Reverence in God’s Name

From the website Our Catholic Prayers, about the Divine Praises: “It was composed in a slightly shorter form by Luigi Felici, a Jesuit priest, in 1797, as a prayer to make reparation for blasphemy and profane language. You can recite it privately (or in group settings other than during the Benediction) for this purpose as a great way to show God, the Holy Family, and the Angels and Saints thanksgiving and praise.”  Here is the prayer with music by Paul Hilts:

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In her own words…

The faith story for USCCA’s chapter 25 (“The First Commandment: Believe in the True God“) is about Cathereine deHueck Doherty:  “A Lay Apostle of the Twentieth Century.”  The narrative ends with:  “Catherine’s life illustrates the First commandment in that she lived her life loving the Lord with all her heart, soul, and mind above all else and, because of that, respected and worked for the dignity of every human being.”   Here, in her own words:

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What if I disagree? Should I leave?

In Pope Benedict’s remarks this morning, prior to the Angelus, he reflected on belief preceding understanding for those who remained with Jesus after many others had departed because of the teachings they found difficult to comprehend.  He then added the following:

Finally, Jesus knew that even among the twelve apostles there was one that did not believe: Judas. Judas could have left, as many of the disciples did; indeed, he would have left if he were honest. Instead he remained with Jesus. He did not remain because of faith, or because of love, but with the secret intention of taking vengeance on the Master. Why? Because Judas felt betrayed by Jesus, and decided that he in turn would betray Him. Judas was a Zealot, and wanted a triumphant Messiah, who would lead a revolt against the Romans. Jesus had disappointed those expectations. The problem is that Judas did not go away, and his most serious fault was falsehood, which is the mark of the devil. This is why Jesus said to the Twelve: “One of you is a devil” (John 6.70). We pray to the Virgin Mary, help us to believe in Jesus, as St. Peter did, and to always be sincere with Him and with all people.

At first reading this is a stunning sounding commentary, having the suggestion that, for his own good, Judas would have been better off to leave with the others who found the teachings hard and depart from Jesus.  After all is it not true that there are many of us who may find teachings of the faith at times difficult to grasp, to affirm, and to follow?  There are times of doubt, sometimes serious doubts, as well as even perhaps feelings of having been betrayed by leadership.  Surely the suggestion isn’t that it is better to leave if we disagree.  But of course there is an important distinction being made.  Judas stayed without any intention of continuing to grapple with this different kind of Messiah, these teachings, or with any openness to ongoing conversion.  His mind was set and his intention was to take vengeance and change things, conforming them according to his own expectation.

But what about the requirement to follow one’s conscience from last week’s chapter?  Wouldn’t that suggest that if we really are convinced there is a teaching/direction in error, that we should remain steadfast?  Maybe even openly challenge the apparent error with the hope to bring about change?  Was Judas’ serious fault of falsehood simply that his intention was secret?  Should he have stayed and tried to convince them of another way, continuing as he did with the group as a follower of Jesus, but telling people of a different way, following his formed conscience based perhaps on long experience with the Romans and expectations that he had been taught, even from spiritual guides?

We are taught that while we are expected to follow our conscience, we do so recognizing that our conscience (even well-formed since that is a life-long process) can still be objectively wrong (USCCA p. 314f).  Therefore, it seems that both humility and love would dictate extreme caution with that idea.  For one thing, there is the possibility of leading another into error that can’t be taken lightly (Mark 9:42; 1 Corinthians 8:9-13).

Additionally there is the possibility of obscuring the witness of Christ for those who still do not know him.  Does the issue itself, let alone the need to be right, really outweigh the appeal for unity:  “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought” (1 Corinthians 1:10, as just one example)?  From other passages we see the call to live in harmony and peace… To what end?  In Jesus’ prayer we hear him asking the Father for the disciples, that “… they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” (John 17:23)

Given that the “pillar and bulwark of the truth” is the Church who has the responsibility to articulate the faith and moral principles (USCCA, p.330f) what about the times we feel disappointed in our expectations and/or wonder if something being taught is meant to be different?  Is it best to simply leave?

