Thursday, November 30, 2006


The other day, someone asked this question:

"What is the Church's position on Email Chain Letters?"

Cicero drew this distinction between superstition and religion: "Superstitio est in qua timor inanis deorum, religio quæ deorum cultu pio continetur", i.e.
"Superstition is the baseless fear of the gods, religion the pious worship."

I want to start with that distinction in response to the question. Cicero is not known for his religious beliefs, so I find it important that someone as secular as he, writing 2,000 years ago had such a careful insight about this topic. In bringing this to your attention, I have answered the question. The Church's position is that these things are items that fuel superstitious beliefs of people. In the following paragraphs I will clarify why superstition is sinful.

There are four kinds of superstition:
1. Improper worship of the true God
2. Idolatry
3. Divination
4. Vain practices which include magic, occult arts and daily popular practices to influence life

The chief source of superstition is pointed out in Scripture thusly: "All men are vain, in whom there is not the knowledge of God: and who by these good things that are seen, could not understand him that is, neither by attending to the works have acknowledged who was the workman: but have imagined either the fire, or the wind, or the swift air, or the circle of the stars, or the great water, or the sun and moon, to be the gods that rule the world" (Wisdom 13:1-2).
Superstition is therefore a sin against the first commandment, "You shall have no Gods except me." (Exodus, Chapter 20, verse 3)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says it this way:
"Superstition is the deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes. It can even affect the worship we offer the true God, e.g., when a person attributes an importance in some way magical to certain practices otherwise lawful or necessary. To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand, is to fall into superstition." (Paragraph number 2111)

Chain letters, either through United States Postal Service or Email fall into the category of vain practices which humans perform in order to influence their personal lives and those of others. They are vain because the true supporter of our lives is the one, true God, Creator, Savior and Sanctifier who fills us with Faith, Love and Hope every instant of our existence. To turn our backs on these gifts of Faith, Love and Hope and not use them to adore and worship and return the love that is given by the Giver, is sinful.
To put more faith in the turn of a card than in God, is sinful.
To put more faith in the forwarding of a letter than in God is sinful.
To put more faith in the path of a black cat than in God is sinful.
Do you want me to go on ? Not really. I know you get the point.
Oh, Boy!!! If that stuff is all sinful, how does anyone get to heaven? Come on, now. Everyone believes that Friday the 13 is bad luck. Nobody walks under a ladder. Everybody knocks on wood, etc.
Sinful? No way.

Lighten up, folks. I didn't say how sinful, did I? And I did say that it is sinful if we put more faith in the behavior than in God it is sinful, right? Some of our vain practices are so much a part of us and our culture that they practically become second nature. Well, now that you know and now that your conscience has been tickled, you have to start changing your second nature from "knocking on wood" to saying, "OK God, be God". Also, please remember that whatever is objectively sinful is not always subjectively sinful.
I want to remind you of the three elements required for an act to be subjectively sinful. a) full knowledge of the evil of the act; b) full deliberation; and c) full consent.

I am also saying that in the case of the email chain, we have a chance to think about what we are doing. We are tempted to do it just to be sure. Now, that's only us. What about those to whom we forward the email? They will be tempted too. Now we don't have the right to tempt them, do we?
Imagine, we pray every day, "Our Father .... lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil..." and there we go leading someone into a temptation to believe more in spreading an email than in trusting in God. OOOoooopppppsssss!

Wow! That first commandment is tougher than we think. We ought to think to be tougher on ourselves than we usually are.

