Tag Archives: Spiritual life

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

just me pontifical family

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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Filed under Father Byers Autobiography, Missionaries of Mercy, Priesthood, Spiritual life, Vocations

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

Suffering teaches? My bad.

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.

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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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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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It’s Lent! Hello darkness my old friend

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Here’s dark as the dark of night Shadow sleeping away, content that he’s worn down his nylabone at least just a little bit. It’s a work in progress. Shadow is a friend. Other shadows can be friends.

Lent, of course, has a bit of penance to it. Today’s Ash Wednesday, with both fasting and abstinence for those who aren’t too young or too old. There is also almsgiving, of course, and prayer, of course. Right?

All three of those would have us get glazed eyes, ending up in darkness, not knowing what we are doing if we are doing it right, that is, not so as to congratulate ourselves but for the sake of friendship with Jesus. We, of ourselves, don’t like to fast, give alms or pray.

So, if it’s all about Jesus while we get to know what idiots we are when we are fasting, or almsgiving or praying, and we call out to Jesus in the darkness, that will be an occasion with which we are, in that grace, available for the grace of being brought closer to Jesus in greater friendship.

Lent is all about occasions of friendship with Jesus.

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Gunslinger priest’s day off at the hermitage: winged it four times

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Winchester ammo sometimes doesn’t work at all, is sometimes shredded on the side of the casing, and, for the first time, I find some actual tarmacadam stuck to the cartridge itself. Amazing. Otherwise, it’s cleaner than most el cheapo ammo. I’m guessing that Winchester ammo is simply misfired military ammo, or ammo which has exceeded its shelf life. Dunno.

This is surely the only diocese in the entire world in which the Very Rev. Vicar Forane reprimands one of the pastors of his vicariate because that pastor is not keeping as frosty as possible with his concealed carry. A day off is supposed to be a day off, he says. Spend more time getting even better with your Glock on your day off, he says. I’m good with that.

So, heading off to the hermitage, I did up the pre-2001 Federal Air Marshal Tactical Pistol Course a few times. Adding up the seven stages, there are 30 bullets fired, with 150 points to be made.

  • 5 points for hit entirely within small bottle
  • 2 points if on the line or just outside

The damage:

  • 135 points = 90%
  • 141 points = 94%
  • 147 points = 98%
  • 141 points = 94% (getting tired)

Still not 100%. A challenge even maxing out. Getting these scores hot barrel, that is, with practice drills, is one thing. Coming in cold is quite another. There are ways to make it more difficult, not by shortening the times (which are already terribly brief), nor the distance (7 yards is probably the max of most confrontations), but in other ways:

  • Footing on the forest floor is extremely uneven and slippery because when are conditions ever perfect?
  • There are three trees on either side of the central of three active course targets, requiring greater trigger control
  • The ridge is uneven, so the height of the targets vary, meaning that shooting while spinning also requires moving one’s aim vertically; three aggressors are not going to be the same height, are they? Probably not.

All of this tends to make the grouping smaller, making hits harder to count. The bullets are still scattered about though. This next picture shows just one of three targets used for multiple courses (I’m lazy):

target fbi fam tpc

A marker is used to mark already fired shots to distinguish them from subsequent stages of the course. This is legal sized paper and so represents only part even of the inner bottle. This means that 2 pointers off the sheet but which would otherwise count are not counted at all. That’s good. I have to blame the scattering on something, so I blame the difficulty of the course, such as spinning 180 degrees from concealed holster to hit three targets each three yards apart at seven yards in an extremely short amount of time. And the holster requires pressing a release button, which adds time to the response to the timer.

Spiritual analogy: Keeping frosty with worldly things is one thing, but it’s quite another in the spiritual life, in which we are instead kept frosty by our guardian angels. They are a gazillion times more persnickety with us than I am with target practice. They expect us to be pure of heart and agile of soul to follow up on their instructions. They see the face of God always. They see the One to whom we are to be aimed at all times with accuracy so precise that we are to be killed off to ourselves so as to live only for Jesus. We are to carry such a Treasure as the indwelling of the Most Holy Trinity in these lowly bodies of ours. Yikes!

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Filed under Angels, Day Off, Guns, Spiritual life

Ever ancient, ever new, we are in exile

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Peter Strzok would call this a hillbilly house. This is one of the extremely few stick-built houses in the northern region of my parish that I past by at the tops of the ridges of these mountains on Communion Calls. Dwellings are mostly mobile homes of the extremely tiny variety, although there are longer ones that fit the description if not the reality of single-wide and double-wide.

