Category Archives: Spiritual life

Re-post for humility’s sake: “Saint and sinner: it’s both or neither one”

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Philomena with the anchor; Mary of Magdala with burial supplies

[[This was written in the days of “Holy Souls Hermitage.”]]

I just love that: the Virgin Martyr Philomena and the sainted penitent Mary of Magdala, together. This is the glory of the Church Militant, the Church Triumphant, and the aim of going through purgatory in this life instead of the next. Both knew themselves to be saints and sinners.

It’s not that Philomena didn’t know that she was totally weak and conceived in original sin, absolutely deserving of hell because of that. It’s because she knew that all so well, and was filled with such humble thanksgiving for Jesus, the greatest love of her life because of His grace, that she was able to persevere in being a martyr because of the virginity which she gave to Christ Jesus, knowing that He appreciates the utter agility of soul which goes along with this, one’s very life becoming an act of intercession for the entire Mystical Body of Christ. Having said that…

It’s not that Mary of Magdala wasn’t a saint, though knowing full well her “past history” not only of original sin, but she must have felt somehow besmirched by having been possessed by seven demons (though feelings don’t make you besmirched at all). It’s because she knew of her need all so well by the grace of Christ — the standard of goodness and kindness — that she was able not to look to herself and get depressed and despair, but was able to take up the invitation of the goodness and kindness of Jesus in order to be a great, great saint, for whose intercession we are all of us so very thankful, never forgetting, however, why she needed that invitation in the first place.

If one gluts oneself in sin, one no longer knows oneself to be a sinner. For the sinner, there seems to be no sin. For such a one, saintliness is out of the question. If you’re not a sinner, you can’t be a saint! That is to say…

If one easily, simply, fully accepts one’s weakness, that one would easily fall into sin (the possibility not being a sin) without the grace of Jesus, then one can know that one is invited by our Lord’s goodness and kindness to be a saint, that is, to be His good friend, as He called us in a creative act after the Resurrection.

So, saint and sinner: it’s either both or neither one. Confession brings all this home gloriously. When’s the last time you’ve been? It’s a great experience of our Lord’s goodness and kindness.

Just to be clear: When people say “I’m a sinner” and they are not, or “I am in the dark” but they are walking with our Lord, they are not calling virtue “sin”, but are merely saying that this is the way they would be if they were without Jesus’ grace, His goodness and kindness, His love and truth, His friendship, the indwelling of the Most Holy Trinity.

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Manipulative use of religion

DOUBTING THOMAS

Let’s just say it: Jesus is Religion Incarnate. Religion is a virtue belonging to the virtue of justice. One renders to God that which in justice is due to God. Only the Incarnate Son of God, obeying the Father perfectly, obedience unto death, and God Himself, innocent, with no shady motives, no self congratulation, can fulfill the precept of religion, in all justice, of rendering to God the Father what is God the Father’s due.

Non-Catholic and usually non-mainline Christian communities, usually having a hate-preaching preacherman will call “religion” God-damned Satanism, Devil worship: “Damn all those Catholics with their damned Satanic Last Supper! We’re ‘spiritual’.”

Yes, well… Jesus is Incarnate whose heart of flesh was pierced through. But I digress.

It is true that religiosity, the stuff of religion, stuff you do, such as the sacraments, the sacramentals, the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, can be manipulated for that which amounts to self-congratulation. The Gospels are rife with Jesus and John condemning such hypocrites. Recall, for instance, the guy who goes into the temple to pray, lifting his eyes to God and saying, “Thank you God that I am not like other men! I’m so holy and nice! I’m better than that sinner guy over there!” Meanwhile, the sinner guy, not lifting his eyes to the heavens, but in all repentance, is begging for mercy, and is going home justified. But the hypocrite guy is on his way to hell. Religion can be manipulated.

People condemned Pope Francis for saying that people can, with all evil intention, hide behind holy things so as to make themselves look good, making an idol of that which is good so as to worship themselves. Of course they can! That’s what the hypocrite guy in the story above was doing and was condemned by Jesus for it.

But that’s all superficial. Obvious. Even if almost no one gets it.

There’s a much more devious manipulation of religion involving a truly insidious despair. It’s where one tries and tries and tries and tries and tries to stay away from sin, but just falls back into sin, and then saying that nothing “works”, that surely one is destined to hell, you know, because the religion thing doesn’t “work.” This is the manipulation of religion, using religion to prove to oneself that one’s sin is stronger than God Himself. “God Himself cannot do anything for me!” It’s the perfect excuse to go on in a life of sin and defiantly, hatefully, arrogantly go to hell.

And here’s where one can choose to try to do stuff that might “work”, you know, coping mechanisms and… stuff that replaces what one chose to use as just the stuff of religion.

Or one can choose to get to know Him who is Religion Incarnate, kind of like now Saint Thomas the one-time doubter. Thomas was all about putting himself forward: “Let’s go to Jerusalem to die with Jesus!” And then, of course, he ran away. How to put this: It wasn’t that Thomas was dedicated to JESUS. It was that THOMAS was dedicated to Jesus. The emphasis tells the story. For Thomas, Jesus was merely the stuff of religion that he could manipulate to his own self-congratulation: Thomas is an Apostle! Pfft. Thomas had not yet had not yet allowed himself to be drawn up into the reality that Jesus is Religion Incarnate.

Thus, Jesus, insisting that he is not a ghost, eating fish with the Apostles after His bodily resurrection from the dead, will also take the finger of Thomas and put it into the nail prints in His hands, and then take then hand of Thomas and put it into His side, into His now beating but still pierced Heart. “My Lord and my God.”

Now Saint Thomas realizes that thinking one is doing religious stuff while instead doing religious stuff so as to be hypocritical isn’t going to save oneself. Only Jesus is the Savior. Of course, we’re still to do religious stuff, but, with the grace of Jesus, not do so so as to congratulate ourselves, but out of God’s charity and truth and goodness and kindness.