So I have answered the question. I have given you some scripture and some catechism and you now know the Church's position about this stuff. If you are still curious about numbers 1, 2 and 3 from above, keep going. I put them at the end in case you ran out of time and got bored with my long winded answer.
1. I'll bet some of you are saying to yourselves, "How could you improperly worship the true God?"Let me tell you, it happens all the time. You perhaps do it yourself without knowing it. Some of our religious practices are so deeply engrained in us that we don't realize what we are doing. This simply means that we don't know the worship value of our actions, but we do them anyway, just because. Let me give you some concrete examples:
Putting more faith in the "secrets" that have come out of certain apparitions than in the true expression of worship through well defined liturgy, is superstition.
Having more faith in keeping a jug of holy water in the house than in pious family worship of God in the spirit of the Church is superstition. To live in fear that if the jug goes dry a sin would be committed and bad would befall the family is superstition.
To force a young adult to go through the motions of preparing and receiving a sacrament because something bad could happen to that person if the sacrament were not received is superstition.
Going to Mass on the day that Father So-and-So is scheduled to say the Mass because it is more certain that good things will happen if he is the one presiding at Mass is having more faith in father So-and-So than in the Sacred Sacrifice of Jesus Christ in the Mass and is superstition.
Stop laughing.
I have witnessed that and I still know of some who believe that way. In fact I know people who think that Latin Masses are holier than English Masses and that those who go to them will be blessed more. That, my friends is superstition.

2. I really don't have to tell you about idolatry. We all know that it is wrong. We all know that it is worshipping and adoring golden statues, totem poles and the likes of that. We don't do that, so we are safe there. Really now? What about the ashes of your cremated dog that you still have on the mantle piece, for good luck and the peace of mind that it gives you to have Ol' Buster's spirit around? That is superstition. It is putting more faith in a thing than in the true God. I went overboard and used your dog's ashes for the example, but I suggest that you think twice about your father's ashes about which you have the same feelings. So you see, we do have to guard ourselves against idolatry too.

3. Divination is something that we are all tempted to try every now and then. We have all had our fling with the Tarot Cards, the Ouija Board, the Palm Reader and the Crystal Ball. Every time we do that we forget the wonderfully comforting words of Jesus, "Notice how the flowers grow. They do not toil or spin. But I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass in the field that grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will He not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?" (Luke 12:27-28).
I encourage you to read Matthew Chapter 6, verses 25 to 34 as well as Luke Chapter 12, verses 22 to 32.

So now you know what the Church's position about chain letters is. One of these days I am going to die, just like everyone else. Before that happens, I am going to send everyone an email with my picture on it and you will have to forward it to five other people. It will be an invitation to my funeral. The penalty for not doing that will be one year in purgatory and not one single person will cry at your funeral.

If you delete it and come to my funeral with dry eyes and a big sunshiny smile, you will be forgiven and everyone at your funeral will cry and you will go straight to heaven because they will have washed your soul clean with the tears that I forbade you all from shedding at my funeral.

God bless you all. Do not forward this!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Nativity Story

"The Nativity Story"

By Paul Dion, STL

I was invited to the "sneak preview" of the new film, "the Nativity Story." This film is scheduled for general release on December 1, 2006. It is the only major Hollywood film that has ever been premiered in Vatican City before the pope. I had missed at least two other invitations, so I decided to not renege on this one.

I decided to go despite the fact that I make it a point not to attend films that follow a book that I have already read. I also make it a point not to waste my time going to films that that are made from Bible stories. Even though these two statements may seem to be logically connected, and they are, I have to say that there are different reasons why I refrain from going to Bible story films than those that keep me away from films that come from books that I have read.

For example, I read Puzo's book, "The Godfather". I knew what I knew about the book and about what Puzo wanted to say. I did not need my thoughts to be embellished by the director of the film. I read "The Last Temptation of Christ" by Nikos Kazantzakis. I assure you that I had absolutely no temptation to see Martin Scorsese's interpretation of that book. Nikos is a Greek lover of Jesus and Martin is an Italian lover. HHHmmmm, maybe I should go see that one. I will not go see the "Da Vinci Code." I read the book. I have my opinion of what Dan Brown's intellectual, artistic, linguistic and religious abilities are. No thank you.

