.  There is a constant interworking that is part of the mystery of the human mind as understood by Christian believers.)  What we now see as through a fog or veil, we will see clearly.

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What and who we know, as well as love, survives the grave.  Indeed, it gives us our eternal orientation.  We are either like the wise virgin bridesmaids at the door with the burning lamps or like the foolish one who walk away looking for more oil.  When Christ, the divine bridegroom comes for us, he should find us alert and ready to enter into the nuptial banquet.   If we fail to remain steadfast and prepared, we might hear those terrible words of damnation, “Amen, I say to you, ‘I do not know you.’”

If pride is the overriding sin of the devils, then a lasting humility is the posture of the saints.  Compared to God we may seem insignificant, literally as nothing.  And yet, Almighty God has looked upon us as his children.  I would argue that the prayer that Jesus gave his apostles will have an eternal significance.  The word for “Father” that is used by Jesus is literally the one used by little children.  I suppose we would render it as “papa” or “daddy.”  All of us, even the greatest doctors of the Church like Augustine and Aquinas, may be counted among the babes of heaven.  We are summoned to know and to love God while in this world.  All we know is still just scratching the surface.  Eternity will allow us to continue this exploration of knowing and loving.  Humility is not just the approach of men and women in this world, but of the saints and angels in the next.  We must become like little children if we want a place in the kingdom.  Those who are bloated with pride, feeling that they are all grown up and know enough already will find themselves in hell.  Similarly, all those who place limits on love will also know the loss of heaven.

 

Mother Teresa’s Nuns Executed

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Mother Teresa’s nuns have a charism to tend the needs of the poorest of the poor. Friday, March 4, 2016, Muslim terrorists executed them.

Four nuns and ten civilians were killed. Msgr. Paul Hinder, apostolic vicar to Southern Arabia, spoke to AsiaNews about this morning’s “religiously-motivated” attack against the convent of the Missionaries of Charity in Aden, in southern Yemen. At 8:30 AM, the prelate said, “People in uniform stormed the compound where the Missionaries of Charity live. After they killed the security guard and all the employees that stood in their way, they came for the nuns and opened fire, killing four [sisters]. One (the superior) managed to hide and survive. Now she is in a safe place.” The victims are Sister Anselm from India, Sister Marguerite from Rwanda, Sister Judit from Kenya and Sister Reginette also from Rwanda.

The attackers seized Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, a Salesian priest who lived at the facility. At the time of the attack, he was in the chapel praying. Overall, 16 people lost their life: four religious and ten lay people, employees of the community that also housed senior citizens and disabled people. Msgr. Hinder said: “We knew that the situation was difficult and that the sisters were running a certain risk. They decided to stay no matter what because this was part of their spirituality.” Groups linked to al Qaeda and jihadist militias linked to the Islamic State group are active in the country, which adds to the spiral of violence and terror.

Jesus, Mary & the Apostles

A discussion with Paul on some matters about which he has a dispute.

PAUL: What is the true meaning and definition of being an Apostle of Jesus?

FATHER JOE:  There are varied definitions given but Catholicism would tend to restrict the term to the chief Disciples of Christ.  The Church is apostolic in the succession of Holy Orders through the “laying on” of hands, in the perpetuation  of Jesus’ ministry and in our constant teaching from the deposit of faith revealed to the early Church and passed down to us.

PAUL: Doesn’t it mean walking with and following the actual person you are trying to emulate?

FATHER JOE:  Yes, but that is a generic dictionary definition of the word apostle, not a theological or doctrinal distinction.

PAUL: I think that we have been called disciples and based on the true meaning of apostle, no one on earth, at least present day earth, can be called an apostle.

FATHER JOE:  The Catholic Church believes the authority of the Apostles is passed to the Bishops of the Church.  Pope Francis is singular among the Bishops because he is viewed as the Successor of Saint Peter (and for that matter, Saint Paul).

PAUL: So if Jesus, as the Catholic Church says, interchangeably meditates/intercedes for us to the Father then why do we also need Mary to pray/intercede/meditate for us? In regard to Jesus this is biblically based as is the fact that the Holy Spirit speaks to the Father in groans that words cannot express. Both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are in full nature also God.

FATHER JOE: 

(I think by “meditates” you actually mean “mediates.”)

The problem with your statement is that it does not sufficiently express Catholic teaching.  The Word became flesh and in his mortal life Jesus revealed to us the face of God, how to pray and how to live out our discipleship.  He prayed in his humanity because it is an essential element to the incarnation and our humanity.  However, after his Paschal Mystery (suffering, death and resurrection), Jesus the Lord ascended to his place at the right hand of the Father.  He transforms and facilitates our approach to the Father.  We do not ask Jesus to pray to God for us because he is God.  We address our prayers to the Father in Jesus’ name.

Jesus is a divine Person, as is the Father and Holy Spirit.  There are three eternal generations in the Blessed Trinity.  Remember the classical definition from the councils of the Church:  there are three divine Persons but one divine Nature in God.  God is still one.

We can intercede and pray for each other.  Indeed, Mary and the saints in heaven can do so for us still in earthly pilgrimage.  God is still the direct object of all prayer, even intercessory.  Asking others to pray for us does not displace God from his dais.  We are all creatures, even the angels, although they are spiritual and not composites like ourselves.  The saints of heaven share in our Lord’s risen life and continue to love us and to pray for us

The mediation of Christ is not interchangeable with sanctoral intercession.  Christ is the Mediator, Lord, Redeemer and Savior.  We approach him both individually and with a communal faith.  The latter is very much the purpose for which he instituted the Church.  We do not approach God alone.  Just as God called to himself an Old Testament people— so too does he claim the Church as a new People of God.  Church membership includes the faithful on earthly pilgrimage, the souls in purgation and the saints of heaven.

We offer our prayers to the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit.  Christ is the bridge between heaven and earth.  He is the Way and the Truth and the Life.  If it were not for the Holy Spirit there could be no faith and no prayer.  We could not say “Jesus is Lord” if it were not given us by the Holy Spirit.

PAUL: By the way, I find NO biblical reference to Mary being our spiritual mother. Thank you.

FATHER JOE:  I have already written at great length about the Blessed Mother and would invite you to search the pages of my site.  Mary is given to us as our Mother at the Cross through our emissary Saint John.  A phrase I repeat again and again is that “the Mother of the Redeemer becomes the Mother of all the Redeemed.”  Mary will always be the Mother of Jesus.  Believers are members of the Mystical Body of Christ (which is extremely biblical).  Mary is the Mother of Christ where ever he should be found.  If we are grafted to Christ and have been transformed by grace into his likeness then she sees something of her Son alive in us.  We imitate Christ’s filial relationship of love to Mary.  We are made members of the royal household of God.  Through faith and baptism we are made adopted sons and daughters of the Father.  Thus, Christ the King becomes our elder brother in faith and Mary assumes her crown as the Queen Mother.  Peace!

