Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Bill Is Coming Due

I read with interest this article online today. It discusses the grim fact that rather than being worried about a job shortage in America today, we need to be more concerned about the fact that we do not have enough younger workers to replace retirees. Why is this the case? Well, in journalistic newspeak, adults of childbearing years are not having enough children. In fact, they haven't done so for many years. What the article conveniently omits is the reason why. It is because since 1973, this country has legalized abortion on demand. Millions upon millions of children have been eliminated (murdered) since that time. Therefore, there are not enough younger workers to replace older ones.

We began to realize this crisis around 1991 when colleges began to complain about the significant drop in enrollment driving the cost of tuition ever upward. Of course, this was only about 18 years after Roe vs. Wade so it stands to reason that those children were missing as a result of our national passion for convenience.

Today we speak of the missing workers in the job market, but the real crisis is beyond that. It is that we are fast approaching a time when there will be many more retired people than working people. This spells the collapse of the social security program as we have known it. Already some have begun to realize the impact of this impending crisis and have moved to do things like raise the age for retirement. But the reality is that it is just a band-aid on an explosive situation. Our entire economy is tied into the social security program. If it collapses, everything else goes with it.

This should come as no surprise to anyone with an ounce of moral responsibility. We can never skirt God's laws forever and have no consequence. The bill is coming due to our country. Even were we to repent on a national scale and revoke abortion on demand today, we could not stave off the immediate consequences.

God have mercy on us, not because we did not know what we were doing, but because we did know and we didn't care.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


When we hear the word "modesty", we typically think in terms of how one dresses. While this is part of it, there is actually more to it that goes much deeper. Modesty is an attitude. It is something we cultivate in our hearts that is reflected by how we talk, act, and, yes, even dress.

To be modest is to deflect attention away from oneself. It is to slip quietly into the background unnoticed. It is unassuming. It goes hand in hand with a spirit of humility. It is quiet and simple.

I have seen a number of examples of this in my life. There are those people who take great delight in serving others and truly do not want to be recognized for the effort. They do not want attention. They flee from it. These have a single-minded devotion to our Lord and yearn to please Him entirely without getting any credit from others around them. This is true modesty.
Such people are typically quiet rather than talkative. Even in their actions, their modesty can be seen.

Consequently, these people are very modest in their attire as well. They do not need lists of rules that give exactitude to such things as necklines, or hemlines. They do not need a dress code. Their true modesty from the inside dictates it for them. Modesty in dress is simply to hide that which is not for public viewing. It is in complete keeping with what I have said above. Since the modest person seeks to deflect attention, rather than attract it, he or she dresses accordingly. There is nothing scandalous, or even eye-catching about it. They are unnoticed because they have chosen simplicity and plainness of dress.

It is this characteristic of modesty that characterizes the saints. And it is one of those things that has my attention right now. For while I consider myself modest enough in my attire, I realize that I lack some of the essential qualities of this virture that would make it part of my character. I find that I am too talkative, and that I say and do things that are inconsistent with one who is seeking a modest demeanor. I also realize that I am too caught up in myself to be truly modest. I crave attention and so, to that degree, I have developed a character the very opposite of modesty.

Our society does not put much stock in modesty. It's all about self; even self-exploitation. The more we reveal, shock, and otherwise behave outrageously, the better. So to pursue a truly modest lifestyle is to swim against the current. It is a difficult battle. But it is one that I think worthwhile. It is one I am persuaded I need to do.

There was a time when modesty characterized most Christians. May it be so again soon. But that will require that each of us who are Christians give careful, prayerful, and sober thought to the whole issue. May God give us His Grace to do so today!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Love The Mass

A man who fails to love the Mass fails to love Christ. We must make an effort to "live" the Mass with calm and serenity, with devotion and affection. And this is why I have always suspected that those who want the Mass to be over with quickly show, with this insensitive attitude, that they have not yet realized what the sacrifice of the altar means.
– St. Josemaria Escriva

I found this quote at the web site. It echoes what I have long felt: that those who complain about the length given to Mass merely betray that they do not want to be there anyway. Think about it; do people only go to a show, or a ballgame if they can keep it to an hour or less? Do they leave when they think it has gone too long? Do they refuse to come back or give their money for it until it is shortened to be more considerate of their busy schedule? No! A thousand times, No!

