It’s even harder to impress a 16-year-old boy with a Sunday homily.
But on a recent Sunday, a priest at our parish (we’ll call him “Fr. Joe”) did just that.
“Hey, you know that visiting priest, mom? He was on fire. It was like one of those old fire and brimstone deals. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Neither, apparently, had most of the other teens in the Church. Or even most of the adults, most likely.
Pop culture…and its brazen efforts to normalize sexual perversity. Not an easy topic on which to engage teenagers positively and persuasively.
Teens too easily put on mental headphones and tune out “predictable” grown ups. “Yeah, yeah. Back in the day…lecture 192.” Besides haven’t adults always complained about rock-n-roll, teen culture, fashions, and the like? It’s just a generational thing.
But when a priest grabs their attention, keeps them listening—and gives them something meaty to take home and chew on–it’s worth noticing what works.
So what went right?
For starters, Fr. Joe got their attention. He didn’t glide gently into his topic. He fairly roared. He spoke passionately, compelling attention by the volume and certitude in his voice. His voice conveyed the unspoken message: ‘Listen up. This is important. The stakes are high: your soul and our culture hang in the balance.’
Father Joe wasn’t angry and out of control. But he was vehement, concerned, and loud. Troubled about the likely future of our culture, he insisted that his listeners respond, in their own lives, to what he was saying.
Look at it this way: kids understand passion. Celebrities, teachers, coaches, and websites encourage our teens to discover their passion and pursue it, to find what matters to them, and to be a voice for it. But if a priest or youth leader addresses sexual morality or serious cultural problems with the same bland tone of the weekly “doughnuts-and-coffee-in-the-parish-hall-after-all-Masses” announcement, few teens will listen.
And why should they? The speaker’s tone of voice implicitly says, “I know you’re not listening but, bear with me, I’m required to say this.”
Hardly a way to inspire teens to risk their popularity, face humiliation, or endure rejection because they stand up for truth.
A priest who roars, on the other hand, gets their attention. Don’t cringe. I’m not advocating a weekly rant or ear-splitting homilies. But our teachers, pastors, and ministers need to command attention and one way to do that is to let loose with the change-up pitch. Be unpredictable. A dropped voice, a whispering tone, or compelling rhetoric does the trick too.
What else worked about Fr. Joe’s homily?
He used specific words, pointed criticisms, and concrete analogies. Gay marriage? It’s like Grape Nuts: neither grape nor nuts. Gay marriage isn’t “gay”—the homosexual lifestyle teems with unhappiness, depression, disease, and substance abuse. And it isn’t “marriage” either. Marriage has a centuries-old meaning that cannot be changed by popular vote—it requires the faithful sexual intimacy of a man and woman, united permanently to parent the children born of their intimacy. Two women and a turkey baster (or two guys and a rented womb) can’t compare.
Dozens of times a day, the culture pulses seductive, destructive messages to our kids—through music, videos, websites, peer conversations, the media and our schools. (Read Mary Beth Hicks’ excellent new book Don’t Let the Kids Drink the Kool-Aid, and you’ll see the problem.)
Teens need us to respect them enough to provide reasons why certain acts are immoral. Forget the euphemisms. Give them the words to defend traditional morality and provide the examples that challenge the lies behind accepted cultural ‘wisdom.’ If we want our teens to rebuff the culture’s assault on morality, then we need to tackle the other side’s arguments head on. Where else will our teens hear the truth, if not from their families and the Church?
Kudos to Fr. Joe for tackling tough subjects, with passion, clarity, and certitude.
I hope there’s more where that came from—in your parish and mine–for the sake of all our kids.
Mary Rice Hasson, the mother of seven, is a Visiting Fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington. DC. She blogs at wordsfromcana.
A number of saints have described the rosary as an effective weapon for helping Christians prevail in the spiritual battle that ever rages in our midst. In fact, so great is the rosary’s power that St. Pio of Pietrelcina even went so far as to say that it’s not simply a weapon; rather, “it is the weapon!”
Even though St. Pio was well known for having prayed the rosary many times each day, it was not so much the centerpiece of his life as it was his compass. And where did it point?
A biography of this great saint and mystic of our age found on the Vatican website tells us, “The pinnacle of St. Pio’s apostolic activity was the celebration of Holy Mass.
The Second Vatican Council very clearly reaffirmed the central place that the Mass occupies in the life of the Church and likewise in the lives of all of Her members saying “The sacred liturgy is the font from which all of the Church’s power flows; it is the summit toward which all of the Church’s activity is directed” (cf SC 10).
In light of this, it seems to me that those oft-ridiculed Catholics of old who assisted at Holy Mass while praying the rosary were actually on to something very important.
Now, I am not advocating that we take up the practice praying silent rosaries throughout the celebration of Holy Mass, but I do wish to say that contemplating the mysteries of the most holy rosary can be of tremendous benefit to all who wish to “grow in their awareness of the mysteries being celebrated in the Mass, and their relationship to daily life” (cf Pope Benedict XVI–“Sacramentum Caritatis”–2007).
As such, one might think of the rosary as a “weapon of Mass instruction;” a benevolent teacher just waiting to be approached by all who are eager to develop the interior disposition that is necessary to participate in the sacred liturgy in a truly fruitful way.
With the implementation of the new English translation of the Roman Missal less than eight weeks away, starting today I will offer in preparation a series of weekly reflections on the mysteries of the rosary and how they relate to the underlying realities that are made present to us at Holy Mass.
In sharing these thoughts, my hope is to encourage you to take up the rosary on your own with the intention of seeking the guidance of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that she might lead you ever more deeply into the sacred mysteries that we celebrate toward a renewed encounter with her Son.
We’ll begin with a look at the Joyful Mysteries.
1. The Annunciation
And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David: and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. Who having heard, was troubled at his saying and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb and shalt bring forth a son: and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father: and he shall reign in the house of Jacob forever. And of his kingdom there shall be no end. And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man? And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God… And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren. Because no word shall be impossible with God. And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word. (Luke 1:26-38)
In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Annunciation resounds anew as we “join with all the choirs of angels singing the Lord’s unending hymn of praise:”
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of hosts
Heaven and earth are full of Your glory
Hosanna in the Highest
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord Hosanna in the Highest
In the “Sanctus,” it is as though a new birth is being announced! It is at once a heralding of the Divine Presence that is about to come in the Most Holy Eucharist, but it is also the pleading of God’s People for the Lord to come to our aid, He who alone can save us. Hosanna!
