Saint and Father

 

DEAR brothers and sisters, four months have now passed since the storm that wreaked havoc on our farm and our lives here. Today, I am doing the last repairs to our cattle corrals before we turn toward the massive amount of trees that still remain to be cut down on our property. This is all to say that the rhythm of my ministry that was disrupted in June remains the case, even now. I have surrendered to Christ the inability at this time to really give what I desire to give… and trust in His plan. One day at a time.

So today, on this feast of the great Saint John Paul II, I wish to leave you again with a song I penned on the day of his death, and a year later, sang at the Vatican. Also, I have chosen some quotes that, I think, continue to speak to the Church at this hour. Dear St. John Paul, pray for us.

 

 

It is a mark of greatness to be able to say: “I have made a mistake; I have sinned, Father; I have offended you, my God; I am sorry; I ask for pardon; I will try again because I rely on your strength and I believe in your love. And I know that the power of your Son’s paschal mystery—the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ—is great than my weaknesses and all the sins of the world. I will come and confess my sins and be healed, and I will live in your love! —Homily, San Antonio, 1987; Pope John Paul II, In My Own Words, Gramercy Books, p. 101

In a word, we can say that the cultural change which we are calling for demands from everyone the courage to adopt a new life-style, consisting in making practical choices-at the personal, family, social and international level-on the basis of a correct scale of values: the primacy of being over having, of the person over things. This renewed life-style involves a passing from indifference to concern for others, from rejection to acceptance of them. Other people are not rivals from whom we must defend ourselves, but brothers and sisters to be supported. They are to be loved for their own sakes, and they enrich us by their very presence.Evangelium Vitae, March 25th, 1995; vatican.va

No one can escape from the fundamental questions: What must I do? How do I distinguish good from evil? The answer is only possible thanks to the splendour of the truth which shines forth deep within the human spirit… Jesus Christ, the “light of the nations”, shines upon the face of his Church, which he sends forth to the whole world to proclaim the Gospel to every creature.Veritatis Splendor, n. 2; vatican.va

Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power… Do not be afraid. —Homily, Inauguration of the Pope, October 22, 1978; Zenit.org

With tragic consequences, a long historical process is reaching a turning-point. The process which once led to discovering the idea of “human rights”—rights inherent in every person and prior to any Constitution and State legislation—is today marked by a surprising contradiction. Precisely in an age when the inviolable rights of the person are solemnly proclaimed and the value of life is publicly affirmed, the very right to life is being denied or trampled upon, especially at the more significant moments of existence: the moment of birth and the moment of death… This is what is happening also at the level of politics and government: the original and inalienable right to life is questioned or denied on the basis of a parliamentary vote or the will of one part of the people—even if it is the majority. This is the sinister result of a relativism which reigns unopposed: the “right” ceases to be such, because it is no longer firmly founded on the inviolable dignity of the person, but is made subject to the will of the stronger part. In this way democracy, contradicting its own principles, effectively moves towards a form of totalitarianism. —POPE JOHN PAUL II, Evangelium Vitae, “The Gospel of Life”, n. 18, 20

This struggle parallels the apocalyptic combat described in [Rev 11:19-12:1-6, 10 on the battle between” the woman clothed with the sun” and the “dragon”]. Death battles against Life: a “culture of death” seeks to impose itself on our desire to live, and live to the full… Vast sectors of society are confused about what is right and what is wrong, and are at the mercy of those with the power to “create” opinion and impose it on others.  —POPE JOHN PAUL II, Cherry Creek State Park Homily, Denver, Colorado, 1993

Right from the beginning of my ministry in St. Peter’s See in Rome, I consider this message [of Divine Mercy] my special task. Providence has assigned it to me in the present situation of man, the Church and the world. It could be said that precisely this situation assigned that message to me as my task before God.  —November 22, 1981 at the Shrine of Merciful Love in Collevalenza, Italy

From here there must go forth ‘the spark which will prepare the world for [Jesus’] final coming‘ (Diary, 1732). This spark needs to be lighted by the grace of God. This fire of mercy needs to be passed on to the world. —ST. JOHN PAUL II, Consecration of the Divine Mercy Basilica, Krakow, Poland; preface in leatherbound diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul, St. Michel Print, 2008

This woman of faith, Mary of Nazareth, the Mother of God, has been given to us as a model in our pilgrimage of faith. From Mary we learn to surrender to God’s will in all things. From Mary, we learn to trust even when all hope seems gone. From Mary, we learn to love Christ, her Son and the Son of God. For Mary is not only the Mother of God, she is Mother of the Church as well. —Message to Priests, Washington, D.C. 1979; Pope John Paul II, In My Own Words, Gramercy Books, p. 110

 

RELATED READING

Read my supernatural encounter of St. John Paul’s presence at the Vatican: St. John Paul II

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Medjugorje… What You May Not Know

The six seers of Medjugorje when they were children

 

The sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church continues to tear away at her credibility. But did it also undermine the apparitions taking place in Medjugorje, the one place on earth where conversions, healing, and vocations spring forth on a daily basis?

