Sunday, December 23, 2018



                                         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:

[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:

[5] The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey, 2012 film:

[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


                                    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]


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

© Fr. Arthur Joseph 2018