Category Archives: Spiritual life

Coranavirus: We have all been exposed – by Lisa Cherry

COVID-19

WE HAVE ALL BEEN EXPOSED
– March 25,2020 by Lisa Cherry, Frontline Family Ministries

Expose our junk, Lord, lay it bare before You.
We’ve all been exposed.
Not necessarily to the virus.
(maybe…who even knows)
We’ve all been exposed BY the virus.

Corona is exposing us.
Exposing our weak sides.
Exposing our dark sides.
Exposing what normally lays far beneath the surface of our souls,
hidden by the invisible masks we wear.
Now exposed by the paper masks we can’t hide far enough behind.

Corona is exposing our addiction of comfort.
Our obsession with control.
Our compulsion to hoard.
Our protection of self.

Corona is peeling back our layers.
Tearing down our walls.
Revealing our illusions.
Leveling our best-laid plans.

Corona is exposing the gods we worship:
Our health
Our hurry
Our sense of security.
Our favorite lies
Our secret lusts
Our misplaced trust.

Corona is calling everything into question:
What is the church without a building?
What is my worth without an income?
How do we plan without certainty?
How do we love despite risk?

Corona is exposing me.
My mindless numbing
My endless scrolling
My careless words
My fragile nerves.

We’ve all been exposed.
Our junk laid bare.
Our fears made known.
The band-aid torn.
The masquerade done.

So what now? What’s left?
Clean hands
Clear eyes
Tender hearts.

What Corona reveals, God can heal.
Come Lord Jesus.
Have mercy on us.

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Filed under Coronavirus, Spiritual life

God’s glory in the Face of Christ: What happened to Jesus’ Face on Mt Carmel

Jesus’ Face is our face. Are we in solidarity with Jesus while He is in solidarity with us, He, standing in our place, the Innocent for the guilty? Here’s Saint Paul:

  • “For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.” (2 Corinthians 4:6-12 rsv)

Once you’ve seen these stations, you can’t un-see them. But, the intensity of them… Well, it all bears repeating.

  • Being reminded of how far our dear Lord had to reach to get us in the hell of this world isn’t a bad thing, a hurtful thing, that which is meant to make us have bad feelings of despairing self-condemnation because we are all tender snowflakes absolutely entitled to spit on His face. No.
  • Being reminded of how far our dear Lord had to reach to get us in the hell of this world is a good thing. It should elicit an assent to the love which He gives to us.

I made this set of videos (about 20 minutes all told) during my time living just over the cave of Elijah on Mount Carmel, Israel. The OCDs had invited me to stay there for an entire month during the years that I was a chaplain at Lourdes. The chanting was recorded at the cave of Elijah, sung by pilgrims from around the world.

I must say that these videos are very emotional for me to watch to this day. What a fright! But… Jesus, Mary’s Son, is just that good and kind! Even though in watching these you don’t move from station to station yourself, I’m sure your heart will be transported to be right next to Jesus, to be with Him in solidarity, and to be right next to His dear mother as she accompanies our Lord, again in all solidarity. These stations rip the heart right out of my chest. Dear Lord…

Our Stations of the Cross here at Holy Redeemer in Andrews are “normal”, with pictures being used. The church is so small that any use of sculpted stations no matter how minimal in relief would block use of the side aisles. Everything is doubled over in both English and Spanish, except the Stabat Mater, which so far we’ve just sung in English. No one minds both languages as the common language is humble thanksgiving in witnessing our Lord’s great love for us. In fact, because of this, it goes the other way, with comments being about how wonderful it is that everyone comes together for the Stations.

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Filed under Prayer, Spiritual life

Calm quarantine strategies, not panic

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First  of all, we are not in any kind of stage of a quarantine of any kind. San Francisco called for a State of Emergency, but that was just a cynical move to release Federal monies they otherwise can’t get at this time for sanctuary cities. It has nothing to do with any COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus. No. Demoncrats are self-centered jerks and want to cause panic.

And I don’t say we are any kind of stage of a quarantine YET. No. That also would be to panic. See above.

Having said that, let’s take the worst case scenario – a declared pandemic – so as to point out how to avoid the worst case scenario, which would not refer to any medical condition (more people dying from the flu or smoking or car accidents…), but rather panic, which would be the logistical cause of death for hyperbolically more cases of death. So…

  • The other week a reporter asked POTUS Trump whether or not plans were already in place for the quarantine of entire cities if the need arises. He answered yes.
    • I’m sure that if this were to be effected it would be done so by the National Guard before anyone knows, including all law enforcement, who will likewise be quarantined in place in their cities.
    • Immediately after the National Guard is in place for a no one in-or-out scenario, health officials and law enforcement will be privy to policies and enforcement and rules of engagement.
    • It would be extremely helpful if in the same announcement it was said that food delivery trucks to supermarkets will have drop off locations at the border of the quarantine and that other trucks from inside will later come to pick up that food and deliver it to local supermarkets.
    • Gasoline deliveries? I guess they would have to be made when the stations are otherwise abandoned.
    • It would have to be stated that utilities will continue.
    • Extremely severe penalties for price gauging and looting would have to be stated.
  • demon panThe worst possible thing that could happen is panic. In that case, there will immediately be home invasions of idiots looking for food, not because there is any lack of food, but just because of panic. This will be done by those who have already been spending all their money on drugs. And they are well practiced with home invasions. Not good.
  • Panic in this sorry world of ours – the mob mentality which eliminates all “inhibitions” like reason and goodness and kindness and courage and fortitude and justice and mercy – the eliminator of all that is good in the chaos of panic is the demon-god Pan. This is not the too-cute and effeminate Peter Pan of Disney, but rather the ancient demon of all demons, Satan, who, as Jesus says, is a murderer from the beginning. Panic is the worst thing that can happen.
  • What is most needed in a Pan-Dem-ic is to not cave into panic, to not cave into Pan-Demon-ium. Get it? Pan in Greek means all or everything or everyone: “Everybody’s panicking!!!!!!!”
  • To panic is to give reverence to the demon-god pan. Panic makes one a worshiper of Pan. Panic makes one a pagan, an idol-worshiper. “Oooh! Pan told me to worry and have anxiety and to panic, so, therefore, of course, ever-obedient to demons, I will! I will panic! I will! I will! // off sarcasm.
  • So, an examination of conscience is in order. What or who is the most important thing, person, during a pandemic? Christ Jesus. If we have our spiritual lives squared away, if we are actually looking forward to going to heaven, trusting in the mercies of our Lord, we will not cave in to panic, we will not worship at the feet of Pan.
  • For atheists who mock faith in the time of crisis as the opiate of society, know this, the only ones I’ve ever seen help each other out in desperate times are believers. This is especially true in Socialist/Communist/Marxist countries. You know that’s true. I’ve seen it first hand. Believers have extraordinary strength of love and reason because of the love and truth they carry about within them coming from God Himself.

pieta

  • Where is God in all of this? Look for those who are trying to be helpful in all of this. Look at Jesus’ good mom holding God in her arms…
  • But why did God let this happen?
    • Let’s call to mind that original sin opened us up to all of this sickness and death and weakness of mind and weakness of will and emotions all over the place.
    • Let’s call to mind that God so loved that world despite our use of free will that He sent His only-Begotten Divine Son Jesus – basing mercy on justice – to stand in our place, the Innocent for the guilty, taking on the punishment we deserve so that He might have the right in His own justice to have mercy on us.
    • Let’s call to mind that God thus knows all about suffering, and all about combating panic and the horrific demon-god Pan.
    • Let’s call to mind that Jesus does give us the grace, His friendship, to be reasonable, to be calm, to be good and kind, not to panic, but to be helpful, pointing people to Him who is that love which is stronger than sickness, stronger than any pandemic, stronger than death, strong enough to bring us to eternal life, to our eternal home, where love and peace reign supreme. Heaven is our home and we are now – in this hell – in exile away from home. But we do have a home in heaven, and we right now carry about the way to that home, grace which St Paul says will turn to glory.

