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Like most priests I have been called to countless crashes on the roads, or come upon accident scenes and besides administering the sacraments, helped in anyway I can.Today, driving along a not exceptionally busy street on my way to the Pastoral Centre, I was the one crashed into by a man running the red light.While my car was totalled neither one of us, thanks be to God, was injured.Bruised somewhat, but otherwise just roughly shaken up.I was, in my youth – well okay I admit well into middle-age, a speedster myself and one of those who, Lord have mercy, took umbrage with teaching number 2290 when it first appeared in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which says in part, speaking about the virtue of temperance: Those incur grave guilt who, by drunkenness or a love of speed, endanger their own and others’ safety on the road, at sea, or in the air.Temperance, like modesty, courtesy, and other virtues, humility for example, if prayed for, and lived, enable us to truly exercise that depth of charity which Pope Benedict stresses in his first encyclical, because such virtues help assure we will live the classic adage of the Servant of God, Catherine Doherty, expressed simply as: I AM THIRD![ God first, my neighbour second, I am third!]
This past week was the another week of seemingly innumerable natural and manmade disasters, hostage takings and the usual litanies of crimes against the human person, some reported in the media, some happening so deeply in the shadows we may never know the victims.This past week was also the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, a time when, as a Rabbi once told me: “God was deaf!”This past week Pope Benedict published the template encyclical of his Pontificate: GOD IS LOVE!We speak of the approximately 20 to 50 million known dead in WWII, the six million Jews, including hundreds of thousands of children slaughtered in the holocaust.We speak in the impersonal language of numbers or use utterly insane language such as ‘final solution’, which presumes an actual problem; ethnic-cleansing, which presumes dirt needing removal; of termination of a pregnancy, which presumes the beginning of life was our idea in the first place.Be it Hitler, or any individual or group which has ever, is, or will target other human beings to be murdered, be they in the womb, living outside the womb in any condition, race, gender, age, religion, each and every victim of any form of violence, murder, torture, abuse, degradation, abandonment, discrimination, rejection, each and every one IS my brother, my sister.Someone once, pouring out from their heart the detailed horror of their childhood and what was done to them and their siblings, in the end of the telling said:“So tell me Father, how come the neighbours could hear our screams and God could not?”For me Auschwitz, WWII, Hiroshima, Viet-Nam, 9/11, abortion, abuse, etc. are not historical realities or statistical data.They are individual persons. In my life I have met and been honoured and formed by Veterans of WWII and other wars, survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, from Auschwitz, the killings fields of Asia and Africa, of 9/11 and countless other experiences of evil in all its dark and horrific forms.I understand in the marrow of my bones, the depths of my heart and the core of my soul, both as priest-listener-servant , and personally, how often it can be that our experience of God IS that He is deaf.Yet when our experience is that God IS deaf – and this is extremely hard for those in pain to believe, extremely hard for those who do not intimately know Christ to accept – is it not rather because of the DEAFNESS of other human beings, in particular of the Baptized to the cries of each of our brothers and sisters?Perhaps too it is because in our own personal pain, our grief, depression, powerlessness is seemingly so absolute that we are so desperate to be heard by another human being WE have become deaf to God.Chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis reveal Love creating life and beauty, Love creating the human person to be the beloved of Love, and without any hint of jealously but rather increased love, Love creates another person so the human might have one like himself with whom to share love.Indeed it is constitutive – and this is the core of Pope Benedict’s encyclical reflecting upon the reality of God and us, the reality of the Gospel lived without compromise – of our response to God’s love for us that we love one another.The great mystery of the ‘way’ God loves us in a world filled with sin and evil is right there in the beginning as well. God permitted Adam and Eve to be tempted and to fall; He did not interfere when Cain slew his brother Abel – God appears absent and deaf until AFTER both catastrophes.Countless theologians, both in particular the great Jewish Scholars of the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christians commentators on the same texts and on the Gospels, as well as spiritual writers, saints, philosophers, even non-believers challenge how God can be truly Love and All-Loving when millions upon millions suffer individually, collectively, unceasingly in all manner imaginable from the child being aborted in the womb to those being led into the gas chambers to those blown to bits in Iraq, orphaned by AIDS, injured in a car accident, laid off from their auto-plant, broken by gossip, depressed or lonely.For all my study, reading, struggling with the apparent deafness of God never before have I seen such a clear statement of where to look, to listen if you will, for the answer, than in Pope Benedict’s first encyclical.The Holy Father teaches, speaking of the person-love-gift of Jesus and of Jesus’ sacrifice for us: This is love in its most radical form. By contemplating the pierced side of Christ..we can understand the starting-point of this Encyclical Letter: “God is love” [1 Jn. 4:8 ]. It is there that this truth can be contemplated. It is from there that our definition of love must begin. In this contemplation the Christian discovers the path along which his life must move. [ God Is Love, encyclical of Pope Benedict: www.vatican.va ]God is NOT deaf to any pain, cry, plea, tear.God our All-loving Father hears us so clearly His response is His Son who is with us in everything.Yes – when evil appears the more powerful, when the silence of others to our cries is deafeningly dark in their absence from coming to us, when unceasingly prayer seems a waste of time and energy – that is when we most especially, no matter what our emotions may be doing, no matter what thoughts we may be thinking, that IS when we urgently need to contemplate the pierced side of Christ.How else could St. Maximilian Kolbe have been the ears of God who is Love and heard the cry of the young father and been Love’s answer and walked into the starvation chamber?Are we, am I, willing to love like that?