Examination of conscience: Do I do anything in the spiritual life with a goal so as to congratulate myself? Or am I just falling to my knees before Jesus thanking Him for being my Savior?

My neighbor to the hermitage and I had a discussion about resolutions for the new year. I said that my only resolution this year is walk in humble thanksgiving with our Lord. All the rest follows after that, all the stuff of religion.

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On changing course: a race course!

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Laudie-dog is pointing out one side of a two-turn race course, the deep banked holes assisting in skidding to stop after flying through the air, and, using the now banked up back yard, instantaneously turning about, flying in the other direction. Landing on the opposite side of the yard, there is the same skid to stop banked up hole, exactly the same, identical, just in reverse. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.

Laudie-dog looks bewildered as this race course of changing of course doesn’t belong to her. This was created by Shadow-dog because Shadow-dog thinks he’s clever. Shadow-dog is a maniac. Behold, Saint Paul speaking of when he was a maniac, running from his good religious plan right into sin and back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, with his good religious plan being the same as his sin, you know, because he is the one doing it under his own “power,” which, of course, is nothing:

“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold into slavery to sin. What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I concur that the law is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh. The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not. For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. So, then, I discover the principle that when I want to do right, evil is at hand. For I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self, but I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body?” (Romans 7:14-24).

The idea here is that Saint Paul is critiquing his manipulative usage of religion as a way to congratulate himself. Note the constant mantra of egoism – “I” – “I” – “I” – as in “I myself come up with a religious plan that I think is good for me and I’m clever and I can save myself by my religious plan because I’m so special! Look at me! Look at me! I’m saving myself! /// He’s saying that that kind of attitude is B.S., or better, Chicken S***, inasmuch as what he’s depicted himself as is a chicken with it’s head cut off, running around mindlessly like it’s all normal and good. There are those who don’t get this until they read the last verse which I didn’t  include above. You’ll see it below, but don’t read it just yet.

Let me tell you of another crowd who have been a very large part of the crisis of priests not knowing who they are, and of the abuse crisis. They knew the last verse cited further below, but purposely went out of their way to ignore this. There’s a psych institute over in Rome connected to the Pontifical Gregorian University which trains up sisters and priests in psychology to be staff psychologists at seminaries right round the world. Their guru guy, a Jesuit priest, but actually a guru guy, Rulla, cites this passage as the be all and end all of proof that God made a mistake in creating us, or better, that God created us in a way that encourages us to save ourselves with coping mechanisms, you know, to cope with all the mistakes God made in making us. In other words, as I heard one student of Rulla say, “We’re the first ones in the history of the Church to find a way to save ourselves!”

I have very many friends who went to this psych institute and I bought the expensive books of Rulla and the institute, such rubbish, and have studied it all with some intensity. I offered the critique about Rulla’s treatment of this passage of Saint Paul to one particularly close friend who was a student of Rulla. He threw such a hissy fit. He left the lunch table angry and pouting and wouldn’t sit at the same table with me or speak to me for weeks. Finally, he apologized and said I was right. Then, after many years, having become a seminary rector, he contacted me though another friend to repeat that, yes, indeed, I was right. How’s that, you ask?

My critique is that they don’t think of sin, at all, even though Saint Paul here speaks of sin repeatedly.  And that’s why they then don’t think of redemption. They don’t think of Christ. Saint Paul does. Behold: after criticizing himself, casting aside coping mechanisms such as is also a manipulative use of religion, Saint Paul points us directly and only to Jesus who is the One to save him, wretch that Saint Paul, on his own, is:

“Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:25).

Do we change course by running back and forth, back and forth, back and forth? No. Christ Jesus reaches down and grabs us and snatches us up close to His pierced Heart, and we say: “My Lord and my God.” Thank you, Jesus.

/// Having said all that, don’t think I’m against a good and wholesome psychology. If one takes up the Sacred Scriptures, the writings of Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint John of the Cross and Saint Therese of Lisieux, to name but a few, one will be able to glean a well rounded and useful psychology, but this is all based on a good, honest friendship with Jesus Christ our Lord.

I categorize this post with “Missionaries of Mercy” because I insist on all this talk of Jesus to my own peril. One makes enemies in this way. Some years ago over in Rome, while I would ever so quietly mention my opinion, the Rulla-ites, overhearing this, would go so far as to threaten a major public debate. They were actually beginning to plot this as something to be held at the Lateran Basilica of all places, that being chosen cleverly, however, as it is the Cathedra of the Successor of Peter. Perhaps one day.

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Tết Offensive and… being overweight? Thanks for correcting my world-view.

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It’s now been more than a half century since the Viet Cong set about killing everyone they could, men, women, children and babies during the Tết Offensive of 1968.

While studying in Rome half that time ago, I lived at the same residence for priests as a Vietnamese fellow, a devout Catholic who understood and lived the faith and who today is a priest.

It was then that I had already for some years been taking a certain medicine to keep myself alive, a medicine I take to this day for that reason, a medicine which also guarantees weight gain. I had always been thin as a rail, but now I had been putting on the kilos. Because of that, I had given up on jogging around Rome.

Meanwhile, this Vietnamese fellow, named after the great Saint Ambrose, had seen many of his fellow countrymen hunted down and tortured and killed. He knew how to run, not jogging, mind you, but running in the sense of escape. Around trees. Over and up cliffs. Though destruction.

While walking around or sitting at table his fists would be un-clenched, and then ever so slowly, over minutes, crushingly clenched. It was quite notable, but I’m sure it was just second nature to him. It was fearful to watch, as it seemed his tendons would rip away from his bones, or the bones would break under the strain.

