Thursday, April 21, 2016

Quote of the Day

"Let us allow this experience which is inscribed in the Gospel also to be imprinted in our hearts and shine forth from our lives. Let us allow the joyous wonder of Easter Sunday to shine forth in our thoughts, glances, behavior, gestures and words."

--Pope Francis

Friday, April 15, 2016

Quote of the Day

"Easter is the feast of the new creation. Jesus is risen and dies no more. He has opened the door to a new life, one that no longer knows illness and death. He has taken mankind up into God himself."

--Benedict XVI

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Quote of the Day

"'The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone' (Psalm 117:22). In the light of Christ's Resurrection, how wonderfully we see in all its fullness the truth of which the Psalmist sings! Condemned to a shameful death, the Son of Man, crucified and risen, has become the cornerstone of the Church's life and of the life of every Christian."

--St. John Paul II

Friday, April 1, 2016

Reflection on the Resurrection of Our Lord

Women at the Empty Tomb, Fra Angelico (ca. 1440)
"Life conquered death. Mercy and love conquered sin! Faith and hope are necessary to open oneself to this new and wonderful horizon. And we know that faith and hope are gifts of God, and we must ask for them: “Lord, give me faith, give me hope! We are in such need of them!” We let ourselves be pervaded by the emotions that resound in the Easter sequence: “Yes, we are certain of it: Christ is truly risen.” The Lord has risen in our midst! This truth marked indelibly the life of the Apostles that, after the Resurrection, realized again the need to follow their Master and, having received the Holy Spirit, went without fear to proclaim to all what they had seen with their eyes and experienced personally.

"In this Jubilee Year, we are called to rediscover and to receive, with particular intensity, the comforting proclamation of the Resurrection: “Christ, my hope, is risen!” If Christ is resurrected, we can look with new eyes and a new heart at every event of our life, including the most negative. The moments of darkness, of failure and also of sin can be transformed and proclaim a new way. When we have touched the depth of our misery and weakness, the risen Christ gives us the strength to rise again. If we entrust ourselves to Him, His grace saves us! The crucified and risen Lord is the full revelation of mercy, present and operating in history. See the Easter message that resounds again today and will resound for all of Eastertide until Pentecost."

--Pope Francis

Friday, March 25, 2016

Quote of the Day

"God truly offers Himself wholly for each one of us and does not spare Himself in anything. The Mystery we adore in this Holy Week is a great story of love that knows no obstacles. Jesus’ Passion lasts until the end of the world, because it is a story of sharing with the sufferings of the whole of humanity and a permanent presence in the events of the personal life of each one of us. In sum, the Easter Triduum is the memorial of a drama of love that gives us the certainty that we will never be abandoned in life’s trials."

--Pope Francis

Friday, March 18, 2016

Quote of the Day

"God uses his power differently from the way human rulers use power. His power is that of sharing in love and in suffering, and the true face of God is shown, indeed, in suffering. In suffering, God bears and shares the burden of the injustice of the world, so that in our very darkest hours, we may be sure that God is then closest to us."

--Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI), God and the World (Ignatius Press, 2002), pp. 338-339

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Three Years of Mercy

On Sunday, March 13, we celebrated the third anniversary of the election of Pope Francis. I can still vividly remember that Wednesday afternoon three years ago when I was glued to the television set, watching the live EWTN broadcast of the second day of the conclave, when white smoke suddenly began pouring from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel. It was a cold, rainy evening in Rome. After a brief time of expectant waiting and wondering, it was announced that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio had been elected the 265th Successor of Saint Peter and had taken the name Francis. Unfamiliar with the name, I scrambled upstairs to my computer and checked my list of papabili (likely papal candidates) in an article I had just published speculating on who the successor to Benedict XVI might be. I found Cardinal Bergoglio at number 20 on my list of thirty-three papal candidates. I quickly revisited my source article on Wikipedia and found that he was from Argentina. That was interesting to me because I had a wonderful Catholic pastor who was from Argentina when I was a boy at my small-town parish in California. I had included Bergoglio a ways down the list because I felt he was a longshot candidate due to his age and his inability to speak English. When the newly elected pontiff finally appeared on the central balcony of Saint Peter's Basilica, I was initially unsure whether I would like him or not as he seemed a bit reserved, but I was soon won over by his profound humility, simplicity, prayerfulness, charity, and joyfulness. Paying closer attention to videos of the first public appearances of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, I have since come to realize that every modern pope is a bit nervous when he is first elected because he realizes the enormous responsibility of that office to which he has been elected by his brother cardinals and which he has accepted for the sake of his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