Clarfication on Intercessory Prayer & Salvation

Praying to Mary
Intercession of Mary & the Saints
How is Praying to a Saint NOT Like Praying to God?

BUIMIRA:  Here is a crucial point which should be clearly understood. With respect to the older posts, if we have a good relation with Jesus, and pray ONLY to Christ, and not to any saint, angel, or even to Mary, then we can count ourselves still confidently saved! This is the point that you missed, or did not make it clear. You shouldn’t have missed it in your articles.

FATHER JOE:  No, this is not Catholic teaching. While all prayer is directed to almighty God, we do invoke Mary, the angels and the saints to assist us and to intercede before God. This is reflective of a “corporate” relationship we have with each other and God. Certain Protestant sects wrongly privatize or overly personalize faith. We are called to both a personal and communal relationship with the Lord. As for being saved, Catholics do not subscribe to the Protestant understanding of Blessed Assurance which flows from a rigorist Lutheran view of justification by faith. Such relies upon a notion of juridical imputation while Catholicism insists upon being born again as a new creation. While there is life, we can abide in the sure and certain hope of our salvation. The problem is that genuine faith can sour. We pray that we will faithful endure until the race is over. This is different from the presumption which you seem to espouse.

Argument Over Jesus & Intercession

Georgios argues:

The primary role and purpose of the devil is to take the believer’s attention as far away as possible from the truth and the blue-prints or foundations of Christians, which is the Bible.

He would have us compromise them with unbiblical diatribes so that the believer loses focus upon JESUS.

He would have the Christian weakened by diminution from 100% fidelity to the doctrine of JESUS.

JESUS is the Way and the Truth and the Life— the only way toward the Father-God.

JESUS taught with parables and he is our answer to all intentions in the spiritual process.

The parable of the sinful rich man and poor Lazarus is sufficient to verify that the saints who died are in a place where intercession for people on earth is impossible! What this means is that only the living saints have the right to do so.

God does not give exemptions to the prohibition of acting outside his Word, which is JESUS.

If Mary can intercede for us, then God is lacks constancy with his Word and that is something that God will not do. He will not oppose his Word. If God made such exceptions then he would not be God at all.

Receive this revelation of the Spirit of God— what he is saying to you Now in the mighty NAME OF JESUS!

Father Joe responds:

The devil’s primary aim is one of eternal spite. He would have us corrupted so as to offend God. He would have us embrace selfishness and a disordered love.

The devil knows well the Bible. The trouble is that what he knows, he utterly rejects. While the devil is certainly involved with error, this in itself is not his primary purpose. Good men and women might be confused or ignorant about many matters of faith. They may yet be saved. The devil places an emphasis upon the will. HE especially delights in one who comes close to the truth and then rejects it. The more you know the more that you will be held accountable.

Much of the confusion and fracturing of the Church after the Reformation has to do with men and a rejection of the shepherds appointed by Christ. You seem to infer that the Bible is self-sustaining and interpreting. This is simply not the case— historically or theologically. I suspect that the “diatribes” you condemn are efforts within the Church to prayerfully reflect upon the saving kerygma.

If you have rejected the sacraments and the teachings of the Catholic faith then you have quite literally separated yourself from elements of the revelation received from Jesus Christ. The Church follows the Lord and his two sources for Christian revelation: Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Only the reformation churches, and not all of them, would utterly reject the second tier established by Christ.

Jesus is also one with the Mystical Body or the Church. That is why the early Church spoke about Christ and our life in the Church as the WAY.

Jesus taught in many ways. Yes, his parables give us insight into the kingdom of God. But he also prophesied, made commands, and witnessed the message of the Gospel.

The parable of the rich man and Lazarus does indeed speak to life after death, although there is some question as to whether Lazarus was in heaven or the limbo of the fathers. Similarly, was the rich man in hell or in purgatory? The gates of heaven are only opened by Christ, and at the telling of this parable, Jesus had yet to undergo his saving trial. Further, the parable does not offer us an instance of attempted intercession as understood by the Church. He requests that Abraham send a message to the living or make an appearance to warn them. The intercession of the saints is directed, not to another saint, but to almighty God. We pray that they will add their prayers to ours in asking God for his mercy and favor.

Actually, the trouble here is you have a very narrow notion of how the Word operates. The Word is written upon human flesh in the incarnation. The Word is breathed into the Scriptures. The Word becomes one with his Holy Church. The Word is given perpetual efficacy through the sacraments. The Word takes to himself a human mother, sanctifies her and gives her to us as a model of the Church. The Word conquers death and all who are alive in Christ can pray for themselves and others, including the saints of heaven.

Who are you to tell God his business? Who are you to make yourself the interpreter for all Christianity, including attacking a Church that was instituted by Christ, gave us the Bible and is the Mother of all the breakaway Protestant denominations? Mary can do as she did at Cana… intercede when the wine runs out.

I would caution you again hubris. You are not God’s special messenger or prophet. You are just one poor confused soul putting on airs to others.

Is Mary JUST the Mother of Jesus?

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See post:  Intercession of Mary & the Saints

ERNESTO:  No argument, just pure facts, Joe— Mary was and should be known as the mother of Christ, but that was her only role in the Bible.

FATHER JOE:

Actually, Mary is shown to have many roles in Scripture and they emerge as elements of her miraculous motherhood.  The Bible has an angel giving Mary homage as “full of grace” (Luke 1:28).  She is the “most favored daughter” of our race.  She is utterly imbued with the presence of God, the source of her holiness.  Prevenient grace will become a factor in our understanding of her as the Immaculate Conception.  God prepared her for the role she would play.  The All Holy One would enter the world through a pure vessel.

She is the “Virgin” who conceives the Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Her maternity will be like no other.  Catholicism gives a heightened meaning to her virginity (Matthew 1:22) and speaks of her as belonging wholly to God.

Mary announces that she is the “handmaid of the Lord” totally at the service of God and his providence (Luke 1:38).  Notice that she is not “a” handmaid but “the” handmaid.  She will play a continuing role like no other woman in human history.  Her motherhood is an enduring reality… throughout the life of the historical Christ and even into eternity.

