Category Archives: Saints

A good Jesuit: Miguel Pro, S.J.

father miguel pro cristero

Today’s his feast day, 23 November. In the picture above he’s making his last prayer before being executed for being a Catholic priest. Just prior to this, he was kneeling in the same way over in Lourdes, France, in the grotto, but for many hours on end, immobile, in ecstasy. He was asking the Immaculate Conception for a cure for some health issues so that his superiors would allow him to make the long and dangerous trip to Mexico. Our Lady, knowing what would soon happen to him in Mexico, granted his desire. Off he went, not only to Mexico, but to heaven. No fear, because love casts out all fear. Wikipedia adds some things:

As Pro walked from his cell to the courtyard and the firing squad, he blessed the soldiers, knelt, and briefly prayed quietly. Declining a blindfold, he faced his executioners with a crucifix in one hand and a rosary in the other and held his arms out in imitation of the crucified Christ and shouted out, “May God have mercy on you! May God bless you! Lord, Thou knowest that I am innocent! With all my heart I forgive my enemies!” Before the firing squad were ordered to shoot, Pro raised his arms in imitation of Christ and shouted the defiant cry of the Cristeros, “Viva Cristo Rey!” – “Long live Christ the King!”. When the initial shots of the firing squad failed to kill him, a soldier shot him at point-blank range.

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Homily 2017 11 01 – All Saints

fra angelico last judgment

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John dances like a camel, I like a donkey, and what about you?

Image result for dancing camel gif

  • John leaped in the womb for joy in the womb of his mother Elizabeth at the presence of Jesus in the womb of Mary, who herself gave voice to the joy of Jesus.
  • John was clothed in camel hair. Super penitential, right? Yes. Dour? Not at all. It’s called not taking oneself seriously, freeing one up to be joyful in Christ Jesus our Lord.

It’s not that John, the greatest of prophets, didn’t have to learn anything:

  • Let it be for the sake of the fulfillment of all righteousness…
  • As the Master, so the disciple: yes, you’ll have to get your head cut off… Blessed is he who is not offended by me…

And with that, John, not taking himself seriously, faced his death with joy, dancing for joy as much as he could in his chains, in a dungeon. Perhaps you dance like John?

Meanwhile, we build shrines to the saints (like this post), not to say that we wouldn’t have handed the sword to the soldier of Herod who cut off John’s head, for we would all do that given the circumstances and our own idiocy, but rather to say that, with God’s grace, of which they spoke, we can repent of our celebrations of the ways of this world and learn to rejoice, to dance for joy, to leap for joy at the presence of the Lord Jesus in our lives. Perhaps you dance like this with Jesus…

byers dance paul vi audience hall

I dance like a donkey. I admit that we might be a bit dour when we start on this epic spiritual journey, playing the part of the ass of a donkey, so to speak, still taking ourselves a bit too seriously, but then we are introduced little by little to the joy of recognizing the presence of the Lord Jesus with us, and then we also dance for joy, even helping others to do the same. A good friend saw this donkey the other day and couldn’t resist getting it for me, donkey that I am… Ha ha ha…

donkey---

Meanwhile, I’m sure that Saint John Vianney’s condemnation of the ludicrous dancing in Ars won’t come my way for me being happy to dance for joy in the Lord no matter what. The patron saint of priests, for the dedication of the Baptist’s chapel in his little parish church quipped that “John lost his head for a dance”. Sure. But there are different kinds of dancing. John was also happy to dance with abandon before the Lord, as did David. There’s a long and happy tradition of dancing in Judeo-Catholic life.

It is said by the students of the Tilma that Our Lady of Guadalupe is dancing. Perhaps you dance like Jesus’ good mom:

guadalupe-

Even Laudie-dog, Break-dance-dog, demonstrates her joy. Perhaps you dance like Laudie-dog:

laudie dog break dance

  • Hey John, they’re gonna cut your head off…
  • Oh, O.K. I guess I’ll have to dance like a chicken with my head cut off…

martyrdom of saint john the baptist

Look… Really…. JOY no matter what…

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Vatican: Handgunners’ Patron Saint is Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows. Sharpening your skills is possible

target uncountable

Practiced concealed carriers will laugh with me (if they’re polite, as most CC crowd are) regarding my attempts at defending myself from stationary adhesive dots on stationary paper (that’s a full mag of 15 above), with me standing in a stationary position. I least I start holstered turned away from the target.

