Sunday, April 28, 2013

Fr. Andersen on Our Christian Identity

A homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, Sacred Heart-St. Louis in Gervais, OR
April 28th, 2013
Dominica V Paschae

“I…saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,
prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Apoc. 21:2)

Earlier this week, Pope Francis celebrated Mass and preached on the Feast of St. George, an early Christian martyr. Looking to the example of the martyrs, he recalled ‘the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing.’ And this joy begins with a persecution, with great sadness, and ends with joy. And so,” Pope Francis continued, “the Church goes forward…‘amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of the Lord.’ And thus is the life of the Church. If we want to travel a little along the road of worldliness, negotiating with the world…we will never have the consolation of the Lord. And if we seek only consolation, it will be a superficial consolation, not that of the Lord: a human consolation. The Church's journey always takes place between the Cross and the Resurrection, amid the persecutions and the consolations of the Lord. And this is the path: those who go down this road are not mistaken. (Pope Francis. Homily of April 23rd, 2013).

This message of persecution and consolation continues throughout the reading of the Acts of the Apostles. Today again, we hear in our first reading: “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:21). Now isn’t this a bit hard to swallow? How can persecution bring consolation? What is the consolation that it brings? Well, it should bring peace and security. There is peace and security in the arms of our holy Mother the Church. Let me explain.

In our second reading today, St. John writes: “I…saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Apoc. 21:2). The Church is glorious. Glorious things of thee are spoken, O City of Sion, O Holy Mother Church. We cannot sing the praises of the Church enough. We refer to the Church in the feminine because she is the Bride of Christ. As Catholics, we refer to the Church as our mother because we are the children. Pope Francis preaches that she “became more and more of a Mother. A Mother who gives us the faith, a Mother who gives us an identity.” The Bride becomes a mother when each of us is born again from the holy font of Baptism into new life in Christ. God is our Father. The Church is our mother. If the world persecutes us, we can understand how a mother is a source of consolation. Mothers know how to console their children. We run to our mothers for comfort when we are hurt. They console us.

And so our holy Mother the Church is our consolation amidst the persecutions of the world. Without our holy Mother the Church, we are lost because the Church is truly the family of God. We are made for family and it is important that we receive the blessings of our parents and that we receive an inheritance from our parents. I am not talking here about money, but about blessing. Our inheritance, as children, is passed on through the family.

If we sever ourselves from the family, how can we expect to receive our inheritance? So it is with the Church. If we sever ourselves from the Church how can we expect to receive our inheritance which is heaven? If we sever our relations with our family––the Church––our names will be blotted out from the last will and testament of our Lord which is the Book of Life. At the Last Judgement, our names must be written in the Book of Life. Therefore there is no inheritance, no salvation for those whose names are not written down or those whose names have been struck from the book.

Pope Francis spoke also about this last Tuesday. He said: “Christian identity is not an identity card: Christian identity is belonging to the Church, because…it is not possible to find Jesus outside the Church.” The Church has always taught this: Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus, which means––outside the Church there is no salvation. This is such an audacious claim that it should make us squirm a little bit. That we might react in such a way means that this teaching is greater than us. It is beyond us. It requires faith and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to understand this teaching. When we are members of the family, in good standing with the family, we can understand this teaching. In other words, when we are in a state of sanctifying grace, our minds are clear and our souls are filled with the Holy Spirit who gives the gift of knowledge, of understanding, and of wisdom. These are divine gifts. These divine gifts bear the sweet fruit of faith, which like any fruit must first be planted, cultivated, pruned, and finally, the fruit of faith ripens in the bright light and warmth of the Son of God.

There is consolation in eating ripe and sweet fruit. God provides the soil, the sun, the rain, and the knowledge to bring forth such ripe and sweet fruit. The fruit is faith. But faith cannot survive without grace. Grace is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will not dwell in a soul which has been poisoned by grave sin. We can understand this if we consider that good fruit will not come from soil that has been poisoned and destroyed by toxic waste. Sin is toxic waste. Good and sweet fruit will not grow and ripen from toxic soil.

There is a seminar coming up in a few weeks called the Healing of Families Seminar. This is being held at St. Joseph’s in Salem and at the Kaiser Civic Center on May 17th and 18th, Friday evening and Saturday of Pentecost weekend. A Ugandan priest named Fr. Joseph is coming from Florida to lead this seminar. We are talking about the family here today. The Church is a family in the ideal sense. But some of us cannot identify with what a healthy family looks like. Sometimes we struggle with sin because of our family. Sometimes sins are passed down from our family. Sometimes these sins span many generations. These generational sins are like toxic waste in the soil that persists in our family garden. These sins can become bigger than us. We might find that we just cannot break the chains all by ourselves. We need God’s help. The soil of the family must go through a purification process. How can we understand the glorious beauty of the Church as a family if our own family experience is poisoned?