When she visits Elizabeth, she proclaims her Magnificat, saying, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed” (Luke 1:46-48).  She calls God her savior, not that she does not say “he will be” her savior.  She has already been touched by the power of Christ’s redemptive Cross.  This same paschal mystery touches us forward in time in the sacraments.  She also gives us a bit of prophecy, saying that all generations will call her blessed.  While Catholics call her the BLESSED Virgin or the BLESSED Mother, you pretty much never hear such an attribute given Mary from the lips of fundamentalists like the critic here.

Speaking of prophecy, Simeon at the Presentation of Jesus says to Mary, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35).  Mary’s immaculate heart will be pierced in that she will hold not just the baby Jesus but the God-Man taken down from the Cross.  She will be the Sorrowful Mother who keeps saying YES to God from the Annunciation to Calvary.  She was given the living Word as her child.  At the Cross, she will surrender her Son back into the embrace of the Father.  The reference to the “thoughts of many hearts” has to do with prayer and intercession to her.  We open ourselves up to her.  Again, prophecy is fulfilled for true believers.

Eve was the mother of all the living and yet Mary is the Mother of all who would have new life in Christ.  The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ.  As such, Mary is our Mother.  Mary is the New Eve, “the Woman” who sought and found Christ in the Temple (Luke 2:39-52), who interceded at Cana when Christ changed water into wine (John 2:1-11) and at the Cross when Jesus said, “Woman, behold, your son” (John 19:26). Then our Lord formally gives her to the Church through our emissary, John.  “‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” (John 19:27).

You have a very narrow view of Scripture to ignore the importance of all this and so much more.

ERNESTO:  There is no record in the Bible of her ascending into heaven or playing a role.

FATHER JOE:

We read in Revelation:  “A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars… She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod. Her child was caught up to God and his throne. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth” (Revelation 12:1-2, 5).  I cite this vision to show evidence of the Mother and Child in the heavens.  But my answer goes to a deeper matter.  The Gospels give us the life of Christ, and the focus is not directly upon Mary.  Catholics have an experience of God that did not end with the Gospels or the Acts of the Apostles.  There is no reference to a canonical New Testament either because none existed.  Such emerged from the bishops of the Church in council.  Show me where the books of the New Testament are listed in any of the biblical books!  You cannot because such belongs to the realm of Church Tradition and authority.  This matter remain so confused at the time of the Reformation that Martin Luther wanted to delete more than seven books of the Old Testament but some of the epistles as well, like the Letter of James.  The Bible did not come out of the sky pre-made.  Your hermeneutics will not satisfy and no Catholic should limit himself to the fraudulent “sola scriptura” stance.

ERNESTO:  I’ve read some of your answers to people, and you have called some people ignorant?!

FATHER JOE:  It is worse than that.  I am exposing an ignorance that has been bred by bigotry; much like yours appears to be.

ERNESTO:  Come on, is that really act when someone is just trying to have a conversation with you?

FATHER JOE:  But many do not come for conversation.  They come with venom or poison.  They are not open to the truth and they want to make sure that no one else has it either.

ERNESTO:  Why get up right when they are just sharing their thoughts?

FATHER JOE:  Is that what you call it?  A genuine ecumenism would share ideas.  Anonymous anti-Catholics come to drop their bombs on a priest’s blog, thinking their rehashed arguments will win the argument and salvage the day.  When they find there is an actual rebuttal they start using capital letters and exclamation points as if emphasis might still win a debate.  But it does nothing more than to show how absolutely closed-minded they are to any Catholic truth.  Next they start throwing out slurs.  “You Papists are idolaters and cookie-worshipers!  You have made Mary into your pagan goddess!  You are demon-possessed!  Then they will attack the Pope as the antichrist and the Church as the harlot of Babylon.  It is tragic and ridiculously ignorant.  They repeat the lies of Know Nothings who hated the immigrant Catholics over a century ago.  It goes on and on.  They only know their religion by contrast to what they oppose in “Romanism.”

ERNESTO:  Just read these verses straight out of the a Holy Bible, clearly it shows what the Catholics believe in. There are saints and images of Mary everywhere and people do worship and carry her around in villages in Mexico where my family is from. And I clearly understand that you say Catholicism has been around longer, but his word has been around longer since the book of Genesis to the creation of man till now.

FATHER JOE:

Catholicism is the successor to Judaism.  God called a people to himself before there were any Scriptures at all.  This pattern in Genesis and the Old Testament is repeated with the Gospels and the New Testament.  Our Lord instituted his priesthood and Church before even one word of the New Testament was composed.  The first to receive this WORD was the Blessed Virgin Mary.  See yesterday’s Mass readings for the Immaculate Conception:

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/120814.cfm

[Luke 1:26-38] Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”  Mary received the Word, carried the Word and gave it birth!

The Church is the Mother of the Bible and New Testament.  The Holy Spirit protects the Magisterium established by Jesus in interpreting the sources of revelation.

ERNESTO:

Revelation 22:18-19

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

FATHER JOE:  These words are only in reference to the Book of Revelation, not the whole Bible.  It was composed at a time when the oral tradition was supreme and there was no New Testament.  Indeed, Pope Clement’s letter to the Corinthians is older than this book.  And yet, it was not added to the canon.  It is a literary device or inclusion that parallels Revelation 1:1-3.  It is not a negation of the oral tradition.

ERNESTO:  Nowhere in the Holy Bible says that Mary had healing power, or descended to heaven and sits by our Heavenly Father.

FATHER JOE:  The word is NOT descended.  Jesus “descended” to the dead.  Jesus “ascended” into heaven.  Mary is “assumed” into heaven.  Here is a perfect example of your ignorance to speak about this topic and Catholicism.  You cannot even get basic terminology correct.  Life goes on, even after the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles.  Jesus ascends into heaven by his own power.  Mary is taken into heaven by the power of her Son.  Similarly, believers have every reason to hope for a share in Christ’s life.  Ours is not a superstitious faith in Mary.  We simply trust in the power of her intercession with Christ:  two hearts beating harmoniously in love for us.

ERNESTO:

Revelation 9:20-21

The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.

FATHER JOE:  This is not even topical to this discussion.  Catholics do not worship idols.  We do treasure depictions of Mary and the saints.  Of course, our nation does as much with the Lincoln Memorial and most people keep photos of loved ones.  So does the Church, but we do not worship objects.

ERNESTO:

Isaiah 44:6-20

Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen. Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.” All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing?

