Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Meditation for Ember Wednesday: Denys the Carthusian

A Meditation for Ember Wednesday

I’ve taken the following from this website. Go there for the whole thing. I find these meditations to be very powerful prompts to examine one’s conscience and amend one’s life.

A Devout Exercise of the Purgative Way
Appointed for each day of the week

by Denys the Carthusian

[From the prologue:]

If then, you desire to become wise and pleasing to God, spurn the discretion of this world, nor desire to please it. No rational creature, not excepting the angels, can or could be saved, except by laying aside his own will, and by conforming it and subjecting it to the Divine Will. And the more truly shall he so do, so much the mightier grace shall he gain.

Therefore, the more fully and completely, for God's love you shall forsake yourself, the more perfectly you shall subject your will to the direction of another's – apt for the matter – by so much shall you be dearer to God, and attain to loftier perfection. The proud are likened to hills, the humble to vales, and God's grace is like to rain. Now, just as rain does not lodge nor gather on the mountain tops, but in the hollows: and the deeper the vales the greater the store of rain there: even so, the Holy Ghost with His grace, abides not in the hearts of the proud, but of the humble; yea, in greater measure the lowlier those hearts.

And because in sinning, man prefers his self-will and fleeting good to the Divine unchangeable Will, the uncreated and supreme Good, which choice mounts up to contempt of God; contrariwise, for such contempt, the sinner must first of all contemn himself with all his heart, and count himself worthy of all confusion and punishment. Again, since man, who should take no delight save in his Creator, in sinning, delights in creatures inordinately and corruptly; so ought the sinner take to himself hearty sorrow for such delectation, and bear due punishment for his guilt.

Wednesday: On the terrors of the last Judgment

Behold, o my soul, how terrible will be the last Judgment when the whole world shall be wrapt in flames blazing up higher than the loftiest peak by many an ell. Then shall come down from Heaven attended by the whole company of angels and saints, Christ, the stern judge. The dead shall rise again and stand before the face of Christ the Lord. The bodies of the damned, weighed down like so much lead, shall lie prone on that earth they have loved too well. They shall be more horrible that when they lay rotting in the tomb as loathsome food for worms; sheets of flame too shall light upon them.

O my soul, how shall not those wretched creatures be pressed on every side: above them, their Judge, all mercy gone and full of wrath; below them Hell, yawning open; on this side and that the devils ready to accuse them. Yea, and all the angels and saints and the whole of mankind too, stirred up against them! At that moment every one of their sins shall be made plain to the whole world. The judge will sum up their record of sin and pronounce sentence: "Depart ye cursed into everlasting fire". What awful fear shall seize upon them as He forms these words, and as they see the earth open to swallow them up. Yes, they know the next moment shall see them amidst eternal flames, captives forever with the devils in the prison-house of Hell. While in the same instant looking upwards, they may see the blessed climbing Heaven's heights in a very ocean of delights.

Think too, o my soul, of your own particular judgment. As soon as you shall have passed from this body, you shall be hauled before the bar of Christ and strictly judged by Him. Yea, tremble at this judgment; walk in holy fear and watchfulness before the all-seeing eye of your judge: pray without ceasing that in the day of account, your lot shall be not with the damned, with whom is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Other Lenten meditations on this blog:

A Sacrifice to God is a Contrite Spirit
Temptation: St. Francis de Sales

Contraception + Bishops = Fail: Vortex

Michael Voris hits it out of the park…AGAIN. Watch the entire Vortex episode below, or go here to watch it at the RealCatholicTV website, where you can also become a premium subscriber.

Here are some critical excerpts from the script:

Almost nowhere – save an individual homily here or there – have we heard an open public blasting against CONTRACEPTION ITSELF on the part of United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Sure, there have been letters and statements and articles and speeches about First Amendment rights being trampled and religious liberty being crushed underfoot and all that.  But…not a word on the evil of contraception itself. And this continuing ignoring of THAT is worrisome to say the least…

Because at the end of the day, what matters is whether a soul is saved or damned…

[Here, he quotes from an article written by a young, self-described-Catholic woman who begins with this assertion:

I have been a Catholic my whole life. Baptized as a baby and confirmed in the seventh grade, I attended weekly catechism classes and received a Jesuit education. Never once did the opinion of the church on a person's use of contraceptives surface.

