Tag Archives: Spiritual life

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

elijah judas tree

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

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

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

GEORGE DAVID BYERS - COAT OF ARMS - revision

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

I will raise my voice and will not stop imploring him

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

cherub-sword-eden

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

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

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

padre-pio-stigmata

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

PADRE PIO SEAL OF CONFESSION

Padre Pio reprimanding the Bishop about the Seal of Confession.

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

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Filed under Confession, Missionaries of Mercy, Priesthood, Saints, Spiritual life, Vocations

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

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

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

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

Holy Spirit Saint Peter Window

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saint Paul Conversion Damascus Caravaggio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Devil Dog’s Son, Fr Byers: ironic proof

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

VMFA 312 Marine Fighter Attack Pilot Devil Dog six 50 cals

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

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

Jesus crucified passion of the christ

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

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

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

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Filed under Humor, Jesus, Military, Spiritual life

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crux stat dum volvitur orbis.

The Cross is stable while the world just spins away.

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

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

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

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Meme: “Only good priests allowed!”

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Rule Number One: Always have a Rule Number One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On irreversibly changing the Church

PROMETHEUS

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

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

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

jesus christ icon.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Satan’s camouflage: humility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

pieta

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

holy sepulcher

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

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

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

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Snake in the grass at the rectory

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some notes:

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

SIGNORELLI ANTICHRIST

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“This is such a beautiful church!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I’M BLEEDING OUT lyrics analysis

You know the Law Enforcement Tribute above dedicated to our finest who place themselves in danger and lay down their lives for our safety. I put it up top of the blog with some frequency. It happens all the time. The song has become a bit of a meme, with the subjects being from the Military or Law Enforcement or the Fire Department…

But what if we were to apply the lyrics to Jesus?

I’m guessing this is not at all in any way whatsoever what the authors intended.

But let’s see what happens… Amazing…

Jesus crucified passion of the christ

I’m bleeding out
If the last thing that I do
Is to bring you down [from our pride]
I’ll bleed out for you [standing in our place, the Innocent for the guilty]
So I bear my skin [and get it ripped off with the scourging]
And I count my sins [His sins… are our sins, the punishment for which, death, He takes on so as to have the right in His own justice to forgive us. “Father, forgive them!”]
And I close my eyes
And I take it in
And I’m bleeding out
I’m bleeding out for you, for you
When the day has come [The “Day of the Lord”]
But I’ve lost my way around [The “Way” has lost His way: the irony points to redemption. Just how many times did our Lord fall while carrying His Cross, that is, our cross, on the way to Calvary. Have you done the Stations of the Cross during this Lent?]
And the seasons stop and hide beneath the ground [Indeed. All of time is drawn into that one “Hour” when our Lord draws all to Himself, so that we might be buried with Him, so as then, in His Triumph over death, over our sin, to rise from the dead to live forever.]
When the sky turns gray [There was, in fact, an eclipse at this time]
And everything is screaming [With all hell broken out on Calvary, literally, the chaos would be, is indescribable.] 
I will reach inside
Just to find my heart is beating [Wow. And Jesus will put Thomas’ hand into His own side so that Thomas might touch the very Heart of God, still beating, risen from the dead, all out of Love for us. “My Lord and my God” said Thomas, no longer doubting, but believing.]
You tell me to hold on
Oh you tell me to hold on [People will surely condemn me for “re-writing” the Lord’s prayer, but what it actually says about the battle on Calvary not with some generic evil but over against The Evil One, is that we are to ask to be delivered, saved from the clutches of Satan (who would have been “our father” instead of our Heavenly Father if we are without the grace of Our Heavenly Father). We are asking quite literally in the Lord’s prayer that Jesus not throw us into the battle (the trial, the “temptation”) alone, but rather that He carry us into the battle, He being our Warrior, our Soldier, only Jesus. And that’s why, dear friends, the Mass was always said, also by the priest, in some places still today, facing Jesus, not “facing the people”. It is Jesus who carries us all into the Sacrifice of the Mass with Himself.]
But innocence is gone
And what was right is wrong [And then we blame Jesus for the hell, blaspheming, saying that it’s all His fault that all hell has broken out, all His fault that we get sick and die and seem to face Satan alone. But, no, it’s not that way. He continues to carry us, trying to open our eyes to see not just the battle, not just Satan, but rather Him, Jesus, rescuing us from Satan. We’re so self-centered. “Woe is me!” we cry. We should instead be in humble thanksgiving as Jesus carries us into the battle. Be not afraid! Jesus is the Victor.]
‘Cause I’m bleeding out
If the last thing that I do
Is to bring you down [from our pride]
I’ll bleed out for you
So I bear my skin
And I count my sins
And I close my eyes
And I take it in
And I’m bleeding out
I’m bleeding out for you, for you
When the hour is nigh [“The Hour” – the hour of Mary’s intercession as Jesus explained at the Wedding of Cana, drawing an analogy with His own marriage with the Church, giving Himself totally to the Church at the Last Supper with wedding vows fulfilled on Calvary with His bleeding out for us: This is my body given for you in sacrifice, my blood poured out for you in sacrifice…]
And hopelessness is sinking in [Yes, hopeless that His own Mother would be spared witnessing His being tortured to death. This would have hit Him hard in the agony of the garden. This is what He would try to avoid if possible, the hurt He knew His Mother would go through. “Father, Thy will, not mine be done.”]
And the wolves all cry
To feel they’re not worth hollering [Wow. Those words required lots of previous suffering of all kinds to come out like that. Wow. Good for the author of these particular words. Wow. In our sense of worthlessness, we cry about it, and then we strike out.]

When your eyes are red [The Shroud of Turin seems to indicated that the massive thorns from the Crown of Thorns went through His forehead and into His eyes…]
And emptiness is all you know [“My God! My God! Why have you abandoned me?!” Now, go read the rest of Psalm 22 to know what that’s all about. Totally awesome giving love for us in filial trust of His ever listening Heavenly Father.]
With the darkness fed [Satan had full rights over us since we obeyed Satan in our original sin, Adam’s sin, rather than God. Jesus didn’t owe Satan anything as Jesus usurped Satan’s rights over us when He Himself took on the punishment we deserve for sin, which is death. Jesus was fulfilling His own righteousness, with mercy founded on justice, His own justice, He standing in our place, the Innocent for the guilty. However, with this, Satan is “fed,” that is, muted, as now Satan can’t complain. Jesus did it for us.]
I will be your scarecrow [Saint Paul speaks of being a fool for Christ’s sake. Jesus makes it seem like He is the criminal for our sake, the One from whom we turn our eyes. But He brings us around. He’s very patient with us.]
You tell me to hold on
Oh you tell me to hold on
But innocence is gone
And what was right is wrong
‘Cause I’m bleeding out
If the last thing that I do
Is to bring you down
I’ll bleed out for you
So I bear my skin
And I count my sins
And I close my eyes
And I take it in
And I’m bleeding out
I’m bleeding out for you, for you
I’m bleeding out for you, for you
I’m bleeding out for you, for you
I’m bleeding out for you, for you
I’m bleeding out for you
‘Cause I’m bleeding out
If the last thing that I do
Is to bring you down
I’ll bleed out for you
So I bear my skin
And I count my sins
And I close my eyes
And I take it in
And I’m bleeding out
I’m bleeding out for you, for you


By Joshua Francis Mosser, Alexander Junior Grant, Benjamin Arthur McKee, Daniel Coulter Reynolds, Daniel Wayne Sermon. Bleeding Out lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group [N.B. I edited out “said” since I couldn’t hear it actually sung, at all, in any of the verses.]

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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.

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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?»

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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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