Is there any hope for the world?

Someone recently asked me a question that I found to be quite profound: “Father, do you think there is any hope for the world?” (This question actually came from a young man who came with his fiancée to make arrangements for their marriage.) I was floored by such a deep question at a wedding interview. I told him, “Well, any hope we have can only be found in Christ. It won’t come from Washington!” In the midst of a presidential election year, we will continue to hear many promises from all the candidates for President until Election Day. We will listen, and we will ultimately Earth-clip-art-8each vote for the person we feel offers the most hope for America. But you know what will happen? No one we elect will deliver 100% of what he or she promises. We know all too well that much of the time candidates say what they know we want to hear in order to get our vote. At other times they promise things that they firmly believe they will be able to provide, yet once they get into office and face the reality of the situation, they realize they can’t fulfill the promise, and sometimes they even espouse the very opposite position to what they promised. Rarely do they actually make good on their promises. I don’t mean this as a blanket condemnation of all politicians but as an observation of fact: it is very hard for even the most honest politicians to keep the promises they make. That is because we are all fallen individuals and do not have all knowledge of reality. Only one person does – Jesus – and yet too often we listen to everyone but Jesus. For some reason that we’re hard pressed to explain, we dismiss the Gospel of Jesus as too “pie-in-the-sky” and unrealistic but we listen with devotion to politicians. We tend to see the Gospel as something that would be nice in a perfect world but which is not practical here and now. Dismissing the Gospel because the world is not perfect is like being lost and having a GPS but not using it because you’re lost! Does that make any sense? The Gospel is precisely the way to make the world the place we long for it to be. So why don’t we listen to Jesus. There is a plethora of reasons people will offer, but underneath them all is one common denominator: we are not in love with Jesus. We don’t trust him because we don’t really know him. We believe in him, but without falling in love with him, we don’t make him the foundation of our lives. I am convinced that we will only know true peace when we come to love Jesus with all our hearts and make him the center of our life. We cannot make the world love Jesus overnight, but we can learn to love him ourselves and change our own lives to have the meaning and purpose for which we always yearn.

Here at St. Ann’s we are introducing a new program entitled “Christlife.” it is a seven-week retreat series that will take place on Thursday evenings from 7:00 PM -9:30 PM in Fr. discovering-christAnthony Hall. Our first session entitled “Discovering Christ” will talk about precisely these things. We will not dwell on specific beliefs nor enter into catechetics or any hard sell of Jesus. Instead, we will talk about what life is all about and why we need a Savior, specifically Jesus. You will be fed a great meal and then we will have discussion about life and the role Jesus should play in it. Our team has people of every age from 15 through elderly adults, both male and female. If you live near Yonkers, come to Christlife! It may change your life! If you don’t live in our area, look for Christlife where you live. Catholic parishes are offering it all over the country. Make a commitment that will pay off for the rest of your life and into eternity! Come to know Jesus, and you will come to know yourself!

Is it Morally Permissible to Attend a Gay Marriage?

When the Supreme Court legalized marriage in all 50 states of the union this past summer I knew it would be inevitable that people would be asking whether or not they could attend the marriage of a same-sex couple. May we attend or should we politely bow out? Before we answer, let’s set a foundation.

