Posted by: Thomas Richard | April 2, 2020

The 2nd Step Toward Defeating Sin and its Bitter Fruit

When will it be over?

Is covid-19 the first of more plagues to come?  The day may come when this plague is gone, is over.  Then will the Church awaken to her call, her sacred vocation to the holiness worthy of her Master and Lord?  He entrusted her with potent graces and divine Truth – and a mission: take the holy saving Truth of God in Christ to the utmost ends and corners and peaks of the empty arrogance of fallen and dying mankind!  

Will the Church stand up and be the Body of Christ for this world?  Or will she return and relax to business as usual: a lukewarm comfortable compromise with the status quo – an unspoken deal with the spirit of this world – an exchange: the soul of the apostolate, for her continuing silence on the world’s broad godless path to hell?

There is a path to be walked, a Gospel to be preached, a Life to be lived, a Sacrifice to be embraced.  A bit more than a hundred years ago, near Fatima in Portugal, the Blessed Mother Mary brought the message anew to us through the simple and obedient – to children.  Mary appeared and said to Lucia:

Jesus wishes you to make me known and loved on earth. He wishes also for you to establish devotion in the world to my Immaculate Heart…. If you do what I tell you, many souls will be saved, and there will be peace. (Fatima Apparitions, 13 June 1917)

Mary also warned, that if this call is not heard and obeyed – if this devotion is not established as God desires – there will be more wars, and persecutions, and martyrs.  Much suffering will come, but…. “But in the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph.”

There seems to be no shortage of contemporary “programs” (for a fee) offered to dioceses and parishes in the U.S. to help ignite a renewal of vitality and activity among Catholics.  A summary of my conclusions about these offerings, discussed in more detail in an essay in HPR (see ref. below) expresses what’s missing in broad terms: “We have been trying to build (1) using plans that are incomplete, (2) with materials inadequate to the task, and besides that, (3) upon sand.” 

What Happened to The Catholic Faith?

In this essay, I want to focus on what I am beginning now to see is one simple but essential “factor” that is missing in some very popular programs of renewal: Mary, and devotion to her Immaculate Heart.

Heart-felt devotion to Mary in the Church, to her Immaculate Heart, has continued to decline since shortly after Vatican II.  Today, as new programs for parish evangelization and renewal emerge and fade and reappear, circulating around dioceses in America, we see a painful work of the minimization of Mary, of rightful Marian Devotion, among some popular programs du jour.  It ought not be surprising that the fruit of such programs is lacking in depth, zeal and power when Mary is either omitted or mentioned only in a perfunctory, passing way, almost reluctantly, lest anyone be “offended” by bringing her up.  A very, very well-known teacher and writer and “lay authority” on Catholic evangelization once told me, rejecting any supposed need for Marian devotion for Catholics (please forgive me while I recount these words very painful and hard to hear):

The Church teaches that all approved devotions including Marian devotions are encouraged but not in any way required of disciples. We are free to participate and integrate devotions into our prayer life and spiritual practices or not.

All that is required of any faithful Catholic is belief in the Marian Dogmas like the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption. There are many legitimate and fruitful spiritual paths with the whole of the Catholic Tradition. Some are deeply Marian and some are not. … I will not tolerate any implications that one cannot be a true discipleship without participating in Marian devotion because it does not reflect the Church’s teaching on our freedom in this area.

Marian Devotion: Intrinsic to Christian Worship

The Catechism (#971) reflects anything but such a minimizing of the need for Mary in our lives: ““The Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship.” (Pope St. Paul VI, MC 56). “Intrinsic” is a very strong word.

The intrinsic need for Mary in our life of devotion to Christ becomes clear in the light of our call far beyond mediocrity, lukewarmness and tepidity in imitation of Christ.  Such a life is an insult to Christ, to His Cross, and to our call into the holiness of life worthy of God’s Holy Kingdom.  Indeed, “Your decrees are firmly established; holiness befits your house, LORD, for all the length of days.” (Psa 93:5). 

Pope St. Paul VI wrote, concerning the place Mary has as model, example, guide for Catholics:

 In her earthly life, she realized the perfect image of the disciple of Christ, reflected every virtue, and incarnated the evangelical beatitudes proclaimed by Christ. Therefore in her, the entire Church, in its incomparable variety of life and of work, attains the most authentic form of the perfect imitation of Christ.  (Pope St. Paul VI, 11/21/1964 close of Vatican II 3rd Session)

A Brief Conclusion: The Rosary

We need – need – to recover in the Church an authentic, personal and ecclesial devotion to Mary, and more specifically, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Our hearts, still wounded and confused in the darkness of a fallen nature, are mixed and unclean.  The heart of Mary, mother of our Savior and our mother in Him, is pure, simple, unconfused, immaculate.  Our prayer, our worship, our moral lives, our reception of the saving sacraments – all is mixed, impure.  A wholly pure – immaculate – intercessor and mediatrix between us and Christ our Lord is thus an immense simplicity in our life-journey to Him and thus to our salvation.  The more we learn of her place in our salvation (that is, her maternal role as Mother of God and our Mother in Christ), the more we can seek and welcome her active role as intercessor and mediatrix – a unique divine gift of a loving and self-giving bridge to and into her Son.