I have some similar reasons for not going to bible story films. But the bottom line here is that a film is too flat. It only has two directions, what you see and what you hear, NOW. It doesn't reach into Moses' back pocket to see what the Biblical Author wants you to know about the Messiah. It doesn't see behind Mary's eyes to tell you what she may or may not know about how the Messiah was to come. It doesn't illuminate the spiritual convictions that Zachariah had about the miracle of Elizabeth giving birth to a son in her advanced age. I know that he could have been thinking about Sarah, Hannah and a couple others, but the Bible story film doesn't clarify these things. Bible story films are altogether too fundamentalist for me. Not because of the convictions of the director, but because of the medium itself.

So go ahead, ask yourself, why did I go to see "The Nativity Story?"

Three easy answers: My wife wanted to go. It was free. I wanted to tell you all about it.

I'm going to make this simple. I am not a film critic. I had a fine amateur career on the boards, but not in front of a beady-eyed camera. So be brave, forge ahead and see what I have in store for you.

What I liked:
It was short. Ninety minutes.
It was true to life in showing how children learned the tenets of their religion as they grew up in a Jewish community.
St. Joseph was a nice, ripe young gentleman.
The actors and actresses were really realistic images of small village, peasant folk.
The non-biblical conjectures were realistically portrayed. The actions of the Roman Soldiers; the reaction of the villagers to the pregnancy of Mary; the reaction of Joseph to the same phenomenon were all rather close to what you could expect from small village folk.
The desire of Mary to go to Elizabeth, her aunt is well portrayed.
The predominant language is English.
The Roman Soldiers speak English to the villagers and sometimes the background chatter is in Aramaic. This shows a distance between the Roman occupying soldiers and the natives.
What is in the Bible is in the movie. What is conjecture is artistically attractive and close to what you could normally expect.
The humor was well timed and high class.
The photography of the desert is the same as it always is in Mideast settings, it is always awesome.

What I didn't like:
The Magi looked like they were imported from a "b" movie. Very contrived. It just proved that what is parable doesn't translate into multi-dimensional communication and belief.
Ditto for the gathering of the shepherds at the manger.
Ditto for the plastic pose of Joseph and Mary in the manger at the simultaneous gathering of shepherds and Magi.
The intervention(s) of the angel Gabriel are not as good as they could have been portrayed given today's technology. I would have preferred some sequence with "Star Trek" beam transporter, light shower effect over what the director presented in this movie.
The portrayal of the birth of Jesus with the help of Joseph was tasteful but not according to Catholic Tradition. Catholic tradition holds that Mary conceived through the action of the Holy Spirit and that she remained a virgin even after the earthly appearance of Jesus through divine intervention. There is a theological discussion about this in certain circles and the screenwriter asserts in the glossy propaganda that was handed out, "We got the script into the hands of as many historians and theologians as possible. They have all helped elevate the authentic feel of this film. Not only visually, but from a standpoint of culture and tradition." (Mike Rich) I think that if this film was meant to be more Catholic than not, they missed the boat on this one.
The lack of connection between Jesus and the covenants between God and the Patriarchs. All we see is the preoccupation of Herod with Jeremiah's prophecy that there will be a new king.
The writer missed a golden opportunity to remind everyone of the peregrinations of Abraham, the father of our faith and Mary, and Joseph and the newborn child.
Maybe I'm getting old and deaf, but the conversational sound was difficult to appreciate because it was too low.
The credits show the name of the donkey, "Gilda" but they omit the name of the child who was used to portray the newborn Jesus. Maybe "Gilda" paid her union dues and the baby, or his(her?) parents are scabs.

If you're like me and you don't attend movies that are based on a book that you've already read, I don't think that you're going to get your money's worth from this one. If you have spent a serious amount of time meditating on the mystery of Salvation History in the pages of Sacred Scripture, you don't have to see this film. If you have spent a lot of time meditating the mystery of the Incarnation as it is to be found in the Bible, you don't have to see this film.

