I’m not always in my parish, though it covers territory in three counties of Western North Carolina. I’m basically never in my office. Much better to be with the most hurting of Jesus’ Little Flock. See the picture above, which is about 300+ miles round trip when all is said and done. So, the “Canonical Visitation” of the parish had to be scheduled waaaay in advance. What is a canonical visitation, you ask? Let’s let AI provide the answer…
Dear AI, what is a “canonical visitation” to a catholic parish according to the Code of Canon Law?
According to the Code of Canon Law, a “canonical visitation” is an official visit made by a bishop or a representative of the Holy See to a Catholic parish or institution. The purpose of this visit is to assess the pastoral needs of the community, ensure that the celebration of the sacraments is being performed according to Church law, and to offer guidance and support to the parishioners and clergy. During a canonical visitation, the bishop or representative can also inquire about the financial status of the parish and its compliance with Church teachings. The results of a canonical visitation can lead to changes in leadership or administrative practices within the parish or institution. As a part of the overall governance structure of the Church, canonical visitations are considered important tools for ensuring the integrity and effectiveness of Catholic ministries around the world.
In this case, in this far-flung parish on the far side of the peripheries, it’s not the Bishop, but the Vicar Forane who does this visitation. There were some items in which, it was duly pointed out, improvement could be made. For instance, getting less battered editions of some liturgical books at Holy Redeemer and, over at Prince of Peace, possibly swapping out the pews with those in his church (a better fit for both churches). Also at Prince of Peace some improvements were suggested for the in-ceiling baldachin in the mission church both for lighting and change-out-able hanging cloths along the lengths of the baldachin (I didn’t catch the technical name for those). Holy Redeemer now has an altar rail. The same was suggested for Prince of Peace. We just have a kneeler there. I was not expecting such suggestions. Great.
After both campuses and the rectory were closely inspected, after records books were duly signed, there was more encouragement provided to me as far as I go as a Pastor, you know, after many by-the-way conversations about a wide range of topics:
“You’re doing good here, Father George. You’re doing a lot of good.”
Of course, you know what happens when you’re doing a lot of good… So, I then brought up in the last minutes before my canonical visitator returned to the far side of the mountains a possible upcoming persecution of the Church. We agreed that many of our Church leaders just don’t get the easy answer provided by Saint Thomas More:
“I am the king’s good servant, but God’s first.”
And that put’s all the success and praise into perspective.
To quote some priest-friends about us priests who are still alive in this world, without exception…
“We’ve done NOTHING! We’ve not yet laid down our lives for Jesus. We’ve done NOTHING! NOTHING!“
There are priests and sisters and so very many laity right around the world who laying down their lives in witness to the Lord. How could we even for a second think that we are doing well in anything until the Lord Himself welcomes us on the far side of witness to Him in heaven, joining the countless others who have their lives in witness to the Lord.
Until we join their ranks, their glorious ranks, we’ve done NOTHING! NOTHING!
The other day, Jules Gomes of ChurchMilitant.com (January 13, 2023) recounted some not-first-hand off-script comments by Pope Francis to seminarians from Barcelona at an audience in Rome, included among them his apparent rant against…
≈ f***ing careerists who f*** up the lives of others […] those who climb to show their a** ≈
Well, I would agree with that – and with that language – if the definition of a careerist is Judas Iscariot. Yep. A little rough in the language, but it certainly gets the point across, you know, if it’s put in the context of what it means NOT to be a careerist, one who will bear witness to Jesus in season out of season, over against heretical priests, bishops and even popes, and be happy, in the spirit of the beatitudes, to suffer for it, even with, wait for it… with the end of one’s “career”.
But, let’s move on with apparent Francis “quotes” of sorts:
≈ priests should never deny absolution to penitents in the confessional under any circumstances ≈ // ≈ We can never deny absolution, because we become a vehicle for an evil, unjust, and moralistic judgment ≈ // ≈ Priests who deny penitents absolution are delinquents […] criminals ≈
So, let’s imagine a case where yours truly would tell an impenitent “penitent” that any absolution will not so much be denied as it is to be delayed until such time as there is contrition for sin and a firm purpose of amendment to amend one’s life to the end that the grace of absolution might be fruitful in the person’s soul, forgiving the sin and pointing the soul to heaven. Effectively, there’s a denial at the moment, but how you phrase things is important. We want people to be worthy members of the Body of Christ, worthy tabernacles of the Holy Spirit. So, for example… let’s see… I know! …
How about the case of a serial murderer who’s been terrorizing one’s little town with multiple murders of Catholics every day, and he shows up in the Confessional and says that he doesn’t want any absolution for his “ethnic cleansing” of Catholics because he says he is God’s hitman and he will continue to kill Catholics because, he says, all Catholics, young and old, just because they are Catholic, are the eternal enemies of God and need to be eliminated as soon as possible. BUT, he’s also been impatient, he says, with his own lack of efficiency and therefore he’s also used the “f***” word and “a**” word a number of times, and he does want absolution for that. He’s contrite, he says, with a firm purpose of amendment, he says.
Well, I would tell the guy that he needs to have a humble and contrite heart and have a firm purpose of amendment also for his murdering of Catholics and to return to receive the absolution fruitfully as soon as he can. And, of course, I would be shot on the spot right through the confessional screen (yes, we have only those logistics in the confessional) and be a martyr for Jesus Christ, Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception, who will Himself come to judge the living and the dead and world by fire.
