Monday, July 10, 2006

Ruins


Could it be? The Church of England is imploding?

News is that they have said it is theologically correct to ordain women as bishops. Catholic News Agency has the full story. Actually they said it was "theologically justified".

Truth be told, it seems most mainline Churches who have embraced apostacy are disintegrating, while traditional Catholicism is entering a 'new flowering' a 'new spring time' as foretold by John Paul II.

In an op-ed for yesterday's Los Angeles Times, Charlotte Allen wrote a wonderful piece on the collapse of liberal Christianity in the post-modern era. Citing everything from the acceptance of gay marriage to women bishops. It is an insightful read. She refers to what is happening as the "melt-down of liberal Christianity". She's dead on! Read it here, "Liberal Christianity is paying for it's sins."

Beating out the Tenenbaums!

Some thoughts on modern family life. (Can't use this picture enough!)


Pope Benedict's recent pilgrimage to Spain was to attend the World Meeting of Families in Valencia. As everyone knows, the traditional family is being undermined by secular culture. The list of what is infecting and attacking the family is a long one; contraception, abortion, children out of wedlock, single parent homes, gay marriage, etc. Contemporary culture is trying to destroy the family - we all know that. So is materialism.

My friend Don Marco, in a homily yesterday was speaking about what went wrong after Vatican II. He said:

" What happened? The reality was one­ sided: Church listening to world without world listening to Church. Church adapting to world without world adapting to Church. Church open to world without world open to Church. Instead of the Church evangelizing the world, the world began secularizing the Church. Confusion ensued. In many cases, the General Chapters of Renewal mandated by the Second Vatican Council were, in effect, Chapters of Demolition, breaking with the past and intoxicated with change for the sake of change. Seminaries and novitiates closed. People stopped going to Mass. Children stopped learning their catechism and their prayers. In a single generation, families that had been strong in the Catholic faith for centuries fell away from the Church, some into agnosticism, some into neo-paganism, some into materialism and indifference."

This wonderful monk from Rome hit it pretty dead on. After Humanae Vitae was promulgated by Paul VI and it's subsequent rejection by many, if not most, the contraceptive mentality was in full swing. Sexual morality fell by the wayside while economic affluence excellerated, and materialism and luxury became the staple of many people's lives. Through it all developed a relatively good mantra, 'focus on the children' ostensibly regarding impoverished children of the underclass who lacked basic education and the means to acquire it - naturally, it is more comprehensive than that, but I won't develop that for this post.

It seems to me that oftentimes the 'focus on the children' thing is taken to extremes by the upper middle class family. How do I mean that? I'm talking about parents who spoil their kids. Parents who oftentimes both have jobs outside the home and who become their kids servants. They car pool their kids to this game and that activity to the point of exhaustion. They 'wine and dine' them and take them on exotic vacations. They buy them everything they want and all of the latest software, cell phones, and ipods - anything they want. If they want designer clothes, they got it. If they want tatoos and body piercings and multi-colored hair - they got it.

Yes these parents also pay for a great education and provide a wonderful home, sometimes a lake cabin to boot, for the family. Many provide a Catholic atmosphere in their homes and encourage prayer and catechisis. Most attend Mass on Saturday night, or Sunday morning, or even Sunday night, if they are late getting back from the cabin. Whatever, they squeeze it in. Sometimes they even luck out by attending a wedding on Saturday afternoon, which they reckon kills two birds with one stone - it takes care of the Sunday obligation as well.

Cardinal Re spoke about what is important for the family at Valencia this past weekend, here is a report on that:

" Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, said during the International Theological Pastoral Congress at the World Meeting of Families that faith and not material possessions is the greatest inheritance parents can leave their children.

At the closing Mass of the Congress, which was concelebrated by some two thousand bishops, Cardinal Re explained that, “some parents cannot leave many things as an inheritance, but if they pass on the faith to their children they will be giving them the most precious good that exists.”According to the AVAN news agency, Cardinal Re maintained that, “what is sown in the heart of a child will bear fruit in the future,” and that there are many parents, “whose faith is deepened thanks to their children, in whom they see the values of the Gospel.”The cardinal said many people do not value the importance of the family out of selfishness, over-dedication to work, or the desire to follow the latest fads. He also reiterated that teaching children to pray is, “to teach them the greatest strength,” for their lives."
- Catholic News Agency

I was thinking on similar lines this past week when considering family life and parental responsibilities. I wondered how many parents realize how importatnt it is to raise children to be saints? How many raise them in such a way as to avoid mortal sin, at all costs, even to the point of death, as in the case of St. Maria Goretti? Material goods, scholastic and athletic achievements, grace and natural beauty, riches and wealth, things many parents and their children think are almighty important - they are just not. What is of prime importance is their soul and their eternal salvation, and sadly, a lot of kids - their parents as well - do not know what that means.