So, no worries then! Jesus, I joyously trust in You.

JESUS I AM

Meanwhile, I’ve lost 52.xx pounds on Keto so far, and I’m going off Keto soon, transitioning over to something more high protein and not neglecting carbs. Trundling off to Walmart grocery to stock up on non-Keto items, I noticed lots of almost empty shelves, just a few packages of oatmeal, a packet or two of lentil beans, that kind of thing. It looked like panic buying. That’s O.K. Those panic buyers are all set now and won’t be emptying out stores in panic buying. Don’t panic. Instead, drop off real dead weight that holds you back. Go to Confession!

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Filed under Confession, Exorcism, Jesus, Law enforcement, Medicine, Military, Missionaries of Mercy, Spiritual life

Adoration: the Most Blessed Sacrament because Jesus is the One, the only One

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Total novices in the spiritual life often think they are well advanced in the spiritual life, and those who walk with our dear Lord throughout the day and night often think they are the most knuckleheaded among Jesus’ little flock. Truly. You just cannot, cannot, cannot judge yourself, proclaiming that you know you’re “advanced” because of this or that whatever that you think you recognize, say, in the writings of an Elizabeth of the Trinity, of a Thérèse of Lisieux, of a Teresa of Avila, of a John of the Cross, of…. of… Just. No. It doesn’t work that way.

Those who think they know where they are at are putting their attention on themselves. They walk with themselves. They do not walk with Jesus.

Here’s the deal, we do not have the beatific vision. We have no standard of comparison of where we are at. We are never adequate to judge ourselves. And even if we could get a somewhat accurate idea about ourselves before God, we would still be wrong. Indeed, even the great Saint Paul says he cannot judge himself. We are here upon this earth, while hopefully on our way to heaven, not in order to stagnate, but in order to grow. And that demands that we admit that we have room to grow.

A couple of years ago I met a young man who was thinking of going on a certain retreat for vocational discernment that had strict requirements for minimum and maximum age for participants. I asked how old he was, stupidly guessing 18 years of age. His response was utter dismay. He was 19 years old, and therefore, he insisted, so very much wiser, so very much more experienced, so very much more capable in every way than a mere 18 year old. It is he who has the wisdom of age. And how DARE I guess that he was a mere 18 years old. He was apoplectic about it. Well. Goodness. Alright then.

Any self congratulation is self condemnation.

Having said that – condemning myself, because that’s exactly what I do if I look to myself in any way whatsoever – I should like to relate an experience I had the other day here in the rectory, where there is a little chapel with the Blessed Sacrament. [The above picture is of our parish church the other day, not the chapel in the rectory!]

I was passing by the open door of this little chapel – greeting Jesus and Mary as I walked by – as I do a hundred times a day, but this time I was stopped dead in my tracks. It was as if Jesus and Mary were looking upon me with… well… with an attitude similar to that which I rejoiced to see in Rome with the Missionaries of Charity while the sisters would try to organize the geriatric street people in their hostel situated between the Colosseum and the Circus Maximus. These sisters were really tough, but with charity. But, oh my, they were tough! You have to be tough with street people, and with geriatric street people to boot. Jesus had to be tough, hanging on the Cross as He did for us, Innocent for the guilty. His good mom, Mary, had to be tough, standing under the Cross in solidarity with Jesus, and therefore in solidarity with us.

Back story: Many years ago, during the most intensely academic of my years at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, I determined that if I were to survive as a priest of Jesus Christ, I simply had to have an apostolate of some kind. Volunteering with the Missionaries of Charity was a natural choice for me since I was great friends with many of them all over the world. The sisters were desperate for a man to give showers to some few of the helpless geriatric men who were to be in residence with them long term. “Showers.” That’s a euphemism. “Shower” means literally scrapping off of these helpless geriatrics their diarrhea which was long dried and caked and melded into their stand-on-their-own trousers. The stench! After that, maybe some of their other medical problems and issues could be dealt with. But first things first. I did this one morning every week for years. And, yes, if you’re wondering, this did lead to the spiritual life where there was none before. Tears on their part. Rejoicing on my part. Seeing a soul contrite before the living God, even while getting dried and caked diarrhea scrapped off of you is entirely beautiful to behold. “What you did for the least of these you did to Me” and all that.

Which brings me back to my stopped-dead-in-my-tracks walking by the chapel door at the rectory experience. I was instantly in the place of any one of the geriatric street geezers at that hospice, while Jesus and Mary were in the place of the Missionaries of Charity. Jesus was discussing with Mary what could possibly be done for me to wake me up to the glories of the Living God right before us, with me being so blind to all of this. I have no idea about that discussion, except my own two-fold reaction to the fact of it:

  • On the one hand I realized a bit more of my dire need, also that I was ignorant of knowing most of that of which I am in need.
  • On the other hand I rejoiced that Jesus and Mary had me in mind.

Those are both things that we can know and rejoice in on an intellectual level. It’s just that this were very personally to the center of heart and mind and soul, with the emphasis on a personal connection with them, even if I was just another of the geriatric old street geezers needing a bit of help from them. I could see that they did this in their great love that had nothing whatsoever to do with anything about any worthiness or unworthiness of mine. This was about their entirely gratuitous great love.

That’s the kind of thing that wins my heart over to the Heart of Jesus, you know, like the soldier on Calvary, after he had thrust his sword into the Heart of Jesus. That’s when that soldier knew that Jesus was the One, the only One. That soldier then immediately said: “Truly this is the Son of God.” No self congratulation there. It’s all about Jesus. Jesus is the One. The only One.

Should anyone proclaim that surely I’m a sinner in this way or that, you know, the usual, that I’m lazy because I don’t bilocate, that I’m gluttonous because I’ve had to go on a Keto diet (44+ pounds now lost in 2.5 months), that I’m a slob because I didn’t trim my beard today, and so on, my response is that they should update their condemnations, and say that I’ve crucified the Son of the Living God. I have. But while I have Jesus’ words “Father! Forgive them!” ringing in my ears while I continue to do my worst, piercing open the Heart of Jesus like that soldier, in recognizing that that’s what I would absolutely do if without the grace of God, that’s also my invitation to take the attention off myself and put it on Jesus, proclaiming “Truly this is the Son of God.”

And that’s how Jesus and Mary scrape the s*** off of yours truly and have me know that I’m part of the family, rejoicing that I can thank not me for this, but them alone.

Experiences like this speak nothing whatsoever about one’s growth in the spiritual life. Such experiences might speak to the fact that one needs special help, because of almost being a lost cause. Although nothing is impossible with God. Whether we notice that we are noticed by Jesus and our blessed Mother, we are nevertheless taken under their charge. We are all their special projects. We are all in need of being set right by them. For me, it is perhaps that I am in such need of getting a kick in the back end that I noticed the two of them noticing just me, a donkey priest. Not a vision, not a locution, no. Just my blackest and beadiest of black and beady hearts averting to the fact that Jesus is the One, the only One, and that His Mother is ours. Please God I will follow up on this. Our time is so short upon this earth.