If you have children and you want to have a quiet night out together, you'll get something out of this presentation. It can serve as a good Catechism lesson.

If you have spent your money to go see "The Da Vinci Code" then you have to go to "The Nativity Story" as your penance to prepare for a Holy Christmas Season.

There are those of you who will go because you think I'm too grouchy, strict and pessimistic and you want to compare your judgment against mine. OK, go. But if I'm right, you get to drop the cost of your ticket in the Christmas collection basket (Double jeopardy). If I'm wrong, celebrate your happiness by contributing a nice fresh poinsettia to your church for altar decoration.

Either way, you'll be thinking of me, and I can use all the prayerful thoughts I can get, both from those who are celebrating and those who are repenting.

Now, how can you cry at the funeral of a guy with an attitude like that?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Some ignorant soul wished me a happy "turkey day" this morning. I simply answered him that I do not have a "turkey day" in my life. I am from Massachusetts and I am a Catholic Christian. I resent that downgrade of THANKSGIVING DAY to "turkey day". What's next, "Cows, Sheep and Asses Day" for Christmas, or is it "Xmas", or the "Holidays"?

The people who came here from Europe to Massachusetts and landed in 1620 were here because they had taken their lives into their own hands and crossed the Atlantic Ocean to escape religious persecution.

How many of you "turkey day" people have had to escape religious persecution in your lifetime? How many of you people have experienced a change of environment so drastic and succeeded in "making it" to the level of the Pilgrims? How many of you "Christians" can appreciate the victory over hardship that these new people were celebrating in a religious way? Have you ever spent any time on or over the water without a motor? Without four jet engines? Have you ever been anywhere where you had to settle and grow your own food where you knew not the chemistry of the soil nor the language of the inhabitants? Have you ever had to settle down where there was absolutely no one in sight who had the same basic religious culture than you?

There is so much human culture (including pre-historic culture) attached to harvest time rituals, there is so much Biblical reference to rendering thanks to God at harvest time that I bristle at the insult that has crept into our Stateside culture and made Thanksgiving "turkey day." Thanksgiving Day is the last vestige of our religious beginnings. I can't recall exactly how many of the first 13
colonies were theocracies, but I do know Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. Maryland was Catholic, but I'll bet they didn't have any "turkey day".

Finally, I would never have written this if the person who set me off wasn't a seminarian, a Roman Catholic seminarian who thought that he was being congenial and smart.

If by this short exposé of my deep convictions about this matter I have dumped your tea over-board, you won't be tempted to cry at my funeral. If you agree with me, go do something about it. Tell people that you do not have a "turkey day" in your life. Either way, you will not shed a single tear for me at my funeral. Don't forget to thank God for all that He has given you, not just today, but every single day. Say "thank you, God" before the first blink after opening your eyes in the morning.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Even the Vatican likes me

By Paul Dion, STL

Remember my first message, and my titular reminder about not crying at my funeral. Well now, the chaplain of the Papal household has given a wonderful meditation about the "Last days, the end of the world." It is so wonderful that I want you all to taste it.

Before you go there, let me tell you what happened in our parish last week.

There was a man, one who had evidently had a stroke in the past who was always in church, morning noon and night. He appeared to be a vagrant, knapsack and all, but didn't act like one. You know, he was not the stereotypical vagrant. He moved about with a purpose. Actually, most of us are convinced that his purpose was to spend as much time with God as he could. He smiled and waved at everyone.

I never spoke to him and he never spoke to me. Not his fault, I was never near enough to him to make verbal contact. In fact, I never made the effort to talk to him. My bad. I never even got to know his name, until last week. Imagine, nearly three years of "lurking" on the fringes of this saint's life and never even getting to know his name. I'm pretty sure that "God's gonna get me for that." (Loretta Lynn)

Yes, friends, Richard Ortiz's world came to an end last Wednesday. You know what? I haven't seen a wet eye in the house. Not because we were anonymous to this young man (He couldn't have been more than 60), he certainly was not anonymous to most regular church goers, but because we all know that he is now in that part of the Kingdom where he can really help us, if he ever finds time to tear himself away from enjoying the vision of God face to face, we are actually happy. This is a real life experience that we here at St. Christopher Parish in Moreno Valley, California are faced with. This what Father Cantalamessa, the Pope's chaplain is talking about here.