St. John of the Cross writes; "Christ says of these people, that they circle the earth and the sea in order to enrich their children, and they make them children of perdition twofold more than they themselves are." [Mt. 23:15] It is just such a sobering awesome responsibilty to be a parent and raise children. Let's pray for families - parents and children.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Compunction


"When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes"

"When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf Heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate..."
-Shakespeare, Sonnet 29


Yesterday's post brought me a great grace, it is called compunction. Compunction is not a word used very much anymore these days. My understanding of it is that it is like contrition, but it remains after the confession of one's sins. It's not depression nor is it "the sadness that leads to death" as St. Paul writes. It's a spiritually healthy condition, so desirable and consoling I wish I could be steeped in it every waking hour. It's very much linked to humility. One may imagine a saint, such as Bernard, pictured here, overtaken with compunction - "stung to his heart" by the sight of Jesus crucified and what Love has suffered in atonement for men's sins, and Bernard takes up Christ's cross and follows him. Still, feeling the sting in his heart, he understands his own sins have been the cause of so much grief, of so many wounds inflicted upon the Sacred Heart of Jesus. "Deep calls unto deep."


Papa John Paul I

I have searched my office at home, my art cabinets, and every book, as well as my office at work, for a marvelous quote I had from John Paul I - not JPII - but his predecessor. The Holy Father was speaking at the Wednesday audience, I have no documentation on hand, but it is authentic. The Holy Father said something to this effect, "Excuse me for saying this, others may fault me, but I think the Lord loves humility so much that He sometimes allows very good souls to fall into sin, even mortal sin. In fact He may permit them to fall repeatedly into a very grave sin, in order that the soul may become humble. Yes God so loves humility that He will allow Himself to be offended so that the sinner may come to repentance and become humble." I know I didn't do his statement justice but it is very close to what the Holy Father said.

In 1972 I had a profound conversion experience, my life changed completely. I entered monastic life because I was convinced I could not be saved in the world. It wasn't enough, so with Charles de Foucauld and Benedict Joseph Labre I left the enclosure to live a penitential life as a 'pilgrim'. But that was way too difficult - I believed I had to return to enclosed monastic life.
Returning from Europe I asked to be receivd once again, only to find out that my novice master had left, the Abbott had resigned and all the novices left as well, and they were not accepting anyone at the time. My superficial spiritual edifice suddenly and dramatically collapsed.

Living in Boston at the time, I was in the North End one Saturday, walking amidst the stalls at the market while a car had stopped at the intersection I was at, the stereo was blarring and it was Dianna Ross' song, "Love Hangover". (It was the height of disco and I was still pretty young - obviously.) I thought it was the coolest song ever. I walked back downtown, bought some hip clothes and went out to the bars that night - actually, just about every night for a few months. I returned to my old way of life, out of desperation, loneliness, isolation, (I was supposedly a hermit) and what is called 'acedia' - something many people today think is the 'dark night' - it's not.

Did you ever see "Looking For Mr. Goodbar", the movie with Dianne Keaton about a promiscuous school teacher who had a double life going out to all the clubs at night while teaching at a school by day? That was kind of me - the male version of course! I worked at a Church in Back Bay at the time and everyone thought I was a monk, but I went to all the clubs by night. My fall from grace was sudden, and my recovery was just about as sudden. This sinful period was only a matter of a few months. I left Boston to come home to the Twin Cities, realizing I was ruining my life in Boston. It was the most mortifying experience of my life, I hated it here. Gradaually I adjusted, regained my old job with better pay and a higher position. I returned to the practice of prayer and daily communion, balanced with a 'love of the world' - in this, to a lesser degree, I found some affinity with Teresa of Avila. Nevertheless, it was a knock down drag out fight to cut every tie with my sinful past. A series of fallings and risings at every step.

Through it all, I remained close to our Carmel and my 'spiritual sister' who is still there. Once in a letter she reassured me by writing, "Even if you have to go to confession every day, even twice a day, never fail to do so. Remember, a saint is a sinner who keeps trying." (I got to know a lot of priests in those days.) Only much later did I read the statement of John Paul I, about sin and the acquisition of humility. Only then did I really understand temptation and sin and God's inscrutable mercy.

I find comfort in this quote from St. Teresa Benedicta a'Cruce, "In aridity and emptiness the soul becomes humble. Former pride disappears when a man no longer finds in himself anything that might cause him to look down on others." - Science of the Cross . In my aridity and emptiness I fell back into sin, but never worry, it returns, only this time the soul understands God is with it, that faith and hope support it, that love sustains it. Edith Stein wrote elsewhere, "The soul ought to consider aridity and darkness as fortunate omens; as signs that God is beside it, freeing it from itself, taking the initiative out of its hand." My dreamsicle spiritual life, coddled by God in it's first fervor was too immature, too superficial, too unguided, too idiosynchratic for me to be on my own. It had to collapse, God had to take the initiative out of my hands, I had to become humble - God it is who inspires and perfects our faith. That is how I learned the meaning of these words, "I have more understanding than all who teach me because I do your will." Ps 119. Not that I go it alone now without counsel, but there is a freedom of spirit the Holy Spirit bestows in addition.

In the market, after Mass this morning, I heard the same music I listened to in Boston years ago, and all of these memories came flooding back vividly and poignantly, increasing the compunction I experienced at Mass. I did not have the same sins that Fr. Erickson had, but I have sinned too, all of us have. As I said yesterday, God's mercy is so inscrutable. We must have hope - confidence and love, as little Therese taught. And we must have humility and mercy in our hearts.

May the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace and may perpetual light shine upon them.