One suggestion, to begin to incorporate Marian devotion into Christian discipleship: pray the Rosary daily, slowly, when you have a full hour of time to complete – without rushing, without interruptions, without worrying about the time – the five decades of the Mystery of the day.  I would almost say that it is a waste of time to rush, when praying.  An excellent way to meditate on the mystery while praying the vocal prayers of the beads, I have found, is by adding a phrase within the 10 Hail Marys that expresses the mystery.  For example, in the Rosary of the Joyful Mysteries, the 1st decade, modify each of the 10 Hail Marys by adding the phrase:

… and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus who became incarnate within you.
Holy Mary, mother of God, …

In praying this decade of Hail Marys, consciously strive to pray – not merely recite – but pray, intending to mean every word you say.  Pray with attention and devotion every word you utter in prayer!  Seek to be present to both – conscious of both – Mary and Jesus, divine Son and human Mother, both living their roles given by the Father in the work of salvation.

For example in the 4th Sorrowful Mystery, perhaps adding the phrase:

… and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus who carried His Cross for us.
Holy Mary, mother of God, …

And, another example, in the 3rd Luminous Mystery, perhaps adding the phrase

… and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus who proclaimed the Holy Gospel.
Holy Mary, mother of God, …

And I repeat: pray slowly enough to hear and to say meaningfully, intentionally, prayerfully every word you are saying.  I think you will begin, in time, to experience the union of Jesus and His Mother in the one divine will in the work of salvation.  The Rosary is all about Jesus and Mary.  It is about Mary the perfect disciple and thus model for Christians; Mary the Mother of the Church, forming Christ in each faithful one, Jesus walking the path in front of us, Mary intrinsic to our life in Him as she was intrinsic to His Life among us from the beginning.

In praying through all the four Mysteries of the Life of Jesus and the Church in this deliberate way, day after day, week after week, month after month, a work of God can be proceeding within you, forming you interiorly as is His will.  This is the fruit of authentic Marian Devotion, united to the Son, beginning to come forth. 

_______________________________________________________________

Reference for Homiletic & Pastoral Review (HPR) essay — https://www.hprweb.com/2017/09/disciple-making-with-mercenary-love/#fnref-20178-1

Posted by: Thomas Richard | March 29, 2020

The First Step Toward Defeating Coronavirus

COVID-19.  Why?  When will it be over?

First, “Why.” The question “Why?” is very, very important. If we can truly, deeply understand why God even permits such evils as suffering and dying in His creation, we can begin to understand when it can be over – when God can permit it to be over.

This article – “the First Step” – I hope to be followed by “The Second Step” – so keep that in mind as you read this.  First steps, however, are very important.

If we look to Scripture – God’s word of revealed Truth given to guide us to, and into, Jesus the Son – we learn very quickly the root cause of suffering and death: it is sin.  Adam and Eve were created in a world without suffering or death, and were given one boundary to their freedom: a tree having fruit they must not eat.  To Adam was given One Law.  One rule.  One boundary.  And the penalty was given as well, if he were to transgress: 

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” (Gen 2:16-17)

The root cause of human suffering and death is human sin. God revealed more, explicitly, concerning the effects of human sin in all of creation: man’s embrace of sin, his love of sin to the exclusion of God, infected the whole of God’s creation with a fundamental, foundational disorder.  The whole of creation: the universe, the cosmos, was placed under a bondage to futility, to decay, an interior corruption at its very core.  This was revealed to St. Paul:

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now;
and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Rom 8:18-23)

Covid-19 was permitted by God, to awaken us once more to the grave and urgent problem, and the problem is not “merely” covid-19, nor is it the problem of viruses in general or lethal bacteria or mortal diseases or ultimate death.  The problem is sin.  The problem is the love of sin, even to the exclusion and rejection and rebellion against the God who created us — for much much more than a few years on earth, with or without money, a nice home and family, health insurance, unemployment benefits, federal bail-outs and the war against terrorism. 

Our greatest and ultimate problem, our ultimate enemy, is sin.  Covid-19 may well one day be defeated – but there will be another, and another, until God’s call to humanity, into true holiness, is accomplished.  “Thy kingdom come!  Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

God’s Solution

God’s solution to sin has begun.  Jesus defeated sin on the Cross; He defeated death in His Resurrection; He defeated the love of sin to the exclusion of God in His Ascension,  when He sent the Holy Spirit to indwell His Church.  His Church at that moment – when the Holy Spirit was sent and received – became not merely one more well-meaning group on the earth of weak human beings.  His Church became the enduring Presence of Christ sent now into the whole world as His saving witness of holiness, of personal embrace not of sin but of God, the door of salvation for all mankind.

And so why can’t we simply say, “Problem solved!”  “The problem of sin is taken care of!”  No, the problem of sin is not “taken care of.”  Sin continues to be loved and embraced, to the exclusion of God, in the world and even within His Church!  Even within His Church, the problem of sin is present and active; the power of death continues to work among us, even here, in His Holy Church and therefore throughout the whole world.  The problem of sin remains and therefore the problem of the consequences of sin continue: suffering and death continues.

  • We do not seek Him – and His holiness! – above all else.  
  • We do not love God with our whole heart and mind and soul and strength.  
  • We do not take up our cross daily, with patience and holy charity, and follow Jesus.  

Lent is an excellent time to strive for a deep, heart-felt longing and commitment for repentance and renewal in Christ.  It is a time to turn from the world, and the things and loves of the world, to God – to holiness in His Name.  A good beginning is to remember and once more affirm our Baptismal Promises. (This version is from the Roman Missal, 3rd Edition from 2011, see on Catholic Culture on-line.)

Promises of Baptism

Dear brethren, through the Paschal Mystery
we have been buried with Christ in Baptism,
that we may walk with him in newness of life.
And so, let us renew the promises of Holy Baptism, in
which we once renounced Satan and his works
and promised to serve God in the holy Catholic Church.