Once a month I go away for a weekend of recollection, that is a weekend where I help serve our brothers and sisters the homeless. Then there are the uninterrupted hours on the Sunday with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.St. Joseph, at whose great shrine in Montreal I have had occasion to celebrate Holy Mass, is the principle patron of Canada, and so this weekend in particular, and today election day, I have been intently praying through his intercession for the election of a holy government.In the history of this young country this is only the 39th general federal election.Much has changed since the mid 19th century when this country was formed and the electorate consisted almost exclusively of the landed, male, gentry.Truly universal suffrage only came about by the latter part of the 20th century when our First People’s, the original inhabitants of this land, became eligible to vote.Thus today in the neighbourhood polling station it was wonderful to see, both amongst the officials from Elections Canada, the party representatives and among the electors the young and old, veterans and aboriginals, Canadians of every background, and for mid-afternoon, impressive numbers as well.These are such crucial days in every nation on earth for the restoration of all things to Christ, the restoration of a truly holy cultural, moral, political, economic, artistic reality – or – the continued advance of the shadows of death, from abortion to terrorism, from assault on the sacredness of marriage and family life, to the continued spread of hunger and epidemics.We speak of the right to vote as a privilege.In truth it is a most serious obligation.St. Joseph, Patron of Canada, Protector of the Universal Church, Patron of Workers, Husbands, Fathers, Priests – please intercede for the election here and everywhere of holy governments, for the unity of all Christians with Peter, for just wages for workers, the holiness of marriage, the protection of the unborn, the sanctification of priests.In a couple of hours I will join my family, and the rest of the country, to watch the results of the election – please God Canada is about to change and begin to return to Christ.
It is one of those winter days when, suddenly it seems, the darkness does not come so early in the afternoon! These days it is well after four in the afternoon before night falls. In a few months we will shift, here in this northern city, to a time when night will not fall until almost midnight!Today, there being no wind, the subzero temperature almost felt warm as I took my usual Jesus Prayer and Rosary walk around the neighbourhood, with snow falling in large flakes, reminding me of a prayer of St. Faustina’s: Oh Blood and water that gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as fountain of mercy, have mercy on us.Yes Divine Mercy, fall upon us with the lightness and beauty of today’s snow, with the lavishness which blankets all in the sweet mantle of Your grace, for the merchants of death and destruction have uttered more threats, the Holy Land is awash in blood once more, epidemics, war, poverty, heartache are all around.Within a few days the people of Canada will have the opportunity to elect a government.Unlike our brothers and sisters in countries like Afghanistan or Iraq, we run no physical risk on the journey to the polls, but I do wonder about the risk to our immortal souls at election time in Canada, the United States and other Western nations in particular.I say this because it seems there is a disconnect between what we the electors profess to hold true in our heart of hearts about the Gospel of Life and the way we cast our ballots. In most Western countries the percentage of the population who avail themselves of the opportunity to cast a ballot is very low indeed, apathy being the common reason.There appears to be amongst many people a sense that elections merely exchange one bunch of self-interested politicians for another – or – people tend to feel that real power lies not in the ballot box but in the hands of lobbyists.Not saying anything new here I agree, but what weighs upon my heart is the question of understanding that, besides prayer and fasting in intercession for the restoration of our countries to Christ, for the conversion of the culture of death to the Gospel of Life, our actual best defence against terrorism is to elect