Look, I wasn’t there at that meeting of Pope Francis with seminarians from Barcelona. I didn’t hear what Pope Francis said first hand. Did he mumble? Miss some words, like “not”? I don’t know. But what I will continue to strive to do in my own priesthood is to follow Jesus, believe in His Holy Name, continue to go Confession myself, and teach others to do the same, you know, in such manner that sanctifying grace provided by the Lamb of God will bear fruit in souls unto eternal life.
Is this just an example of the telephone game?
After Holy Mass people will come up to me and tell me what a great sermon I gave, and then proceed to recount points I never made. What they heard, clearly, was their guardian angels whispering in their ears. I wish I had said those good things. Really brilliant. But I didn’t say it.
I don’t lose my peace over this. As for me, I’ve already seen the wounds of Jesus, knowing that I put those wounds there, my autobiography, as someone put it. The Son of the Living God wants me in heaven. I have received absolution a zillion times. I want to give others absolution in Sacramental Confession. But I want to take them as deadly seriously as did Jesus – see the wounds! – and therefore insist that they also take Jesus deadly seriously, seeing those wounds of His.
Pope Francis knows the truth of it. He can deal with it one way or the other.
I’m guessing that later on Monday, 19 December 2022, or within the next couple of weeks, we’ll see both a *.pdf copy of the letter sent out to all the bishops on – what was it? – Tuesday, 13 December 2022 – stating that Father Frank Pavone was dismissed from the clerical state, and also a *.pdf copy of the surely much more lengthy and explicit proclamation from the Holy See of that same dismissal from the clerical state of Father Frank Pavone. As of this writing, in the wee hours of the morning on 19 December 2022, Father Pavone has not yet been officially contacted and therefore is not yet dismissed from the clerical state. That can change any moment.
Father Pavone himself has alluded to possible accusations at length in the video he did about this communications fiasco hours after it took place on Saturday, 17 December 2022.
The aborted baby on the table incident:
Years ago, Father Pavone, with heart-wrenching sadness, placed an aborted baby on a mere table that is sometimes used for Holy Mass, not during Holy Mass, nothing like that. Is it shocking? Yes. That’s the point. Well done. We have to be shocked into reality when we need this. America needs this. How is it that we’re not shocked by dumpsters filled with dead babies but we are shocked when a John the Baptist points this sin out to us, blaming the one reprimanding us for our own sin? Are cowardly, effeminate, Judases offended by the reality of their own politically correct policies that gain them 30 pieces of silver? Sure. They’re caught out by a real priest. Father Frank’s goodness is incriminating of their evil. Father Pavone is not wrong in his pastoral effectiveness. Great work, Father! We are also heart-wrenchingly sad with you.
But is Father Pavone’s theology wrong? No. As Saint Paul and Pope Pius XII in his encyclical letter Mystici Corporis point out, Jesus is the Head of the Mystical Body of Christ and we are members of the Mystical Body of Christ. In Mt 25, Jesus, God, tells those going to hell that they are damned because of what they did sinfully to the least of the brethren or what they sinfully failed to do for the least of the brethren, because what they did sinfully or sinfully didn’t do for the least of the brethren they did sinfully or sinfully didn’t do for Him. There are no more “least” of the brethren than babies in the womb. Father Pavone should be entitled doctor of the church, the doctor of life.
The “bad-language” incident:
We’re still waiting for the exact wording, but, apparently, Father Pavone’s words were effectively as follows: Biden voters and Biden himself have no love for America and are g*dd***ed losers.
Ooo! Such theological language! The word “God” capitalized or not, is not a bad word. People think that to say the word God is a mortal sin because they are so entitled to their sinfulness that they don’t want God brought up in any context, particularly any context that is condemnatory of their sinfulness. To hurt their feelings, telling them that they are sinners is The Mortal Sin. Pfft. There is nothing more Catholic than to reprimand people and help them get to heaven.
Also, the word “damn” is a biblical, technical, theological, juridic word. People think it’s a curse word because they don’t want to have their feelings hurt by being told that they are damning themselves, running as fast as they can into hell. Pfft. I’m not worried about hurting people’s feelings. I’d rather help people get to heaven, whatever it takes, and have them thank me in heaven for having taken them deadly seriously.
But what about the intent of Father Pavone? Umm… I think we don’t know anything about anyone’s intent, right? However, I’m going to guess that, actually, Father Pavone’s intent was to warn people of the objective sinfulness in which they are involved, what with their maniacally promoting murder of children as much as they possibly can. That is evil, objectively a mortal sin, which, objectively speaking, is having them risk being tossed directly into hell, damned by God forever. Let’s just say it in the colloquism that we hear so often: They are goddamned, a compound morpheme. But let’s repeat that with greater linguistic clarity, as two words, capitalizing the first: They are God damned. Yep. That’s the reality of it, unless they repent of their ways, turned to God by God Himself.