Always taking laughter seriously, I’ve come up with what is now a challenge, cutting a 1 inch by 1 inch by many feet long stick in half (marking the point with florescent orange spray paint) with target ammo using my Glock 19 from 15 to about 25 feet out (at the end of the arc), swinging the stick on a string that was thrown over a branch 35 feet up (this being out in the woods with a ridge as a backdrop). Here’s a three second video I made and just now uploaded to youtube to show you what this looks like in action, thought I’m not shooting while filming. Of course not.

Hey! It’s got a whole 5 views while I put up this post! I think people don’t watch youtube by principle or simply are afraid of anything to do with guns. I think it’s a cool three second video. But I’m biased ’cause I made it. Anyway, here is the result after what I think are too many attempts (but you gotta start somewhere, right?):

target stick

9mm FMJs go right through and won’t break a 1 inch by 1 inch stick in two with one shot. You have to saw across the stick at the same place. Not easy for me anyway when, after some hits, it’s only hanging together with something similar to a toothpick. I’ll be the first to admit that a bunch of shots were not on my spray-painted line. This will be a good play-time distraction on days off for quite a long time. This can always be made more difficult, with me moving either much closer (in which case it seems that the target is moving faster) or further away (in which case it seems that the already small target is smaller). Then you can add walking at the same time, and “running” (a kind of crouched fast-walk). I’m sure that won’t be easy. The more difficult in practice, the more accurate in a hoped-to-be-never-actual-incident.

saint gabriel possenti patron

Saint Gabriel Possenti, CSsR – Patron Saint of Hand-gunners as so designated by the Holy See

In my younger seminarian days I got on a bus and headed out on pilgrimage to the Passionist Monastery where Saint Gabriel had been a seminarian. The account given by all is that he saved a young lady from being raped by soldiers who were pillaging the town by demonstrating his marksmanship in killing a tiny lizard. Some people may feel sorry for the lizard, but I feel sorry for the young lady who was about to be brutalized and raped. Self defense for self or others is a positive contribution to the virtue of justice.

Those lizard loving people might want to ask what the ladies think about it, you know, those who have been raped by, say, al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda or ISIS or whatever and are then gunned down in some backwater alley because they complained about it. I’d rather take out the lizard. Saint Gabriel rocks!

See the Saint Gabriel Possenti Society…

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Saint George the Dragon Slayer

saint george stained glass window

Outside of my great friend (who I am utterly unworthy to have as a friend), Saint Philomena – the veracity of whose existence as a virgin and martyr of the early Church has recently been sustained by exhaustive scientific evaluations of the evidence – outside of her… there is perhaps no saint more scorned as being no more than a figment of pious imagination than Saint George, who, however, boasts of more archaeological and historical evidence than most any other saint in the history not only of the early Church, but for some lesser known saints, right into our own day. Churches dedicated to Saint George sprang up in their dozens throughout the ancient world immediately after news of his martyrdom on 23 April 303.

Liberal warning: The most obnoxious denial of the existence of Saint George that I’ve come across comes from a super liberal professor of “ecumenism” (which I put in quotes because he had no idea what true ecumenism is). Many of my fellow priests today have had Father XXX as a professor in the various countries, seminaries and universities where he’s mislead people. He had the idea that Saint George couldn’t possibly have existed because of the iconography of him slaying a dragon. His arrogant idea was that we’re very smart today, and people of the past were so very gullible and stupid. He laughed his nervous, cowardly, mocking laugh when I tried to explain a few things about the iconography:

  • Those in the first centuries, who were suffering under the severe persecutions of the dragon of the Apocalypse, namely, the possessed-by-Satan pre-Constantinian Roman Empire, understood the dragon to be the Roman Empire. Even so, such depictions only came later, but for this very reason.
  • The white horse, similarly, is the white horse of the Apocalypse 6:2, whose rider goes out conquering and to further his conquering.
  • In the early fourth century, after George was martyred, it is interesting to note that all martyrs in the Montefiascone/Bolsano region of Tuscany, whether male or female, with no regard to how they met their deaths, were all depicted as riding on the white horse of the Apocalypse.
  • The woman who is to be saved in the background of some Renaissance paintings is, similarly, Holy Mother Church, who is represented by her saints.
  • The point of all this wonderful triumphalism in the iconography is not that Saint George or the other martyrs successfully fought their way out of being martyred, that they slew the dragon by, for instance, assassinating the Emperor of the time, but rather that they conquered the demonically controlled world by witnessing to Christ Jesus’ goodness and kindness right unto their deaths, so hated is goodness and kindness by the demonically controlled world. Saint George and the other martyrs slew the dragon by being slain themselves.
  • By the way, the dragon, the ancient serpent, the devil and Satan, of Genesis 2,4-3:24, is, in the ancient usage of the word, an Oracle from God on behalf of man, a spirit, an angel, now a fallen angel. There are no talking snakes in Genesis.

None of this – or the archaeological proofs – made any impression on this super-liberal priest, for the last thing he wanted to hear was faithfulness to the Church unto death. That’s not what his own life was about. Since he couldn’t answer in any reasonable way, he merely laughed his nervous, cowardly, mocking laugh once again. I had to live with that kind of nonsense for… well… pretty much my whole priesthood. Yikes! This kind of thing can occasion an increase in friendship, in view of such a cross, with Christ Jesus and the Saints.

saint george iconThis icon was given to me by Cardinal […]. It’s from the Mount Zion crowd just outside the wall of the Old City of Jerusalem. There is great devotion to Saint George in Palestine until today, with about every third boy being called after Saint George.

George’s father, Gerontius, was well known to the Emperor Diocletian as one of his very best soldiers. When Gerontius’ son George applied to Diocletian to be in the military service of the Emperor, Diocletian quickly made him part of the Imperial Guard and gave him the rank of Tribune. These positions taken together made young George, perhaps in his early twenties, almost as powerful as the Emperor himself. Very few people would have ever had such power, both military and political, and at such a young age. George was an instant phenomenon. Everyone would have known exactly who he was in the entire ancient world.

saint george martyrdomDiocletian was persuaded by the might-makes-right Galerius to have all his soldiers offer sacrifice to the Roman gods. George, with the zeal of the saints, loudly and with great reason proclaimed his worship of Christ Jesus, so that he couldn’t possibly offer sacrifice to any Roman gods. Diocletian, distraught – for he had never intended this – offered George all sorts of bribes, all of which were scorned by our Saint. Diocletian then set out to make an example of him, first attaching him to a wheel of swords and then having him decapitated.

Saint George and Saint Michael the Archangel sometimes meld into one presentation with wings being granted to Saint George on his white horse. That’s O.K. I’m sure they were great friends!

By the way, George is the Name of God the Father: ὁ πατήρ μου ὁ γεωργός ἐστιν (John 15:1). “My Father is George.” O.K., so, a pedantic translation would be “My Father is the Farmer” or “My Father is the Tiller of the Ground.” Some translations have “Vinedresser.” Truth be told, it’s γεωργός, that is, George!

Just to be insistent about this: “Adam” means “Tiller of the Ground.” “Adam” = “George.” Jesus is the New Adam. Jesus is the New George. Yours truly is merely the old George, the old Adam. But Christ has conquered and goes out to conquer still. Thanks be to God our Father that Jesus sets about slaying me so that, dead to myself, I live for Him alone. Yikes!

keep calm and slay dragons

By the way, my parish, which takes in the most outrageously beautiful mountains of the Great Smoky Mountains, boasts, of course, of “The Dragon’s Tail”, which is an extremely dangerous curvy road that every motorcycle enthusiast in North America loves to ride. They all come here! There are hotels just for two-wheelers throughout the area. There are all sort of motorcycle fix-it shops. I invite all cyclers to to make a weekend of this, slaying the dragon by the tail, and stopping in for Mass at 8:30 Sunday morning at Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Robbinsville, NC, or 11:00 Mass Sunday morning at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Andrews, N.C. If you’re not afraid of heights or gravel roads, come to Andrews from Robbinsville over Tatham Gap Road. If you’ve never once said “Yikes!” in your life, you will when ride this one. Yikes! I say that in solidarity, as most all my broken bones in life (really very many) have come from riding on two wheels with a motor. Again: Yikes!