So it is that we show who our gods really are. We are devotees of entertainment, sports, and various pleasures. These are our idols. For these we willfully break the first commandment and go a whoring after the gods of our own making. Too harsh you may say? Then prove me wrong.

Show me the crowds that jam the doors of our churches on Sunday mornings, yearning to spend three hours in worship and prayer. Show me those who will spend $100 on the experience. Show me those who will drive for miles and wait in long lines to get in. Show me these and I will take back my words and do public penance for even having the thoughts.

The truth of the matter is that we tell God and everyone else about what is important in our lives by how we spend our time and money. Words mean nothing. It is actions that speak.

Perhaps it is the case that we cannot afford to spend more than one hour in worship because we are so busy feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, and the imprisoned. Maybe we are so strapped financially because we are giving every last penny we can find for the poor, hungry, and destitute of the world. Oh, that this were the case! But it cannot be, for these ills rage while the Christians around us are busy pampering and entertaining themselves. God have mercy on us, and show us the grave error of our ways!

To return to St. Josemaria Escriva, he gives us the solution to our sins: love the Mass. Attend with devotion. Pray it into our lives, and live it out before the world. My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, listen carefully to what the Spirit of the Lord is saying through the saint. Let us make attendance at Mass the priority in our lives and watch as it changes the world around us!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Reflections on the Pope's Visit

I finished watching the Mass at Yankee Stadium not long ago. I really haven't been able to see as much as I had hoped of the Pope's visit. But I have been monitoring what has been happening.

I have been encouraged by the Pope's overall take on American life. He gives us high praise for the things that are good about our country. We are a democracy. We value freedom. We are a religious people, and in spite of so much of our rhetoric to the contrary, we allow a lot of that religion to spill into the public sector. The Pope saw that as being very hopeful, especially in comparison with Europe which has become so secular.

I was also encouraged to hear him issue challenges to our country. He talked to us about materialism. He spoke of our tendency, especially as Catholics, to downplay our religious distinctives and seek to meld into the culturally acceptable civic religion of our society. He spoke of our need to be welcoming to immigrants, and to respect the life and dignity of every human being, especially that of the unborn.

In some ways I was surprised- pleasantly surprised. The Pope touched on issues that I didn't think would be mentioned. He called on Catholics to truly live out our faith, and to live out the whole faith. We cannot pick and choose. To be Catholic is to live out all of the faith, not just the parts we like. In his homily at Yankee Stadium, he called on us to be unashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He preached to us to receive Christ, to love Him, and serve Him with all our hearts.

What will be the long term results of his visit? I hope it will be a re-energized Church. I hope it will inspire many to a renewed committment to live holy. I also hope it will spark more vocations to the priesthood and the religious life.

What has been the impact of his visit on me? I have been encouraged by our Chief Shepherd. He has confirmed so many things that I hold in my own heart. That has been exciting. He challenges me to hold firm to the truth, even if it is unpopular and it seems that no one is listening. He models before me a joyful orthodoxy. May I be able to walk in his footsteps and do so into my twilight years if God should grant them to me.

Our Pope will be leaving soon. We are a much richer people for his visit. I hope he feels enriched as well. Lord, bless our Papa, our Pope!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Welcome Pope Benedict

The Pope arrives today. It is his first visit to our country and I think I am right in assuming that the great majority of Catholics here are very excited about it. I know I am. This is the first papal visit to our country since I joined this Faith.

The Pope is often misunderstood in many ways. First of all, no Catholic worships the Pope. In fact, we are not even obligated to agree with him about everything. That is, if the Pope holds a personal viewpoint that is not necessarily a dogma of the Church, then we are free to either agree or disagree with him. The Pope is not perfect. He can, and does, make mistakes. When we speak of papal infallibility we are only referring to those rare occasions when the Pope must make an official pronouncement on some aspect of the Church's teaching. I think the last time this happened was in 1950. So it is indeed rare.

Having said that, the Pope is the successor to St. Peter, called by our Lord Jesus Christ to be the chief of the apostles. The Pope occupies this same position as the chief bishop if you will, the bishops being the successors to the apostles. As such, we accord him a great deal of honor. He holds a venerable and special place in our hearts.