ENTER THE GREATEST PROPHET
I have written at great length on numerous occasions about insults being hurled against the most corrupt sinners by Jesus and his forerunner, the greatest of all the prophets, and by others in the Sacred Scriptures. These insults of Jesus and John and others have theological and juridic import, such as these sinners being liable to being damned by God to hell forever. But Jesus is God and none of the prophets are God, even if they are the voice for God Himself. Father Pavone is not God. So, let’s use as an example John the Baptist, another non-God. John is not being sinful in this example. He is not blaspheming. He is the voice of the Holy Spirit. I ask people not to blaspheme in saying that the Holy Spirit is sinful. Let’s get into this:
Let’s take a look at Mt 12:34 or 23:33 – γεννήματα ἐχιδνῶν – John’s “brood of vipers” insult. Oops! Those are Jesus’ own words. Let’s see, how about Lk 3:7 and Mt 3:7 – γεννήματα ἐχιδνῶν – indeed John’s “brood of vipers” insult. What’s that all about? It says that those he is thus insulting are willingly demon possessed blasphemers who will be, get this, they will be damned by God unless they repent. Let’s say it so that we can understand, the greatest of all prophets says that these sinners are God damned. Just like that. Yep.
Who is brave enough to say that John the Baptist, and Jesus for that matter, are themselves blasphemers for the “brood of vipers” insult and are themselves God damned?
Who among us is going to say that Jesus should be thrown out of His High Priesthood because He hurls “brood of vipers” insults?
Who among us is going to say that a priest is to be thrown out of the priesthood for having the charity to reprimand those like ultra-abortion-pusher Joe Biden and his supporters, for there is no greater love than to assist a sinner to get to heaven?
Who among us is going to be brave enough to say that “We have no King but Caesar”?
Who among us is going to ask for thirty pieces of silver?
Father Pavone was effectively executed, just like John the Baptist, just like Jesus. As the Master, so the disciple, and blessed is the one who is not scandalized in Jesus.
Dearest Father Pavone, leap and shout for joy! Blessed are you!
“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For their fathers treated the prophets in the same way.” (Lk 6:22-23)
Now then, Father Pavone took down his comment long ago, and went to Sacramental Confession. Was that because of what he said? I would have reprimanded him if he had come to my confessional to confess the words that he said. His words were not wrong. His words were obligatory. I wish more laity and priests and bishops and popes would use his words. But if it was about not having given enough context for a wider audience, something like that? Yeah, well, maybe we would just put that before God as God sees it. We can always second-guess ourselves.
For instance, as for me, when I go to confession I want to give myself full condemnation to make sure I have made myself available for full forgiveness for that which was a sin or perhaps no sin at all. But I want to go to heaven.
I’m a believer, and I recognize in Father Pavone a believer, a giant amongst believers, a priest of priests, a priest specifically of our High Priest, Jesus Christ, Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Prince of the Most Profound Peace, who will come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire.
Jesus will bring souls to heaven, and Jesus will also say to the damned: You are God damned. And they will wish that they had heeded the super charitable reprimand of Father Frank Pavone whilst they were still upon this earth with all their cowardly, effeminate political correctness, with all their greed and clever lust, with all their screaming their blood curdling murderous screams: “We have no king but Caesar.” When they stand before Jesus, the King so majestic with His wounds still in His hands and feet and side and Heart, they will have nothing to say at all. They will simply run, damned as they are into hell, where the fire is never extinguished, where their writhing never dies.
Thank you, Father Povone, for trying to save them now. You are a great example for all of us, for us priests in particular.
As to whether this is a shot over the bow by the powers that be, ask those powers that be. For myself, I will continue to be a priest of Jesus Christ, Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception. I wasn’t ordained to a priest of political correctness, a priest of the powers that be. I am not scared because of what happened to Father Pavone. Instead, I am encouraged by this fellow priest to stay the course. Crux stat dum volvitur orbis. And Mary, God’s Mother, stands with the Cross.
Oh, and, by the way, here’s one of Father Pavone’s “Daily Diary” videos he’s always been doing for the sake of accountability. This covers a whole week. The entirety is must listening for the Pope, for all Roman Curia workers, for all bishops, all priests, all laity, the whole thing. Do it. And, wait for it, with some great humor Father Pavone mentions what happened on 17 December 2022. Hehehe. :-)
N.B. On that last video, there’s a dead space of some minutes after he’s done talking. Skip ahead just a bit and you will see a series of short videos from priests offering moral and spiritual support to Father Pavone.
But I’m in awe at the staggering spiritual heights of Father Pavone. He’s so calm amidst this attack.
Look, I’m no canon lawyer, but as far as I know Father Pavone is NOT laicized until an official communication is received by him with proof of the fact, for instance, by return signature arranged by the postal service. Hearsay is not an official communication. So far, it’s all hearsay. And Father Frank Pavone is NOT laicized as I write this. Maybe tomorrow, Monday, 19 December 2022, but not now. Also, he’s home all week with his parents, so, I doubt he’ll get this letter until sometime after Christmas. We shall see.
Apparently, our Nuncio, on December 13, sent a letter to all the bishops saying that Father Pavone was laicized back in November. Somehow, Father Pavone didn’t get any such communication, not from the Vatican, not from the Nuncio, not from his bishop. So, nothing.
Btw, I notice this went up the very moment the Nuncio took action. Interesting.
“I feel like I’d like to be a bishop, so I’ll join the seminary to get started on my career.”
