Tag Archives: Hell

Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (The very flames of hell, edition)

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Rhododendron calendulaceum or Flaming Azalea is native to these mountains in WNC. This one is next to the Samuel the Angry Donkey pasture some miles down the mountain from the hermitage. A “snitty” florest on the internet calls it “Satan,” as if Satan has rights over anything to do with flames. No.

God is love, and God’s love which we witness with Jesus is ardent. We poetically speak of the ardent flames of love. The Scriptures speak of the flames issuing from the majestic throne of God. Those flames are symbolic of God’s love. God’s love does not itself change for the recipient. It is the receiver whose changing capacity to take in God’s love which put’s a limit or less so on God’s love.

  • In heaven all receive fully of God’s love and rejoice in those ardent flames of love.
  • In purgatory those very same flames of love, so to speak, instruct those preparing for heaven, purging them of their lack of thanksgiving, and in this they also rejoice as they know they are on their way and are progressively more capable of thanking the Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception. They are learning, but, mind you, they are also holy, as they are in the state, as we say, of sanctifying grace.
  • In hell all are also provided with the ardent love of God, but they, fallen angels and damned souls, have chosen to have no capacity to take in that ardent love. They perceive that love as punishing flames, writhing in spiritual and intellectual frustration even while choosing to be that way.

How to say it? God’s love is God’s love.

But what about Mary, the Immaculate Conception? She was free of any need for purging so she knows nothing of our weakness and anguish and struggles, right? So, she can’t actually be a good mother to us, right? Wrong.

It’s because of her purity of heart and agility of soul and clarity of spiritual vision that she saw exactly our need in all it’s horror, much more than we could even begin to know, and at the same time she was in solidarity with her Divine Son in His mission to redeem us, and, if we so choose to cooperate with His grace, to save us. Mary knew all about the ardent flames of God’s love from the perspective of those on earth, those in purgatory, and, analogously, as one fully in grace that is to turn to glory, as Saint Paul says.

So, whatever it’s called, a fiery flower for you, Mary, Jesus’ good mom.

shepherd boy

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Paul Harvey – An Easter Story

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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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Homily 2019 03 21 My child: Stay in hell!

dives lazarus

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“When Hell freezes over…”

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  • In the summertime we hear: “It’s hot as hell!”
  • In the wintertime we hear: “It’s cold as hell!”

In all actuality, one or the other physical torment of hell would be a relief, a distraction from what hell is really all about, which is the intellectual frustration of pretending that one wants to be there, but not really, for all eternity, and which is the spiritual frustration of trying to escape God’s goodness and truth and love, to which the writhing worm that doesn’t die shrieks: “Noooooooooooooooooo!”

It’s better to just go to Confession. “Yeah! Sure! When hell freezes over!” Don’t think hell will be so easy as all that. No, no. Really, just go to Confession, and go to heaven.

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Homily 2018 09 26 Give ’em hell: Jesus instructs His Apostles vs belligerents

hell is real

“If any town rejects you, give ’em hell.”

“But Lord, there are children in that town. They’ll see us giving their elders hell.”

“Those children will be great saints.”

fatima children hell

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Conquering today’s demonic abuse of power with hellfire? Yep!

Today’s crisis is all about abuse of power. In our fallen state and without grace we think free will is power over God Himself. We can in fact choose to destroy the image of God: male and female God created them, in the image of God God created them. Male and female was rejected for sex without procreation, making sex about pieces of meat only, so why not same-sex sex? And why not smash down youngsters just when they are able to procreate so as to pervert them into a lust after the power to think one can trounce God by destroying the image of God as male and female? Today’s crisis. It’s about abuse of power. It’s about arrogance challenging God Himself.

People see this abuse of power as hell fire setting people ablaze with demonic machinations of mind games about what is to be bullied into being acceptable and tolerated until it is celebrated. And so it is.