FATHER JOE:  This reading is also in Catholic bibles.  We are not threatened by Scripture or our book.  Catholicism views Jesus as Savior, Redeemer and Lord.  Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life.  Jesus is the divine pontifex or bridge to the Father and into the kingdom.  Nothing about Mary and the communion of the saints negates any element of these truths.  Your failure to appreciate this fact, told to you by a Catholic priest, is evidence of both ignorance and bigotry.  You would rather accept the skewed facts of prejudiced non-Catholics over the testimony of the Church, herself.  This is why this is not a real discussion.  You have not come here to dialogue but to pillage and destroy.

ERNESTO:  Don’t get me wrong. I do believe she was chosen by God to give birth to Jesus Christ.

FATHER JOE:  Is that all motherhood is to you?  Such would reduce human motherhood to something akin to incubators for eggs and chickens.  Mothers do not stop being mothers at the birth of their children.  There is a bond there that remains into eternity.  A mother is the mother of the whole person of her child.  The only difference with Mary is that she is the Mother of a divine Person, the living Word, Immanuel or God among Us.  That is why she is permitted the title Mother of God.  Mary is a blessed creature, not divine, but the title defends the unity and divinity in Christ.  Jesus is God and man.  We can make the distinction but our Lord cannot be dissected.

ERNESTO:  Nowhere does it say we need to worship her.  In the Ten Commandments it clearly states he is a very jealous God and only wants us to only bow down to him? I am not ignorant like you called the person on an earlier response. Just read the facts he and the apostles left behind.

FATHER JOE:  You can profess enlightenment all you want, but you do not even correctly summarize the Catholic teaching, just a straw man view that anti-Catholics can conveniently tear down.  Catholics do not give divine worship to Mary or any creature.  What is sometimes called worship in her regard is a unique veneration or expression of love.  We literally view her as our spiritual mother.  Your failure to appreciate speaks to the coldness with which many of your likes show to her.  The facts are not what you say they are.

Responding to David J. Hageman’s Comments

DAVID:  The woman mentioned in Revelations is the church. (protestant church obviously)

FATHER JOE: There is no Protestant church but rather many Protestant churches. None existed over 500 years ago. The woman with child is an obvious reference to Mary and Christ. Mary is a type for the Church. She signifies what the Church shall become. Catholicism speaks of both Mary and the Church as MOTHER.

DAVID:  The catholic church also being a woman… a whore.

FATHER JOE: The Catholic Church was instituted by Christ. When you call the Church “a harlot” you are literally saying that Jesus is a PIMP. How dare you do this? Do you not fear God?

DAVID:  Woman = church. Mary = Mary.

FATHER JOE: Mary = Church.

DAVID:  As you very well know.

FATHER JOE: I know far better than you do.

DAVID:  Mary of roman worship is Sophia or Diana Luciferus.

FATHER JOE: This allegation is absolutely ridiculous… it is slander and false witness. Mary is not a pagan goddess. The Mary of Catholicism is the Mother of Christ in Scripture.

DAVID:  serpent Knowledge- Illimunistion.

FATHER JOE: This may be the source for your demonic deceit.

DAVID:  For the life of me I cannot fathom why anyone would serve that god. Life is so short, is it worth failing the test of life for a little temporary power?

FATHER JOE: Fools are befuddled by lies and prejudice… that is why you are in the employ of the demons. I suppose you get some glee from feeling you can speak alone for your deity. I am a servant of Christ and his Church. You are merely a messenger of venom for what you regard as private interpretation. You build error upon error… with nothing of charity.

DAVID:  And you priets (priests) poking your fingers in the dyke in this apocalypse?

FATHER JOE: Priests participate in the high priesthood of Christ. Our Lord’s power and authority will prevail.

DAVID:  The dam has burst, Truth has come forth again.

FATHER JOE: Yes, a dam has burst.  But when you open your mouth, it is not grace that emerges but calumny and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

Responding to Xian’s Comments on Saints & Intercession

XIAN:

Catholics argue that praying to Mary and the saints is no different than asking someone here on earth to pray for us. Let us examine that claim. (1) The Apostle Paul asks other Christians to pray for him in Ephesians 6:19. Many Scriptures describe believers praying for one another (2 Corinthians 1:11; Ephesians 1:16; Philippians 1:19; 2 Timothy 1:3). The Bible nowhere mentions anyone asking for someone in heaven to pray for him. The Bible nowhere describes anyone in heaven praying for anyone on earth. (2) The Bible gives absolutely no indication that Mary or the saints can hear our prayers. Mary and the saints are not omniscient. Even glorified in heaven, they are still finite beings with limitations. How could they possibly hear the prayers of millions of people? Whenever the Bible mentions praying to or speaking with the dead, it is in the context of sorcery, witchcraft, necromancy, and divination—activities the Bible strongly condemns (Leviticus 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:10-13). In the one instance when a “saint” is spoken to, Samuel in 1 Samuel 28:7-19, Samuel is not exactly happy to be disturbed. It is clear that praying to Mary or the saints is completely different from asking someone here on earth to pray for us. One has a strong biblical basis; the other has no biblical basis whatsoever.

God does not answer prayers based on who is praying. God answers prayers based on whether they are asked according to His will (1 John 5:14-15). There is absolutely no basis or need to pray to anyone other than God alone. There is no basis for asking those who are in heaven to pray for us. Only God can hear our prayers. Only God can answer our prayers. No one in heaven has any greater access to God’s throne than we do through prayer (Hebrews 4:16).

FATHER JOE:

The common theme is intercession or praying for others. Obviously, there is a difference in being alive and mortal and being dead and living in eternity. The Book of Revelation describes those before the throne of God presenting our prayers to him (Revelation 5:8).

“When he took it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each of the elders held a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the holy ones” (Revelations 5:8).

Therefore the Scriptures are not silent on the subject. Part of the issue here is that in the case of the early Church, most New Testament saints or believers were still living in this world. Of course, after Christ’s descent to the dead, those Jews and righteous Gentiles in the limbo of the fathers would have been translated into heaven.

Further the dead do not sleep. The souls of the dead are alive and conscious. We are not annihilated.

“And concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, `I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living” (Matthew 22:31-32).

The saints of God live in eternity and are no longer locked in time. Thus there is no issue with many cries for intercession.

“Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a gold censer. He was given a great quantity of incense to offer, along with the prayers of all the holy ones, on the gold altar that was before the throne. The smoke of the incense along with the prayers of the holy ones went up before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with burning coals from the altar, and hurled it down to the earth. There were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake” (Revelations 8:3-5).

“And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matthew 17:3-5).