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Filed under Adoration, Priesthood, Spiritual life, Vocations

Priestly Celibacy, Jesus, Pachamama BS

crucifix drawing john of the cross

People put forward all sorts of “nice” arguments in favor of priestly celibacy, economic, logistical, practical, in favor of availability for anything and everything from missionary work to being moved from parish to parish and so on. I don’t buy any of those arguments. All of those could be overcome in one way or another. Putting priestly celibacy on the level of expedience is the fastest way to get rid of celibacy altogether, as these are all disciplinary. The debate – dialogue if you want – would be unending.

Forget all that rubbish! Let’s talk about doctrine. Let’s talk JESUS. He’s never mentioned in this except for things like – and this is truly stupid – “Jesus was celibate.” Yeah, well, He’s a special case isn’t He? So, drop that dumb argument as well.  Along the same lines, forget the bit about the Apostles not being married. They were in special circumstances as well.

On the other side, with Peter being married (remember the mother-in-law having the fever account?), that doesn’t hold either, as it seems from what we can surmise from Matthew 19:12 (I’ll get to that) and Paul’s letter to Titus, Peter surely became celibate. Not only would Peter be following up on Matthew 19:12, but he would be in line with this continuing tradition as spoken of later by Saint Paul, the the clergy are to be married but once, that is, to the Church. It would be insanity to say that “married only once” only refers to not being divorced and remarried, or to polygamy that they did not practice at that time. So, again:

Let’s speak of Jesus:

  • Jesus stood in our place, Innocent for the guilty, having the right in His own justice to have mercy on us, redeeming us from original sin and personal sin.
  • If we want, He forgives us, sanctifies us, makes us one with Himself, with the Body of Christ, Jesus the Head of the Body, we the members of the Body, as St Paul says.
  • We were created as the image of God, male and female, marriage and the family, as is eloquently pointed out in Genesis.
  • Jesus redeems that image and saves us by it by way of His own marriage with His bride the Church, as spoken about countless times explicitly throughout Old and New Testaments.
  • The marriage vows of Jesus, rendered in mercy founded on justice, are recited by the priest in the first person singular at the Sacrifice of the Mass, the Last Supper united with Calvary, at the Consecrations, those wedding vows:
    • This is my Body being given for you… in sacrifice
    • This is my Blood being poured out for you… in sacrifice
  • The priest is married to the Church by the Sacrifice he daily offers at the altar. How dare anyone say that a priest is NOT married. What an insult to both Jesus and the priest. How dark and hateful is that insult. How damnable.

Having said all that, let’s mention a few hateful assertions:

  • The stupid man says: “Priests should get married because that will cut down on abuse.” No, that superstitiously throws one sacrament at another sacrament as if that’s going to solve grave psychological issues and sin. All you are going to get is more incest.
  • The stupid man says: “Let’s ordain priests to say Mass but nothing else.” No, that just sets up people going to Holy Communion without any opportunity to confess their sins and be forgiven, which is the point of the Sacrifice of Jesus in the first place.
  • The stupid man says: “Let’s have women priests.” No, that just sets up an anti-image of God anti-redemption. Jesus redeems with a marriage, Himself with His BRIDE the Church (as we see throughout all the Scriptures). This is to redeem the image of God in us as at creation: male and female as the image of God in marriage and the family. The image of God is NOT lesbian, nor homosexual.
  • The stupid man says: “Let’s have temporary priests.” No, that’s like a self-serving divorce, the ol’ “Here for the good times, gone for the bad times.” This is about not sticking around as a father of the family. No father =  extreme high risk of bad kids. The stats are insane on that. Check them out. I’ve always seen the same in revolving door parishes where the priests are changed out even multiple times a year, where priests are not pastors, just administrators, just there for the quicky, so to speak, and then gone, leaving their parishes entrenched in clericalized power groups wanting to kill each other. Really, that’s NOT what Jesus wants.

Having said all that, what does Jesus want?

  • Jesus wants a priest after His own Heart, who is humble of heart, who has integrity and honesty, who loves the truth and virtue and goodness and kindness, shunning evil and corruption and wickedness and lies and all manner of darkness.
  • Jesus wants a man who is a tabernacle of the Holy Spirit.
  • Jesus wants a man who will sacrifice himself for his family of faith, not counting the cost, even life.
  • Jesus wants a man who will rejoice to see Him, Jesus, exercising His own ministry of High Priest in the parish, letting Jesus take the lead, no matter what.
  • Jesus wants a man who knows full well and rejoices in the fact that he recites his own wedding vows daily to his Bride the Church as he recites in the first person singular the wedding vows of Jesus to His Bride the Church at the Consecrations at Holy Mass: my body being given for you… in sacrifice, my blood being poured out for you… in sacrifice.

By the way, just to say, if priests would only be who they are supposed to be in being fathers of their parish families, knowing they are married to the Church, encouraging people to go to Confession and doing the same himself, providing for them what Christ Jesus and the Church have always wanted to be provided with Truth and Morality (the splendor of the Truth), there would never have been such an abuse crisis, or financial corruption, or seeking after “power”, or whatever other self-centered rubbish fallen human beings can come up with.

But I’ll tell you this, no liberal jerky-boy Bishop wants to speak of Jesus when it comes to priestly celibacy as that would destroy every bit of liberal agenda they have on any given topic. Destroy priestly celibacy, destroy the Church (as everything about the Sacrifice of Jesus will be ignored. We will have no understanding of marriage, or the redemption of the image of God. Nothing.

And don’t think that procrastination in dealing with already married Anglican clergy or the practice of some in the “Orthodox” churches is that which bears doctrine. It doesn’t.

  • That’s a lot of fallenness to deal with, you say? Sure. What did you expect. This goes to the absolutely heart of our faith, to the Sacred Heart of our Lord Himself.
  • This is about Jesus, so let priests know that they are married to the Church.
  • And, please, don’t be so afraid to share this and similar posts.

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Filed under Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis, Priesthood, Priestly Celibacy, Priestly Celibacy Series, Spiritual life, Vocations

Australia’s fires: God’s love analogy heaven, hell, purgatory, and this world

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A picture of what is right now going on in Australia. A link to this was sent in a comment on a previous post about these fires: Procrastinating in a fire: hell! Note that in the picture above, the fragile leaves are still on the trees. One nanosecond before this picture was taken, these flames were not there.

Analogy: The Church is right now being purified and sanctified by the most fiery ardent love and truth of the Most Holy Spirit, sent by Our Heavenly Father and His dearest Divine Son, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, the Eternal Word of the Father now become flesh, as Saint John the Evangelist puts it, so that we might be formed to be one with the Body of Christ, Jesus the Head of the Body, we the members of the Body.