For some that might be the answer.  But empty pews don’t make a very good witness either.

As long as our mind hasn’t become so convinced that it results in a zealous commitment to be right (over and above understanding), and to bring others along regardless of the cost, then – even if there is a period of waiting in doubt, struggle, uncertainty, studying together with other believers to come to understanding – staying the course like Peter and the other faithful disciples is the better way.

By believing first (and maybe echoing:  “I believe; help my unbelief!”) and not denying disagreements, but rather grappling through questions with the goal of understanding, it may just be that together we find a way to help one another along the path of ongoing conversion to holiness.  What’s more, by grace we may come to an understanding of even the hard things; and, seeing them through the lens of the love of a generous and good God, our unity may also help others to be encouraged in their faith and drawn to know God.

P.S.  There is another obvious point that might be made.  Whereas Judas felt an unjustified sense of betrayal, in the case of the Body of Christ lived through people vulnerable to the reality of sin, there are times of real betrayal at the hands of those who should be trustworthy.   Anger, hurt, resentment, fear, unforgiveness resulting from either betrayal, or even from concern about how the teachings effect those we love, can be stumbling blocks to belief and understanding.  These emotions may be woven through disagreement with the Church, further exacerbating a temptation to be in control of defining one’s own “truth.”  …   May God bring healing to wounded hearts, softening them to forgive, creating hearts of discernment open to trusting that the Holy Spirit is the faithful guide of the Church in Truth.  May God grant to the Church wisdom and grace to faithfully articulate that Truth in authentic Love.   (Laurie E.)

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Beginning thoughts to Chapters 23 and 24

The two beginning chapters of this third part of the USCCA, “Christian Morality: the Faith Lived,” are stunningly linked and timely given the current issues that make headlines in the news.  These are foundational chapters for the exercise of right judgment about choices that need to be made as part of Faithful Citizenship. I am considering again the section headings of chapter 23:  The Responsible Practice of Freedom, The Understanding of Moral Acts, The Reality of Sin and Trust in God’s Mercy, The Formation of Conscience, and The Excellence of Virtues, with some snippets of key points, like:

“The best way to grow in freedom is to perform good acts… The road to loss of freedom is through evil acts.  Sin makes us slaves of evil and reduces our capacity to be free.  Freedom comes from being moral.  Slavery to sin arises from being immoral.” (p. 311)

“Though we can judge a given offense to be the occasion for mortal sin, and thus an act of objective wrongdoing, we must always entrust the judgment of the person to the mercy and justice of God.” (p. 313)

“There are some rules to follow in obeying one’s conscience. First, always follow a certain conscience. Second, an incorrect conscience must be changed if possible. Third, do not act with a doubtful conscience. We must always obey the certain judgments of our conscience, realizing that our conscience can be incorrect, that it can make a mistake about what is truly the good or the right thing to do…. We must also recognize that ignorance and errors are not always free from guilt…” (p. 315)

“Love alone, set adrift from moral direction, can easily descend into sentimentality that puts us at the mercy of our feelings… In our permissive culture, love is sometimes so romanticized that it is separated from sacrifice.  Because of this, tough moral choices cannot be faced.  The absence of sacrificial love dooms the possibility of an authentic moral life.” (p. 318)

The moral life requires grace.” (p. 318)

Then in Chapter 24 the principles are further developed about living in community and the divine assistance available so that we may live with faith and hope, including after events such as September 11, 2001.  I am challenging myself to consider the lessons of these chapters, in light of the day-to-day requirements of living my faith, but also looking at them relative to my responsibility to respond to what is happening in our culture.  Delivered in 1995 to the United Nations, the concluding meditation of the chapter (included below) by Pope John Paul II, is relevant today as a warning and a challenge.