Take care of yourselves. Do not chase false prophets. (The 666 fundamentalists, for instance) Keep yourselves close to God and you too will not need anyone to cry at your funeral. It is the biggest compliment in the world. I don't think that you can come up with a bigger one.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Death Penalty? Not on my Watch!

By Paul Dion, STL

"Saddam Hussein - Vatican Asserts that Capital Punishment is not proper." This article was headlined in ParishWorld this past week.

I can't stand it when I am told in absolute terms that the Catholic Church is against the death penalty. When are people going to start reading # 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church?
The Church still recognizes that there are times when capital punishment could be called for to protect the welfare of the community. Read it, and don't forget it.

# 2267 from the Catechism of the Catholic Church

"Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm—without definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself—the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically non-existent.""

Reading this carefully and thoughtfully, it becomes clear tht the Catholic church strongly prefers non-lethal methods of punishment. The words of the first paragraph are strong guides to the mind of the Church.

1. The competent authority has to be sure of the identity of the person before it.
2. The same authority has to have proof that it has the right person, the person responsible for the act.
3. The traditional teaching of the Church "does not exclude" "recourse" to the death penalty.
4. "...if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor."

The wording of this statement is important. One of the ideas that is key here is to remember that "not being against" something is not necessarily "being for" something. This is the position of the Church, "it does not exclude recourse to the death penalty", but it would like to see it abolished around the world.

Note that the word "recourse" means that you "resort" to the death penalty if there is no other way around it.

The meanings that I propose here are further sustained by the other two paragraphs of the statement.

The church says that non-lethal punishment is "more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person."

The condition of the common good is that the community has the means to redeem the perpetrator. The dignity of the human person is that there is always an outlet for the spirit of the person to assert itself for the good and the comfort of others, even in jail. The Church urges the world to keep those principles in mind.

In this day and age when the possibility of locking the door and throwing the key away is very real, it is nearly always possible to resort to a non-lethal solution to punish the criminal, thereby leaving the door to redemption open.

So when I say that the Church is not AGAINST capital punishment, I say that she recognizes that there is still a possibility that it might be the one solution that would work. When I say that the Church is not AGAINST capital punishment, in the same breath I can honestly say that the Church is not FOR capital punishment.


Until about 6 or 7 years ago I was a pure, right-wing, hell-bent-for-leather capital punishment guy. Being of French descent, I was a big fan of the Guillotine.

Then, something happened. I became aware of a volunteer group in the U. S. that dedicates itself to investigating the cases of people on death row to see if they really "did it." I found out that in five years they had been instrumental in getting six "criminals" exonerated.

That was an eye-opener. Later, of course, along came DNA and more and more "criminals" were exonerated. It was like the epiphany that some of us had after the meatless Friday was shelved.
We asked ourselves, "What is Beelzebub going to do with all those people who ate meat on Friday?" So I went to the books. ( I didn't have Google then.)

I found out that the French had abolished the death penalty in 1981. Now I was hooked. Now I knew why the Foreign Legion was so important to France. Keep 'em alive but send them to defend the frontier in Africa.

What a brilliant strategy. Why don't we do that here? Why didn't we send these guys to carry out our dirty work? We wouldn't have to train them to kill, would we? And they would still be alive.

My path also took me to the Theology books. Ah, moral Theology. What a maze of conundrums! But seriously, there was no turning back for me. I was dead set against the death penalty. Everyone knows that there is no more rabid missionary than a convert.