AFTER having followed the Medjugorje apparitions for years, and researched and studied the background story, one thing has become clear: there are a lot of people who reject the supernatural character of this apparition site based on the dubious words of a few. A perfect storm of politics, lies, sloppy journalism, manipulation, and a Catholic media mostly cynical of all-things-mystical has fuelled, for years, a narrative that the six visionaries, and a gang of Franciscan thugs, has managed to dupe the world, including the canonized Saint, John Paul II.
Strangely, it doesn’t matter to some critics that the fruits of Medjugorje—millions of conversions, thousands of apostolates and religious vocations, and hundreds of documented miracles—are the most extraordinary that the Church has ever seen since, perhaps, Pentecost. To read the testimonies of people who have actually been there (as opposed to nearly every critic who usually hasn’t) is like reading the Acts of the Apostles on steroids (here is mine: A Miracle of Mercy.) The most vocal critics of Medjugorje dismiss these fruits as irrelevant (more evidence in our times of Rationalism, and the Death of Mystery) often citing fictitious gossip and unfounded rumours. I have responded to twenty-three of those in Medjugorje and the Smoking Guns, including allegations that the seers have been disobedient. [1] Moreover, they claim that “Satan can produce good fruit too!” They’re basing this on St. Paul’s admonition:

…such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, who masquerade as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan masquerades as an angel of light. So it is not strange that his ministers also masquerade as ministers of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. (2 For 11:13-15)

Actually, St. Paul is contradicting their argument. He says, indeed, you will know a tree by its fruit: “Their end will correspond to their deeds.” The conversions, healings, and vocations we’ve seen from Medjugorje over the past three decades have overwhelmingly shown themselves to be authentic as many of those who have experienced them are bearing the authentic light of Christ years later. Those who know the seers personally attest to their humility, integrity, devotion and holiness, contradicting the calumny that has spread about them.[2] What Scripture actually says is that Satan can work “lying signs and wonders”.[3] But the fruits of the Spirit? No. The worms will eventually come out.

More importantly, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith refutes the notion that the fruits are irrelevant. It specifically refers to the importance that such a phenomenon…

…bear fruits by which the Church herself might later discern the true nature of the facts… —”Norms Regarding the Manner of Proceeding in the Discernment of Presumed Apparitions or Revelations” n. 2, vatican.va
These evident fruits should move all the faithful, from the bottom to the top, to approach Medjugorje in a spirit of humility and gratitude, irregardless of its “official” status. It is not my place to say this or that apparition is true or false. But what I can do, as a matter of justice, is counter the misinformation that is out there so that the faithful may, at the very least, remain open—as the Vatican is—to the possibility that Medjugorje is a profound grace given to the world at this hour. That’s precisely what the Vatican’s representative in Medjugorje said on July 25th, 2018:

We have a great responsibility towards the whole world, because truly Medjugorje has become a place of prayer and conversion for the whole world. Accordingly, the Holy Father is concerned and sends me here to help the Franciscan priests to organize and to acknowledge this place as a source of grace for the whole world. —Archbishop Henryk Hoser, Papal Visitor assigned to oversee pastoral care of pilgrims; Feast of St. James, July 25th, 2018; MaryTV.tv
Dear children, my real, living presence among you should make you happy because this is the great love of my Son. He is sending me among you so that, with a motherly love, I may grant you safety! —Our Lady of Medjugorje to Mirjana, July 2, 2016

 

STRANGE TWISTS…

In truth, the apparitions of Medjugorje were initially accepted by the local Bishop of Mostar, the diocese where Medjugorje resides. Speaking of the integrity of the seers, he stated:
No one has forced them or influenced them in any manner. These are six normal children; they are not lying; they express themselves from the depth of their hearts. Are we dealing here with a personal vision or a supernatural occurrence? It is hard to say. However, it is certain that they are not lying. —statement to the press, July 25, 1981; “Medjugorje Deception or Miracle?”; ewtn.com
This favorable position was confirmed by the police who initiated the first psychological examinations of the seers to determine if they were hallucinating or simply trying to cause trouble. The children were taken to the neuro-psychiatric hospital in Mostar where they were subjected to harsh interrogations and exposed to severely demented patients in order to frighten them. After passing every test, Dr. Mulija Dzudza, a Muslim, declared:
I have not seen more normal children. It is the people who brought you here who should be declared insane! —Medjugorje, The First Days, James Mulligan, Ch. 8
Her conclusions were later confirmed by ecclesial psychological examinations, [4] and then again by several teams of international scientists in the ensuing years. In fact, after submitting the seers to a battery of tests while they were in ecstasy during apparitions—from poking and prodding, to blasting them with noise and monitoring brain patterns—Dr. Henri Joyeux and his team of doctors from France concluded:

