Pope Francis and Confession

Pope Francis has been pictured again not only hearing confessions but making his own confession. His enthusiasm for the power and importance of the sacrament shouldn’t go unnoticed, especially by his…Jesuit-minded…groupies.

During the event and workshop for confessors, the Holy Father said:

In fact, the confessor is called daily to go to the “peripheries of evil and of sin” – this is an awful periphery! And his work represents a genuine pastoral priority. To hear confessions is a pastoral priority. Please, let there not be those notices: “Confessions are heard only on Mondays and Wednesdays from this hour to that hour.” You hear confessions every time they are requested. And if you are there [in the Confessional] praying, keep the Confessional open, which is God’s open heart.

Priests, stop being LAZY and sit in the confessional before, after, and DURING (if possible)…stop this 30-minutes-a-week nonsense. ☩

Forget the election chaos, focus on the Kingdom

It seems that this election is speeding up the continuation of our spiral into chaos, anger, and fear in this country. It’s a scandal that conservative-minded people, especially those who seek stability for religious freedom, must vote for a man who is known to express remarkably vulgar sentiments and often seems insincere with his recently acquired conservative positions.

Even worse is that the other option is a person who goes beyond simply speaking of these sentiments by actually seeking to ruin women (and one child) who have come out as sexual assault victims in order to gain political power and wealth. This along with the desire not only for abortion on-demand  up until the moment of birth but also to have tax payers foot the bill. A vote for this option would also be voting in favor of what is essentially a referendum if one is okay with even less transparency in the executive branch and what would likely be a level of corruption that no past presidential administration comes close to matching.

It’s true that voting for the “lesser of two evils” is something that genuinely does need to be considered every election cycle. This is something we do every day in small and big ways. Similar to the situation Aron Ralston found himself in when got his arm trapped under a boulder while hiking alone (and depicted in the movie 127 Hours), it sometimes makes sense to go through pain if you know it increases the odds of a better outcome. Aron cut his arm off with a pocket knife and successfully avoided death.

jesus-christ-king-0205

But there is a point where the “lesser of two evils” argument breaks down. While I’m not suggesting we are at this point with our two options (as it can be argued), I’m suggesting that political conservatives be careful not to ignore how close it is approaching. At a certain point it’s like arguing if we should vote for the person who murdered 20 people or the one who murdered 18 people. Eventually there will be a line crossed where it makes sense to simply not accept the choices before us.

Alas there is (and always will be) hope despite these dark times. The good news it that we are “resident aliens” in this representative democracy. Our true home is with our Father who art in heaven. And we answer to our sovereign king Jesus Christ whose monarchy spans the universe. Ultimately we have hope for an outcome that rests beyond what happens after this election. The Adversary wants us to submit to anxiety and fear so we lash out, make bad decisions, and are overcome by the world and the political systems that reside within it. Don’t.

Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. -Mt 8:24-26

What to make of what’s going on? Well, our country is divided more than ever, people care more about politics than principles, we are a post-Christian nation, and the only institution we have that can match the corruption of our politics is our mainstream news media. All we can do as individual Christians is evangelize, pray, and fast.

No one knows what will happen on November 8 or what will happen after that. What we do know is that we are not made for this world. We are made for heaven. This world is simply the ship that takes us there and as long as we stay aboard through daily conversion, faith in Christ, and the frequent reception of the sacraments of Confession and Communion we will one day reach the outcome that no political election can satisfy.☩

Life is Short, a Catholic Perspective

Last weekend I had the opportunity to spend time with some people I love in Wisconsin’s beautiful Northwoods. Time was spent outdoors during the day and in supper clubs at night. As is often the case, some of the best conversations came with cocktails. Also as is often the case, some points were not made the most effectively.

The Sitch

Reflecting on the day and beyond, someone rightly pointed out how short life is. This person said that he has been thinking about this more lately and how important good memories with loved ones are. I responded that I also have been thinking about this lately and concurred on the importance of good memories with loved ones, punctuating the end by saying “and being in a state of grace”. I mentioned this because it’s something that often crosses my own mind as I reflect on the complexities of our short lives and how it’s important that we seek to always be in a state of grace in case our final day comes as a thief in the night (1 Thes 5:2). I was directing my statement to my entire group because I love them. Also, I mentioned it because it was relevant to everyone seeing as, due to mankind’s fallen nature, it is something everyone regularly fails at. Unfortunately, the matter-of-fact tone with a pat of the bar might have sounded a bit unctuous immediately before being ushered to our table, preventing me from expanding on my point. So I’ll expand now since it makes for a nice little blog post.

