Wednesday, April 10, 2019

THE SIXTIES HAVE OVERCOME US ~ PART 2


                                    

When considering the sixties generation, we should be aware in many countries they grew up in families which had been deeply impacted by WWI, by the Great Depression, by WWII, and the Korean war. They also had grown up in the atomic era.

A reading, for example of writings of Pope Emeritus Benedict in the days leading up to the Second Vatican Council reveal his growing awareness and concern about the state of post-war and post mid-century humanity, culminating in this from the Council’s Document on the Church in the Modern world, attributed to the then Fr. Ratzinger, a petri, that is a theological advisor to the bishops at the council: The truth is that the imbalances under which the modern world labours are linked with that more basic imbalance which is rooted in the heart of man. For in man himself many elements wrestle with one another….. he suffers from internal divisions, and from these flow so many and such great discords in society……Thinking they have found serenity in an interpretation of reality everywhere proposed these days, many look forward to a genuine and total emancipation of humanity wrought solely by human effort; they are convinced that the future rule of man over the earth will satisfy every desire of his heart. [1]

Two years before the start of the sixties a woman who had been a nurse with the Russian Imperial Army in WWI, survived the Russian revolution, lived among and served the poor during the Great Depression and WWII, and after the war founded the Madonna House Lay Apostolate, which now has houses around the world, wrote in a letter to her community, on Oct. 1, 1958: I understand perfectly that modern youth has been grievously wounded by history, whether or not they realize it. Two world wars and a depression have affected both parents and children. They are also influenced by the atomic age which causes fear of destruction. [2]

Less than ten years after that letter, P. F. Sloan would write a protest song, which in 1965 rocketed to the top of the charts when released as a single sung by Barry McGuire. The song: Eve of Destruction: “Don’t you understand, what I’m trying to say?......Can’t you see the fears that I’m feeling today? Ah, don’t you believe we’re on the eve of destruction.”

Unless we understand the extent of the emotional, spiritual damage done, to the grandparents and parents of the sixties generation, the profound damage done to that generation, then we will fail in our efforts to understand the spread of that damage into our own day as we approach the end of the second decade of the first century of the third millennium.

The point of these essays is not to dissect the events of the sixties per se, rather to look at the impact of the sixties on faith, family, life of the Church, and the eschatological impact. Before the Second Vatican Council, partly in response to the Reformation, partly in response to upheavals and revolutions with an attendant anti-church spread of laws and mentality, the mindset of the various popes from then to the Council, and of ordinary Catholics, was dominated by a siege mentality, an us against the world one which is antithetical to our Gospel mandate of preaching the Gospel to all nations, to everyone. Wherever that vacuum exists satan whispers into minds and hearts the ideas and morals of secularism which people will then implement to fill the void.

By 1960 the political shifts, the emergence of new nations as the colonial powers were ousted, the beginnings of the various civil rights and other rights movements, the spread of student revolts on campuses, of the defeatist philosophies of modern existentialists: Sartre comes to mind, who felt everything [and everyone] becomes without reason; Simeon de Beauvoir, who asserted she was way too smart to be known or loved, thus she had only herself; Abbey Hoffman, who maintained only the young could have valuable ideas.; Timothy Leary, who recommended the use of hallucinogens to discover self! These and others set the foundations of ever deepening nihilism, hedonism, relativism, loss of faith.

The Church, and not just by Her opponents from outside, is often accused of being behind the times, which is disingenuous because the Church, all Christians, are called to be in and not of the world, and unlike current social media, cannot, must not, make selfie focused instantaneous judgements or proclamations that make Christianity comprised with and complicit in the darkness of the surrounding culture of relativism, darkness and death.

Experience teaches that, for example, failure to exercise the virtue of prudence by social activists, governments, indeed parents, that is to think before speaking, consider before acting, in the main has devastating and unintended consequences, the old saying: you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.

Hence the wisdom, contrary to Hoffman’s ideology, of Pope Francis when it comes to the world of ideas: …..young people are also urged “to accept the authority of those who are older” (1 Pet 5:5). The Bible never ceases to insist that profound respect be shown to the elderly, since they have a wealth of experience; they have known success and failure, life’s joys and afflictions, its dreams and disappointments. In the silence of their heart, they have a store of experiences that can teach us not to make mistakes or be taken in by false promises…..It is unhelpful to buy into the cult of youth or foolishly to dismiss others simply because they are older or from another generation. Jesus tells us that the wise are able to bring forth from their store things both new and old (cf. Mt 13:52). A wise young person is open to the future, yet still capable of learning something from the experience of others. [3]

The too narrow understanding of catechesis as instruction for adult converts, the equally narrow assumption those baptized as babies some how, almost by osmosis, gain an in depth understanding of Catholic faith reveals the growing impoverishment of souls as the sixties unfolded.

Restricting catechesis to Sunday homilies is insufficient.

Before the sixties emphasis was often less on the Gospel and more on the dangers of sin and hell, sometimes exaggerating Church teaching on both. Since the sixties with the reform of the liturgy and emphasis on preaching upon the Sacred Readings, a laudatory change, unfortunately there is also, since the sixties, either too much of the priest’s agenda, drawn from compromise with the world, such as over emphasis on vague, or even counter to the faith, notions of ‘inclusion’, or an outright failure to proclaim the Gospel of Life.