I asked him about it. Not quite isometrics, he explained. These exercises had brought him into perfect physical condition through the years. He insisted that I start doing the same, reprimanding me for starting to become overweight. But just as running for him was not about jogging, losing weight had nothing to do with any sense of good health. It was about an immediate ability to get away from fiendish violence. He asked me:

“If you are heavy, how are you going to escape when they come?

He inscaped into his words all the horror of what happened during his own escapes when they would come to kill. He had stories to tell backed up with horrific scars. Underlining this, he then asked:

“If you are heavy, how are you going to help others escape?”

He asked that with the urgency and anguish of one is actively watching people die because of my not being able to help them. This isn’t one of those “eat your vegetables before dessert because don’t you know there are people starving on the other side of the world” platitudinous reprimands. No. Let me repeat that he asked with the urgency and anguish of one who is actively watching people get apprehended and tortured and killed because of my not being able to help them.

“If you are heavy, how are you going to help others escape?”

This was one of those moments when my entire world view was readjusted, when I knew I had been so utterly out of touch with reality.

Thanks, Father Ambrose, for opening my eyes a little bit more.

tetoffensiveinhuevietnamruins

I’ll spare you the pictures of the mass graves…

This doubles for natural disasters, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, terrorism near you, by the way…

By the way, thanks to our Vietnam Veterans for winning that weeks long battle.

P.S. For those who say: “Yes, and transform dieting into fasting as a spiritual thing because the body is to be the temple of the Holy Spirit like the saints say!” Fine. All that. Yes. And I confess I am miserable at all that. Can I just blame my medicine? I mean, at least I’m not gaining even if not losing weight. I could do better. To such enthusiasts with spiritual things I say this: Father Ambrose is helping us to escape our half-measures. The Body of Christ is not just the Head of the Body, Jesus, but the rest of us as the members. Being in good shape is not just about respecting God’s creation and God’s redemption of us in Christ Jesus, merely putting the body into submission because that’s a nice thing to do for God, but it is also about the charity we have for one another in Christ Jesus (see 1 Corinthians 9:22-27).

His urgency and anguish was of one who was actively watching people die because of my not being able to help them:

“If you are heavy, how are you going to help others escape?”

Indeed. And so…

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Chaque fois que j’ouvre ma bouche il est demandé «Est-ce que vous êtes Belge?»

ziggurat 3

Pretending to learn “French”, again. Sigh.

When this American was living in France I discovered that no one speaks French on account of the fact that every citizen of France is actually from Belgium. The greatest insult the French can cast on anyone whomsoever is to ask them with mocking, sarcastic tone: “Are you from Belgium?” They all insult each other in this manner all the time, the North the South, the East the West, the center not holding.

It’s the difference in accent. For instance, English speakers anywhere pronounce “Bernadette” as do the Parisians, but those around Lourdes make for another syllable at the end, extremely well pronounced, as in “Bernadett-euuuh.” And then they both condemn each other as being from Belgium. No one speaks French in France.

It’s a losing battle, trying to learn French again. Maybe I should just learn some Belgian stuff, like Dutch, you know, with Brabantian, West Flemish, East Flemish and Limburgish – and hey! – if one crosses the street to the North, why not throw in Papiamento, maybe a couple of dozen low-Saxon dialects, some Frisian and a few dozen West Frisian dialects – and hey! – another few dozen Lower and central Franconian dialects – and hey! – why not add Yiddish? The question – « Est-ce que vous êtes Belge ? » refers to the mixing of French and any number of dozens and dozens of other dialects. Instead of making one’s identity more easily known, it all becomes murkier, and with such smack downs through the centuries, cutting one town off from another, what with devastating plagues and wars.

And if I did learn any of that, would that satisfy the one asking: « Est-ce que vous êtes Belge ? » Everyone calls French the “Diplomatic language.” Uh huh. Tongue in cheek, making for yet another dialect. It’s no mistake that the likes of Michael Edwards, from England, is a most influential member of l’Académie française.

The arrogance of weirdness of language differences, insisting on attacking communication so that there is no love lost, isn’t about this or that human being being cut off from any mere human being – not just that. All such Tower of Babel smashing down of others is really about shaking one’s fist at God.

God the Father speaks Himself in one Word, now Incarnate among us, who would like to reveal the Father to us, according to the will of the Father. But will we hear that communication, that “language” provided by the grace of God? We can ask God for humility. We can ask our angels to teach us humility.

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On Ravens, the Holy Spirit and OCD

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Racing along the highway with The Bread of Life, Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament, while going from nursing home to shut-ins on Communion calls the other day, this raven decided to do up a bit of photo-bombing. I just wanted to get the snow-capped ridges.

He’s empty-beaked. In this case, I’m the raven of Elijah the Prophet’s fame as I’m bringing the Bread of Heaven to the great prophets, that is, those friends of Jesus in the parish.

And this got me to thinking about the Holy Spirit and the Carmelites who speak of Elijah as Our Holy Father Elijah just as the Benedictines speak of Our Holy Father Benedict. My mind wandered, as it tends to do, to the way of prayer, so to speak, of the Carmelites, and to someone who was refused entry into a Carmelite prayer group because he couldn’t make all the meetings because of his pastoral duties, namely, Karol Wojtyła.

When interviewed as Pope John Paul II, he was asked about how he goes about praying. His answer was, in great Carmelite fashion, to say that one would have to ask the Holy Spirit, who, as it were, transported his soul to the needs of the world such as they are on any given day.

Not so diversely, one may recall that any cloistered nun of any contemplative order may answer to say that such a vocation has one accompany Jesus’ good mother in her maternal concern for the members of the Body of Christ still battling away in this ecclesia militans, in this Church militant, and so are transported in their intercession whithersoever such a good mother would have them go, so to speak.

 

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Suffering teaches? My bad. Update: solution to imperfection

This Benedictine at Saint Paul’s Outside the Walls – the last of the four Major Basilicas in Rome that I’ll be able to visit this time around – was born the same year as my own dad, 1924. I was born late in his life.

