Friday, September 7, 2018

The Lord is cleaning His house

We see the need for the purification of our Catholic Church and even though it will be painful, needs must be done. Our Lord is cleaning His house, which seems to happen every 500 years or so. The first was with Saint Benedict who established monasteries and reformed monastic life in Europe around 500 AD. 

About 500 years later, St. Peter Damian, Benedictine monk, reforming Cardinal and a Doctor of the Church, in 1050 AD wrote a scathing treatise on the corruption of bishops and clergy and started a reform of ordination of clerics and bishops.  Pope Benedict XVI described him as "one of the most significant figures of the 11th century ... a lover of solitude and at the same time a fearless man of the Church, committed personally to the task of reform." We could use another St. Peter Damian right now.

Of course, in the next 500 (plus or minus) years later complacency set in yet again and the Reformation with Luther's 95 theses in 1517 AD spurred another house cleaning.

Now we are 500 years after the Reformation and it is time for another house cleaning by the Lord. It will not be comfortable but it is necessary for us to become rededicated to serving Jesus as worthy disciples. As Hebrews 12:11 reminds us:

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

May God bless us with the grace to endure and persevere in holy discipleship.

Romans 12:12 Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.


Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Doing what we can with what we have...

Fr. Longenecker wrote an insightful article that resonates with Plain Catholic living and we feel offers encouragement to everyone in these troubled times.

Opting for Saint Benedict in an Ordinary Parish

Benedictines don’t opt out or hunker down waiting for an apocalypse. They are simply realistic and understand that when things reach a particular state of societal breakdown, there is an accompanying breakdown in rational discourse and conscientious dialogue. Where there is social anarchy, there is philosophical anarchy.
Realizing this, Saint Benedict and his followers down the ages have simply gotten down on their knees, rolled up their sleeves, and gotten to work doing what they can, with what they have, where they are. Without grumbling or being paranoid and apocalyptic… they simply get on with it... 
Like Saint Benedict we’re not trying to change the whole world. We’re simply doing what we can with what we have where we are. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Novus Quodlibet: the New Whatever

An article lamenting the loss of our heritage Mass music (Novus Quodlibet: the New Whatever) has me thinking about forced enculturation in general and the need for silence for the purpose of prayer. The author also makes the point:
At one church, I am urged to get up (if I can; they make allowances for people with disabilities) and greet the people around me by name. I do not want to do this. I find it false. I do not remember the names of strangers, and I do not like to give my name out to strangers, either. It’s an act of aggressive etiquette, parading as bonhomie. I do not go to church for bonhomie. If I ever wanted it, I would go to a bar and order gin and tonic.
Whether it is politically correct speech being forced into conversations, forced greetings, "entertainment Masses" or the aforementioned "New Whatever", the whole idea of silence and prayer seems to be left out.

In our Plain Catholic home we only have a weather radio with emergency bands. It can run on electric or on a dynamo hand crank in case our electricity is out. That is all we need. No telly with its incessant whinging about the latest political brush fire or insta-celebrity mouthing scripted politics. Our computer usage is limited to correspondence via email and to financial records as well as our occasional contribution to this blog.

The rest of our lives are the conversations with each other and the silence of prayer. Those conversations we have are as much about listening to each other as they are about talking to each other. To truly listen means to silence our own thoughts and our own lips. We do not force politically correct speech onto the other. We listen with an open heart.

What can you do today to silence the relentless noise of mass media and enculturation that distracts you from your relationship with Jesus?

Friday, June 22, 2018

Renew Yourself in Christ

Romans 12: 2
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.

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

2 Corinthians 4:16
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day.

2 Corinthians 10:4-5
for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ

Colossians 3: 2
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

Colossians 3:16
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as you teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

John 8:32
and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Hidden Life

 What does the hidden life of Jesus in Nazareth teach us?