And so I ask you:

V. Do you renounce sin, so as to live in the freedom of the children of God?
R. I do.

V. Do you renounce the lure of evil, so that sin may have no mastery over you?
R. I do.

V. Do you renounce Satan, the author and prince of sin?
R. I do.

V. Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth?
R. I do.

V. Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered death and was buried, rose again from the dead and is seated at the right hand of the Father?
R. I do.

V. Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?
R. I do.

V. And may almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has given us new birth by water and the Holy Spirit and bestowed on us forgiveness of our sins, keep us by his grace, in Christ Jesus our Lord, for eternal life.
R. Amen.
(All are sprinkled – and can make the Sign of the Cross – with holy water.)

This is the beginning of a renewal that is real: to take seriously, literally, earnestly, Baptism.

Posted by: Thomas Richard | March 11, 2020

An Interior Pilgrimage

I began writing a book on the prayer, The Our Father, many years ago. A few years later, it was first (self-) published, in 2004: The Interior Liturgy of the Our Father. The work of prayer and writing brought forth in me an appreciation for – a reverence and awe of – this prayer given from the mouth and heart of God Himself: Jesus Christ. My love for the gift of this prayer only increases, multiplies, in time as the years add upon years. No one on earth will ever, I suspect, plumb the depths of this prayer, nor draw from it all the divine wisdom and truth held in it.  It is truly, divinely, beautiful.

I wrote a short guide to prayer and meditation on this prayer, to help a reader/seeker begin to embrace it, or more deeply embrace it. The guide is on this website; if you are reading this you are only “a click away” to the first page, which is here: An Interior Pilgrimage for the Soul. On this first page is an Introduction to the prayerful journey through the petitions of the Prayer. The next page presents a meditation on the first petition of the prayer, as a “Station” along the journey.
At the end of each page, each step of the pilgrimage, is a link to the next page, and the next step of the journey, the pilgrimage. Each of the seven petitions of the Our Father is its own Station, toward the final end of the Prayer, holy union in and with the Father.  At the end of the final page is a link to return to the Home Page of the Renew The Church website.

I recommend any and all to this Pilgrimage! This Prayer is in truth “the perfect prayer”, and “the complete prayer.” It is the norm for all prayer. Those who find it and enter it in authentic prayer, are blessed indeed.

Posted by: Thomas Richard | January 24, 2020

Because Wickedness is Multiplied

“And because wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold.” (Mt 24:12)

Jesus foretold of this coldness, this chilling of the heart toward one another, because of the growth, the multiplication, of wickedness among men in the Last Days. We can see, I believe, this ugly, bitter fruit of evil growing among us even now. A growing distrust – a growing impatience – a growing cynicism that suspects the other as enemy. Even in one’s own home, and family – workplace, and church – the buyer, and the seller – what is he working against me? What harm to me, like an arrow, is drawn back in his bow? What is he really saying? What is he really planning, scheming, in the back of his mind?

Wickedness is growing! Chasms of separateness are being revealed between us, the one and the other, and the old bridges seem to be collapsing before our disbelieving eyes: how can this be? What happened to the bonds of past days? Why does he seem so cold – distant?

I look at our national leaders, and see two factions as if in a fight to the death! Not two approaches to the best for our country – for the common good of us all – but a clash of enemies having no compromise admissible, allowable, or even possible. I look at my Church – Catholic, universal – and I see progressives against conservatives, traditionalists opposing modernists, seekers of God in prayer confronted by seekers of human rights in law. I see, in our holy Church, factions of ideology in the same conflict as our secular cousins – different uniforms, different vocabularies, different playing fields, but the same goals, the same futile end, the same bitter fruit: a growing institutional coldness.

What are the faithful to do, as the tide of evil rises? Where ought we to turn, as the consequent winds of contradiction and controversy grow in fury? We must remember our Lord. Jesus taught us about the wise man, in such a time:

“Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. (Mt 7:24-25)

Our house – our home – must be built upon the rock. Our Church must be built upon the Rock, and our Domestic Church – our personal home – must be built upon the Rock. The work of building, the constructing, the assembling, must be the works and the material of Truth, of Light, of Life. The foundation upon which the building stands or falls must be True, of the Light, of His Life: then it will stand, then it will not fall. The foundation must be the Rock, our Lord, our eternal God.

Jesus taught this parable to all and any having ears to hear. The world is not interested, not listening, not hearing. The Church? Are we listening? Are we hearing? Are we learning? The teachings of Jesus are wisdom: precious, priceless, potent. This Rock is eternal. His Truth is rock-solid and cannot perish: He will always be true. And we? Will we listen, and learn, while there is time? Will the Church be Church, living her mission to be Light for the world, as darkness and dying creep into and among us, the light fading into night, the hearts of men cooling and hardening as wickedness grows?

Friends, while there is light, let us seek Him in holy prayer more and more, listening to Him in His Holy Word, holding Him close, tight, until His Word, His Truth, presses into our hearts and lives making us new! Let us be done with the compromises and contradictions of half-hearted religion, and double-minded believing! Let our “Yes!” to Him be single-minded and pure; let us guard the integrity of our hearts – His altar is holy! Let us be enkindled with the fire of the one Holy Spirit – the fire that consumes not life but death, the fire that is not of death but is of eternal life.