Similar to the Incarnation foretold by the angel Gabriel at the Annunciation, the Eucharistic Lord will become present to us in the Mass by “an overshadowing” of the Holy Spirit.
Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall… (From the Epiclesis – Eucharistic Prayer II–Roman Missal 3rd Edition)
He who once humbled Himself to come in the flesh as an infant in the manger, that He might walk among His people, will humble Himself once more at Holy Mass under the appearance of bread and wine upon the altar, that He might become “truly and mysteriously made present” (CCC 1357) and operative among us in no less substantial way.
In the Most Holy Eucharist, however, it is the Risen and Glorified Lord who comes before us; the Son of the Most High who shall reign in the house of Jacob forever. We must recognize, therefore, that while the altar at Holy Mass is indeed the Altar of Sacrifice, it is also the throne before which the King of kings gathers and feeds His pilgrim people.
What seems mere folly to the unbeliever is apparent to us by the eyes of faith, imparted at Baptism, as not even this great glorious mystery “shall be impossible with God.”
By faith we also know that wherever one finds Christ, there too does one find Mary, our Blessed Mother and His. She is indeed Mother of the Most Holy Eucharist; she is the Chosen Chalice in whom the Eternal Son chose to “humble Himself to share in our humanity,” and so it is fitting for us to turn to the Blessed Virgin at Holy Mass, asking her to lead the way to her Son.
Though we recognize and proclaim that we are unworthy to receive Him, we will follow the example of Mary, our Mother and model of faith, by turning to the Lord who deigns to enter the abode of our soul, repeating after her, be it done to me according to thy word, accepting with humble gratitude and awe the great gift that is offered in Holy Communion.
2. The Visitation
And Mary rising up in those days, went into the hill country with haste into a city of Juda. And she entered into the house of Zachary and saluted Elizabeth. And it came to pass that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost. And she cried out with a loud voice and said: Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord. And Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid: for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. Because he that is mighty hath done great things to me: and holy is his name. (Lk 1:39-49)
Speaking of an encounter with the Lord at Holy Mass “refers not only to the celebration of divine worship but also to the proclamation of the Gospel and to active charity. In all of these situations it is a question of the service of God and neighbor. In a liturgical celebration the Church is servant in the image of her Lord, the one ‘leitourgos’; she shares in Christ’s priesthood in worship, which is both prophetic by way of proclamation and kingly in the service of charity” (cf CCC 1070).
In order to participate in the liturgy in a truly fruitful way we must therefore model ourselves after Mary who, following the Incarnation, did not simply revel in her blessedness; rather, she continued to embrace every opportunity to participate in the work of Redemption, carrying the Real Presence of Jesus Christ within herself out into the world in service to others–in the case of the Visitation, to her cousin, Elizabeth.
It is not enough, therefore, for us to simply receive the Lord at Holy Mass without also embracing the call to give, and so the liturgy by its very nature is a “sending forth” wherein those who are nurtured in the Blessed Sacrament are called to go in peace to build the Kingdom of God on earth in preparation for His glorious return.
In recent decades, unfortunately, we have all-too-often crafted liturgies that seem to stress the call to service aspect of the Mass to the near exclusion of the great sacred mystery of the Lord’s presence that absolutely must precede and accompany it.
In other words, our failure has been “doing liturgy” in a way that seems at times to encourage a “Visitation” while giving but fleeting consideration to the Annunciation!
As always, contemplating and emulating the mysteries of the most holy rosary can reestablish order in our lives and in our worship, giving renewed meaning to our vocation as members of Christ’s Body by helping us to remain aware that our calling is not of this earth; rather, it is to serve one another in such way as to “magnify the Lord and to rejoice in God our Savior,” because apart from this–in spite of our greatest efforts to promote a just society–in truth, we can do nothing.
3. The Nativity of the Lord
And it came to pass that when they were there, Mary’s days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her first born son and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger: because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds watching and keeping the night watches over their flock. And behold an angel of the Lord stood by them and the brightness of God shone round about them: and they feared with a great fear. And the angel said to them: Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy that shall be to all the people: For, this day is born to you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest: and on earth peace to men of good will. (Lk 2:6-14)
Just as the Sanctus at Holy Mass is akin to a new Annunciation heralding the Savior’s mystical return, we witness with the eyes of faith its fulfillment in the consecration of the Most Holy Eucharist – that which makes present, in a sense, the Nativity of the Risen Lord!
In the Gloria we echo the multitude of the heavenly army, praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest: and on earth peace to men of good will. …
In the Sanctus we join them once again to sing the Lord’s unending hymn of praise: Holy, holy, holy. …
The Council Fathers tell us that Holy Mass on earth is nothing less than participation in the liturgy of Heaven itself, (cf SC 8) and so it is that in the sacred liturgy the choirs of angels are truly present with us!
St. Leonard of Port Maurice was once moved to ask, “How can anyone be present before the altar of the Lord with a mind that is distracted and a heart that is dissipated at a time when even the holy angels are there, trembling and astonished, at the contemplation of a work so stupendous?”
In other words, shouldn’t we–just like the angels – be filled with a tremendous sense of awe at Holy Mass? Indeed we should!
In the Most Holy Eucharist, the Eternal Son of God who humbled Himself to share in our humanity that He may be slain for our sins only to rise in glory, is present to us at Holy Mass in no less substantial way than He was to the shepherds who knelt before Him in Bethlehem (Hebrew for “House of Bread”).
Unlike the shepherds, however, we are called to enter into holy and intimate communion with the Lord.
When we prepare to welcome the Savior anew in the Most Holy Eucharist, we are moved to examine our conscience; to ponder to what extent He who once found “no room at the inn” will find ample room to rest within us that He might accomplish the work of our Redemption.
Moved by the recognition of our unworthiness, we call upon the Blessed Mother for help:
Accompany me this day, O’ Blessed Virgin, in approaching your Son in the Most Holy Eucharist, that the radiant light of your holiness might disperse the shadows of sin that lurk in my soul, illuminating within me a resting place for the Lord, that He may find room to dwell and to reign within me, both now and forever. Amen.