By attending an event we implicitly show that we are giving approval to the event. Imagine, for example, if we were to show up at a celebration by the Ku Klux Klan. There would be no way we can claim that we were just showing up for the event but not approving of the Klan. Similarly, how could we show up for a marriage celebration that violates what we believe without giving tacit approval to the event? As a rule, therefore, those who oppose gay marriage should not attend a same-sex celebration. Naturally, there will be an awkwardness involved in turning down the invitation. Sometimes someone may feel that they are so close to someone, especially an immediate family member or very dear friends, that they feel it would harm the relationship by not attending. If that is the case, the only way we could attend without implicitly approving would be to clearly let the individuals know beforehand that our presence should in no way be interpreted as approving of what they are doing. I know thMale and femaleat many people will find that a difficult thing to do, but sometimes in life we must do things that are awkward or difficult in order to remain faithful to our beliefs. Others may feel that they are judging the individuals by not showing up; in fact, that is precisely what the gay-rights community has been doing to us: making us believe that we are judging them by not approving of their activities. Nothing of that sort is taking place at all. Do not let individuals put you on the defensive and make it sound like you’re judging them. Actually, there is a breach of charity on their part if they should do that. Charity dictates that we should never deliberately place anyone in a situation where their presence would violate their beliefs, religious or otherwise. Would you invite an animal rights activist to attend the opening of a new fur salon and expect them to attend and be supportive? That would be uncharitable. Similarly, same-sex couples should not invite to their wedding someone they know does not approve of gay marriage. To do so would be insensitive on their part. Same-sex couples may have won the legal right to marry, but they must understand that not everyone approves of what they’re doing and for them to put anyone in a situation whereby they would be forcing them to choose between their relationship with them and their religious beliefs is unconscionable. I find that the onus is on a same- sex couple to be sensitive to other peoples’ feelings and not put them on the spot. If they worry that someone would be offended by not being invited, I would suggest adding a note with the invitation that says, “You are a very important person in my life and so I welcome you to take part in my celebration; however, I realize that this may cause awkwardness for you, and if you feel you cannot in good conscience attend I will understand.” Similarly, it would behoove a same-sex couple to understand if someone says, “listen, you’re very important to me and I love you but you know what you’re doing violates my religious beliefs and I cannot in good conscience celebrate with you.” If they are people of integrity, they will understand. If not, they are merely trying to use their marriage as a means to force you to accept their beliefs, even at the risk of violating your own, and that is wrong of them. They should not turn their celebration into a moral battleground. Let them celebrate with those who support them and understand that some cannot. So if you are invited to a same-sex ceremony, very politely inform the person that you cannot attend because it violates your religious beliefs and you’re sure they understand that and know you mean them no ill will. If you feel you absolutely must attend the event, make it clear to the person beforehand that under no circumstances should they interpret your attendance as approval of what they are doing.

The True Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Do you believe?

As we prepare to welcome Pope Francis to New York at the end of the month, I would like to ask everyone to view this video about something he was personally involved with that is astounding: the Eucharistic Miracle of Buenos Aires. (I wrote about this in a previous post which you can view here.) This story gives tremendous strength to anyone whose faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is doubtful. It is eight minutes long and very inspiring.

Pope Francis holds dove before his weekly audience at the Vatican

By the way, I will be one of the priests on CBS News in New York alongside Mary Calvi covering the Pope’s visit this month.

view the video on the Eucharistic Miracle of Buenos Aires here

Catholics and the Supreme Court’s decision on marriage “equality”: where do we go from here?

I’m sure many of you who are my devoted followers on this blog are eager to hear me discuss my reaction to yesterday’s decision by the Supreme Court. I wasn’t surprised at the outcome; in fact, I was kind of expecting it. After the Defense of Marriage Act was shot down the writing was on the wall for this decision. My opposition to allowing same-sex marriage or altering the definition of marriage hasn’t changed since the blog I wrote on Pandora’s box nearly two years ago. For details of that, please see that blog. Just click the link here:The Supreme Court and Pandora’s Box

But what has changed this time?

First of all, I find the language that was used to defend allowing same-sex marriage and overriding the laws of the states to be interesting. They kept referring to the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman only as “discriminatory”, “hate filled”, “bigoted”, and a host of other negative descriptions. But where did this definition come from? It came from God. Therefore, if we are referring to the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman as hate filled and discriminatory and bigoted then  we’re calling God hate filled, discriminatory and bigoted. In effect, yesterday the Supreme Court sat in judgment of God and declared God “discriminatory”, “hate filled”, and “bigoted”. I remember another Supreme Court that sat in judgment over God. That was the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. Caiaphas and Annas and the Sadducees and all of their supporters sat in judgment of Jesus and accused him of blasphemy and they sent God to his death. The United States Supreme Court has done the same thing: they have sat in judgment of God and called him hate filled.

Christ in Majesty2

What is the good news? The good news for us is this: God has already won the victory! Every member of the Supreme Court and every politician and everyone who has been fighting to overturn God’s definition of marriage will have to stand before Christ in judgment when they die and they will hear Christ say to them, “I declared marriage to be between one man and one woman. Who were you to decide that my definition was hate filled?” I’d love to be able to be there that day to see what will happen.

The big question is, “Where do we go from here?” The final remaining question is whether or not the courts will try to force religions to perform marriages that violate their religious beliefs. If they do, they will be in clear violation of the First Amendment which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” We will then have every right to be in civil disobedience and open rebellion against the Court should that ever happen because it clearly will have violated the United States Constitution.