I sat down with him for a visit and I found out he had suffered quite a bit in his life. I very stupidly repeated a platitude to him. Don’t do that with wise people unless you’re willing to be humiliated.

  • Me: Suffering teaches a lot.
  • Him: Pfft. No. God teaches a lot.

Update: I had lapsed, of course, into some brand of Pelagianism here. In putting this up again as a kind of confession, I recall other conversations I’ve had across the decades when others have stated that “Suffering teaches a lot,” and then have gone on to recite their suffering, some of which, mind you, was crushing just to hear. Did I have the clarity and simplicity to say: “Pfft. No. God teaches a lot.” No, no I didn’t. A pity that.

But I have a solution, a self-imposed penance: some prayer that those with whom I haven’t witnessed perfectly will nevertheless be taught by God. And they will all be taught by God (see Isaiah 54:13 and John 6:45). Of course, that goes along with also being drawn to the Lord all the more to be taught by Him ourselves.

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27 years a priest in a time of abuse, happy to remain a priest. Why?

Today’s the anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Ordination doesn’t refer to “orders given” as even some Catholics say today in such de-sacramentalizing, democratic fashion as if a mere commissioning given by a commission was ever sufficient, as if a degree and certificate saying “ordained” was actually something, like a graduation, a rite of passage. No.

The Sacrament of Orders refers to how the person himself, ontologically, is ordered, structured, fit to the priesthood of Jesus Christ, so that the priest might act in Persona Christi, in the Person of Christ, or perhaps better, so that the Person of Christ might act in the priest, accomplishing His sacraments, His priesthood through His merely human priest, regardless of whether or not that human priest is worthy, or even a believer of any kind. There’s really only One Priest: Christ Jesus. Holy Orders is not about putting the priest on a pedestal, but rather about smashing him down so that he is all about and only about Jesus alone.

Yours truly, 4 January 1992, ordained a Catholic priest. All except one other has already passed away in this picture.

Holy Orders is about the One Priest, Christ Jesus. It is Jesus who consecrates at the Last Supper; it is Jesus who forgives sin. Just as mysterious as we becoming members of the Body of Christ as Saint Paul puts it, so does Jesus take up mere men to accomplish His own priesthood. It’s all about Jesus. Jesus marries His Bride, the Church, by way of His wedding vows at Mass, the Last Supper, that Wedding Feast of the Lamb: This is my body given for you in sacrifice, the chalice of my blood poured out for you in sacrifice. The mere human priest recites those words, those vows in the first person singular and is himself thereby married to the Church by the sacrifice that he offers, and should thereby be willing to lay down his life for the flock as much as Jesus. But this is Jesus’ wedding with His Bride the Church by which He redeems the image of God within us.

How dare anyone say that priests are not married! It is that ignorance and malice and hatred for Jesus and His priests which has brought us the crisis we are in. People think they are nice in wishing that priests could get married, but this is really quite demonic. Listen up! If we priests don’t know that we are married to the Church, that we are to be fathers of the family of faith, what do you think is going to happen in living a lie that one is just a secular administrator, a functionary, and is not otherwise married for no discernible reason? The fruit of any marriage, children, will be attacked. It’s clockwork. Either everything that the priest is is given over to the priesthood of Jesus Christ – whose Priesthood is established by the vows of His own being married to His Bride the Church – or that priest will be a detriment to the salvation of himself and others. Period.

The priesthood of Jesus is all about re-establishing the image of God within us, and as Genesis says, this is a one-man, one-woman marriage and family image of God. Jesus has the right to marry His Bride the Church, that is, to redeem us, fill us with the life of God, eternal life, sanctifying grace, because He has, at the Last Supper and Calvary, laid down His life for us, the Innocent for the guilty. That re-establishment of the image of God within us by way of that marriage must respect the one-man, one woman for marriage and the family structure of creation in the sacrament of Holy Orders. Women priests would be a sterile, lesbian, monstrous image, a mockery of Jesus’ marriage with His Bride the Church, a mockery of redemption and salvation, a blasphemy. Even if one goes through a ritual and says the words of ordination, a woman cannot ontologically be ordained. That’s the way marriage works. It’s not unfair. It is what it is.

Does that mean that I think I’m worthy to be a priest because I’m a man? Pfft. No! And any priest who does think that is a danger to himself and others. Without Jesus I know that I could commit any sin anywhere at any time for any or no reason, given whatever wildly varying circumstances and history of life. I don’t have all those varying circumstances or histories of life – nor do any of us – and so it would be psychologically quite impossible at the drop of a hat to do this or that monstrous thing even if lacking the grace and friendship of Jesus. Fine. But lack of monstrous actions doesn’t justify. I know that fallen humanity is such that we do need redemption and salvation and that nice circumstances don’t save and that anyone self-congratulating themselves for their own niceness has already granted themselves a licence to sin in whatever way, even in the most monstrous ways. Are there specious motives for a man to become a priest, like running from a past from which he wishes to emancipate himself by pretending to be holy? Sure. But that doesn’t mean all priests have done that or are doing that. We need to know that we are already married, married to the Church by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that we offer daily. That changes everything. No false celibacy. No loneliness. A robust spiritual life in which the priest is nothing and Jesus is all.

Priests should know more than anyone what all of sin and all of redemption looks like. Priests should have the perspective of being high on the cross where Jesus is drawing all to Himself, across Calvary, through all of hell, starting with us when we are yet sinners. Priests should see all the breadth and width and depth of hell and our need for redemption because of noting the breadth and width and depth of the mercy founded on justice that Jesus came to bring to us, from the cross, from the fulfillment of the wedding vows of the Last Supper, the Mass, that the priest celebrates daily, like any other day. It’s just that that day, today, this very day, is Dies Domini, the Day of the Lord, which stretches from Creation until the end of the world, until there is a New Heavens and a New Earth. Priests should see, because of seeing all the rest of this, that they are the most unworthy of all.