4. The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple
And after the days of her purification, according to the law of Moses, were accomplished, Mary and Joseph carried him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord: As it is written in the law of the Lord: Every male opening the womb shall be called holy to the Lord: And to offer a sacrifice, according as it is written in the law of the Lord. … (Lk 2:22-24)
Those of us who assemble to assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass do so not simply as spectators; but rather as a people configured to the Lord through the waters of Baptism–the gateway to liturgical participation–in such way as to exercise a share in the priesthood of Christ in a manner befitting our vocation as lay members of His Body.
As such, we are granted at Holy Mass the great privilege, and indeed the duty, to offer our own sacrifice to the Father, in union with that perfect Sacrifice of the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Pope Pius XII exhorted the faithful to engage in such an offering of self, saying:
It is, therefore, desirable, Venerable Brethren, that all the faithful should be aware that to participate in the Eucharistic sacrifice is their chief duty and supreme dignity, and that not in an inert and negligent fashion, giving way to distractions and day-dreaming, but with such earnestness and concentration that they may be united as closely as possible with the High Priest, according to the Apostle, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” And together with Him and through Him let them make their oblation, and in union with Him let them offer up themselves (Mediator Dei – 80).
As always, our every effort to participate in Holy Mass takes on greater efficacy when we humbly seek the assistance of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and so we turn to our Mother in prayer as the altar is being prepared:
Dearest Mother Mary, carry me in your arms, I pray, as once you carried the child Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem. Place me and all of my intentions upon this Holy Altar of Sacrifice, that I may be joined to your Son and become in Him a sacrifice pleasing and acceptable to God the Almighty Father. Amen.
5. The Finding of Jesus in the Temple
And his parents went every year to Jerusalem, at the solemn day of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they were going up into Jerusalem, according to the custom of the feast, and having fulfilled the days, when they returned, the child Jesus remained in Jerusalem. And his parents knew it not. And thinking that he was in the company, they came a day’s journey and sought him among their kinsfolks and acquaintance. And not finding him, they returned into Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that, after three days, they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his wisdom and his answers. And seeing him, they wondered. And his mother said to him: Son, why hast thou done so to us? Behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said to them: How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be about my father’s business? And they understood not the word that he spoke unto them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was subject to them. And his mother kept all these words in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and grace with God and men. (Lk 2:41-52).
According to the custom of the Passover that has been perfected in Christ in the new and everlasting covenant, the faithful assemble as the People of God in the New Jerusalem that is the Church for the solemn feast of freedom from sin and death–the Holy Mass. It is here where we partake of the Lamb of God–He toward whom the unblemished lamb of the Jewish Passover meal simply pointed–to enter into the Sacrifice of our Salvation offered once and for all.
After the priest proclaims, “The Mass is ended,” however, do we, like the Blessed Mother, continue to seek Him? If so, where is He to be found?
How often we fail to truly seek Him in the ordinary course of daily life, choosing instead to wander among “kinsfolk and acquaintances,” contenting ourselves in the ways of this fallen world. Those who have taken the mysteries of the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary to heart, however, not only know that Jesus must be ever sought but also where He is to be found in the Temple.
We are compelled, therefore, to ask: Where is thy Temple, O’ Lord, that I might seek You and find You and follow You all the days of my life?
In the Gospel of St. John we read:
Jesus answered and said to them: Destroy this temple; and in three days I will raise it up. The Jews then said: Six and forty years was this temple in building; and wilt thou raise it up in three days? But he spoke of the temple of his body (Jn 2:19-21).
Yes, the Temple is none other than the Body of Christ, the Church, and so we who seek Jesus know we must follow the guiding hand of the Holy Mother who teaches us in her doctrines and nurtures us in the Sacraments. If we do, the words of St. Paul will certainly ring true:
Know you not that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? (1 Cor 3:16)
To seek and to find the Lord within ourselves, however, is not simply a matter of doing as one pleases; rather, it entails joining with Christ in doing His Father’s business. For it is in building the Kingdom of God on earth in preparation for His glorious return–the true fulfillment of the sacred liturgy–that one finds Christ when “the Mass is ended.”
Even as the Lord in His youth subjected Himself to Mary and Joseph, let us also humbly take our place as children of the Holy Family, seeking the guidance of our Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, in all that we do, so that we too may advance in wisdom and grace with God and with men.
We will continue our reflection next week with a look at the Sorrowful Mysteries.
Author and speaker Louie Verrecchio has been a columnist for Catholic News Agency since April, 2009. He recently launched Preparing the Way for the Roman Missal–Where the New Translation meets the New Evangelization TM available at www.MissalPrep.com
Mr. Verrecchio’s work, which includes the internationally acclaimed Harvesting the Fruit of Vatican II Faith Formation Series, has been endorsed by Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Australia; Bp. Emeritus Patrick O’Donoghue of Lancaster, England, Bp. R. Walker Nickless of Sioux City, IA, USA and others. For more information please visit: www.harvestingthefruit.com.
Many unmarried persons are seriously interested in finding love and getting married, and are serious about their religious beliefs and sharing that faith with someone in marriage.
However, many of these persons are without the close friendship of God to accompany that which they profess to take seriously.
What do I mean? Isn’t a person serious about their faith close to God? Well, yes and no. Those of us who love God know very well that we don’t love Him as much as we should, nor do we include Him in our everyday life as we should. We are all sinners precisely because of this fact.
Jesus told us to pray without ceasing for an important reason. It seems unfathomable, and probably crazy, to most people to pray constantly, and impossible to do.
But this is truly and literally how we need to approach our lives. Not just seriously, but prayerfully.
How often have you witnessed in dating others (or within yourself) inconsistency with what is professed as belief and the words and behavior?
Christians who are dating each other are confused and get damaged or discouraged because the expectation of taking Christian life seriously is tainted by experiencing rudeness, lack of charity, insensitivity, and all manner of things contrary to love as Jesus taught it.
The seriousness about dating in order to find a marriage partner is unproductive and unsuccessful because the individuals involved are not serious about being Jesus to each other.
Being like Jesus and bringing Him to others is serious business. And it must be taken “prayerfully.” Not just seriously, but prayerfully. Jesus wanted us to know that if we are going to be like Him and maintain sharing His very life, we must pray without ceasing.
The more prayer is involved in our life, the more Christ-like we are. If we are not prayerful, we are left to ourselves, which means sin is not far behind.
Dating is frustrating for many because it does not seem to be much of a Christian experience. You have individuals who are Christian just kind of putting that aside while they take care of more “important” things like their selfish desires and personal pleasures. After all, God wants us to be happy, right? So we should date with a mindset to find someone who makes us happy, right?