That ardent fire of love, God’s love (and God is Love), is always and for everyone good and kind, manifesting the very Truth of God:

  • In heaven this fiery love is received as the ardent love that it is, the saints having been purified of self-love, all calculation and political sycophancy.
  • Upon this earth this fiery love purifies us – as it has all the saints ever – from all self-love, all calculation and political sycophancy, that is, if we allow ourselves by God’s grace, by the graced humble acceptance of His proclamation, “I call you friends.” This humility is reverence in action, thanksgiving amidst this purification. Humility is needed so that we don’t entrench in entitlement to be self-loving only, utterly concerned with our concocted protectionism of ourselves not needing any salvation from self-love, all calculation and political sycophancy. It is God’s re-creating love which cuts through our self-congratulatory arrogance and opens us up to being one with the Body of Christ, Jesus the Head, and we the members of the Body, from every tribe and tongue and people and nation and culture and time and place. But, mind you, the purification of the fiery love of God, more fierce than the mere worldly fires pictured above, is a purging fire, like gold purified by fire. Graced humility has us be trained in – like all the saints – in piercing through the dross with this fiery love. The fiery love is our Paraclet, our Advocate, our Consolor, our Friend.
  • In purgatory this fiery love instructs the Holy Souls, who are by sanctifying grace the Tabernacles of this same Most Holy Spirit, who bear within themselves the presence by grace of the Most Holy Trinity, who are on their way to heaven where, as Saint Paul says, that grace will flourish in glory. Those Holy Souls (for whom we pray!) are instructed as to just how far Jesus had to reach into this world to get them, to get us, stretching out His hands from East to West, from the rising of the sun to its setting, upon the cross, standing in our place, the Innocent for the guilty, so that He might have the right in His own justice to have mercy on us. The depths of this truth is what these Holy Souls wanted somewhat to avoid, as it is a painful truth for us upon this earth who are so tempted to being self-congratulatory. Jesus really is our Savior, the One, the only One who can fill us, recreate us with the fiery love of God, with God’s presence. God is love. Once the Holy Souls are purged of any remnants of entitlement to think of themselves as their own saviors in any way on any level for whatever reason, once they have been instructed by this now purging and purifying fire – always God’s love, God being Love, they are then on their way to heaven, having been trained in for heaven, for their greatest joy in heaven, which will be to thank our Lord Jesus. We can’t thank Him if we don’t know what He has done for us. God reveals to those in purgatory what He has done for them. This is we should be allowing – by grace – to happen to us upon this earth. This is painful, as painful as being purged and purified and brought to humility, but by love, fiery ardent love. All the saints who went through purgatory either upon this earth or just after death, were purified of self-love, all calculation and political sycophancy.
  • In hell this fiery love is not at all received by those who are there. They don’t want it. They reject it. They blaspheme because of it. It is “burning” to them inasmuch as this brings their entire being into frustration and rebellion and hatred, on emotional, intellectual and spiritual levels: “NO! NOT GOD’S LOOOOVE!” They are reduced to nothing by the flames of God’s ardent fiery love. God can only be God. God is love. God provides His love to all. But it is received differently.

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Filed under Nature, Spiritual life

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

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

[This was written ten years ago. Today, precisely, is a good day to repost it. Padre Pio’s feast day. /// BTW, today marks 25 years in prison of Fr Gordon MacRae. Hail Mary… St Michael the Archangel… ///]

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].

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“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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My friend: Neoscona crucifera spider, making friends of your enemies

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  • neo = new or newly
  • scona = beautiful // derived from badly pronounced German – perhaps referring to a more interesting color scheme as the spider grows. The red and red are striking.
  • cucifera = cross bearing // some patterns up top are very clearly cruciform

This guy is fairly big as spiders go. He can bite, hard, but there’s nothing that can hurt you. He’s great to have around natural insect control. I love it.

Typical of these orb-weavers, he’s been hanging around the doors of the church and at the end of the social hall of the parish in this late Summer, early Autumn time of year. The strands of the webs will cover doorways or stretch between buildings. Some might be temporarily surprised, but they get over it right away, and find it rather humorous.

Holy Spirit Saint Peter Window

Last night was no exception. Our bishop graciously made the four-hour trip from Charlotte to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation Wednesday evening. We had fourteen confirmands:

  • 11 from Holy Redeemer in Andrews
  • 1 from our Prince of Peace mission in Robbinsville
  • 2 from Immaculate Heart of Mary mission in Hayesville (of St William, Murphy)

Our next class (every two years) should be quite large as well. The Deacon from Maggie Valley Living Waters Retreat Center assisted, as did his son, who is the pastor of the next parish over, both good friends. It was the most packed we have ever had the church. The city of Andrews must have wondered what was happening, as all three parking lots were overflowing far unto the neighbors lawn. Ooops. Sorry about that!

Earlier in the day, in protective mode on behalf of the spider, I grabbed a stick and had him crawl onto it, and placed him up the steep ridge next to the campus. I’ve done this before and it’s taken him a day to get back. But, learning the ropes, he was back within hours and made a grand appearance at the reception after the Confirmation Mass.

The bishop and I ended up having a seat for a bite to eat outside the social hall at the end of the tables at the end of the carport, just where our spider friend dropped down on a bit of silk thread right in front of our faces. Haha! I swept my hand above the spider so as to drag the thread to the side. The spidey, not to be outdone, simply dropped into the food of one of the confirmands, which I immediately flicked off. Our confirmand said that spidey was crawling on me. I brushed him away, for the sake of those at table.

That didn’t work. Throughout the rest of the meal until the bishop was in his car, the spider kept returning to me. He was on a leg, on a hand, on my neck, on my head. Brushed away again and again. Back again and again. Quite the triumphalistic spider if you ask me. He was reeling himself in with his silk thread. I tried to ignore him as I was speaking with the bishop. To no avail. This went on for a good twenty to thirty minutes. The spider knows I don’t want to hurt him. The bishop was most amused. :-)

You have heard that it was said, keep your friends close to you and your enemies even closer. I say, made friends of your would-be supposed enemies. Our Lord did that with us, right?

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On the extreme violence of Saul and then Saint Paul, because Jesus…

Saint Paul Conversion Damascus Caravaggio

Amidst all the non-sense of the “Just.Wow.” moments in the past number of weeks (and I still must write much more about all that), a reader sent this in by email:

“Father ~ For he testifieth: Thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchizedech. Anyone else notice that?”

Answer: I think we’ve pretty much lost sight of what, of who a priest must be. A priest is the one who, with Christ Jesus, is to bring not peace, but the sword of division. Harsh words? Christ Jesus is deadly serious. Jesus is the One who spoke those words. Jesus is the One who died in extreme violence because of those words. Just note His wounds from having been tortured to death with extreme violence on the Cross. Yep. Extreme violence. Because that’s exactly what sin has done to our souls, to society. If anyone is without God’s grace, that person will use violence, and finally, when pushed, extreme violence with anyone who bears the goodness and kindness and truth of Jesus. He said it Himself: As the Master, so the disciple. Saint Paul would end up meeting with that extreme violence himself, getting decapitated.

But when Jesus pursued Saul so as to make of him Saint Paul, that young Saul was the best student of the Law, and was zealous to the point of an off-kilter extreme violence, so much so that he was unthinking in all of his academic prowess, and decided to put his thoughts into action in the most cowardly way, which is typical. He armed himself with letters of authorization, and then chased off to Damascus with a posse to drag the new Christians out of their houses, the elderly, the middle-aged, the youngsters, the infants, the sucklings at the breast, so as to put them in chains and death-march them back to Jerusalem for trial as heretics, so that he could have the sick joy of executing them. He had blood on his hands already for having assisted at the stoning to death of the new Deacon, Saint Stephen. He couldn’t wait for more.