Then I made the mistake of reading Genesis again. It wasn't because of my death penalty conversion. I just wanted God to talk to me from 3,000 years back. So four pages into the book I hear God telling Cain, "you shall be a fugitive and a wanderer over the earth."

I close the book and for a good hour I let the light shine. That's why we don't need capital punishment. All we need is the wisdom and the power to give these people something else to do. God, why do you do this to me?

So, I am now on God's side.

THE CHURCH POSITION (According to Paul Dion)

The Catholic Church's moral conscience is militating against the death penalty for the following reasons.

Church driven righteousness:
I'm a God fearing follower of Christ and a member of the holiest Church on earth. You have committed a heinous sin, in fact one that "cries out to God" (Gen. 4:10). You have to die in exchange for the life that you took. It is written, "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth", (Exodus 21:23-27).
When it comes to murder, we Catholics love the Old Testament and we forget that Jesus taught a relationship with God based on love and forgiveness. The Church's moral conscience has been and continues to be formed by the life, passion and death of Jesus.

Slippery slope of revenge:
Listen to the victims as they pass in front of the television cameras. "He deserves to die." "Yes, we are going to request the death penalty for this heinous crime." "He died tonight. I don't have my child back, but he got what he deserved." How Christian of you! Didn't I see you carrying a "pro-Life" placard in last month's demonstration against John Kerry?"

I am convinced, and my conviction becomes deeper and deeper that this is nothing but "revenge homicide by state" akin to "suicide by cop." If you ask me, and you won't have to, I'll tell you that a heart full of revenge is guilty of the corporate sin of "unnecessary homicide by state". I'd hate to have to try to check into the Pearly Gates with that on my ticket.

Denial of the spiritual right of redemption through atonement:
"Well, we got rid of that guy. Didn't we?" Yeah, but he's had 15 years to think about it. Did you ever think that he might be St. Peter's Red Cap at the Pearly Gates? Did you ever think that he might be your next door neighbor in Purgatory? Or maybe you won't get a chance to meet him because you're carrying around an unrepentant heart about his actions. Maybe St. Peter is asking you why you were soooo keen about robbing this soul of the right to redeem himself with state usurpation of his right to live?

Consistency of the preservation of life:
See above. If you carry an anti-abortion placard, you should be carrying an anti-capital punishment placard -- at least in your conscience.

Fight against the cheapening of human life:
The concept of being able to substitute one life for another is repugnant. Every LIFE IS PRICELESS. Every life is eternal. Every life is part human and part divine. Life should not be quantified in flesh and blood. It should be valued because it comes from the Divine Creator, and is therefore irreplaceable.

Hey, the Church is about MERCY:
Have you read the Gospel lately? There is always a strong rudder in the Church steering toward mercy. Jesus keeps forgiving people. He keeps resuscitating people. He rescues adulterers from the death penalty. He dies on the cross, but doesn't take revenge on anyone directly or indirectly involved. All he asks of Peter is to confess his love for Him. Tell me, now, don't you think that Jesus knew all about Cain?
There is a movement in the Catholic Church that seeks the abolishment of the death penalty and an official statement from the Church that she is indeed against capital punishment, 100%.


This whole story and the surrounding comments starts and ends with Saddam Hussein. "Vatican Asserts that Capital Punishment is not proper." OK, I agree.

Hey, wait. What about his millions in the bank? What about his wide-ranging human contacts in the world? Who will he be able to see? With whom will he be allowed to talk? In what country will he be incarcerated? Will he have TV? What about a radio? A cell phone maybe? A computer? Would someone smuggle a Blackberry into him? Isn't it possible that somehow he could finagle a way to make contact with his "guys"? What about one of his wives? If he's not in Iraq, will they be able to get passports?

Goodness, gracious me, this is going to be tough. Where are we going to put this guy? Maybe Benedict XVI has a contact somewhere near the top of Kilamanjaro where we could lock him up in his T-shirt and skivvies.

These are tough questions.