This is no straw man. I know many like this. Zero faith. Nothing to do with Jesus. One spoke it out loud throughout the seminary, and soon after ordination to the priesthood he was made a bishop. He had “friends.” Or is it some sort of “mafia”? Another with the same attitude, thinking to be untouchable in his overconfidence in himself, was “laicized” on his way to being a bishop, monster that he was and is.
“I feel like I’d like to be a priest because, like, you know, you get to have the power of having the laity have fake power, like having the laity preach at Mass, and give out the ‘wine’ at Mass, and like in pastórial ministry, never doing anything by way of clericalizing the laity and having them do fake anointings like pretending to do Last Rites or even hearing Confessions. I’ll get to do nothing and they’ll all think I’m a hero. What a cushy life!”
This is no straw man. I’m thinking of one seminarian in particular. He made his choice to follow his heroes in the priesthood, those priests who were diametrically opposed to good doctrine, good morals, good instruction in the spiritual life, reverent liturgy. He verbosely, loudly, made it clear that he had friends and was protected and had a good career ahead of himself. Nothing and no one was going to stop him from ladder climbing. That consumed him. Too sad. None of these people have a single thought for Jesus, that a vocation is a call coming from Jesus.
“I feel like I’d like to be a priest because I for sure have a vocation to be politically correct in the seminary where you learn to be politically correct with the bishop. I know how to be a ‘yes man’ first time, every time. I’ve already compromised myself in the parishes I’ve been in as a seminarian and young priest. I’ve already lost my virginity… um… you know what I mean… Hahaha…”
This is no straw man. I know plenty of seminarians and young priests who are expert at not thinking, who have so learned to compromise themselves being ‘men of consensus’ with bishops and presbyterates that they cannot have a discussion about good doctrine, good morality, good instruction on the spiritual life, reverent liturgy, but immediately shut down, eyes glazed over, stone faced, but who are ever so ambiguously clever in stock phraseology, whether it fits the would-be conversation or not, about how it is that the bishops or priests have an “approach” or “posture” and that that is what they are following. Notice that this isn’t about following Jesus.
“I feel like I’d like to be a priest because I don’t feel like I’d like to be married and have a family.”
This is no straw man. This is a sickness. Everyone is called to be married as this is the image of God, male-female-marriage-family, as we read in Genesis. And this is how Jesus redeemed us, with His own recitation of marriage vows with His Bride the Church at the consecrations at the Last Supper united with Calvary, “My body given for you in Sacrifice” and “My blood poured out for you in Sacrifice.” Priests are married by the Holy Sacrifice they offer, reciting those vows in the first person singular, in Persona Christi. Other single people, religious or secular, fulfill this image of God united with Jesus. But the guy who goes into the priesthood not understanding that this is a vocation to be married to the Church is a walking disaster, a freak show, who is literally a danger to himself and others. Abandoning Jesus and misunderstanding His Sacrifice is what brings about the abuse of the Little Flock. Yep.
“I feel like I’d like to be a priest because I like doing holy stuff because it makes me look good to myself.”
And Jesus will say: “I never knew you. Get away from me you evildoers” (Matthew 7:23). Doing holy stuff doesn’t justify. God justifies. “But I absolved sin in your name! I consecrated your body and blood in your name!” Nope. That doesn’t count. Only God’s grace counts. Jesus doesn’t call someone to be a priest to do stuff. The priest might do things, but Jesus can raise up stones to be priests. The guy who simply enjoys doing nice stuff is all about being self-referential, a narcissist, perhaps a sociopath. This is the most dangerous guy of all. He can rationalize anything. He is diametrically opposed to Jesus even while doing holy things which, in his own mind, are for Jesus.
“I feel like I’d like to be a priest because I have a lot of talents to offer and I’m just the one!”
The only talents Jesus is interested in from anyone He calls to the priesthood is His own five wounds. Jesus had all talents much better than all priests put together. He’s interested in priests standing in solidarity with Him in His trials for us, His being in solidarity with us. If it takes getting rid of earthly talents, not using earthly talents, for this end of salvation of souls, that’s what Jesus will do. A priest is to follow the Holy Spirit who goes where He wills in forming priests to be one with the one High Priest, and that always involves the wounds of Jesus. Anyone who foists their talents upon the Church is a fraud.
Those are just some random thoughts in the early hours of a Sunday morning before 6:00 AM Holy Hour with Confessions, you know, the holy things of the priesthood, which, mind you, are holy, but that’s not what a vocation from Jesus to the priesthood is all about. I’m typing a million miles an hour and not reading over what I write. Sorry. There is so much more to say about what a vocation is not. But you get the idea. A fake vocation is a not a vocation. A fake vocation mocks the real vocation. Let’s put out some random thoughts on what a real vocation to the priesthood is all about:
WHAT A PRIESTLY VOCATION IS:
While the bishop confirms a priestly vocation by calling a man to Holy Orders, that vocation is not in the least from the bishop, but rather from Jesus. Jesus calls. No one else.
Jesus calls a man to get his own little hell out of the way of the one High Priest, Christ Jesus, so that Jesus can work through, with and in such a man. We recall the prayer of John Henry Newman (1801-1890): “Dear Jesus, help me to spread Your fragrance wherever I go. Flood my soul with Your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly, that my life may only be a radiance of Yours. Shine through me, and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Your presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me, but only Jesus! Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as You shine, so to shine as to be a light to others. The light, O Jesus, will be all from You; none of it will be mine. It will be You shining on others through me. Let me thus praise You the way You love best, by shining on those around me. Let me preach You without preaching, not by words but by my example, by the catching force of the sympathetic influence of what I do, the evident fullness of the love my heart bears to You. Amen.”