Well, perhaps. But not at the expense of the purpose of dating, which is getting into the vocation of marriage, nor the dignity of the person, which is the treatment of Christian love that every person we date deserves.
We should be praying at every step along the dating path, including each date and inbetween dates. Asking the Lord, the Holy Spirit, Our Lady, our Guardian Angel, or anyone in heaven or purgatory, for help as to what to say next or what would be the proper thing to do, or to protect you from a temptation, or to smile when you might be inclined to say something rude, etc.
How many people do this kind of praying while on their dates? My guess is not many do. They just wing it on their own and hope for the best as they interact with the other person.
This is high risk, primarily because we are prone to sin and messing things up, but also because this kind of approach can disconnect us too much from the heart of our moral compass. I’m sure many people feel that they are a good Catholic and pray for God’s assistance and all that, and that means they have enough in place to be okay on their own as they interact with others.
Of course, some are able to do this better than others because they have developed personal human virtue enough that they have good social habits. But even those persons need to keep attentive to what they say and do, and should remain connected to the divine as they interact with people.
For most of us, there are too many bad habits in the way we speak and act that require us to be careful and to invoke divine assistance in the moments, not just at the beginning or end of the day. For those who are dating, this is imperative. Our selfishness is always at work to dominate our interpersonal relationships, so the connection to God and His angels and saints will go a long way in navigating us appropriately through these relationships, especially the beginning stages when first impressions are so important.
Here are some examples of what might be petitioned in the moment on a date:
–“Help me stop focusing on the physical, and pay attention to the whole person”
–“Help me to overcome my initial feeling to pull back, and give this fellow Christian my best and my full attention”
–“Help me to recover from not liking what they said and restore your peace in me”
–“Help me to refrain from staring lustfully at this woman (or men), or looking at other women (men) while with this one”
–“Help me to resist correcting what he said or from dominating the conversation”
–“Help me to stop talking about myself and show more interest in him or her”
–“Help me not take the way they speak or eat or certain mannerisms too decisively”
Thinking before we speak is a form of prayer. But actually including a heavenly person is better. We cannot have the habit of being thoughtful until we have the habit of considering in thought before we speak or do. And thinking before we act is critical.
Praying in the moment does wonders for keeping us on the right path. None of us are beyond doing stupid things, or going as far as to ruin perfectly good opportunities in our dating experiences even though we are generally good people. If we don’t realize that there are things about us that might very well be unique, but not necessarily good or Godly things, and that these things need to be controlled through key virtues such as prudence, temperance, modesty, self-discipline, and moderation, we risk letting these less desirable things about ourselves be unruly, and thus more destructive than they need to be.
Praying at all times is how to keep yourself on the straight and narrow. You can still be yourself, but praying through your day can enhance your better self, and tame your lesser self. Don’t consider this impossible or too hard. The grace is there. It can be done. It takes practice. Keep it short and simple. Just ask for the help as you recognize you need it. And help will come. It’s a worthwhile habit to develop and will make all the difference in having success in your dating life.
If you have a problem with taking life prayerfully, take it up with Jesus. It was His idea, and command.
Fifty-three years ago this month, Pope Pius XII passed away.
On the 50th anniversary, his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, celebrated Mass to mark the occasion and gave a thoughtful homily.
A noble tribute to possibly our time’s most maligned man.
A great man, hailed as a hero in his time—personally responsible, in the estimation of Jewish historian Pinchas Lapide for the rescue of some 860,000 Jews during the Nazi persecution of Europe—has been defamed in death as a coward or Nazi sympathizer by those aiming to harm the Church.
Rabbi David Dalin has done yeoman’s work rehabilitating Pius XII, calling him “a righteous gentile” in a series of articles, and publishing a carefully documented book on the subject: The Myth of Hitler’s Pope: Pope Pius XII And His Secret War Against Nazi Germany.
We know where the lie began: a German playwright who was also a Communist sympathizer penned “The Deputy” in 1963, which claimed that the Church was responsible for the holocaust because Pius XII was so focused on defeating Communism he ignored Nazism. Soviet propaganda also promoted the “black legend.”
No one who actually lived through the war and remembered Pius’ actions could believe such a thing; but younger people fell for the lie—even many Catholics.
I’ve adored Pius XII since reading a biography of him years ago.
His courage, prudence, heroism and sanctity during the war years are slowly being rediscovered, but I can’t wait for his writings to be re-examined, in particular his teaching on the role of women (to whom he must have given great thought, since he defined the dogma of the Assumption and proclaimed the Queenship of Mary).
Pope Benedict said of him, in a passage especially powerful when we recall that Benedict himself was witness to these things:
“…once [Rome] was occupied, he was repeatedly advised to leave the Vatican to safeguard himself, his answer was always the same and decisive: ‘I will not leave Rome and my place, even at the cost of my life.’
“His relatives and other witnesses refer furthermore to privations regarding food, heating, clothes and comfort, to which he subjected himself voluntarily in order to share in the extremely trying conditions suffered by the people due to the bombardments and consequences of war. And how can we forget his Christmas radio message of December 1942? In a voice breaking with emotion he deplored the situation of ‘the hundreds of thousands of persons who, without any fault on their part, sometimes only because of their nationality or race, have been consigned to death or to a slow decline,’ a clear reference to the deportation and extermination of the Jews.”
“[Pius] often acted secretly and silently because, in the light of the concrete realities of that complex historical moment, he saw that this was the only way to avoid the worst and save the largest possible number of Jews. His interventions, at the end of the war and at the time of his death, received numerous and unanimous expressions of gratitude from the highest authorities of the Jewish world, such as, for example, the Israeli Foreign Minister Golda Meir, who wrote: ‘During the 10 years of Nazi terror, when our people went through the horrors of martyrdom, the Pope raised his voice to condemn the persecutors and commiserate with their victims’; ending emotionally: ‘We mourn a great servant of peace.’”
Benedict’s conclusion is striking as well, coming from someone who survived World War II.
“In this world of ours, which, like then, is assailed by worries and anguish about its future; in this world where, perhaps more than then, the distancing of many from truth and virtue allows us to glimpse scenarios without hope, Pius XII invites us to look to Mary assumed into the glory of Heaven. He invites us to invoke her faithfully, so that she will allow us to appreciate ever more the value of life on earth and help us to look to the true aim that is the destiny of all of us: that eternal life that, as Jesus assures us, already belongs to those who hear and follow his word.”