Moses and Elijah seem very aware about what is happening on earth.

As members of the Mystical Body and part of the communion of the saints, Paul teaches us that those who have gone before us into heaven still witness what happens on earth.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us” (Hebrews 12:1).

The saints know our lot, pray for us and rejoice when we walk with the Lord. Jesus says as much.

“I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. Or what woman having ten coins and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it? And when she does find it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and says to them, `Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’ In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:7-10).

Saints can only know our prayers because God allows them to do so by his power. Yes, only God is all-powerful and all-knowing. But we should not underestimate the unity of the saints with the Lord. As members of the Mystical Body we are called to think as Christ thinks and to love as he loves. The saints of heaven hear with Jesus’ ears and intercede in a way that pleases God. The saints want what God wants.

Dave Protestant Attacks Mary & Catholic Piety

Dave Protestant (also posting under the name David J. Hageman) posted his slurs as a comment on my blog.  Here is his post and my response.  I deleted links to his Facebook and blog although they have him hailing from Australia.

DAVE:

What is it with Catholics and Mary? Do any of you ever bother to read the Bible?

FATHER JOE:

I deleted the link to your Facebook page on account of vulgarity and the “F” word. How can you do this and regard yourself still able to speak for Jesus? You know nothing and would invite others to share your prejudice and ignorance.

“Hail full of grace” (Luke 1:28).

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

“Blessed art thou amongst women” (Luke 1:42).

“All generations shall call me blessed” (Luke 1:48).

“Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35).

DAVE:

NEWS FLASH! Mary is dead— dead as a doornail. She gave up the ghost and is sleeping until judgment day.

FATHER JOE:

Our Lord tells us that ours is the God of the living, not the dead. The believers in soul sleep deny both the immortal soul and the existence of hell. The message of the resurrection and the communion of the saints is that we can have a share in Christ’s life. The grave will not consume us. Heaven is real and we will know both eternal life and reunion with those who have gone before us. Love is not conquered by the grave. Our blessed dead are alive in Christ, still loving and praying for us. Notice that our Lord makes references to ghosts and appears with Elijah and Moses in the Transfiguration. Remember also the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in the afterlife. Mary is assumed body and soul into heaven as a sign for us and the Church.

DAVE:

Dianna Luciferus, on the other hand, might answer those prayers.

FATHER JOE:

Condemning the things of God as demonic is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Mary is a blessed creature, not a goddess and not the devil. Mary, as the queen of the saints, intercedes for us. Jesus gave us Mary from the Cross to our emissary, John. “Behold your mother!” The Mother of the Redeemer would become the Mother of All the Redeemed.

DAVE:

Geez, if the invention of moveable type didn’t wake you up to the fact you’re following the very antichrist, the internet leaves you with no excuse whatsoever.

FATHER JOE:

The multiplication of words is no assurance on truth. Bigotry and ignorance can be expressed in many or a few words. You prove this on your website by slurring African-Americans.

DAVE:

Grow up peasants. Mary worship! Oh em gee! So medieval. Whatever next? A Negro for president? What’s the world coming to?


FATHER JOE:

You are a hateful racist. You give a bad name to fundamentalists and SDA believers.

Discussion: Saint Patrick’s Day Parade & Controversy

 

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Links for information and the news:

The New York City Saint Patrick’s Day Parade
Gay Groups to March in St. Patrick’s Day Parade as a Ban Falls
St. Patrick’s Day Parade Announcement Isn’t Progress — It’s an Insult to NY’s Irish LGBT Community
When Catholic Leaders Abandon the Faithful
NY archdiocese should sever ties with St. Patrick’s Day parade
Gays, Jesus and St. Patrick’s Day

Cardinal Dolan Responds to Controversy on His Blog

SEAMUS:

What are your thoughts, Father Joe? The blogosphere is in a terrible commotion, for and against the inclusion of a LGBT contingent in the parade. There is a lot of name-calling and other voices are remaining strangely silent.

FATHER JOE:

At a time when Catholics are dying for Christ, is this issue worth the attention it is getting?

But okay, I am not sure what to think or say but I will try.

As a preamble to my thoughts, it is too bad that many critics have lost the art of civil discourse.  As with politics, when people disagree with each other these days they end up demonizing the other side. Our nation and Church are being ripped asunder by polemics and ad hominem attacks.  It resolves nothing but makes fellow citizens into hardened enemies and threatens the Church with a virtual schism.  I know what the Church teaches, but of course, as the good Pope tells us, this must be measured with charity.

Like many conservative voices, by temperament I would also like to strike out and keep Catholic events pure; but as I get older, I worry that a lack of tact could alienate souls that might yet be saved. There is a tension in balancing our witness to the truth with the forgiveness of sins. I can exhort, condemn, and correct— at least addressing sins if not sinners; but maybe time and space is needed for certain sinners to reflect, know mercy and find healing?  I have serious misgivings about the decision in New York, but beyond this parade I have long had concerns about the association of St. Patrick’s Day with ribald antics and public drunkenness.  It seems like a terribly poor manner to remember a great saint of the Church.

MICHAEL:

Time for healing? Am I hearing right? Have you been seduced by the “Church of Nice”? These dissenters are not interested in healing. They get angry when you call them sinners. They want acceptance and they want to change the Church. Some of them would like to see the Church disappear.  We cannot compromise with them.  There is no such thing as a partial Catholic.  You are either in the boat or out.  It is scandalous that a Cardinal of the Church should assert that homosexuality is no big deal.  These [words deleted] are headed straight for hell and those who pamper them will risk going with them.

FATHER JOE:

Is the scenario you present entirely the case?  When Catholic voices are demanding separation and asylum from such public events, are they not giving our enemies precisely what they want?  A dead Church or a Church in hiding is still a win scenario for those who hate her and want the Church gone.  Cardinal Dolan insists that we must find a new language and/or way of dealing with the advocates of homosexuality, divorce-and-remarried persons, users of contraception and even those who wrongly accent freedom over the sanctity of human life.  When asked about how one might both affirm gays and still oppose so-called same-sex marriages, he honestly replied that he did not know yet.  It seems to me that he is grasping for a new hermeneutic that would not betray our core principles.  I cannot say for sure if it is possible.  Personally, I doubt that accommodation will work and fear it will make matters worse.  But he is still a successor of the apostles and must be given the respect as such.  We may suggest that there is a disconnect between the new praxis and the enunciated principles; but it would be wrong to suggest any formal detraction from Catholic moral teaching.  Like the Pope, the Cardinal is Catholic.