Posted by: Thomas Richard | January 13, 2020

Church, Behold Your Mother

In his homily that was given in a recent Mass on the great importance of Baptism (in fact, on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord), the priest likened this first and primary sacrament (the necessary door to all the other sacraments) to the operating system of a computer. Personally, I could understand what he was saying, and how he could come to such a comparison, but I was saddened by it all the same. Yes, as the baptismal graces provide a necessary foundation for the fruitful operation of the graces of all the other sacraments, so also the operating system of a computer provides a corresponding foundation for any and all other particular programs (or, “apps”, nowadays) to work their particular functions in the computer.

But – There is a problem with making up an analogy between a supernatural reality (sanctifying grace) and a natural one (computer software), if you’re not God. Jesus could use parables, and He used many, to point to supernatural truths, but He IS God. When we try to use His methods, we can come across badly and even end up pointing not to the supernatural truth, but away from it. Sanctifying grace is a gift of God, from God: a human participation in His divine life! Computer software is a fabrication of men and women, a tool having a brief working life, part of a human economy of things and money, buying and selling and soon to pass away. Do thoughts of such things point us in mind and heart to God – or are they more distractions coming from the world, requiring of us more effort to turn away from them, to begin again to seek to hear and ponder the supernatural, spiritual things of God?

So many opportunities are missed, in homilies. The Church stresses the need for the laity to deeply hear the Word of God – indeed to hear God, in His words, communicated by the homilist, in his words. So many homilists, it seems, concern themselves with being acceptable to the men and women in front of them. Was this the concern of Jesus? Is this the concern of Jesus? Ought this be the concern of the homilist?

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote much from his fertile heart, from a deep reservoir of wisdom within him, the fruit of profound pondering and reflection in silence. It is a treasure of the Church, such gifted members, who enrich so many over the centuries of salvation history. While some members are perpetually busily filling the moments of their lives often imprudently, others are pondering in silence the treasures of life, and are growing in wisdom. We need to hear the wisdom of God! We need to hear the Word of God! We need to escape the empty noise of the world, the light-hearted platitudes, the pandering and banalities. Enough of this, please! In the Holy Place of God – in the Presence of our Resurrected Lord waiting in the Tabernacle, let us hear what is fitting for Him, in His Holy House of prayer.

In the educational system, it is called the great dumbing-down. On the streets we call it brutalization, the loss of civility. In the political system we call it the deepening chasm between parties with whom there is no longer possible compromise. What do we call what has happened to our Church? How can we put into words, the loss of unction? The seeping and creeping in of the secular, the worldly, in the innermost rooms and moments of the Church! What has happened, to the Holy Place of the People of God?

Of this, the Pope Emeritus wrote:

It is, I believe, no coincidence, given our Western, masculine mentality, that we have increasingly separated Christ from His Mother, without grasping that Mary’s motherhood might have some significance for theology and faith. This attitude characterizes our whole approach to the Church. We treat the Church almost like some technological device that we plan and make with enormous cleverness and expenditure of energy. Then we are surprised when we experience the truth of what Saint Louis-Marie Grignon de Montfort once remarked, paraphrasing the words of the prophet Haggai, when he said, “You do much, but nothing comes of it”! (Hag I:6) When making becomes autonomous, the things we cannot make but that are alive and need time to mature can no longer survive.

What we need, then, is to abandon this one-sided, Western activistic outlook, lest we degrade the Church to a product of our creation and design. The Church is not a manufactured item, she is, rather, the living seed of God that must be allowed to grow and ripen. This is why the Church needs the Marian mystery, this is why the Church herself is a Marian mystery. There can be fruitfulness in the Church only when she has this character, when she becomes holy soil for the Word. We must retrieve the symbol of the fruitful soil, we must once more become waiting, inwardly recollected people who in the depth of prayer, longing, and faith give the Word room to grow.
[from Mary – The Church at the Source, H.U. von Balthasar and J. Card. Ratzinger, Ignatius Press 2005, p. 16-17.]

May the Church have ears to hear.

Posted by: Thomas Richard | December 3, 2019

A Serious Fault in the Wall

Yes, there is a fault in the wall. Through the breach, into the Church, are entering many flawed programs, ideas, projects, renovations-du-jour offered to “fix” and rejuvenate the holy work of God which has fallen into disrepair. I see many imperfections flowing from one major fault. I’ll try to express it below.

The Ultimate Idolatry: Disordered Self-Love

Mt 22:35 And one of them tested him by asking,
36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
37 He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.
38 This is the greatest and the first commandment.
39 The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
40 The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

It is essential – crucial – that the “greatest and first” be greatest and first in one’s heart and soul and mind. If the holy love of God does not fill wholly the heart and soul and mind, then what results? If heart and soul and mind are not filled with the holy love of God, then love for lesser things instead of God – apart from God – without God – has found place in the heart and soul and mind of the person. In other words, in such a human person – in his heart and soul and mind – dwells love for God, yes, but the heart and soul and mind of the person are wrongly reserving space for what is not God but idols, gods of the self, gods of self-pleasures, self-satisfactions, self-gratifying things that will not last. Lesser gods are kept within, lesser gods in service of self, in service of me above any other, even above the only God who IS. Idolatry is not a relic of past ages. Idolatry has persevered since the first fall into sin: the idolatry of love of self to the exclusion of God who is worthy of all our love.

Such a mixture in the heart and soul and mind of a human person – in particular, of a Catholic Christian – is not as unusual or uncommon as we would hope. St. James wrote of such believers:

James 1:5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it.
6 But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind.
7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord,
8 since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways.