We all know what a healthy family is supposed to look like. In a healthy family, we find a source of consolation. Maybe we have given up hope that our family could ever be a source of consolation for us. But faith, hope, and charity inspire us not to despair. You can turn things around for your family. Now, this seminar is not magic. But it uses the Church’s teachings to help us see how God wishes to bless us and not to curse us. The enemy of our souls, the devil, or satan, wishes to curse us and our families and to separate us from them and the Church. He seeks to destroy hope, to destroy faith, to destroy charity. He sows seeds of doubt, rebellion, unforgiveness, rupture, separation, and despair. This happens in families. The devil will promise us consolation with worldly things, but he is a liar and he never delivers what he promises. He leaves us cursed instead, alone, thinking we have nowhere to turn.

But we can always turn back, re-converting our hearts and minds, our lives and wills to the Lord and His Church. We must seek the consolation of God above human consolation. But we find the Lord’s consolation in human ways. We must learn to discern the difference. If we are to endure suffering, let it be for the right reasons. Let it be a source of joy for the Lord and for the building of His kingdom on earth. The sweet joy of evangelization begins with persecution, with great sadness and ends in joy. That is the paradox. But it is the paradox that informs our faith in the Cross of Christ that we are called to carry. Let it be a cross of joy for each of us. Let us renounce all false crosses, all false promises, all that is false and ugly; and cling to all that is true and good and holy and beautiful. That will be the only true consolation that we find in this life and it will only be found where our Lord Jesus Christ is, and where the Holy Spirit dwells: within the Bride of Christ, our Holy Mother the Church, and in all souls that are in a state of sanctifying grace filled with the Holy Spirit bearing the sweet fruit of faith. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Fr. Matthew Despard: Further Developments

Thanks to “The Witness” blog for keeping us in the loop regarding Fr. Matthew Despard and his book Priesthood in Crisis. Here’s “breaking news” from The Witness:

The Scotsmareports that Pope Francis intends to move with rigor in investigating the ongoing sexual decadence amongst priests and hierarchy in Scotland. Marc Cardinal Oullet, has informed the Scottish bishops that there will be no further appointment of Scottish bishops until Rome has completed its investigation into the sexual crimes of Keith Cardinal O' Brien. 

Not only that, but the Vatican also wants an investigation into the allegations made by Fr. Despard in his book regarding a “gay mafia” in Scotland.

This can only be good for the Church, despite the pain that will inevitably result along the way.  We need good, strong, holy bishops. Much is required of them. As St. Paul wrote to Titus (my emphases):

For a bishop as God’s steward must be blameless, not arrogant, not irritable, not a drunkard, not aggressive, not greedy for sordid gain, but hospitable, a lover of goodness, temperate, just, holy, and self-controlled, holding fast to the true message as taught so that he will be able both to exhort with sound doctrine and to refute opponents.  (Titus 1:7-9)

It’s time we started to hold our bishops accountable to this standard set by St. Paul. Sure, they are human, and they need our prayers, and they will fall. But let’s expect more of them. God does.

See also "Scotland's Gay Mafia"

STILL Sitting in the Back of the Bus: Diocese of Baker

In October of 2011, we didn’t realize it, but the EF Mass in the Diocese of Baker had pretty much met its demise. We’ve been trying to resuscitate it for a year and a half now.

A First Holy Communion at an EF Mass
Let me tell you the story; much of this is from my October 2011 post “Sitting in the Back of the Bus”; I’ve done a little updating to reflect the fact that nothing has changed in the last year and a half, despite the fact that we have a new bishop. And I haven’t tried to hide the increased level of frustration and resentment I feel.

First of all, let me introduce the Society of St. Gregory the Great (SSGG). The SSGG, centered in the Bend, Oregon, area, is a membership association of Catholic laity formed in 2008 to promote divine worship in accordance with the Supreme Magisterium of the Church; the Society has sponsored a monthly Mass in the extraordinary form at the historic St. Francis Church in Bend, since 2008. The past two years, the Society has had a very difficult time making that Mass happen. In fact, it hasn’t happened at all in well over a year.