Rant. Rant. Rant. For some, the question is this:

“Hey, Father George, you seem like a nice guy. So, like, why don’t you leave the priesthood in view of all this abuse stuff we hear about? Don’t you get sick of people cat-calling and being dismissive and calling you a pedophile just because you’ve been ordained a priest?”

Actually, that monstrousness of bad priests attacking the fruit of marriage, children, is symbolic of precisely why we need holy priests for the One Priesthood of Jesus, that is, to go against the sin, to weed out those who would be so monstrous. You don’t help the Church by leaving the Church. You stay. You fight. You suffer. It’s just that serious. Serious enough not to abandon the flock. Jesus was ripped to shreds, tortured to death on the cross. As the Master, so the disciple. Just because some idiot does an unthinkably monstrous deed doesn’t mean everyone is like that. We priests need to man up and fight the good fight, keeping up with Confession ourselves, being fit instruments of Jesus, because we are nothing and He’s everything. It shows our thanksgiving to Jesus to stay. If I can keep up with Confession and help other priests to keep up with Confession, well then, I think I’ve done something as Jesus’ instrument for the Church and the world. I remember a bishop who gave us Missionaries of Mercy a talk and a talking to, as it were, over in Rome, introducing himself as a sinner since the year he was ordained, and for a long time before that. Good for him to recognize it and encourage us all to participate in the Sacrament of Confession frequently, you know, for sins of thought and mind and deed and… oh my… of omission

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The Joke Picture. It’s real. But purely a Joke. Hahaha.

As the now sainted Mother Teresa often said, we don’t need more priests; we need holy priests. Indeed. We need priests who know they are married to the Church. We need priests who know that they are fathers of the family of faith. We need priests who know that they are totally unworthy and are utterly dependent on Jesus, the One Priest. We need priests who go to Confession. We need priests who won’t run away because the wolf says: “Boo!” We need priests who have a love within them provided by Jesus that is stronger than death, stronger than mockery, stronger than slander. We need priests of the horrifying exhilarating life of the beatitudes: Blessed are you when…

Am I happy to be a priest even today? Oh yes. Especially today. When all of hell has broken out. I want to be where Jesus is: In the midst of this hell so as to grab souls for heaven. Today I offer Mass wherein the One Priest lays down His life for us, as unworthy as we all are. Yes, I’m always happy for one more day as a priest, as Jesus’ priest, a day like any other day in the One Day of the Lord, the One Worthy Priest using the likes of me, such as I am, utterly nothing and worse than that so that He might show us all the more stridently His wisdom in having such priests as me and my fellow priests who I know to be dedicated to Him. He can use even me! Even us! All glory to God for His wondrous mercies. As Jesus said to Saint Paul: “My strength shines out through your weakness. My grace is sufficient for you.” Yes, Lord. Thank you.

As it is, I’m having a great time at this stage in my priesthood taking Jesus through these back mountains to parishioners. Jesus’ creation is gorgeous:

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As I think back on the 27 years, some of the best times, were of course, at Holy Souls Hermitage when I was writing about the Immaculate Conception, the Mother of the Redeemer, in Genesis 3:15. Long time readers from way back in those days will remember the different scenes:

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Happy New Year! (and a resolution)

possum drop

In Andrews, NC, far western WNC, we have a possum drop. He’s not actually thrown off a cliff or anything, just lowered on a comfortable platform with a fruit buffet and, as the paper reported, a variety of sleeping options. He’s given a medical review before and after. PETA (People Eating Tasty Animals) were pretty up-front with their objections, perhaps because there weren’t enough road-kill possum pies for sale. Dunno. No one seems to know who Guy Lombardo is in these parts.

When I was a seminarian in Rome, I would make my way to the Major Basilica of Saint Mary in Rome and go through the Te Deum with Pope Saint John Paul II in thanksgiving for the blessings of the past year as the way before God to launch into the New Year.

My resolution this year is to have no resolutions. Goals are counterproductive as they are what you imagine where you are right now. Goals actually put you into reverse. Walking in Jesus’ presence aided by my guardian angel in the present moment is the way to say thanks for the blessings of the past and the way to launch into whatever comes by way of divine providence.

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Shadow-dog Gladiator-dog: Teaching session

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The heavy knotted short-rope, which is like, say, an enemy intruder (I have a good imagination!), is a good demonstrator tool for Shadow-dog who makes me his student in his gladiator school. In the above picture we see how one is to toss ever so calmly one’s adversary into the air with a gentle side-spin so that, in follow-up, one might put one’s entire weight and strength into viciously ripping in the opposite direction, which violent ripping could easily shred to pieces whomsoever the adversary happens to be:

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This ripping spinning motion will spin Shadow-dog himself about 180 degrees and the adversary round about some 540 degrees, and back and forth multiple times so very violently in just nanoseconds, so that I’m thinking he himself is going to be ripped in half, growling so loudly that all the neighbors either laugh with glee at the protection against home-invasion that they all have with Shadow-dog in the neighborhood, or half die of fright with the show that is put on. Meanwhile, Shadow-dog is the friendliest dog around. And the neighbors know that too. He’s so smart. Gooooood dooooggiieee!

You can always tell how good a dog is by how willing they are to teach you their tricks in their justifiable efforts to make you part of the team. Part of being more alpha than a forever alpha dog like a German Shepherd wolf is to be a good partner with him in the job that needs to be done. That’s when they’re in their element.