Just in the 4 1/2 years I’ve been racing around the mountains here this house has decided to disintegrate markedly. When they get to this stage they collapse altogether before you know it. I’ve seen quite a few houses and barns simply fall under their own weight, weighted down as they are by humidity and mold, weakened by rodents and carpenter bees and termites.

Such dwellings would be filled with memories, but their owners are long gone as well. The forest reclaims the house and the Forestry Service reclaims the property. We think we keep such houses alive with imagined memories, but they just continue to cave in to the inescapable pressures round about. And they don’t even do that. They just fall down.

We, however, think that we are as young as we feel, that is, not regarding our health situation (for we can have all the aches and pains and misery anyone could ever experience), but regarding the state of our minds. If we have discarded past baggage of whatever, and we feel free, and we set about having a second childhood, well, maybe then the reality sets in that good memories in the dwelling that these bodies are don’t quite give us back the health we once had. I have great memories of insane extreme sports, but that doesn’t mean I can do them up again.

If we have the wonder of a child before the entire universe and God Himself – hey! – we are in touch with Him who is ever ancient, ever new. But our bodies can’t quite keep up. Walking through life in the stability of being with Him who is ever ancient, ever new, provides a youthfulness that does not shun the grave, but rather, with living hope, in touch with Him who is ever ancient, ever new, one looks forward to heaven, knowing that, in that present friendship, it is already starting.

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Father Byers, what makes you angry?

There is righteous anger, call it zeal if regulated by humility before both truth and mercy, a righteous anger which is necessary in justice, such as when Christ Jesus cleansed the temple with whips, overturning also the moneychangers’ tables, reprimanding those who prostituting the Temple of His Father (a symbol of Himself). The Gospels are rife with examples, Jesus castigating the hypocrite scribes and Pharisees, et alii. Some ecclesiastics are angry that their fellow ecclesiastics could ever be angry for anything or on behalf of anyone, ever. But that is itself unjust. Righteous anger is always righteous, even if there are those who think all anger is always unrighteous.

Truly unrighteous anger, lashing out, using others – a bit of self-referential transference – to punish oneself, is, of course, an evil. People get angry when they are pushed on whatever because they are frustrated in their lives with whatever issue that happens to be. They are frustrated because of realizing they are not in control of that situation. They are not in control of that situation because they are depending on themselves for a strength and balance and fortitude they don’t have on their own. They depend on themselves in proportion to how much they have not learned to walk through life with Jesus, who, in solidarity with us, wants us to be His constant friends.

Rarely is it the case that anger is totally righteous or totally unrighteous. So, the Lord, as our spiritual director, along with our angel guardians, provide and permit circumstances which will push us down on our knees, having us go from whatever bit of even just temptation to be somewhat angry to a greater reverence before Jesus – more simple as a child – just as soon as our brains can assent through conscience to the truth of this economy of salvation in which we are saved, Jesus using our weakness to encourage us to give up on trusting in ourselves so that we can take just everything in stride, as it were, nailed to the cross, dead to ourselves, alive, with enthusiasm, for Christ Jesus.

Of course, we want to make ourselves believe that our anger is always totally righteous, you know, because we want to congratulate ourselves to compensate for the stupidity of things being a bit out of control because of trusting in ourselves. So, motivations are complicated, too complex for us to figure out, figuring it out being always a fail inasmuch as this ignores the way in which our Lord and our angels deal with our fallen human nature by way of grace.

So, having said all that, what makes me angry? Well, I’ll give you an example. Watch the video above. What it doesn’t say is the posse was a thousand men strong. What makes me angry, you know, that I feel that a bit out of control of the situation, is the utter lack of conscience, the vacuous arrogance, the un-human-ness. Of course, righteous anger is part of this, but it is nevertheless a bit of a fright to see nothing in the souls of racists. That’s just how much I don’t yet understand about the wounds of our Lord Jesus. I should just be able to take this in stride and instead of having any hint of unrighteous anger, what I do to right whatever situation, it should be about zeal, as Elijah said, Zelo zelatus sum pro Domino Deo exercituum. As Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn said, it wasn’t so much the torture that bothered him even as he was being tortured as much as seeing no conscience in the eyes of his torturer.