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When Padre Pio met Saint Michael. When Father Byers knew nothing at all.

elijah judas tree

Elijah with the flaming fiery sword on Mount Carmel, Israel.

You can read things dozens of times over the years and just not “get it” at all. That’s me. But this year when I read the following letter of Padre Pio, I was mesmerized. I now know a bit more just how much I absolutely don’t know anything about the spiritual life. I have written academically about that of which he speaks, the flaming sword. I am vindicated on that academic level at least, for I am alone across the millennia in what I have written. But on a spiritual level, well, I am thrust to the ground in deep humiliation, for I obviously know nothing of the spiritual life. But at least I know that I know nothing. These days, that’s something. And it’s way more than enough to ask for this great saint’s help. Apologies are given in advance for the inadequacy of [my comments] below. You can see from my Coat of Arms (thanks to Elizdelphi! No words on the banner yet) that I am grateful to have written about the sword of which Padre Pio speaks…

GEORGE DAVID BYERS - COAT OF ARMS - revision

From the Letters of Saint Pius of Pietrelcina, priest (Epist. I, 1065; 1093-1095)

I will raise my voice and will not stop imploring him

“Out of obedience I am obliged to manifest to you what happened to me on the evening of the 5th of this month of August 1918 [Vigil of the Feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus] and all day on the 6th [Feast of the Transfiguration].

cherub-sword-eden

“I am quite unable to convey to you what occurred during this period of utter torment. While I was hearing the boys’ confessions on the evening of the 5th [making them saints!], I was suddenly terrorized by the sight of a celestial person [an angel, a cherub] who presented himself to my mind’s eye [So, not an apparition, but entirely spiritual. People think angels are all fluffy chiffon pastels and cutesy cutesy. Pio speaks of torment and terror, and this angel is from heaven!]. He had in his hand a sort of weapon [“weapon”] like a very long sharp-pointed steel blade which seemed to emit fire. [This is the sword mentioned in Genesis 3:24. It is the sword which “turns into its contrary by way of the fiery grace of enmity against Satan and by way of friendship with God whatever is presented to it.” This is the sword with which the Carmelites depict Elijah. This is the sword of Saint Michael. This is the sword of Saint Teresa of Avila…] At the very instant that I saw all this, I saw that person hurl the weapon into my soul with all his might. [Seeing that a cherub could crush the entire universe if given permission from the Most High, this is saying really a lot…] I cried out with difficulty and felt I was dying. I asked the boys to leave because I felt ill and no longer had the strength to continue. [What an understatement of all time. They must have been scared for him.] This agony lasted uninterruptedly until the morning of the 7th. I cannot tell you how much I suffered during this period of anguish. Even my entrails were torn and ruptured by the weapon, [“weapon”] and nothing was spared. [“nothing” – and here I try to hang on to this and that. And in doing that I am totally lacking in generosity. I’ve done nothing in my life. I’ve not laid down my life as so many have done. Pio is going through his purgatory all at once, 40 some hours for him. And what would I do, I who surely have a purgatory lasting until the end of the world?]

discalced-carmelite-coat-of-arms

Elijah’s fiery sword on the Discalced Carmelite Coat of Arms

“From that day on I have been mortally wounded. [And this is no longer his wound, but that of humanity, with Pio now being in solidarity with Jesus on the Cross even as Jesus is in solidarity with us, loving us while we are yet sinners, drawing all to Himself as He is lifted up on the Cross. And we watch with Him…] I feel in the depths of my soul a wound that is always open and which causes me continual agony. What can I tell you in answer to your questions regarding my crucifixion? My God! What embarrassment and humiliation I suffer by being obliged to explain what you have done to this wretched creature! [For we do nothing to save ourselves. Jesus is our Savior. We come to realize this. We are nothing. He is all. He shows us what He has saved us from, and not just us, me, but we see how He has saved all of us as we gain some heightened perspective on the cross.]