She wholeheartedly embraces contraception, and freely admits to having used “birth control, condoms, and emergency contraception”.]

Well done, leaders. Well done. For decades, including up to this very moment, you have sought to usher in some new understanding of the Faith. You continue to call it PASTORAL.

You have allowed and still allow thousands of dissidents and heretics to run wild on so-called "Catholic” catholic campuses from sea to shining sea.

You allow and sometimes welcome a dizzying array of dissidents on the Catholic speaking circuit to come speak at hundreds of diocesan conferences and lecture halls.

You have turned a blind eye to the corrosive effects of all this on the faith of two – and now going on three – generations, but you will fight and oppose like mad practically any expression of Orthodoxy that dare raise its ugly head.

And as the sun is setting over an entire globe, you fight a law and NOT the evil at the heart of the law that has taken up home among the very souls your office gives you charge over.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Catholic Hospitals Are...Not

An article at Catholic Culture is entitled: “Cardinal George: no Catholic hospitals in 2 years unless HHS mandate is rescinded”. In the article, Cardinal George is quoted as saying:

What will happen if the HHS regulations are not rescinded? A Catholic institution, so far as I can see right now, will have one of four choices: 1) secularize itself, breaking its connection to the Church, her moral and social teachings and the oversight of its ministry by the local bishop. This is a form of theft. It means the Church will not be permitted to have an institutional voice in public life.  [see the article for the other three choices]

Here’s the problem I have with this kind of talk: it’s duplicitous.

I have a sneaking suspicion that there are very few truly Catholic hospitals in this nation.  To some extent, most of them have sold out to secular values or “ecumenical” views, and they sell contraceptives in their pharmacies, perform direct sterilizations, and sometimes even kill unborn babies. And even if they don’t kill babies on site, some of these hospitals employ counselors, nurses, and/or doctors who suggest such things to their patients.

I mentioned in two previous posts (here and here) that about three years ago, I looked at every Catholic hospital or medical group website I could find on the internet. I found that many mentioned their “Catholic tradition” and also made note that they were in compliance with a document issued by the USCCB called “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Services” (ERDs for short).  But about a year and a half ago, in another quick survey of Catholic medical group websites, I found little mention of the ERDs.

A few independent events, when viewed together, suggest to me that Catholic hospitals are generally lacking in Catholicity:

·         In February of 2010, Bishop Robert F. Vasa severed the relationship of the Diocese of Baker with St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, Oregon, largely due to the fact that the hospital was performing direct sterilizations in the form of tubal ligations. The director of the hospital implied that this practice takes place in many “Catholic” hospitals – but the administrators simply do not discuss it with the local bishop.

·         Also in 2010, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix, Arizona, stripped a hospital of its Catholic status because at least one abortion had been committed there.

·         A friend told me that Catholic hospital personnel suggested she abort her unborn baby solely because she was having some psycho-emotional problems.

·         A few years ago, the state of Oregon passed a law requiring hospitals to offer “emergency contraception” to rape victims, regardless of “conscience” considerations, and the bishops did nothing to fight the passage of the law.

·         And of course, Mitt Romney is currently taking some heat for his part in assuring that even Catholic hospitals in Massachusetts would be required to provide “emergency contraception”.

·         In October 2007, the bishops in Connecticut decided to allow Catholic hospitals in their state to conform to government pressure to provide the “day after” pill for rape victims.

I maintain that the "secularization" of Catholic hospitals (which Cardinal George notes in the above quote is an unacceptable choice) was largely accomplished a number of years ago. I agree with Cardinal George, though, that “this is a form of theft”. Unfortunately, the theft occurred not because the thief broke down the door or robbed us at gunpoint, but because the bishops opened up the storehouse and freely gave away the treasures. The bishops themselves are guilty of theft. 

Cardinal George also said:

…The strangest accusation in this manipulated public discussion has the bishops not respecting the separation between church and state. The bishops would love to have the separation between church and state we thought we enjoyed just a few months ago, when we were free to run Catholic institutions in conformity with the demands of the Catholic faith, when the government couldn’t tell us which of our ministries are Catholic and which not, when the law protected rather than crushed conscience. The state is making itself into a church.

Again, this is fine talk, but the fact is that any entity that wants to accept government funds is likely to find themselves at the mercy of that government at some point. The money isn’t “free”; there are strings attached.  If the bishops want “separation between church and state”, then they are going to simply have to separate the Church from dependence on the government to do works of charity.