righteous, and yes, holy governments.We need to beg in our countries, before we have to plead for the same physical courage exhibited most recently by our brothers and sisters in Iraq, for the spiritual courage to elect men and women of the Gospel of Life.As posted recently on Zenit [ www.zenit.org ] Pope Benedict reminds us all we must willingly face, indeed I would say embrace with holy zeal and joy, the reality: …that professing the Christian faith demands the heroism of the Martyrs…..everywhere, even where there is no persecution, there is a high price to pay for consistently living the Gospel…Contemplating the divine Child in Mary’s arms and looking to the example of St. Stephen, let us ask God for the grace to live our faith consistently, ever ready to answer those who ask us to account for the hope that is in us.To have the courage to vote according to the precepts of the Gospel of Life, to not keep silent around the water cooler, and most urgently in the pulpit, when truth, life, marriage, family, chastity, modesty, solidarity etc., etc. is under assault, certainly does in our day demand true courage.My heart believes there is a real urgency we change the way we vote, that politicians change the way they govern, that priests change the way we teach, that every part of our culture convert or we could well find ourselves under a shadow worse than that which engulfed so much of the world from 1939 on and, if the terrorists have their way, camps and ovens are not that far off, yes even on the soil of Canada and the United States.We cannot keep asking God to bless Canada, bless America if we choose, at the ballot box or in any other way, by choice or what is even worse by the default of cowardly silence, to be complicit in the culture of death.For this reason I kneel before the Father, from Whom every family in heaven and on earth gets its name, that He may grant you in accord with the fullness of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner self, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts, through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have the strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and the length, the height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge, so that you may be filled with the fullness of God. [ Eph. 3:14-19 ]
Sometimes I neither post here nor write at all because my being simply needs deep silence and stillness, praying with Him and Our Blessed Mother for mercy amidst the immense suffering throughout the entire human family.It is to try and be one with Christ in the desert, in the Garden, to fulfill a prime duty, a joy, of being a priest which is to pray for the salvation of souls, for the needs of every human being.During such a period though I will go to favourite Blogs, as to an oasis in the desert and I do pray for each of you.It has been a long spell this time, of not posting, but in that time I did pray for Mark http://markmossasj.blogspot.com/atom.xml on his retreat and look forward to reading his book when it is published.Indeed in so many ways is my heart blessed by what I ‘read’, or more accurately hear and learn from those who, answering the call of Pope John Paul the Great to use the internet to spread the Gospel, do so.http://happycatholic.blogspot.com/atom.xml is Julie’s and she always lightens my heart.http://penitens.blogspot.com/atom.xml shares wonderful food for meditation.http://martha2.blogspot.com/atom.xml shows great humility in her openness and thus always teaches.http://ragemonkey.blogspot.com/atom.xml ah, these brother priests!I truly treasure you in my heart. For a human family of over 6 billion souls, and counting, we are less than a half million priests.We do need your prayers to be good, holy, faithful servants, and for all families to encourage their sons to open wide their hearts. Christ is calling many who simply need to be encouraged and they will say yes with generosity, courage and joy.John and Lucille! http://catholiclovedotcom.blogspot.com with their excellent teaching reveal true sacramental love, the splendour of the holy vocation of marriage, the beauty and sacrifice of family life and inspire myself, and I am sure countless other priests, to be true servants of life and family.I’ll write later today about what is on my heart but wanted here to thank each and everyone of you for the blessing of your Blog.