A priest is called to go to Confession. Then he will offer that sacrament to others. He will know exactly why he is a priest, so that we might all be in humble thanksgiving to Jesus in heaven.
That’s about it. Everything else is contingent on God’s providence. Including offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. A priest is called by Jesus to suffer with Jesus. For instance, say a newly ordained priest, having received his faculties for Confession at the end of the Ordination Mass (a quite common practice) is walking from the church to the reception at whatever social hall minutes after his ordination and he’s accosted between the two buildings by an apparently enthusiastically devout penitent wanting to be the first confession that the new priest will hear. The new priest obliges. But then the “penitent” runs to the bishop and is publicly accused of solicitation of sin during Sacramental Confession. The bishop then suspends the priest from active ministry and starts the preliminaries for laicization. It just means that the priest was called by Jesus to be in solidarity with Jesus in Jesus’ trials more fiercely, more quickly than other priests. And if that priest perseveres, Jesus will say to him: ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 5:34). The priest and Jesus will know each other very well. Brotherhood in blood.
There are, of course, many more things to say, but allow me just one more, the most important for a priest to be close to Jesus, to answer Jesus’ call. If we are truly close to Jesus in His trials, we will know what hurt Him the most during His passion and death for us and it’s not the betrayal of some Judas-priest. What hurt Jesus the most was that His dear Immaculate Mother had to see Him tortured to death. A priest that Jesus calls is called to be in solidarity with Jesus in this greatest of His trials. It is for this that He sweat blood in His agony in the garden of Gethsemane. It is for this that there was that dichotomy, if you will, between the will of His human nature and that of the Father. He did not want His Immaculate Mother to suffer so terribly. But then: “Not my will, but Thine be done.” That’s the vocation of a priest. And should the priest have a chance to offer Holy Mass, absolve sin, send people to heaven, great! But the priest’s prayer absolutely, in view of the suffering of dearest Mary, must be with one voice with Jesus, una voce, through, with and in Jesus: “Abba! Father!”
We had our canonical retreat this past week. This was the best attended retreat in all my years. The retreat director was a believer. He wasn’t afraid to speak of Jesus. Great priestly fraternity.
But the best part of the retreat was the rearranging of the schedule diversely from previous years. This time the Holy Hour was a bit more coerced, if you will. Previously it was on it’s own in the schedule. Maybe half or less of the priests showed up. Now there is also the Rosary and Vespers and a conference during the Holy Hour. Everyone came. Ha! There was less time for quiet adoration, but we were before the Most Blessed Sacrament nonetheless. All good.
This new schedule was especially helpful on Wednesday when, immediately after the Holy Hour, well, adoration instead continued while Confessions took place. My station for hearing confessions was right next to Jesus. He’s the One. He’s the only One. Non sum dignus.
Confession for priests? Here’s a blast from the past:
Thanks for that, Father.
Speaking of dearest Mary… surprise, surprise. Our Lady of Mount Carmel (discalced!), had been repainted and was without a title. However, she was presented during the retreat as Mary, Mother of God. I had a good few minutes in front of these two.
More in future posts, but here’s a gem from the retreat:
The less one prays, the less one wants to pray. The more one prays, the more one wants to pray.
Elijah with the flaming fiery sword on Mount Carmel, Israel.
[[It’s 2022. This was written now thirteen years ago. It’s Padre Pio’s feast day. /// BTW, today marks 28 years in prison of Father Gordon MacRae. Hail Mary… Saint 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 wielded by the angels at the end of Genesis 3. The suffering I went through to accomplish the academic feat on a level of historical philology, involving many, many years of library rat-ness, not REsearch but rather original hard work, agony, really, is nothing at all compared to what Padre Pio understood in an instant by experiencing personally this fiery sword which I have only come to know academically. I am, to date, the only one to have accomplished this academic feat through the centuries, through the millennia. I’m pretty proud of it – and that’s a sin – and I am trying to get over it. It helps to have come to know someone who was alive in my lifetime who experienced precisely, personally, exactly what I described on a merely academic level.
I am vindicated by Padre Pio’s experience. At the same time, 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…
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 [obviously, his religious superior] 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].
“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] who presented himself to my mind’s eye [So, not an apparition, but entirely spiritual. People think angels are all fluffy chiffon pastels and cute. 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. My academic, pedantic translation of this three-fold double-reverse verb is this in context: 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.” Thus, if we were to try to grasp at the fruit of the Tree of the Living Ones, the work of this sword, of this grace, wielded by the angels, would turn that, with our assent, into humbly receiving the Fruit of the Tree of the Living Ones, that is, the Eucharist. This is also the sword with which the Carmelites depict Elijah. See their fiery coat of arms below. This is also the sword mentioned by Teresa of Avila. This is pre-eminently the sword of Saint Michael…] 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 such an angel 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 much more than any purgatory: he is bringing souls to heaven by his life becoming an intercession for all of us. What would I do, I who surely have a purgatory lasting until the end of time?]