And people fight this often on the same level, lowering themselves to the demonic mind games of bullying, just trying to be louder and more obnoxious. But that gets no one anywhere except perhaps hell. Let’s take a 24 second caricature of a caricature of the burning fires of hell:

As was mentioned on this blog a couple years back, sometimes people think that the fires of hell mean real fire (only), because they are afraid of WHO that fire actually is, namely, God, that is, God’s love. Yes, in hell. It’s not universal salvationistic-esque to say that God loves all regardless of whether or not they love Him, regardless of whether they are in heaven or in hell or here upon this earth for that matter. The difference involves the reception of that love or not:

  • Those in heaven rejoice in this ardent fiery love.
  • Those on earth who follow Jesus are purified by this fiery love.
  • Those in purgatory are purged by this fiery love.
  • Those on earth who reject Jesus are thrown into agonizing frustration by this fiery love.
  • Those in hell, upon whom God’s love shines, scream in the agony that this love brings to them – “IT BURNS!” – for they want nothing to do with such love; their intellectual burning frustration sets their souls on fire. They perceive this love as hatred because that’s what they are all about. They hate themselves, others, God.

Irony is scary, isn’t it? But we are to fight hell fire with hell fire because hell fire is actually the love of God. If we one with God’s love we can see that the scariest thing – hell fire – is not scary at all if we are one with God’s love. That means we can take on the entire onslaught of hell while in our weak state in this world, because it’s not our strength on which we depend: it’s all about Jesus. He’s the One. He’s the only One.

We can and must rejoice in irony, all the more if it is scary, as we know that it is then bearing such magnificence of truth in love.

But maybe I’m “evil”. Hilaire Belloc might say so. Perhaps we should all be so “evil”, just as Jesus was on the cross, bearing as He did the very reflection of the evil from which He was redeeming us, saving us. So majestic. I can’t help but put it up again:

hilaire bellocTo 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).]

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Seeing goodness in all, even in…

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Hanging from a spider web, very much alive, jaws ready to clamp down on anything or anyone who comes near. Some people would say, “Eeeeww!”, and have to deploy a parachute, you know, the kind drag racers use to slow down after a race. Some people, like me, would say, “COOL!” and examine whatever it is all the more closely, provoking this monster in particular to get its jaws moving. “COOL!”

I see goodness in all things, even in Satan. Does that make me bad and evil? Well, not in and of itself. One can appreciate how God created this once good angel with extreme intelligence, with infused knowledge. He hasn’t lost that, just the wisdom that should go along with it. That changes everything for him. But I can still praise God for Satan’s awesome attributes which Satan did not acquire, but were given to him, like, say, determination, like, say, well, it’s difficult to think of anything more than that!

This goes back to the clarity of Saint Thomas Aquinas, who insisted that evil was not something, but a lack of goodness that ought to be there, so that the good that remains, though out of context and bound to be unappreciated by that sinful subject, is still nevertheless good in itself. And in regard to Satan being in hell forever and ever (where he himself wants to be, with all the damned), we will praise God because of that, that is, for God’s justice and power and majesty.

Indeed, God’s love is everywhere. There are those who don’t like God’s love, those who suffer because of God’s love for them, such as those in hell, who perceive that love as incrimination and therefore their damnation, but it is only God’s love all the time, just like in heaven, but those in hell don’t see this. They lack the foundation of the wisdom they ought to have. But I can still appreciate whatever good it is that they have left in order for them to exist. That goodness comes from God.

Just to be clear, let me say this: Satan truly is very bad, and, so to speak, evil. Get it?

Saint Michael Department of Homeland Security

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Re-post from 2017: My meditation on hell. Thanks go to Pope Francis for his words on hell.

moloch

My favorite meditation is perhaps presumptuous, but it is about going before Jesus at the gates of heaven, falling down in reverence before him, crying my eyes out not in supplication, but rather in humble thanksgiving and joy: look at those wounds my sin engraved in his hands and feet and side, his Heart. Thank you for bringing even me to heaven, Jesus.

But that mediation has a backdrop, the all too real possibility of going to hell. Jesus spoke of it, so must we. Pope Francis speaks about it perhaps more than all other Roman Pontiffs put together. He doesn’t want us to go there. The very homily which the fake-news mongers claim to be the smoking gun in which Pope Francis denies hell and the pain of hell is the very homily where he underlines the horrific and eternal nature of hell, namely, distance from God and frustration. It deserves some extra commentary. So, just some notes:

In Mark 9:48, Jesus speaks of those who go to hell, that is, analogously, Gehenna, the valley below the temple mount where children were burned alive on a hollowed out bronze statue-stove of Moloch, Satan. Quite the image of suffering and, in the time of Jesus, the symbol of judgment regarding eternal damnation. How fitting that it’s below the “Dung Gate.”