I’m happy to see bishops stepping up and speaking out on these issues. But there is so much work to be done in correcting the bad catechesis of the faithful that has led us to this point! It is not enough for the bishops to talk about “religious freedom” in this country. They’ve got to start preaching the Truth in order to reclaim the souls that were entrusted to them in the first place. As Fr. Michael Rodriguez wrote in a recent article in The Remnant,

…Central to the bishop’s munus docendi (teaching office) is “to proclaim always and everywhere the moral principles of the social order.” (#120)  U.S. Bishops, please teach with clarity and charity that the following are intrinsic evils:  abortion, homosexual acts, contraception, and direct sterilization (against fertility) (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2271, 2357, 2370, 2399).  Use your full episcopal authority to instruct all Catholics that each of these mortal sins is never acceptable, no Catholic may support anyone else in committing these terrible crimes against God, and every single Catholic must oppose these sins both in the private and public spheres.

The Son of God did not come down from heaven to “be free” and guarantee “First Amendment rights.”  No, He took flesh from the Immaculate Virgin Mary, in order to die on the cross, vanquish sin, and witness to the truth.  Only the truth safeguarded in the “womb” of the Catholic Church can set us free.

Update: I just saw this story at LifeSiteNews: Catholic hospitals in seven states conducted 20,073 sterilizations in three years: study


The Illusory Catholic Hospital, Part I
The Illusory Catholic Hospital, Part II

Oh, and don't forget Catholic Health Care West's decision to drop their "Catholic" identity. See The End of Catholic Hospitals?

Dog-matic Musings

The phire has seemed rather intense for a few weeks…seems like the world is going to hell in a hand basket! My little brain has been working overtime, and I decided I needed to write about something less cerebral. Like…my dogs!

Here are three of the current four dogs we own:
Left to right: Misty, Luke, and Lady

And lo and behold, this morning I stumbled upon a post at the Catholic Spiritual Direction blog entitled “I like dogs better than people; am I off base?” In answering the question, author Dan Burke quotes a Lenten meditation by a 19th-century priest:

Some profess to have much love for our Lord, but a strong dislike for men. We hear them say that dogs and horses are much more loveable than Christians. Against such thoughts we must have ready the words of St. John who so well understood all about love: ‘He that loveth not his brother whom he seeth, how can he love God Whom he seeth not?’ (1 John iv) The love of God and love for men must both come down from heaven; and the ordinary rule is, that it is by loving men that we grow in love for God.
Make us, loving Heart of Jesus, love Thee, and for Thy sake all whom Thou lovest. Grant us some share of Thy true and wide-reaching love, that we may be able to say humbly and in all simplicity, ‘All thy friends, O Lord, are my friends.’

On reading that post, I realized that I used to be one of those who liked dogs better than people. That’s changed. I do care about dogs (and other animals), and I do get teary-eyed sometimes over animals that are abused or abandoned or just plain cute. On the other hand, when I see articles or videos about dogs that need, for instance, a prosthetic device, I find it hard to justify spending thousands of dollars to do for a dog something that many human beings in the world need and cannot afford. Much as I love my own dogs, there is a limit to the amount of money I will spend to treat their medical problems.  Much as I love my own dogs, I believe it is wrong to value them above human beings.

That said, I’ve always been a “dog person”; as a child, I pestered my parents endlessly to have a family dog. As an adult, there have been only a few periods of time in my life when I did not own a dog. 

So...meet my dogs:

Here's Skippy, a 15-year-old fox terrier. We got her when our daughter Ruthie had just turned 3. After a few days of watching me cater to the whims of our new puppy, Ruthie asked, in all the seriousness, "Can we take her back now?" Skippy has survived being attacked by a coyote, and has also survived four assassination attempts by our own border collie, Lady. We now keep Lady and Skippy separated. 

Next: Misty, our almost-10-year-old lab mix. She's gentle and easy-going...okay, I have to admit, she did once kill a cat. But she really was just trying to play with it. :-(   Misty loves the water, even though she's never had the opportunity to go swimming in anything other than the little kiddie pool we provide during warm weather. 

Misty seeks the comfort of shade from
Our Blessed Mother. I can relate!

Even in the middle of winter when the water is frozen,
Misty would go swimming. She needs ice skates.

