Thursday, February 28, 2013

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Curtain Falls

Pope Benedict is the fourth Pope of my lifetime, but the first to ascend the Throne of Peter during my adulthood; yet when I think of him, I feel as though I am one of the kids in this picture.  I always felt a more personal attachment to this Pope than to his predecessor, even though the latter's reign began when I was eight, and ended when I was 34.  Pope John Paul II traveled extensively and visited his flock all over the world; yet in a way, his rock-star charisma made him seem more remote and inaccessible, at least to me.  Benedict has always seemed closer, more fatherly and down-to-earth, even with his staggering intellect and long list of books and scholarly achievements.  I have often thought that if I were to meet Pope Benedict face-to-face, I would cry like a baby.  The sun has now set on the last full day of his reign, and -- barring a miracle -- I will not meet him in this life; I will cry like a baby anyway.

Some people think that by abdicating, the Holy Father is running out on his family.  If he had decided to quit being a Catholic, then I think the case for abandonment could be made.  But he is going to stay in the Vatican and devote himself to a life of prayer in the bosom of the Church.  He is no more running out on us than a grandfather does who hands over the active headship of his family to his son, and lives out his days at home amid his loved ones.  Prayer is no less service to the Church than the active life of a reigning Pope, and no less important.  In fact, one of the reasons the Church has suffered so greatly in recent decades is precisely because not enough of her children -- even in religious houses -- have been living lives grounded in prayer.

Prayer will be Pope Benedict's last labor of love for the Church, in whose service he has worn himself out.  The hard work, long hours, grueling schedule and -- above all -- the rebellion and intransigence of people even within the Church have sapped the Pope's vitality.  I am still thinking about St. John Bosco's 1862 prophecy of the fallen Pope.  This prophecy seems even more relevant now that the Holy Father has dispensed with the customary waiting period for the beginning of the next conclave.  "But hardly is the Pontiff dead," said Don Bosco, "than another Pope takes his place.  The pilots, having met together, have elected the Pope so promptly that the news of the death of the Pope coincides with the news of the election of the successor."  Who can say yet whether this is the moment referred to?  But if it is, we can find consolation in what comes next: the enemies lose courage, and are ultimately routed.

Within hours, Benedict XVI will cease to be Pope, and the sede vacante will begin.  God bless Pope Benedict, and the new Pope, whoever he is, upon whom will be laid burdens and responsibilities the like of which we will never be asked to assume.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

These Are Indeed Stern Times

The Holy Father abdicates, citing his incapacity in the face of a rapidly changing world shaken by questions of deep relevance for the faith.  Then, all kinds of things start happening in the lead-up to the next conclave that threaten to affect the selection of a new Pope.  Rumors fly regarding Pope Benedict's motives, and whether he wasn't really forced out, and whether his abdication had to do with a network of gay prelates in the Vatican.  We have some rather distressing statements coming from the bishops of Germany on the subject of the "morning after" pill in cases of rape.  We have Scotland's Cardinal O'Brien, previously outspoken in defense of traditional marriage, coming out in favor of priests getting married.  Now we have the news that this same cardinal is facing accusations of past misconduct.

Can anyone seriously doubt that the devil is putting in a lot of overtime at this particular moment in history?  And if the devil is putting in a lot of overtime, can anyone doubt that this particular moment is a critical one?

And if this particular moment is a critical one, we'd better ratchet up the prayers and penances.

Roman Collars, Iron Men

Servant of God Emil Kapaun celebrates Holy Mass on the hood of a jeep in 1950, less than a month before he was captured by the Communists.
The 68th anniversary of the raising of the Stars and Stripes on Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima seems a fitting moment to announce the news that Servant of God Emil Kapaun will be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his valor during the Korean War.  Father Kapaun, a captain in the U.S. Army, served bravely at the front, but even more bravely and daringly in the Communist prison camp to which he was confined after being captured on November 2, 1950.  The good priest would sneak out of his own compound in order to minister to the other prisoners, and, by the intercession of St. Dismas, the Good Thief, to scrounge for basic necessities to help them survive their hellish conditions.  He got even non-Catholic prisoners praying the Rosary, and also made himself irritating to the Communists by answering them back and openly defying them in their daily forced indoctrination sessions.  For a long time, they did not dare retaliate, for fear of provoking the other prisoners to rebellion; but when Father Kapaun came down with an eye infection and a blood clot in his leg, they seized the opportunity to carry him off to an isolated "hospital" and starve him to death.  His cause for sainthood opened in 2008.