MICHAEL:

We need more courage from our shepherds. Priests should speak out!

FATHER JOE:

Priests are men of the Church. Years ago I was told that strong words of mine hurt and embarrassed one of our important shepherds. I am wounded by this memory. Priests, in particular, owe their bishops both RESPECT and obedience. The Church must speak with a unified voice. While seeking to avoid scandal, we should support our pastors and bishops, even when we fail to see things entirely their way. There has to be confidence that the Holy Spirit still guides our shepherds and protects the Church.  This struggle to be faithful and respectful is often hard.  The matter of pro-abortion politicians routinely taking Holy Communion have many times brought me to tears during prayer.  I have long agonized over what I personally feel we should do (withhold the sacrament) over what we are directed to do by just authority.  But as I wrote before, priests are men of the Church.  They pledge respect and obedience, not only to God but to their bishops and their successors.  They must do and say as they are told.  The late Cardinal Hickey was very clear about this and he spoke about how we are extensions of the bishop’s ministry.  While this can be taken too far, his assertion was theological sound.  The laity have a certain latitude that ordained men do not.  However, even they should not breech themselves from their shepherds.  We must all be faithful to the teaching Church; conservatives (to use a political term) have generally been better at this than the more liberal or progressive voices.  But once the lawful Magisterium is attacked, one is no better than the other.

I am sickened by the recent negativity focused upon Cardinal Dolan and how certain voices on the right harshly ridicule Pope Francis. We do not get to pick our Popes. And, as I tell my traditionalist friends, we immediately follow living Popes, not dead ones.  Our support for Church leadership means respectful and civil dialogue, and never recourse to fearful muted criticism or caustic public ridicule

MICHAEL:

I think you are being naïve. Truth is truth and sin is sin. If church leaders compromise themselves and the saving message then the laity should call them out. You never used to mince words!  You’re not the Father Joe I used to know.

FATHER JOE:

Did you ever know me? I am a faithful son of the Church. I took a promise to obey my bishop and his successors. I will be judged as to how I keep that pledge. As for you and the laity, be careful that you do not forget yourselves. You can no more tell Church leaders their business than can the liberal dissenters. Have you forgotten your place? You are not the Magisterium. You cannot defend Catholicism by discarding a major element of her hierarchical nature. This is a common mistake these days, from critics on the right and left. It damages the harmony and good order of the Church.

SEAMUS:

There may be a lot about this parade business to which we are not privy. It is easy to criticize when the weight of such decisions rests on the shoulders of others. The planners and the Archbishop may be in a situation where no decision will please everybody.

This parade is older than the United States and its continuation is in jeopardy. No one wants to be labeled as the person who killed it. The planners’ concession admits that the parade mimics the messiness of our world and society.

FATHER JOE:

Sinners and saints are mixed together. People and relationships are broken. Dreams are made and others are left unrealized. Is it enough to witness within this “messiness” or do we circle the wagons and refuse to associate with the world around us? Jesus went out to the poor, the oppressed, the sick and hurting.

SEAMUS:

He associated with tax-collectors and sinners, even prostitutes. While we must never forget our message and the truths of faith— might this be an opportunity to draw prodigals home?

MICHAEL:

Jesus also called the hypocritical Jewish leadership, “blind guides” and “dead men’s bones.” He refused to even speak with Herod.  When Jesus related to the rabble it was always for purposes of bringing them to repentance and conversion. Where is that here? This “who am I to judge” nonsense from Pope Francis is like an Ebola epidemic spreading throughout the Church. How can we condone activity that will cast souls into hell? It is a lie to perpetrators and an enticement to others to join the procession, or in this case the parade, marching into the mouth of Satan.

FATHER JOE:

There will always be some who will exploit and reject our faith message. While we might argue about a prudential decision here; there is no evil intent from the organizers, Hibernians or the Archbishop. There is no denial of Church doctrine. The Church has been clear and consistent about her teachings in the public forum on human sexuality.  I doubt people will forget this any time soon.  The mechanisms of authority and truth will protect her from going in the direction of our confused Episcopalian brothers and sisters.

Our Lord saw many new faces following him after the multiplication of the bread and fish. Not all followed for the right reason, but he did not stop them. He lamented that some were only interested in the free food. When the real demands of his preaching were voiced, they abandoned him.  It will not be the presence of sinners that will destroy the parade, not as long as we make it clear what is right and wrong.  If we remain resolute, those unhappy about the overall Catholic message will eventually fall away on their own initiative.

MICHAEL:

No doubt some of those who abandoned Jesus were among the crowd that shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him! We have no king but Caesar!”

FATHER JOE:

Yes, I suspect so, but that is the chance you take.

SEAMUS:

We are still battling with Caesar. As individuals and as a Church we may face further recrimination and abuse. But that seems to me to be part of the package Jesus gives to his followers.

FATHER JOE:

Returning to basics, what does it mean to be Irish? Some treat being Irish as if it automatically makes one a member of the Catholic club. But those days are over, both here at home and back in the ancient homeland itself. The nation that converted much of the world is now closing seminaries and being ministered to by priests from Nigeria. Scandal and secularism have destroyed in a decade or two what centuries-old British persecution was never able to accomplish.

st_patrick_19646_lgI like parades, and I would not mind tripping up a leprechaun and making a wish upon his gold at the rainbow’s end, but as with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, my emphasis would always be upon Christ and his saints. There is nothing wrong with a pint of green beer. But it does bother me that these accidentals to St. Patrick’s Day should displace going to Mass, seeking God’s mercy and receiving (with the proper disposition) the Blessed Sacrament. St. Patrick was a slave who found his freedom and then came back to the Emerald Isle so that those in slavery to sin might know true freedom. Those who ignorantly worshipped trees would now come to the dead tree of the Cross and adore the one who laid down his life to redeem us. The Irish suffered the destruction of their monasteries and saw their priests humiliated, hunted and murdered; and yet, they still held on to the faith. They suffered starvation and dire poverty, coming to this nation for a new start. Signs advertised, “No Irish Wanted,” and yet they endured prejudice and worked hard to be good citizens and Christians. They had babies and Irish families were large and happy. It may be that traditions of family are among the greatest gifts they brought to this land. Remembering their past, they worked for a better tomorrow for their children. Folklore says that St. Patrick drove out the snakes from Ireland. May we never compromise ourselves with the serpent that began the woes of men in the primordial Garden.

MICHAEL:

Here in the States, many of the Irish have lost their sense of guilt over sin and have increasingly replaced the substance of faith with green beer and fancies about leprechauns, rainbows, pots of gold and wearing the green.