Why? The primary reason is lack of a priest willing, able, and available to say the Mass.  

Wait. That’s not correct. The primary reason is lack of a bishop who is willing to implement Summorum Ponticum and take care of the faithful who desire the EF Mass.

The excuse given for the bishop’s failure is the lack of a priest willing, able, and available to say the Mass. Except that there are a handful of willing and able priests in the Diocese of Baker – and a couple more who would like to learn to celebrate the EF Mass. Unfortunately, they are spread far and wide. Oh, rest assured, once upon a time a priest or two did live in close proximity to the Bend area, and would have said the EF Mass once a month. But…gee…how do these things happen? Every priest who could say the EF Mass was transferred to another parish far, far away (that’s easy to do in this diocese which is large geographically, but sparsely populated).

In July of 2011, a priest traveled all the way from La Grande, OR (a 5-hour drive) to say the EF Mass in Bend on a Saturday evening, even though he was scheduled to say the same Mass in La Grande the very next day – along with his full complement of NO Masses for his parish and mission churches. His travel expenses were met only in part by the SSGG. It was a labor of love for this priest. A few months later, our Apostolic Administrator, Bishop William S. Skylstad (now replaced by Bishop Liam Cary), asked the priest to perform the same feat. The poor priest declined, not unreasonably; it was really too much to ask of him.

There are other important reasons for lack of a priest, however. The main reason has to do with administrative decisions made by Bishop William Skylstad in his capacity as Apostolic Administrator. These administrative decisions were: a) to capriciously restrict the exercise of the sacerdotal faculties of the priest who had been regularly offering this Mass in Bend; and b) as mentioned above, to transfer to a remote corner of the Diocese the only other local priest (at that time) willing and able to assume the responsibilities of offering these Masses for the SSGG. (This has happened in many a diocese across the country. Really, can our bishops really expect us to believe that it’s all just coincidence?)

In short, during his tenure, Bishop Skylstad's actions served to prevent these Masses and frustrate the legitimate spiritual aspirations of the faithful who desired the Mass in the extraordinary form. He expected us to believe that these actions were unavoidable. However, we are not stupid.

The SSGG attempted to follow the guidelines laid out in Summorum Pontificum and the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae in order to prevent the eradication of the EF Mass in this diocese. The Society repeatedly asked the pastor of Saint Francis of Assisi Church in Bend to provide Holy Mass in the extraordinary form at that church on a regular and frequent basis on Sundays and holy days of obligation. With no response forthcoming, the SSGG forwarded the request on to the bishop. The silence was deafening.

Once upon a time, we had an EF Mass in La Grande...
Meanwhile, the EF Mass had been offered in La Grande, Oregon, for almost a whole year on every Sunday, but suddenly it was also been curtailed. Why? Administrative decisions again cut into our [willing-and-able] priest's available time – he was asked to cover another parish when a priest was removed from priestly ministry there. We understood that our priest would have to cut something; sure enough the EF Mass was the first (and only) Mass to be "cut". No matter that there were 3 other NO Masses offered each week to fulfill the Sunday obligation of the faithful. Couldn’t one of those have been cut?

At this point, there are no easily accessible EF Masses for the faithful to attend in this Diocese (there is one available, though not in a convenient or easily accessible location –more on this below). This situation is directly the result of the actions taken by  Apostolic Administrator Skylstad, and the policy has been continued by our current bishop. The standard line is, “Gee, we’re awfully sorry, but there’s just no one to say the EF Mass for you.” Wink, wink. Shrug.

Back when he was the Apostolic Administrator of our diocese, Bishop Skylstad said he didn’t have anything against the extraordinary form of the Mass. Why, "we have one of those in Spokane," he told two members of the SSGG Board of Directors. Wow. Now that's saying something...

And Bishop Skylstad had nothing against Latin or Gregorian chant, he said. Of course, he told us, it's obvious that the participation of the laity cannot possibly be as complete in Latin as it would be in the vernacular. Hmmm. I objected when he told me this, and pointed out that the SSGG always provided booklets with the English translation of the Latin prayers. "People won't read it," he said dismissively. He also said that, well, some people think the extraordinary form know... "just a show". Yes. He said those things. Really.

Actions do speak louder than words. No matter what "positive" things Bishop Skylstad said about the "Latin Mass" (a term he used, but he meant the extraordinary form), his actions said that: a) it was not a priority for him to provide it for the people; b) he didn't believe it was a worthy celebration of the liturgy; and c) he had no intention of making the extraordinary form easily accessible, regularly celebrated, or a part of the liturgical life of the diocese.