Father Kapaun will be the latest in a line of American military chaplains awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor since World War II, every one of whom was a Catholic priest.  He is the second CMH chaplain to have a cause for sainthood.  The other CMH chaplains are:

Fr. Joseph Timothy O'Callahan, Commander, U.S. Naval Reserve.  Father O'Callahan was the only chaplain to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in World War II, out of 464 recipients.  He was awarded the CMH for his heroism aboard the U.S.S. Franklin under a withering Japanese attack on March 19, 1945.

Fr. Angelo J. Liteky, Captain, U.S. Army.  He was awarded the CMH for ministering to his men, directing medical evacuations, and personally rescuing more than 20 wounded men, all under heavy fire and despite being wounded himself, in Vietnam in December, 1967.

Fr. Charles Joseph Watters, Major, U.S. Army.  He was killed in action in Vietnam on November 19, 1967 while rescuing wounded men and ministering to them under heavy fire.

Servant of God Fr. Vincent Robert Capodanno, Lieutenant, U.S. Navy. On September 4, 1967, Father Capodanno ministered to his men and rescued the wounded under intense fire in Vietnam, refusing to stop even after sustaining serious wounds to his arms and legs and losing part of his right hand.  He finally fell under a burst of machine gun fire.

You can -- and should -- read their citations here.

And there are more brave soldier-priests than just those who have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.  You can read about some of them here, and find out why it is particularly fitting that priests wear the Roman collar, originally a military accoutrement.  May these shepherds in combat boots intercede for our poor country, and for our armed forces, who are being used as a laboratory for social experimentation, and among whom our Catholic chaplains are stretched far too thinly.

P.S. Here is an interesting item on Chesty Puller (an Episcopalian) and his admiration for Catholic chaplains.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Thoughts on the Holy Father's Abdication

-- Pope Benedict is still the Pope, and will be until February 28th.  He is not a former Pope yet.

-- Pope Benedict is not a modernist.  The Pope who gave us Summorum Pontificum and Anglicanorum coetibus and generally spent his entire reign undoing the work of the modernists cannot be one himself.  "And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself: how then shall his kingdom stand?" (Matthew 12:26).  

-- I don't for one minute believe that the Holy Father is "coming down off the Cross," or that he is abandoning his flock to the wolves.  On the contrary, to lay down the burden with which he was entrusted eight years ago probably causes him greater suffering than if he were to stick it out to the end, since now he subjects himself to all kinds of reproaches, perhaps even from himself.  No, this decision of his is surely guided by other than selfish considerations.  He may be doing precisely what is necessary to keep the wolves away from the flock, and doing it at a moment when he still can, before it is too late.  Perhaps he is acting now to prevent some bad things from being done in his name later, when he is incapacitated.  Not every threat to the Church is public.  We really cannot judge the reasons he gives for stepping down without knowing all of the circumstances amid which he takes this action.  

-- If you think Pope Benedict is a modernist, and also think he is abandoning his flock to the wolves in tough times, you need to make up your mind which he is and not try to have it both ways.  If he is a modernist, then he is at least partly to blame for the tough times, and you should be relieved to see the back of him.  If you find yourself stunned at being deprived of his leadership, then you must never have had reason to suspect him of being a modernist before now.  Since the relinquishment of power and the departure from the world into a monastery for a life of prayer and silence is not consistent with the modernist ethos, you still don't have reason to suspect him of being a modernist now.

-- For the Holy Father to say that he is abdicating freely and voluntarily is not the same as to say that he acting frivolously.  Rather, he is making it clear that he is acting freely in order to comply with canon law.  You'd have to go back to the Pope's toddlerhood to find an example of him doing something frivolous, and even then you probably won't turn up anything.

-- God is still in charge.  Let us ask Him to bless Pope Benedict, and to send us a holy new Pope as soon as possible.

-- God is still in charge.  And finally,

-- God is still in charge.  Case closed.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Holy Father Steps Down

Today, I have been thinking about St. John Bosco's 1862 vision of the two pillars, concerning the future trials and tribulations of the Church.  In it, he sees arising out of the sea two great pillars.  One is topped by a statue of the Blessed Virgin with the legend "Auxilium Christianorum" (Help of Christians).  This pillar symbolizes devotion to the Blessed Virgin.  The other, topped by a great Host and the legend "Salus Credentium" (Salvation of the Faithful), symbolizes frequent Communions.  

