The Right Focus

As Believers We Must Keep Focus

There are those who would say that the tendency for Man toward the secular is a new struggle but, for those who study history, it has been around since the Fall. All human beings are tainted by Original Sin and all tend to desire only what is seen.

The problem today is not that this proclivity is new or stronger but that the cultivators of the Flesh, the contemporary secular engineers, have sought to raise pursuit of physical satiation to the highest level while seeking to eliminate any talk of spiritual desires. This cultivation process has become so widespread and embedded in society that it has misled many souls in its attractive rhetoric. These cultivators succeed so easily because the proclivity exists in Man, Who would seek approval for giving in to it. Like no other period in history, the secularists can inculcate the message of the Flesh to people around the world.

But we should keep in mind that this is not new and we should remind ourselves that this proclivity is strong and takes great spiritual discipline to overcome. As Thomas Kempis reminds us in the Imitation of Christ, “Many hear the world more easily than they hear God; they follow the desires of the flesh more readily than the pleasure of God. The World promises rewards that are temporal and insignificant, and these are pursued with great longing; [Jesus} promises rewards that are eternal and unsurpassable, yet the hearts of mortals respond sluggishly.”

What is needed today is greater spiritual focus by those who are Catholic. The fact of the matter is that even supposed “good” Catholics are surrounded by the secular cultivators and may easily be duped into believing that giving in is OK. By giving in, however, the view of Truth is obscured and the soul is lead on a path of destruction. The hardest part for a Catholic today is to remain focused on what is most important, which is Christ. It requires many hours each day of prayer.

The way of the Cross is the only way to salvation and anyone who lives a different Gospel will still be called to judgment based on the order established and revealed by God. At the pearly gates there are no excuses for losing sight of the Truth and living apart from Christ as it is possible to remain focused but it requires great effort. It is that effort that will be rewarded in Eternity.

To Pray or Not to Pray

Prayer Lifts the Cross

Throughout Man’s existence, life has been difficult and fraught with many trials. The promise of a new generation has been spread far and wide. This promise requires one to renounce any relationship to the Almighty, to stop wasting time in prayers, and to embrace the secular humanist promise that all trials and suffering can be alleviated through technological intervention.

Yet pushing the secular line of thought forward, the trials and sufferings often continue with little resolution through the technological manipulation. This worldly minded approach offers a measurable benefit in this life but often falls short, leaving souls in trial and difficulty with no real hope. The only solution for such is to end the life in which suffering is the only course. This is just one example of the secular failure.

Yet for those who pray from the depth of their being, suffering does have a place and the Cross is lifted by the Grace bestowed. God continues to call on Man to pray, pray, pray. He sends the Blessed Mother to make the request on His behalf. He assured those who are faithful in prayer and sacrifice that their reward will be great in Heaven. With the Cross lifted, True Progress is made in the Spiritual Life. It is not that the suffering will ever go away in this life but that with Grace the suffering becomes redemptive, especially when offered for others. Prayer helps one to see beyond the suffering to the End of Man and that end is the pledge that lifts the Cross.

A life without ardent and daily prayer is a life with only the Cross and no Resurrection, a life with no Hope. With all hope lost, the only thing left is the grave. With hope, the grave is not the final prison but the gateway to eternal Peace. It is with prayerful Union with God in this life that lightens the Cross.

No wonder we hear the words over and over again -- Pray, Pray, Pray!


Technologically Speaking...

The notion of progress has certainly infected the modern mind to the point where so many now expect that all technological advances should serve only to advance the comfort of the individual. It seems that the gauge of progress is no longer that we have advanced toward Salvation but that we can make people comfortable in this life. Those who live for air conditioned spaces in the summer are prime examples. As soon as there is a slight bit of discomfort, the modern Rich Man complains and will go to any extent to eliminate the temporal suffering.

In this regard, look at the number of Catholic Churches in America without air conditioning. The pastors note how attendance drops radically during the summer months. Although some may be vacationing and others scampering to surrounding parishes with air conditioning, many just stay in the comfort of their own homes without giving any thought to the Sin committed by missing Sunday Mass. Rather than going to church in discomfort and offering it up, they succumb to self-indulgence.