The ecstasies are not pathological, nor is there any element of deceit. No scientific discipline seems able to describe these phenomena. The apparitions at Medjugorje cannot be explained scientifically. In one word, these young people are healthy, and there is no sign of epilepsy, nor is it a sleep, dream, or trance state. It is neither a case of pathological hallucination nor hallucination in the hearing or sight facilities…. —8:201-204; “Science Tests the Visionaries”, cf. divinemysteries.info

More recently, in 2006, members of Dr. Joyeux’s team again examined some of the seers during ecstasy and sent the results to Pope Benedict.
After twenty years, our conclusion has not changed. We were not wrong. Our scientific conclusion is clear: the Medjugorje events must be taken seriously. —Dr. Henri Joyeux, Međugorje Tribune, January 2007
However, as Antonio Gaspari, an editorial coordinator for Zenit News Agency notes, shortly after Bishop Zanic’s endorsement…
…for reasons still not entirely clear, Bishop Zanic almost immediately changed his attitude, becoming the main critic and opponent of the Medjugorje apparitions. — “Medjugorje Deception or Miracle?”; ewtn.com
A new documentary, From Fatima to Medjugorjepoints to pressure from the Communist government and KGB upon Bishop Zanic due to fears that communism would collapse from the religious awakening happening through Medjugorje. Russian documents allegedly reveal that they blackmailed him with documented evidence of a “compromising” situation he was in with a “youth.” As a result, and confirmed by the recorded testimony of a Communist agent involved, the Bishop agreed to subvert the apparitions in order to keep his past quiet. [5] The diocese of Mostar, however, has written a scathing response and requested proof of these documents. [6]
I received the following communication from Sharon Freeman who worked at The Ave Maria Centre in Toronto. She personally interviewed Bishop Zanic after he changed his attitude toward the apparitions. This was her impression:
I can say that this meeting confirmed to me that he was being compromised by the Communists. He was very pleasant and it was obvious by his demeanour and body language that he still believed in the apparitions but was forced to deny their authenticity. —November 11th, 2017
Others point to exploding tensions between the diocese and the Franciscans, under whose care the Medjugorje parish, and thus seers, had been. Apparently, when two Franciscan priests were suspended by the bishop, the seer Vicka allegedly communicated: “Our Lady wants it said to the bishop that he has made a premature decision. Let him reflect again, and listen well to both parties. He must be just and patient. She says that both priests are not guilty.” This criticism allegedly from Our Lady is said to have changed Bishop Zanic’s position. However, in 1993, the Apostolic Signatura Tribunal determined that the bishop’s declaration of ‘ad statem laicalem‘ against the priests was “unjust and illegal”. [7]
Perhaps for one or all of the reasons above, Bishop Zanic rejected the results of his first Commission and went on to form a new Commission to investigate the apparitions. But now, it was stacked with skeptics.
Nine of the 14 members of the second (larger) commission were chosen among certain theologians who were known to be skeptical concerning supernatural events. —Antonio Gaspari, “Medjugorje Deception or Miracle?”; ewtn.com
Michael K. Jones (not to be confused with Michael E. Jones, who is arguably Medjugorje’s fiercest opponent) confirms what Gaspari reports. Using the Freedom of Information Act, Jones states on his website that he acquired classified documents from the U.S. State Department’s own investigation into the apparitions by Ambassador David Anderson under President Ronald Reagan’s administration. The classified report, which was forwarded to the Vatican, reveals that Bishop Zanic’s Commission was indeed ‘tainted’, says Jones.
This being the case, it offers one explanation why Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, rejected Zanic’s second Commission and transferred the authority over the apparitions to the regional level of the Yugoslav Bishops’ Conference where a new Commission was formed. However, Bishop Zanic issued a press release with a much more benign explanation:
During the inquiry these events under investigation have appeared to go much beyond the limits of the diocese. Therefore, on the basis of the said regulations, it became fitting to continue the work at the level of the Bishops’ Conference, and thus to form a new Commission for that purpose. —appeared on the front page of Glas Koncila, January 18, 1987; ewtn.com
…AND STRANGE TURNS
Four years later, the new Bishops’ Commission issued the now well-known Declaration of Zadar on April 10, 1991, which stated:
On the basis of the investigations so far, it cannot be affirmed that one is dealing with supernatural apparitions and revelations. —cf. Letter to Bishop Gilbert Aubry from the Secretary for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone; ewtn.com
The decision, in Church-speak, was: non constat de supernaturalitate, which means simply that, “so far”, a firm conclusion on the supernatural nature cannot be affirmed. It is not a condemnation but a suspension of judgment.
But what is perhaps less known is that ‘by mid-1988, the Commission was reported to have terminated its work with a positive judgment on the apparitions.’
Cardinal Franjo Kuharic, Archbishop of Zaghreb and President of the Yugoslav Bishops’ Conference, in an interview with Croatian public television on December 23, 1990, said that the Yugoslav Bishops’ Conference, including himself, “has a positive opinion of Medjugorje events.” —cf. Antonio Gaspari, “Medjugorje Deception or Miracle?”; ewtn.com
But Bishop Zanic most certainly did not. Archbishop Frane Franic, President of the Doctrinal Commission of the Yugoslav Bishops Conference, stated in an interview with the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, [8] that only the ferocious opposition of Bishop Zanic, who refused to budge from his own verdict, had impeded a positive decision on the Medjugorje apparitions. [9]
The bishops used this ambiguous sentence (non constat de supernaturalitate) because they did not want to humiliate Bishop Pavao Zanic of Mostar who constantly claimed that Our Lady did not appear to the seers. When the Yugoslav Bishops discussed the Medjugorje issue, they told Bishop Zanic that the Church was not giving a final decision on Medjugorje and consequently his opposition was without any foundation. Hearing this, Bishop Zanic began to cry and to shout, and the rest of the bishops then quit any further discussion. —Archbishop Frane Franic in January 6, 1991 issue of Slobodna Dalmacija; cited in “Catholic Media Spreading Fake News on Medjugorje”, March 9th, 2017; patheos.com
Bishop Zanic’s successor has been no more favorable or less vocal, which may be no surprise. According to Mary TV, Bishop Ratko Peric went on record stating before witnesses that he had never met or spoken to any of the visionaries and that he didn’t believe in other apparitions of Our Lady, specifically naming Fatima and Lourdes. 