And then our Lord appeared to him and asked Saul why he was so set on persecuting Him, Jesus, for to persecute the ones Saul was running after was to persecute Jesus personally. Saul converted to Saint Paul. But with all that history of violence in a very violent society, Saint Paul used vocabulary of extreme violence:

“We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-12)

Saint Paul would have us all die off, that is, that we be crucified to the world, the flesh and the devil, to our fallen human spirits, so that we might live for Jesus. More succinctly, Saint Paul would kill us off with truth, with goodness and kindness, so that we can live for that truth and goodness and kindness by the power of that truth and goodness and kindness, by the power of Jesus’ life within us.

And then there’s Jesus, you know, with extreme-violence statements about us taking up the instrument of torture and death, the cross, and carrying this, following Him, into battle, with hell. Peaceniks beware! We’re out to kill you! Um… you know, with goodness and kindness and truth. I know a lady who kills people all the time, really evil people… she kills them with kindness. And I’ve seen people melt with such kindness, and they are killed off to themselves, and do change. God is good.

Jesus said that the violent are taking heaven, taking it with violent force. Yep. How’s that? Not with our evil violence. No no. But with a violence that is extreme, incomparably more violent than anything we can come up with: mercy. And while the cynics click away in haughty fear, real fear, running away in the confusion of fear, consider this: there is nothing more violent to ourselves, more geared to having us killed off, than the mercy we receive from Jesus in forgiveness. It kills us off to ourselves to live for him. But that does real violence to us. It is that violence of mercy, of forgiveness, that disrupts peoples lives for the better, which we want to bring others. Kill them all! You know, kill them all off with kindness, with goodness and kindness and truth.

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Devil Dog’s Son, Fr Byers: ironic proof

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Yours truly on a day-off, of sorts. Smiling and what all. The gall. A snake-handler preacher man ruint with longevity. Way too snarky. Having waaaay tooooo much fun. And who ever heard of a day off for a priest anyway? Sounds demonic. Anyone who casts out Satan must be doing this by Satan, and is a devil himself, a downright snake in the grass. And… and… I’m the Son of a Devil Dog. So, that seals it.

VMFA 312 Marine Fighter Attack Pilot Devil Dog six 50 cals

While the USMC in general has a nickname of Devil Dogs, dad was a commander of the Checkerboard Marine Fighter Attack Squadron of gullwing F4U Corsairs (VMFA 312) each sporting six 50 Cals and having the logo of a Devil Dog carrying the same. But the idea that the Marines are Devil Dogs isn’t that they are demonic. Here’s a one minute recruiting commercial about that:

The idea of extreme violence of a Devil Dog is not that goodness and kindness and truth are suppressed. No no. Instead, it is to bring goodness and kindness and truth to those who are happy to receive it even if it means battling in hell to do it, and looking, for that reason, finally coming out of hell, very much like the devil himself for having fought battles in hell over against the devil, that serpent who, for all his bluster, has been vanquished by Christ. I mean, isn’t it true that Christ Jesus looked demonically criminal on the Cross for having battled all of that hell that was broken out all at once against Him on Calvary?

Jesus crucified passion of the christ

One of the greatest defeats of contemporary mankind is the loss of a sense of irony. We don’t see behind the truths plainly spoken to see… the truth! What to do when we are just learning to live with Him who is Truth, but who for all intents and purposes and constructions looks to be Untruthfulness. He did that for our sake, by the way, laying down His life for us, the Innocent for the guilty, so that He might have the right in His own justice to have mercy on us. I might have said that once or twice before… ;-) Jesus is very much the Devil Dog Himself. You don’t think so? A blasphemy you say? Let’s review something I’ve many times posted, but not in a while. It bears a re-reading. We MUST get a sense of irony back if we are to be Christian, if we are to have a sense of identity, a solid base from which to work, that is, a oneness with Christ Jesus, Himself Irony Incarnate, as it were, so to speak, a Devil Dog. Let’s turn to the great historian Hilaire Belloc once again, for, after all, we bear the burden of being naive, or, as he says, “young”, “pure”, “ingenuous”, so easily thrown into fear, unthinking, cowardly fear. Enough of that! Behold: irony!

hilaire belloc“To the young, the pure, and the ingenuous, irony must always appear to have a quality of something evil, and so it has, for […] it is a sword to wound. It is so directly the product or reflex of evil that, though it can never be used – nay, can hardly exist – save in the chastisement of evil, yet irony always carries with it some reflections of the bad spirit against which it was directed. […] It suggests most powerfully the evil against which it is directed, and those innocent of evil shun so terrible an instrument. […] The mere truth is vivid with ironical power […] when the mere utterance of a plain truth labouriously concealed by hypocrisy, denied by contemporary falsehood, and forgotten in the moral lethargy of the populace, takes upon itself an ironical quality more powerful than any elaboration of special ironies could have taken in the past. […] No man possessed of irony and using it has lived happily; nor has any man possessing it and using it died without having done great good to his fellows and secured a singular advantage to his own soul.” [Hilaire Belloc, “On Irony” (pages 124-127; Penguin books 1325. Selected Essays (2/6), edited by J.B. Morton; Harmondsworth – Baltimore – Mitcham 1958).]

If there’s any proof that I’m a Devil Dog, it’s that I love such irony in the face of my being the most naive, the “youngest”, the “purist”, the most “ingenuous”, the most stupid idiot in the world, unable to appreciate such truths until they smack me down with such extreme violence that I gotta pay attention. It’s like Thomas the doubting Apostle. I’m forced to put my finger into the holes the nails made in the hands and feet of Christ. I’m forced to put my hand into the side of Christ, where I touch that beating heart, still pierced open. “My Lord and my God,” I blurt out. The irony is, I’m the absolute last person who would ever say that. Not me. I’m the one who put those wounds there. But the truth, “vivid with ironical power”, shines the light, and makes me a Devil Dog too. Thank you Jesus, you who want to make us all Devil Dogs.

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Hot heads, anachronisms, paradigmatic shifts, fickleness. *Crux stat!*

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So, the other day some a Junior in High School was all upset because his girl friend dumped him. Things got ramped up on social media (of course) and he made threats that he was going to shoot the school up or kill people. He didn’t have any guns, but he was arrested on already existing laws about making terroristic threats. So, a hot head who says dumb things while he processes the break-up. If we see something we should say something, of course. Even a little rampaging is too much rampaging. Kids these days have nothing to fall back on when their emotions are all confused and hurt. Sometimes it’s fallen society at large. Sometimes the parents and grandparents did nothing to bring them to Jesus who stepped into this hellhole to redeem us and save us and get us through this life so that we might carry His life and love and truth within us. Our identity is to be found when lifted up into the strength of Christ Jesus. But when we have no identity, when we are not anchored when the storm gets stormy… Anyone else notice that?

I recall the early 1960s, when I was a little kid, playing cops and robbers, or, back then, much less politically correct, cowboys and Indians, and threats would be thrown around while popping out from behind a house or tree and pointing one’s gun (the fingers of one’s hand) at opposing forces, other kids playing the same game, and saying “I’m gonna kill you!” and then saying, “Bang! Bang!” We didn’t mean anything violent by it. And if one was instead surprised by another kid popping out from behind a house or tree and pointing his fingers in the form of a gun at you and saying “Bang! Bang!” one would be just as happy to do up a super-dramatic fall to the ground, pretending to be hit. I did it just to do it. It was part of the game. Mostly we played hide and seek in the late evening. During the day it was baseball and football, or the riding of bikes, or… The inscaping of the kind of vocabulary used with “I’m gonna kill you!” with today’s horrible shootings – this time for real – is for me a sign that the times really are changing. Older people mouthing off words like that with the meaning they attached to it when they were kids playing in their quiet neighborhoods with good friends is paradigmatically different than a kid today saying the same thing when all they have seen is another report and then another about kids who say that and then do it. Anyone else notice that?