Creative imagination of love is needed to take seriously and institute adult re-education programs, re-evangelization: "I sense that the moment has come to commit all of the Church's energies to a new evangelization and to the mission ad gentes. No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples" (St. John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, no. 3); "Our own time, then, must be increasingly marked by new hearing of God’s word and a new evangelization. Recovering the centrality of the divine word in the Christian life leads us to appreciate anew the deepest meaning of the forceful appeal of Pope John Paul II: to pursue the mission ad gentes and vigorously to embark upon the new evangelization, especially in those nations where the Gospel has been forgotten or meets with indifference as a result of widespread secularism" (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini no. 122).

Since the destination of every human being, every soul, is Christ, eschatology must be a central aspect of this formation for the Nietzschean assertion that God is dead, with John Robinson adding fuel to that dark fire, in the sixties, became the mindset that leads to the multiplicity of ‘spiritualities’, the allure into emptiness of Buddhism, Hinduism, both of which Hollywood and rock stars promoted, as those proponents also led the way to promiscuity, drug and pornography addictions, nihilism, hedonism, and relativism, which, when imbedded in minds and hearts, with its adamant denial of objective truth, makes any dialogue about the living-all-loving-present Divine Redeemer Jesus and the Gospel, virtually over before it has begun.

Worn out by the failed extremism of liberals on the left, including Catholics, and others, throughout the sixties, and wisely not giving into the extremism of neo-extreme right-anti just about everybody not of their ilk, a passivity has taken hold of too many people, including Catholics and Orthodox and other Christians, who may still be Sunday-observant but have otherwise given up.

We know from tragic experience that a factual event, such as the collapse of the twin towers on 9/11, can trigger a panic, a stampede of people away from danger. Likewise, we know a non-event, a rumour, indeed a lie, can also trigger a human stampede, often with people being trampled and seriously injured or killed.

Satan, the father of lies, can trigger a more subtle form of stampede, one that moves methodically over time within the human family, destroying minds and souls to the point where people deny objective truth, morality, suffer loss of faith, deny God is, of it they concede He might be, clearly He hasn’t anything relevant to say about how humans should behave or live together as one family.

Satan achieves this in a manner not unlike that used by Indigenous people for thousands of years to hunt buffalo: dressed in wolf and coyote skins the young warriors would run towards the herd to stampede the herd of buffalo over a cliff and then walk down and harvest the meat and skins they needed. Legend has it one curious young warrior positioned himself at the bottom of the cliff to watch the herd fall. He was crushed to death, hence the place to this day is known as Head-Smashed-in-Buffalo Jump.

Satan hunts human beings, immortal souls, and uses lies, rumour, distorted philosophies, self-centeredness, and a myriad of other tricks to herd people over the edge of the abyss into the chasm of the culture of death and darkness.

Sadly, too many people, including Christians, in these days are like that young warrior, passively watching our brothers and sisters, the human family, fall over the cliff, thereby getting crushed by the darkness of the culture of death in the process: “I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” [Rv.3:16] How urgently we must heed this warning and draw comfort from Divine Mercy who always comes to our assistance: Then I passed by and saw you struggling in your blood, and I said to you in your blood, “Live!” [Ez. 16:6] and being strengthened by Christ’s promise: “…..behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” [Mt.28:20], we will have the courage of the martyrs to bear witness to Christ and the Gospel of life, to fulfill our vocation to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. [5:13-16]



[1] Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World; para. 10; http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html

[2] Dear Beloved, Letters to the Children of My Spirit, Volume One, 1956-1963; p.88; Madonna House Publications, 1988

[3] para.16; CHRISTUS VIVIT OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS TO YOUNG PEOPLE AND TO THE ENTIRE PEOPLE OF GOD  http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20190325_christus-vivit.html

© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph


Saturday, March 30, 2019

THE SXITIES HAVE OVERCOME US ~ PART 1


                                        

Feedback and conversations with people about the series “The New Reality of War”, led to much reflection on the origins of the state of the human family in these days of such anxiety, hatred, violence, divisions, poverty within the human family.

These are the days within Christianity of Holy Lent, the liturgical season, wherein we are called to look deep in our own hearts that they be cleansed of all that is not of Christ, which is asking for the grace of metanoia: conversion of heart. It is the time to do penance, that is sincere acts of self denial, extra generosity to the poor that we might be more faithful disciples of Christ.

Open to me the doors of repentance, O Lifegiver… in Your compassion, deliver me, purify me by the loving kindness of Your mercy. Lead me on the paths of salvation, O Mother of God….. [taken from a Hymn of the Russian Liturgy for Great Lent]

History is replete with axial moments, stages, when things shifted with usually a clear demarcation of what proceeded and what has followed.

Drawn from a Protestant hymn from 1900, the great song of the 1960’s was: WE SHALL OVERCOME, the song of the civil rights and other ‘rights’ and anti-war movements yet we, the human family, nor any ‘rights’ group, completely overcame anything. Rather the 60’s, the social shifts, philosophies, angers, denial of God, truth etc., have overcome us and continue to ripple through the human family ever more destructively.

The 60’s became the era of the age of blame, anger, ‘me’, the end of ‘other’ before self, the end of forgiveness as primary to Christian fidelity to Christ, for too many Christians live, even when the cause of their pain may be legitimate, in bondage to resentment and refusal to forgive. That latter is an emotional and spiritual quagmire in which satan wants people trapped, the trap being bondage to whatever evil or pain was inflicted on the person in the first place.