An absolutely inadequate and inappropriate analogy for which I beg the pardon of my guardian angel, who guards not a dog but me, nor learns from me but rather instructs as John was instructed: “I am a fellow servant of yours” (Revelation 22). But also our guardian angels are in their element, so to speak, when we are with them as fellow servants, fellow slaves, co-workers of our Lord. They teach us how to be warriors, so to speak, in this Church militant, where we fight as best we can to keep the faithfulness and hope that are given to us, the purity of heart and agility of soul that are given to us, the love of God and neighbor that is given to us. We are made into a show, of God’s goodness, really, as Saint Paul has it. Gladiators for God. Shadow-dog is a good example in his own way.

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Shadow-dog Bite-dog: action training [Note on Situational Awareness]

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  1. Step 1: Get a good look at your adversary, individuating and isolating.
  2. Step 2: Subdue your adversary in any way you can, say, under a paw, making sure that the adrenaline is pumping:

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3. Step 3: Chew up your adversary and spit him out.

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Situational awareness demands a certain low-level of adrenaline that is at the ready to be pumped up instantaneously; otherwise it’s all intellectual and useless, even hurtful as is a sense of overconfidence. GSDs are always a bit on-edge, made to be that way with super-sensitive sensory receptors: they’re all nose and ears and eyes, with height and strength to carry all that.

Analogy with the spiritual life: We do well to be on edge for the sake of our friendship with the Lord Jesus. We remain weak in this world looking to Him to be lifted up into His strength and truth and goodness and kindness… but we are so weak. To be on-edge over against our triple-adversary – the world, the flesh and the devil – we have to have the humility to realize that we could fall prey at any time and in any way and that there is nothing we can do about that except to lifted up into the strength and truth and goodness and kindness of our Lord, remaining with Him no matter what, that steadfastness in our Lord’s grace putting the death-bite on our triple adversary. It’s the bond of love with God, who is love, keeping us on-edge. It’s all about Jesus. He’s the One. He’s the only One.

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GSD: “You have to be bad to be good”

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Shadow-dog has been racing about on his patrol, looking like the idiot-dog by practicing his spot-turns on the snowy-wet mud path he’s carved into the backyard. This sprays mud into the air as if his paws are spinning knobby off-road tires of a climber-jeep. When the acrobatics get a bit complicated, he gets himself on an intense learning curve… mid-air. And then… crash. But he gets better at it.

My mom once reprimanded me for the doing this kind of thing – being bad in order to be good – she not quite getting the gist of the process, trying to keep me from getting broken bones while she fretting during some of the more complicated maneuvers of my extreme sports. What she didn’t know is that what I was doing was surely keeping me away from broken bones. You have to be bad in order to be good.

Drawing the analogy with, say, prayer, whereby prayer is an extreme sport, whereby you are brought along without being in control of any progress, our Lord accomplishing a friendship with Him which we could not set as a goal or have any helps or coping mechanisms to lean on while He does this in His way. When He is lifted up on the Cross, He said, He will draw all to Himself. That means He’s drawing us through all the hell that was broken out on Calvary. We already know that we’ll be stupid enough to try to depend on our own strength which we actually don’t have ourselves anyway, and therefore in this way we will surely pull away from Him in this way and that, and we will look mighty stupid in all of this. But He is very patient, and we slowly learn in His grace that He is more important than our ongoing distractions, and we allow ourselves in whatever distraction that hell has to offer, to be stably with Him. Have no fear. You have to bad to be good, you know, not on purpose. No. But go ahead and just tell our Lord, in His grace, “Yes!” You want to begin. You will surely confront your weakness of stupidly depending on your own strength. But that’s part of it. You’re name might be mud for a while. Have no fear. That will turn to a name He gives you, that, as it says in the Good Book, is only known to you and Him. When He calls your name, you’ll be standing right before Him, perhaps with mud all over your face, but – Hey! – you’ll have learned to stand right before Him. And that’s where we want to be.

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In heaven, it won’t be this way

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The neighbor at the hermitage on the “Day Off” yesterday showed me the two pumpkins you see in the slideshow. I instantly thought of the gentleman you see with Pope Francis. Any one of us could have whatever difficulty, but do we see the heart, even for ourselves? That’s the question: “…even for ourselves”? Then we can love others as we love ourselves. That’s a command of our Lord by the way.

“The LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

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Mysticism mist then schism

The only way to overcome false mysticism of mist then schism is to be grounded in the true mysticism of the Incarnate Word.

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Click click click… I’m late

So I went to see an old friend. He pulled this out…

And put this in…

Gotta wonder how long these plugs are good for…

That made me late for the retreat. But we’re on God’s time all the time. How could it be otherwise?

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Signs of life and death

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I just barely got this picture of Sandhill Crane before it flew out of sight. Can you see him? Edging on an eight foot wingspan. Look just along the center of the river just off a low hanging branch of the trees on the left. Cranes have often said to be the ones who bring human babies home. A sign of life. I love it. This is very near the hermitage.

Meanwhile, a sign of death, within a stone’s throw of the hermitage: a funnel mushroom of the kind that can contain deadly levels of muscarine.

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So, this gets me thinking about life and death. Yikes. So…

In the funeral liturgy, for the Preface at Holy Mass, there is a most wonderful statement about life and death: “Life is changed, not ended.” Jesus brings life out of death.

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Road Danger: Natural disasters

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This is one of the many hair-pin turns on the one-lane no-fault gravel road winding its way high atop the back ridges near the hermitage. On this particular turn – imagine this – we had a tractor trailer (an extended flatbed with forklift at the back) who, having made the turn, had the cab in far ditch on the one side and the 75 foot trailer spanning the ravine and being held up by its back set of tires on the other side, totally blocking the road with no other way around except to backtrack and circle around the mountains, fully 10 miles to get to the highway below instead of just 2. And what if there was a forest fire, as there was a while back, smoke everywhere. I think of Guatemala, of Hawaii.

Anyway, notice the washout, big enough to break off a front wheel and throw a vehicle sideways into the ravine. They can appear within hours with hard rains, and do. Right now there are many axle-breakers. Being a one lane road and the inside of the curve, the washout is is where people drive to make the sharp turn, all things being equal. But nothing is ever equal.