Here's Luke, a smooth-coat border collie. Always has one ear up and one ear down. He's the youngest of our dogs, and on the bottom of the pecking order. He is constantly apologizing; when the other dogs get in trouble for barking, he acts like it's all his fault. Catholic guilt, maybe?

Luke is an athlete. He runs like the wind
and can leap tall buildings in a single bound. 

Finally, here's Lady, a 5-year-old border collie. She's my favorite dog of all time, despite the fact that she is neurotic, even for a border collie. Part of the problem is that she is so darn smart. She knows when something is not right, but not quite smart enough to figure out when she can do something about it and when she can't. (Hmm...sounds like some people I know!) She also is smart enough to know that she would rather be a human than a dog, and she tries to convince both species that she is in fact human.

Here are a phew phun photos of my phriends:

Misty grabs a ball and rolls with it. I don't know why.
Sometimes she lays very still with it too, and looks dead.

Lady and I have done some sheep herding. The experience
prompted me to write about bishops in a paper I called
"Lessons from Sheep-herding".

That's Chief, our German shepherd; now deceased.
And that's Lady as a puppy. She adored Chief.

Lady as a puppy.

Lady likes to stay cool, too. She and Misty take turns.
They never go in the pool together.
Luke declines to partake

Lady and Luke waiting for a treat.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Temptation: St. Francis de Sales

The source of the following excerpt is: The Sermons of St. Francis de Sales for Lent. This is from the sermon for the first Sunday of Lent; I’ve excerpted only a small portion of it here.


This is an admonition of the Sage: “My son, if you intend to serve God, prepare your soul for temptation,” [Sirach 2:1] for it is an infallible truth that no one is exempt from temptation when he has truly resolved to serve God. This being the case, Our Lord Himself chose to be subjected to temptation in order to show us how we ought to resist it. Thus the Evangelists tell us: He was led into the desert by the Spirit to be tempted [Matt. 4:1; Mk. 1:12; Lk. 4:11]. I shall draw lessons from this mystery for our particular instruction, in as familiar a manner as I am able.

In the first place, I note that although no one can be exempt from temptation, still no one should seek it or go of his own accord to the place where it may be found, for undoubtedly he who loves it will perish in it. [Ecclus. (Sirach) 3:27] That is why the Evangelist says that Our Lord was led into the desert by the Spirit to be tempted; it was not then by His choice (I am speaking with regard to His human nature) that He went to the place of temptation, but He was led by the obedience He owed to His heavenly Father.

But wait a little, I pray you, and see how certain it is that no one who comes to serve God can avoid temptations. We could give many examples of this but one or two will suffice. Ananias and Saphira made a vow to dedicate themselves and their possessions to the perfection which all the first Christians professed, submitting themselves to obedience to the Apostles. They had no sooner made their resolution than temptation attacked them, as St. Peter said: Who has tempted you to lie to the Holy Spirit? [Acts. 5:1-3]. The great Apostle St. Paul, as soon as he had given himself to the divine service and ranged himself on the side of Christianity, was immediately tempted for the rest of his life. [2 Cor. 12:71. While he was an enemy of God and persecuted the Christians he did not feel the attack of any temptation, or at least he has given us no testimony of it in his writings. But he did when he was converted by Our Lord.

Thus, it is a very necessary practice to prepare our soul for temptation. That is, wherever we may be and however perfect we may be, we must rest assured that temptation will ‘attack us. Hence, we ought to be so disposed and to provide ourselves with the weapons necessary to fight valiantly in order to carry off the victory, since the crown is only for the combatants and conquerors. 12 Tim. 2:5; Jas. 1:12]. We ought never to trust in our own strength or in our courage and go out to seek temptation, thinking to confound it; but if in that place where the Spirit of God has led us we encounter it, we must remain firm in the confidence which we ought to have that He will strengthen us against the attacks of our enemy, however furious they may be.

Let us proceed and consider a little the weapons which Our Lord made use of to repulse the devil that came to tempt Him in the desert. They were none other, my dear friends, than those the Psalmist speaks of in the Psalm we recite every day at Compline: “Qui habitat in adjutorio Altissimi” [“Who dwells in the aid of the Most High”]. [Ps. 90 (91)]. From this Psalm we learn an admirable doctrine. He speaks in this manner as though addressing Christians or someone in particular: “Oh how happy you are, you who are armed with the truth of God, for it will serve you as a shield against the arrows of your enemies and will make you victorious. Therefore, do not fear, O blessed souls, you who are armed with this armor of truth. Fear neither the terrors of the night, for you will not stumble into them; nor the arrows that fly in the air by day, for arrows will not be able to injure you; nor the business that roams in the night; much less the devil that advances and reveals himself at noon.”