While the end of the First World War almost, but not entirely, halted the more than five centuries of European imperialism, [ the reasons for which were not unlike Germany’s justification for WWI, taken to the extreme by the Nazis:  Lebensraum: “living space”], after the Second World War new actors began to spread their own versions of Lebensraum, most notably the Soviets [now still as Russia] and China. With revolutions, many nations threw out their oppressors, resulting often in dictatorships and seemingly incessant civil wars, of which many, both dictatorships and civil wars, continue to this day. At the same time the social upheavals within traditional democracies set in motion axial shifts, which continue to rumble through the lives of ordinary human beings, like an endless tsunami with profound impacts on family life, the lives of working people, and an increasing loss of faith within Christianity. Equally rooted in the 60’s is the reality, given most ‘democracies’ today stress they are secular societies, the only permissible ‘phobia’ now is that which attacks, demeans, discriminates against Christianity.

While the 1960’s appeared to be a new era of hope, how quickly things would change! By 1968, the whole thing had gone sour with assassinations, the emergence of terrorist groups, chaos within the Catholic Church and a plethora of unintended consequences to the supposed gains of the various ‘rights’ groups.

Not primarily civil rights legislation passed in many countries, nor the scientific and technological advances, as many assume, but a shift in the fundamental approach within the way society functions as regards faith, family, and in a major way how economies/businesses function, things unraveled.

By way of example when it comes to business/corporations:  an awareness of the needs of workers and the surrounding communities has been replaced with a fixation on shareholder profits, opening the path to globalization, hiding income from the revenue stream of national governments, money laundering, an increased suppression of unions, the moving of factories ‘off-shore’ to decrease costs and enhance profits.

On the whole matter noted above in the shift in businesses and how they operate, St. John Paul in his Encyclical Centesimus Annus, is not only giving us an overview of the great social encyclical of Pope Leo xxiii, but an in depth study of humanity and the world situation which, while written in 1991 could have been written today: …the purpose of a business firm is not simply to make a profit, but is to be found in its very existence as a community of persons who in various ways are endeavouring to satisfy their basic needs, and who form a particular group at the service of the whole of society. Profit is a regulator of the life of a business, but it is not the only one; other human and moral factors must also be considered which, in the long term, are at least equally important for the life of a business. [1]

It is folly in seeking to understand any era to simply study sources from that era. Research should include looking at sources as far back, sometimes even to antiquity, as needed, as well as current sources.

The 1960’s impact on faith and family continues to increase today, while beneath the surface growing anger and hopelessness among significant portions of the population in numerous nations has resulted in extremism, left and right, angry rather than dispassionate-centrist populism and an endless attempt for aggrieved groups to re-write history, demand ever greater financial and other forms of compensation and the embarrassing parade of national and international leaders apologizing incessantly in the name of people alive today for the sins of ancestors, as if some how the blame is irremovable, thus increasing the angry divisions in many nations and fueling the hate of extremists.

How did it all go so wrong so quickly, how did we who sang and marched and worked to overcome injustice, discrimination, poverty, etc., be overtaken by what was set in motion as  presumed good for the human family, and has now become the albatross of chaos, evil, the darkness of the culture of death?

Some clues to the answer can be found in a study of the rise of the Nazis to power [2] as well as a careful study of ancient Rome, of countries such as France, the United States, Germany, England, Russia when social, cultural, religious, agrarian, industrial, political upheavals occurred.

Applicable as much today in the age of terrorism, social upheaval, abortion, euthanasia, etc., as when written, these words from Ven. Pope Pius xii from 1945: As interpreter of the universal anguish by which almost every nation is grievously distressed, We desire to leave nothing undone within Our powers that may mitigate these numberless miseries or that may hasten the end of such great destruction. We know well that the resources of men are unable to heal these great injuries. We know that the human mind, especially when hate and rivalry have blinded it, cannot easily determine a just and equitable solution of affairs along with a fraternal agreement. It is therefore necessary to implore the Father of light and mercy repeatedly. He alone, in the midst of such violent disturbances and tumults, can persuade those concerned that too many catastrophes and devastations have been piled up in a fearful mass, that too many tears have been shed, and that too much blood has been spilled. Therefore divine and human rights demand unequivocally that such hideous slaughter cease as soon as possible. [3]

It is unworthy of we the baptized, and an implicit criticism of God for having breathed life into us at this specific time in salvation/human history, to whine incessantly, or fearfully, that we live in the age of darkness of the culture of death whose immediate roots are in the turbulence of the 1960’s.

Through baptism we are participants in the prophetic mission of Christ, and as Jesus teaches us:  “A prophet is not without honour except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” [Mk.6:4]

Our native place is this earth, our kin are every human being, our house the particular country in which we live.

A prophet….lives close to God……if men [sic human beings] followed the teachings of Jesus, all personal, all social, all national, all international problems would be solved. [4]

Satan wants us to stay in the shadows, to keep the light of Christ hidden deep within us, rather than for us to be shining lights in the darkness, but the consequences of this, added to the amount of time, emotional strength, wasted on simply bemoaning the culture of death, is, [hopefully unintended yet nonetheless real] complicity in the very anti-Christian, anti-life culture which engulfs us.