No matter what we may think is the most important way priests should serve, and everyone has their own ideas here, THE reality is most important of all is not something he primarily does, but is: PRAYER!Yep, being a living prayer. Especially: praying-celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; praying-hearing Confessions and all the other Sacraments; the Divine Office, the Holy Rosary – also simply putting his face to the ground: before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament; a favourite statue or Icon of Our Blessed Mother or the patron saint of the parish, city, town, village. Pleading and weeping for the whole world.All prayer, by groaning of the Holy Spirit within us, is to the Father, in the Name of Jesus. JESUS IS our perfect prayer to the Father.Prayer may leave our hearts and lips as yearning, screaming in agony of incomprehension because of pain, as tears, some formulaic prayer, devotion, or as simply as a sigh.Today, in the Divine Office in the Roman Rite, I was struck deeply by Psalm 38.Here are some meditation thoughts inspired by the Psalm, which begins: Lord, punish me no more in Your anger; in Your wrath do not chastise me.Lord, a minister claims the suffering of our Elder Brother Ariel is Your punishment because he sought to bring peace to Israel and Palestine.Please, do not punish us for such uncharitable and arrogant foolishness. We wish no part in such harshness towards our Brother or his suffering people.In Your righteous wrath, against our intemperance, lack of charity, slaughter of the pre-born little ones, assaults on the family, - You rightly challenge our claims in Canada and the United States to be Christian nations.Far we have strayed from the Gospel and into the darkness of the culture of death. Please do no chastise us but hear our plea for time to be converted.Is it not understandable grieving families in West Virginia may feel as if arrows have pierced them through and through? Perhaps even the weight of Your hand come down in anger is what others may feel as they bury their dead sons, husbands, brothers, sisters, wives, children amidst the grief which comes from duty protecting us at home and abroad, while families in Bavaria or Kashmir grieve because it seems as if Your very creation, as with Katrina, rebels against Your children; the millions with AIDS in Africa, bird-flu in Asia, may feel they are experiencing Your anger in their very flesh; while where floods rage, fields and houses burn, wars are a constant, terrorism slaughters those going to Mosque or pilgrims to Mecca are crushed beneath the crumbling hostel, surely many may feel as if iniquity in this world has overwhelmed them.The Psalmist cries out, in the first person, a plea which is both confession and yearning for mercy – yet in our day it is not politically correct, and scary for liberal Christians, a state of denial for pseudo theologians – to admit any connection between MY lack of holiness, MY sins, and any negative, wrathful, dare I say, punitive, action on Your part.This is precisely because we, lacking both a clear understanding of what sin is and does; lack likewise a true appreciation of what Divine Mercy really is and does.What is offered as purification for conversion we arrogantly assume is punishment.We read the signs of the times as: tragedies, accidents, natural disasters, acts of terror or disease, as if they were somehow disconnected from our very flesh, spirit, heart, soul.It is the notion of things happening to someone else alone, or over there somewhere else, which enables our denial and calcifies our hearts.We need the grace, O Jesus, Splendour of the Father, Divine Mercy, to make the connection between our insatiable greed, this obsession we have with a global economic system in bondage to MORE which leaves all of us living less.The frenetic energy demanded of workers and employers alike, if we be truth-speaking, leads to weakened levees and dangerous pits, and always, always, the socially vulnerable, be they above ground at home when the waters rage or below ground when the earth rages, always, always they are the ones who die. Our great sin is our culture of greed and death, a consuming culture which devours the consumers. It is a culture of death at every level: politics of convenience and sleaze; of non-morality under the guise of elasticity of rights and denial of responsibility; a news media driven by agenda and profit, rather than the simple, factual, sharing of information; religion increasingly among the fearful, frustrated, powerless-feeling, has become a bully pulpit in search of a mythological Old Testament notion of You Father, minus the Mercy of Jesus; a religious fanaticism which is as insatiable as that of the Islamists; both engaged in the ultimate blasphemy and idolatry of claiming vengeance in Your Name – yet You have asked none of them to act in Your Name other than, as Jesus tells us: Love one another as I have loved you.I acknowledge my own responsibility: abortion: for in the first year of my priesthood I failed to passionately defend life, making only tepid homiletic remarks, never going to the rallies, and hardly spending any time with my face to the ground pleading for a stemming of the oceans of innocent blood; abuse by brother priests: while I never knew of any of the sexual kind which violated the innocent, I was aware of clerical arrogance, laziness, failure to preach the truth from the pulpit, and in my early days as a priests did nothing; anti-Semitism: the evil which dishonours and endangers our Elder Brothers and Sisters in faith, oh I often thought of seeking out the town’s Rabbi, the town’s Orthodox Arab priest, but I never did: so I acknowledge my guilt and do grieve over my sin, repent by speaking out, by being prayer, by loving and no longer fearing if I am liked, or not, for I am but a servant.We need You Jesus more than ever, do not forsake us, come anew and be actively our salvation, teach us to love, to slow down, consume less, share more, become playful children with You O Holy Child in this garden the Father has given to all of us, irrespective of our condition in life right now, or what we believe, our colour or any of that stuff we cling too as identifiers of our uniqueness, when I fact they simple entrench difference – yes smash our defensive walls, shoot Your arrows into our pet balloon notions, but please, with Your hand, wipe away our tears and scatter the darkness.Come quickly to help us, our Lord and our Salvation.