On the sea, the great Barque of Peter, commanded by the Pope and escorted by a fleet of smaller ships, is being assaulted by many enemy ships, which stand for persecutions.  The battle rages relentlessly, and the Pope's great ship sustains many blows and even great breaches in her hull, yet never sinks.  The enemies, in a frenzy, strive to fight hand to hand, cursing and blaspheming.  Then, says Don Bosco,
All at once the Pope falls gravely wounded.  Immediately, those who are with him run to help him and they lift him up.  A second time the Pope is struck, he falls again and dies.  A shout of victory and of joy rings out amongst the enemies; from their ships an unspeakable mockery arises.
The Church is full of enemies within, near enough to fight hand to hand.  How many within the Church there are, even among bishops and priests, who hate and despise the Holy Father and openly defy him.  He has not been safe even within his own household.  Some of the Pope's enemies publicly demanded his resignation.  How they must be crowing tonight over the end of his reign.  Will they have the last laugh?  Don Bosco:
But hardly is the Pontiff dead than another Pope takes his place.  The pilots, having met together, have elected the Pope so promptly that the news of the death of the Pope coincides with the news of the election of the successor.  The adversaries begin to lose courage.

The new Pope, putting the enemy to rout and overcoming every obstacle, guides the ship right up to the two columns and comes to rest between them; he makes it fast with a light chain that hangs from the bow to an anchor of the column on which stands the Host; and with another light chain which hangs from the stern, he fastens it at the opposite end to another anchor hanging from the column on which stands the Immaculate Virgin.  
Then the enemy ships are put to confusion and chaos, scattering and wrecking each other; meanwhile, other ships, some of which had retreated during the battle, approach and also fasten themselves to the two pillars.  Then a great calm descends over the sea.

Is Pope Benedict XVI the slain Pope in this vision?  Who can say, until the events precipitated by today's stunning announcement have unfolded?  We can only completely understand prophecies in their fulfillment.  But whether or not we are witnessing the actual events Don Bosco describes in his dream, there are lessons to be taken from it:

-- God is in charge.

-- The enemies of the Barque of Peter will never sink her, try as they might.

-- God is in charge.

-- We have been provided with the means necessary to overcome our present trials, if only we will avail ourselves of them: devotion to Mary and frequent Communions.

-- God is in charge.

Have I mentioned that God is in charge?  God bless our present Holy Father -- and he is still the Holy Father, until the end of the month.  The liberals hoped the successor of John Paul II would be a mere "caretaker Pope" who would be out of touch and not rock the boat, and under whom they could start things sliding back their way.  To their consternation, however, Pope Benedict has done great things for the Church, out of all proportion to the length of his reign.  Among other things, he has restored the Mass of Tradition and the traditional forms of the Sacraments and the Breviary, thus suddenly making the life work of the Bugninians merely optional; and he has opened a path of re-entry into the Church for the long-sundered Anglicans.  

I am sad that Pope Benedict intends not to die in harness, and that some will view him as a coward and a shirker for not staying on the throne of Peter to the end.  I do not want to see this set a precedent.  On the other hand, we are not in a position to know all that the Holy Father knows, and see all that he sees, and I believe that he sees farther and deeper than most.  Perhaps he is taking the extraordinary step of abdicating in order to avert some great evil that would otherwise come as a result of others assuming more of his responsibilities as he grows weaker and sicker.  Or perhaps he is abdicating because he foresees wrenching trials in the immediate future that only a younger and/or stronger man can cope with.  I would not rule out the possibility that he has some insight into who that man will be, and that he is making way for his successor so that the latter can take over while still in his prime.

I say again, God bless our Holy Father, Benedict, the sixteenth of that name.  And God bless the man who will succeed him.

P.S. I will venture a couple of predictions.  (1) The next Pope will be Raymond Cardinal Burke.  (2) He will take the name of Benedict XVII, to signal his intention of continuing the work of Benedict XVI.  Meanwhile, God's will be done.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Eucharistic Adoration

Find out about Eucharistic adoration in your town.  Find out about Forty Hours devotions.  Look for parishes that have perpetual adoration.  You might be surprised.  For example, I live in a liberal deep-freeze, a Tridentine-Mass-free zone swaying to the beat of Marty Haugen ditties and even worse things.  Yet there are no fewer than three (3) parishes here within a 15-mile radius that have perpetual adoration, and one of them has some of the nuttiest Masses I have ever attended.  It also has the most beautiful monstrance.  If you can't find any parishes that have regular adoration, work on getting it started.