Alexis de Tocqueville, who wrote the two volume Democracy in America [1835 & 1840] “…was convinced that democracy could not survive the loss of Christian faith…..’one must maintain Christianity within the new democracies at all cost.’”  [5]

In the aftermath of the WWII, as the restoration of the devastation sought to restore the human family, that restoration was uneven and sometimes as bad as the war itself: Eastern Europe became a Soviet prison, China and other countries experienced bloody revolutions resulting in oppressive dictatorships. Western Europe, Canada and the United States in particular saw a baby boom, a virtual flood of men into seminaries, monasteries, religious orders, while convents were bursting at the seams, the economy was in a boom cycle, materialism gaining ground until the logical sequence of nihilism, hedonism, atheism, became the selfie-taking dehumanizing world of today.

Yet, beneath the surface of the apparent resurgence of faith, growth of the so-called middle class, after WWII, dark forces were at work, satan for sure, his human agents as well.

Four events would happen at the end of the 1950’s which would be the first signs an axial shift into a new era was beginning: Pope Pius xii dies and is succeeded by John xxiii [6] who will stun the Church and indeed the world when within months he announces that he will call for a second Vatican Council; a young Polish priest, Karol Wojtyla will become a bishop; not really understood at the time as to the implications, the first human being, in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, at the time known as the Belgian Congo, would die of HIV, AIDS.

[1] cf. para. 35 ~ http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_01051991_centesimus-annus.html

[2] The Death of Democracy by Benjamin Carte Hett published in 2018, is particularly informative.

[3] https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/document/communium-interpretes-dolorum-interpreter-of-the-universal-anguish-281

[4] The Gospel of John, volume 2, p. 51; William Barclay; Revised Edition The Westminster Press 1975

[5] The Benedict Option, p.89, Rod Dreher, Sentinel 2018

[6] Beyond the scope of this essay to consider in detail, the death of Ven. Pus xii also began the purifying from the Church those remaining pockets of the pernicious heresy of Jansenism which infected the Church from the 17th century for three hundred years. The first major weakening of that heresy was not the various condemnations by Popes over the era, rather it was the autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, and St. Pius x urging frequent Holy Communion. The documents of Vatican II, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the spread of devotion to Divine Mercy, St. John Paul’s theology of the body were/are instrumental, though sadly neo-Jansenism is prevalent in extreme conservative Catholicism in our day.

© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph




Friday, February 15, 2019

IT HAS COME TO THIS


                                                          

As a child

the crunch of boots

on frozen snow

made me laugh, filled with joy.

This dark, frigid night,

was warmed earlier with soup,

at the shelter.

But not allowed to stay,

too violent is how they identify me.

They did tell me to be careful,

the windchill, they said, is minus 40.

Here, in this alley, scrapped by city plows

down to bare pavement,

huge piles of snow, on either side,

are like arms, arms too distant to embrace.

I ache to be embraced.

Cannot remember when last that was.

No crunching of snow underfoot now.

Even if the alley were snow covered,

worn running shoes would make no sound.

They do not protect my feet, which are freezing.

I tremble, shake violently really, from cold and pain.

If you find this and notice the words are wavy, and spotted

with blood,

it is I shake and the blood on my fingers,

is sticky on this pencil

I found with this cardboard in a dumpster.

Let me tell you it was not the blade entering

my body which hurt.

It was when it was pulled out that I spasmed,

as if molten metal had been poured into the wound.

Why was I attacked and stabbed?

Because they found me alone and because,

though each of us on these streets is already

a gaping wound because of our history,

in our anger, in our hopelessness, in our despair,

we wound each other anew.

God, I am some cold. I hurt.

God?

I seem to have known You long ago when I was a child.

Do You remember me, see me, hear me?

Are You there?

Are You here?

So cold, such pain, one more line, then I must lie down, rest.

So, if you have found this, remember me.

Once I had a name but have forgotten it.



[In memoriam for a young man found frozen to death in this city. His name remains unknown.]



© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph










Thursday, January 17, 2019

LIVING IN THE NEW REALITY OF WAR - PART 6


                                   

                               A TEMPLATE FOR HOLINESS, HOPE, PRESEVERANCE

Our vocation, through Baptism, as faithful disciples and soldiers of Christ, in the heart of the world, within the human family, in the heart of the Church, is to be love. [cf. Jn.13:34; 15: 12-14; 1 Thess. 4:9; 1 Jn.2:7-10; 3:23; 2 Jn. 1:5-6]

An Indigenous elder speaks gently to his grandson: “There are two wolves inside everyone which are always at war with each other. One of them is a good wolf and represents things like kindness, bravery and love. The other is a bad wolf and represents things like greed, hatred and fear. The grandson stops to think about this for awhile, then he looks up and asks: “Grandfather, which wolf wins the war?” The grandfather quietly replies: “The one that you feed.”  [1]

While it is easy to assume the enemies of faithful disciples of Christ constantly feed the bad wolf, we need to be humble enough, honest enough with ourselves about which wolf we are feeding.

We may fall into satan’s trap of suggesting we can get away with just giving the bad wolf tidbits, rather than a full meal. The danger is the bad wolf, like satan his mentor does when we give into any temptation, becomes more aggressively demanding and fear can cause us to abandon caring for the good wolf and just feeding the bad one.

We need to be nourished with the sacraments, reflecting upon Sacred Scripture with priority to the Gospel, with the Holy Rosary and other times of prayer, using sacramentals, reading the lives of the saints and their writing, in a word being nourished through all such means by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

Some, rightly, will challenge the above and note that in the lives of the saints we see that even when they were totally faithful to the will of God in the present moment, even when they were filled with faith, lived truly holy lives – or perhaps because of their very fidelity – suffering was seemingly never absent, rejection, persecution, sometimes even the profound pain of the dark night of the soul, the profound absence of God, all this they experienced as we do.