St. Francis de Sales, pray for us!
Then, in May of 2012…alleluia! [cue the angel voices singing]… a new bishop was ordained for the Diocese of Baker. Bishop Liam Cary does know how to say the EF Mass, apparently. And he had “allowed” it, and even celebrated it himself in his previous parish.  Therefore, those of us who had been fighting to get our EF Mass reinstated were cautiously optimistic.
Well, forget it. Bishop Cary has made it very clear that he is going to follow in the exact footsteps of Bishop Skylstad, from whom he has sought guidance and advice. Nothing has changed for us regarding the EF Mass since Bishop Cary was ordained, except that he has perhaps become even more firmly entrenched in his opposition to the EF Mass.

Why do I say he is opposed? Why don’t I charitably accept his excuses? First of all, because, as I have already mentioned, I am not stupid; and secondly, because to allow him to make these excuses and think he’s fooled us would to be a disservice to him.

Bishop Cary is responsible for a lot of souls. He is even responsible for the souls of those who desire the EF Mass. He will be quick to tell you that there is an EF Mass available. It is in an out-of-the-way spot, an hour from Bend, and accommodates about 10 people comfortably. When more people show up – a regular occurrence – they squeeze in as best they can, even though there is a little church down the road that could be made available. But nooooo, says the bishop. All those people must be made uncomfortable in their little out-of-the-way chapel.  Some of those people drive 2 hours one way to attend this Mass!

And of course, there are a few of us way over here to the east, 5 or 6 hours away from Bend, who can’t go to that Mass in the out-of-the-way tiny chapel. We suffer. Yes, Your Excellency, we suffer, because the state of the Novus Ordo Mass in this diocese is unacceptably impoverished. Some of us dread Sunday Mass. And some of us have resorted to the SSPX chapel down the road, or the parish in the next diocese over where an EF Mass is offered twice a month. Either of those options also involves quite a bit of travel. But you seem not to care.

"Pleeeeeaaaase, give us an EF Maaaaaass."
Bishop Cary is being a very poor shepherd to some of his sheep – admittedly few in number – who want pastoral care in the form of the EF Mass. It matters not that there are only a few of us; we count as much as the other sheep. And, in fact, Bishop Cary is denying the opportunity to those other sheep – some of whom might  just learn to love it and to grow spiritually themselves by exposure to the EF Mass. He is depriving us of our Catholic identity and tradition. He is not acting in conformity with Summorum Pontificum or the Universae Ecclesiae (the Instruction on SP), which both strongly advise bishops to stop denying the treasures of the Church to the faithful who desire it.  He will be held accountable by THE Good Shepherd; that is a fact. And yes, I pray for Bishop Cary daily.

Many individuals, along with the SSGG, have written the appropriate letters to the appropriate persons and congregations in Rome. No action has been taken. We wait.

And why do I tell you this? Because it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to! Because misery loves company! Because I hope you will pray for us, even if we aren’t in your diocese, and even if you are experiencing the same thing in your own backyard. I’ll pray for you too!

Oremus pro invicem! Let us pray for each other!

Vortex: The Church Must Send Satan Back to Hell

Here's yesterday's (April 26) Vortex - another good one!

The script (my emphases):

We are in front of the Wagga Cathedral, dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel.

It’s time to take the gloves off and come out swinging. Satan hates the Catholic Church.
Always has. His sole mission is its destruction. Again, he HATES it.

Why? Because no other institution or organization or faith or religion has the means of salvation. They are ALL man made and do not have the power to save. This includes not only other religions, but governments, social help programs, social justice efforts and anything else conjured up in the mind of man.

Jesus Christ establishes the Catholic Church ALONE to be the bulwark against evil – to be the ONE body which is commissioned to battle evil until the end of the world. Period.
That’s why Satan detests it with a burning passion that the human mind on this side of death simply cannot conceive of.

How does Satan actively go about attacking the Catholic Church? Well, just as Our Blessed Lord has disciples, so too does Satan. We don’t think in these terms very often, and certainly not often enough to correspond to the reality, but it is most assuredly true – Satan has disciples.

Anyone in a state of mortal sin is an agent of Satan. They do not possess within themselves the Holy Trinity, they lack the indwelling of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Such a person is in darkness and therefore can be led anywhere into anything and it is Satan doing the leading. He keeps a person in mortal sin in darkness, clouds the intellect, and smothers them in pleasures to keep them content so they will not seek a way out of their sin. They become a tool of his, a prisoner, a slave to do his bidding. And if they die in that state, they descend to the infernal regions from which there is never any respite from its horrors.