The internet has made the cliche about a lie traveling “round the world before the truth puts its boots on” true on a daily basis.
Maybe the take-home message of Pope Pius XII is: even in the media age, the Lord still sees not as man sees, for man looks on the outward appearance, while the Lord looks on the heart.
Or perhaps he simply invites us to reflect: how quickly what “everyone knows” changes, and with what little cause.
Rebecca Ryskind Teti is a Catholic wife, mother, and contributing editor to Faith & Family magazine. Follow her daily at www.faithandfamilylive.com.
An Egyptian political scientist says the latest violence against Coptic Christians shows a harsh reality behind the “Arab Spring,” including a lack of control over rogue elements in Egypt’s army.
“We’ve had a number of attacks against Christians in the past couple of months, and the problem has intensified. There’s been a dramatic increase in violence against Christians in the central land of the ‘Arab Spring,’” said Samuel Tadros, an Egyptian Copt and research fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C.
“I would hope that such an event as what happened on Sunday would serve as a wake-up call to people here,” Tadros told CNA.
An Oct. 9 march on Cairo to protest church burnings turned into a riot pitting largely unarmed Christians against both the army and Muslim mobs, leaving at least 24 people dead–including at least 17 Christians–and 272 injured. Father Rafic Greiche, a spokesman for Eastern Catholics in Egypt, said Oct. 10 that the army used “vagabonds” and “street fighters” against a “peaceful demonstration.”
Tadros said the outbreak of religiously-charged violence, the worst in Egypt since the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak, was an “unfortunate moment” that should serve as a “turning moment–not in terms of the violence that could follow, but in terms of how the Western media, and the West in general, sees the problem and realizes the existence of a problem.”
Sunday’s violence, he said, stemmed largely from elements within the army that oppose the country’s historic Christian presence along with anything that seems “Western.”
Egypt’s interim military government officially runs the country at present, since Mubarak’s departure. But the nation’s strongest institution seems unable, or unwilling, to control rogue elements within.
Tadros says he doubts the “dominant narrative” emerging from many Egyptians about Sunday’s violence, which assumes that the army as a whole either “ordered, or was ordered, to kill” protesters.
Rather, he believes the responsibility lies with particular individuals and groups within the military.
It is not a thought he finds comforting.
“I think the more likely scenario–and I hate to put it this way, but perhaps the more frightening scenario–is that the army actually lost control of its own soldiers during the attacks.”
“The more likely thing that happened was that there was an order to disperse, the army took the position that there would not be any demonstrators in front of the TV headquarters, and the soldiers were given that order.”
“However, we have to remember, when we talk about the Egyptian army, that this is not a professional army–90 percent, if not all, of the soldiers are conscripts,” Tadros explained. “They serve one year of their ‘national duty’ in the army, after which they return to their normal lives again.”
“So these are regular Egyptians, that have suffered from the same hatred and prejudices that exist in society.”
A series of events both before and after Sunday’s protests have led Tadros to believe that the killing of demonstrators–who were reportedly shot at random and run down with military vehicles–was the work of radical individuals and subgroups within the army.
He recalled a telling scene that took place at a smaller Coptic protest four days before the clashes in Cairo. In that instance, too, protesters were “dispersed and beaten by the army, the soldiers and the officers.” But a video from the event shows a struggle of different attitudes within its ranks.
“We see, in one of the videos, after the initial beating of a protester, that the army officers–no human rights lovers, of course–are satisfied that the guy is beaten (enough), and try and stop it.”
The footage shows how one officer “order the soldiers to stop. They don’t.”
“He tries to stop the guy on the left. He stops him, but the soldier on the right continues to beat the protester. He turns to him, only to have the one on the left return to beating. Every new soldier arriving on the scene beats the protester.”
“The officer–for two minutes, as we see in the video–is doing his best to stop it. Again, he doesn’t like the guy, but he doesn’t want a dead body. And he even slaps one of his soldiers. Yet the beating continues.”
Tadros pointed to a second piece of footage, which emerged after the violence on Oct. 9, as evidence for his belief that rogue soldiers took their orders to disperse the crowd as a license to kill.
“The second video that we have, that’s equally disturbing, is from after the attack on Sunday. The army soldiers are being put on their buses to return to their barracks. And we have one of the soldiers emerging from a window of the bus.”
“He shouts at the Muslim onlookers surrounding the bus, ‘I shot him in the chest’”–an apparent reference to the shooting of a Christian protester. “He screams, ‘I shot him in the chest.’”
“The Muslim onlookers are clapping and praising him. One of them shouts, ‘By God, you are a man!’”
Incidents of this kind lead Tadros to believe that top army officials told soldiers “to disperse (the protesters)–using force, definitely.” But “no one on the top level … could possibly imagine that the scene would be like this.”
Both Egyptian officials and Western diplomats, he said, must now reckon with the presence of criminal violence in the institution charged with ensuring the rule of law.
“If I were the Egyptian army’s leaders at the moment, I would be really scared and really worried about what happened–not just the international ramifications, and internally, but because of this prospect: if the soldiers don’t follow orders anymore, how do you deal with that?”
Tadros doesn’t think a scenario like the one that happened on Sunday is “likely to happen in other instances” besides those involving a religious minority. Given orders to stop brutalizing a “regular demonstration,” as opposed to a gathering of Coptic Christians, he thinks soldiers “would stop.”
“But I think it has much more to do with the nature of the people they were beating–that is, that they were Christians,” he observed.
“Imagine that those soldiers had not been serving their one year in the army,” Tadros speculated. “Back in their villages, is it possible to imagine that they would have been part of the same crowds in Egyptian villages, that sometimes go and attack Christian homes and burn churches? Is that possible?”
“I would say, yes. They are very much a part of the Egyptian society.”
But Tadros says many US government officials respect the Egyptian army for showing restraint during the protests that brought down Mubarak, and might be too caught up in the idea of the “Arab Spring” to take a closer look.
The simple narrative of a liberating Egyptian revolution is “very appealing to different groups,” he pointed out.
“You would find both neoconservatives and liberals–people across the American spectrum–who found in the Arab Spring something appealing, and for their different reasons, (something) to support.”