There is no quick fix, no magic elixir, nothing that exempts faithful followers of Christ from the Cross, however we can trust that the will of God, always an invitation never an imposition, only takes us/invites us, where His grace will sustain us.

We are mistaken to understand love as primarily or only a feeling, likewise with faith, hope, forgiveness of self and others.

Pure, true love is an act of the will, a choice expressed in words and actions, so are faith, hope, charity, kindness, patience, etc., and when such virtues are lived out when the night is at its darkest, the burden-bearing of the actions of others at its heaviest, when the enemy and his human cohorts are most fiercely attacking, that is when the choice to love, to believe, to endure, to be faithful in the precise moment we are living, is truly to be living holiness, radiating the Light of Christ.

We should rejoice in and be comforted by the very fact we are living in these times because the Trinity granting, us life and grace in these times, shows the love and confidence God has in us to be His faithful disciples and witnesses in these very days.

Pope Francis, who understands very well the reality we are living in has given us a wonderful pastoral gift of encouragement, his call to holiness in the modern world: “REJOICE AND BE GLAD” (Mt 5:12), Jesus tells those persecuted or humiliated for his sake. The Lord asks everything of us, and in return he offers us true life, the happiness for which we were created. He wants us to be saints and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence. The call to holiness is present in various ways from the very first pages of the Bible. We see it expressed in the Lord’s words to Abraham: “Walk before me, and be blameless” (Gen 17:1)…… The Holy Spirit bestows holiness in abundance among God’s holy and faithful people, for “it has pleased God to make men and women holy and to save them, not as individuals without any bond between them, but rather as a people who might acknowledge him in truth and serve him in holiness”….. Let the grace of your baptism bear fruit in a path of holiness. Let everything be open to God; turn to him in every situation. Do not be dismayed, for the power of the Holy Spirit enables you to do this, and holiness, in the end, is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life (cf. Gal 5:22-23). When you feel the temptation to dwell on your own weakness, raise your eyes to Christ crucified and say: “Lord, I am a poor sinner, but you can work the miracle of making me a little bit better”. In the Church, holy yet made up of sinners, you will find everything you need to grow towards holiness. The Lord has bestowed on the Church the gifts of scripture, the sacraments, holy places, living communities, the witness of the saints and a multifaceted beauty that proceeds from God’s love, “like a bride bedecked with jewels” (Is 61:10)…… At times, life presents great challenges. Through them, the Lord calls us anew to a conversion that can make his grace more evident in our lives, “in order that we may share his holiness” (Heb 12:10). At other times, we need only find a more perfect way of doing what we are already doing: “There are inspirations that tend solely to perfect in an extraordinary way the ordinary things we do in life”. When Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyên van Thuân was imprisoned, he refused to waste time waiting for the day he would be set free. Instead, he chose “to live the present moment, filling it to the brim with love”. He decided: “I will seize the occasions that present themselves every day; I will accomplish ordinary actions in an extraordinary way”……. I would like these reflections to be crowned by Mary, because she lived the Beatitudes of Jesus as none other. She is that woman who rejoiced in the presence of God, who treasured everything in her heart, and who let herself be pierced by the sword. Mary is the saint among the saints, blessed above all others. She teaches us the way of holiness and she walks ever at our side. She does not let us remain fallen and at times she takes us into her arms without judging us. Our converse with her consoles, frees and sanctifies us. Mary our Mother does not need a flood of words. She does not need us to tell her what is happening in our lives. All we need do is whisper, time and time again: “Hail Mary…”



[1] An ancient Cree Legend quoted by Ken LaPointe in: Rouleauville, The Cradle of Calgary, © 2008-2018 by Ken LaPointe and (BVC)

[2] On The Call To Holiness in Today’s World: paras 6, 15, 17, 176: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20180319_gaudete-et-exsultate.html



© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph


Thursday, January 10, 2019

LIVING IN THE NEW REALITY OF WAR – PART 5


                                       

                         BEING GOOD SOLDIERS OF CHRIST, AS LIVING ICONS OF TRUTH



So you, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And what you heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will have the ability to teach others as well. Bear your share of hardship along with me like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. To satisfy the one who recruited him, a soldier does not become entangled in the business affairs of life. [2Tim.2-4]

Soldiers, like all military personnel, are sworn to protect the people, to do battle against the enemy, even to laying down their lives.

These words of St. Paul are applicable in our own day. He is not calling us to be soldiers in terms of methods used by the military to defeat an enemy, for example the use of lethal force. He is calling us to fidelity to our baptismal oath, fidelity to the Gospel of Christ, the Gospel of Life and Truth, fidelity to our vocation within and flowing from our baptismal vocation to be proclaimers of the Gospel with our lives without compromise while living within this world, this culture.

Being a good soldier means trusting and living out this from Christ’s prayer to His Father at the last supper: I speak this in the world so that they may share My joy completely. I gave them Your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. [Jn.17:13 ff.]

People often say how overwhelmed they feel under the weight of this culture of darkness and death. To borrow a military phrase, we all are suffering “battle fatigue.”