Part of the solution to all this is stated by a gentleman in that video above, a truly brilliant analysis, he saying that until we realize that we can all do this kind of horrible deed (of false accusation and smashing others down to build ourselves up), we will keep repeating such things. Humility before the Lord is, of course, the only way to do this.

So, having picked on this one thing, does that mean I myself am undergoing some sort of prejudice against myself? Well, I am Jewish, and Catholic, and a priest. My “Shadow”, who stole my identity (passport, driver licence, birth certificate…) back in the late 1970s-1980s, has spent a lifetime making himself perceived to be anti-Semitic, specifically, anti-Jewish, posing as a demographic conspiracy theorist analyst sympathetic to “David Ernest Duke (born July 1, 1950)[…] an American white supremacist and white nationalist politician, antisemitic conspiracy theorist, Holocaust denier, convicted felon, and former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan (Wikipedia). That’s a distraction. A cover. Nothing is ever as it seems until injustice is actually perpetrated, until people are wrongly imprisoned, until blood is shed. Then we know exactly where things stand. Oh, wait a minute, isn’t my “Shadow” the one who did up illegal international arms transfers to cartels, all in my name, leaving countless people dead having been killed with guns that were acquired in my name? So, yeah, I am angry with that. How much of that is righteous anger and how much myself just being offended for being used is known only to the Lord. But, there it is.

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Filed under Racism, Spiritual life

Peripheries are beautiful. Where are backsides of the beyonds? Violence?

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Gorgeous! Stecoah Gap, just one of the places where the Appalachian Trail crosses a major, that is, actual two lane road[!] somewhere in the backsides of the beyonds in one of the three counties of my parish. Within living memory, what is today a two hour trip here, say, from the greater metropolitan Asheville, would take, back in the day, many days or even a week or two of grueling travel on a one lane, merely oil sprayed gravel road everywhere destroyed by tree roots bringing it up and pot holes and total washouts bringing it down. Even in my tenure at this parish in our own time I learned the advantages of carrying a chainsaw with me, having used it on seven different occasions to remove trees from the roads in the middle of nowhere with no cellphone signal available. Three different roads I travel regularly have been totally taken out with multiple landslides or have been buried with landslides. One of them, still closed, needs the entire mountainside to be secured. That’ll take a good year or so.

Visiting priests tell me that they appreciate the beauty. They also tell me that, in their opinion, almost no priest would ever want to be here, that is, in the imagined opinion of those straw men, about as far away as is physically possible from everything and everyone. Maybe “big” parishes have a draw, I don’t know, as in power or ladder climbing, or money, being someone. Of course, I wouldn’t want to put that judgment on my fellow priests. Those are, again, all straw men. I’m guessing that what they would really be saying is about greater opportunities for service. But what someone actually does is, of course, arbitrary, regardless of where they are. I can’t imagine not loving everything about the mystical body of Christ wherever our Lord is to be found.

At any rate, having grown up in the backsides of the beyonds in the North Woods of Minnesota I feel right at home. Here’s a google map image of my stomping grounds. Long time readers might guess that it is across this body of water that I was the target of incoming rifle fire on multiple occasions with perhaps a dozen shots or so on each occasion (all 300 yards), not far from where our entire family was shot at a half dozen times with I’m guessing just bird-shot bbs of shotguns, the distances starting at just 200 feet and ending at 350 feet, firstly in the trees above us, then right at us. The spray was then hitting us, but we were far enough away that there was no penetration. But you could feel it hit through Winter coats. My mom was hit in the head a couple of times. “Ow! Ouch!” she exclaimed. But she did have a polyester hat on, typical of that time. My dad said, “Don’t run, just keep walking really quickly.” A psychological ploy. For my part, I turned and faced our attackers, saying that I was going to go and deal with them right then and there, with no weapon. I was only twelve years old. My dad insisted that that was a really bad idea.

pond

Hey! Just like big cities! So, where are the peripheries, in the country or in the city? Cities can be glimmering, shining. The country can be stunningly entrancing. Pope Francis speaks of the darkest of existential peripheries. Where are those?

Here’s the deal: People are the same at any time, in any place, in any culture. All need the goodness and kindness and truth of the Lord Jesus. Just like me.

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Filed under Guns, Missionaries of Mercy, Priesthood, Spiritual life, Vocations