8

You Are a Thief and a Murderer

I don’t travel to a lot of different parishes, but I’d imagine you’d come across plenty of “Happy Talk” in most of them with an emphasis on things like peace, love, joy and tolerance; where the spiritual battleground seems more like a spiritual playground. Perhaps we’ve forgotten that in the past few decades we have lost about half our priests, two thirds of our nuns, Mass attendance is way down and the confession lines are now strikingly shorter than the communion lines.

Catholic families are being destroyed at about the rate as non-Catholic families. They abort, contracept, sodomize, fornicate and divorce at about the same rate as everyone else, but some say all this is “progressive”. I’d argue that calling someone who supports these things “progressive” is like calling a cannibal a chef.

Now don’t get me wrong; a Christian clearly has good reason to be joyful. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.”(John 15:11), but next week (Holy Week) is perhaps the best time to reflect on our sins and the sins of the world, go to confession and do penance.

The following is based on a reflection I happened across from St. Bernard of Clairvaux; a doctor of the Church, which convinced me that I was a thief and a murderer—in a spiritual sense. See if it persuades you.

As is often the case, we need to start with some basics. Our souls consist of a will and an intellect. To love God is the highest act of the will and to know God is the highest act of the intellect. In this life, we can choose to move our will and intellect either toward God or toward “self”. Are we really thieves? How so? Since we were made by God and for God, we do not own ourselves. Therefore, when we commit acts of selfishness we are thieves who try to steal ourselves away from God. The only things we can truly claim ownership to are our sins and our vices.

How can we be murderers? Well, think about what murderers do. They kill a person and try to conceal the crime, perhaps by burying the victim in the ground. Likewise we too are murders, since we kill our souls via sin, which is of far more value than our body. What do we do once we kill our souls? We try to hide the crime by burying our souls under mounds of filth. Gluttony, greed, addictions and perversions of every sort hide the fact that we are dead. Even everyday “innocent” distractions like texting, gaming and social media can prevent us from seeing the crime that has happened.

So here are some questions to Catholics that never go to confession or maybe go once per year because they really don’t do anything bad. To those that firmly believe “I’m okay and you’re okay”……

  • Have you committed any selfish acts? Yes?
    • You are a thief! Go to confession.
  • Have you committed the kind of sin that kills the soul? Yes?
    • You are a murderer! Go to confession.
  • Have you injured your soul with any type of sin at all? Yes?
    • That is assault; you are an assailant! Go to confession.

Just go to confession, because I’m not okay and you’re not okay. You’re not likely to hear these things in a typical Sunday homily because they are unpleasant realities; but I’m a realist, and there is a rather blunt phrase we use where I work to remind us of harsh realities and their consequences. When someone does something they should not have, and the consequence is finally actualized, the phrase we use is…. “You’ll have that”. And any “Happy Talk” can wait until the reality is dealt with.

Have a good Holy Week.

11

The Ten Commandments

All the good the Saviour gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man’s welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it.

Abraham Lincoln, September 7, 1864

 

 

 

 

Holy Week and Passover coincide this year.  Dennis Prager in the above video imagines what a paradise the world would be if everyone obeyed the Ten Commandments.  Religion is not some extra element in Western Civilization, but at its very core.  Take it away and what is left is an alien and self-destructive force, not long for this world and with no hope of the next.

 

 

3

O Sacred Head

Something for the weekend.  O Sacred Head Now Wounded.  The lyrics of this hymn derive from the latin poem Salve Mundi Salutare.  The authorship is open to doubt although I agree with those who attribute at least part of the poem to Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, based upon stylistic similarities with portions of his other writings.    The sanctity and eloquence of Saint Bernard alloyed with the musical genius of Johann Sebastian Bach makes a potent combination indeed.

On a personal note this hymn has always moved me as no other does.  I had it played at my son’s funeral and when I depart this Vale of Tears I have requested that it be played at mine.  It reminds me that God died for me, something I find absolutely stunning.  Love and sacrifice begin and end with God, who regards each man as if there were no other.

1

What Wondrous Love is This?

 

Something for the weekend.  What Wondrous Love is This? and the Pieta.  After Michelangelo completed it and had the Pieta moved to display it, the workmen who did it refused to accept a penny for their hard labor, saying they would get their reward in Heaven.  I pray that they did, and I pray we all meet a similar fate. Continue Reading

5

Christianity and the Miraculous

Today, Palm Sunday, and throughout the rest of Holy Week, we devote ourselves to the central mysteries of our faith as Christians: Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The Last Supper, which instituted for us the mystery of the Holy Eucharist. The suffering and death of Christ on the cross. His resurrection on the third day.

These miracles are the very center of our faith. As Saint Paul said, if Christ did not rise from the dead, then our faith is in vain. Or to paraphrase Flannery O’Connor’s use of rather more modern parlance, “If it isn’t true, to hell with it.”

This central miracle, Christ’s death and resurrection, is the miracle which gives our faith meaning and sets it radically apart from the “he was a good man killed by the authorities for standing up for the poor” substitute which some propose. For if Christ was not God, if He did not rise from the dead, if He did not offer to us eternal salvation, then “he was a good man” is no half-way-there substitute. The resurrection is a miracle so unlikely, so scandalous that we must either embrace it wholly or reject Christianity with scorn. The events of Holy Week are not something we can accept half-way, and by accepting them we accept something which goes utterly and completely beyond the natural and predictable world. A miracle.
Continue Reading

7

An Easter Peace

One of our reasons for being here on The American Catholic is to provide a forum for spirited yet respectful discourse on the often controversial intersection of Catholicism and civic life. I know I very much enjoy the controversies here, and I’ve learned a lot from the other writers and commenters here over the last seven months.

However, there is a time and place for everything, and as we enter the most sacred period of the year, there’s been discussion among our contributors about instituting an Easter Peace of sorts. We will not be closing comments, however we would respectfully ask that readers consider adopting a more restrained tone between evening of Holy Thursday and the morning of Easter Monday. (If you find the time to read at all.)

All new posts during that time will be on Holy Week related themes.

last_supper

From the writing team: A blessed Triduum and Easter to all our readers.

Triduum

As we enter into the Holy Triduum, I’d like to invite a reading of Pope Benedict’s catechesis given during yesterday’s general audience, appropriately deemed by Sandro Magister “A Handbook for Holy Week”:

Dear brothers and sisters, Holy Week, which for us Christians is the most important week of the year, offers us the opportunity to be immersed in the central events of Redemption, to relive the Paschal Mystery, the great mystery of the faith. Beginning tomorrow afternoon, with the Mass “In Coena Domini,” the solemn liturgical rites will help us to meditate in a more lively manner on the Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Lord in the days of the Holy Paschal Triduum, fulcrum of the entire liturgical year. May divine grace open our hearts to comprehend the inestimable gift that salvation is, obtained for us by Christ’s sacrifice. [Read the rest]

(The homilies of Pope Benedict XVI for Holy Week 2009 will be made available here, on the Vatican website).