SEAMUS:

How closely have you both followed the news in New York? There have been a lot of “fighting words” over the decision by the organizers to allow a gay contingent under their own banner into the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

MICHAEL:

This had long been resisted as incompatible with the Catholic faith.

FATHER JOE:

Actually, it was initially denied because of a conflict with public morals and decency. Today the winds of public opinion have evidently changed direction.

SEAMUS:

But it remains a celebration named after a saint. Is this not a kind of blasphemy? Does it mean that the faith is no longer regarded by the organizers as an intrinsic element of Irish identity?

MICHAEL:

Precisely!

FATHER JOE:

I am no mind-reader but I take the organizers for their word that the issue of faith is still important.  It might simply be an overture of peace to Irish men and women who struggle with their gender identity and yet still want to celebrate their ethnic roots. At least I hope so. But admittedly, I am fearful that a goodwill gesture will be turned against us.

SEAMUS:

The parade committee stated that its “change of tone and expanded inclusiveness is a gesture of goodwill to the LGBT community in our continuing effort to keep the parade above politics.” The statement also reiterated that the event was “remaining loyal to Church teachings.”

MICHAEL:

Empty words— that is all they are.

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FATHER JOE:

No, I think they mean what they say.  Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the incoming Grand Marshal, acknowledged that the parade committee “continues to have my confidence and support.” He apparently agrees that a measure to keep the peace and to preserve the city parade does not signal religious dissent on the part of the Hibernians or the parade organizers. However, it may not bode well for future negotiations with the more radical groups.  A rash conciliation today could lead to a more severe divide tomorrow.

MICHAEL:

That last remark is quite an understatement.

SEAMUS:

Right now, one somewhat moderate gay group affiliated with the media that broadcasts the parade is involved: OUT@NBCUniversal. They will march under their own banner. The expectation is that they merely want inclusion to celebrate Irish ethnicity and heritage.

MICHAEL:

Don’t be fooled!

FATHER JOE:

Hopefully this will be given a greater weight than any promotion of same-sex attraction; however, I suspect much of the talk and media attention will focus on their homosexuality. It has the potential to kidnap the meaning of the parade.

SEAMUS:

I suppose so, if not this time around then possibly in years to follow.

FATHER JOE:

It is my hope that pages will be taken from the late Cardinal John O’Connor’s book.  He was a strong defender of Church teaching on sexual morality and yet he was a compassionate man.  He volunteered to clean bedpans at an AIDS hospice.  He suffered with calm and composure having a gay activist spit the consecrated host into his face.  He regularly had supper with his Jewish friend, Mayor Ed Koch, on the other side of the divide upon many issues.  We can be strong and still work with one another.  He also knew that some might never come to the truth unless strong stands are made.  Cardinal O’Connor explained his opposition to allowing groups identified as gay from marching in the parade, “Irish Catholics have been persecuted for the sole reason that they have refused to compromise Church teaching. What others may call bigotry, Irish Catholics call principle.”

MICHAEL:

It was admitted that other gay groups would be permitted in the future. What if there should be dozens of gay applicants, each demanding its inclusion? What if participants should become increasingly brazen and vulgar? Will there be a forum to vet costumes, gestures, signs and float designs? Would such be judged as censorship? Will opposing groups get to march, carrying signs and banners for traditional marriage? Once a group that defines itself chiefly by its sexual orientation is permitted, then what about future scenarios where advocates for polygamy, bestiality and pederasty will want their place in the line up? Do I exaggerate?

FATHER JOE:

You do, indeed, paint a nightmare picture of escalating corruption of the parade and its basic meaning. I pray that some semblance of control can be maintained but what was once regarded as unthinkable is realized every day. It is sometimes joked, “Expect the worse and you will never be surprised or disappointed.”

SEAMUS:

I guess I would have less a problem with the concession if past lewdness and/or belligerence were not so often displayed by protesters with their explicit banners, gestures and decorated floats.

MICHAEL:

Evil is incapable of controlling itself.

FATHER JOE:

Such images can torment the conservative mind. Gays were always free to march as individuals, but not under banners that advertised their disorientation. The fear was this would politicize the event. Unfortunately, their exclusion did the very same thing.

MICHAEL:

I bet other more militant gay organizations will not be satisfied. They may even interpret the small concession to one group as an insult. Their angry agenda will not be appeased until the basic meaning of the parade is transformed beyond recognition. Like the Red Army parading its soldiers and missiles, they want to see their victorious legions marching in drag while shocking the crowds with public passion.

Proof for what I say:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3XjSsqd1rM

FATHER JOE:

I recall a NOW rally on the Mall many years ago which included such visual and vocal expressions of foul gay exhibitionism that the liberal Washington Post press took offense and CSPAN refused to repeat the program, at least during the family hour. You are correct, we have seen poor displays of manners and it even embarrasses the more civil and family-minded homosexuals. When a gay activist several years ago spat the consecrated host back into Cardinal O’Connor’s face, several came to me with utter shame to be associated with such reprobates. They were members of COURAGE, started by my cousin, the late Fr. John Harvey. They embrace a life of celibate love, prayer and service.  I wonder why they have no contingent in the parade, given that they abide by Catholic moral discipline?

MIKE:

Unfortunately these men and women have a very low profile compared to most. Stereotypes are realized and literally thrown into the faces of others: “Accept us or else!” When it comes to these militant gays, theirs is not a celebration of faith and heritage, because many of them hate the Church.

FATHER JOE:

I have read already that some of them think OUT@NBCUniversal is a rouse to keep them quiet and to restore the beer sponsors. I had never heard of it but it seems to be a small amalgamation of gays and straights that share basic values and want to keep the parade a family show.

MICHAEL:

Evil is evil. They are painted in the same sickening colors.

SEAMUS:

Still, I think it hardly compares at all with a number of other groups biting at the bit to participate, like the so-called Irish Queers.

FATHER JOE:

Even there name is wrong and offensive. None of them can begin to compare to a group of faithful sons of the Church like the Ancient Order of Hibernians. The AOH is “the oldest Catholic lay organization in America and is dedicated to Friendship, Unity, and Christian Charity.” The statement was released: “Organizers (no longer strictly AOH) have diligently worked to keep politics – of any kind – out of the parade in order to preserve it as a single and unified cultural event. Paradoxically, that ended up politicizing the parade.” While we can individually question the prudence of the current decision, I could certainly see how it fits into its appreciation of Christian charity. The problem will remain that others will view it as a matter of obligatory justice, at least as understood by a secular society.