In the course of his hidden life in Nazareth Jesus stayed in the silence of an ordinary existence. This allows us to enter into fellowship with him in the holiness to be found in a daily life marked by prayer, simplicity, work and family love. His obedience to Mary to Joseph, his foster father, is an image of his filial obedience to the Father. Mary and Joseph accepted with faith the mystery of Jesus even though they did not always understand it.
Further reading: CCC 533-534, 564

One of the things I find most striking about this bit of the Catechism is how everything, EVERYTHING is grounded in the living and love of one's family. It reminds me of the importance of what we as Plain Catholics are trying to do. Through prayer, simplicity, work and family love we're given a foundation that we share with Jesus. Amen!

Friday, March 2, 2018

A Less Well-Known but Essential Role of the Priest

This is one of the those thought jogger articles. We always enjoy Msgr. Pope's clear common sense.

A Less Well-Known but Essential Role of the Priest
 • March 1, 2018
There are many roles that come to mind when one thinks of a parish priest or pastor: he is to celebrate the Liturgy, to preach, to teach, and to care for the people’s pastoral needs. In the reading for Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent, Jeremiah refers to a role many of us would not think of. As he reflects on his prophetic role, Jeremiah says to the Lord,
Remember that I stood before you to speak in their behalf, to turn away your wrath from them (Jer 18:20).
Very few people would say, “My pastor turns away God’s wrath from me.” Part of the reason for this is that we have “domesticated” God, even trivialized Him. Many think of God more as a grandfather than a father. The idea that we need to be prepared to see Him has often been replaced by the notion that He will simply welcome us into Heaven.
We must also be careful to understand what is meant by the “wrath” of God. It does not mean that He is angry or in a bad temper; God is not moody. Scripture says,

  • In God there is no variableness or shadow of turning (James 1:17).
  • For I, the LORD, do not change (Malachi 3:6).
  • And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: (Ex 3:14).

God is not wrathful one moment and serene the next.
The wrath of God is not in Him; it is in us. It is our possible experience of God if we are not ready to encounter Him. For example, if we are used to moral darkness, the glorious brightness of God’s holiness will seem harsh and unbearable to us. We might call this the “horror of God,” but the horror is in us not in Him. Similarly, if we are used to the coldness of this world of sin, the fiery warmth of God’s love will seem to us as a blazing, wrathful inferno. The problem is in us, not in God. (I have written more on this topic here: What is the Wrath of God?.)
Jeremiah sees a role for the preacher as turning away the wrath of God from His people. The bishop, priest, or deacon does this by accustoming God’s people to the light of truth and the temperature of glory. As we are repeatedly taught God’s ways and learn them, the proclaimed word of God does more than inform us; it transforms us (if we let it). This prepares us to see God—and we must be prepared to see Him.
St Gregory the Great says this of the priest:
The lips of the priest are to preserve knowledge, and men shall look to him for the law, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts … Anyone ordained a priest undertakes the task of preaching, so that with a loud cry he may go on ahead of the terrible judge who follows (Pope Gregory Pastoral Guide, Book 2:4).
We almost never speak of Jesus this way, as “terrible judge.” Of course, “terrible” is used here more in the sense of awe or reverential fear. The word “terrible” literally means “able to cause terror.” If there is a terror, though, it is in us, not in God, who is love. Thus St. Gregory is actually saying the same thing that Jeremiah did: the role of the priest is to prepare God’s people so that terror is not their experience on their day of judgment. The judgment seat of Christ is nothing to be cavalier about. It will be a place of great honesty—and most of us are made uncomfortable by that! Therefore, we must be prepared by Word and Sacrament for our day of judgment.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Breaking Free from Attachments to the World

Msgr. Pope gives clear teaching on how we are to be detached from worldly things and values.