You have to have constant situation awareness, which is not just for emergency situations. This picture was taken on a beautiful day, sunshine, flowers blooming, birds singing. And then…

One will be caught off guard in the spiritual life if one is trusting in nice circumstances. “I’m doing fine! And everything is nice!” No. We must continuously be in humble thanksgiving mode before Jesus with all joy – however stressed out we can be. If not, we are trusting in ourselves and there’s not much there to trust in there.

Is this low self-esteem? It is actually low self-esteem to trust in oneself, to congratulate oneself, to think that one is one’s own savior, that one doesn’t need to be carried along in the friendship of Jesus, for then, merely trusting in ourselves, we are undercutting what we could be, that is, good friends with Jesus. Why undercut ourselves? Low self-esteem? So, it is actually great self-esteem to be good friends with Jesus, to be saved by Him, to be held in His friendship, to be in humble thanksgiving mode, and, in this way, to have constant situational awareness. A disaster could come along at any moment…  expectedly. We’re always looking for deescalations of situations, but in the spiritual life, this is done in a most pleasant way, by the love of God, with the joy of being loved by God.

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Consecration at Mass: The irony!

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Father Gordon J MacRae (About) over at These Stone Walls asked me to publish some pictures of day pilgrimages during my Missionary of Mercy trip to Rome in the days surrounding Mercy Sunday 2018. The churches and basilicas involved saints who had been imprisoned, a kind of tradition throughout the centuries.

God’s revelation to us of love and truth and goodness and kindness is also manifested through these members of the Body of Christ, and is a kind of Sacred Tradition if you will, so to speak, as it were. As the great Cardinal Siri pointed out in Gethsemane, the supernatural faith and charity received with sanctifying grace are univocal, always the same, ever ancient, ever new, as they always have the same source in the Holy Spirit.

Christ Jesus was imprisoned. As the Master, so the disciple:

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So, we have the tradition of Tradition. We are captives of the Captive One. His love and truth and goodness and kindness is captivating. People push and test His love and truth and goodness and kindness in us, wanting it to be true, but treating us in the same way as our sins treated Mary’s Divine Son. We are, then, captives of Catholic Tradition.

Fr. Gordon MacRae and Pornchai Moontri: Captives of Catholic Tradition

That seems to have gone a little viral with more than 20,000 shares as of this writing. Father Gordon complains: “So, my first post to hit 20k was not even written by me?!!!!” :-) It’s really a very short post. Pretty much all pictures. If you haven’t seen it yet or don’t know Father Gordon or TSW, go over and take a look, especially at Father Gordon’s About Page.

Anyway, Monica Harris dropped a comment on that post saying this:

“The root word of Tradition can also mean betrayal, right? Makes the title of this post true in both senses.”

Sacred Tradition, traditio, or, as the Council of Trent puts it, traditiones – traditions in regard to the articles of faith supernaturally infused into us by the Holy Spirit with Sanctifying grace, refers to a handing on among us of the faith it seems as if by hand (quasi per manus), but really wrought by the Holy Spirit. The Second Vatican Council in its dogmatic decree Dei Verbum, against all definitions of the “spirit of the Council”, repeats what Trent pronounced in Sacrosancta, its first dogmatic decree of the Fourth Session on April 8, 1546.

Judas handed over Jesus to be imprisoned and put to death. Judas, in handing over Jesus, betrayed Jesus. Yes.

In the consecration at Holy Mass, Jesus says:

Hoc est enim corpus meum quod pro vobis tradetur.

For this is my body which will be handed over (given up, betrayed) for you. In the inspired Greek of the Gospels, this is expressed in the present participle: διδόμενον “being handed over now”, thus uniting the Last Supper with Calvary.

The Holy Spirit’s action upon us, flooding us with sanctifying grace, bringing us supernaturally into faith and charity, Sacred Tradition, thus forming us into being the members of the Body of Christ depends on, has its foundation on the obedience of Jesus to the Father, obedience, ob-audire, the eager, prompt listening of Jesus unto death, our redemption. When Jesus lays down His life in this way He also lays down the life of the members of His Body. The most holy moment in the history of the universe, the consecration at the Last Supper, that upon which even Sacred Tradition depends, speaks of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, indeed, of all the members of the Body of Christ. It is Tradition to be handed over, to be made captive so as to be free. Jesus unites us with Himself in His offering to the Father, handing us over to the Father with Himself.

Good one, Monica.

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Filed under Eucharist, Jesus, Missionaries of Mercy, Priesthood, Prison, Spiritual life

RE-POST: IT’S APRIL 8 – A MOST GLORIOUS DAY

COUNCIL OF TRENT

HEY! It’s the [472nd] anniversary of Sacrosancta, the first decree of the fourth session of the most sacred and ecumenical Council of Trent in 1546. This is my most favorite of all magisterial interventions. Be awed by the syntax in Latin. Be awed by the breadth, the heights, the profundity, the glory emanating from this decree. Let yourself be wrapped up it’s reverence before the Most Holy Spirit. Let yourself be brought to your knees. Unfortunately, rebel Martin Luther, ex-Catholic priest, would die just months before this was published, though I have to think that he was kept up to date on the ruminations for the first drafts, not easy if one is in bad health.