Remember, the core of the teaching about the preservation of life is that the community will not be in jeopardy. In this case, the community is rather broad, wouldn't you say? So what would you do, short of hanging him by the neck?

Maybe we could ship him to the North Pole and hang him by the feet, for 25 minutes, once per month, while his jailers eat his portion of whale and seal blubber with a special treat of imported high quality Kentucky Rye Whiskey (fights the cholesterol, you know). The rest of the time he would be locked up in a palatial igloo that served as the regional assay office. His cell would look out over the assayer's work area so that Saddam would have to see all that panned gold get weighed and valued as he awaited his entry into Allah's ante room. (Any virgins here?)

See, non-lethal sentences can be pretty tough too.

If I have given you some idea of what the Church's teachings on this matter are, and you agree, remember that the price I require for these teachings is that you dare not cry at my funeral.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Quare quaerunt misam Tridentinam ?

Epistola Aperta Quibus Misam in Lingua Latina Quaerunt

Quia linguam latinam in misa auscultare volunt scilicet comprendere non possunt? Questio ista egometipsum quaero saepissime. Apparet tantum "oxymoron" similiter. Oppositum quod oratio videor debet esse. Deforis traditio Populi Electi Dei qui semper in ligua franca, vulga adintegrantes Templi orabant et discebant. In veritate, quando principes Templi viderunt quod multi gentes Hebraici deforis vivebant, committerunt translationem Sacrae Scripturae in linguam Ellenisticam. Isto modo, ergo, verbum Dei adherentibus Templi rediverunt . Ista translatio Septuagint nominatur. Premagnum periodum in historia Populi Electi fuit. Si
verbum Dei auscultare in sancta Misa in modo plenae comprehensionis desideramus, in lingua vulgata auscultare debemus.

Ut dixit Sanctus Paulus, "ergo fides ex auditu auditus autem per verbum Christi." (Rom. x:xvii)
Patres Ecclesiae enim, per temporem Concilii Vaticani II Bibliam nobis rediverunt. Nequeunt Bibliam nobis in Lingua Latina reddere, sed in lingua quae cervellibus cordibusque loquor. Illi inter vobis qui Misa Tridentina in lingua latina esperunt, videre si orare de profundis animarum vestrarum in lingua latina potestis.

Auguro vobis, gratia Domini sit semper vobiscum.

Mementote omnes, nequit funere meo flere.

Friday, November 3, 2006

November is dedicated to ...

In November Catholics remember that...

"The souls of the just are in the hand of God,and no torment shall touch them.
They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead;and their passing away was thought an affliction
and their going forth from us, utter destruction.
But,they are in peace.
For if before humans, indeed, they be punished,yet is their hope full of immortality;
chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them
and found them worthy of himself.
As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.
In the time of their visitation they shall shine,and shall dart about as sparks through stubble;
they shall judge nations and rule over peoples,
and the LORD shall be their King forever.
Those who trust in him shall understand truth,and the faithful shall abide with him in love:
because grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and his care is with his elect.
Book of Wisdom 3:1-9

