Thursday, September 19, 2013


The international media, not surprisingly, sadly, is all aflutter, reporting in high pitched and breathless tones the supposed change in the Catholic Church around homosexuality, contraception and abortion because of what they say Pope Francis said in the long interview he gave to a Jesuit magazine, being published this month in English in the magazine: AMERICA and available on line at their web site.

Not just tragically, but in some respects dangerously, the major media outlets such as CNN, BBC, CBC, respectively in the US, Great Britain, Canada, lift from serious, thoughtful, interviews such as the one given by Pope Francis, those snippets designed not to inform in depth, but rather to garner viewers who perhaps will buy more of the toothpaste or other products being shilled between the brief ‘news’ segments.

Everyone, in particular both practicing and non-practicing Catholics, should read, reflectively, the entire interview.

If that is done then what is revealed is the progressive deepening of Gospel life which has been unfolding since the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council began the document on the Church in the modern world with these Christocentric, and therefore person focused words: “The joy and hope, the grief and anguish….are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well….”, indeed the entire document bears a meditative re-reading.

Pope Paul VI took us deeper anew into the Gospel in his encyclicals and homilies as did Bl. John Paul, look for example towards the end of his encyclical The Gospel of Life, where in paragraph 99.3 the Holy Father speaks directly, compassionately, encouragingly, with the gift of hope to women who have had an abortion. Pope Emeritus Benedict continued this long progress deeper into Gospel life through his teachings and now Pope Francis, who nowhere in the interview deviates from Catholic teaching, is taking us deeper still into having for each other, for every human being, the mind and heart of Christ.

All this the media have missed!

For example, when asked to define himself Pope Francis declares: “I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition.”

It is the answer, indeed the prime answer, every person should speak as truth.

Even JD Salinger famous for Catcher in the Rye, in Fanny and Zooey references the Jesus Prayer, a prayer recited by many monastics and laity in particular in the Orthodox tradition, but among Roman Catholics as well, containing the truth-speaking cry: have mercy on me a sinner.  

When asked about what the Church needs today Pope Francis stresses “…the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful….” Stressing: “…I see the Church as a field hospital after battle…”

Spiritual warfare, unlike the battlefield horrors of Syria where the devastating wounds are raw and visible, at first glance may not appear to inflict such visible damage.

Seen with the eyes of Christ the broken lives are all around us, people devastated by anxiety, loss of hope, rejection, abandonment, loneliness, sometimes with the external signs of divorce, homelessness, sickness, loss of home and job.

No wonder Pope Francis cries out in the interview both as a plea and a command: “….Heal the wounds, heal the wounds.”

This is the teaching of Jesus straight from the parable of the Good Samaritan.

In a world which, to borrow a phrase from Pope Pius IX, has “lost a sense of sin”,  we see in the teachings of Pope Pius XII, particularly in the aftermath of WWII, the effort to re-educate humanity about the sacredness of the human person, about fundamental morality and there follows,  from Bl. John XXII to Benedict XVI, in the documents of the Second Vatican Council and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, articulate, clear re-stressing, rooted in Scripture, Sacred Tradition, the teachings over the millennia the depository of dogma and moral doctrine which is clear, secure, accessible.

Pope Francis is not changing in this interview as the pundits suggest, indeed cannot, change any of that.

No pope can.

What Pope Francis is trying to do, and this I am sure makes some, perhaps many Catholics and others uncomfortable, is the very thing Jesus did when He challenged the religious leaders to move from over emphasis on “the Law”, which people knew and heard about every time they went to Temple, and to place the emphasis on love and mercy.

I grew up when perhaps the most pernicious of all heresies and distortions of authentic Catholic faith, rooted in the 17th century, still held sway in much of the Church, certainly at the parochial school and parish level.

Briefly put it sustained an atmosphere of clericalism, disdain not only for the human body but even a suspicion about personhood and conveyed the message that God was harsh, mean, so much so many Catholics were fearful of God.

This is the journey out of bondage St. Pius X started us on, that made St. Therese, the Little Flower so popular because she reminded us God IS love, and now Pope Francis is seeking to take us all deeper NOT by changing the truth about abortion, for example, but, as Bl. John Paul did, calling us to Christ-like love and compassion for one another.

When in the interview, naturally the media skipped this part, Pope Francis states: “The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you……the proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives….” he is echoing the Council’s document on the Church, which begins with the words: “Christ is the light of humanity.”, and the words of Bl. John Paul in his first encyclical the Redeemer of Man: “The Redeemer of man, Jesus Christ, is the center of the universe and of history.”

