Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Holy Church: A 'field hospital for the wounded'.

Mining the depths of Holy Father Pope Francis' spirituality...

From the life of St. Therese:
One day in the infirmary during her last illness, my sister called my attention to the soft, downy linens which the infirmarian, Sr. Stanislaus always had at hand for the benefit of her patients.  "Souls should be treated with the same tender care," Therese said, "but why is it that we forget this so frequently, and allow those about us to go on unnoticed in the endurance of sharp interior pain?  Shouldn't the spiritual needs of the soul be attended to with the same clarity, with the same delicate care we devote to our neighbor's bodily necessities?  For some souls are really sick; there are many weak souls on earth, and all souls without exception suffer at one time or other during life.  How tenderly we should not only love them but also show our love for them. - My Sister, St. Therese, By Celine Martin 
Yesterday I received a comment to moderate on an older post of mine, which moved me to deeper prayer and understanding of ... life, I guess.
Terry I've lived in constant pain my whole life trying to balance my love of God within the Catholic theological, sacramental and ecclesiological framework and my sexual orientation. It has (is) been psychologically and spiritually exhausting. How does one reconcile belief in a loving Creating, Redeeming and Sanctifying God who is supposed to have loved me into existence with the Church declaration that I am made with an intrinsic evil? How do I continue to profess faith within the Church when I have to accept, no, BELIEVE that I (not my feelings and desires, but my personhood) am evil? And as you so frustratingly point out, how does one continue in a Church that is forever holding up the sinful inadequacies of the laity while protecting the "good ole boys" on the upper rungs of the hierarchical ladder? I don't know, I really don't. I haven't been to mass in several years, and yes I miss it terribly, but I am going to go pray Evening Prayer for the Feast of St Therese anyway, and continue to suffer since that is apparently the will of God. - Commenter 

I began my response:
Bob - I hope Therese will be with you, very specially and closely. Bob - I've lived in constant pain too. All I can say is that I suffer with you... - TN 

Do not be afraid of holiness, of letting yourself be loved and purified by God.

The Holy Father is saying these things better, and hopefully those most in need will help us all understand a bit more clearly the meaning of the Lord's words, "It is mercy I desire, not sacrifice." 

From the Holy Father's Wednesday audience:
“How can we say that the Church is holy, if we see that the Church throughout history, during her long journey through the centuries, has experienced many moments of darkness? How can a Church be holy if she is made up of human beings, of sinners? Of men who are sinners, women who are sinners, priests who are sinners, nuns who are sinners, bishops who are sinners, cardinals who are sinners, popes who are sinners? Everyone. How can a Church like this be holy?” 
The Church is holy because “she comes from God Who is holy, Who is faithful to her and never abandons her to the power of death and evil. She is holy because Jesus Christ, Saint of God, is indissolubly united to her; she is holy because she is guided by the Holy Spirit which purifies, transforms, and renews. She is not holy by our merits, but because God makes her holy”.

You could say to me: but the Church is made up of sinners, we see this every day. And this is true: we are a Church of sinners, and we sinners are called to let ourselves be transformed … by God. Throughout history there has been the temptation to say: the Church is just the Church of the pure, of those who are entirely coherent, and the rest are to be cast aside. No! It's true! This is heresy... The Church is holy, she does not refuse sinners; on the contrary, she welcomes them, she is open even to those who are most distant, she calls to all to allow themselves to be surrounded by the mercy, tenderness, and forgiveness of the Father, Who offers to all the opportunity to encounter Him and to walk the path to holiness. … Is there anyone here who brings no sin with them? No, we all carry our sins with us.”

In the Church, the God we encounter “is not a ruthless judge, but is like the Father in the Gospel parable. … The Lord wants us to be part of a Church who knows how to extend her arms to welcome all, who is not the house of few, but the home of all, where everyone can be renewed, transformed and sanctified by His love; the strongest and the weakest, sinners, the indifferent, the discouraged and the lost. The Church offers to all the possibility of embarking on the road of holiness, which is the road of the Christian”.