But there are other paradigmatic shifts in society which maybe not all have noticed. I was overseas teaching in seminaries on behalf of various bishops and national conferences of bishops when the September 11, 2001 attacks took place in these USA. I would remain overseas for another eight years on that particular round of activities without once paying a visit to the USA. It used to be that when I returned Stateside from any trip I would be greeted in the airports – without fail I must say – with “Welcome back!” And if it was JFK in New York, it would be: “Welcome back, Father!” But flying into JFK for the first time since September 11, 2001, even though many years later, it was most apparent that the entire demeanor of people had changed. Perhaps people were too close to it themselves to see it, but for fresh eyes it was mighty shocking. Customs work, for instance, now seemed to be much more about grudgingly doing a job where the people one was serving were treated as some sort of enemy – stunning really. Before September 11, 2001, Customs work was all  about people who were serving people even while it was also true that they had a job to do. But it was always one human being with another human being. Now it’s more like we’ve forgotten how to be human. Or that we’re entitled not to be human anymore, as if there is some sort of ax to grind for having to do anything on a job one signed up for, especially if it involves other people. Anyone else notice that?

Meanwhile, another paradigmatic shift regards opinions about the crusades of the middle ages, when it was a religious thing to do to go on a military campaign against the Saracens, who like the ISIS of any day were slaughtering those in the Holy Land. You might remember the non-stop attack on the crusades some decades ago, around the time of September 11, 2001, that was waged by so many in the mass media, but especially by National Communist Radio, or whatever they call it, NPR, I think. Anyway, that fad seems to have faded a bit and is going the other way. I saw the above pictured bumper sticker on the back window of a truck in the parish parking lot the other day. And I hear lots of commentary from diverse people in diverse places wanting to know more about the crusades, what really happened, what the motivations actually were, you know, like defense of the innocent who were being slaughtered by the ISIS of the day. That’s actually a massive paradigmatic shift even while the “Squad” portrays terrorism as just another thing that people do. Any one else notice that?

Meanwhile, that is, while the universe is shaken and swirls in confusion and is ripped in one direction and then another, it is the self-sacrificing redeeming love of the Lord on the Cross that is an un-beat-down-able Constant:

Crux stat dum volvitur orbis.

The Cross is stable while the world just spins away.

In all of our fickleness, Jesus stood in our place, the Innocent for the guilty, so that He might have the right in His own justice to have mercy on us.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (Jn 3:16)

Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, forever, ever ancient, ever new. And He makes us His friends, so that we walk in His presence. That ain’t us. But He makes it happen. Regardless of culture, regardless of background, regardless of age, etc., etc. People are hungry for the truth and goodness and kindness of the Lord that is so very powerful, stronger than our weakness, stronger than our stupidity, stronger than our sinfulness, stronger than death, bringing us to life now by that grace which will turn to glory – as Saint Paul says – in heaven, eternal life. Any one else notice that?

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Meme: “Only good priests allowed!”

These sticky notes with the meme “Only good priests allowed!” are showing up everywhere people think I might happen to show up, at medical institutions, at the parish office… Hahaha.

It’s my fault entirely. Every time before providing in whatever homily any kind of encouragement whatsoever to be in humble thanksgiving before our Lord who is ever so patient with us, you know, for His drawing us by His grace, for example, to a purity of heart and agility of soul, every time, mind you, I’m forever saying that I myself am evil and bad and think like the worst of the worst. In other words, if the Lord can smack me down in whatever way such that I might howsoever look to Him, then He can do this for others as well.

About these sticky notes, here’s the deal: the more evil and bad a priest knows himself to be, that is, the more honest he is about what he would be like if he were to be without the grace of God, that’s precisely how much he is able (by grace, mind you) to get out of the way of Jesus so that Jesus, the High Priest, might be evident.

“Only good priests allowed”? That’s mis-phrased. How about: “Only The Good Priest, Jesus, allowed!” I entirely agree, because I know that, of myself, I’m just sooo evil and sooo bad. :-)

If anyone thinks this is a bit over the top, I suggest taking a look at the last bits of Saint Patrick’s Breastplate. This is a legitimate prayer, a valid hope to have, to live by.

 

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Rule Number One: Always have a Rule Number One

The bi-plane above razed the roof of the rectory for about 15 minutes the other day, making a dozen passes or so. I love it. I recall that my dad talking about being a pilot for a cropdusting company as a teenager. That would have been, say, in the Summer of 1940, as a sixteen year old, meaning that he was studying, getting his hours, and finally his license at fourteen and fifteen. You gotta know that some people get their pilot’s license before they get a driver’s licence. Just a few years later and for very many years to come he would be inundated with medals as a fighter attack pilot for the USMC.

One of the most important things dad taught me was to have a “Rule Number One” for everything you did. When he was cropdusting, he said, “Rule Number One” is to fly directly into the power lines surrounding the fields you have to work on. “But wouldn’t that make you crash?” I asked. “Well, yes,” he said matter-of-factly, “unless you hit the wires directly with the spinner dome.”

He humbly gave me an example of ignoring a “Rule Number One” given him before getting in a practice Gull Wing Corsair at a military air strip next to the banks of the Mississippi River in Iowa. “Rule Number One: Don’t get out of the plane while the propeller is turning,” he was told. He said he taxied to the end of the runway and turned around, ready to take off. Revving the engine… nothing. No forward movement. Back to idol. What was wrong? — oh… — During the turn the skid under the tail had fallen below the back edge of the tarmac runway with the madly swirling river having eaten away that back edge. Breaking “Rule Number One,” he got out, the propeller still spinning, and easily lifted up the tail of the plane balanced by the engine out front. The plane was freed up, but it now started to move. He ran, trying to jump on the front wing, to no avail, off the plane went, taxiing off the runway and into the forest. What a humiliation. Whatever of this mishap, they kept him, knowing his talent. But… Yikes! “Rule Number One” is number one because it’s the rule that you just can’t break.

There is an overarching “Rule Number One” that is never to be broken in any situation, and which has structural influence over all other rules, especially “Rule Number Two.”

“Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and with thy whole soul and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets.”

  • Rule #1: Love God
  • Rule #2: Regarding love of neighbor, see Rule #1.

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On irreversibly changing the Church

PROMETHEUS

It takes a Prometheanesque power-hungery self-referential arrogant self-congratulator to proclaim that he is irreversibly changing the Church forever. And yet, this is a favorite proclamation of the in-crowd to make. They are the ones. They are the only ones. In their own eyes. How many Cardinals and Bishops and hipster Clergy repeat this self-congratulation.

Such people have no time for Christ Jesus as they refuse to recognize that the Son of the Living God is the very Creator of time, holding all of time in His hands. They are, instead, progressive, never ancient, only new.

But the Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception is the One who is, who was, and who is to come. In Icons of Jesus one often sees the three letters of the sentence inside the halo that read: The One Who Is, that is, all the time and in eternity.

jesus christ icon.png

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever, ever ancient and ever new, because He is the One who is life, who is love, who is truth. The Church is the Body of Christ with Jesus as the Head and we the members. Irreversibly change the Body of Christ? Who do these anti-Christians, these atheists think they are?