We are currently observing the Jubilee Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis. Yet in a certain sense, the past three years of Francis' pontificate have been years of mercy for the whole Church and for the world. God has given us a special pope to reform and cleanse the Church by challenging each one of us--from the highest-ranking cardinal to the lowest layperson--to examine our lives, identify patterns of worldly and sinful thought and behavior that are not in conformity with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and undertake a lifelong journey of daily personal conversion. Through his simple and direct preaching and the simplicity of his own lifestyle, Francis has been effectively training us to reject the materialistic and elitist attitudes so prevalent in our age and to follow Christ faithfully in our everyday lives. He has reminded us of the need to be good stewards and protectors of all the gifts that God has given us, from the innocent unborn child in the womb to our beautiful planet Earth. He has brought renewed vigor to the Church's missionary mandate by urging her members to go out and meet people where they are instead of waiting for people to come to her. And his vision of the Church as a field hospital after battle, with his emphasis on Divine Mercy and the importance of works of charity, is appropriate and welcome at this particular moment in history when so many people are hurt in various ways and desperately in need of the touch of Christ's healing love and compassion.

Given that Pope Francis is such a blessing to our Church today, it is painful to see him being often so profoundly misunderstood, both by the secular international news media and by many well-intentioned "conservative" Catholics. Worldly journalists frequently view and portray Francis in their own image as some kind of radical, revolutionary pontiff who is open to changing certain Church teachings in the name of mercy and compassion toward those in sinful situations, while many faithful and fearful Catholics, including certain cardinals--misled by that inaccurate portrayal--apprehensively view him the same way, as a disastrously "liberal" pontiff who's ready and willing to attempt to share Christ's mercy with unrepentant sinners at the price of apostasy from the objective truths of the Faith. Nothing could be further from the truth. Francis' pontificate has not been a radical departure from that of his predecessors; on the contrary, as those close to Francis always emphasize, it has been an exercise in continuity with the other recent popes on all essential matters of doctrine and discipline.

This becomes abundantly clear when you start to read his writings: quotes from Benedict XVI, John Paul II, Paul VI, and John XXIII are to be found all over the place. And when you listen to his Angelus addresses and homilies and then compare them with those of our previous great popes, you find the very same themes being repeatedly echoed and explored: God's infinite love for each one of us, the universe as His creation, our role as stewards of creation, the dignity of each human life, salvation through Christ alone, freedom and personal responsibility, marriage and family life according to God's plan, justice and human rights, the existence of Satan and the fallen angels, sin and grace, conversion and Divine Mercy, the joy of being Christian, the redemptive value of suffering, authentic liturgical renewal in line with Vatican II, ecumenism and Christian unity, the principle of subsidiarity, the proper role of the free market in wealth and job creation, government as service to the common good, and so on and so forth. And thanks to his Jesuit training, Francis is a highly competent and accessible teacher.

Just like his predecessors, Francis takes Catholic doctrine seriously, and his pastoral outreach is in no way opposed to that doctrine but simply flows out of it naturally. With the arrival of Pope Francis on the scene of the Church, there has been no change of substance or essentials, only a change of style and emphasis. But that very change of style is often mistaken for a change of substance. Hence the calls from certain well-meaning Catholic critics for Pope Francis to clearly reiterate and clarify Church teaching on sexual morality, marriage and family life and to refrain from changing the teachings on those subjects. If the critics would take the time to read some of Francis' writings, addresses and homilies, notably his opening address at the recent Synod on the Family, they would find that he has already done this. And as for changing Church doctrine on marriage and family life, the critics seem to have forgotten that Pope Francis couldn't change any doctrine even if he wanted to, because the Holy Spirit protects the Church, and in a special way the pope, from teaching error in matters of faith and morals. And despite the vain hopes of some and the solemn warnings of others, Francis himself has no intention of altering any part of Catholic doctrine.