O how divinely well-armed with truth was Our Lord and Master, for He was truth itself. [Jn. 14:6]. This truth of which the Psalmist speaks is nothing other than faith. [1 Thess. 5:8]. Whoever is armed with faith need fear nothing; this is the only armor necessary to repel and confound our enemy; for what can harm him who says Credo, “I believe” in God, who is our Father, and our Father Almighty? In saying these words we show that we do not trust in our own strength and that it is only in the strength of God, “the Father Almighty” that we undertake the combat, that we hope for victory. [Ps. 17 (18):30; 43 (44):6-7; Heb. 11:33-34; 1 In. 5:4]. No, let us not go on our own to meet temptation by any presumption of spirit, but only rebuff it when God permits it to attack us and seek us out where we are, as it did Our Lord in the desert. By using the words of Holy Scripture our dear Master overcame all the temptations the enemy presented to Him.

But I want it to be understood that the Savior was not tempted as we are and that temptation could not be in Him as it is in us, for He was an impregnable stronghold to which it did not have access. Just as a man who is vested from head to foot in fine steel could not be injured in any way by the blows of a weapon, since it would glance off on either side, not even scratching the armor; so temptation could indeed encompass Our Lord but never enter into Him, nor do any injury to His integrity and perfect purity. But we are different. If, by the grace of God, we do not consent to temptations, and avoid the fault and the sin in them, ordinarily we are nevertheless wounded a little by some importunity, trouble, or emotion that they produce in our heart.

Our Divine Master could not have faith, since He possessed in the superior part of His soul, from the moment that He began to be, a perfect knowledge of the truths which faith teaches us; however, He wished to make use of this virtue in order to repel the enemy, for no other reason, my dear friends, than to teach all that we have to do. Do not, then, seek for other arms nor other weapons in order to refuse consent to a temptation, except to say, “I believe?” And what do you believe? “In God” my “Father Almighty?”

I doubt not that many prefer the end of today’s Gospel to its beginning. It is said there that after Our Lord had overcome His enemy and rejected his temptations, angels came and brought Him heavenly food. [Matt. 4:11]. What joy to find oneself with the Savior at this delicious feast! My dear friends, we shall never be capable of keeping company with Him in His consolations, nor be invited to His heavenly banquet, if we are not sharers of His labors and sufferings. [2 Cor. 1:7]. He fasted forty days, but the angels brought Him something to eat only at the end of that time.

These forty days, as we said just now, symbolize the life of the Christian, of each one of us. Let us then desire these consolations only at the end of our lives, and let us busy ourselves in steadfast resistance to the frontal attacks of our enemies. For whether we desire it or not we shall be tempted. If we do not struggle, we shall not be victorious, nor shall we merit the crown of immortal glory which God has prepared for those of us who are victorious and triumphant.

 Let us fear neither the temptation nor the tempter, for if we make use of the shield of faith and the armor of truth, they will have no power whatsoever over us. Let us no longer fear the three terrors of the night. And let us not entertain the vain hope of being or wishing to be saints in three months! Let us also shun both spiritual avarice and the ambition which occasion so much disorder in our hearts and so greatly impede our perfection. The noonday devil will be powerless in causing us to fail in our firm and steadfast resolution to serve God generously and as perfectly as possible in this life, so that after this life we shall go to enjoy Him forever. May He be blessed! Amen.

The Evil of Contraception: The Vortex

On Ash Wednesday, the Vortex addressed the issue of artificial contraception from the standpoint of the battle currently going on in the Philippines to prevent the legalization of contraception. This issue is incredibly important to the recovery of moral values in our nation; so many people – so many Catholics – just don’t get it…and that needs to change.

Here’s your "Readers' Digest condensed version" of the salient points of Michael Voris's presentation; watch the entire episode below.

From the script:

So let’s examine in short summary what Pope Paul VI said in his encyclical Humane Vitae  [On Human Life]. It can be boiled down to 4 major points.