padre-pio-stigmata

“On the morning of the 20th of last month [two weeks later], in the choir [making the traditional thanksgiving prayers after Mass], after I had celebrated Mass I yielded to a drowsiness similar to a sweet sleep. All the internal and external senses and even the very faculties of my soul were immersed in indescribable stillness. Absolute silence surrounded and invaded me. I was suddenly filled with great peace and abandonment which effaced everything else and caused a lull in the turmoil. All this happened in a flash. While this was taking place I saw before me a mysterious person similar to the one I had seen on the evening of August 5th. [We entertain angels and even the Son of Man and do not know it. How much the angels reflect the Son of Man! And the fiery love of God, issuing from the throne of the Most High, from the Heart of Him who loves us so much, is just that fierce on that sword which transforms us utterly in God’s love.] The only difference was that his hands and feet and side were dripping blood. This sight terrified me and what I felt at that moment is indescribable. I thought I should die and really should have died if the Lord had not intervened and strengthened my heart which was about to burst out of my chest. [We are utterly weak. It is all Jesus.] The vision disappeared and I became aware that my hands, feet and side were dripping blood. Imagine the agony I experienced and continue to experience almost every day. [He speaks also and especially of his embarrassment, for he, as all of us from Adam until the last man is conceived, caused those wounds in our Lord. How is it that he, Pio, or any of us could share such wounds of love for all those Jesus has redeemed and wills to save?] The heart wound bleeds continually, especially from Thursday evening until Saturday.

PADRE PIO SEAL OF CONFESSION

Padre Pio reprimanding the Bishop about the Seal of Confession.

“Dear Father, I am dying of pain because of the wounds and the resulting embarrassment I feel deep in my soul. I am afraid I shall bleed to death if the Lord does not hear my heartfelt supplication to relieve me of this condition. Will Jesus, who is so good, grant me this grace? Will he at least free me from the embarrassment caused by these outward signs? [The embarrassment, mind you, is more than enough to end his life on this earth.] I will raise my voice and will not stop imploring him until in his mercy he takes away, not the wound or the pain, which is impossible since I wish to be inebriated with pain, but these outward signs which cause me such embarrassment and unbearable humiliation. The person of whom I spoke in a previous letter is none other than the one I mentioned having seen on August 5th. He continues his work incessantly, causing me extreme spiritual agony. There is a continual rumbling within me like the gushing of blood. [This Hebrew description of this sword in Genesis 3:24 (which I think I am the very first to translate pedantically, as it really is just that difficult), the sword which the angel is mashing around inside Pio is variously and wrongly translated as the twirling sword, the sword which moves about this way and that, etc., is, instead, “the sword which causes that which is presented to it to be transformed into its contrary.” Thus, we don’t take from the Tree of the Living Ones, though we can humbly receive its fruit (the Eucharist from the Cross).] My God! Your punishment is just and your judgment right, but grant me your mercy. Lord, with your Prophet I shall continue to repeat: O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger; do not punish me in your rage! Dear Father, now that my whole interior state is known to you, do not refuse to send me a word of comfort in the midst of such severe and harsh suffering.” [If it were I who had to respond to him, knowing I know nothing, but despite that, I would say that in our very reception of mercy we must show mercy to the rest of the members of the Body of Christ, those whom Jesus has redeemed and wills to save. Our suffering is occasioned by the lack of others, lack of faith, etc., but it is not their cross we carry, but instead we come to know what we would be like if we ourselves were to be without the grace of our Lord in therefore our lack of faith, etc…. and our remaining in friendship by the grace of God in such horrific circumstances acts as an intercession for those who are truly without faith, etc. This is drawing all to Christ on the cross in solidarity with Jesus, who does this by His grace. He, the Head of the Body does this, but we are members of that Body and we are with Him. If we only knew! If we only knew! Now Pio had his eyes opened, his soul torn open, his hands and feet and heart torn open. But it’s all Jesus. Jesus’ love taking on our lack. Embarrassing to us? Yes. And we run away. Pio couldn’t run any more. The angel presented himself, and, fiercely raising his weapon of God’s love… I know nothing. Saint Pio: help this donkey-priest to come to know Jesus! Help all of us priests!]