I believe what I am required to believe—that is the dogma of the Immaculate Conception which was issued four years before Bernadette’s alleged apparitions. —witnessed in a sworn statement attested to by Fr. John Chisholm and Major General (ret.) Liam Prendergast; the remarks were also published in the February 1, 2001, European newspaper, “The Universe”; cf. patheos.com

Bishop Peric went further than the Yugoslav Commission and their Declaration and outright declared the apparitions to be false. But by this time, the Vatican, confronted with the obvious and overwhelmingly positive fruits of Medjugorje, began the first of a series of clear interventions to keep the pilgrimage site open to the faithful and any negative declaration from gaining traction. In a letter of clarification to Bishop Gilbert Aubry, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote:
What Bishop Peric said in his letter to the Secretary General of “Famille Chretienne”, declaring: “My conviction and my position is not only ‘non constat de supernaturalitate,’ but likewise, ‘constat de non supernaturalitate‘ [not supernatural] of the apparitions or revelations in Medjugorje”, should be considered the expression of the personal conviction of the Bishop of Mostar which he has the right to express as Ordinary of the place, but which is and remains his personal opinion. —May 26, 1998; ewtn.com
And that was that—though it has not stopped the Bishop from continuing to make damning statements. And why, when it’s clear that the Vatican continues to investigate? One answer may be the influence of a dark campaign of lies…
A CAMPAIGN OF LIES

In my own travels, I met a renowned journalist (who asked to remain anonymous) who shared with me his first-hand knowledge of events that unfolded in the mid-1990s. An American multi-millionaire from California, whom he personally knew, began a tenacious campaign to discredit Medjugorje and other alleged Marian apparitions because his wife, who was devoted to such, had left him (for mental abuse). He vowed to destroy Medjugorje if she didn’t come back, even though he’d been there numerous times and had believed in it himself. He spent millions doing just that—hiring camera crews from England to make documentaries defaming Medjugorje, sending tens of thousands of letters (to places like The Wanderer), even barging into Cardinal Ratzinger’s office! He spread all kinds of trash—stuff we now hear rehashed and rehashed… lies, said the journalist, that apparently influenced the Bishop of Mostar as well. The millionaire caused quite a bit of damage before finally running out of money and finding himself on the wrong side of the law. My source estimated that 90% of the anti-Medjugorje material out there came as a result of this disturbed soul.

At the time, this journalist did not want to identify the millionaire, and perhaps for good reason. The man had already destroyed some pro-Medjugorje ministries through his campaign of lies. Recently, however, I came across a letter from a woman, Ardath Talley, who was married to the late Phillip Kronzer who passed away in 2016. She made a statement that was dated October 19, 1998 that is a mirror image of the journalist’s story to me.

In recent months my former husband, Phillip J. Kronzer, has been orchestrating a campaign to defame the Marian movement and Medjugorje. This campaign, which employs literature and attack videos, has damaged many innocent people with false and slanderous information. Although, as we know, the Vatican remains very open towards Medjugorje, and the official Church continues to investigate it and recently restated this position, Mr. Kronzer and those who work for or with him have sought to portray the apparitions in a negative light and have circulated rumors and innuendoes that are preposterous. —the full letter can be read here

Perhaps this was taken into account when in 2010 the Vatican struck the fourth Commission to investigate Medjugorje under Cardinal Camillo Ruini. The studies of that Commission, which concluded in 2014, have now been passed on to Pope Francis. But not without one last remarkable turn in the story.