None of this is to say that Pope Francis has not made any mistakes in non-essential matters or that there is no room for legitimate and respectful criticism of his decisions and actions in certain areas that lie outside his proper competence. For example, I think that his acceptance of the human-induced global-warming hypothesis will end up damaging the Church somewhat in the long run given that NASA satellite data actually indicate a general decline in average global temperatures over the past eighteen years despite continued accumulation of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere, and that cooler temperatures are likely to persist through the next three decades thanks to reduced solar activity. No pope is infallible on scientific matters because science is a search for truth--often clouded by human bias and tainted by corruption--not the truth itself. But even if Francis turns out to have been wrong on global temperatures, this should not obscure the central message of his important and wide-ranging encyclical Laudato Si or the many aspects of Catholic social teaching and care for God's creation clearly reiterated for our time within that landmark teaching document. And we should remember that no human Vicar of Christ, not even a saint or a genius, is perfect, or ever will be. Pope Francis himself is keenly aware of his ability to sin and make mistakes, which is why he goes to confession frequently and is always asking us to pray for him.

Francis' pontificate offers us an important lesson: We should read the pope's actual writings and listen to his addresses and homilies for ourselves if we want to know what he thinks and to understand what he does, rather than relying on hearsay evidence from the radically secularist (and notoriously unreliable) mainstream media, which has its own agenda diametrically opposed to that of the Church. To paraphrase G. K. Chesterton, it is Francis who is sane and his critics who are mad. We Catholics are truly blessed to have such a Christ-like pope, the latest in a remarkable chain of holy popes stretching back at least to Pius XII. And may we use this Year of Mercy profitably to repent of our sins and to share the Divine Mercy we have received with our brothers and sisters through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, following the lead of our wise and courageous Holy Father, Pope Francis.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Something to Celebrate

Interior of baptistery at the Basilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome.
(Photo by Dnalor_01. Source. Wikimedia Commons. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0.)

Today I am blessed to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of my baptism. Receiving this sacrament as an infant, I became a member of the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church which was founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ some two thousand years ago for the salvation of the world. Through this sacrament, I also received the gifts of the Holy Spirit along with the responsibility to be a faithful witness to Christ in my daily life. Pope Francis has rightly reminded us in recent years that each of us should know and celebrate the anniversary of our baptism. In fact, our spiritual rebirth in Christ is a far more significant occasion than our physical birth into this world, because our physical birth merely ushered us into a temporary existence on this planet, whereas our second birth of water and the Holy Spirit (cf. John 3) washed our souls clean of the inherited curse of original sin and brought us the priceless gift of the Triune God's own life within us through sanctifying grace, which is the beginning and the foretaste of eternal life with God in heaven, the ultimate goal of our existence.

About a year and a half ago, I discovered a beautiful book written by Pope Saint John Paul II entitled Rise, Let Us Be on our Way, in which he discusses the character and responsibilities of the episcopal office in light of his own experiences as a bishop in Communist Poland. One of the things that really stuck with me from reading this book was John Paul's intense awareness of the awe-inspiring gift and responsibility of being a member of the one true Church whose history, culture, and tradition can be traced back nearly 2,000 years to Christ Himself. As auxiliary bishop and then archbishop of Krakow from 1958 to 1978, John Paul was acutely conscious of the fact that he was merely the latest link in an unbroken chain of apostolic succession stretching across some twenty centuries, including nine centuries in his native country, and he strove with all his being to preserve and hand on to his flock the rich faith tradition he had inherited, to carry the torch of the light of Christ undimmed from his predecessor to his successor.