The interview is long, deep, should be read meditatively for Pope Francis is revealing his passion for Jesus, his love for Jesus, his passion for every human being, his love for every human being and his clear understanding and trust in the deposit of faith from which flows the moral teaching, but Pope Francis is reminding us of the Heart of Jesus, the essence of the Gospel which is merciful love, the love which is such that the Father sent His only-begotten Son into the world not to condemn us but to save us.

Finally when asked about prayer and Pope Francis states how for him prayer is “…always a prayer of memory…” well is not [my words here not the Pope’s]  the critical ‘remembering’ to do in prayer that I am, that is I exist because I am beloved, yes a sinner but a beloved sinner?

So beloved that Jesus died for me, for everyone.

The challenge is to remember after I pray to do what Jesus asks of me: “Love one another as I have loved you.”

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

9/11 - Twelve Years On

Twelve years ago this evening most people in the Western world, whatever their particular personal cares and struggles, would have had no inkling what awaited the world the following their night’s sleep the sunny, calm morning of the 11th.

This evening the American President seeks to justify the world’s inaction in face of the carnage in Syria since the world has virtually ignored the 100, 000 already known dead, the innumerable wounded, the millions of refugees, yet the use of chemical weapons has shaken the world so perhaps now something will be done.

The what and the how and by whom is what bedevils the President and Congress.

Pope Francis begs the world’s leaders to strive for a peaceful solution.

What amazes me, concerns me, the focus of my prayer, is how much further down into the deep and dank valley of death this culture of relativism has gone these past twelve years and how we fail, as Christians, to face the stark reality of how our prayers and pleas to the Father through Jesus for peace are at best diluted if not totally hypocritical because we lemming-like follow the culture of death.

In the past twelve years hundreds of thousands of children have been aborted, participation in liturgical and faith praxis life continues to decline, divorce increases, anti-Christian media flourish, the family unit rooted in sacramental marriage is diminished by the push for so-called ‘gay’ marriage, the push to legalize drugs, for euthanasia, growth of the culture of self and greed extends its tentacles across the globe.

Besides the Islamist extremists continuing to attack the west – London, Madrid, Boston not to mention the many attempts foiled in various countries – within Islam itself sectarian violence continues on a daily basis while in many African countries Christians are targeted by extremists on a daily basis.

When will we change our ways so that our prayer is consistent with our life choices?

When will we heed the exhortation of the Apostle Paul?: You must live your whole life according to the Christ you have received – Jesus the Lord; you must be rooted in Him and built on Him and held firm by the faith you have been taught, and full of thanksgiving. Make sure that no one traps you and deprives you of your freedom by some secondhand, empty, rational philosophy based on the principles of this world instead of on Christ. [Col.2:6-8]


Tuesday, September 03, 2013


Pope Francis has called for the entire Church, yet I hear within his call an invitation to the entire human family, to pray and fast for peace in Syria this coming Saturday September 7th.

Prayer, if we are not careful, can be uttered as a challenge to God and if He fails to answer us exactly as we wish we can become quite angry indeed.

I knew a now deceased radio personality who sincerely with the urgency of a father’s heart made such a prayer when his child was seriously ill.

The child died and the man never got over his anger.

Understandably, to be sure.

It is a dangerous thing to root our prayer where all prayer needs be rooted, in the Our Father: “Thy will be done.”

That is the extremely difficult paradox that we first encounter as little children and subsequently flee from as adults: Any petition to a loving parent only guarantees the response itself will be loving, but not necessarily what we want or perhaps expect.

As the Servant of God Catherine Doherty has taught: Prayer must lead to total surrender, or it will lead us nowhere except back to ourselves.

Total surrender in the context of prayer for Syria means purging our hearts of all anger, desire to punish, exact revenge.

Prayer for peace must be prayer FOR peace, not that side x or y wins!

Again Catherine reminds us that: It is this surrender we fear so much…….

I recall the night of 9/11 about to celebrate Holy Mass, the Mass the Church gives us to celebrate In Times of War and Civil Disturbance.

My sincere prayer was for peace but as I was about to make the Sign of the Cross I was fully aware of the state of my emotions best summed up in the expression: nuke them!

Bowing before the Icon of the Pantocrator I stayed bowed in prayer until my emotions had settled and then was able to sincerely celebrate Holy Mass for real peace.

Yes let us follow the request of Pope Francis and pray and fast for peace in Syria, but let us do so both surrendered to the Holy Will of God, whatever He may permit, and with hearts against no one but lovingly for everyone.