First the Latin…

Sacrosancta oecumenica et generalis Tridentina synodus, in Spiritu sancto legitime congregata, praesidentibus in ea eisdem tribus apostolicae sedis legatis, hoc sibi perpetuo ante oculos proponens, ut sublatis erroribus puritas ipsa evangelii in ecclesia conservetur quod promissum ante per prophetas in scripturis sanctis dominus noster Iesus Christus Dei Filius proprio ore primum promulgavit, deinde per suos apostolos tamquam fontem omnis et salutaris veritatis et morum disciplinae omni creaturae praedicari iussit; perspiciensque, hanc veritatem et disciplinam contineri in libris scriptis et sine scripto traditionibus, quae ab ipsius Christi ore ab apostolis acceptae, aut ab ipsis apostolis Spiritu sancto dictante quasi per manus traditae ad nos usque pervenerunt orthodoxorum patrum exempla secuta, omnes libros tam veteris quam novi testamenti, cum utriusque unus Deus sit auctor, nec non traditiones ipsas, tum ad fidem, tum ad mores pertinentes, tamquam vel oretenus a Christo, vel a Spiritu sancto dictatas et continua successione in ecclesia catholica conservatas, pari pietatis affectu ac reverentia suscipit et veneratur. Sacrorum vero Librorum indicem huic decreto adscribendum censuit, ne cui dubitatio suboriri possit, quinam sint, qui ab ipsa Synodo suscipiuntur. Sunt vero infrascripti. Testamenti Veteris: Quinque Moysis, id est Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numeri, Deuteronomium; Iosue, Iudicum, Ruth, quattuor Regum, duo Paralipomenon, Esdrae primus et secundus, qui dicitur Nehemias, Tobias, Iudith, Esther, Iob, Psalterium Davidicum centum quinquaginta psalmorum, Parabolae, Ecclesiastes, Canticum Canticorum, Sapientia, Ecclesiasticus, Isaias, Ieremias cum Baruch, Ezechiel, Daniel, duodecim prophetae minores, id est: Osea, Ioel, Amos, Abdias, Ionas, Michaeas, Nahum, Habacuc, Sophonias, Aggaeus, Zacharias, Malachias; duo Maccabaeorum, primus et secundus. Testamenti Novi: Quattuor Evangelia, secundum Matthaeum, Marcum, Lucam, Ioannem; Actus Apostolorum a Luca Evangelista conscripti; quattuordecim epistulae Pauli Apostoli: ad Romanos, duae ad Corinthios, ad Galatas, ad Ephesios, ad Philippenses, ad Colossenses, duae ad Thessalonicenses, duae ad Timotheum, ad Titum, ad Philemonem, ad Hebraeos; Petri Apostoli duae; Ioannis Apostoli tres; Iacobi Apostoli una; Iudae Apostoli una et Apocalypsis Ioannis Apostoli. Si quis autem libros ipsos integros cum omnibus suis partibus, prout in ecclesia catholica legi consueverunt et in veteri vulgata latina editione habentur, pro sacris et canonicis non susceperit, et traditiones praedictas sciens et prudens contempserit: anathema sit.

Now my own slavish translation… NOT the usual translation!

The Most Sacred Ecumenical and General Tridentine Synod, convened legitimately in the Holy Spirit, with the three Legates of the Apostolic See presiding over it, is itself proposing for perpetuity in plain sight, so that, having cast down errors, the very purity of the Gospels may be conserved within the Church… [The purity itself of the Gospel…] which, before promised through the prophets in the holy Scriptures, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, first promulgated with His own mouth, and then commanded to be preached by His Apostles to every creature, as the fountain of all, both saving truth, and moral discipline; and seeing clearly that this truth and discipline are contained in the written books, and the unwritten Traditions which, received by the Apostles from the mouth of Christ himself, or from the Apostles themselves, the Holy Spirit dictating, have come down onto us, transmitted almost as if by hand… [The Synod] following the examples of the orthodox Fathers, receives and venerates with an equal affection of piety, and reverence, all the books both of the Old and of the New Testament — seeing that one God is the author of both — as also the said Traditions, as well those appertaining to faith as to morals, as having been dictated, either by Christ’s own word of mouth, or by the Holy Spirit, and preserved in the Catholic Church by a continuous succession. [At this point, the list of books is provided. See the Latin.] If anyone, however, will not receive as sacred and canonical these same integral books with all of their parts, as they have been accustomed to be read in the Catholic Church and as are had in the Old Latin Vulgate edition, and will hold in contempt the aforementioned Traditions knowingly and with considered judgment: let him be anathema.

Note “almost as if by hand” since this is all about the Holy Spirit!

This is THE Counter-Reformation assertion by the Sacred Magisterium of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church against the heretics who reduce revelation to theology and inspiration to feelings, the dark arrogance having them rewrite and remove things from the Sacred Scriptures so as to assert merely themselves. This decree is CATHOLIC!

On a personal note, I was ordained a deacon on this day in the Twelve Apostles Basilica in Rome. Also, this decree became the center piece of the beginnings of a doctoral thesis (the first chapter being 256 pages), the story of which needs to be told one day, reaching as it does into the very heart of the intrigue of ecclesiastical politics and stirring the pot so much that… well, I’ll leave that for another day. Just note that this decree is still THE engine driving any true ecumenical dialogue, that is, which brings unity in truth and charity those who sincerely follow Jesus.

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Filed under Ecumenism, Holy See, Interreligious dialogue, Jewish-Catholic dialogue, Spiritual life, Vulgate

Dog poop, custody of the eyes, situational awareness, spiritual life

Observing the saints in Rome such as Aloysius Gonzaga, one will surely be impressed by their humble custody of the eyes. Or so said a fellow seminarian way back in the day before making the sardonic comment that this was merely the way to avoid stepping on dog poop. There’s been dog poop at that narrow almost unavoidable spot near the Angelicum for the past 40 years. I check. But it’s not a matter of looking only at dog poop or otherwise your soul being as good as dog poop. No no. You can have situational awareness and be entirely chaste with blazing purity of heart and agility of soul regardless of what you otherwise see in decadent sleazy Rome or anywhere else in this world of exile away from our heavenly homeland. And that involves a friendship of humble thanksgiving with our Lord. And that involves something for which to be humbly thankful. That involves Confession. Love of God is love of neighbor. And vice versa. Love of neighbor is love of God.

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