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Padre Pio’s letter to Pope Paul VI on Humanae Vitae just before he died

paul-vi-humanae-vitae-time-magazine

Your Holiness:

Availing myself of Your Holiness’ meeting with the Capitular Fathers, I unite myself in spirit with my Brothers, and in a spirit of faith, love and obedience to the greatness of Him whom you represent on earth, offer my respectful homage to Your August Person, humbly kneeling at Your feet.

The Capuchin Order has always been among the first in their love, fidelity and reverence for the Holy See. I pray the Lord that its members remain ever thus, continuing their tradition of seriousness and religious asceticism evangelical poverty, faithful observance of the Rule and Constitutions, renewing themselves in vigorous living and deep interior spirit—always ready, at the least gesture from Your Holiness, to go forward at once to assist the Church in her needs.

I know that Your heart suffers much these days on account of the happenings in the Church: for peace in the world, for the great needs of its peoples; but above all, for the lack of obedience of some, even Catholics, to the lofty teachings which You, assisted by the Holy Spirit and in the name of God, have given us. I offer Your Holiness my daily prayers and sufferings, the insignificant but sincere offering of the least of your sons, asking the Lord to comfort you with His grace to continue along the direct yet often burdensome way—in defense of those eternal truths which can never change with the times.

In the name of my spiritual sons and of the “Praying Groups” I thank Your Holiness for the clear and decisive words You have spoken in the recent encyclical, “Humanae Vitae”, and I reaffirm my own faith and my unconditional obedience to Your inspired directives.

May God grant truth to triumph, and, may peace be given to His Church, tranquility to the people of the earth, and health and prosperity to Your Holiness, so that when these disturbing clouds pass over, the Reign of God may triumph in all hearts, through the Apostolic Works of the Supreme Shepherd of all Christians.

Prostrate at Your feet, I beg you to bless me, my Brothers in religion, my spiritual sons, the “Praying Groups”, all the sick—that we may faithfully fulfill the good works done in the Name of Jesus and under your protection.

Your Holiness’ most humble servant,

PADRE PIO, Capuchin

San Giovanni Rotondo, 12th September, 1968.

l’Osservatore Romano – Weekly Edition in English – 10 October 1968

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The day I saw Mother Teresa’s halo

Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Catholic iconography usually depicts saints with a halo, a ring of light or a shining brightness radiating from the person’s head or entire person, symbolizing the holiness of the person, a reflection of God’s goodness in him or her. This has nothing to do with any chakra wierdness, and nothing to do with Microsoft’s digital ultra violent war games. The halo instead has everything to do with Jesus, who is Himself the Light shining in the darkness, the Lumen gentium, the Light of the Nations. Artistic license is one thing, actually seeing such a phenomenon is quite another. Back in the day, I must say that I did see the halo of Mother Teresa.

I was a young seminarian spending the Summer with the Missionaries of Charity, firstly in Calcutta for a number of weeks and then in Byculla district of what is today called Mumbai for a number of months. I slept on the surgery gurney of the medical room of the tuberculosis ward and was sitting out on the front steps of the entrance of this building when Mother stepped onto the compound of the old warehouse buildings that were now given over to the charity of the Missionaries.

All the sisters rushed to greet Mother with great joy, singing and dancing and receiving the traditional Indian greeting from her, all except for one sister, the religious superior of that local community at that time. That particular sister had remained in the tuberculosis ward. I didn’t know what was about to happen, but this non-participation in the welcoming of Mother Teresa was not at all a surprise to me. I had already had my own rather ferocious if polite discussion with this sister, reprimanding her for a number of things, both religious and theological, regardless of my total lack of status. I greatly feared for her fidelity to her vocation.

Meanwhile, I was paying close attention to Mother Teresa herself amidst all the joy and singing and dancing and greetings. She was absolutely shining, and not just around her head, but from her whole person, but truly particularly from around her head, a real light, supernatural but somehow visible, unmistakable as an interior light radiating in the darkness of this world. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing with my jaw dropped and eyes wide open. I rubbed my eyes. There it was, such a light!