Although not a bishop myself, as a baptized layman I am nonetheless a member of Christ's Mystical Body and a tiny part of the immensely rich and glorious heritage of the universal Church, with its great Eastern and Western theological and philosophical traditions, its sound doctrinal and moral teachings, its vibrant liturgical, sacramental, and prayer life, its trustworthy magisterial authority residing in the Pope and bishops, its thousands of known (and millions of unknown) heroic saints and martyrs,  its diversity of religious orders, lay associations, and approved private revelations, its impressive collection of scientifically verified miracles, its colorful and often stormy history, and its unparalleled record of accomplishment in the fields of art, architecture, music, literature, education, healthcare, science, and politics.

One of the greatest joys of my life is to constantly be deepening my knowledge of, and appreciation for, my Catholic religion and the incomparable treasures God has bestowed on the world through His Church. What a blessing to know the fullness of divinely revealed truth and to inherit so many good things. Becoming Catholic--and being Catholic--is indeed something to celebrate, not just once a year, but every day of our lives!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Quote of the Day

"In this stretch of Lent that still separates us from Easter, we are called to intensify the inner journey of conversion. Let us reach the loving gaze of our Father and return to Him with all our hearts, rejecting any compromise with sin."

--Pope Francis

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Quote of the Day

“We believe firmly that the way of the Cross is necessary in order to reach the glory of the Resurrection. Nonetheless, even the Lord Himself had comforters and helpers on His way to Golgotha—Simeon of Cyrene helped Him to carry the Cross, St. Veronica wiped His face with the sudarium. His most holy Mother and the Apostle John stood beneath the Cross as He stretched out His arms in death. Thus we too may likewise count on the consolation and support of our brothers and sisters, and so we ask you to continue to stay close to us."

--Melkite Patriarch Gregorios III Laham

Friday, January 29, 2016

Quote of the Day

“God does not remain silent before the suffering and cries of His children, nor does He remain silent before injustice and persecution: He rather intervenes and gives, by His mercy, rescue and salvation. God uses patience with the sinner to induce him to conversion, and he searches for the lost sheep, for ‘[God] will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth' (1 Tim 2:4).”

--Pope Francis

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Quote of the Day

"For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control."

--2 Timothy 1:7

Thursday, January 21, 2016

T-Minus 365 Days and Counting

Just under one year from today, President Barack Hussein Obama will finally be compelled by law to leave office once and for all. I will freely confess that I can hardly wait for the remainder of his awful presidency to be done and over with. It has been a living nightmare for our country that seems to drag on and on without end. At the First Family's official departure from the White House on January 20, 2017, the curtain will fall on what historians may rightly judge to be the most financially corrupt, economically disastrous, fiscally irresponsible, politically correct, morally hypocritical, ethically bankrupt, and radically secularist administration in American history to date.

Elected in 2008 as a Washington outsider on a platform of hope and change, our first African-American chief executive quickly became part of the corrupt D.C. establishment, revealing his true colors as a radically secularist career politician determined to "fundamentally transform" the United States of America in accord with his socialist philosophy. In March of 2010, callously brushing aside the opposition of two-thirds of the American people, he applied his signature to the appallingly misnamed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, informally known as ObamaCare--a massive piece of pork-barrel legislation for Planned Parenthood and the big pharmaceutical and insurance companies disguised as healthcare reform that has doubled the size of the federal government, repealed the longstanding Hyde Amendment ban on federal taxpayer funding of abortion, raised taxes, hurt our struggling economy, widened the gap between rich and poor, sent our national debt skyrocketing to unheard-of levels, and trampled on our Constitutional rights. Not surprisingly, millions of angry American voters reacted by joining the Tea Party movement, electing a new Republican majority to the House of Representatives and choosing new Republican governors later that year. Undeterred, President Obama continued moving forward with his radical agenda, refusing to substantially alter ObamaCare, explicitly denying our traditional identity as a Christian nation, openly declaring his support for legal recognition of homosexual relationships as "marriages," and using the FBI, the Justice Department, and the IRS to spy on and harass political dissidents.