“There is a general assumption in the West, that if a country is on the road to a democratic government, then naturally religious freedom will be there,” Tadros observed. “Unfortunately, reality is very different.”
“Even if a democratic Egypt ends up holding regular, free, and fair elections, it might actually not be good for religious freedom.”
In fact, Tadros noted, it might “create the exact opposite situation.”
BP. ROBERT W. FINN–Bp. Robert W. Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph and the diocese entered pleas of not guilty to misdemeanor charges of failure to report child abuse. The charges were in relation to the diocese’s handling of the case of Fr. Shawn Ratigan. (CNS photo/Paul luc Chokota, courtesy Catholic Key)
Bp. Robert W. Finn and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, which he heads, entered pleas of not guilty to misdemeanor charges of failure to report child abuse.
The charges, brought by Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker in relation to the diocese’s handling of the case of Fr. Shawn Ratigan, were acknowledged in an Oct. 14 statement on the diocesan Web site.
“Bp. Finn denies any criminal wrongdoing and has cooperated at all stages with law enforcement, the grand jury, the prosecutor’s office” and the independent commission appointed by the diocese to study the matter, said Gerald Handley, the bishop’s attorney. “We will continue our efforts to resolve this matter.”
Bp. Finn said in a statement after diocesan attorneys entered the pleas in court that he “will meet these announcements with a steady resolve and a vigorous defense.”
The charge against Bp. Finn carries a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine and one year in jail. The diocese faces a fine of up to $5,000.
Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, had no comment on the indictment.
Diocesan spokeswoman Rebecca Summers said Oct. 17 that Bp. Finn carried out a full schedule of activities over the weekend, including participating in a fundraising event attended by 500 people, Mass and confession at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, and a meeting with senior staff.
Fr. Ratigan was arrested in May on state charges of possessing child pornography. In August, federal prosecutors charged him with producing child pornography. The priest, a former pastor, also is facing accusations made against him in two separate lawsuits filed this summer.
The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and Bp. Finn also have been named in the civil suits, which accuse both of failing to keep Fr. Ratigan away from children apparently after learning disturbing images were found on the priest’s computer and being warned of the priest’s inappropriate behavior around children.
In early September, an independent report commissioned by the diocese to examine its policies and procedures on assessing child sexual abuse allegations found “shortcomings, inaction, and confusing procedures.”
The report also said that “diocesan leaders failed to follow their own policies and procedures for responding to reports” relating to abuse claims.
After the priest’s arrest, Bp. Finn pledged to cooperate with law enforcement authorities and Baker credited him for that during a news conference announcing the indictments. The grand jury handed down the indictments Oct. 6, but they were not made public because Bp. Finn was traveling outside of the country and did not return until late on Oct. 13, Baker said.
Bp. Finn testified before the grand jury Sept. 16. Afterward, he told reporters, “We’re doing the best we can to cooperate with law enforcement.”
Several other diocesan leaders, including spokeswoman Summers, also testified before the grand jury, the Kansas City Star daily newspaper reported.
In the diocesan statement, Bp. Finn said that once the situation with Fr. Ratigan arose, the diocese began to “address the issues that led to this crisis.” He pointed to steps to reinforce and expand diocesan procedures regarding the reporting of child sex abuse. He also appointed an ombudsman charged with having “the responsibility and authority to receive and investigate reports of suspicious, inappropriate behavior or sexual misconduct by clergy, employees, or program volunteers.”
A separate vicar for clergy, Fr. Jerome Powers, also was appointed. The role previously had been part of the vicar general’s responsibilities.
Bp. Finn also asked for prayers for himself and the diocese as well as for the “unity of our priests, our people, the parishes, and the Catholic institutions.”
“With deep faith, we will weather this storm and never cease to fulfill our mission, even in moments of adversity,” he said.
Suspicions about Fr. Ratigan first arose in mid-December 2010, when a laptop belonging to the priest, then pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Kansas City, was turned in to diocesan officials; a computer technician found disturbing photos on the hard drive. The photos included pictures of female children at parish events, including one of a naked female child who was not identifiable.
In May, a search of his family’s home turned up a disk and hard drive with 18 different images of child pornography, Fr. Ratigan was charged with three counts of possession of child pornography in Clay County, followed later by the federal charges.
In a message read in parishes at Masses in early June, Bp. Finn expressed regret for the way the diocese handled information it received about Fr. Ratigan’s activities.
“As bishop, I take full responsibility for these failures and sincerely apologize to you for them. Clearly, we have to do more. Please know that we have — and will continue to cooperate with all local authorities regarding these matters,” he said.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net which was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind …
” —Mt 13:47
The Bible gives us many images and metaphors with which to understand the kingdom of God and the mystery of the Church. These are helpful because we are often tempted to think of the Church as merely another association among many—like a sports club, a civic organization, or a political party—in which we have interests, and can leave if those interests are not satisfied. Being a member in the Church is different. It means something deeper and more profound.
This is important to remember, especially on those occasions in which the faults, weaknesses, and sins of those in the Church come to light. Scandals are never good, precisely because they undermine the faith of believers, and obscure the goodness and beauty of Christ’s presence in the Church.
In a recent press conference during his pastoral visit to his native Germany, Pope Benedict responded to the question of those who are tempted to leave the Church because of scandals. In part, he said, “I would say it is important to know that being in the Church is not like being in some association, but it is being in the net of the Lord, with which he draws good fish and bad fish from the waters of death to the land of life. It is possible that I might be alongside bad fish in this net and I sense this, but it remains true that I am in it neither for the former nor for the latter but because it is the Lord’s net; it is something different from all human associations, a reality that touches the heart of my being.”
In essence, the Holy Father is simply elaborating on Jesus’ teaching. The People of God is made up of all peoples, wounded in varying degrees by sin, but redeemed and born again by water and the Spirit. Grace is at work in the Church such that sinners and saints and saints-in-the-making are gathered together. The Church is the creation of God and in fact, identified with Him. Jesus would, for example, speak to St. Paul at his conversion on the road to Damascus in terms that confirm this: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4) (Emphasis added).
This is not to say that scandals and sins should be dismissed or ignored. They should cause us grief, as they no doubt cause God grief. Nevertheless, they should first motivate us to live up to our own identity as members of Christ: “You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor 6:19-20). Second, as Pope Benedict notes, we must “work against these scandals from within, precisely by being present within the Lord’s great net.”