There was also something else I saw, a certain determination to do something she had to do. She was making her way in my direction, that is, in the direction of the steps of the tuberculosis ward on which I was sitting. The sisters suddenly let her continue alone. She went by me inside the tuberculosis ward and straight into the medical room (my room, as it were) where the local superior was awaiting her. “Ah!” thought I. “This was the purpose of the trip.” I couldn’t help hear what then happened, with Mother Teresa immediately launching into a reprimand of that sister, who rebelliously defended her rebelliousness. “Wow!” thought I. “This is how to give someone a much needed smack-down, with firmness, respect, clarity, incisiveness.” This was the light of Jesus shining where it was needed in this world.

Meanwhile, as we would come to know, Mother Teresa was being sustained by the Light that is Christ even while living herself in a darkness that would crush the rest of us if we were without the light of Jesus Himself. It is the darkness of the spiritual eclipse on Calvary, when all of hell’s darkness broke out in an attempt to cover that light which cannot but burn through the smoke and soot. Jesus said that when He was to be lifted up on the Cross, He would draw all to Himself. Mother Teresa allowed herself in His grace to be drawn to the Cross to be in solidarity with Jesus even as He is in solidarity with us. And this light of Jesus could not be hidden within her. Whatever she was feeling on the inside, she radiated the true joy of the Holy Spirit and was genuinely happen despite her dark agony. That joy of the Holy Spirit was the light I saw radiating from her, a spiritual light, but a light I could actually see with my physical eyes.

I have much more to write about Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity. I have a lifetime of being with them and their apostolate among the poorest of the poor. But today I’m off to the hermitage (now 4:54 AM…) to get some things, as the property on which it sits is being sold with urgency. Then I rush back for Noon Mass at the parish. More later.

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Amoris laetitia: Epistemology of love: Isaiah, Jesus, Paul, Catherine of Siena

saint catherine of siena

Jesus Himself fulfilled the vocation of Isaiah, to blind eyes, stop up ears, harden hearts, and remove all understanding lest people turn to the Lord to be saved. Good! We are not to pretend that just because we have eyes and ears and hearts we can turn to the Lord under our own power like some Pelagian work-your-own-way-to-God knucklehead. We must allow ourselves, by God’s grace, to be turned to the Lord, to be brought up into His mercy.

We hate any demand to give up control over ourselves, even of our spiritual lives, even to the Lord Himself. This is our fallen human condition. It is a crucifixion of our fallen spirits simply to watch the Lord bringing us to Himself. If people want to have a work to do in the spiritual life, it is this, to be crucified by watching the Lord bring us to Himself. When we have our eyes fixed on Him, our ears listening in obedience, our hearts able to love whatever the cost of a pierced heart, this will then be our greatest joy, a proof of the resurrection of the Lord in our lives, for we cannot be led by a dead god in this way, but only in friendship with the Living God.

There is a passage of The Divine Doctrine in which Christ’s words are particularly incisive and ironic. Catherine is relating her report of what our Lord is dictating to her. Jesus is speaking about Saint Paul’s interpretation of the key of knowledge, by which we see what the eye cannot see, hear what the ear cannot hear, and understand in our hearts what otherwise cannot arise in the heart of man. We cannot do this, but the Holy Spirit can effect this in us.

Saint Paul, in 1 Corinthians 2:9, does interpret Isaiah 6:4-10 – cited in Matthew 13:15, Acts 28:27, et al. – by saying it is by way of the love of God, by way of the crucified Lord of glory, that we see and hear and understand. Paul is accurate, says our Lord – as Saint Catherine relates – so much so that “questo parbe che volesse dire Paulo,” so much so that “this seems to be what Paul wanted to say,” that is, as if it were Paul’s revelation, Paul’s knowledge, Paul’s very own desire. In other words, Paul was so transformed by grace, that it was as if Paul spoke on his own authority. Yet, in this passage, the most erudite of all academic Pharisees himself happily admits that he is speaking by the power of God and the revelation of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was not conjecturing about what it seems to Him that Paul wanted to say, as if Jesus were Paul’s student: “In my opinion it seems to me that Paul wanted to say this…” Jesus was rather confirming just how correct Paul’s words were, for they were actualized in Paul’s life with the grace of Jesus, the power of God, and the revelation of the Holy Spirit. Paul was perfectly attuned to the grace of God that opened his eyes, unstopped his ears, pierced open his heart.