Elijah’s fiery sword on the Discalced Carmelite Coat of Arms
“From that day on I have been mortally wounded. [“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.]
“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 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, again, “the sword which causes that which is presented to it to be transformed into its contrary.” Again, we are not to grasp arrogantly for the Fruit 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 such a religious superior, 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 and therefore our own 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. Jesus said that He would draw all to Himself when He is lifted up (on the Cross). 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! Help all whom Jesus wants to transform in His love!]
τὸν μὴ γνόντα ἁμαρτίαν ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἁμαρτίαν ἐποίησεν – He who knew no sin was made sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21).
In Saint Paul’s shorthand speech, Jesus became sin for us. Ooo! That sounds scandalous! Heretical! Bad and evil! But Jesus stood in our place, Innocent for the guilty, so that He could have the right in His own justice to have mercy on us. And Mary Immaculate stood in perfect solidarity with Jesus. Mary became sin for us with Jesus. Ooo! That sounds scandalous! Heretical! Bad and evil. But I say that this is Mary Immaculate’s glory. To those who cannot bear such reality, I say, grow up and see the suffering, witness Mary’s maternal intercession, the sword of sorrow piercing her soul that our thoughts may be laid bare. Grow up and lay aside all cowardice. Rejoice that we have such a good Mother, such a Holy Redeemer in her Son.
Rumors fly as they do, even across oceans do they fly. It seems that I have been denounced to the highest of ecclesiastical tribunals in an attempt to destroy my priesthood. It seems that I am a blasphemer when it comes to praising the perfect condescension of Jesus and His dearest Mother, that κατάβασις (katabasis = going down) of mercy founded on justice. It seems that I have been labeled as a blasphemer. Will I be put under some kind of interdict, suspended in some way, perhaps dismissed from the clerical state, or – hey! – even excommunicated?
Long time readers may remember when a top canonist of the Roman Rota, a friend, wrote up an interdict against me on behalf of co-conspirators at the Pontifical Seminary at which I was teaching and at which I was very active on the formation team for both philosophers and theologians. But that was humor.
My crime then was to be chaplain for the philosophers and not the theologians in the 2010 Mud Bowl extravaganza.
But the present denunciation against me is deadly serious, enough to rip me out of the priesthood.
What’s the kerfuffle about, really? Surely it’s about my praise of Jesus and Mary. But I am also a thorn in the side of some members of the Church for a number of reasons. Any and all of these, take your pick:
I think the Traditional Latin Mass is a valid and licit expression of the Roman Rite
I think the Hegelian-Rahnerian methodology of the Synod on Synodality is itself heretical
I think the encouragement of same-sex unchastity and any unchastity leads souls to hell
I think that the idol worship of demon idols such as Pachamama (Francis) or Nian (Cupich) or Ganesh (spreading in India with impunity) et alii is a direct violation of the first Commandment
I think Sacred Tradition is univocal and provided supernaturally by the Holy Spirit to each sanctified soul and is not passed on by hand, but only quasi per manus, almost as if by hand (Trent). Sacred Tradition is not a tree or the roots of a tree, dynamic, growing. No. Tradition is absolute. Truth is absolute. God is Truth. God is absolute. Sacred Tradition is not something dictated by freakoids in the Roman Curia, not even by the Pope, not even in ex-Cathedra pronouncements. No. Sacred Tradition (traditiones) is the living faith provided in sanctifying grace and the indwelling of the Most Holy Trinity. Idiot human beings don’t do that. Infallibility is not equal to Sacred Tradition.
I think contraception, abortifacients, procured abortion, infanticide, euthanasia are all intrinsically dishonest, and, as with Ad tuendam fidem, with Ratzinger and JPII, I hold these to be definitive, infallible teachings of the ordinary magisterium of the Church.
I think murdering babies in the womb for research, development, testing of “vaccines” is the utilitarian murder of the least of the brethren, of Jesus.
I think that the money laundering and, therefore, the consequent financing of international terrorism is directly opposed to the mission of the Church. I agree with Jesus: you cannot serve God and mammon. I am working to bring the criminals down, hard.
I am Catholic and love being a priest of Jesus Christ and a son of Mary, Mother of priests. I know she suffered a hell of a lot for me, and I thank her for that and I praise her for that. That’s the problem.
My being denounced came about just days before my surgery, and, now starting my recovery, this is my new distraction. It’s about the wonderful statue of Mary with infant Jesus that is making its way to all of the parishes of the diocese.
I mean, that face of Mary. She sees the problems at hand. Finally, someone does. Great! And Jesus entirely exudes confidence that whatever it is she wants in her maternal solicitude for us, she’s going to get it.
But here’s what I said in the original post which I took down so that I would have to time to put up this response before being smacked down hard, it being that I was busy getting cut wide open and am now recovering. This is what was so very offensive:
“This is the Pilgrim Virgin Mary of Charlotte Diocese making her way throughout the parishes during the 50th anniversary of this relatively young diocese. She’s now at Holy Redeemer in Andrews, NC. Another priest gave her the title: “Our Lady Most Patient with Father Byers.” Hmmm. I think I like “Our Lady Most Snarky” better. Whatever it is that she’s plotting, it’s Jesus who will make it happen. Totally.”