VINDICATION
The Vatican Insider has leaked the findings of the fifteen member Ruini Commission, and they are significant.
The Commission noted a very clear difference between the beginning of the phenomenon and its following development, and therefore decided to issue two distinct votes on the two different phases: the first seven presumed [apparitions] between June 24 and July 3, 1981, and all that happened later. Members and experts came out with 13 votes in favor of recognizing the supernatural nature of the first visions. —May 16th, 2017; lastampa.it
For the first time in 36 years since the apparitions began, a Commission seems to have “officially” accepted the supernatural origin of what began in 1981: that indeed, the Mother of God appeared in Medjugorje. Moreover, the Commission appears to have affirmed the findings of the psychological examinations of the visionaries and upheld the seers’ integrity, which has long been attacked, sometimes ruthlessly, by their detractors.

The committee argues that the six young seers were psychically normal and were caught by surprise by the apparition, and that nothing of what they had seen was influenced by either the Franciscans of the parish or any other subjects. They showed resistance in telling what happened despite the police [arresting] them and death [threats against] them. The Commission also rejected the hypothesis of a demonic origin of the apparitions. —Ibid.
As for the apparitions after the first seven instances, the members of the Commission apparently have both positive outlooks and negative concerns, or have suspended judgment altogether.[10] So, now the Church awaits the final word on the Ruini report, which will come from Pope Francis himself.
On December 7th, 2017, a major announcement came by way of Pope Francis’ envoy to Medjugorje, Archbishop Henryk Hoser. The ban on “official” pilgrimages has now been lifted:
The devotion of Medjugorje is allowed. It’s not prohibited, and need not be done in secret… Today, dioceses and other institutions can organize official pilgrimages. It’s no longer a problem… The decree of the former episcopal conference of what used to be Yugoslavia, which, before the Balkan war, advised against pilgrimages in Medjugorje organized by bishops, is no longer relevant.Aleitia, Dec. 7th, 2017
Since Pope Francis has already expressed approval of the Ruini Commission’s report, calling it “very, very good”,[11] it would seem the question mark over Medjugorje is quickly vanishing.
PATIENCE, PRUDENCE, OBEDIENCE… AND HUMILITY
In closing, it was the Bishop of Mostar who once said:

While waiting for the results of the Commission’s work and the Church’s verdict, let the Pastors and the faithful honor the practice of the usual prudence in such circumstances. —from a press release dated January 9, 1987; signed by Cardinal Franjo Kuharic, president of the Yugoslavian Conference of Bishops and by Bishop Pavao Zanic of Mostar
That advice is just as valid today as it was then. Likewise, the advice of Gamaliel would also seem applicable:
If this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God. (Acts 5:38-39)

 

RELATED READING

On Medjugorje

Why Did You Quote Medjugorje?

Medjugorje and the Smoking Guns

Medjugorje: “Just the Facts, Ma’am”

That Medjugorje

The New Gideon

Prophecy Properly Understood

On Private Revelation

On Seers and Visionaries

Turn On the Headlights

When the Stones Cry Out

Stoning the Prophets


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Going to Extremes

 

AS division and toxicity increase in our times, it is driving people into corners. Populist movements are emerging. Far-left and far-right groups are taking their positions. Politicians are moving toward either full-on capitalism or a new Communism. Those in the broader culture who embrace moral absolutes are labeled intolerant while those who embrace anything are considered heroes. Even in the Church, extremes are taking shape. Disgruntled Catholics are either jumping from the Barque of Peter into ultra-traditionalism or simply abandoning the Faith altogether. And among those who are staying behind, there is a war over the papacy. There are those who suggest that, unless you publicly criticize the Pope, you are a sellout (and God forbid if you dare quote him!) and then those who suggest any criticism of the Pope is grounds for excommunication (both positions are wrong, by the way).

Such are the times. Such are the trials which the Blessed Mother has been warning about for centuries. And now they are here. According to Scripture, the “end times” unfold with mankind turning upon itself.

Another horse came out, a red one. Its rider was given power to take peace away from the earth, so that people would slaughter one another. And he was given a huge sword. (Revelation 6:4)

The temptation is to be sucked into these extremes. That’s precisely what Satan wants. Division conceives war, and war births destruction. Satan knows he cannot win the war, but he can certainly tempt us to tear one another apart, to destroy families and marriages, communities and relationships, and even bring nations into battle—if we cooperate in his lies. After thousands of years of human existence and the chance to learn from the barbarism of the past, here we are repeating history again. There is no progress in the human condition without repentance. Christ is revealing Himself again (this time through our self-made sorrows) that He is, and will be, the center of the Universe and any authentic human progress. But it may take an Antichrist before this stiff-necked generation accepts that truth.