Anyway, Jesus says that their worm dies not, that is, their σκώληξ, that is, that kind of worm which feeds on corpses, that is, a maggot. Jesus’ justice is only outdone, as it were, by his mercy, for it is based on his justice. Thus:

Psalm 22, which speaks of the future crucifixion of Jesus, puts these words in the mouth of the Suffering Servant: “I am a worm and no man” (Ps 22:6). That worm bit is again σκώληξ, maggot, in the Septuagint, and, in the Hebrew, תוֹלַעַת, that is, maggot. Jesus cites the beginning of Psalm 22 from the cross. Jesus took our place on the cross as a maggot in hell so that he might have the right in his own justice to have mercy on us so that we might not go to hell. That‘s how much he loves us.

saraph-serpent

The maggot-worm in hell, that is, therefore, the fire-serpent, recalls Jesus speaking of himself as the fiery saraph-serpent: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, even so must the Son of man be lifted up” (John 3:14). You’ll recall that the fiery saraph-serpents were killing the people in the desert during the exodus, and that Moses made an image of such a serpent in bronze, raising this up on a stake, a cross, so that all who might look at it might be healed. Jesus came among us looking like us, we who kill each other in sin, and he was raised up on a stake, on a cross, that all who look to him might be healed of the eternal death that the fiery serpent Satan intends for us. He takes our place that he might have the right in his own justice to have mercy on us so that we might not go to hell. That‘s how much he loves us.

But Jesus speaks of their worm dying not. Let’s drill down into this “worm” and “not dying” bit.

The part about the worm is actually about Satan back in Genesis, that fallen monster angel who deceived Adam through his wife. The ill-advised translation about his being cursed is that he will go about on his belly. What a stupid translation into ultra-derived meanings. Why not just translate what it says?… “You will go about on your writhingness.” This “writhingness” refers to frustration. Have you ever seen someone super-frustrated, throwing a tantrum, going about on their writhingness?

Here’s a sad bit about a woman who missed her flight. What might it be to miss one’s flight to heaven and end up in hell forever?

Now, couple that writhingness not with repentance for having been late, as it were, but with belligerent arrogance and hatred of all and not being repentant at all. This is a fire worse than any fire a match could light. This is internal, intellectual frustration. Horrific. Pope Francis has it right. Intellectual frustration coupled with hatred is worse than any torture chamber we might think is in hell.

There is that kind of thing of course, with those in hell harassing each other, with the fallen angels harassing all. It’s a place of hatred, after all, forever and ever. Why go there? Go to confession. Go to heaven! I want to go to heaven.

Meanwhile, some fun with writhing worms, except if they’re you in hell forever:

So, maybe this is more on target:

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Pope Francis’ Missionaries of Mercy preaching hell: “age inappropriate”?

fatima children hell

It’s July in the Fatima Century. On July 13, 1917, Our Lady of Fatima said:

“Make sacrifices for sinners, and say often, especially while making a sacrifice: O Jesus, this is for love of Thee, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for offences committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” Lucia continues the account: As Our Lady spoke these words she opened her hands once more, as had during the two previous months. The rays of light seemed to penetrate the earth, and we saw as it were a sea of fire. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now following back on every side like sparks in huge fires, without weight or equilibrium, amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear.

hell is real

It must have been this sight which caused me to cry out, as people say they heard me do. The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repellent likeness to frightful and unknown animals, black and transparent like burning coals. Terrified and as if to plead for succor, we looked up at Our Lady, who said to us, so kindly and so sadly: “You have seen hell, where the souls of poor sinners go. It is to save them that God wants to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If you do what I tell you, many souls will be saved, and there will be peace.”

*     *     *

pope francis fatima

There are those who think that it is not only lacking in mercy but a downright aggression to mention hell in preaching especially if any children are present. Of course, kids are able to take in a great deal of reality of how things really are, and adults merely use children (that’s an offense) to attack any mention of hell that they, the adults, don’t want to hear, knowing themselves to be guilty of that which may well bring them to hell unless they go to Confession.