Yet, through suffering, Love IS. It is not that every moment needs to be a time of suffering but not all suffering should be shunned. And taking on a penitential practice out of Love for another has eternal import. Yet today so many are convinced that the measure of goodness is commensurate with self-pleasure. There is no doubt that the Rich Man believed the same...

For sure, when self-pleasure and comfort become the daily pursuit of one’s life, the ability to see God is obscured and the capacity for self-gift to others is diminished. The deeper one is mired in the pursuit of pleasure that undergirds the deadly sins, the more one can be assured the soul is being suffocated. And it is that person who will be surprised like the Rich Man in the depths of torment that result upon entering eternal life.

So is Man really better with all His creature comforts?

Paradigm Shift

The Rich Man...

Probably the most difficult Gospel to accept is the one of the Rich Man and the Beggar Lazarus. In it Jesus presents a radical reversal of fortunes for the two icons of humanity in eternal life. The Rich Man had all his needs met in this life and was always assured his own personal comfort. In the way Jesus presents him, one would have to ask what he did so wrong as to deserve condemnation and torment in eternal life.

The Beggar Lazarus is presented as one who suffered throughout his life and barely had his needs met each day. He never knew comfort and never had the resources to alleviate the sufferings of his fellow beggars. And yet, for sure, the Beggar Lazarus would most likely be the first to share what little he had with his fellow beggars in suffering. In no way does Jesus even hint of any selfishness in Lazarus.

And yet in eternity, the Beggar Lazarus is at Peace with Abraham and the Rich Man in torment. The key to this passage that may resolve the question comes from the first request from the Rich Man -- he asks to be delivered from the torment he is suffering. He wants to alleviate his own suffering first and only as an afterthought does he try to help others. The selfishness that results in self-gratification in this life is the root of the deadly sins. It is through such self-centered desires that one is blinded to the Truth and whose soul is put to death... a death that, left unrepentant, continues in eternity.

A significant dimension of Catholic Teaching and Tradition has been the place of suffering and the Cross. The faithful have always been asked by Christ to embrace the Cross and to mortify the selfish passions. Through such mortification, the heart becomes disposed to Grace and becomes capable of magnifying the Lord in all things. Yet all mortification must flow from a deeply spiritual and prayerful soul. As we see in the Cross of Christ, through suffering Love IS. And yet the devil has convinced so many modern individuals today that the Cross is folly and pleasure is all there is.

In the end, shouldn’t this particular Gospel passage make every modern Catholic shudder?

Got Modesty?

An Irony...

In years gone by, the faithful attended church on a regular basis and those in attendance were always dressed appropriately and modestly. In fact, for church people wore their “Sunday Best.” It did not make a difference what time of year or what the weather was as everyone came to church dressed in ways that were appropriate before God. Even on the hottest days of summer everyone dressed according to the modesty one should have before God. In doing so, everyone understood the place of the Cross and knew that temporary discomfort had eternal effects.

In fact, it was not only church but anywhere in public that a person would dress appropriately. Even at public events like baseball games and outdoor gatherings, people dressed with respect and dignity. They dressed appropriately in places of work. They covered themselves in market places. In fact, except in the privacy of the home or at the beach, people presented themselves with modest and respect. And they did so in a time when air conditioning did not exist. As was the case for most of the Church’s existence, the Cross was to be embraced with an eye on the Resurrection.

Over the last 50 years or so, we have seen an increase in the number of churches that have air conditioning and are more comfortable than ever. In fact, many homes are now air conditioned, cars are air conditioned, buses and trains are air conditioned, and public buildings are air conditioned. Never before in the history of Man has there been an era in which the heat of the summer months has been made so tolerable. Yet now people are wearing less clothes than ever in public and in church. The shift, it seems, has gone from being able to offer some suffering up for another soul has been replaced with the pursuit of personal comfort.