Not least because: Our enemies are trying to wipe us off the face of the earth, literally. Our enemies are not at the gates; they are inside the gates. The enemies of Christianity are trying to ensure that Christianity has no future. [1]

A major cause of battle fatigue is the very human, and understandable, need for acceptance by others, added to which for some Catholics and other Christians, there is a persistent mythology that in ages past we were not only accepted but admired, even dominant.

There are a few crumbs of truth in that mythology, but just a few. Martyrdom, by blood, oppression, rejection, is more normative than acceptance and dominance.

All Christ’s teachings on the Church are teachings about the power of littleness: the mustard seed, the leaven, a cup of water, salt, light, ordinary acts of charity such as giving food to someone who is hungry, the grain of wheat: [cf. Mt. 5:13-16; 10:42; 13: 31ff; 25:31ff; Jn. 12:24]

If we do seek to live lives of faith, hope, love, peace, active charity, with a sense of fulfillment, as both good soldiers of Christ and a bulwark against the culture of darkness and death it means taking up our cross each day, following Christ and as St. Paul teaches, we are called to make up in our lives: …. what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of His body, which is the church…[Col. 1:24], the ‘what is lacking’ is our willingness to take up the Cross each day, follow Jesus, be in every moment one with Him.

What makes this difficult is what we take in from the surrounding culture of darkness and death through various media, the music we listen to, the books we read, etc.

Garbage in, garbage out.

We have the treasuries of Sacred Scripture, access to Holy Mass, Holy Communion, Confession, adoration, the assistance of Our Lady, the Angels, to music, art, literature which uplifts.

Beauty in, beauty out.

It is our choice.

Do we take in what vivifies or what wearies?

A human tendency which satan uses to disrupt and discourage is having us look back at some point in history, in the life of the Church, the nation, our family, our own lives through frankly, as the saying goes, ‘rose coloured glasses.’

Instead of dwelling fully in the present moment, which is the precise moment in our lives where Christ is with us, we pine for some other moment, or regret, without trust in Divine Mercy, some previous moment.

What a waste of time and grace!

Our sanctification, our deepening our union with Christ, fulfilling our vocation, accomplishing the will of God in our lives, defeating satan, the real enemy in this reality of war, proclaiming the Gospel of Truth and Life with our lives, takes place in, and only in, this precise moment.

This precise moment is both a sacred place and a threshold place. We step deeply into this moment from the previous moment and this moment is simultaneously a threshold into the next moment of grace.

Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.” [Lk.9:62]

From the moment of His Incarnation, through His birth, childhood, adulthood, public life, through the desert, the garden, on the Cross, in the tomb, in His Holy Resurrection, to this very moment Christ never looked back, never sought to somehow go back in time for any reason, rather He dwelt in and fulfilled the will of the Father for our redemption and to be with us in this precise moment.

He is the Good Shepherd leading us through every moment to the eternal moment, the unchanging yet for all eternity ever deepening moment of communion of love with Him, the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will also keep yours. [Jn.15:20]

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and sojourners to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against the soul. Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you. But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when His glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings. The God of all grace who called you to His eternal glory through Christ Jesus will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little. To Him be dominion forever. Amen. [cf. 1Pt.2:11; 4:12-14; 5:8-11]

We belong to God, and anyone who knows God listens to us, while anyone who does not belong to God refuses to hear us. This is how we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit. [cf. 1Jn.4:1-6]

Paul Evdokimov reminds us of an adage which affirms: “The hour that you are living, the task that you are doing, the man whom you are meeting in this moment, are the most important in your life.”

The greater reality than the reality of the war we experience is that Christ Himself is already our victory, that greater than all the noise and hatred is the deep silence of God, which is the sound of His loving voice.

We dwell in moments of grace.





[1] The Biggest Lie In the History Of Christianity, Matthew Kelly, p.61; Kakadu, LLC, 2018

[2] The Struggle With God, Paul Evdokimov, p.213, The Paulist Press 1966



© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph


Sunday, December 23, 2018

LIVING IN THE NEW REALITY OF WAR - PART 4


                                     

                                         WAR AGAINST AND WITHIN THE CHURCH

                                 
                                   AGE OF MARTYRS, AGE OF WITNESS, AGE OF HOPE



It is the week of the O Antiphons prayed during Vespers: O Dawn, splendour of eternal light, and sun of justice, come, and shine on those seated in darkness, and in the shadow of death.

In this new reality of war, we do well to keep before our hearts that He who is our Light pierces the darkness and He is the light the darkness cannot overcome.

I remember reciting the phrase about mourning and weeping in this valley of tears in the Hail, Holy Queen, a prayer I said often when I was growing up, and being aware at the time of the immense suffering in the world. Perhaps it was because I was a child during World War II or because the church talked more about suffering or because we didn’t have a lot of money. There was a realization that heaven waited up there, that life here was not meant to be soft and easy. [1]

For centuries, our Jewish Brothers and Sisters, when ascending to the temple in Jerusalem would sing-pray a series of Psalms: 119[120] to 133 [134], still known as the psalms of ascent.  They are powerful prayers for whenever we experience the weight of being deep in any valley of darkness, tears, fear. It is good to, at the same time, pray Psalms 134 [135]/135 [136], which are known as Alleluia psalms.