Where does that “doubt” come from? It is rooted in the lack of oneness – of integrity – of heart and mind and soul. “He is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways.” James takes up this problem again:

James 4:8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you of two minds.
9 Begin to lament, to mourn, to weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection.
10 Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.

We need pure heart and soul and mind. The inner life within us, the inner spiritual life, is created for and demands of us wholeness – integrity – purity – absence of contradiction. God deserves all from us! He calls us to holiness! Is He not right to tell us to cleanse and purify our hearts, to “Begin to lament, to mourn, to weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.”

We will not attain the heights of holiness – our calling in Christ – until we attain that full self-gift in love for the Lord our God. We will not be able to fully love others, and serve others – that is, be obedient to love for neighbor as self – until we love God completely, with our whole heart and mind and soul. We will not be able to love ourselves rightly, until we come to love God completely. Until we love God completely, fully, in the wholeness of heart and soul and mind, then our love for others – any others – any neighbors – any brothers and sisters – will be disordered along with a disordered love for self.

Jesus is pointing us to this radical demand in the Christian Faith – the ancient “greatest and the first commandment” – in the familiar episode in the home of Martha and Mary.

Revisiting Martha and Mary

Luke 10:38 As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
39 She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
40 Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.”
41 The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
42 There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

Many Christians today are living their Christian Faith as Martha was, that day. She is a Christian: she calls Him “Lord.” She received Him, she “welcomed Him,” into her house – into her life. She was quick to seek to serve Him, as Christians do, in love. Many Christians today are hearing in our Church of the importance of serving our Lord! We ought to serve him in evangelization! We ought to be witnessing to Jesus to friends and neighbors, inviting them to our local church; we ought to be exercising spiritual gifts – charisms such as healing, or tongues, or other scriptural gifts of the Spirit – to better serve others as the early Church did! We ought to serve Him in the local parish through our “time, talent and treasure”! And so on. But – but what about “the one thing” that is necessary, needed, indeed essential – crucial, “greatest and first”?

What about the purity of intention that makes a work of love holy and true? What about the love of God with the wholeness of heart and soul and mind, that makes our gift to another also a gift to Him, beautiful and true? What about the witness and example of Martha’s sister Mary, seated at His feet listening to His words of life? No, the work – the gift – of Martha for the Lord was soiled by the mixture in her heart: loving desire to serve Him, yes, but mixed with the mercenary self-interest that revealed itself in her words to Him: “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” Where is her faith! “Lord, do you not care?” Where is her concern? “My sister has left me by myself to do the serving”. We can see, if we look, the self-interest – the “what about ME?” – that pollutes her gift, betraying disordered self-love that is unworthy of our vocation to serve Him in pure love, with whole heart and soul and mind.

His Work Requires His Power

“You can’t give what you don’t have.” That proverb may not be explicitly in Scripture, but it is true. Before Jesus sent out His Church with the burden of being light for this dark world, and with the mission of making disciples in His name, He first formed them into true “sent ones” – apostles. He worked with and in them for three years, and even after that, and after His Self-sacrifice on the Cross, and after His glorious resurrection, He came to teach them one last Truth. He insisted that they wait for one more Gift, and an essential work in them: that of the Spirit, with His “power from on high”:

Lk 24:45  He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”
45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.
46 And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day
47 and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
48 You are witnesses of these things.
49 And [behold] I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Conclusion

We need to realize our impoverishment. We lack power from on high. We lack unction. We lack spiritual maturity, and all the Gifts of the Spirit that describe maturity in Him:
We lack wisdom,
We lack understanding,
We lack counsel and of strength,
We lack knowledge, piety and holy fear of the LORD.

What is that one serious fault in the wall I wanted to write of in this essay? We need to do, as Mary our Mother directed to the servers (Jn 2:5): “Do whatever He tells you.”
We need to pray to God in our poverty, that He open our minds “to understand the scriptures”.
We are not listening to Him!
We need to wait for His promise.
We need to pray for His promise: “power from on high.”

Posted by: Thomas Richard | November 16, 2019

Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit

Example 1: The Biblical story of Martha and Mary addresses so well, and simply, the inadequacy (and indeed spiritual danger) of “charitable” busyness.  So many in the Church want to busy themselves about “doing good” for others – but in such busyness, they can fail to realize the cries deep in their own souls for attention, for care, indeed cries in poverty for the Bread of Life itself.

As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.”
The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
(Luke 10:38-42, NAB)

Charitable busyness, as a way of religious life, has a lot of “positives” to attract religious people!  Jesus wants us to do good for others; most parishes have openings for volunteers to help do this or that ministry, getting involved is a good way to make friends, and so on.  Really generous Catholics who can quickly find themselves over-committed in the parish, can find themselves echoing the complaint that Martha rather boldly took to Jesus in her need for some help: “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.”

Wonderfully, Jesus’s response to Martha was greater and deeper than her request to Him.  His love for her – His desire to serve her – was greater than her desire to serve Him her meal.  Jesus came to serve the Bread of Life; Martha in her charitable busyness had been missing the whole point of everything.

Example 2: The excerpt below is an account of an experience of a priest (young at that time) with (now Saint) Mother Teresa, concerning the crucial need for authentic Life in the souls of those called to serve others:

I telephoned the general house of the Missionaries of Charity so as to be able to meet Mother Teresa of Calcutta, but their answer was categorical: “It is not possible to meet Mother; her engagements do not allow it.” I went there anyway. The Sister who came to open the door for me very politely asked me, ..’What do you want?” I would just like to meet Mother Teresa for a few moments.” Surprised, the sister replied-, “I am sorry! That is not possible!” I did not budge and thus made the Sister understand that I would not leave without having met Mother Teresa. The Sister went away for a few moments, and came back in the company of Mother Teresa….