What Attachments Are and What They Are Not

 • January 22, 2018 
This past Sunday, we read St. Paul’s almost ominous words about our need to break free from attachments to this world:
I tell you, brothers, the time is running out.
From now on, let those having wives act as not having them,
those weeping as not weeping,
those rejoicing as not rejoicing,
those buying as not owning,
those using the world as not using it fully.
For the world in its present form is passing away
 (1 Cor 7:29-31).
In this passage St. Paul speaks about what is, for most of us, the struggle that most hinders our spiritual growth. The great majority of the spiritual life is a battle about desire, worldly attachments, and the answer to this fundamental question: “What do you want most, the world and its pleasures or God and His Kingdom?” This world gets its hooks into us so and we easily become attached to it. It is hard to break free from inordinate desires.
But what are attachments and what are they not? Are there ways we can distinguish attachments from ordinary and proper desires? What are the signs that we are too attached to someone or something?
To address questions like these I turn to a great teacher of mine in matters spiritual, Fr. Thomas Dubay. Fr. Dubay died more than seven years ago but left a great legacy of teaching through his books, audio recordings, and programs at EWTN. I would like to summarize what he teaches in his spiritual classic, Fire Within, a book in which he expounds on the teachings of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross.
Here then are some excerpts (pp. 133-135). Fr. Dubay’s teaching is shown in bold, black italics, while my lesser remarks are presented in plain red text.
Sometimes it is easier to say what a thing is not than what it is. In doing this Fr. Dubay disabuses us of incorrect and sometimes puritanical notions that are neither biblical nor Catholic because they reject as bad what God has made as good. Scripture says, God created [things] to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving (1 Tim 4:3-4).
  1. First of all, attachment is not the experiencing of pleasure in things, not even keen, intense pleasure. The complete avoidance of pleasure is neither possible nor advisable in human life … There is no doubt that the pleasures of the five senses easily lead to a selfish clinging to them for their own sakes, but nonetheless, the pleasures themselves are not blameworthy. God made them, and they are good.
The remarks here are very balanced. Of itself, taking pleasure in what God has made is a kind of thanksgiving and surely an appreciation of what God has created and given.
Yet, due to our fallen nature, we must be cautious that our experience of pleasure, like all our passions, does not become unruly, improperly directed, and/or take on a life of its own. If we are not mindful, pleasures can divert our attention from the giver (and His purpose) to the gift.
Consider that a husband properly enjoys intense pleasure in his intimate experiences with his wife. Correctly understood, there is little way he can fail to enjoy this, other things being equal. These intimate moments, however, have a meaning beyond themselves: They summon him to greater appreciation and love for his wife, and ultimately for the God who created her. Further, they draw him to share his love and appreciation through an openness to the fruit this love will bear in his children.
The gift of intimacy is wonderful and to be enjoyed to the fullest, but it is not an end in itself. When it becomes its own end and exists in our mind only for its own sake, we are on the way to attachment and idolatry.
  1. Nor is possessing or using things an attachment to them.
We must all make use of things in this world to accomplish what God has given us to do. God is surely pleased to equip us with what we need to do His will: to build the Kingdom and to be of help to others.
  1. Nor is being attracted, even mightily attracted, to a beautiful object or person an unhealthy attachment. As a matter of fact, we should be drawn to the splendors of creation, for that is a compliment to the supreme Artist. Saints were and are strongly attracted to the glories of the divine handiwork and especially to holy men and women, the pinnacles of visible creation.
We should pray for the gift of wonder and awe, wherein we appreciate and are joyful in God’s glory displayed in the smallest and most hidden things as well as in the greatest and most visible things. We are also summoned to a deep love of, appreciation for, and attraction to the beauty, humor, and even quirkiness of each person.
Here, too, these things are meant to point to God; they are not ends in themselves. Sometimes that we fail to connect the dots, as St. Augustine classically describes, Late have I loved you, O Beauty, so ancient, and yet so new! Too late did I love You! For behold, You were within, and I without, and there did I seek You; I, unlovely, rushed heedlessly among the things of beauty You made. You were with me, but I was not with You. Those things kept me far from You, which, unless they were in You, would not exist” (Confessions 10.27).
So once again, to be attracted by beauty is of itself good, but it is not an end. It is a sign pointing to the even greater beauty of God and His higher gifts.