Do not be afraid of holiness”, concluded Francis, “of letting yourself be loved and purified by God. … Let us allow God's holiness be transmitted to us. Every Christian is called to holiness; and holiness does not consist, first and foremost, in doing extraordinary things, but rather in letting God act. It is the encounter between our weakness and the strength of His grace”. - VIS 
Pray very much for the conversion of sinners.
Pray for the Holy Father.
Pray the rosary every day.



  1. What I think would help the skeptics of Francis to take him and his apologists more seriously is for those apologists to address a question that seems to be continually ignored, because in asking it, one is either not 'little' or 'simple' enough to cut through the chaos in the interviews or out of line from the get-go in raising any questions at all about what the Pope says or not understanding the complexity of the context or translation...

    Let me borrow some words to frame the question. When the Pope speaks of mercy and seemingly downplaying doctrine, "Francis's language is simply bound to legitimize, reinforce and in all other ways promote what is essentially a current of relativism inside the Church, according to which God will save everyone at the end, and for now we can crack on and talk about love."


    The question: where is God's justice in all of this? Has it gone away? Was it never there to begin with and the Church had it wrong for centuries? Has our understanding of God evolved such that our thinking of His justice in times past was a misconception? When St. Therese tells a nun that if she wants God's justice she will get it, (does she honestly think anyone wants God's justice?), is it wrong to wonder how the two - justice and mercy - meet and will be reconciled?

    Has Francis, is Francis bringing something "totally new" like Therese claimed to be doing? And, if so, what does that newness mean in light of all that has come before (see the above questions re: justice)?

    1. Pope Francis is bringing us something as old as the Church. It is this statement of Jesus Christ: "But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." The Church has never had it wrong, just some people in the

      Great post, Terry. Very thought provoking.

    2. Really? Why then are there descriptions about Pope Francis that use the words "groundbreaking" and "bombshell"?

      Why is this message of mercy seemingly new to so many if it's as old as the Church? Who in the Church had it wrong, and what does that mean for the many rules that the Church clings to? What is the type of mercy that is being preached now? Is it the same type that JPII spoke of, our Divine Mercy Pope?

    3. That's way to heavy to get into here. But I'll give you this to think about. Luke 8:9-14:

      9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

      13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

      14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

    4. Yes, I believe that no one should boast of his or her own righteousness: we are all under the Divine Mercy.

      Now, what about those parts of Scripture where Jesus mentions that not one iota of the law will be abolished, or the hard sayings (such as in Matthew) where he ups the ante on all the Old Testament morality? Does "mercy" mean - for the Church, for Pope Francis - an easing of those things? That would be to edit Christ. Does "mercy" then mean that we hold fast to those teachings but forgive and beg for forgiveness if/when we fall short?

    5. And, if the latter, then what truly is the big deal with Pope Francis? Some act as if he is some kind of savior from 18th century French Jansenism. It's unreal.

  2. Fr. Robert Barron talks about the "field hospital of grace" in this recent video of his. He gives his impression of one of the interviews made recently by Papa Francis.

    Sharing the link with those who might be interested in watching it.

  3. It seems to me God's justice is glorified in the greatest expression of his love and mercy - the Cross. The Cross is the epicenter - as the psalm says: 'mercy and truth have met, justice and peace have kissed.' Little Therese taught that confidence in the mercy of God exceeds justice.

    Her own community opposed her doctrine - but it spread throughout the world. I'm convinced that Pope Francis understands this - he is not at all presenting a novel interpretation, he is simply teaching and leading the Church to put into practice the mercy of God.

    I have difficulty expressing it, and I'm not qualified to do so, but Fr. Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus ocd expressed it this way:

    "Thérèse thus explained a little of her doctrine, but always in the midst of distress, because of the opposition of her surroundings and the sermons she had to listen to. Her teaching was quite different from all this. In her obscure contemplation she had made the discovery of the God who is Love, an obscure discovery but one which she grasped almost by second nature and which created certitude in the depths of her soul. God is Love. She could say:

    "I contemplate and adore the other divine perfections ... through Mercy. All of these perfections appear to be resplendent with Love." There was nothing but this in God."