Birth control would cause [or at least be correlated with]:

1) An overall lowering of moral standards
2) A rise in infidelity and illegitimacy
3) The reduction of women to objects for men’s pleasure
4) Government coercion in reproductive matters.

And now with Obama’s evil mandate, the fourth point has now come to pass. Who knew Pope Paul was a prophet?

All Filipinos need to do is look at America and run down the checklist from Pope Paul. Since birth control became legal and widespread in the United States every one of those things has come to pass…in spades.

Moral standards have been lowered so much that morality ITSELF is now seen as strange and outdated.

In 1960, 5.3% of all births in America were to unmarried women. By 2010, it was over 40 percent. In 1960 married families accounted for three out of every four households; by 2010, it was less than half. And living together has increased tenfold since 1960. And as for Pope Paul’s prediction about government coercion... we’d like to introduce you to the face of evil and government coercion [Obama’s contraception mandate]…

In the space of just fifty years…the fabric of American society has been torn apart. And it is owing to contraception. And as an aside, for a person like Obama who wants to continue to remaking of America, contraception is a perfect weapon. Of course, what follows in the wake of contraception is abortion. More people having more sex means more pregnancies – contraception or not – and many of those new lives will end suddenly and painfully in abortion chambers.

How can anyone seriously defend contraception and birth control as legitimate? It has left in its deadly wake struggling single mothers, fathers who have completely abandoned their duties to their own sons, tens of millions of dead children, nuclear level divorce rates, an epidemic of pornography. Evil begets evil as surely as night follows day...

…There is only one remedy for the collapse of a culture, and that is Catholic teaching. Catholic teaching is the only thing that upholds the dignity of the person from womb to tomb. If Catholics in America – including the leaders – can find the vigor to announce this convincingly, then there might still be hope for the west.

While the battle over contraception – which is ULTIMATELY a battle between good and evil – is being fought in different ways in The Philippines and the United States the battle in the US may in the end prove to be the more important. An enemy must be defeated by cutting off the head…and there is no doubt that the dragon of sexual immorality lives in the United States. This must be defeated there – no matter how daunting the task.

Friday, February 24, 2012

St. Francis de Sales Sermon on Fasting: Part II

Here is the rest of the sermon by St. Francis de Sales on fasting; Part I is hereThe source of the following excerpts is Source: The Sermons of St. Francis de Sales for Lent.

The second condition is never to fast through vanity but always through humility. If our fast is not performed with humility, it will not be pleasing to God… St. Paul in the epistle that he wrote to the Corinthians [1 Cot: 13]…declared the conditions necessary for disposing ourselves to fast well during Lent. He says this to us: Lent is approaching. Prepare yourselves to fast with charity, for if your fast is performed without it, it will be vain and useless, since fasting, like all other good works, is not pleasing to God unless it is done in charity and through charity. When you discipline yourself, when you say long prayers, if you have not charity, all that is nothing. Even though you should work miracles, if you have not charity, they will not profit you at all. Indeed, even if you should suffer martyrdom without charity, your martyrdom is worth nothing and would not be meritorious in the eyes of the Divine Majesty. For all works, small or great, however good they may be in themselves, are of no value and profit us nothing if they are not done in charity and through charity.
I say the same now: if your fast is without humility, it is worth nothing and cannot be pleasing to the Lord…

But what is it to fast through humility? It is never to fast through vanity. Now how can one fast through vanity? …To fast through vanity is to fast through self-will, since this self-will is not without vanity, or at least not without a temptation to vanity. And what does it mean to fast through self-will? It is to fast as one wishes and not as others wish; to fast in the manner which pleases us, and not as we are ordered or counseled. You will find some who wish to fast more than is necessary, and others who do not wish to fast as much as is necessary. What causes that except vanity and self-will? All that proceeds from ourselves seems better to us, and is much more pleasant and easy for us than what is enjoined on us by another, even though the latter is more useful and proper for our perfection. This is natural to us and is born from the great love we have for ourselves.