So the devil makes use of such people while they are on earth and his control. He does not CONTROL their free will, but he is able to suggest things to them to which they CHOOSE to offer little or no resistance.

Thus they become quite pliable in his hands, in just the same manner that a soul in a state of grace and seeking further sanctification becomes like clay in a potter’s hand when the potter is Our Heavenly Father. We desire to be sculpted.

And what does Satan use his human minions for? His sole goal of destroying the Catholic Church. He has worked enormous wreckage and destruction in the Church in the 20th century.

His actions, through his human agents, have resulted in a worldwide apostasy – a rejection of almost anything and everything sacred. And it matters not at all whether those who are his here on earth agents are consciously aware of their slave masters actions or not. A soul in mortal sin is a throne room for Hell.

We see evidence of this diabolical reality in the push for so-called same-sex marriage, an absolute perverse and distorted re-ordering of nature.

You can bet the farm that Satan has no specific interest in whether governments pronounce sodomy as marriage. The sin of homosexual acts are being committed anyway and the guilt of that sin already being incurred.

What Satan gets out of the marriage question is the creation of an atmosphere where truth is denied, thus setting the stage for even greater sin to flood in. AND, above all, he gets the establishment of an environment where the Church and Her teachings can be officially attacked and condemned. He has craftily engineered a situation where the TRUTH ITSELF is made to appear to be an enemy of people and their so-called rights.

Sodomy is being trotted around the world and portrayed as a “human right”. Whether his agents are conscious of it or not, Satan is behind this same-sex marriage movement because, at the end of the day, it will be used against the Church as a powerful weapon, which  we have already seen glimpses of here and there in Canada and the United States and Europe.

Church leaders to take the gloves off and start talking about this in the real terms that it is: spiritual warfare – aimed against the Church of Christ, His Immaculate Bride. That is where this will all end up. It HAS to end there. Satan cares about nothing but the destruction of the Catholic Church and the resultant loss of countless souls. Period. And the Church cares about nothing ultimately than salvation.

Every battle that occurs in the spiritual realm is nothing more than a microcosm of this truth. This is how Our Blessed Lord classified it when He Himself declared Peter the Rock on which HE would build His Church, and then promised that the Gates of Hell would not prevail.

That is talk of war.

This is the spiritual reality behind all the talk of human rights, and marriage equality, and all the diabolical PR.

The Church needs to call this out and tell Satan to go to hell.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Vortex: Lukewarm Shepherds Lose Souls

Ah, Michael Voris, you have done it again – hit the nail on the head!

In today’s (April 25) episode of the Vortex, Voris addresses a big, overlooked problem: many people have left the Church, NOT because of the “oppressive” teachings about sexual morality, but because the shepherds of the Church, along with many of the sheep, are so lukewarm in the way they talk about it and live it.

Voris says (my emphasis):

…after last night’s talk, a mother and adult son came up afterward and started posing a series of questions and comments.

They had ventured into a protestant congregation where the mother said she just felt that she was being fed more than at the Catholic parish she used to attend. She was more comfortable, she said, in this community and for her children as well since they enjoyed the services at the protestant assembly more.

So we talked for a while… about the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist and so forth. As she talked more and more it became clear that she didn’t reject any of that; she just never saw any evidence of it among the priests and congregation at the Catholic parish she had attended a few years earlier. She even pointed out that no one genuflected before going into the pew.

Her word was that the faith among Catholics was lukewarm, if even that. And she’s right on many points. The faith has grown cold in many Catholics. They have grown lukewarm towards Our Blessed Lord. The word indifferent springs to mind.

And this is a danger that never gets talked about very much in the Church these days. So much attention is heaped on Catholics who leave the Church because of the moral teachings – mostly about sexual issues – that almost NO attention is focused on Catholics who leave because they are not being fed.

I'd make a substantial monthly
donation if this parish promised to
make this a Catholic sanctuary.
This strikes home for me; in my brief conversation with Archbishop Sample the other night, I told him that I felt that my diocese is one of the most Protestant dioceses in the nation. He looked a little confused by that, and I hastened to add that while the Archdiocese of Portland (and others you can think of, I’m sure) has a lot of liberal and dissident individuals and groups trying to undermine the teachings of the Church, the sprawling but sparsely populated rural diocese next door simply lacks Catholic identity. In my diocese, I don’t think there are any “gay” Masses or even participation in “gay pride” parades, or outrageous things like that. There used to be some “Call to Action” groups here and there, but they were squelched…I think. Mostly what I see is a quiet, uninformed, lukewarm imitation of the Protestant church down the street. “Can’t we all just get along?” No one wants to make waves in our small communities. As Michael Voris says in the video:

Many Church leaders today seek to straddle the fence – on the one hand, not wanting to say anything in homilies that might offend the people or make them feel uncomfortable, while on the other hand keeping up appearances at least of being faithful to Church teaching.