You know that I have to tell you this. You know that I don't want any crying at my funeral. Now you know why. We don't die. Our sacrificial offering is finally consumed and God takes us to himself. Some of us get it done more quickly than others. That is because some of us live so intensely in God's presence that the fire of His love completes the holocaust earlier than in others. Some of us innocents suffer for such a long time that we are tempted to feel that we have been destroyed before our time. We need to run back to the line, "...their hope is full of immortality." In that hope, we intercede for our loved ones and God accepts our prayers for them and excuses their folly for thinking that our suffering is a punishment from God. Our Hope in God hones itself with every passing day that we give to Him, in joy and in pain. It is in this continuing sacrificial offering that we bring Him into our world and that of our friends and relatives.
There is a beautiful line in the book of Genesis about one of God's favorite people, Enoch by name. This wonderful, god-fearing man had lived for well nigh to "...three hundred and sixty-five years. Then he walked with God and he was no longer here because God took him." (Gen. 5:24) Hey, when God comes and takes me by the hand, put your handkerchiefs away, friends, I'm dancing all the way to the pearly gates.
November seems to be a great time to contemplate death. It is the drabbest month of the year. Dry, dormant trees, no leaves rustling in the wind, weather that knows not whether to be dry or wet, days getting noticeably shorter and shorter and the harvest is over and the gleaners take over to see what they can make of the slim pickings. It is also the time when here in America the poetry and grace of baseball have passed away for another year and we are battered by the violence of American football.
November is also a great time to contemplate the prayerful line, "...their hope is full of immortality." It is only in the hearts and minds of the foolish that this is death. We know that this is the time of invitation. We know that this is the sacrificial offering that we send up to God in the hope and faith that He will not hesitate to invite us to walk with Him and take our hand. We know that this is the time to invest in hope. We know that if our time hasn't come to walk with Him into the Eternal Mansion, we will be well accommodated in the Servants' Quarters of His Mission here below. He knows that there is plenty of work for us to do.
We live in strange times. We live in times when science confuses us with the promise of seven decades of life or seven weeks of life, depending on who makes the decision, God or Human. We live in times when science promises us weapons to battle the laws of nature that in earlier times would deliver us into the bosom of Father Abraham while at the same time treating the seeds of those laws as though they hold no intrinsic promise of their own. We throw away human embryos as carelessly as we throw away the unplanted seed from last year's corn crop. We spend millions training seeing-eye dogs rather than spending to train seeing-eye people to accompany the blind. At least one person can tell the other a joke every now and then. That would seem to be preferable to being accompanied by an animal. But more immoral that all of the above is the abandonment of old people, mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters and everyone in between. The way I hear God talking to us, we are being told that suffering belongs to all of us. Those who suffer are engaged in the mission of passing on hope to those of us who are suffering less acutely than those who are really afflicted. When the old and infirm walk with God and He takes them, we are left with the investment that they made in God for us through their sacrificial offering. We do not have the right to squander it. We also do not have the right to hide from it in the first place. We have to confront the obligations of our own sacrificial offering for the sake of others. The great sin of our times is that too many of us run away from that obligation when we abandon the very creatures who are sent to deliver the grace of that engagement. By hiding from death and suffering, we are sinning against our duty to pass on the "...everlasting hope full of immortality" that God has given us.
Think of it this way, where would we be if Jesus had been afraid of blood? Where would we be if He had hidden from death? If He had not made his ultimate sacrificial offering, we would not have His life-giving flesh to eat nor His blood to drink to keep us strong for our own personal way of the cross. It is for a very good reason that Catholics keep Jesus on the Cross in their churches and in their houses. It is because we believe in the message that we are given by the very old saints of nearly three thousand years ago, human suffering and death in the presence of God is not punishment of the sufferer, it is for the salvation of those for whom the suffering is offered. Yaweh tells Job's friends, "Offer a holocaust for yourselves and let Job pray for you. I will accept his prayer and excuse your folly..." (Job, 42; 8) Jesus tells us, "Whoever loves his life, loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life." (John, 12;25) There it is again, "...our hope is full of immortality."
The Catholic crucifix is the ultimate reminder of our obligation to be disciples of Christ, Jesus. As His disciples we are like Job and we are like Jesus, we have to lift up our sacrificial offering to God not only for our salvation, but as an intercessory prayer for the saints around us. God is listening for our prayer. He is listening to hear us asking Him to forgive us our folly and to forgive our friends their folly.
If we take some of these thoughts to heart, when the "time of our visitation comes, we will shine,and shall dart about as sparks through stubble..." We will have arrived! Now tell me, why would any true believer cry at a funeral after that? I hope that all of us believe this so deeply that we will never be tempted to cry at one another's funeral.
Amen. Alleluia!