As for ourselves, however, while we may not be able to do much to change yesterday’s ruling or what happens in states throughout the nation, what we can change is how we respond to it. Many people have lamented to me about the world we’re leaving to their children and grandchildren. The best way we can protect them from not being affected by this is to teach them clearly from now to follow God and not the social mores of our time. The days of cultural Catholicism are over. We can no longer go with the flow and feel content just to say we went to church on Sunday and did our Easter duty. The time has come for us to be countercultural. It is no longer possible for us to go along with society and remain faithful to God. We must choose one or the other; either we will follow God or we will follow society. In many ways it can be a glorious time for us to be Catholics today, because we are following in similar circumstances that the ancient Christians faced. They had the awesome responsibility of converting the Roman Empire to the faith, and even though the Roman Empire used all of its might to try to fight the new faith, ultimately it embraced as its official religion the very faith that tried to destroy. We today, if we wish to win back our country need to do so by remaining firm ourselves in the faith by being truly dedicated to God not merely on Sunday but every day of the week, that we literally fall in love with Jesus, that we let our life revolve around him and his call to holiness and his truth and unashamedly and unhesitatingly reject anything that contradicts God’s call to holiness. When civil law disagrees with God’s law, God’s law trumps it, and we have an obligation to obey God and not man.

So my dear friends do not panic! Christ has won the victory and we are on the side of that victory. We may feel right now like our opponents have hit a grand slam and are now beating us ten to nothing, but hang in there! At the end of the game we are the victors! Do not jump ship and try to decide that we must change the teachings of the Church to be more popular and fit in with the rest of the world so as to win more people back, as so many people would like us to do. Jesus never called us to be popular; he called us to be faithful. Our job is to teach the truth whether convenient or inconvenient, whether in season or out of season, whether popular or unpopular. If people listen to us, wonderful! We will then have saved their souls. And if they don’t at least we have done our job, and when we stand in judgment before the Lord we will not hear the condemnation that Jesus certainly gave to Caiaphas and Annas and will give to anyone else who has sat in judgment of his law and called it hateful and discriminatory, but we will hear Jesus say to us “Well done brave and faithful servant! Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world! As you bore witness to me in the world, so I bear witness to you before my father! Come share in my joy!” May Jesus Christ be praised!

Sorry, Fido. Pope Francis didn’t say pets go to heaven

Since he became Pope, the press has been trying very hard to paint Pope Francis as a liberal who will change Church teachings. Numerous false stories have arisen about what the Pope is alleged to have said. The following article from December 2014 is an eye-opening example of how the press create stories and run with them often without checking their facts. Please be very suspicious of anything Pope Francis is alleged to have said, and always check official sources before you accept a news story as truth.Pope Francis holds dove before his weekly audience at the Vatican

David Gibson, Religion News Service12:12 p.m. EST December 13, 2014

Stories swirled this week that Pope Francis said animals can go to heaven, warming the hearts of pet lovers the world over. Unfortunately, none of that appears to be true.

“Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures,” Francis was reported to have said to comfort a distraught boy whose dog had died.

If true, the story would have been a sparkling moment on a rainy November day, and the setting in St. Peter’s Square would only have burnished Francis’ reputation as a kindly “people’s pope.” The story naturally lit up social media, became instant promotional material for vegetarians and animal rights groups, and on Friday even made it to the front page of The New York Times.

Yes, a version of that quotation was uttered by a pope, but it was said decades ago by Paul VI, who died in 1978. There is no evidence that Francis repeated the words during his public audience on Nov. 26, as has been widely reported, nor was there was a boy mourning his dead dog.

So how could such a fable so quickly become taken as fact?

Part of the answer may be the topic of the pope’s talk to the crowd that day, which centered on the End Times and the transformation of all creation into a “new heaven” and a “new earth.” Citing St. Paul in the New Testament, Francis said that is not “the annihilation of the cosmos and of everything around us, but the bringing of all things into the fullness of being.”

The trail of digital bread crumbs then appears to lead to an Italian news report that extended Francis’ discussion of a renewed creation to the question of whether animals too will go to heaven.

“One day we will see our pets in the eternity of Christ,” the report quoted Paul VI as telling a disconsolate boy years ago.

The story was titled, somewhat misleadingly: “Paradise for animals? The Pope doesn’t rule it out.” It wasn’t clear which pope the writer meant, however.

The next day, Nov. 27, a story in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera by veteran Vaticanista Gian Guido Vecchi pushed the headline further: “The Pope and pets: Paradise is open to all creatures.

Vecchi faithfully recounted the pope’s talk about a new creation, and also cited Paul VI’s remark.

According to The New York Times, which issued a massive correction to its story Friday, Pope Francis actually said: “Holy Scripture teaches us that the fulfillment of this wonderful design also affects everything around us.” The writer of the article concluded those remarks meant Francis believed animals have a place in the afterlife.

But the headline put Paul VI’s words in Francis’ mouth, and that became the story.

The Italian version of the Huffington Post picked it up next and ran an article quoting Francis as saying “We will go to heaven with the animals” and contending that the pope was quoting St. Paul — not Pope Paul — as making that statement to console a boy who lost his dog. (That story, by the way, is nowhere in the Bible.)