Is it not ironic that in an era in which summer comfort is assured modesty has all but been lost and Man now spirals in self-centered hedonism?

A Shifting Standard

Got Engineers Anyone?

So the City of New York Education System is expanding the process of engineering a more moral city. It seems at every turn, the secularists expand a process that is myopic at best and shortsighted in every way. They are so focused on obtaining data for their experiments that they go to any length to get the results they want. Of course, this is very shortsighted in that they really do not have an idea of what the results will be -- only what they want the results to be. Yes, they can claim that they will make a difference in a particular direction but they are never quite sure that it will work as they propose or that the results are a True Good until the manipulation is complete.

Yes, this is the same group that has been promising a more moral future for decades. The engineers of this so-called moral future are instrumentalists seeking to develop a norm that does not yet exist. The flaw in the logic is from the instrumentalist approach to ethical standards -- the belief that the good must be discovered and then constructed. In their model, the good is dependent upon desired outcomes and if the outcome is achieved, then it is good. The flaw is that the outcome may not be a True Good ordered to THE Good and to keep experimenting with future generations is disastrous at best. To make any attempts at cultivating the Good in future generations requires vision of THE End and Good desired. Any other model will just wander through existence in search of an end and will attach to whatever appears good.

It is time for Catholics everywhere to “Wake Up” and recognize the seismic ground the secular approach to morality stands upon. True morality and direction must be built upon solid Rock, that is, the Church founded on Peter. Anyone who takes a journey must know the destination before planning the trip. Our time on earth is a journey to God but those who consistently do not follow the plan outlined by THE Engineer will not get to the desired destination. Only those who stay focused on the True End will be able to choose the appropriate means necessary for arriving at the Final Destination.

Intolerant Exclusion

The Secular call to Tolerance is a veiled Intolerance

Ever notice that the secularist credo is to tolerate everyone and everything, to give it a chance before condemning it, except when the view contradicts their message? Ever notice the irony that such tolerance is not extended to Catholicism? Notice that the media is generally filled with the secular minded and if someone were to regularly express a particular religious view, he or she would eventually be dismissed. In addition, when the media is rallying support for a cause of their choosing, notice how Catholic Teaching is excluded.

Could you imagine a regular program on a major network station today like the one Archbishop Fulton Sheen once had?

Hearing through Silence

God Speaks

For those who have not heard The Voice, we must keep in mind that it is God Who Speaks and we must listen. The deafness of the modern person has come through the amount of noise made by the secular attacks on Faith, attacks that are very subtle and all too common. To be sure, the secularlists would find it even more absurd that there are those who dedicate their entire existence to listening to the Vioce, which means tuning out the noise. Such tuning out makes it impossible for the secular to obscure God’s Voice!

For centuries the contemplative life was seen as the ultimate response to God’s call. To want to listen to God should be the desire of every human heart. But such listening requires Sacred Silence, which seems to frighten so many believers today. Even when encouraged by priests, the faithful have a very difficult time keeping a Sacred Silence in the church. So many would prefer to chat with their neighbors, which disturbs those around them who are yearning for Silence, than listen for God’s Voice. Not only is there a deafening noise made by the secularists today, the noise is continued by the faithful in God’s presence.

At the heart of Catholicism should be the desire to pull away from the world/secular life and simply listen. There are those whose lives were dedicated to such and they were the inspiration for the rest of the faithful. Yet today there are so few who accept the Call to Silence and prefer the deafening noise of the world.

For those who believe God is not speaking to them, have you stopped the noise in your life long enough to make sure? The hard part is that stopping the noise is very difficult today and may take many hours of silent prayer before God to reach a healthy level of Silence, a level at which God’s Voice becomes clear. Yet such Silence is as important to the soul as water is to the body.

Could the lack of Silence in the Church today be part of the reason for the declining numbers?