I was startled and speechless. Mother had me sit down in a little room near the chapel. Meanwhile I had recovered a bit and managed to say: “Mother, I am a very young priest: I’m taking my first steps! I came to ask you to accompany me with your prayers.” Mother looked tenderly and kindly at me, then, smiling, she replied: “I always pray for priests. I will pray for you also.” Then she gave me a Miraculous Medal, put it in my hand, and asked me, “For how much time do you pray each day?” I was astonished and a little embarrassed. Then, gathering my thoughts, I replied, “Mother, I celebrate Holy Mass each day, I pray the Breviary each day; you know that these days that is a proof of heroism [this was in 1969, before the Divine Office was simplified]! I pray the rosary each day also and very gladly, because I learned it from my mother.” 

Mother Teresa, with her rough hands, clasped the rosary that she always had with her. Then she fixed on me her eyes, which were filled with light and love, and said: “That is not enough, my son! That is not enough, because love cannot be reduced to the indispensable minimum; love demands the maximum!” I did not understand Mother Teresa’s words right away, and, as though to justify myself I replied, “Mother, I expected from you instead, this question: What acts of charity do you do?” Suddenly Mother Teresa’s face became very serious again, and she said in a stern tone of voice: “Do you think that I could practice charity if I did not ask Jesus every day to fill my heart with his love? Do you think that I could go through the streets looking for the poor if Jesus did not communicate the fire of his charity to my heart?” I then felt very small….

I looked at Mother Teresa with profound admiration and the sincere desire to enter into the mystery of her soul, which was so filled with the presence of God. Enunciating each word, she added: “Read the Gospel attentively, and you will see that Jesus sacrificed even charity for prayer. And do you know why? To teach us that, without God, we are too poor to help the poor!” At that time we saw so many priests and religious abandoning prayer in order to immerse themselves — as they said — in social work. Mother Teresa’s words seemed to me like a ray of sunshine, and I repeated slowly in my heart of hearts: “Without God, we are too poor to be able to help the poor!”

“There is need for only one thing.”  Without God within, we can do nothing.  Without God within, we are too poor to be able to help anyone, not the rich, not the poor.  May the Lord help us to know our own poverty, and hear His call to us: “Come!” 

Is 51: 1 All you who are thirsty,
come to the water!
You who have no money,
come, buy grain and eat;
Come, buy grain without money,
wine and milk without cost!

2 Why spend your money for what is not bread;
your wages for what does not satisfy?
Only listen to me, and you shall eat well,
you shall delight in rich fare.

3 Pay attention and come to me;
listen, that you may have life.
I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
the steadfast loyalty promised to David.

note:
 The excerpt, the young priest and Mother Teresa, included above is from the book by Robert Card. Sarah, The Power of Silence, Ignatius Press 2017, p. 46-47, quoting Dio scrive dritto [God writes straight] by Angelo Comastri, at time of press a cardinal archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Posted by: Thomas Richard | October 26, 2019

How to Make a Good Confession

“How to Make a Good Confession

According to the Teaching of the Catholic Church”…

by Gabrielle (Burke) Vienneau

Return of the prodigal son by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo C. 1670

 

This is a book I want to recommend to readers here on my Blog. The author, Gabrielle (Burke) Vienneau, is a friend for many years now, though we have met only by correspondence. Her late husband Gene was introduced to readers of this site in a blog essay A Holy Death, which was written by Gaby, to honor her husband.

It was an honor for me to include Gaby’s testimony on Gene’s death on the Blog, and it was an additional honor that she asked me to write the Preface to her book.  I will include below two writings.  First, my Preface to her book, and second, her announcement letter describing the book.

PREFACE

In one of my books, The Ordinary Path to Holiness, I was fortunate to have Father Benedict J. Groeschel, CFR, offer to write the Introduction.  I realize how helpful it can be to have someone else who already has a book or two out in the vineyard, add some words of commendation to one’s own efforts. Therefore when Gaby asked me to write this Preface to her book I was of course honored and happy to do so.  These times call for such a book as this.

We are living in a time when sin – and the grave harm that follows in its wake – has been moved away to the margins of common awareness.  It is not mere coincidence, but probably part of the mystery of iniquity itself that in the years after Vatican II many in the Church followed not the universal call to holiness and the perfection of charity (as the Council taught) but a call to a vague and subjectively sensed “spirit of Vatican II”.  In this so-called “spirit of Vatican II”, many in the Church were deprived of their right to the full and saving Truth of the deposit of Faith.  Instead many were given merely vague assurances of God’s great love – along with a suppression of the sense of sin, of evil, and of the very active evil one seeking the ruin of souls.  We are now in a determined recovery, thanks be to God, from the wounds of those days!

This growing recovery and advance toward the beautiful truth of the Gospel sets before us the ugliness of sin, the beauty of truth, the call to holiness, the demands of the authentic Christian life, and thus our need for the Sacrament of Confession.

Many Catholics today, even of advanced age, have not been to Confession since their own Confirmation!  Such were the effects of years of silence concerning sin and the power of evil, in our catechesis.  The Church needs catechesis, counsel, encouragement and instruction about this much neglected Sacrament of Confession – and this is where this book comes in. Gabrielle (Burke) Vienneau has written this small book packed with trustworthy teachings of the Church concerning sin and forgiveness, along with some beautiful and encouraging religious art-work to add what only good art can add: signs of the great mercy and love of God for us in our journey to Him.  The Church needs to hear what Gabrielle is writing.  May the Lord bless this work, and through it lead many, many souls more and more deeply into the ocean of His cleansing forgiveness, and His merciful love.