Let each one of us examine our conscience and we will find that all that comes from ourselves, from our own judgment, choice and election, is esteemed and loved far better than that which comes from another. We take a certain complacency in it that makes the most arduous and difficult things easy for us, and this complacency is almost always vanity. You will find those who wish to fast every Saturday of the year, but not during Lent. They wish to fast in honor of Our Lady and not in honor of Our Lord. As if Our Lord and Our Lady did not consider the honor given to the one as given to the other, and as if in honoring the Son by fasting done for His intention, one did not please the Mother, or that in honoring the Virgin one did not please the Savior! What folly! But see how human it is: because the fast that these persons impose on themselves on Saturday in honor of our glorious Mistress comes from their own will and choice, it seems to them that it should be more holy and that it should bring them to a much greater perfection than the fast of Lent, which is commanded. Such people do not fast as they ought but as they want.

There are others who desire to fast more than they should… On this matter the great Apostle complains [Rom. 14:1-6], saying that we find ourselves confronted by two groups of people. Some do not wish to fast as much as they ought, and cannot be satisfied with the food permitted (this is what many worldly people still do today who allege a thousand reasons on this subject... The others, says St. Paul, wish to fast more than is necessary. It is with these that we have more trouble. We can easily and clearly show the first that they contravene the law of God, and that in not fasting as much as they should, while able to do it, they transgress the commandments of the Lord. But we have more difficulty with the weak and infirm who are not strong enough for fasting. They will not listen to reason, nor can they be persuaded that they are not bound by it [the law of fasting], and despite all our reasons they insist on fasting more than is required, not wishing to use the food we order them. These people do not fast through humility, but through vanity. They do not recognize that, being weak and infirm, they would do much more for God in not fasting through the command of another and using the food ordered them, than in wishing to abstain through self-will. For although, on account of their weakness, their mouth cannot abstain, they should make the other senses of the body fast, as well as the passions and powers of the soul.

You are not, says Our Lord, to look gloomy and melancholic like the hypocrites do when they fast in order to be praised by men and esteemed as great abstainers.{3} [Matt.6:16-18]. But let your fasting be done in secret; therefore, wash your face, anoint your head, and your heavenly Father who sees what is hidden in your heart will reward you well. Our Divine Master did not mean by this that we ought to have no care about the edification of the neighbor. Oh, no, for St. Paul says [Phil. 4:5]: Let your modesty be known to all. Those who fast during the holy season of Lent ought not to conceal it, since the Church orders this fast and wishes that everyone should know that we are observing it. We must not, then, deny this to those who expect it of us for their edification, since we are obliged to remove every cause of scandal to our brothers. But when Our Lord said: Fast in secret, He wanted us to understand: do not do it to be seen or esteemed by creatures; do not do your works for the eyes of men. Be careful to edify them well, but not in order that they might esteem you as holy and virtuous. Do not be like the hypocrites. Do not try to appear better than others in practicing more fasting and penances than they.

…Accomplish your good works in secret and not for the eyes of others. Do not act like the spider, which represents the proud; but imitate the bee, which is the symbol of the humble soul. The spider spins its web where everyone can see it, and never in secret. It spins in orchards, going from tree to tree, in houses, on windows, on floors -- in short, before the eyes of all. In this it resembles the vain and hypocritical who do everything to be seen and admired by others. Their works are in fact only spiders' webs, fit to be cast into the fires of Hell. But the bees are wiser and more prudent, for they prepare their honey in the hive where no one can see them. Besides that, they build little cells where they continue their work in secret. This represents very well the humble soul, who is always withdrawn within herself, without seeking any glory or praise for her actions. Rather, she keeps her intention hidden, being content that God sees and knows what she does.

…Do not allow your fast to resemble that of hypocrites, who wear melancholy faces and who consider holy only those who are emaciated. What folly! As if holiness consisted in being thin! Certainly St. Thomas Aquinas was not thin; he was very stout. And yet he was holy. In the same way there are many others who, though not thin, nevertheless fail not to be very austere and excellent servants of God. But the world, which regards only the exterior, considers only those holy who are pale and wasted. Consider a little this human spirit: it takes account only of appearances and, being vain, does its works to be seen by others. Our Lord tells you not to do as they do but to let your fast be done in secret, only for the eyes of your heavenly Father, and He will see you and reward you.

The third condition necessary for fasting well is to look to God and to do everything to please Him, withdrawing within ourselves in imitation of a great saint, St. Gregory the Great, who withdrew into a secret and out-of-the-way place where he remained for some time without anyone knowing where he was, being content that the Lord and His angels knew it.