The urban legend became unstoppable a week later when it was translated into English and picked up by the British press, which cited St. Paul as saying that “One day we will see our animals again in (the) eternity of Christ,” while it has Francis adding the phrase: “Paradise is open to all God’s creatures.”

When The New York Times went with the story, along with input from ethicists and theologians, it became gospel truth.

Television programs discussed the pope’s theological breakthrough, news outlets created photo galleries of popes with cute animals, and others used it as a jumping off point to discuss what other religions think about animals and the afterlife. At America magazine, the Rev. James Martin wrote an essay discussing the theological implications of Francis’ statements and what level of authority they may have. It was all very interesting and illuminating, but based on a misunderstanding.

A number of factors probably contributed to this journalistic train wreck:

  • The story had so much going for it: Francis took his papal name from St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of environmentalism who famously greeted animals as brothers and sisters.
  • Pope Francis is also preparing a major teaching document on the environment, and almost since the day he was elected in 2013 he has stressed the Christian duty to care for creation.
  • Francis also blessed a blind man’s guide dog shortly after he was elected, an affecting image that was often used in connection with these latest reports of his concern for animals.
  • Moreover, the media and the public are so primed for Francis to say novel things and disregard staid customs that the story was too good to check out; it fit with the pattern.

In most accounts, Francis’ comments were also set against statements by his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who insisted that animals did not have souls. That apparent contrast fit a common narrative pitting the more conservative Benedict against the ostensibly liberal Francis.

That may be true in some areas, but probably not when it comes to animals.

Adding insult to injury, the Times article cited St. John Paul II as saying in 1990 that animals have souls and are “as near to God as men are.” But that, too, was a misquote, as media critic Dawn Eden explained at the website GetReligion.

There should have been warnings signs: Francis has frowned at the modern tendency to favor pets over people, and he has criticized the vast amounts of money spent by wealthy societies on animals even as children go hungry.

Contributing: Katharine Lackey, USA TODAY

 

You’ve been granted an interview with God!

interview-with-godImagine God were to tell you that he was giving you a five minute interview, and you could ask him or say to him whatever you wanted. What would you say to him? I’m sure some people would use the opportunity to present their laundry list of wants and demands to him, kind of like a child on Santa Claus’s lap, “give me this, give me that…” Others would assuredly decide to take God to task for everything he’s not doing right. They would proceed to chastise him for all the things he’s doing wrong, for all the evils he’s not ending, and telling him all the things they think he should be doing if he’s going to be just. I know what I would do: I would only ask him one question. I would say to him, “Lord, are you pleased with me?” I would then allow him to speak. I would listen to what he told me he was pleased with, and I would (hopefully) accept with humility the areas where he wanted me to change. But I certainly hope I would not waste precious time before God talking to him rather than listening to him. To me that seems to be one of the biggest problems that we often face in our relationship with God: we spend far too much time talking to God and not enough time listening to him. Samuel, when he heard the voice of God said to him “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening!” We too often say to God, “Listen Lord, for your servant to speaking!”

How much time do we spend listening to the Lord? Isn’t it a shame that we go to him talking and talking and very seldom listening to him? If a student were studying a sport or a musical instrument under a master teacher, would he spend all of the time telling the teacher how bad he is at his sport or his musical instrument? Would he constantly try to tell him how he could improve in his art, or would he sit and ask the master to teach him what he needs to do to be better at that sport or at that musical instrument? So it needs to be with us and God. Our job is not to dictate to the Lord how we think he should be running the world, but to turn to him and ask him what he wants us to do to make the world a better place, and to change my life so that I will be the person he has created me to be.

If we really want to know meaning in our lives we need to know God. Lots of times we come across people looking to “find themselves”. Whenever I’m talking with someone who says they need to find themselves, I always tell them “if you wish to find yourself, find God!” We need to know why we were made and what we’re here for in order to know that we’re fulfilling that function, and since we are all here because God wants us here, then we can only know true peace and contentment when we know what God wants us to do with the life he has given us. And that often comes not from talking to God but from listening to God. So my suggestion to all of us is, if you want to know peace, if you want to know contentment, if you want to know happiness and have meaning in your life, spend less time talking to God and more time listening to God. May our motto never be “Listen Lord, for your servant to speaking!” But rather “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening!”

Hey, you Catholics! This is 2014! You gotta get with it and change those unpopular teachings!