R. Thomas Richard, Ph.D.

Letter of Announcement of the Book:

How to Make a Good Confession According to the Teaching of the Catholic Church

Mrs. Gabrielle (Burke) Vienneau’s fifth book is on sale for only $15.00 (U.S. dollars, shipping to U.S. is included)

 When Gabrielle launched her first book on confession in French, she expressed that it was just wishful thinking to have it translate in English, and published within the same year. However, she managed to do just that! The English version is now on sale.

Gabrielle is happy to announce that the sale of the French edition on confession went well and more expeditiously than she had anticipated.

The letters from the Vatican helped because many know that Cardinal Marc Ouelette, and Monsignor Peter B. Wells would not support anything contrary to the Magisterium. Of course, support from the Pope was a great surprise, and a real incentive! Those two original letters from the Vatican are in this version, and translated in English. This, along with a third letter received, again from the Vatican. The French book is now sitting comfortably in the Vatican library, and the English version is presently accompanying the original in its new home in Rome.

 About the Author:

Mrs. Vienneau has two Bachelor degrees and a Master’s degree in Educational Psychology, with a major in Deaf Education.

Other books she authored:

  1. In the Spring of 1998 : A volume of 368 pages, an Acadian and Genealogy book: Jean à Isaïe à Jacques Haché et Hélène Boudreau leur descendance et l’ascendance de Jean jusqu’en France.
  2. In May 2000: Nanny’s Old Fashion Recipes
  3. In 2003: Precious Pearls From Heaven, written to accomplish a promise Gabrielle made to her sister, Viola, while on her death bed.
  4. In December 2010, Written in French: Tout Pour Faire Une Bonne Confession d’Après l’Enseignement de l’Église Catholique, launched in March 2011.
  5. How to Make a Good Confession According to the Teaching of the Catholic Church. This version in English is now available.

She affirms: “We have a wealth of information to help us, in our pursuit of educating ourselves regarding our faith. It is easy, interesting, even fascinating, to study our religion and read the history of saints, martyrs, and stories of heroism. History is most captivating, and enriching!

“Authors always attempt to improve a second edition; therefore, the English version contains three additional subjects. I am confident that you will find this book an indispensable tool. It was written for those who would like to discover the wealth and beauty incorporated in the teaching of the Church through the Catechism of the Catholic Church; concerning the sacraments, and especially the sacrament of confession. Christ said: ‘If you love me observe my Commandments’ (1Jn 2:3-4; 1Jn 3:24; 1Jn 5:3). How are we to observe his Commandments if we do not know them?”

For single copy buyers: You may obtain this book for $15.00 (U.S. dollars, shipping to U.S. is included). Write to:
80, Main Street, apt 340, Bathurst, N.B.  E2A 1A3 or phone: 1-506-547-1984. E-mail: gabyburke340@yahoo.ca

For French readers, because of demand I needed to make a second edition of the French book. The new version was slightly improved to make it more like the English book.

For Booksellers: I used to sell the books on my husband’s website. However, since my husband passed away, I have not sold any. I am now in a senior’s residence. I had to retire at age 40 because of my deafness, so the sale of the remaining books would help to pay a small part for some hearing aids which I badly need. Your help with the sales would therefore be much appreciated. If you accept to sell the books, I will send the two boxes containing 170 total, (meaning $1,700.00) I will pay postage and you could keep a percentage.

Since profit was not my aim, I gave away many. With the French, I possibly broke even, but with the English, I was about 2,000.00 in the red. This did not bother me since I was happy to help, and the salvation of souls was my primary goal.

Posted by: Thomas Richard | September 17, 2019

Look Carefully How you Walk

The precarious circumstance of Western culture today ought to be painfully evident to anyone with eyes to see. Yes there are pockets of resistance, but the expansive culture- and nation-wide denial of the natural moral law is astounding. For me, it is literally incredible. Almost everything inside of me is insisting that no, this cannot be happening. It cannot be “normal” for parents to approve of – enable – facilitate their child’s confusion about whether he is a little boy or a little girl. Even seeking drugs for the child to retard the natural approach of puberty, lest he/she be found out with much greater certitude and faced with much more difficult “procedures” to reverse nature’s error, should that be necessary. Better to keep the child a child as long as possible, so he/she can decide at leisure which “gender” he/she “really” is or wants to be – the evidence of the childhood body being, of course, irrelevant.

But this denial of the obvious, in favor of the (for the present) psychologically easier fantasy, did not appear among us overnight. The world has been in denial of reality for a long time, and as the globe has shrunk under the roaring advance of technology, the New Truths of the New World have more and more filled the vacuum left by the rejection and denial of His Truth, the first one being that He IS. Once God-denial was successfully made fashionable in all the upper echelons of society (academics, science, government, entertainment,…), the rest is downhill. And that says it all. We are racing to the bottom at break-neck speed – the bottom of civilization, at a peak of technological potential, at the bottom of the abyss of moral decadence. We are pandering to our lusts, our narcissism, our self-obsession, our unashamed hedonism, to their final end. After all, God is dead. “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”

The most difficult thing for me to see, as this tragedy unfolds before us, is the confusion in the Church. The Rock of eternal and absolute Truth, which mankind was invited to stand upon and build our lives and our civilization upon, seems today to be wavering in the winds of relativism. In the 1960’s, as the Church was pondering a new evangelistic approach to the world outside, the spirit of this world was unleashing its own preemptive counter-attack: sex, drugs and rock-n-roll. And today? God help us! The world is everywhere among us – within us – around us. Jesus left so many words that ought to sober us! Among the many: “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith upon the earth?”