On Grace

Being in a state of grace at the time of death is what gets us into heaven. This is accomplished by one continually strengthening themselves in following the example of Christ and frequent confession. No one wants to be caught off-guard when the “thief” comes in the night.

Grace: Condition of a person who is free from mortal sin and pleasing to God. It is the state of being in God’s friendship and the necessary condition of the soul at death in order to attain heaven.
-Online Catholic Dictionary

The Catholic Church understands this properly and encourages Christians to constantly look for new ways to become better. A stagnant spiritual life is actually a spiritual life slipping backwards. Or, as GK Chesterton says and as Bishop Robert Barron coincidentally quoted in his homily yesterday, the worst way to keep a fence post white is by doing nothing. In order for us to heed the words of Saint Paul, we need to run the “race” of life by constantly moving forward to claim the “imperishable wreath” waiting in heaven (1 Cor 9:24).  Thus, we need to be in a perpetual state of conversion for the sake of our souls.

Life and Death, Bodily and Spiritual

“If you could meet anyone, who would it be?” A lot of people answer this ice-breaker claiming they want to meet Jesus Christ. I want to meet God too, but often people (including myself) assume this first meeting will be filled with smiles, hugs, and flowers. It’s telling that a common response to coming face-to-face with Jesus in the Bible is to fall onto one’s knees trembling in utter humility and even shame, probably because the moment someone meets God, Who embodies the fullness of love, truth, and justice, they are held to account for the way they lived life. I view it as analogous to a teenager trusted by his parents to stay at home while they go out of town. Allow me to elaborate:

While the parents are gone, the child, thinking he has plenty of time to tie up loose ends before they return, does many things he knows his parents wouldn’t be pleased with: has parties, makes messes, lets people sleep over, dings up the car, etc. The entire time the teen is enjoying himself and ,while perhaps not doing anything “that bad” (after all, no one has died!), he knows his parents love him very much. But how would the child act if, unannounced, the parents returned before he could get the house in order?

The parents open the front door to find a destructive mess, lingering smoke, and empty beer cans. The teen now knows his parents have just arrived and is upstairs. Sure, he knows his parents love him more than anything else, but does he rush down the stairs to joyfully embrace them or does he become fearful. Chances are, at that moment, he’d do anything for just one extra day to make things right.

All the times we turned our back on God without seeking forgiveness will be brought forth in the presence of the light of Christ (lumen Christi) just as dust collected on a desk is observed when the morning sun hits it. So, seriously, how would you act and feel the moment you meet Christ? Would you confidently approach Him with your arms extended or would you suddenly recollect all the ways you turned your back to Him. If we were all to answer honestly, it would probably be anything but the former.

Anyone familiar with Scripture knows that the words “life” and “death” are often used in two ways. Life and death have their obvious bodily meanings, such as when Lazarus was raised from the dead but Scripture, perhaps more frequently, uses these terms in a spiritual sense also.

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Two seraphim surround the divine Throne in this 14th-century painting by Jean de Berry. Seraphim are portrayed with six wings.

When God says “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die” (Gen 3:3), He was not implying the fruit was poisonous and Eve would clutch her stomach and topple over. He was warning her that her spirit would die, she’d fall from grace. And, as Christians should know from the words of Jesus Himself, a dead soul is far scarier than a dead body. Eve might have thought she dodged a bullet when she ate the fruit and continued breathing, but in reality what happened was far worse. A dead soul is a damned soul, a soul that has permanently shut out the light of God. That’s why Hell is sometimes described not as a place of hot fires, but as motionless, lonely, and bitter cold. Cold because it is so far away from God’s love (described as burning fire in Scripture). In fact, this is where the name for the highest of the nine choirs of angels originates. The angels closest to God are called Seraphim, which is Hebrew for “consumed with fire”.