Our Lady is most patient with yours truly, but her patience extends to many more souls than just myself. This is why I mentioned the snarkiness of her expression, you know, like she’s plotting something, of course for our good, and Jesus will make it happen.
I’m guessing the problem people had, why they think I’m a blasphemer, is my usage of the word snarky.
Sigh… You try to speak in the now enculturated language of fairy tales, on the level of little children, and this is what you get. Gunned down. So, fine. Some explanations are in order.
It all starts with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Alice in Wonderland) penned in 1865 by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll. Lewis was a devout lifelong stratospherically high-church Anglican, a believer. His protagonist, Alice, is the original one to “go down the rabbit hole”. She meets up with all sorts of allegorical, anthropomorphic creatures, human adults if truth be known, who express their opinions (also by way of the manner in which they live) about the philosophies and political idiocies of the day. Alice struggles to stay herself even as she meets up with adults who have become all too self-absorbed in the myriad ways fallen human nature goes about this in unrepeatable circumstances.
Then, eleven years later, in 1876, Carroll writes The Hunting of the Snark: An Agony in Eight Fits. This is about a bunch of seasoned guys from all types of professions who get together to traverse the waves to an island where their hunting of the Snark might well be successful. The chapters of poetic verse are called fits appropriately enough. The Snark isn’t much described other than that it is seems to be a dark figure, mysterious in a most sinister sort of way.
While they hunt, it seems that a Snark is spotted, and one of the crew dies in his attempt to get close. He had seen the Snark falling from the heights. The crew member dies a most calm and peaceful death. He simply disappears. All gone. The end.
People asked Carroll who or what the Snark is, and he would never let on. Well, to me, sorry, but this is obvious, and if you have to be told you won’t understand it anyway, but I will tell you, since it is too painful for this mystery to go on. Fallen society has made it quite impossible to crack the mystery today.
The Snark, par excellence, is Jesus Christ, and, of course, His blessed Mother with Him. Yes, the monstrous Snark, so evil in every way, in fact, a projection, in our perception, of the evil within ourselves, which we try to kill, pretending to be our own saviors. We spend our lives doing this, going inside ourselves, travelling the world, hunting, hunting, hunting the dreadful Snark, Jesus Christ, who takes upon Himself all the punishment of our sin – He was made sin for us – and we mock Him as the criminal, the One who enslaved all in sin from Adam until the last man is conceived. And when we finally meet up with Him, like that crew member who dies, He falls from the heights to the depths, and it is there, far below the Cross, that we behold His Mother looking upon us, and we understand: He is God and she is His Mother. Both bloodied, both looking like criminals, monstrous. But then we understand a smidgeon of such love.
We die to ourselves and we ourselves gently just disappear as Snark hunters. We take our place with Mary and John and are now also in solidarity with Jesus. In our own way, we become just a little bit of The Snark. But Jesus and Mary are the epitome of being the Snark. Only they can bear the weight of all our darkness, all our sin which we project unto them. They are so good to us, so kind.
As a clincher, I should mention that the epic poem, The Hunting of the Snark, was published far and wide with multiple printings, all by itself. But that was not at all the case when this poem on The Snark was to be given to children, specifically “to those who love Alice” (of Alice in Wonderland fame). When The Hunting of the Snark was given “to those who love Alice” those children were also given a lengthy Easter Greeting also penned by Lewis Carroll. It was all about the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who triumphed over sin and evil, He having forgiven us our sin wrought in all our idiocy.
People dismiss Carroll’s writings as mere fantastical nonsense literature. That is because they don’t see the irony, the humor which Chesterton would later say is so necessary for Christianity itself. Irony is not nonsense. It is essential to life and breath. Irony is our hope. It is justice and mercy meeting upon the Cross. It is Christ being made to be sin. And Mary with Him. It slams us to our knees.
I believe that Lewis Carroll opened the floodgates of this kind of literature for those to come, say, C.S. Lewis and The Chronicles of Narnia, or J.R.R. Tolkien and his works on Hobbits and Rings and Middle Earth. I say the same for the more outlandishly wonderful works of G.K. Chesterton such as The Ball and the Cross. But most of all, most of all, it is the summary of irony by Hilaire Belloc which most rings absolutely true with The Hunting of the Snark. You are reading about Jesus Christ on the Cross:
“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).]
/// That last bit about no man possessing irony and using it ever living happily? Yep. But mere happiness is one thing. Joy is another, in the Holy Spirit. It would be a great privilege to be penalized even by Holy Mother Church because of thanking Jesus and Mary for their sufferings for us. But my priesthood? That can never be taken away. It is a sacrament lasting forever. I have no fear. The Great Snark, and the Mother of snarky priests watch over me, having me die to my wretched self, but living for them.
The denouncement of blasphemy against me is so dark that I have to do this:
And if I’ve been beating down the wolves in this post, it is only so that they will turn into the sheep of the Lord’s Little Flock. It would be a joy to go to heaven together. Amen.
That’s the PCI in Rome. The “Salone” to the left is where it seems electioneering for the papacy was taking place in 2005, you know, it seems by the Sankt Gallen crowd. Interesting that would happen just there.
Those who have suffered bloody persecutions will be the first to say that bloody persecution is not the worst persecution. Incomparably worse is a persecution of the faith of the Lord’s Little Flock from within, by the priests and bishops who not only negate doctrine and morality and instruction on the spiritual life and any reverence in the liturgy, but who actively lead people to hell, dragging them into cleverly concocted myths of self-absorbed “liberation” from… Jesus.