In January of 2012, as it had illegitimately empowered itself to do through the PPACA, the Obama administration issued its infamous HHS mandate that required anti-life abortifacients and contraceptives to be included as healthcare necessities in virtually all healthcare plans, regardless of moral or religious objections to the distribution of such items. Although I and many other observers felt certain that such an egregious and unprecedented attack on natural law, religious liberty, and the rights of the unborn was political suicide for the administration, we apparently underestimated the depth and breadth of public outrage over this issue, as well as the ability of our government and the mainstream media to effectively communicate their inaccurate spin on the whole matter. Thanks to a combination of the administration's deceitful rhetoric, an insufficiently conservative Republican establishment challenger named Mitt Romney, and widespread voter fraud in more than 250 counties in twenty-seven states across the nation, President Obama unfortunately managed to snag a second term.

Two years later, as the PPACA began to take effect, the stark realities of ObamaCare--higher costs, fewer choices, more taxes, tax penalties, and lack of health insurance for low-income individuals--finally began hitting home for millions of Americans, reinvigorating the Tea Party movement and precipitating another, more dramatic Republican landslide in the 2014 elections. Pledging to repeal ObamaCare and reduce the national debt in line with voter demands, Republicans gained control of the Senate and expanded their strength in the House. Unfortunately, corrupt establishment leadership in both Houses guaranteed continued compliance with the Obama agenda, including further taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood and ObamaCare as well as for unconstitutional amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants through executive fiat, all of which continued to inflate our national debt even further. Growing pressure from frustrated Americans finally secured the resignation of John Boehner as House Speaker this past autumn.

If the Bush administration was foolishly misguided when it came to Middle Eastern foreign policy, the Obama administration's shocking policy in this area has for the most part been a study in criminal irresponsibility and utter madness. While President Bush illegally and unwisely invaded Iraq and deposed a secular Arab regime, destabilizing the region and leaving a yawning power vacuum for Islamic fundamentalists to fill, President Obama has helped to fill that vacuum by arming, funding, and training the ISIS terrorist guerrillas who now control large portions of Syria and Iraq in an attempt to bring down the only other secular regime in the region, that of Bashar al-Assad. Thanks to this unbelievably immoral and recklessly dangerous policy, hundreds of churches and several mosques, many of them centuries old, have been destroyed; thousands of Christians have been abducted, cruelly tortured and killed; millions of Muslim and Christian refugees have been forced to flee their homelands; and the world is a more dangerous place. For what he has done, President Obama should be arrested, tried by the International Criminal Court, and sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity.

I do support and approve of the administration's nuclear agreement with Iran, since that country is not the hostile power it is often inaccurately portrayed. Iran has clearly demonstrated by its actions in recent years that it has no intention of developing nuclear weapons. When it comes to the normalization of relations with Cuba, I believe the administration did the right thing for the wrong reason. While President Obama clearly hoped that this rapprochement would allow more Communist influence from Cuba to spill over into the United States, clearly it is having the opposite effect as the winds of freedom are now blowing more abundantly into Cuba, which will help to further undermine the Communist regime there.

Thankfully, some of the worst effects of the Obama administration's immorality, injustice, irresponsibility, arrogance, dishonesty, and corruption have been mitigated through various channels. Due to overwhelming public pressure, the terrible Freedom of Choice Act, which would have demolished all state restrictions on abortion and which President Obama had pledged to sign, never made it to his desk. New gun control and Internet tax legislation have failed to pass Congress. Numerous court challenges to ObamaCare have been successful, resulting in temporary injunctions from the HHS mandate for various religious institutions that have rightly refused to comply with it. And two or three federal court rulings have struck down parts of the PPACA as unconstitutional.

All the same, however, this administration has been nearly a total disaster for our country, and I am now counting the days until we can bid farewell and good riddance to Comrade Obama and his disturbing presidency will finally blast off into the history books. In the meantime, I will continue praying for his conversion and begging God, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to send us a good and wise, humble and honest, devoutly Christian president who will repair some of the damage this one has done, who will heal and unite our land, and who will return our country to greatness in the early twenty-first century on the rock-solid foundation of our traditional Judeo-Christian religious and moral principles.