Religious Simplicity

Simplicity in the Complex

For many centuries, the correct understanding of our religious existence was ordered to simplicity. This was clearly the case in the Rule of St. Benedict. This rule was basically centered on prayer and work - on listening to God’s Word in prayer. The prayer life was only interrupted for the work that was needed to continue the prayer life. Those who followed and rule of religious life sought to simplify rather than multiply. Anyone who follows Christ knows that much is not needed for the journey.

In order to confuse God’s followers, the evil one has developed a world filled with such complexity that those in the world today believe that more is better. The pursuit of more has obfuscated the Truth of simplicity. Yet anyone who listens to The Voice of the Shepherd knows that less is truly better and at its minimum, one can Live on every Word that comes from the Mouth of God.

So why do so many today prefer more to less when less is clearly better?

Falling On Deaf Ears?

Catholic Laryngitis

The question has to be asked - Is it that The Voice of The Shepherd no longer speaks or is that no one is listening? It seems that if the secular engineers had their way, they would prefer a serious case of Catholic Laryngitis on issues in which they want to set the agenda. But since the Voice still speaks, they work diligently at making sure It is not heard. Of course, those charged with leading the Faithful are rarely silent and yet most of the Faithful do not hear what the shepherds are saying. As true shepherds ordered to The Shepherd, the Sheep in their care should hear The Voice and follow.

There is certainly no shortage of important issues on which Catholicism needs to bring Its Voice to bear. The problem may well be that the Faithful have been annexed from their shepherds and do not hear The Voice that speaks of Salvation. The fact remains, however, that the Voice leads the Sheep to eternal Salvation. In this regard, The Voice cannot be reduced to one among many as that would betray the Shepherd Who Speaks. The Faithful must hear the Voice and follow as if their eternal life depended on it, because it does.

As time goes by and the secular engineers continue to isolate the Sheep from their Shepherds, the issues of morality will continue to take center stage in the discussion. These issues must be understood in their depths because any deviation could lead to eternal destruction. The error proposed by the secular is that the good can be constructed as if God had not already done so. Rather than discovering the Good already created by God, they prefer to “make it up as they go along.” The dangerous part is that these errant engineers have taken control of all communications and have isolated the voice of The Shepherd from the Sheep. In this model, one must wonder if the Sheep would recognize the Voice of the Shepherd when He calls. As time goes by, It will be harder to recognize because the Sheep hear It less and less.

It is not that the Voice is muted or has developed a case of Catholic Laryngitis but that the ears of the listeners have been deafened by the noise generated by the secular engineers. While there may well be good intentions in trying to engineer a better life in this world, the reality is that there is only One Engineer and He constructed the Eternal Life to be lived in the World to Come! Any engineer who does not follow that plan is merely a tool for the evil one who seeks to lead the faithful astray.

“Let those who have ears to hear...”

A Voice Not Heard

St. John Vianney

Each year we recall and honor the patron saint of priests and confessors, St. John Vianney. This particular saint was almost never ordained due to his academic struggles. Fortunately the Holy Spirit helped those in charge to see that although he was a poor student he was a holy and exceptional man. Even though he was assigned to a small and remote parish where the Mass attendance was poor and debauchery was rampant, his voice echoed throughout the village and eventually to the world.

Among the many inspiring aspects of his life is that his preaching was exceptional and lead many along the path to salvation. For all those who believe they are not heard, they should look at the life of this humble man through whom the Holy Spirit brought, and still brings, many to Christ. And he did it without television, radio, internet, or even a sound system in his remote parish church. Too often we fear not being heard, which leads us to forget that we must start with those before us who are listening. But the key to it all is the prayer life of the preacher who must come to realize that his voice does not produce the Word, it only passes It along.

Today, more than ever, we just need to proclaim the Truth and allow the Holy Spirit to amplify the Word. St. John Vianney... Pray for us!

World Youth Day

A Lasting Legacy

One of the traditions established by Pope John Paul II is the gathering of young Catholics from around the world at what is know as World Youth Day. Over the years, the weeklong celebration has drawn millions and culminates with a single Mass celebrated by the Pope. We should remember to offer extra prayers for its success as the event draws near (opening on August 16). Here is an excellent promo for this year’s event.