When they do that, the result is homilies that sound like email forwards, or “shared” posts on Face Book. And like the woman Michael Voris describes in the video, many Catholics in these parts have jumped ship to a Protestant church because of the lukewarm approach of our priests.

The ones who are left in the Catholic pews are largely protestantized themselves. They don’t act like they believe in the Real Presence; the sanctuary is like Grand Central Station with all the lay ministers traipsing through it.  Where is the awe and reverence due Our Lord? I don’t see it in the parishes where I attend, or have visited.  Where are the homilies defending the Catholic beliefs that are being degraded and derided by the secular world? Again, priests don’t want to offend anyone, for fear the collection plate will suffer – or just because they don’t want to be unpopular.

This always leaves me with a burning question: why do our shepherds bend over backwards to placate those who ask for liturgical abuses and watered-down teaching, but ignore the pleas of those who simply ask for what the Church teaches? They are afraid the former will leave, but seem in a hurry to rush the latter out the door.

Aren’t our priests supposed to help us grow in holiness? Isn’t that their task as pastors? But that’s not what I see. I see the lukewarm teaching Michael Voris describes, and I see busy priests who succumb to the temptation to “go with the flow” rather than challenge their parishioners to walk that path to holiness. In so doing, these pastors sabotage the souls of the faithful, and their own souls as well.

Don’t try to tell me that they must do “the most good for the most people”, either. Jesus himself advocated doing what needs to be done for that one lost sheep. By allowing a parish to remain stuck in its protestantized lukewarm habits, they are doing harm rather than good. They may have the good intention of wanting to keep their flock from leaving the Church, but what good is a parish full of lukewarm Catholics who don’t believe critical Church doctrine? 

Here’s the Vortex, with the full script below.

We’re here in Melbourne giving a couple of talks to some very enthusiastic and faithful groups of Catholics – a great blessing to be able to do so, we might add. But after last night’s talk, a mother and adult son came up afterward and started posing a series of questions and comments.

They had ventured into a protestant congregation where the mother said she just felt that she was being fed more than at the Catholic parish she used to attend. She was more comfortable, she said, in this community and for her children as well since they enjoyed the services at the protestant assembly more.

So we talked for a while… about the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist and so forth. As she talked more and more it became clear that she didn’t reject any of that; she just never saw any evidence of it among the priests and congregation at the Catholic parish she had attended a few years earlier. She even pointed out that no one genuflected before going into the pew.

Her word was that the faith among Catholics was lukewarm if even that. And she’s right on many points. The faith has grown cold in many Catholics. They have grown lukewarm towards Our Blessed Lord. The word indifferent springs to mind.

And this is a danger that never gets talked about very much in the Church these days. So much attention is heaped on Catholics who leave the Church because of the moral teachings – mostly about sexual issues – that almost NO attention is focused on Catholics who leave because they are not being fed.

Many Church leaders today seek to straddle the fence – on the one hand, not wanting to say anything in homilies that might offend the people or make them feel uncomfortable, while on the other hand keeping up appearances at least of being faithful to Church teaching.

The strategy has proven to be an utter failure: appealing to no one so that BOTH camps leave the Church – those who object to the teachings, and those in search of them but who never hear them.

This mother and her children are a perfect example. She is Catholic at heart, but protestant in practice because she has been denied the authentic faith in reality. What a terrible condemnation of church leaders and their inept plans that such a situation exists.

The Catholic faith possesses the fullness of the truth, as we laid out for her, referring to Scripture and Tradition and walking her and her children through salvation history.
She said, quite correctly, that so many Catholics – including priests – have no passion or hunger for souls… so what recourse did she have? She said very plainly: she wanted her children to grow up with a love for Jesus.