Our Lady doesn’t pull any punches, but for the benefit of all tells it and shows it like it is. Great. That helps us to say: “O Jesus, this is for love of Thee, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for offences committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”

I often say that kids often save their parents as parents should want for themselves what they want for their kids, eternal life. I think we will also be surprised in heaven (please God we make it!) to see that it is the prayers of the little ones which saved so many adults.

When preaching about any topic whatsoever, it’s all about how you do it. If the scene, if you will, included the love and security provided by the Holy Family, that makes all the difference. Jesus and Mary love us so very much. There is bad stuff around, but Jesus and His good mom want us in heaven!

By the way, as it is said, there is perhaps no other Roman Pontiff in the history of the Church who has mentioned hell and the devil and exorcism more than Pope Francis. So, what’s a Missionary of Mercy of Pope Francis to do?

Look: Jesus in the Gospel pulled no punches about telling people about hell. Jesus was extremely blunt in telling people that they WILL go to hell unless they change their ways. Telling people the way things actually are is the greatest mercy.

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The fires of hell with Hilaire Belloc

sacred heartsSometimes people think that the fires of hell mean real fire (only), because they are afraid of WHO that fire actually is, namely, God, that is, God’s love. Yes, in hell. It’s not universal salvationistic to say that God loves all regardless of whether or not they love him, regardless of whether they are in heaven or in hell or here upon this earth for that matter. The difference involves the reception of that love or not:

  • Those in heaven rejoice in this ardent fiery love.
  • Those on earth who follow Jesus are purified by this fiery love.
  • Those in purgatory are purged by this fiery love.
  • Those on earth who reject Jesus are thrown into agonizing frustration by this fiery love.
  • Those in hell, upon whom God’s love shines, scream in the agony that this love brings to them, for they want nothing to do with such love; their intellectual burning frustration sets their souls on fire.

But it’s all God’s love. I’m sure there are those who just won’t get this, and who will insist that I’m not a priest anyway for the fact of being Pope Francis’ Missionary of Mercy, and will stomp their feet while shouting that I’m a heretic for saying that God’s love is in hell and that that’s what makes hell hell for those in hell. But, hey, I can only say what is right. Irony is scary. And somehow, I can’t apologize for that. Maybe I’m evil. Hilaire Belloc might say so. I haven’t put this up for a little while, so, here it goes up again (I think I should memorize this; it would do anyone good to memorize it):

hilaire bellocTo 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).]

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Anti-Pope-Francis Fake-News-Blogs

fake-news

A couple of months back a number of purportedly Catholic blogs put up a condemnation of Pope Francis for his denial of any hell worth the name of hell. The problem is, he didn’t deny the existence of hell, nor even the pains of hell. In fact, he has the most eloquent and biblical explanation of hell I’ve seen for a long time. He’s spot on. He speaks about it because he doesn’t want us to go there. And he’s also right about the rigidity of some of these bloggers, who want the fires of hell to mean only physical fire, rigidly so. Sorry. There is more to hell than just that. There’s frustration and, yes, distance from God, a distance, yes, of separation. But that’s for another post. It has to do with the worm not dying. Don’t go to hell. Go to confession.

Oh, did I mention that those posts on those blogs disappeared when these guys were caught out? They took them down, but other lesser web-sites who seemed to have followed their example still have their posts up, doing untold harm to the faithful. What I would like to see is those fake-news anti-Pope-Francis blogs which claim to be so very Catholic put up apologies for their having promoted the fake-news cycle risking the eternal damnation of those who follow them.

I doubt if we will see that. For instance, one of them put up a post about how much they, the workers who have borne the heat of the day, how much they hate and despise and belittle and spit on those who are scandalized only just recently by this or that event wrought by this or that individual in the Church, saying that those who are only newly scandalized are to be most condemned and forever ostracized into the peripheries for the reason that they didn’t jump on board with the fake-news mongers earlier, because, hey!, that’s the way to be inviting of people to a deeper appreciation of the faith, right? Just kick everyone in the teeth, right?

That’s just a small example of the bitter hatred and frustration and arrogance that one will find in hell, where the worm of that frustration does not die. Yikes!

Although they have set themselves up to be judges of all humanity, those who hate Jesus even in the midst of their rigidity will not come to judge, with Jesus, the living and the dead and the world by fire. They will instead be judged. And we’ll see what the ferocity of that fire is in another post. Stay tuned. It’s more frightening than the rigid will ever want to admit. But perhaps it will scare them into reconsidering their self-righteousness that seems to absolve them in their own eyes of the fake-news stories they put up in order to attack the Holy Father.