    1. I recall this passage from one of the Psalms, always, especially in my darkest moments...

      "Your mercy is my hope, oh Lord."

      From the depths of who I am...that prayer will be with me forever.

      Thanks, Terry for your post. ^^ Makes for good reflection.

  4. A very happy Guardian Angel's feast-day to you Terry and to all yr. readers here. Today is quite special to me since it was my maternal-Grandfather's birthday, Nino, (Abuelo Nino), who's birthname was Jose Angel, the Angel for our guardian angel. BTW, what st. Therese commented to one of her sisters about treating other souls in pain with as much loving-care and thoughtfulness as with which those downy-quilts were made, is in itself so loving, kind and thoughtful! She's right of course, thanks very much for posting, it helps me to remember to do that with others who are struggling with whatever "cross" they carry. We're all supposed to be brothers and sister in Christ and part of the mystical-body of Christ, so I believe we should love each other, have consideration for each other just the same as we would love and interact with our own blood-brother or sister, even when it's an especially difficult person. I believe when praying and meditating on the 4th Sorrowful mystery of the Rosary, it helps me much to have and practice patience. That gives me a little "start" where I can love that person, too I believe! The picture you posted of Our Lady of Fatima reminded me instantly also "to let ourselves me loved and mothered" by her, our beautiful spiritual-mother, you know. I can feel the love whenever in front of the Blessed Sacrament and I love to think that besides Our Lord JesusChrist having created His own wonderful mother, He received His flesh and blood from her. Then it's just a matter of, similar to what st. Therese said, to love tenderly other souls in pain, to share the love we've received from God and our Blessed Mother. Thanks for yr. great post; it helps me to "carry-on" too. God bless!

  5. P. S. "Therese's emphasis on the "little ones" of the world---her insistence that we regard them not as burdens or embarrassments, but as conduits of grace"---transformed my worldview and my work.", (an excerpt from the book, "My Sisters, the Saints" by Colleen Carroll Campbell, is very comforting to me too, both for other people I "deal with" everyday or thinking of how others must probably need great patience in dealing with myself, too.

  6. So Terry HOW does one answer this question or this statement?

    "BELIEVE that I (not my feelings and desires, but my personhood) am evil?"

  7. I just read another outstanding post by the writer I linked to earlier, so let me borrow his words as they articulate what I mean:

    "Okay, so you say he is keen to avoid a caricature, but if so, why does this avoidance essentially require Francis to place cushions (as Jeremiah might say) below all the pressure points of the secular consciousness? Jesus threatened people with hell: was that coercive? Should we edit that bit out of the Scriptures? If Francis is trying not to step on contemporary taboos, why exactly? Jesus trod heartily on the taboos of his own day. If Francis is attempting not to raise any obstacle to the passage of truth, why does this necessitate such a spinning of truth that he even says at one point that while "our species will end [...] the light of God will not end and at that point it will invade all souls and it will all be in everyone"? Honestly, I come back to this bizarre expression again: who on earth talks like this, what would it mean to a secular audience anyway, and what possible relation can it have to what the Christian faith says about the four last things?