SEAMUS:

Cardinal Dolan referenced the second theme by saying that he hoped the parade would be “a source of unity for all of us.” I pray that it will be so, but I fail to see how it will not be a strained unity.

MICHAEL:

How can we have unity with devils? Mortal sin breeches any viable communion between us.

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FATHER JOE:

Timothy Cardinal Dolan has caught a lot of flak for his involvement and support of the organizers. But he knows too the hearts of the good men among the organizers and of the AOH. We live in a society where we must live together despite ever widening divergences of beliefs and moral practices. The dynamics to this are complicated. Do we retreat to the ghetto so as to be untainted by the world or do we throw ourselves into the mix as a living ingredient of the melting pot? The former would minimize our voice in the public forum, the latter might risk our deformation.  The answers are not as easy as some make out.

Cardinal Dolan has responded to the controversy on his blog:

However, the most important question I had to ask myself was this: does the new policy violate Catholic faith or morals? If it does, then the Committee has compromised the integrity of the Parade, and I must object and refuse to participate or support it.

From my review, it does not. Catholic teaching is clear: “being Gay” is not a sin, nor contrary to God’s revealed morals. Homosexual actions are—as are any sexual relations outside of the lifelong, faithful, loving, lifegiving bond of a man and woman in marriage—a moral teaching grounded in the Bible, reflected in nature, and faithfully taught by the Church.

So, while actions are immoral, identity is not! In fact, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, people with same-sex attraction are God’s children, deserving dignity and respect, never to be treated with discrimination or injustice.

To the point: the committee’s decision allows a group to publicize its identity, not promote actions contrary to the values of the Church that are such an essential part of Irish culture. I have been assured that the new group marching is not promoting an agenda contrary to Church teaching, but simply identifying themselves as “Gay people of Irish ancestry.”

MICHAEL:

I think the matter is black-and-white clear. But the “Church of Nice” is too far gone to see it. Liberality and pacifism rule the day. Those who would speak the truth cower to intimidation. If it is OUR parade then we should just tell the gays to stick to their own. Must they own two New York parades? The mayor can march for them and they can keep the beer and television rights, too. Must everything Catholic be spoiled?

SEAMUS:

The Cardinal states, “Neither my predecessors as Archbishop of New York nor I have ever determined who would or would not march in this parade… but have always appreciated the cooperation of parade organizers in keeping the parade close to its Catholic heritage.”

FATHER JOE:

Honestly, I must acknowledge that I find the expression “Catholic heritage” a tad weak. Many colleges advertise their Catholic “heritage” and “tradition” long after abandoning the Church and any emphasis upon sacraments and holiness. Is a Catholic heritage the most for which we can hope in this broken world? My hope would be, as ridiculous and unlikely as it might sound, that events like the St. Patrick’s Parade would be an overwhelming expression of Christian faith, winning converts and praising God as it proceeds under the massive skyscrapers.

MICHAEL:

Good luck on that one!  It may remain a cultural event but the religious significance has been killed.

FATHER JOE:

I understand where you are coming from and I sympathize, but let me finish. Personally, I would like to see the nature of the parade restored to its religious roots.  Our desire for inclusion and the benefits from commercial sponsorship (as with beer companies) has escalated the secularization of the celebration.  I suspect that if it returned to its pious foundations, the parade would be much smaller and many dissenting groups would want no part of it.  The problem we face would largely take care of itself.

What would I like to see?  Like the processions of old, in my mind’s eye, I can imagine a brilliant monstrance carried down the thoroughfare with believers falling to their knees as it passes. Next we would witness relics of hundreds of saints carried in procession and finally a beautiful float with the Blessed Mother, adorned with flowers. Hymns and chants to Christ and Mary would fill the air. Altar servers in vesture would stretch the length of the parade. Priests and people, mindful of what they really celebrate, would enter St. Patrick’s for Mass and all the other churches would be filled as well. Large screens throughout the city would televise the procession and liturgy. Millions of people would honor the great patron saint and proclaim that Jesus is Lord.

MICHAEL:

And they say I am detached from reality. A secular world knows that New York is a godless city. Radical Islamists have attacked what they judge as the home of the Great Satan. I wish things were different, but yours is a silly dream, detached from any semblance of reality.

FATHER JOE:

I know it is not the city we know now, but how about tomorrow? I still believe in the God of miracles. He can heal bodies, change minds and convert hearts.

St. Patrick, do not forget your spiritual children!

O blessed Archbishop Sheen, intercede for us!

We Awaken to the Problem

The defection from faith is an important issue and why for the past two years I invited a young FOCUS missionary named Katie to give her appeal in the parish. Along with other young adults, FOCUS ministers to our youth on college campuses. The statistics are frightful. Some 80% of our youth fall way while at college. These young adults put their careers and much about their personal lives on hold so that they might make a difference for others.

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I think in truth the issues began long before our teens headed off for college or entered the work force. Minimally Catholic kids suddenly find that they do not have the watchful eyes of parents upon them. Quickly, they are influenced by peers who have no quarter in their lives for organized religion or traditional values. Liberal faculties deride Christianity and mock the sacraments as the domain of ignorance. Professor Paul Zachary Myers is the most blatant on this list, urging college students to steal consecrated hosts so that he can document on the Internet his desecration of the Eucharist. This is not representative of a civil debate about belief; rather, it is an emotional and militant attack upon people of faith.

College campuses will sometimes have Newman Centers and/or Catholic Student Associations. But many of the Catholic students fail to get involved. The attendance of Catholic students at Mass, even at Catholic schools is often pathetic. The best numbers I have heard are at places like St. Francis in Steubenville, Ohio and Ave Maria in Florida. I know one school where the chaplain schedules Masses at midnight so that students will have less competition for their time. One is more likely to see lewd photos on Facebook than posts about religious epiphanies and retreats or time before the Blessed Sacrament. Of course, many parents might not know because they are quickly blocked from seeing what is actually going on.

I am not saying that efforts to evangelize in college are in vain. Rather, I am suggesting that more could have been done (or done differently) earlier to minimize the damage later on. Catholic schools could also be more proactive with single-sex dorms, expectations about participation at Mass, and an uncompromised message about fidelity to the faith and the living out of the commandments. However, we have a problem— when honors are granted to those who seek to strip the Church of her religious liberty— when organizations that promote a homosexual agenda and lifestyle are given funds and recognition— when health service referrals include artificial contraception and abortions— and when crucifixes are removed from classroom walls so as not to offend— then we have become our own worst enemy.