It is to experience, in this reality of war in all its visible and invisible dimensions, what Pope Emeritus Benedict teaches about faith at the end of the Lenten Retreat for the Curia in 2013: Faith is nothing other than the touch of God’s hand in the night of the world, and so – in the silence – to hear the word, to see love. [2]

This being the Holy Season of Advent, the season of hope, on the threshold of the birth of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus, we should turn to teachings that give hope, encouragement, strengthen faith, openness to absolute trust: in hoc signo vinces, that is, literally ‘in this sign you will conquer’. Our victory is found in Christ, Christ on the Cross, Christ Risen, and no enemy, visible or invisible, can overcome He who is in our midst in this moment as surely as when He first walked the earth two millennia ago: Christ is living now! He is teaching now, governing now, sanctifying now….[3]

The first step in participating in Christ’s victory over the enemy, for there is only one enemy: satan -  all human enemies are but those who do the evil one’s work -  is to be grateful for the gift of our being, at this precise moment in history, for our Loving and All merciful God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, creates us, gives of breath of life at the time in human history, which is salvation history, when all grace is available, should we chose, for us to become saints, and saints is what the human family needs, millions of Christ Light Bearers in the darkness, millions of living, active, icons of His love.

1. “REJOICE AND BE GLAD” (Mt 5:12), Jesus tells those persecuted or humiliated for His sake. The Lord asks everything of us, and in return He offers us true life, the happiness for which we were created. He wants us to be saints and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence…. 15. Let the grace of your baptism bear fruit in a path of holiness. Let everything be open to God; turn to Him in every situation. Do not be dismayed, for the power of the Holy Spirit enables you to do this, and holiness, in the end, is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life (cf. Gal 5:22-23)…... 16. This holiness to which the Lord calls you will grow through small gestures. [4]

Evil always goes for the grand gesture.

Jesus comes as a small child, not a great potentate; Jesus tells us it is the little things we do with love, which are done for Him, which lead to eternal life. [Mt. 25: 31-46].

Even the secular entertainment world cannot ignore the truth about the power of little things done well for love of Jesus: Galadriel: Mithrandir? Why the Halfling? Gandalf: I don’t know. Saruman believes it is only great power than can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I’ve found it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love. [5]

Faith is nothing other than the touch of God’s hand in the night of the world, and so – in the silence – to hear the word, to see love. [6]

In this 21st century technology, for all the benefits, is nonetheless the enemy of silence. Between cell phones and earbuds, people around the world choose to flee silence and fill their ears and brains, penetrating heart and soul, with an invasive continuum of noise. People resist turning off, even just for a few minutes, the cell phone, the music, internet, tv, as if there is a pervasive fear of silence.

Yet, drawing on Pope Emeritus Benedict’s wisdom, unless we be still, unless we embrace, at least for a few minutes the sacred gift of silence, how can we possibly hear the Word Himself, see Love Himself?

Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus. "I look at him and he looks at me":….Contemplative prayer is hearing the Word of God. ….Contemplative prayer is silence, the "symbol of the world to come" or "silent love." Words in this kind of prayer are not speeches; they are like kindling that feeds the fire of love. In this silence, unbearable to the "outer" man, the Father speaks to us his incarnate Word, who suffered, died, and rose; in this silence the Spirit of adoption enables us to share in the prayer of Jesus. [7]

In this new reality of war, with battles against forces both visible and invisible, the cacophony of noise prevents us both from hearing the Word, seeing Love, and hearing the approach of the enemy. This refusal to be still, to listen, fundamentally is the sin of pride: The heart of man seeks for solutions to his problems until no solutions are left. Then he discovers that the “I” in a sense must disappear, become totally identified with Christ in His silent service to mankind. Yes, there are many silent steps to take before one comes to the door of total identification. But when you arrive there, your heart, like those of the martyrs, will receive a new burst of love, the impulse of a heart which is finally united with the Beloved. [8]

Deep in the stillness of the night, from a cave near a small town in an occupied country under the boot of a foreign power, came the cry of a newborn.

The Infant, the so long promised, desired one, God Himself, Word of God, Light to shatter the darkness, the Redeemer, He who humbled Himself, not clinging to His divinity but becoming a human being, in the silence of the night we experience the touch of God, hear the Word, see love.

The cry of this newborn Child, this Holy Child is announcement to the Father that ‘I have come to do Your will’; it is a prayer encompassing every cry of every human being from birth to last breath; it is a declaration to satan and his minions the war has begun; it is an assurance to each of us we are not in the battle alone.

His cry is taken up by the Angels announcing His birth to the ambassadors of humanity: poor working people, shepherds, after Mary and Joseph, the first human beings to adore, in silence, this Child who smiles and whose smile holds the secret of everlasting life. [9]

This Child, who seeks a room in the inn of every human heart, should we make room for Him, this Child is our hope, He is our victory, our strength and consolation, the binder up of wounds, the forgiver of sins, He is.

Yes, just that brilliantly luminously clear: HE IS!



[1] from: https://www.americamagazine.org/issue/400/faith-focus/god-present-valley-tears

[2] Benedict XVI, Last Testament, flyleaf, Bloomsbury, paperback 2017

[3] Life of Christ, Fulton J. Sheen, p. 446, An Image Book, 1990

[4] Pope Francis: Apostolic Exhortation, on the call to holiness in the modern world: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20180319_gaudete-et-exsultate.html

[5] The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey, 2012 film: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0903624/

[6] Pope Emeritus Benedict, op. cit.