Her words stand as witness against so much that has transpired in the last 50 plus years in the Church. And they are echoed in the recent words of the Holy Father. Pope Francis said at a Mass last week in reference to lukewarm Catholics:

“These Christians are not united in the Church, they do not walk in God's presence, they don’t have the security of the Holy Spirit, they do not make up the Church. They are Christians of good sense only: they keep their distance…to quote the words of Jesus in Revelation, 'lukewarm Christians'. The indifference that is in the Church ... They walk only in the presence of common sense common sense ... that worldly prudence.”

You constantly hear form the lukewarm clerical set that you shouldn’t beat people over the head, that you have to take people where they are, that we are all at different places in our spiritual journey. These expressions are cop-outs, pure and simple. They allow the priest and the bishop to hide behind the vague idea that people are not ready to hear the truth yet; that we will bring them along eventually.

But EVENTUALLY never comes. What is happening is that the lowest common denominator is being played to at the expense of those who DO want to hear the truth in all its naked glory and terrible earth shattering reality. THESE people are being – have been – driven from the church into communities that only have partial truth. They come to the Catholic Church for gold and are handed peanut butter; or to quote Our Lord, they ask for bread and are handed a serpent.

In St. John’s Apocalypse, Our Blessed Lord warns very clearly that the lukewarm he will vomit from His mouth. Too many people in the Church these days - and not just those sitting in the pews – most especially those NOT sitting in the pews – have had their faith grown cold. They are, as Cardinal Oulette has said, constantly measuring the preaching of the gospel against the political correctness of declaring it and anticipating the consequences. People will be offended; some people will leave; the pews will empty they say. Well, here’s a newsflash. That’s already happening with people who WANT to hear the truth.

For the sake of those who want to hear the fullness of the truth…for the Love of God…say it.

And just in case you are wondering, the woman and her family came to Mass with us this morning, her 20-something son is going to be getting in touch with the priest, who is very solid, and reconnecting with the Faith of which he was deprived during his youth by the lukewarm.

Keep him and her in your prayers.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Confirmation Mass with Archbishop Sample

On Monday, April 22, I traveled to the Portland area to attend a confirmation Mass at St. Pius X parish with my new friend LouAnn Edwards.  It was a beautiful day!

First, a little about LouAnn: I met her via this blog (I’ve met so many wonderful people this way!). She works for Oregon Right to Life as the host of a show called Woman 2 Woman, a talk show airing on public access TV in the Portland metropolitan area. It is sponsored by Oregon Right to Life Education Foundation and supports the sanctity of life from conception to natural death. LouAnn she interviews pro-life experts, activists, writers, etc. Here’s her bio from the Woman 2 Woman website:

LouAnn Edwards is a wife of 28 years, and mother of six who uses her former background as a professional ice skater to jump and spin her way across Portland and the U.S. finding exciting new guests for the show. LouAnn has gone to great lengths and airport security lines to bring our audiences interviews with the most compelling experts, authors and speakers for life. Whether she’s backstage with award winning speakers, a bestselling author, a crowd filled pro- life rally , or in our beautiful Gresham studio, you’re in for a treat. When she’s not chasing someone with a microphone, LouAnn is a freelance writer, instructor for Oregon Christian Writers and has published pieces in Today’s Christian Woman, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Lifestyles Northwest, Cup of Comfort and her collection of stories: Don’t Make Me Laugh, Can’t You See I’m in the Middle of a Crisis?

LouAnn and her team are excited to bring you each and every Woman to Woman show so that all life may be protected and celebrated!

LouAnn is a cradle Catholic, but somehow confirmation got delayed, omitted, and otherwise sidelined until just this year. When she told me that she had sponsors, but that they were going to be out of town on the date of the confirmation Mass, I offered to fill in – and she accepted! (I’ve never been a sponsor before!)

Although of course I know that the bishop of a diocese is supposed to confirm the candidates, I also know that the bishop can delegate that responsibility to the parish priest; when I was confirmed at Easter Vigil 11 years ago, it was the priest who administered the sacrament, not the bishop. So, somehow, I assumed that LouAnn’s parish priest would be administering the sacrament.

Imagine my surprise when she informed me that Archbishop Alexander Sample himself would be presiding at the Mass! She and I were both excited about the prospect of meeting him.

Photo taken before everyone was seated. Seems
to be a pipe organ available,
but it was not played at this Mass.
LouAnn had not heard it used at any Masses
she has attended there, but thought it was
often used at an early Sunday morning Mass
Now…the Mass: oh my. Well, I didn’t really have high expectations, so I was not completely scandalized by the music: piano, guitars, drums, tambourines, rhythmic hand-clapping by the congregation, you name it. Always with that karaoke-style rhythm thing in the background. A Gloria with a refrain. Constant, constant noisy music (OMG, those drums!!!). By the time we were halfway through Mass, I was thinking, “Could you please just be QUIET for a few minutes?”