When the last of these Last Days does come, when the full measure of evil of the evil one is finally unleashed, will the Church have the holy faith to stand? His Church has the means for so much! The wisdom and holiness of so many saints are ours to embrace! The Bread of Life, the Holy Eucharist, is given to us to nurture and strengthen and deepen our interior life of faith, of prayer, of communion with Him, of holy and eternal Love! So much of His eternal Truth has been entrusted to His Church, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit as promised by Jesus! But are we embracing and receiving and clinging to the all of our heritage? Are we being faithful disciples, listening to and learning from and growing in Him? Sadly, I see too little of that. Instead, I see too many as it were “part-time” Catholics, blending and mixing and compromising their lives as Catholics with their lives in the world. And their children and their grandchildren are watching, and learning from them.

Jesus spoke of the “signs of the times”. Are we awake to what is happening? Can we hear the groaning of the creation, under the weight and the pollution of the culture of godless man? Can we see the horrors of inhumanity erupting like volcanoes around us, in the mass killings, in the epidemics of suicidal drug addiction, in mothers killing their children and children killing their mothers and their fathers, in the animal-like insanity of gangs, of meaningless sex, of a desperate seeking of anything but the right thing to fill the emptiness of a life without God?

Eph 5:14  Therefore it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.”
Eph 5:15  Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise,
Eph 5:16  making the most of the time, because the days are evil.
Eph 5:17  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Posted by: Thomas Richard | August 16, 2019

What Are We To Do?

It has been two months since I last wrote anything for this blog. I have not been able to write! I have begun more posts than I can remember, writing and deleting, writing and rejecting, writing and then walking away with tongue and hands frozen – paralyzed – wordless.

I see the country locked in two camps, paralyzed in opposition one to the other – how can a democracy work, when no compromise is possible? We have in our country now no common vision of the common good; we have no common vision of common political or moral or even fundamental human good! We are divided so deeply, the chasm between us is so deep and wide, we must ask ourselves: how can America – how can our constitutional democratic republic even work, anymore?

The presidential election of 2016 shocked almost everyone, with the defeat of progressivism even though a majority of voters favored the progressive candidate. I became convinced that God had saved us from the social, political, economic and moral sickness that has gained power in much of the world. I wrote of this in my last post, “Will God Give Us a Third Chance?” My hope was that the Church would be awakened by the nearness of the loss that had come upon us. I hoped that the Church would realize how far we have fallen as a nation – that the Church would realize she has been sleeping at the watch, she has not been feeding the sheep, she has not catechized the faithful, she has not guarded the walls of the holy city but rather in her careless self-absorption many enemies have crept in, wolves in sheep’s clothing, and the holy Faith has been diluted, “dumbed-down,” confused, contaminated and for many, lost.

I had hoped that the Church would repent! Seeing the obvious, realizing the danger, hearing the cries of the little ones – the unfed hungry children of the Lord – surely the Church would wake up, repent and resolve to stand up and be Christ in this dark and darkening moment of human history.

The Church, in large part, has not awakened. She, to a large extent, has not repented. Many clergy and laity have learned, it seems, nothing. Corruption among bishops and priests – pastors of the children of God! – continues to be exposed, example after example, as more darkness and evil continue to be revealed. Meanwhile many among the laity continue to be manipulated and abused, malnourished and neglected, and pandered with baby-food teachings and canned programs of structural reform and shallow renewal. Many of the pastors seem to be hoping to wait it out, hoping it will pass, it will all stop or go away, so that all can return to “normal.” But this is not normal! The “usual” today is profoundly abnormal, and it must end.

The answer for the country is found in the origin and mission of the Church. The Church was sent to be the light of the world. The darkness of the world, now pervading the country, has a solution: light – the light of Truth – the light of authentic virtue – the light that Christ brought, and that He entrusted to His Church. The solution to the problems of this nation rest in the storerooms and archives and memory of the Church; and so the solution to the problems of the Church are the same: that same light, that same Truth, if she will awaken, repent, and return to Him.

But if she will not do this, if she still will not turn from her wide-spread courtship with the secular godlessness of the world, to return to Him, then the children must do so on their own. Catholics have the sacraments, and even if they are not worthily celebrated they can still be worthily and fruitfully received! His grace is still powerful and true. Catholics have the Catechism; they can learn the precious teachings of His Holy Church! They may or may not have substantive adult formation offered at their parish, but they have or can obtain a copy of the Catechism; they can learn. They can be formed alone or in small groups with the promised guidance of the Holy Spirit, using this very solid and substantive Catechism of the Catholic Church. And they have the Scriptures, the Holy Bible, the written Word of God. They can read, they can listen, they can learn from God, they can grow. And in a growing life of prayer they can advance in the interior life, the life of prayer and of grace, and as living witnesses His light can shine in the darkening secular culture of these days.

We all will stand before Jesus in judgment; we all will give an account of our lives – and that day, for every one of us, only grows closer. Holding fast to the precious faith given to us, and growing in the faith as He gives us grace and opportunity, let us live out the mission He sets before us! On that Day, let us stand prepared, and faithful. Let us hold fast to the hope of hearing from Him, at the end, words of embrace:

“Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.” (Mt 23: 21, 23)

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