[7] Catechism of the Catholic Church #’s 2715-2717

[8] MOLCHANIE The Silence of God: p. 77; Catherine De Hueck Doherty, 1982 The Crossroad Publishing Company

[9] Circling The Sun, Meditations on Christ in Liturgy and Time, p. 25; Robert D. Pelton; The Pastoral Press, 1986

© Fr. Arthur Joseph, 2018






Friday, December 07, 2018

LIVING IN THE NEW REALITY OF WAR - PART 3


                                    WAR AGAINST AND WITHIN THE CHURCH



Since 1963 on the BBC, and seen in countries around the world, the science fiction series Dr. Who has the main character travel through time and space in a TARDIS.

The TARDIS is smaller in its exterior than in its interior, which appears to be an expanse of a seemingly infinite numbers of rooms and other spaces.

An apt symbol of the Church, for mostly people see the small, limited exterior: the particular building in which we worship, the various church institutions, religious orders, etc., rarely entering the infinite expanse of the Church, to which we can apply that which Jesus says of His Father’s house, our heavenly dwelling place: My Father's house has many rooms…[Jn.14:2].

Various things such as a hurricane, a fire, a bomb can destroy a church building, while a dearth of vocations to the priesthood, Christ centered marriages and families leads to diminished participation in Holy Mass, leading to the closing of parishes.

The sins, past and present of popes, bishops, priests, religious, laity can, have, do, likely will, wound the exterior reality of the Church.

Thus, it is vital, when reflecting upon the war against and within the Church we keep within and before our hearts: …the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. [Mt.16:18].

That as Christians we suffer, like Jesus, in union with Him, should come as no surprise, nor cause us to have anger or lack of compassion for those who persecute us in anyway: “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for He makes His sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust”. [Mt. 5:44] {cf. also: Lk.6:28; Jn. 15: 18-20; Mt. 24: 1-36}

No Christian is persecuted alone.

 Jesus is with us: He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” He said, “Who are you, sir?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” [Acts 9:4-5]

It is not just within the human family in general, within individual families, nations, between nations, where anger, hatred, violence seem to predominate in our day. This is reality, this is the reality of war within the Catholic, Orthodox, Protectant Churches and between the Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants as well.

Because Christ welcomes sinful, wounded human beings as members of His Mystical Body the Church on earth it is a stark reality that the blemishes, the sins of the members splatter upon the face of the Church.

Thus aided and abetted by satan, there are those who, within and without the Church, are always on the lookout for reasons to disparage the Church, to reject Christ, to ignore the Gospel.

This stark reality is not new.

It has been part of the reality of the Church, both the reality of external persecution and internal divisions, since shortly after Pentecost!

By way of example: a reading of the Acts of the Apostles shows both internal sins and divisions, miracles and the transforming of lives through proclamation of the Gospel; the book of Revelations shows both a glorious future for the Church on earth and in heaven, and admonitions from the Holy Spirit about weakening of faith and other internal issues, words applicable in our own day; during the first nearly four centuries of the life of the Church while thousands of Christians were being martyred, thousands of men and women went into the deserts to lead lives of penance and prayer either as hermits or in community and thus came about, through these Fathers and Mothers of the Desert, the establishment of contemplative life which, more than two millennia later, still flourishes; persecution by intimidation draconian laws, and by blood continues also to our day, yet throughout the millennia we have also seen, and see in our own day with the formation of new religious orders and communities of consecrated lay faithful, to care for the sick, the poor, all those who come to the field hospital of the Church; we also have seen, from the Great Schism, to the Reformation and also a seemingly unending  procession of individuals ‘founding’ their own ‘churches’ that sadly millions of souls are cut off from the fullness of sacramental life, which only can exist, such as in Roman and Orthodox traditions, where Apostolic succession has not been broken.

Be it attempts by feudal lords or modern governments to hamper the Church, or evil regimes such as the Communists, Nazis, Islamic terrorists, to try and destroy the Church by martyring Christians, , no matter the seriousness of internal divisions or the sins of Her members, clergy and lay alike, the Church, because She is the Mystical Body of Christ on earth and is guided and constantly vivified by the Holy Spirit, experiences the truth that, as Tertullian said: The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church. Also animated by Holy Spirit the Church constantly embraces the grace of metanoia, conversion of heart.

She emerges from all persecutions and scandals, renewed and holier.

It is too easy, indeed a from of spiritual laziness, to excuse our own tepid faith, living out of the Gospel, or abandoning Catholic faith and praxis, by blaming the sins of others, clergy or lay.

Every personal sin wounds the entire body of Christ.

We cannot point the finger at anyone, for as Jesus challenges to self-assumed righteous seeking to have the woman caught in adultery stoned to death, who of us is pure enough to cast a stone at the Church, at anyone?

St. Benedict, founder of Western Monasticism, began something which established not just profound spiritual growth within Christianity but cultural foundations which led to the growth of villages, then towns, then cities, universities, hospitals, literature, science, art.

Rod Dreher, in this book THE BENEDICT OPTION, urges a re-discovery of this great treasury not simply by the Catholic Church but by all Christians, noting that: As our civilization seems to be going the way of the Roman empire, more Christians among its nations are asking themselves – and one another – how to be latter-day St. Benedicts who preserve the living faith that gave birth to our own civilization amid empire’s fall. They are awakening to and claiming the powerful truth conveyed in this saying: “Tradition is not the worship of ashes but the preservation of fire.” [2]



1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctor_Who

2] cf. p. XIX, The Benedict Option, Rod Dreher, Sentinel 2018



© Fr. Arthur Joseph 2018