Satan may adopt the more alarming weapons of deceit—he may hide himself—he may attempt to seduce us in little things, and so to move the Church, not all at once, but by little and little from her true position. I do believe he has done much in this way in the course of the last few centuries… It is his policy to split us up and divide us, to dislodge us gradually from our rock of strength. And if there is to be a persecution, perhaps it will be then; then, perhaps, when we are all of us in all parts of Christendom so divided, and so reduced, so full of schism, so close upon heresy. When we have cast ourselves upon the world and depend for protection upon it, and have given up our independence and our strength, then [Antichrist] will burst upon us in fury as far as God allows him. Then suddenly the Roman Empire may break up, and Antichrist appear as a persecutor, and the barbarous nations around break in. —Blessed John Henry Newman, Sermon IV: The Persecution of Antichrist

 

CHRISTIAN EXTREMES

You may or may not like Pope Francis, but one thing is for certain: his pontificate has had the effect of shaking the Church, thereby, testing whether our faith is in Christ, in an institution, or for that matter, simply in ourselves.

Jesus described Himself in this way:

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

The extremes in the Church can be found in these three titles. First, a brief overview:

The Way

Jesus not only spoke the truth, but showed us how to live it—not as a mere outward action, but as a movement of the heart, of sacrificial (agape) love. Jesus loved, that is, served until His last breath. He showed us a way that we are also to take in our relation to one another.

The Truth

Jesus not only loved, but He also taught what constitutes the right way to live and not to live. That is, we must love in truth, otherwise, what appears as “love” can destroy instead of bringing life.

The Life

In following the way between the guardrails of truth, one is led into the supernatural life of Christ. In seeking God as one’s end by obeying His commandments, which are to love in truth, He satisfies the longing of the heart by giving Himself, who is the Supreme Life.

Jesus is all three of these. The extremes come, then, when we ignore one or two of the others.

Today, there are certainly those who promote “the way”, but to the exclusion of the “truth.” But the Church does not exist to merely feed and clothe the poor, but above all, bring them salvation. There is a difference between the apostle and a social worker: that difference is “the truth which sets us free.” Thus, there are those who abuse the words of Our Lord who said “Do not judge” as if He was suggesting that we should never identify sin and call another to repentance. But thankfully, Pope Francis denounced this false spirituality at his first Synod:

The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness, that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.” Catholic News Agency, October 18th, 2014

On the other hand, we can use truth as a bludgeon and a wall to separate and buffer us from the world, from the demands of “the way,” and thus being effective evangelizers. Suffice it to say that there is no example whatsoever in the Scriptures of either Christ or the Apostles trumpeting the Gospel aloft on a cliff. Rather, they entered the villages, entered their homes, entered the public squares and spoke the truth in love. So, there is also an extreme within the Church that abuses the Scriptures where Jesus cleansed the temple or scolded the Pharisees—as if this is the default mode of evangelization. It is a…

…hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word… within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals. —Catholic News Agency, October 18th, 2014

Caution and careful discernment is needed when it comes to addressing the sin of others. There is as vast a difference between Christ and us as there is between a Judge and a juror. The juror participates in applying the law, but it is the Judge who ultimately delivers the sentence.

Brothers, even if a person is caught in some transgression, you who are spiritual should correct that one in a gentle spirit, looking to yourself, so that you also may not be tempted… but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. (Galatians 6:1, 1 Peter 3:16)

Truth needs to be sought, found and expressed within the “economy” of charity, but charity in its turn needs to be understood, confirmed and practiced in the light of truth. In this way, not only do we do a service to charity enlightened by truth, but we also help give credibility to truth… Deeds without knowledge are blind, and knowledge without love is sterile. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Caritas in Veritate, n. 2, 30

Last, we see extremes of those who want nothing but the “life” or the highs of religious experience. The “way” sometimes gets attention, but the “truth” most often is in the way.

 

THE GOOD EXTREME

There is, however, one extreme that we are definitely called to. It is the total and complete abandonment of ourselves to God. It is the total and complete conversion of our hearts, putting a life of sin behind us. In other words, holiness. Today’s first Mass reading expands that word:

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God. In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. (Gal 5:18-25)

There are many Christians today who are tempted to wrath as they survey the state of the Church and the world. You see them all over the blogosphere and social media undressing the bishops and wagging their finger at the Pope. They have decided that it is time to take up the whip and cleanse the temple themselves. Well, they must follow their conscience.