    So, as I say, the problem here is like the question of doctrinal imbalance. If we give his usage of proselytism and conversion these most charitable readings, we find he is still fighting against a caricature without actually fighting it. Does he, as some believe, disarm Scalfari with this talk? Or does he, in trying not to shock, send out a rather confused message which Scalfari could easily take to mean: you're alright, I'm alright, we're both alright. "

  8. Terry, at the end of the day, isn't God's Mercy indeed "scandalous", in a very real sense?

  9. Anonymous8:19 PM

    Hi Terry--good post, as usual. Did you make the distinction to the fellow that the Church doesn't say HE'S evil, nor does it use the phrase "evil" about his sexual desires? I don't view my sexual attractions as "evil." I view them rather dispassionately as "objectively disordered," and this doesn't bring me shame at all, but actually a level of freedom. Sure, frustration, of course, but for whatever reason, by the grace of God, I count my sufferings comparable with the sufferings of most people--and I think this perspective is very helpful, to realize that all of us suffer, and as Viktor Frankl put it so well in Man's Search For Meaning: "A man’s suffering is similar to the behavior of gas. If a certain quantity of gas is pumped into a chamber, it will fill the chamber completely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber. Thus suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore, the ‘size’ of human suffering is absolutely relative."

    I found it gave me great perspective to read that from a Holocaust survivor. No matter what pain and suffering I have gone through, it doesn't match the suffering of those poor people. But it does fill me up--but so too does the suffering of others.

    Having a meaning behind the suffering is the key--I think the best path to a good night's sleep, and to peace living with same-sex attraction for me came when I felt God asking me the question, "for whose salvation are you willing to walk alone?"

    I like your blog!

    Dan Mattson

    1. Thanks Dan. I'm glad you brought up that point. I too was concerned about the man who wrote that being overwhelmed by feelings that he is evil because of his same sex attraction. I wasn't sure that was clarified for him.

  10. On her feast day, St. Therese sent me a rose unlike any other I had received previously from her. Some time ago I observed someone at Mass who was obviously gender-conflicted. I had not seen this person in a few years and was stunned by the decline in their appearance. I felt both repulsed and compelled to pray for them. They made me so uncomfortable that I selected my pew on the basis of how I could best avoid having to see this person, but somehow, the afflicted person would find a way to be near me. I offered a novena on their behalf to St. Therese, referring to them as "that confused person". I even described, with disgust and a certain air of amusement, some of the get-ups this person wore to Mass to members of my family. At no time did it ever occur to me, in my smugness of wanting to perform an act of charity for someone I could not stand to be near, what they were suffering. At any rate, this person was at the same feast day Mass that I was and as fate would have it, we wound up getting a ride home from the same person. What I realized from our conversation (hard to ignore someone you have to share a backseat with) is how tormented this soul is. What I learned later from the kind driver who went out of their way to take us home is that they are the way they are as a result of sexual abuse. So I have one more adopted spiritual child, and another ton of guilt and shame to unload because of my judgmental and self-centered attitude. On her feast day, St. Therese saw to it that HER spiritual child underwent greater conversion.

  11. Thanks everyone for your helpful comments.

    Servus - I think the author of Letters to Christopher explains that.

    Dan - I kind of explained it that way. My comment was rather instantaneous because I was rather moved by his sincerity. I agree with you about the suffering and pain aspect - I can never say it is any worse than what others suffer - esp. in view of what people suffered in the holocaust and other atrocities. As you must know, many do think no suffering is like their own - which sometimes incites a deeper, more immediate compassion I suppose.

    Thanks for commenting.

  12. SB- incites me to a deeper, more immediate compassion I suppose.

    My cat watches me through the window as I leave the house, and I feel so sorry for her that she might be lonely. I'm a sap. ;)

  13. President Obama comments on Pope Francis's spirituality:

  14. A penetrating analysis:

  15. ATDP - who cares what President Obama says?

    Does anyone ever think that the Church in wealthy Europe and North America is not THE Church? That the problems we face here and in Europe are somewhat different from the day-to-day problems of the people Francis has faced his whole life? That most Catholics are more concerned with finding food, shelter, and employment, and not whether Sister Pantsuit is telling people in a wealthy parish that contraception is okay?

    It's not to say such things are not serious issues, but don't you think we are a bit too America-centric, as if the problems of the Church here are the Church's biggest issues?

  16. Mercury,

    A lot of Catholics who voted for him and are sympathetic to his view of Jesus.