<Infobit> These angels are guardians of the Lord’s Throne and sing:

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus
Dominus Deus Sabaoth
Holy, Holy, Holy
Lord God of Hosts

 


Does this sound familiar to anyone??

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One of the many nifty graphics from the Baltimore Catechism

So too does Scripture use the term “life” in the spiritual sense. When Jesus said “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever” (Jn 6:51), he isn’t implying we will walk earth forever like a zombie. He is saying that, by the consummation of the covenant between us (the Church) and Himself that takes place at Communion (which can only be valid if the communicant is in a state of grace just as for a marriage to be valid certain requisites need to be met),our souls may have eternal life in heaven which is absolute spiritual perfection.

::wipes brow:: – whew

And I tried to convey all that with a quip so quick, the bartender couldn’t even garnish my martini with a bleu cheese-stuffed olive in time.

The Point I was Trying to Make

This is something we all need to think about more. Everyone has their own attachments and appetites that need to be heroically battled in daily life–even if we think they are relatively small. And, if we care for the well-being of the souls of others (including our enemies) as we are commanded to do, we will try to not avoid this topic!

The life of our soul is born when we are baptized and dies every time we turn our back on God. It is reborn each time we come face to face with God–the priest in persona Christi–in the confessional. The older we get, the more vigilant we need to be that our body does not pass away at a time when our soul is already deadened. Good memories are good on earth, but I’d image they’re great in heaven. ☩

Saint Michael, Saint Raphael, and Saint Gabriel, the archangels (note: the third choir of angels), please intercede for the strength of all the faithful men and women reading this.

Charlie Sheen and the Embrace of Disorder

To Americans that don’t live under a rock, Charlie Sheen doesn’t need an introduction. Mr. Sheen was the “tiger blood”-fueled immortal that couldn’t stop #winning even if he tried. He raked in millions from the hit TV show Two and a Half Men, he dated porn stars, slept with anyone he wanted, had an appetite for cocaine, and generally did whatever he wanted whenever he wanted. He simply operated on a different level than most of us normal humans. At least that’s what he wanted to believe.

I don’t know all the details of the story so I won’t attempt to speculate but when I first read that Sheen was diagnosed with HIV, it didn’t seem so shocking. In fact, I’ll bet it wasn’t terribly shocking for most people when they heard the news. Why?

Well, probably because he lived a disordered life publicly. The news of him being HIV-positive surely is an outcome of despair for both him and those who love him (not to mention the many women he slept with). Despair (or sadness, hardship, devastating outcomes, etc) follows disordered choices. The Church calls disordered choices sins. Jesus, and basic logic, tells us that if you avoid sin, you will avoid self-inflicted despair both on Earth and beyond. Now, of course none of us are able to avoid sin but there’s a difference in being a sinner (making occasional disordered, selfish choices) and embracing a lifestyle of complete disorder as Charlie seemingly did. Disorder catches up to everyone somehow.

Obviously I don’t actually know Sheen or what is in his heart, but we know the life choices he openly bragged about. With sexual promiscuity (particularly rampant in this situation) comes a higher risk of certain bodily hardships or outcomes (despair). HIV in this case. This isn’t to say that earthly despair will follow every disordered choice. For instance, a man may very well be able to fornicate with many women until the day he dies without experiencing STDs, a broken heart, or other possible hardships that arise from this lifestyle (not taking into account any despair left in the hearts, minds, or bodies of the women used). But this doesn’t mean the man is off the hook because while his earthly/bodily life may have not been affected the disordered lifestyle must somehow balance back out in the universe (think of the immaterial universe as a delicate ecosystem). Like the laws of entropy or gravity will in the end never be circumvented, neither will the Natural Laws of the universe. Morally disordered actions always effect souls which must be reconciled (whether on our terms in the confessional or God’s elsewhere) to bring back harmony, balance, and justice to the immaterial universe.

Luckily Charlie still likely has plenty of time on Earth to change his direction. If it’s true that God never gives us more than we can handle, perhaps this can serve as an important turning point in his life and he can make this a story of triumph (aka #winning) by reconciling his disordered choices on his own terms through the mercy of the Lord.

Please join me in asking for the intercession of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, that Charlie Sheen find Christ in his life, leading to a conversion of intellect and heart.

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St. Aloysius Gonzaga | Wikipedia