 

i-am-the-wayA comment we all frequently hear from people is that lots of people don’t accept the Church’s teaching on certain issues, therefore the Church should change them so that people will come to church again. They will claim, “This is 2014! The Church has to get with the times and change its teachings or more people will continue to leave!” We don’t at all like the idea that people are leaving, but what would it profit us to change the teachings just to keep people in church on Sunday? Recall what happened when Jesus revealed his teaching on the Eucharist and many people found it too hard to accept and no longer followed him (cf John 6). What didJesus do? Did he call out after them and say, “Wait a minute! Come back! You don’t like that teaching? Okay, I’ll change it. What do you want me to teach? Just tell me and I’ll teach that, as long as you stay with me!” No. Instead, with a heavy heart, he let them go. He was not happy that they would no longer follow him, but he could not change his message and the call to unity with himself and the truth he had come to reveal simply because people didn’t like it. Neither can the Church change a teaching just because it is not popular.

“But,” they may object, “if the message were more appealing, more people would come, and you’re never going to get certain people to come back as long as the Church holds that teaching!”  In other words, “give the people what they want and they will come!” I like to use this analogy:

I could fill our church every Sunday night with teenagers, young adults, and others who would never otherwise come to Mass. It’s very simple: give away free beer and show porn. First of all, I’d be arrested. But even if I weren’t, would that be doing anyone any good? Are we merely trying to count how many people are sitting in church on Sunday, or are we trying to bring them the call of salvation by fidelity to the teachings of Christ? I realize this is a drastic example, but it makes the point: anyone who would have us change the teachings just to get more bodies in the pews does not understand the call to salvation by avoiding sin and being formed in the image and likeness of Christ.

Yes, we should do everything in ourpower to be welcoming and acknowledge that even people who are sinners – as we all are – are welcome in church on Sunday and can have positive gifts to offer, which is what Pope Francis has been saying. But under no circumstances can we pretend that sin is not a sin just to make them happy. Our job is not to craft a popular message but to be consistent to the message of salvation by fidelity to the call of Christ. Only that can save people.

Suppose someone, tired of paying over $4 per gallon for gasoline, observing that water from the garden hose is far cheaper, decides he wants his car to run on water. He even gets 96% of car owners to agree with him, and petitions the car manufacturer to allow them to put water and not gas in the gas tank. All the opinion of those people doesn’t change the fact that the car doesn’t run on water. If the people complain that the car manufacturer lacks compassion and understanding of the people’s difficulties and keeps petitioning every new CEO who comes along to change the “law” and allow the car to run on water, does the manufacturer give in and allow it because the people want it? Of course not! Put water in your gas tank and your car will be destroyed! Similarly, when the Church clearly teaches that any given action (such as any sexual act outside of the covenant of marriage, abortion, etc.) does not lead to union with Christ but instead damages that union, no one’s personal opinion changes that. So anyone who advises us to ignore what the Church teaches and “follow their own hearts” is like telling people it’s okay to put water in the gas tank.

“Okay, but how about issues that do notseem to have moral relevance, such as women priests?” Some people are clamoring for the Church to readdress this issue. Well, Pope Paul VI did precisely that. He looked carefully at Tradition, at Scripture, and at previous magisterial teachings, and after extensive prayerful study, he defined in the encyclical Inter Insigniores that the Church does not possess the authority to admit women to the priesthood, and that this is a teaching that is part of the Deposit of Faith which must be adhered to by all. Pope John Paul II further defended and upheld this position in his encyclical Dignitatis Mulieris. Both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have upheld this, Pope Francis most emphatically so when in one interview he would not even address the question. He simply said, “No. That has been settled definitively.” The question is therefore settled; end of discussion. So those who are still clamoring for women priests are, quite frankly, throwing an ecclesiastical temper tantrum. Like a child who continues to cry and nag when a parent says no, trying to wear them down until they give in and give the child what he wants, so these people continue to cry and carry on, kicking and screaming in their tantrum. This is hardly mature behavior, and hardly what a disciple of Jesus is expected to do. While some issues are within the Church’s power to change (such as married clergy), others are not, such as women priests, gay “marriage”, abortion, contraception, etc. These have been definitively settled by the Church. So let’s end the temper tantrums, but in a spirit of love for the Lord and maturity of action, accept it and move on.

Remember that the Church’s purpose is not to be popular. We’re not battling other religions to see who has the most people in our pews on Sunday. Our commission by Jesus is to preserve what he has revealed to us and to faithfully teach everything he has commanded us and call people to salvation. Our job is to teach the truth whether people accept it or not. Yes, we will do everything we can to help people understandand accept Christ’s call to holiness, but we cannot change Christ’s teaching. That would betray our very reason for existence. going to heaven