…Cassian says: What will it profit you to do what you are doing for the eyes of creatures? Nothing but vanity and complacency, which are good for Hell alone. But if you keep your fast and do all your works to please God alone, you will labor for eternity, without delighting in yourself or caring whether you are seen by others or not, since what you do is not done for them, nor do you await your recompense from them. We must keep our fast with humility and truth, and not with lying and hypocrisy -- that is, we must fast for God and to please Him alone.

…This is all that I had to tell you regarding fasting and what must be observed in order to fast well. The first thing is that your fast should be entire and universal; that is, that you should make all the members of your body and the powers of your soul fast…If you do that, your fast will be universal, interior and exterior, for you will mortify both your body and your spirit. The second condition is that you do not observe your fast or perform your works for the eyes of others. And the third is that you do all your actions, and consequently your fasting, to please God alone, to whom be honor and glory forever and ever.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Related: A Sacrifice to God is a Contrite Spirit

Persecution Gets Personal in Eastern Oregon

The homosexual socio-political agenda rolls on, even in the far corner of Eastern Oregon, in the little town of La Grande, a mere 45 miles from where I live.

I was greeted by this story in the local paper the other day:

Mayor Apologizes for Anti-Gay Facebook Posts

La Grande Mayor Daniel Pokorney stood up in front of a crowd of about 150 people Monday and did a difficult thing. He admitted he was wrong. And he said he was sorry.
Mayor Dan Pokorney

Except that he wasn't wrong. This is getting pretty close to home.

As I mentioned, I live only 45 miles away. I know Dan Pokorney personally. He’s an instituted acolyte for the La Grande parish, has served as the local Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus, and is the chairman of the Union County chapter of Oregon Right to Life. He wears many other hats around the parish, too. The newspaper story goes on to say:

In one of his Facebook posts, Pokorney called Washington State the “latest state to transition to Sodom and Gomorrah,” and in another, he criticized New Jersey for continuing what he called the “abomination of same sex unions.”

It is an abomination. And because I know Dan loves his Catholic faith, I’m sad that he felt pressured to issue an apology for speaking the truth. I wish he had not.

But I am not standing in Dan’s shoes.

More of the story:

Much of the subsequent outcry came from members of Eastern Oregon University’s Gay-Straight Alliance…On Monday, EOU President Bob Davies issued an open letter, saying students had asked for a meeting with the mayor, and that Pokorney had agreed.

…As the forum got under way at Huber, Davies urged civility, as did Megan Baker, the president of the Gay-Straight Alliance.

“I want to hear both sides of the story before I come to judgment,” Baker said.

So…the president of the Gay-Straight Alliance is permitted to “judge”?! I thought no one was supposed to be “judgmental”. I guess that proscription goes only one way.

The story also mentions that
The word “hate” cropped up several times as the meeting progressed. 

In his apology, Dan said:

 “I don’t hate anyone. My intent was not to be hurtful, but to express myself on important issues.”

But this was not hateful. It is not hateful to call sin what it is: an abomination, just as Dan said. It is not hateful to warn people that they are approaching a steep cliff and that they might fall off and die. That is not hate. And it is not hateful to say that homosexual behavior is wrong, sinful, an abomination. That is the truth, and knowing it and understanding it can save a soul from going to hell.

"Hate" is what is happening to the fourteen-year-old girl who also spoke out about the wrongness of “gay marriage” and is receiving death threats from those very people who preach tolerance. That’s hate. And it is not coming from the girl!

I haven’t had any personal conversation with Dan Pokorney about his situation. I don’t know what kind of pressure was brought to bear on him. I do know that the homosexual agenda-pushers are pretty darn good at guilt tripping people over political correctness…even in Eastern Oregon. And Dan is a political figure, being the mayor of the city and all.

I admit that I am tempted to think that I would never have capitulated. I would not have apologized for speaking the truth! No, not me! I would stand firm!

How easy it is for me to think that! How easy it is for me to say it!

But I am not standing in Dan’s shoes.

And this is not a criticism of Dan Pokorney.

Instead, I look at Dan Pokorney's predicament and I think: There, but for the grace of God, go I.

It’s a lesson to me. It says we must intensify our efforts to fortify ourselves against the coming present persecution. Things are going to get worse before they get better, I suspect.

We must know our faith, and we must not yield to the god of public opinion. We’re not used to that. Self-mortification is a key element in preparing to be persecuted.

It’s Lent. It’s a good time to practice self-mortification.

Pray. Fast.