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Hearing Confessions in the strangest of places: Blizzard’s edge at the impassable chasm

blizzard

Mountains are strange that way. One or two flakes in front of you. An impassable white-out blizzard another 5000 feet away, on the other side of the impassable chasm. I’m exaggerating, but I’m trying to make an analogy, you know, like when hell freezes over, that kind of thing. I love the snow, being from Minnesota and all, but the analogy I’m thinking about involves our Blessed Mother showing the Fatima kids a vision of hell, with souls falling into hell like snowflakes in a blizzard. Snowflakes are so very delicate, beautiful, seeming immaculate in their wispy crystalline designs, but destined, in this analogy, to drop inextricably into an ever more violent eternal vortex of hateful violence and despair. But, just think, before dropping in, if only they had a chance to go to Confession, and then they wouldn’t drop down at all. Having said that: here’s a wild article on mercy and confession that was just published in the Catholic News Herald for the Diocese of Charlotte:

Father George David Byers: A Missionary of Mercy hears confessions in the strangest of places (Catholic News Herald – March 2016) 

This Missionary of Mercy confesses to you that I haven’t always followed to the letter the canon law of the Church, namely Canon 964, which states that “the proper place for hearing sacramental confessions is a church or oratory” and that “except for a just reason, confessions are not to be heard elsewhere than in a confessional.” I have been very broad in my interpretation of a “just reason.”

Scaling particularly deadly mountain walls with friends, or other similarly intense moments, has never been an occasion for me to hear a confession. However, as any priest, I do recall terrible traffic accidents when absolutions were provided. We’ve all heard confessions in hospitals and rehabilitation centers, as well as in nursing homes and assisted living centers. But those are to be taken for granted.

Some venues for confessions might be considered strange by those who just can’t imagine themselves confessing in such circumstances, but others are less inhibited. I’ve frequently heard confessions in the midst of rushing crowds in airport concourses or train stations, outside supermarkets or on street corners. Cars and trucks and parking lots are most favored, but so are walking confessions, which make their way along city sidewalks or country roads.

A house, a barn, a dog kennel, a chicken coop … any place will do. Mercy is available everywhere.

The fact of someone wanting to go to confession is a “just cause” for not using a confessional, even when a confessional is right at hand. Sometimes the sacristy is better for any number of reasons. In some places, women’s confessions were traditionally heard in “the box,” while men’s confessions were heard in the sacristy.

Having said this, though, there are limits. Proximity is necessary for the sacrament. No video conferencing. No phones. No radio talk shows. No email or texting or Facebook or Twitter. Not even Snapchat. No sacrilege.

Permit me, though, to bring you to a place to offer your confession so strange that you may not have considered it – not realizing that you have been confessing in this most unheard of place since your very first confession. You’ll need your imagination for this, but only because it’s so real that it’s hard to wrap one’s mind around.

Imagine that when you go into the confessional, to your shock you see that there is someone already kneeling down just starting to confess. It’s Jesus! You kneel beside Him sheepishly, and see your own priest on the other side of the screen. Jesus then starts to confess all your sins as if they were His own. He’s brief and to the point, includes aggravating circumstances and numbers of times for any serious sins. He just enumerates the sins without ambiguity, without excuse. He then concludes: “I accuse myself of all these sins, Father, and I beg absolution and penance.” Your priest then gives you your penance and absolves you, and you go away filled with wonder at the great love of Jesus who, in order to provide the grace of that absolution, stood in our place, taking on the death we deserve because of our sin.

When we confess, we do so alongside Jesus, who steps in for us. But because He does that on a spiritual level, we must be loyal to Him by ignoring any fear, any humiliation we might feel. Instead of looking to ourselves, we look to see His goodness and kindness. That’s a strange place to confess from, alongside Jesus, is it not? And yet, it is all very familiar, for no matter how strange the place is in which we might confess, we are always right next to Jesus, who loves us so very much.

Father George David Byers is administrator of Holy Redeemer Church in Andrews and one of two “Missionaries of Mercy” commissioned by Pope Francis in the Diocese of Charlotte.

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