    As to your question about the different problems, I think I side with the take of a writer I linked to prior: see his post here wherein he discusses spiritual poverty (it is towards the end):

    1. Furthermore, what were Christ's priorities? Have Catholics not read "Jesus of Nazareth" and the temptations of reducing the Faith to mere 'worldly' concerns?

    2. Another thought:

      “Many people are concerned with children of India, with the children of Africa where quite a few die of hunger, and so on. Many people are also concerned about the violence in this great country of the United States. These concerns are very good. But often these same people are not concerned with the millions being killed by the deliberate decision of their own mothers. And this is the greatest destroyer of peace today- abortion which brings people to such blindness.” – Mother Teresa

    3. Why do you go on assuming that for the pope to be "right" he has to address all issues at once? Why do we analyze everything he says, and fault him for what he doesn't say?

    4. I don't think I assumed that. I certainly don't think that.

      I think some of the Pope's comments have presuppositions that are not tenable, and I think people are sensing that and are alarmed.

      For instance:
      "Each one of us has his own vision of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and to fight the evil as he understands them. This would be enough to change the world.”

      There is truth to this - who would encourage anyone not to follow the good and avoid evil? That's ethics 101. But is that what the Church teaches, is that what Christ came to bring?

      As we understand the good (and evil) is not really a sufficient qualifier, is it? Plenty of people are sincerely wrong thinking they are doing right. As the article I linked to pointed out, Catholic teaching on conscience is rooted in the search for truth, not merely the subjective understanding.

      Also, would it really be enough to "change the world"? How are we going to change it? Is the goal simply to change the world, according to each one's own idea of the good? Is it even our goal to "change" the world at all? There seems to be a presupposed fixation on the world, on conditions - a horizontal Gospel. I do not think this was Benedict's understanding, nor do I think it accurately reflects the true meaning of Christ's coming.

    5. "Our objective is not proselytism, but listening to the needs, the desires, the disappointments, the desperation, the hope. We must bring hope back to the young, help the old, open to the future, spread love. Poor among the poor. We must include the excluded and preach peace....”

      Leaving aside the nuances of proselytism, is there anything in this that differs much at all with the vision of the UN? Obama ran his first campaign, in part, around the idea of "hope". But "hope" is not a vague, worldly improvement of societal conditions, however that is understood, for Christians. Hope is a theological virtue, which has Christ and His salvation as its end. There is nothing necessarily wrong with the "hope" of improving societal condition, but it is simply not true that that is our objective as Christians - it is not principally what we are about. We are not mere social workers or something akin.

      The issue with spreading love, at least in part, is that what the world understands "love" to mean is very different than what the Church means by love. Love is the most misunderstood word in the English language today:

    6. "Why do we analyze everything he says, and fault him for what he doesn't say? "

      I don't know why we analyze everything he says. He gave some interviews that made national news. As Catholics, when the Pope speaks, we tend to think it's important. We probably overreact to his words in interviews - they're only interviews.
      Still, when you have some in the Church saying this is groundbreaking or a bombshell, the truth needs to be defended I think.

      I do not think he should be faulted for what he didn't say. He could have been more clear, true. I think the problem is behind what he actually DID say, as noted above. Sometimes, in saying literally only one thing, many other things are also said by implication.

  17. Dan and Servus - thanks for making Church teaching more clear. I think I wasn't as clear, perhaps.

    Sometimes I do not always spell out exactly what Church teaching really says ie - the behavior is disordered, the person is not - because they already know the teaching and the texts I so often refer to. They really do know Church teaching. They are simply telling us what and how they experience that in practice - I think I try to speak to that in the moment.

    If the writer wasn't familiar with Church teaching, I would then explain it. My experience is that most know what it is, they just refuse to accept it, or as I said, may not have experienced it in action. Does that make sense?

    Thanks guys for your comments which really serve to develop these issues that others may better understand.

  18. TLW - that is a beautiful story of Therese's intervention. She always does things in the most charitable ways - just as she did with her novices.


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