But I must follow mine. I am convinced that what is necessary at this hour is not wrath but holiness. By this I do not mean wimpy piety that remains silent in the face of sin. Rather, men and women who are committed to the Truth, who are living the Way, and thus, spreading the Life which, in a word, is the love of God. This is the result of entering upon the narrow way of repentance, humility, service, and steadfast prayer. It is the narrow way of self-denial so as to be filled with Christ, so that Jesus walks again among us… through us. Put another way:

… What the Church needs is not critics, but artists… When poetry is in full crisis, the important thing is not to point the finger at bad poets but oneself to write beautiful poems, thus unstopping the sacred springs. —Georges Bernanos (d. 1948), French author, Bernanos: An Ecclesial Existence, Ignatius Press; cited in Magnificat, October 2018, pp. 70-71

I frequently get letters asking me to comment on what the Pope said or did or is doing. I’m not sure why my opinion really matters. But I said this much to one inquirer: We are seeing that our bishops and our popes are as personally fallible as the rest of us. But because they are in leadership, they need our prayers more than we need theirs! Yes, to be honest, I am more concerned with my lack of holiness than that of the clergy. For my part, I strive to hear Christ speaking above their personal weaknesses for the very reason that Jesus declared to them:

Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me. (Luke 10:16)

God’s answer to cultural decay is always saints: men and women who have incarnated the Gospel—holiness—that is the antidote to the moral collapse around us. Screaming at or above the voice of others may win an argument, but rarely does it win a soul. In fact, when Jesus cleansed the temple with a whip and scolded the Pharisees, there was no account in the Gospels that anyone repented in that moment. But we have plenty of references to when Jesus patiently and lovingly revealed that truth to hardened sinners that their hearts melted. Indeed, many became saints themselves.

Love never fails. (1 Cor 13:8)

Moral corruption in the Church was certainly not born just in our time, but comes from afar, and has its roots in the lack of sanctity… In reality, the ruin (of the Church) is born each time holiness is not put in the first place. And this applies to all times. Nor can it be maintained that it is sufficient to safeguard the right doctrine in order to have a good Church… Only holiness is subversive with respect to this infernal order in which we are immersed. —Italian Catholic scholar and writer Alessandro Gnocchi, in an interview with Italian Catholic author Aldo Maria Valli; published in Letter #66, Dr. Robert Moynihan, Inside the Vatican

 

 

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Surviving Our Toxic Culture

 

SINCE the election of two men to the most influential offices on the planet—Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States and Pope Francis to the Chair of St. Peter—there has been a marked shift in public discourse within the culture and the Church itself. Whether they intended it or not, these men have become agitators of the status quo. All at once, the political and religious landscape has suddenly changed. What was hidden in the darkness is coming to light. What could have been predicted yesterday is no longer the case today. The old order is collapsing. It is the beginning of a Great Shaking that is sparking a worldwide fulfillment of Christ’s words:

From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. (Luke 12:52-53)

The discourse in our times has not only become toxic, but dangerous. What has happened in the U.S. in the last nine days since I felt moved to republish The Growing Mob is astonishing. As I have been saying for years now, revolution has been bubbling beneath the surface; that the time would come when events would begin to move so rapidly, we would not be able to humanly keep up. That time has now begun.

The point of today’s meditation, then, is not to dwell on the growing Storm surge and increasingly dangerous winds of this present spiritual hurricane, but to help you remain joyful and, therefore, focused on the only thing that matters: God’s will.

 

CHANGE YOUR MIND

The discourse on cable news, social media, late night talk shows and chat forums has become so toxic that it is dragging peopleinto depression, anxiety and provoking passionate and hurtful responses. So, I want to turn to St. Paul again, for here was a man who lived amidst greater threats, division, and danger than most of us will ever encounter. But first, a bit of science.

We are what we think. That sounds like a cliché, but it’s true. How we think affects our mental, emotional, and even physical health. In fascinating new research on the human brain, Dr. Caroline Leaf explains how our brains are not “fixed” as once thought. Rather, our thoughts can and do change us physically.

As you think, you choose, and as you choose, you cause genetic expression to happen in your brain. This means you make proteins, and these proteins form your thoughts. Thoughts are real, physical things that occupy mental real estate. —Switch On Your Brain, Dr. Caroline Leaf, BakerBooks, p 32

Research, she notes, shows that 75 to 95 percent of mental, physical, and behavioural illness comes from one’s thought life. Thus, detoxifying one’s thoughts can have dramatic impact on one’s health, even diminishing the effects of autism, dementia, and other diseases.

We cannot control the events and circumstances of life but we can control our reactions… You are free to make choices about how you focus your attention, and this affects how the chemicals and proteins and wiring of your brain change and functions. —cf. p. 33

So, how do you look at life? Do you wake up grumpy? Does your conversation naturally gravitate to the negative? Is the cup half full or half empty?

 

BE TRANSFORMED

Remarkably, what science is now discovering, St. Paul confirmed two thousand years ago.

Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

The way we think literally transforms us. However, in order to be positively transformed, St. Paul stresses that our thinking must be conformed, not to the world, but to the will of God. Therein lies the key to authentic joy—total abandonment to the Divine Will.[1]  Thus, Jesus was also concerned with how we think:

Do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil. (Matthew 6:31-34)

But how? How do we not worry about these daily needs? First, as a baptized Christian, you are not helpless:

God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control… the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness (2 Timothy 1:7; Romans 8:26)

Through prayer and the Sacraments, God gives us a superabundance of grace for our needs. As we heard in the Gospel today, “If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” [2]

Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2010

Still, one has to avoid the error of Quietism where one sits idly, waiting for grace to change you. No! Just as an engine requires fuel to run, so too, your transformation requires your fiat, the active cooperation of your free will. It requires you to literally change how you think. This means taking…

…every thought captive to obey Christ. (2 Cor 10:5)

That takes some work! As I wrote in The Power of Judgmentswe have to actively start bringing “judgments into the light, identifying (toxic) thought patterns, repenting of them, asking forgiveness where necessary, and then making concrete changes.” I’ve had to do this myself as I came to realize that I had a negative way of framing things; that fear was causing me to focus on the worst possible outcomes; and that I was too hard on myself, refusing to see any goodness. The fruits became evident: I had lost my joy, peace, and capacity to love others as Christ loved us.

Are you a ray of light when you enter a room or a gloomy cloud? That depends upon your thinking, which is in your control.

 

TAKE STEPS TODAY

I am not saying that we should avoid reality or stick our heads in the sand. No, the crises around you, me and the world are real and often demand that we engage them. But that is different from letting them overpower you. And they will if you do not accept the permissive will of God that has allowed these circumstances for a greater good, and instead, you seek to control everything. But that is the opposite of “seeking first the Kingdom of God.” It is the antithesis to that necessary state of spiritual childhood.

To become as little children is to empty ourselves of the selfish, sensual self in order to enthrone God in the inmost part of our being. It is to renounce this need, so deeply rooted in us, of being the sole master of all we survey, of deciding for ourselves, according to our whims, what is good or bad for us. —Fr. Victor de la Vierge, novice master and spiritual director in the Carmelite province of France; Magnificat, Sept. 23, 2018, p. 331

This is why St. Paul wrote that we should “In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” [3] We have to actively reject those thoughts that say “Why me?” and begin to say, “For me”: God has allowed this “for me” through His permissive will, and “My food is to do the will of God.” [4] Instead of grumbling and complaining—even if that is my knee-jerk reaction—I can begin again and change my thinking, saying, “Not my will, but yours be done.” [5]

In the movie Bridge of Spies, a Russian was caught spying and faced serious consequences. He sat there calmly as his interrogator asked why he was not more upset. “Would it help?” the spy replied. I often remember those words when I am tempted to “lose it” when things go wrong.

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.

—St. Teresa of Avila; ewtn.com

But we also have to take steps to avoid situations that will naturally cause stress. Even Jesus walked away from the mob since He knew they were not interested in truth, logic, or sound reasoning. So, in order to be transformed in your mind, you have to dwell on “truth, beauty, and goodness” and avoid the darkness. It may require removing yourself from toxic relationships, forums, and exchanges; it may mean shutting off the television, not engaging in nasty Facebook debates, and avoiding politics at family gatherings. Rather, start making deliberate postive choices:

…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you. (Phil 4:4-9)

 

YOU ARE NOT ALONE

Finally, don’t think that “positive thinking” or praising God in the midst of suffering is either a form of denial or that you are alone. You see, we sometimes think that Jesus only meets us in consolation (Mount Tabor) or desolation (Mount Calvary). But, in fact, He is always with us in the valley in between them:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)

That is, His Divine Will—the duty of the moment—comforts us. I may not know why I am suffering. I may not know why I am ill. I may not understand why bad things are happening to me or others… but I know that, if I follow Christ, if I obey His commandments, He will remain in me as I remain in Him and my joy “will be complete.”[6] That’s His promise.

And so,

Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

And then, take every thought captive that comes to steal away your peace. Make it obedient to Christ… and be transformed by the renewal of your mind.

So I declare and testify in the Lord that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds; darkened in understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance, because of their hardness of heart, they have become callous and have handed themselves over to licentiousness for the practice of every kind of impurity to excess. That is not how you learned Christ, assuming that you have heard of him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus, that you should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth. (Eph 4:17-24)

Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. (Col 3:2)

 

RELATED READING

The Shaking of the Church

On the Eve

The Collapse of Civil Discourse

Barbarians at the Gates

On the Eve of Revolution

Hope is Dawning

 

https://player.vimeo.com/video/92308097

 

The Now Word is a full-time ministry that
continues by your support.
Bless you, and thank you. 

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