If we think of it, the Church of God is not only like a family, it is a family, the Family of God. The relationships we have within this family are profoundly more than simply voluntary membership. The sacraments draw us into the very inner life of God, and in that, bind us to one another as members of the same reality. This is why we speak of a changed identity when we enter the Church through the sacraments of initiation. We are different, a new creation; we belong to God and one another. This love and life in which we participate move us to live differently and to understand our own lives differently. I am part of something great and good and holy, because it is the creation of God and animated by the Holy Spirit. In this light, the failures of others “in the net,” or our own for that matter, will not destroy our faith in God or his Church, but rather move us to greater conversion and service.
Perhaps one day, without a film crew or a movie script or an air-conditioned trailer full of bottled water and prepackaged snacks, Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez will find themselves walking along Spain’s El Camino de Santiago–the way of St. James.
The 800-kilometer historic pilgrimage trail–treaded upon by popes, saints, and seekers from all faith traditions for centuries–will take father and son from the quaint French village of St. Jean Pied de Port through the grandiose Pyrenees Mountains across the sun-drenched northern Spanish region of Galicia to the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela.
They will perhaps carry backpacks and scallop shells–the sign of St. James and a pilgrim on El Camino–and follow the warm Galician sun by day and brilliant Milky Way by night.
They’ll sleep at the “posadas”–hostels–and have their “credencials del peregrine”–Camino passports–stamped at the spiritual stops along the way.
And just maybe, as Sheen explained, they’ll “go inside and hear the heartbeat and awaken the voice.”
“I’m determined to do it,” said the 71-year-old Sheen during an interview in Cleveland with the Catholic Universe Bulletin, the diocesan newspaper. He and Estevez were in town as part of a cross-country bus tour to promote their movie, “The Way.”
“I long to do it. And seriously to have that time, that freedom, to make the journey physically but also to go inside and hear the heartbeat and awaken the voice and be ruled by that, the transcendent pilgrimage which is inside,” Sheen said. “That I long for. If I only had the time.”
“But you have to promise not to sign any autographs or take pictures,” quipped Estevez to his father, who enjoys spending time with his fans, allowing them to take photos and get autographs no matter how long it takes or how tired he is after shooting a film.
“The Way” tells the story of four Westerners walking the 500-mile pilgrimage route from the French Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela. It opened nationwide Oct. 7.
Estevez wrote, directed and produced the movie, which is about a widower doctor, Dr. Tom Avery (Sheen), whose grown son (Estevez)–his only child–is killed in a storm while starting to walk El Camino. The doctor decides to reconnect with his faith and express his grief by walking the Camino for his son, bringing his son’s ashes with him. Along the way, he is joined by three other pilgrims who are struggling with their own life challenges and help each other find inner peace.
While placed in a Catholic setting, the film has universal appeal for not only fathers and sons but anyone searching for answers in their lives.
“This movie has the potential to address all the big life themes–grief, loss, family, faith, lapse in faith,” Estevez said.
Back in February Estevez and Sheen were at Georgetown University in Washington for an interview and screening of the movie. At the time they announced they would be conducting a 30-day, 30-city cross-country promotion bus trip from Los Angeles to New York. The tour brought them back to Washington Oct. 1 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
In Cleveland, Estevez said in the interview that he has “always been a storyteller. I started out as a writer. …The acting was somewhat of a vehicle that I used to get there. I really enjoy being on both sides of the camera. I like directing myself. I have a ball when I’m doing it.”
At the film’s Los Angeles premiere Sept. 23, Sheen and Estevez were among the celebrities who strolled down the red carpet outside the Nokia Theatre, where the film was screened as part of the AARP’s Movies for Grownups Film Festival.
In a brief interview on the red carpet, Sheen told The Southern Cross, newspaper of the San Diego Diocese, that the film depicts “the spiritual journey that all of us have to make.”
“We have to do our pilgrimages, and we have to carry all the things that we’ve accumulated along the way,” he said. “Nobody else can carry that stuff, nobody else can go in our shoes. You have to do it alone, but you cannot do it without community.”
Sheen said he grew up hearing stories about “this sacred pilgrimage” from his father, who was born about 80 kilometers from Santiago de Compostela, “and so, I had this kind of romantic image that someday I would do this journey.”
Raised a Catholic, Sheen fell away from his faith for a time but returned to it some years ago and today is active in social justice causes.
In the summer of 2003, while on a break from filming the television series “The West Wing,” Sheen navigated the pilgrimage route by car with his grandson Taylor and a close friend. At their first stop on the Camino, Taylor met the woman who would become his wife.
“That was the first miracle. That inspired me to want to do a story on the Camino,” said Sheen, who suggested Estevez write a screenplay.
In a separate red carpet interview, Estevez noted that pilgrims have been walking the Way of St. James since the ninth century.
“Hollywood has had a hundred years to make a movie about this, and they haven’t,” he said. “It was time.”
Estevez considers his film especially relevant today.
“Our business doesn’t really celebrate faith, and family, and community, and meditation and prayer in a way that it should,” he said, “and I think that there is a hunger now, especially in these economic times. People are banding together in ways that they never have before and certainly leaning on family.”
Contributing to this story was Denis Grasska in Los Angeles.
A Pennsylvania man says his miraculous healing shows God’s outreach to those who seem far from their faith. The healing is credited to Blessed Louis Guanella, the Servants of Charity founder who will be canonized Oct. 23.
“It’s pretty amazing, obviously. I never thought this was anything I’d ever be involved with,” Springfeld resident William Glisson, Jr. said.
In March 2002, while rollerblading backwards on a busy commercial street, Glisson tripped and flew in the air, landing on the back of his head.
Glisson, who was 21 at the time, went into a coma and was expected to suffer permanent brain damage if he survived. He underwent five surgeries, including two to replace pieces of his skull.
But Glisson made a full recovery after a family friend organized prayers to Fr. Guanella, with the help of local members of the Servants of Charity as well as residents and students of the Don Guanella Village for those with developmental disabilities.
Only three months after his accident, Glisson was back to work at his family’s home repair business.
“It happened due to the prayers of mostly men at the Don Guanella school while I was in my coma–men who didn’t know me or anything like that were praying for me,” Glisson recalled.
“And then their prayers were answered, and I was helped and I recovered.”