Experience is showing us that the first struggle he notes (religious intolerance) is visiting us again in a new form that would marginalize faith from one’s public life to the sanctuary, replacing it with a state imposed secularism detached from a moral order based on objective norms, in the name of pluralism, and at the cost of religious liberty….

“The Story of America has been the story of long and difficult struggle to overcome the prejudices which excluded certain categories of people from a full share in the country’s life:  first, the struggle against religious intolerance, then the struggle against racial discrimination and in favor of civil rights for everyone.  Sadly, today a new class of people is being excluded.  When the unborn child – “the stranger in the womb” – is declared beyond the protection of society, not only are America’s deepest traditions radically undermined and endangered, but a moral blight is brought upon society.   I am also thinking of threats to the elderly, the severely handicapped and all those who do not seem to have any social usefulness.  When innocent human beings are declared inconvenient or burdensome, and thus unworthy of legal and social protection, grievous damage is done to the moral foundations of the democratic community.”  (p. 337)

I wonder what key points/challenges others heard…  (Laurie E)

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One Man’s use of “New Media” in a Call to Prayer

This week we have been studying “God Calls Us to Pray” with the introductory faith story about Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen… Read about his cause toward beatification ( and listen to him talk about prayer (   (Also, does anyone remember watching his broadcasts? – He was certainly one to use the “New Media” of his day!):

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Among the most popular sacramentals…

The Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel has been one of the most popular sacramentals of the Church. “The Scapular is an external sign of the filial relationship established between the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother and Queen of Mount Carmel, and the faithful who entrust themselves totally to her protection, who have recourse to her maternal intercession, who are mindful of the primacy of the spiritual life and the need for prayer.” – An excerpt taken from this article on the Optional Memorial of Our Lady of Mt Carmel   (July 16).

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Mary, Our Mother, Queen of Heaven

Following is a beautiful song, “Hail Mary,” after a short talk on Mary by contemporary Catholic artist Donna Cori Gibson.

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Chapter 12 – Mary, We fly to your patronage…

FTF saved the chapter on Mary for the (hopefully!) more relaxed days of Summer with the thought that it may be a time to invite additional quiet time for prayer and reflection, drawing closer to our Blessed Mother. … Here is an additional resource, may it be a blessing!

We fly to your patronage, O holy Mother of God; despise not our petitions in our necessities, but from all dangers deliver us always.  O glorious and blessed Virgin.                 -Sub Tuum Praesidium (third-century Egyptian papyrus)

(3/2012): “Mary and the Christian Life is a simple book introducing the reader to Mary: what Scripture reveals about her, what Tradition teaches, and how all of that relates to our lives as disciples of Jesus.” The author includes devotions, prayers and even plants.

Click here for a free ebook (read on Scribd or pdf download) by Amy Welborn and published by Word Among Us in 2008.

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Engaging the Culture

As we have studied the Sacrament of Marriage we realize that the understanding of the sacramental nature of marriage is not one we impose on the broader culture; but in the culture there is widespread conversation about the very definition of marriage.  To enter into that conversation listen to “A Conversation About Same Sex Unions: Teaching with Fidelity and Charity,”  with Deacon Richard Hudzik, D.Min, from the Archdiocese of Chicago and who serves as the Chair of the Catholic Conference of Illinois Defense of Marriage Department.  Click here to listen to the webcast – it may also be downloaded for later listening on your mp3.

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Sacraments at the Service of Communion

“Holy Orders and Matrimony belong to the Sacraments at the Service of Communion.  This means they are primarily directed toward the salvation of others.” (USCCA, p.262-3)

Helping a child learn to give the answer, “Whatever God wants me to be” to the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is perhaps the early seeds in helping them to discern their vocation, the desire to know God’s desire for them, for the service of others.

Referring to vocations we often think of the vocation to the priesthood, or perhaps religious life, but it is encouraging too to see this young couple recognize the vocation to marriage… After first seeking God’s desire with hearts ready to say yes as His answer unfolds.

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