And if you want to walk into the future accompanying each other without Jesus, know what that future has in store for you: Jesus, King of kings, Lord of lords, Prince of the Most Profound Peace, will come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire. Those who have denied Him will be denied by Him before our Heavenly Father.

Also, if you want scriptural accompaniment, lets see what happened in the Old Testament for misdeeds so as to smack people down to be introduced to the seriousness of original sin and personal sin so that they would understand what it means when the Messiah stands in our place, the Innocent for the guilty, so as to have the right in His own justice to have mercy on us. He was tortured to death. In the Old Testament, people were continuously accompanied with getting stoned to death, with being beheaded, with being enslaved and forced into dispersion and exile. We have to shaken up so as to see that we have a serious situation here. We have to understand this so as to take in what is happening with the wounds borne by the Son of the Living God.

I’ve always told my seminarians and my fellow priests and my parishes that there is a simple discernment one can make of any commentary of any theology, philosophy, psychology, economic system, whatever… and it is this: Does whatever it is help one or forbid one from coming to be in humble thanksgiving and reverence and friendship with the Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception?

If the commentary is that one must wait millions of years for humanity to vicariously come to closer to the cosmic Christ, a vacuous imagination of ours placed somewhere in the coldest and darkest and impersonal regions of outerspace, then it is wrong.

If the commentary is that one must wait until dialectical materialism kills everyone in order to see goodness and kindness and honesty and integrity, then it is wrong.

If the commentary is that we cannot ever legitimately be in the good graces of Jesus, then it is wrong.

Those who parade themselves as more powerful than Jesus, more powerful than God, who think that walking together apart from Jesus is somehow going out into the peripheries are sadly mistaken. It is that type of condescending arrogance, that kind of dialectical materialism which threw people into the peripheries to begin with. Those thrown into the peripheries by the Prometheans suffer there, with Christ, who is also thrown unto the trash heap. Evangelizing the peripheries?

Those who walk together without Jesus – casting Jesus aside – are walking straight into hell. How dare they think they can cast aside God Himself, saying that His love and forgiveness and His insistence on us following the commandments in love are all bogus, a joke, to be ignored by those who are are wise and clever. I’ll leave them to it.

Much better to have Mary’s good Son revealed to us by our Heavenly Father. Much better to be as little children who are eager and prompt in obedience in all love to follow the commandments, doing the one thing necessary in being forgiven of any sin. Much better to have a future eternity in heaven by being in the state of that sanctifying grace which, as Saint Paul says will turn to glory in heaven. Love endures forever. Much better to be in that love immediately rather than going on and on and on in some blasphemous “accompaniment.”

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Satan’s camouflage: humility

Insignificant, unassuming, unnoticed, blending in, not because he’s humble, but because he’s the ultimate “gray man”, the one who’s a fly on the wall while actually being the elephant in the room, the most clever of all creatures. What to do with such insidious deceit?

  • If we’re trusting in ourselves, you know, so that with our own strength we do not have we go about trying really hard to be insignificant, unassuming, unnoticed, just blending in as one to be congratulated for being so humble, then, with such mind games, imitating Satan, the ol’ monkey see monkey do, we will fall.
  • If, instead, we trust in our Lord Jesus, that He is our Savior, that he doesn’t give us strength but rather draws us to be united to His strength – that is, His love, His truth, and therefore this being a matter of actual humility in action, that is, thanksgiving – then the insidious deceit of Satan’s fake humility is easily seen for what it is, terribly arrogant, hateful without limit. And we remain in awe before the majestic love of Jesus for us, He bearing the wounds of having faced the entirety of Satan’s arrogance and hate for us. Irony Incarnate, the Divine Son of his good mom, kills off our idiocy; He says: I am a serpent, a worm, a maggot and not man at all (see Psalm 22:7).

The serpent in the picture, only some inches long, was seen yesterday in the gravel just outside the church.

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“Now you’ze can’t leave.” Line crossed.

The fuller scene is avoided because of continuous bad language, but what happens is that the Mafia crowd,  end the threat of the biker crowd who were trashing the Mafia crowd’s establishment.

The dark side lives for the time to hear those words – “Now you’ze can’t leave!” – crossing the line as often as they can on so many levels and in so many ways on so many occasions, pushing, pushing, pushing, until finally their dream comes true with some push back coming their way, not that the dark side enjoys that rather painful teaching moment, but relishing nevertheless the learning experience which no one else has been able to provide them throughout their lives, an instruction which they know they must endure in order to be brought out of their deep hell hole of escapism into rotted arrogance. We all know that that’s not the place to be. If only someone would help out.

Of course, we don’t want to hear those words – “Now you’ze can’t leave!” – just after entering hell. Anything that can get us to learn a bit so as not to go to hell is welcome, at least from the perspective of one in heaven who learned from his own smack down of whatever it takes, whether that comes from guardian angels or those who in the Lord’s providence are sent to do the necessary.

A word to the wise. This is true for everyone’s life. We all have a lot to learn. It’s best to avoid crossing the line and meet up with the Lord Jesus. He might have us thrown down from our high horse like Saul who would become Saint Paul, but Jesus means to bring us to heaven, you know, whatever it takes. He is the Lord of History. He’ll make the learning experience happen. It’s what we do with it that counts into eternity. It’s good to have our souls ready to go to meet Him at any time. A word to the wise.

If you think you’re immune, that you’re aloof, that you’re above all that, don’t. That attitude only proves that you’re ripe for a smack-down learning experience.

BTW and just to say, not all smack-downs are because we are lacking. Some are because we are close to our Lord. It is a powerful intercession for souls here and in purgatory when a soul who is close to the Lord is smacked-down, brought to nothing, humiliated, in pain and devastation, but remains in good friendship with Jesus. So, don’t curse those smacked down. They might be great saints. I call to mind that Jesus was smacked down, giving His life as a ransom for many, and that His good mom was in solidarity with Him regardless of Him being treated as a criminal on our behalf. The question is, are we also in solidarity with her?

pieta

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Homily 2018 03 30 – Good Friday and the Silence of God. Oh my…

holy sepulcher

Too long of a homily, so, just some bullet points:

  • God’s Word, His Son, becomes Incarnate so as to forgive our sin in all mercy but by way of justice, He taking on the punishment for our sin, death, the innocent for the guilty, so that He might have the right in His own justice to have mercy on us.
  • We ask in our idiocy: “Where is God? Why is He silent?” But we don’t mean it. We don’t want to hear God speak to us. That’s why we killed him.

  • Jesus’ corpse answers with silence that screams out His love for us so loudly that our reaction so as not to hear Him is to distract ourselves with such noise that can’t hear His silence speaking to us from the tomb. We seal ourselves off from everything and everyone, especially Jesus in His eloquent silence, through alcohol and drugs and distractions which really cost us lots of money. When I mentioned in my homily about the distractions which really cost us lots of money, there were very many who laughed.
  • When we finally hear the silence of God, of Jesus, in the tomb, speaking His love for us, He having heard us, He coming to the rescue with a mercy founded on justice, doing it the right way, with God knowing what suffering and death means, when we are stunned finally by the goodness and kindness of Jesus right to the end, perhaps then we can say in all the unearthly silence with His blood all over us – along with the soldier who had just shoved his spear into the side, into the Heart of Jesus: “Truly this was the Son of God.” That is: Truly this is the Son of God who hears us and speaks to us so eloquently from the tomb.

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Snake in the grass at the rectory

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This fellow appeared last night. I’m thinking there is a brood of vipers under the rectory.