It is a sign of the times that the Spiritual Theology guru of our day, a consultor for multiple episcopal conferences on the spiritual formation of seminarians, called me into his office one day (some time ago in a far distant land), in order to mock this passage of Saint Catherine, laughing at her “revelations”, saying how stupid it is that she would think that Jesus could only have a personal opinion as to what Paul might possible mean, his eyes and ears and heart ironically entirely closed off to the meaning of this passage about how eyes and ears and heart can be entirely closed off to the revelation of God’s grace. I told him that I was going to publish my take on all this, that instead Paul was the perfect teacher of the power of grace, that is, in his very person. I was told that I was never to do this, that this would be the worst possible thing to say. He followed this up with threats of vindictive revenge (he has a lot to say about who does or doesn’t get published). He so much wanted to be (breathlessly) the first to publish about this with his mockery. Nevertheless, every year or two after that, I would again gently tell him my intention and he would again forbid me with his threats. This dispute became quite public and others would ask him why he was so severe with me, stunned at this out-of-character pretense to control the free speech of others. He would simply become speechless with anger.

Jumping forward until today, looking at Amoris laetitia, I see this same closing off of the eyes and years and heart to what should otherwise be the clear love of Jesus for His Bride the Church. The infamous chapter eight provides eyes and ears and heart closed off to the transforming love of Jesus, replacing His love with mere expediency, mere casuistry, mere rewarding of people who say they are in a difficult situation with the Eucharist, mere self-absorbed Promethean neo-Pelagianism, all self-referential, all self-congratulatory: We’re turning to the Lord under our own power! Well, one might think so, but that doesn’t make it true. This is about God’s love, not fierce individualism.

Either sanctifying grace shines through us as much as it did in Paul, or it doesn’t shine through us at all. There is a difference between mortal sin and grace, between adultery and faith filled matrimony, between ignoring Jesus and being in awestruck reverence before Him. Either our eyes and ears and hearts are closed or they are open. Either we are against Isaiah and Jesus and Paul and Catherine, or we are with them. Either our epistemology of love is merely the imposition of ourselves on reality, making it ideology, or the epistemology of love that we embrace inasmuch as it is given to us is the love given by God. He will come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire. Amen.

Post script: Is all this an attack on the Holy Father, something that Catherine would severely condemn? No. Being a faithful son in not abandoning him, just trying to provide some insight, is not an attack. I love the Holy Father to pieces.

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Filed under Amoris laetitia, Saints, Synod on the Family

Saints Catherine, Michael, George…

saint catherine of alexandria

As with Saint George and Saint Michael, there are those who doubt the existence of other saints such as the Great Saint Catherine of Alexandria. What’s to be done?

saint michael

Seeing my post on Saint George the Dragon Slayer on this, his feast day, a priest wrote in just now about what he had done:

As I wrote to a friend […] who denied the existence of St Catherine of Alexandria (mutatis mutandis):

“When you stand before the judgment seat of God and the scales of justice are perfectly balanced between your good deeds and your bad, St Catherine will come, having plucked but one tiny feather from a wing of St. Michael the Archangel, and place it among your bad deeds and you shall be damned for evermore in the flames of Hell.”
Wow. I love that. And then, from Jesus:
“At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and there is something greater than Jonah here. At the judgment the queen of the south will arise with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here” (Matthew 12:41-42 nab).
And I would add this amidst confusion regarding the confusion of Amoris laetitia:
  • The men of this generation who have accepted into their lives the enthralling love and mercy of Jesus in that which befits such love and mercy, repentance, contrition, amendment… these men will arise to condemn this generation, for they also had the love and mercy and truth of Jesus crucified and risen before them, and they did not accept him, but turned away in self-referentiality, self-congratulation, into casuistic mind-games of self-absorbed neo-Pelagian sycophantic following of the Promethean gods of our day.
So, there we have it. Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire. Amen.

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Filed under Confession, Mercy, Saints