II. WHAT ATTACHMENT IS: St John of the Cross [observes] that if anyone is serious about loving God totally, he must willingly entertain no self-centered pursuit of finite things sought for themselves, that is, devoid of honest direction to God, our sole end and purpose. St. Paul makes exactly the same point when he tells the Corinthians that whatever they eat or drink, or whatever else they do they are to do all for the glory of God … (1 Cor 10:31)
St John of the Cross explicitly states that he is speaking of voluntary desires and not natural ones‚ for the latter are little or no hindrance to advanced prayer as long as the will does not intervene with a selfish clinging. By natural desires the saint has in mind, for example, a felt need for water when we are thirsty, for food when hungry, for rest when fatigued. There is no necessary disorder in experiencing these needs … to eradicate these natural inclinations and to mortify them entirely is impossible in this life.
Of course even natural desires can become unruly and exaggerated to the point that we seek to satisfy them too much and they become ends in themselves. St. Paul laments that there are some people whose god is their belly and who have their mind set only on worldly things (cf Phil 3:19).
[More problematic and] especially damaging to normal development are what John calls, “habitual appetites,” that is, repeated and willed clinging to things less than God for their own sake.
Here we come to some critical distinctions.
[W]e may ask when a desire becomes inordinate and therefore harmful. I would offer three clear signs.
  1. The first is that the activity or thing is diverted from the purpose God intends for it.
This is common today with sex, food, drink and with many diversions.
  1. The second sign is excess in use. As soon as we go too far in eating, drinking, recreating, speaking, or working, we show that there is something disordered in our activity. We cannot honestly direct to the glory of God what is in excess of what He wills. Hence, a person who buys more clothes than needed is attached to clothing. One who overeats is clinging selfishly to food.
A couple of beers is gratitude; ten is a betrayal. God certainly gives in abundance, but He does so more so that we can share with the poor than that we should cling to it selfishly as though it existed as an end of itself.
Sharing spreads God’s glory. St Paul says, All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God (2 Cor 4:15). You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God (2 Cor 9:11). Thus the abundance of God is directed to the spreading of His glory and to an increase in thanksgiving, not as an end itself that we should hoard. God’s gifts point back to Himself.
  1. The third sign of attachment is making means into ends. We have one sole purpose in life: the ultimate, enthralling vision of the Trinity in glory, in our risen body. Everything else is meant in the divine plan to bring us and others to this final embrace with Beauty and Love … As soon as honesty requires us to admit that this eating or that travel, this television viewing or that purchase is not directly or indirectly aimed at Father, Son, and Spirit, we have made ourselves into an idol. We are clearly clinging to something created for our own self-centered sake.
This is often the hardest of the three signs to discern, but the main difference between a thing becoming an end rather than a means is the question of gratitude. How consciously grateful are we to God for the things and pleasures we enjoy? Do they intensify our gratitude or do they merely distract us from thinking about God? Further, do they help us in our journey upward to God or do they merely root us more deeply in this passing world?
Another scary question is this one: How easily could we give a particular thing up if it was hindering us from God or if God no longer wanted it in our life? This is difficult because we really enjoy certain things and situations, but the important thing is not that we enjoy them but that they lead us to God. We must be honest in answering this question, avoiding puritanical notions as well as self-justifying ones.
An important gift to seek from God is not merely the strength to give things up (while displaying a sour face and poor attitude) but to begin to prefer good things in moderation to distracting things in excess. If we let God go to work in us, the good begins to crowd out the bad in an incremental way.
[Therefore:] an attachment is a willed seeking of something finite for its own sake. It is an unreal pursuit, an illusory desire. Nothing exists except for the sake of God who made all things for Himself. Any other use is a distortion.
A final observation I would add about attachments is that they are a complex aspect of self-mastery. We are not easily rid of them, especially in certain areas. The areas that are difficult vary from person to person. We do well to ask God for help humbly A particularly clear sign of an attachment is excessive worry about the loss of particular things, persons, or situations. In such cases, we must run to God like a child and cast such cares on Him, trusting that He can restore us to a proper and free joy in His gifts, a joy increasingly free of the fear of loss.
Grant us, O Lord, to rejoice in your gifts free from the possessiveness that incites the fear of loss. We cry to you, for only you, O Lord, can heal our wounded hearts. Amen.

Matthew 5:16 So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

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