Still there was incense – yay! And priests alone administered the Body of Christ at Holy Communion (lay ministers administered the chalice). And from the logistical point of view, the organizers did an excellent job; there were 150 confirmandi (most of them youth, with only 10 adults). The actual mechanics of getting each one, plus the sponsor, in front of the archbishop , went very smoothly.

Okay…150 confirmandi, plus 150 sponsors = 300 bodies. I can’t even remember the last time I was at a Mass with that many people present! Then add in friends and family…the place was packed. LouAnn’s husband Gary noted that the only time he’d seen the church that full was on Christmas or Easter, and this was a Monday evening!

Even Archbishop Sample joked that, since he comes from a small rural diocese, he had never seen so many candidates at one time. He joked, “The amount of time it took to read off all of your names was longer than my confirmation Masses usually last!”

Couldn't even get them all in the photo!
After the Mass, the 150 newly-confirmed souls mounted a set of risers in the very large parish hall for a group photo with the Archbishop. Then, I saw the parish pastor, acting as a sort of battering ram, leading the Archbishop out of the parish hall. I figured he’d be back, but I wasn’t going to miss my chance to talk to him, so I followed on his heels. I could have reached out and touched the hem of his garment!!! I should have. I wonder if he would have felt power going out of him!

When we cleared the building, I called out, “Your Excellency!” and he turned around, saying, “Yes?” I asked, “Are you coming back in?” and he smiled is very genuine smile and assured me, “Oh yes, I’m coming back. I just need to change out of these vestments.”

He did return, in his cassock (thanks be to God for cassocks! I wish all priests and bishops everywhere would wear them all the time!). And then he chose a spot in which to stand and be photographed with everyone who wanted a photo. He was poised and gracious and seemed to be enjoying meeting each individual. At one point he said to the assembled crowd, “This is where I start to feel like Mickey Mouse at Disneyland!”

I snuck into the photo with LouAnn so that I would have proof that I was there!

LouAnn wanted to ask Archbishop Sample for an interview for her show, and I wanted to say a few words to him, so we waited. Finally, all of the photos were done, and most of the people had left the parish hall. LouAnn and I watched for our chance and once more approached the Archbishop.

I had joked with friends prior to this that I was going to play the part of Diogenes by lighting a large, unbleached beeswax candle and holding it up as I peered into His Excellency’s face, saying, “I’m looking for an honest bishop!” I didn’t do that, but I was “peering” – trying to discern whether Archbishop Sample is the “real deal”.

I think he is.

I told him that I loved his pastoral letter on music, and asked if he thought he would be able to accomplish the same thing in Oregon. He took a deep breath, and said, “In time. Give me time!” and he smiled. He has such a genuine smile! I allowed that he certainly needed time and that he had a lot of work to do in the Archdiocese of Portland. He nodded, and said, “Pray for me!” I told him that I already do, daily, and assured him that I would of course continue.

I ask all of you readers to pray for him, too. Daily! The Archdiocese of Portland is so full of corruption and immorality and dissent…the diabolical forces will be seeking to waylay a good bishop like Archbishop Sample at every turn. We need him to remain irreproachable (Titus 1:7-9). With our prayers and the grace of God, Archbishop Alexander Sample could be a leader in bringing a revival, renewal, and reform to the Catholic dioceses of the Pacific Northwest!

And, as I told His Excellency when I explained that many outside the Archdiocese of  Portland are counting on him: “No pressure!”  Ha!

For more photos - a LOT more! - go here – the parish hired a professional photographer for the entire event. While most of the 715 photos are of the confirmands, you can find quite a few of the Archbishop celebrating Mass as well.

Other posts about Archbishop Sample on this blog:

4/5/12  Good News
10/11/11  More Bishops with Backbone

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Photos from Buenos Aires

A friend of this blog traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina for Holy Week, and was kind enough to send me a few photos. She says:

Here are a few photos from our trip. The neo-gothic Basilica was built
in honor of the Virgin of Lujan, the patron saint of Argentina. The
next several photos are from the SSPX Chapel and the procession was
from Good Friday. The Pope's picture is everywhere - one drapes the
side of an enormous gov't building. I've included a couple photos from
Recoleta Cemetery. The mausoleums were very impressive - when you look in the glass door, you will see the casket and each have their own
altar with crucifix hanging.