Participants in the prayer campaign used two relics of Fr. Louis Guanella and asked the late priest to intercede with God for their intention, according to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Fr. Denis Weber, SC, now the local superior of the Servants of Charity, was administrator of the Don Guanella house at the time.
He told CNA that a former staff member, a friend of the Glisson family, contacted the house and asked for prayers after the accident.
“So we began praying for him, within the community, as well as with our residents,” Fr. Weber said in an Oct. 5 interview. “We prayed the Rosary each day with our residents, and we included this intention in praying for his recovery.”
Glisson is grateful for the prayers that helped give him back his life.
“I can’t believe that these men were willing to take the time out to pray for me, and the fact that it worked,” he said.
The 30-year-old man said he grew up in a Catholic household, but had not practiced his faith consistently. “I never said my prayers at night before bed or anything like that,” he recalled.
“But due to the prayers of other people, while I was in my coma … I was chosen because of their prayers to get better, which just shows you that anybody can be saved by God.”
“It doesn’t matter who you are. You don’t have to be a priest or the president or someone high up or anything like that. God chooses you. It’s his choice, and that’s what he did for me.”
“Now I’m just looking for the reason why I got a second chance,” Glisson reflected.
He may want to look to the example of the man credited with his healing.
Bl. Louis Guanella was born in Italy’s Southern Alps during 1842. He became a priest and founded two orders–the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence and the Servants of Charity–to serve the poor and others abandoned by society.
The orders’ ministry revolves around care for the developmentally disabled, support for the elderly, and care for children from difficult backgrounds.
“Wherever there was any need,” Fr. Denis Weber recalled, “Fr. Guanella wanted to be present, to serve those who are marginalized, those who were seen as less by society.”
The priest said his order’s founder “believed in the dignity of each and every person.” Fr. Guanella died on Oct. 24, 1915 and was beatified by Pope Paul VI in 1964.
Fr. Weber also stressed that the soon-to-be saint had “great trust and belief in the providence of God. God is a father, and we are his children. God is a God of love who loves all his children and wants to care for and protect them.”
In November, 2009 the medical commission of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints said there were no scientific, natural or medical reasons for Glisson’s cure. In January 2010 the Pontifical Theological Commission affirmed that the healing took place through Bl. Louis Guanella’s intercession.
The local superior of the Servants of Charity feels excited to be involved in a miracle credited to the founder of his community.
“This is a great day for the Church, for the Servants of Charity, for the Guanellian family, but also for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which has experienced some difficulties here recently,” Fr. Weber observed.
He said it had been overwhelming for Glisson to have to relive a “terrible accident,” for the sake of the process to find out whether a miracle took place.
“But he’s been very open in talking to others,” the priest said.
For his part, Glisson is looking forward to the trip to Rome, where Pope Benedict XVI will declare Fr. Louis Guanella a saint of the universal Church. The Springfield resident says he’s “never been anywhere before,” making this unusual journal a “very exciting first trip out of the country.”
Philadelphia Aux. Bp. John J. McIntyre will join the delegation to Rome, representing Abp. Charles J. Chaput.
Bp. Robert P. Maginnis, a retired auxiliary bishop of the Philadelphia Archdiocese, will celebrate and preach at a Mass for St. Louis Guanella’s feast day on Oct. 24. The Mass will take place at the Cardinal Krol Center at Don Guanella Village in Springfield, PA.
The Church memorialized the beheading of St. John the Baptist on Aug. 29. It is a liturgical event with a sad, timeless lesson: how a man–in the Gospel account, Herod–dominated by desires and pleasures of the flesh can destroy himself, his family, and his neighbors. Lust can shackle a man into living a sinful life. Consequently, it is important for men to identify lust and recognize its insidious forms.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, lust is a “disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure,” perverting sex by making it self-serving and “isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes” (2351). Lust manifests itself in a variety of dark ways: masturbation, fornication, pornography, prostitution, and rape (2352-2356). A man corrupted by lust acts is a slave to his passions and sexual appetites.
The slavery of lust destroys men over time in a myriad of ways–publicly, privately, and with undeniably devastating consequences. Publicly, consider the most affordable, accessible, and legally protected (in most cases) form of lust available to “satisfy” the senses of modern man. I refer to pornography, which enslaves all of its participants. Its actors contract sexually-transmitted diseases and endure psychological trauma. Vendors marketing and selling pornography, regardless whether on-screen or in print form, operate as hostages to market forces which violate human dignity. And the men purchasing pornography form addictive, drug-like habits.
Many men don’t know that pornography heightens their senses to the point that their brain releases an intoxicating chemical cocktail that burns the images into their memories. This pleasurable rush is meant to form a loving bond within an ordered sexual activity between husband and wife, but pornography can turn this chemical mix into a dark toxin that poisons our thoughts and affections first, then our families and the larger society and culture. We only have to turn on the TV, watch a PG movie, open a magazine or listen to pop lyrics to know that there is a lot of disordered sexuality floating in our cultural atmosphere.
The slavery of lust can also lead men to crime. Rape–an unwanted sexual act against another–victimizes with such force that it “deeply wounds the respect, freedom, and physical and moral integrity to which every person has a right” (CCC, 2356). Rape injures for life. Thankfully, many Christians reside in a society today that stigmatizes individuals simply accused of rape. But will the same stigma apply tomorrow given the trajectory of our globalized culture, where sex trafficking and prostitution are rampant? Just think how lightly sins of fornication and cohabitation are treated today–as though they are normal steps to adulthood.
Sexual sin can also be private, such as masturbation. Most males give into this sin in adolescence, when immaturity and curiosity may be the driving factors, but too many continue this activity into adulthood and even bring it secretly into a marriage. Masturbation is almost always accompanied (or incited) by some form of pornography and when the two habits feed on one another, they have the power to separate a man from his better senses, his reason, his will to do good and to avoid evil. A man who masturbates is like a habitual gambler who would place all his treasured relationships in jeopardy–his marriage, his fatherhood, his self-image and the image of God within him. Lust destroys slowly, eroding its victims over time from the inside out. It is a form of slavery that distorts a healthy, God-given desire for sexual pleasure into unhealthy actions that can injure men personally, their loved ones, and the community. Both in its public and private forms, lust will enslave men if left unidentified and unchecked. This week, let us learn from Herod’s sin and regret and pray for the Truth to set all men free from lust’s sad and sinful chains.
Jason Godin teaches US history at Blinn College in Bryan, TX, where he lives with his wife and two children.