I am especially happy to have Benedict as our Pope. Obviously John Paul II was a wonderful Pope and Benedict follows in his footsteps. He is a very orthodox Pope, meaning that he is faithful to teach the whole faith. He is also faithful to emphasize traditional morality. The Church is blessed to have him as our leader at this time.

I am looking forward to his visit. I will be watching closely to see what he says. I am also anxious to see what the reaction will be to his visit. In addition I will be praying for him and all of us during this time. Certainly, God is wanting to speak to us through what he says. May we have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church!

Welcome Pope Benedict! We are glad to have you here!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Nonviolence Continued

I have been away from blogging for a while. This has been mostly due to a busy schedule. The bad news is I think my schedule will get busier in the near future.

I have been continuing my thinking on the issue of nonviolence. I have been looking at it from both a scriptural and historical perspective. There can be no quesition that for the first 300 years of its existence, the Church taught exclusively the tradition of nonviolence in keeping with the teaching of our Lord and His apostles. During that time, the Church was being persecuted. Believers were being slaughtered. It was the age of the martyrs. And yet, the Church was making a much bigger impact than perhaps anytime since. Could there be a relationship?

I love reading about the early Church. Sure, they had their problems. Things weren't perfect. They never are. But overall the life of the Church was a lot more vibrant than it is today. They lived holier, and were more courageous in their evangelism than we are. Nonviolence was a vital part of the practice of their faith. It bore witness to the love of Christ. It won the hearts of many of its enemies. I wish it were still the prevailing view.

Since that time we have adopted the idea of the just war. The fruit of this teaching is borne out in the great atrocities of the Church's history such as the Inquisition and the Crusades. We have the misfortune of reading through centuries of Christian killing Christian in the name of nationalism disguised as "a just war". Frankly, if the tenets of a just war were subjected to the decisions of bishops, theologians, and doctors of the Church, virtually no war that has been fought could qualify. Yet, in spite of that, virtually every war has been declared just by those propagating it. How consistent is that?

Fortunately, the Spirit is at work raising up a number of voices speaking out against this misdirection. We are being called back to that older tradition of nonviolence which is more faithful to the teaching and example of our Lord. Perhaps as we again give it due consideration, we will understand the often stated and misunderstood phrase, "Peace to you". We are called by the Prince of Peace to peace with God which naturally leads to peace with others. We walk with our feet dressed out in the preparation of peace to bring peace to the nations. This is the Gospel. What place does war or violence have in it?

None, I tell you. Absolutely none!!!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Right Hand

In the Apocalypse (or the Revelation), John sees a vision of our Lord in His glory. He notes there that "in his right hand he held seven stars," (Rev. 1:16). We are told the meaning of this in verse 20: "As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand... the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches."

It is commonly thought that the angels referred to are the bishops of the respective churches. So this brings an interesting thought. He holds the bishops in his right hand. The right hand is the hand of favor. Is this a way of showing God's favor to the bishops? It is a comforting thought, and an intriguing one at the same time. Certainly not all bishops live up to their calling. Some fall into openly scandalous situations. Are they still in the place of favor with God? But there is something else that is interesting about this repeated reference to the right hand in John's vision.

John notes that when he saw the Lord in his glory he fell at his feet as one dead (v. 17). Then he emphasizes that the Lord laid his right hand upon him to lift him up. With this, Jesus encourages John. In the same way, we may see ourselves with John in awe of our Lord in his power and glory. When our natural inclination is to fall, or to flee, Jesus is lifting us up with his right hand as well.

Now how is it that the Lord can hold on to the bishops and also raise us up with his right hand? Well, he is the Lord after all, and nothing is impossible to him. I really don't know if all this was intended by the use of this simple phrase. But then again it is too emphatic to think it is there by accident. Surely the Holy Spirit is wishing to convey something to us through this, and while I cannot be sure I've seen the full picture, I think the truth he desires to reveal certainly lies in this same direction.

Know that today,whether bishop or layman, you are a participant by the Grace of God in the right hand of our Lord. It is not because you deserve it, or that your demeanor warrants it, but simply because he has chosen you. In the words of John earlier in the chapter, "(He) loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen," (Rev. 1:6).