One thing we all ought to resolve to do during Lent -- which is just around the corner -- is to make more visits to Jesus in the Sacrament of Love.  Ven. Fulton J. Sheen made a Eucharistic Holy Hour every single day for decades, and said it was precisely that which gave power to his preaching.  St. Alphonsus Liguori says that the time we spend in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament will bring us the greatest consolation at the hour of death.  It is not possible to count as wasted the time we spend in devotion before the tabernacle.  Most of us could not get in to see the Queen of England, or the President of the United States if our lives depended on it, yet the King of the Universe waits for us anxiously, straining for the sound of our footsteps at His threshold.  Every minute we spend with Him in the tabernacle, or the monstrance, we advance in holiness, whether we know it or not.  All the time, He is working on us, correcting faults, enlightening our minds and hearts, detaching us from sins, until one day we realize we are no longer the same.  All we have to do is show up with at least a glimmer of good will, and He takes care of the rest. He does not turn away even His bitterest enemies.

And that is the answer to the skeptics.  Let them take their glimmer of good will to the nearest church or chapel and find out what comes of it.  And let them not be deceived by appearances.  The Host in the monstrance doesn't look like anything very special.  It looks like a dry, lifeless piece of unleavened bread.  Yet even if the monstrance were solid gold set with rubies and pearls, or intricately carved from a single huge diamond, it would be trash compared to that which it holds.  

Here, incidentally, is some real trash holding the Eucharist.  

I'm sorry, but this just stinks.  We should perhaps make a special point of visiting parishes where this sort of thing goes on, to console the Eucharistic Lord and make reparation to Him for such disgraceful accommodations.  And also raise money for the purchase of a real monstrance.

Finally, while there is no substitute for a live visit to a church or adoration chapel, in case you can't make it to one, there are adoration chapels with live webcams.  This one is located at St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church in Louisville, Kentucky, where -- not surprisingly -- they have the Tridentine Mass.

So go visit the Lord in the Sacrament of Love, and let Him love you.

O Sacrament, most holy, O Sacrament Divine: all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

More Catholic Examinations of Conscience: The Syllabi of Errors

Mary, Exterminatrix of Heresies.  But since Mary is the perfect type of the Church, we can also think of this as an image of the Church defending us with Truth.
Some months ago, in this space, we considered St. Thomas More's syllabus of errors emanating from the sect of Luther.  Popes have also issued or approved syllabi of errors.  In modern times, we have the 1864 Syllabus of Errors condemned by Bl. Pius IX, and the 1907 Syllabus of Errors of the modernists, Lamentabili sane, issued by the Holy Office (now the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith) under St. Pius X.  Bl. Pius IX, Pio Nonno, had the great privilege of defining the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, but also the great sorrow of reigning during a time when secular states, stirred up by the doctrines of Freemasonry, warred against the Church and seized the Papal States.  St. Pius X also lived through these turbulent times; the sulfuric smell of modernism, against which he worked hard to fortify the Church, stank strongly in his nostrils.   In our day, notwithstanding the warnings of St. Pius X, the windows of the Church were opened to let in the smog and poisoned atmosphere of the world, so that even faithful Catholics are not immune to error.  It pays to go down these two lists of condemned errors and ponder whether any of them have had any influence over us.  

How many of these errors have been voiced in seminaries and RCIA classes, and even from the pulpit?  Many will probably sound familiar.  For example:
Pius IX, Paragraph 7: The prophecies and miracles set forth and recorded in the Sacred Scriptures are the fiction of poets, and the mysteries of the Christian faith the result of philosophical investigations. In the books of the Old and the New Testament there are contained mythical inventions, and Jesus Christ is Himself a myth.
Pius IX, Paragraph 14: Philosophy is to be treated without taking any account of supernatural revelation.
Pius X, Paragraph 35: Christ did not always possess the consciousness of His Messianic dignity.
Pius X, Paragraph 55: Simon Peter never even suspected that Christ entrusted the primacy in the Church to him.
Pius X, Paragraph 63: The Church shows that she is incapable of effectively maintaining evangelical ethics since she obstinately clings to immutable doctrines which cannot be reconciled with modern progress.

Note well that the Popes hit one or two of our sacred American cows right between the eyes:
Pius IX, Paragraph 47: The best theory of civil society requires that popular schools open to children of every class of the people, and, generally, all public institutes intended for instruction in letters and philosophical sciences and for carrying on the education of youth, should be freed from all ecclesiastical authority, control and interference, and should be fully subjected to the civil and political power at the pleasure of the rulers, and according to the standard of the prevalent opinions of the age.
Pius IX, Paragraph 55: The Church ought to be separated from the State, and the State from the Church.

If our peace has been disturbed by any of the items listed in these Syllabi, then we can rid ourselves of them and not be troubled by them anymore, secure in the knowledge that, since they are condemned, they cannot be true.