Suffering martyrdom and then going to heaven? Great! Losing one’s eternal soul in hell? Well, hell.
I was well acquainted with Irish seminarians while I was in Rome. They said that they were going back to Ireland to liberate their people from traditional faith. First thing to be axed upon their return? The Rosary. Yes, they said it plainly. Then Individual sacramental Confession. That’s the two steps to death. They were eager to do this. They’re the ones, the only ones who accomplish the “liberation of the Irish people” (their words) from… Jesus. And they did it.
And don’t think those are actual numbers above. The percentage of those who enter the seminary and who are ordained priests is always small. And in these conditions it would be almost impossible. If you count up the (arch)dioceses and subtract the Neo-Cats, that’s only about 1.something seminarians per (arch)diocese.
Take a look at Dublin in that list above. 0-0-0. You have to know that Dublin vied to be the largest Archdiocese in the world over against Milan. And I note that there is not even one seminarian at the Pontifical Irish College in Rome. Just. Wow.
But the Lord’s Little Flock will survive. There is a rebellion amongst the young who see through the narrow narcissism of their elders who were once young like them. But this is no mere “revolution” of the young once again. This is about Jesus. This is about our Blessed Mother. This is about Jesus forming young men for future priesthood by first of all throwing them today headlong into the trenches.
Jesus has an eleventh commandment, that we are to pray to the Master of the Harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Just know that when you thus praying, you are also praying that conditions be such that good and holy vocations will survive the seminary and whatever interference from their (arch)dioceses.
Those who will be ordained have been called during this time of annihilation to have the privilege of standing in solidarity with Jesus in His trials, in the midst of His Little Flock being attacked relentlessly by the wolves. To be clever as serpents but innocent as doves means no compromise, no half measures, all for Jesus, all for His Blessed Mother.
What to do? Glad you priests asked!
Rosary, always, before every Holy Mass, and you start it off
Confessions, always, before every Holy Mass
Offer Holy Mass with humility, reverence, thanksgiving
Fullness of doctrine, morality, instruction on the spiritual life, reverent liturgy
Forget Hegelian-Rahnerian “dialog” from hell. Teach the faith! Drop celebrating “gay”, protecting abortion, promoting euthanasia, lesbian priestxes…
And priests: You are to do 100% of Communion calls, visits to hospitals and rehabs and nursing homes. You be in solidarity with those who suffer. Don’t schedule Last Rites. Go immediately.
Meanwhile, I’m sure there must still be some good priests with whom I was with as seminarians. Praying for them. I can’t imagine the nightmare they are living. Hail Mary…
Meanwhile, I’m aghast in thinking about this. I know those who brought this about. The mantra as the seminaries were emptying out already in those days was “More novelty! Keep up with America!” Really. Don’t follow Jesus, but keep up with America.
What does that say about America? I’ve been complaining about Ireland, but what does Ireland breathlessly wanting to keep up with America say about America? I can’t imagine the nightmare some of my fellow priests here in America are suffering. Hail Mary…
Yesterday, after Holy Mass up in Graham County, still attempting to recover from the epic “Day Off” at U.T. Med. Center in Knoxville, more doctor’s orders came my way: “Go ahead, Father, it does a soul good to get out on the water. Duc in altum!” That’s all the encouragement I needed. This is a yearly event with a number of pontooners in the parish. I’m thinking this is good with Jesus, as he spoke about it:
“No one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for My sake and for the gospel will fail to receive a hundredfold in the present age—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and fields, along with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30)
The dam in the slideshow above is about 100 years old, with sirens to the sides that are at the ready for when the dam fails. Myths include divers of the TVA inspecting the cavernous hole at the bottom, only to vow never to go down again, having seen the massive carp lurking there, “able to swallow a car”.
I look forward to seeing the Osprey nest every year. This year there were two. I grew up with Ospreys. Here’s a picture someone took who knows where:
In Minnesota, water everywhere, just glancing out a window one is likely to see an osprey sitting in a branch of a dead tree high above whatever body of water. As a kid growing up in Minnesota, frequently spotting an osprey, scanning their usual perches, I’d watch for a moment and, sure enough, he would drop down, grabbing a fish, circle back up to his perch, and start eating.
Some ospreys are also good at long range infiltration, getting the job done, and exfiltration:
That’s not an out-of-place video in this post, as the pontooners are as Military as you can get. And pretty much everyone in Graham County is a veteran. And… and… afterward we attended a get-together of the “town”, a cook-out, put on by the locals with all the law enforcement and fire department and EMS invited. Most of them are, of course, ex-military as well. They, of course, had to advertise their arrival to this entire region of the state, with sound travelling far and wide across the waters, with all sirens blaring.
If you take a look at that top picture again, that far, far mountain… on the far side of that 4 miles down the other side lies Andrews where the “main” church of the parish is situated.
Back to Jesus’ instruction, you know, that bit about “with persecutions”… The 100 times crowd in this parish is fully aware of that, all good with that. However much of a paradise that is here, our eyes are pealed on the heavens, eternal life, into which Jesus ascended to our dear Heavenly Father. Our Father…