Go Ben Carson!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Quote of the Day

“Cowardice asks the question - is it safe? Expediency asks the question - is it politic? Vanity asks the question - is it popular? But conscience asks the question - is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right.”

--Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929--1968)

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Signs of Hope: A Transcendent Perspective

A blessed and happy New Year to all of my readers, Catholic and otherwise! As we leave the Year of Our Lord 2015 behind and embark on A.D. 2016, it's a good time to step back a bit from the daily frenzy and turmoil of national news and world events as brought to us 24/7 by the radically secularist mainstream media machine and put these temporary passing things within a broader historical context, as well as to view them from the transcendent perspective of God and eternity.

While it's undeniably true that we live in an era of great turmoil and confusion, injustice and deception, materialism and hedonism, violence and conflict, destruction and upheaval in which many bad things are happening that seem to portend a dark future for our planet and its inhabitants, we must keep in mind that there are also many good things happening that represent signs of hope for a brighter future--seemingly insignificant things that are often hidden and go unnoticed by the proud and the great, the rich and the powerful of our time, things that are either minimized or entirely overlooked by the worldly mainstream media, just as the birth of Jesus Christ to a humble Jewish girl in a Bethlehem cave-stable more than two thousand years ago escaped the attention of the elite rulers of ancient Rome. In the six thousand years of recorded human history to date, we have been through many dark periods when hope for the future seemed faint, yet with the help of God, our loving Creator and merciful Redeemer, we survived those dark periods and emerged from them into the light of justice and peace, development and achievement.

Indeed, it is very often when things are darkest that the seeds of a brilliant future are quietly being sowed and their growth carefully nurtured, just as the Benedictine monks of the Dark Ages in their scattered monasteries sowed the seeds of learning and culture that triumphantly burst into full flower during the Middle Ages. No matter what dreadful and evil things may happen on this earth due to the sin and wickedness of fallen humanity, Almighty God is still the sovereign Lord of the world and its history, and nothing bad happens unless He allows it to happen as a mysterious part of the unfolding of His plan for the universe. In His masterful divine wisdom, which is far above our limited human thinking and reasoning, He knows how to bring good even out of evil, and His Spirit is constantly working in the hearts of countless men and women of good will to inspire a remarkable diversity of good works and initiatives, all of which contribute harmoniously to the renewal of this planet of ours, the jewel and masterpiece of His planetary creation. If you want proof that this is happening all over the world right now, just step outside the box artificially created by the mainstream media and start looking around carefully for yourself. You'll discover signs of hope everywhere, even in the most unlikely of places.

We also know that, whenever the end of this passing world comes, Jesus Christ our Lord will return to earth as the glorious Just Judge of all humanity to raise the bodies of the dead and pronounce final judgment on all of human history. Those who have died or met Christ in friendship with God will be rewarded with eternal life in the unimaginably magnificent City of God in Heaven, while evildoers who died or met Christ without repenting will be punished with eternal death in the unimaginably horrific dungeon of the damned in Hell. Every single human being who ever lived will ultimately find a permanent and irrevocable home in one of those two places based on the choices freely made in his or her life and the state of his or her soul at the moment of death or the moment of Christ's return. Thus it behooves us to spend our short earthly lives well, preparing as best we can for admission to Heaven in the next life by doing God's Will and striving to grow in union with Him here and now.

It would be well for us to keep these truths in mind as we continue to be bombarded by the deafening clamor of the incessant drumbeat of bad news churned out by the radically secularist mainstream media outlets. It's not a matter of burying our heads in the sand like ostriches and pretending that nothing bad is happening, or of attempting to insulate ourselves completely from the suffering and misery of our innocent brothers and sisters in the human family. Rather, it's a matter of viewing things from the correct perspective, the perspective of the Almighty and Eternal God who holds the universe in His hands and providentially guides the course of world history, the One in whom we can safely place our full trust, our Creator and Redeemer and Sanctifier with whom we are meant to share perfect happiness for all eternity in the world to come.