Despite the seemingly diamond shaped head, this just hatched serpent is surely NOT a baby Copperhead. It’s certainly NOT a baby Rattler, not even an Eastern of that ilk. I’m no herpetologist, but I’m guessing that the wide scale-plates on top of the head indicate that this kind of snake stays tiny. You would otherwise see a gazillion little scales. Maybe.

But it could get big, so that it’s perhaps a baby Eastern Black Racer, or Rat Snake, which anywhere else might be called a Bull Snake. They can get six feet long. Harmless. Beneficial. If you don’t have chickens!

He was let go in the Asparagus Patch. He can guard the spears from poachers, perhaps even underground moles who love to eat Asparagus roots.

Laudie-dog wasn’t invited to get a look-see, as she would instantly tear the poor creature to pieces. If one knows this, one can avoid it.

Shadow-dog was invited to get up close, nose to nose, and wasn’t nervous at all. Just inquisitive, and looking to me to know what to think of such a beast. I just let the snake go and so he absolutely didn’t care one way or the other. Gooooood daaaawgy!

Some notes:

  • We’re to be as clever as snakes even if as innocent as doves. One cannot actually be clever without being innocent. Being innocent develops cleverness right quickly.
  • Moses lifted up an image of the kind of snake that was killing the people in the desert so that all of those who looked upon it might live. Jesus said that He is that snake on the cross. He looks like us, we who kill each other off in sin, but He, standing in our place, the Innocent for the guilty, providing us life, having the right in His own justice to have mercy on us.
  • We are to beware, however, of the ancient Serpent, Satan, and we are to be aware of what Satan can do to certain willing parties, taking them over even though Satan makes them look good. Do you remember this scene of the false prophet, the anti-Christ, directed by the ancient Serpent, Satan?

SIGNORELLI ANTICHRIST

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“This is such a beautiful church!”

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That comment is to be heard frequently. I don’t know what people are expecting. Perhaps some unkempt nightmare? No. Not here. Parishioners love their little church and take care of it. In fact, we’re going to so some major (for us) renovations:

  • First off is the confessional. There will be no more possibility of face to face, with two windowed doors to two separate tiny rooms, the penitent side with a chair for the elderly and, of course, a kneeler. There will be a screen.
  • The entire floor will be redone.
  • All pews will be reupholstered.
  • There are plans to put in a marble altar, forcing the sanctuary to be redone, I’m thinking with an altar rail.

Meanwhile, other fixes are in the process, with windowed doors now going into the office area (I meet with people in other heavily windowed areas at the moment).

All is as it should be as we become ever closer friends with Jesus. The driving engine of all this in a time of crisis mind you, is the time we have for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The heaviest times for Confession are during Adoration and before the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Ah… That’s what’s being referred to! The souls of those who are drawn near to Jesus, those who make up the living Church. Yes, this is such a beautiful Church!

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Day Off: guns & spiritual conversations – Jesus bragging on His mother in hell

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Not having bought any ammo since, I think, sometime in late 2018, the “long-way” was taken to the hermitage, passing by a number of Walmarts with variously stocked ammo desks, some desk managers being more on top of things than others. Then, after hitting the UPS Store, it was up and up and up “the mountain.” BTW, can you spot the huge cross made out of I-beams partially hidden by the trees towering above the driveway in the picture above? The neighbor to the hermitage is a master welder.

After a couple of hours of quiet time – a day off after all – energy returned, prayers were said, protection of angels was requested, targets went up, mags were loaded, timers were set, “ears” were adjusted, adrenaline was forced, trigger fingers, left and right, were steadied, concentration was narrowed…

The first course consisted of some six stages of drills, supposedly of a SEAL team, surely dumbed down and from “back-in-the-day.” Here’s a picture of the first stage, just three yards out, from cover/holstered, with an 8 1/2 x 11 target of the usual “body” (inside the two vertical lines: 5:3/4″ x 10:1/2″) and “head” (consisting of a 2″ x 4″ box at the top, an eye-forehead shot instantly “stopping the threat”). The first stage is just one shot from holster to the “head” ≤ 1.5 seconds. Dunno why, but this time I was much more accurate and quick for all stages of all courses, coming in mostly (way) under time and with smaller more centered patterns, mostly inside the “inside bottle” representing the spinal cord. Prayers for priests and the bishop while moving, marking, changing out targets.

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The target then moves further away for different stages until 75 feet away up the ridge.

DIGRESSION: Someone had given me some massively oversized targets (23″ x 35″), I guess to poke fun at my aim, the comment surely being that I’m not able to hit the side of a barn… from inside the barn! I took those dozen or so roll of wallpaper-esque targets just to see if there was anything superimposed. Nope. Having ascertained that, those targets will now go back to the giver. As of a couple years, the most recent policy really is no gifts from intel, ever, zip, zero, zilch… can’t happen. I’m guessing the targets are for zeroing in rifle scopes, say, from a mile out. But I’m not a sniper. I don’t own or use rifles. Not my thing. With a Glock, as the saying goes, aim small, shoot small.

After that, it was time for an FBI course with reduced QIT 97-99 inside bottle targets (that partial detail fitting on legal paper), and then the pre-2001 Federal Air Marshal courses (that target consisting of foam dessert plates propped up by pigtail wires), and then some swinging breakfast blend plastic coffee buckets on ropes and filled with dirt (out to about 15 yards), totaling for day I’m guessing about 175 bullets. Not much, but enough. It was a good day for review and keeping edgy.

With the Glock thoroughly cleaned and oiled and the target-ammo changed out for appropriate carry-ammo, I was eager to go to the neighbors of the hermitage. That’s when the real happiness of the day began.

The spiritual conversations after plinking are becoming a thing, as it were, something that’s expected and to which we all look forward. We spoke of judgment, heaven, hell, purgatory, witnessing to the point of martyrdom, suffering, angels, Jesus, our dearest Heavenly Father, the state of the Church, the state of our souls, the patience of our Lord with us sinners, and being happy for Jesus that after all He has gone through for us, He is now in heaven with our Heavenly Father.

But most of all – at length – we spoke about our Blessed Mother, Jesus’ good mom, about what she went though in this world, what with her purity of heart and agility of soul and clear vision confronting this fallen world, how it is that she was in solidarity with her Divine Son Jesus as He was tortured to death right in front of her. If recorded, these conversations would be good material for an ongoing series of blog posts.

A repeat-topic about our Lady came up, you know, which of the 14 Stations of the Cross would be most – how to say? –  involving to Jesus. The neighbor said it would surely be the meeting with His mother. I agreed, but in another way, saying that it may well be when Jesus is taken down from the cross and put in the arms of His blessed mother.

Aquinas says that the divinity of Jesus never left His body even when that body died and He, with His soul, descended to hell to preach to the fallen spirits. It struck me then, devastated as He would be in His soul that His mother was so devastated holding His dead body, that He would be bragging on His mother to the fallen spirits: “Look at her! She’s the mother-warrior who crushes you, Satan, under her heel. She’s remained faithful in the most adverse circumstances, all of hell attacking. You have failed! She has won souls for heaven!” These are the words, so full of love, which will torture those fallen spirits, so full of hate, for eternity.

Much better to have our souls in order, frequenting the Sacraments, to go to heaven and rejoice to be happy that, after all they went through in this world for us, both Jesus and our Blessed Mother are there.

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Filed under Day Off, Guns, heaven, Hell, Jesus, Mary, Spiritual life