“He was a murderer from the beginning, and he stood not in the truth; because truth is not in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father thereof.” (St. John 8.44)
This is a startling statement coming from an unimpeachable source — Christ Himself. It is startling because it completely overthrows the notion that lying can proceed from any benign motive, that lying can be innocuous, and sometimes even unavoidable and necessary as a means to a good end. Jesus tells us something strikingly different.
Note that he describes the devil as he, “quia mendax est et pater eius” — not just a liar himself, but the father of lies, the one who begets lies as a father begets children. As it is the nature of a father to beget children, so it is the nature of the devil to beget lies. He is, in a word, the malignant “pater eius” from whom all lies proceed.
What is more, in another context, Christ tells us that "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit; neither can an evil tree bring forth good fruit." (St. Matthew 7.18). So understood, a lie, being evil, cannot possibly be the occasion of a good. Its fruit is evil because it is contrary not just to the 8th Commandment, but to Christ Himself, “Who is the Truth”. (St. John 14.16) How then can a lie, any lie, be construed as good when by its very nature it is contrary to (the nature of) Christ Himself?
This is not to say that all
lies are of the same gravity. Very clearly this is
not the case. But because some lies appear to
facilitate an apparent good perceived as greater
than the evil inherent in the lie, does not, even
from a benign motive, make the lie not a lie. It
remains what it is: a lie.
Most often, despite our greatest efforts, we cannot overcome the sense of guilt that accompanies every lie, no matter how “small”. We instinctively recognize that, regardless of the apparently good ends that had motivated it, we have made a breach and have sinned. Our own consciences (the voice of God within) convict us in spite of the good end achieved. It is a good achieved at the expense of another good: truth. We attempt to put them on a balance in terms of magnitude or proportion: the more the scale tips toward the good, the more “benign” the lie.
The problem with this is that the scale is not balancing two competing goods, such that the preponderance of the one over the other justifies the choice of a greater good over a lesser good. In either case, the choice will be a good choice, although one may be “better” — that is to say, possessed of a greater magnitude of good — than the other. Literally, such a “balancing act” is justifiable in attempting to determine the preponderance of things alike in nature. One does not place grapes on the one side and apples on the other to determine which is better, or which, by weight (preponderance), yields greater value, still less a diamond on the one side and a bar of lead on the other. This “balancing” is pointless.
It is much the same with evil
and good. To attempt to balance evil with good is to
presume that they are like in nature, and
commensurable in value — when in fact they are
opposite both in nature and value since “evil”
has no “being” at all. In fact, it is
precisely a “privation of being! Evil is the
absence or deprivation of a good. What we
understand as the evil we call illness, for example,
is nothing more than diminished health — it is a
privation of “being healthy”. Were there no such
state as “being healthy”, there would be no
“illness”. Evil, in a word, has no “existence” of
itself. It is a diminution of a good thing, but not
a “thing” itself.
God keep you.
In the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Joseph Mary del Campos
Boston Catholic Journal
I read an article recently by an American priest who said in his opinion a plenary indulgence is never ever gained by anyone. He bases his opinion on the fact that one of the stated requirements to gain a plenary is for one to be totally free from the disposition to sin either venial or mortal. And in his opinion given our human nature not one of us is ever free from this disposition. So is therefore not in a position to gain one of these indulgences.
This disturbed me greatly. And I found myself giving much thought as to whether I am in fact ever going to be capable of gaining a plenary indulgence, which means so very much to me .
One COULD not or indeed SHOULD not be at confession on a daily basis to try and keep oneself free from all sin. The danger here as I see it one could easily develop a disposition to scruples which is a very unhealthy state of mind.
Can I ask you editor to please comment on the article by the priest. In the hope that I will be reassured that my attempts to release a little soul from purgatory and so fulfil the needful heart of my Jesus are not in vain.
09 March 2010
The American priest is, presumably, expressing his opinion as a person and not as a priest, for he is not expressing the authoritative and indisputable teaching of Holy Mother the Church.
That his personal opinion is divergent from, and in conflict with, what the Church teaches — a teaching to which he is bound to assent not just as a priest but as a Catholic, is most regrettable but hardly surprising. What is more, his statements are a scandal to the Church and to the faithful in that they cause confusion among the faithful in regard to genuine Catholic doctrine. The priest is bound to unambiguously teach authentic Catholic doctrine — not to express his “opinions” about
matters of the Faith that have been established and are not subject to dispute or question. “What”, the confused Catholic asks, “is the truth of the matter at hand? The Church holds and teaches the unique, profound, and unquestionable value of Indulgences, particularly Plenary Indulgences. But the Church’s representative in the person of this priest, is declaring otherwise. Who is right? The Church and her countless Saints who have spoken clearly over the centuries on this matter — or "Father-knows-best-but-really-doesn’t?” The question is rhetorical. The Church is right and Father so-and-so is clearly wrong.
On what basis does he make the pronouncement, “Given our human nature not one of us is ever free from this disposition (to sin) … and therefore [no one is] in a position to gain one of these indulgences.”? Not in virtue of his priesthood. No priest has the authority to interpret authentic Church teaching to accord with his misguided opinion. No bishop, no theologian, no Catholic whomsoever has this authority. This misguided and incorrect “opinion” does not reflect what the Church teaches, what the Sacred Deposit of the Faith holds, and what Catholic Dogma maintains.
The statement that, “Given our human nature not one of us is ever free from this disposition” (requisite to a Plenary Indulgence) in and of itself reveals a defective knowledge of the norms outlined for the gaining of a Plenary Indulgence, which makes no reference whatever to a “disposition to sin”:
acquire a plenary indulgence it is necessary
to perform the work to which the
indulgence is attached and to fulfill three conditions: sacramental confession, Eucharistic
Communion and prayer for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff. It is further required that
all attachment to sin, even to venial sin, be absent.”
(Norm 7 of the Indulgentiarum Doctrina) http://www.boston-catholic- journal.com/Indulgentiarum_Doctrina.pdf
As you can see, it stipulates that one must be free
from “attachment” to sin — not from
the disposition to sin. The two are quite
different. To be free from “attachment to sin” is
not to be free from the allurement of sin which
would constitute freedom from temptation
(something to which Christ Himself was subject in
His sacred humanity in the Three Temptations -
St. Matthew 4.1-11). It
is not possible to be free from temptation in our
fallen state because we are not free of the Tempter
who ever assails those who follow Christ. (cf. 1
We cannot be free from temptations to sin, (cf. St. Matthew 18.7) but we can be free of our attachment to sin itself. It is within the will of man, even when falling into sin, to have no attachment to the sin beyond the hapless occasion itself. It is of the essence of repentance to resolutely and genuinely express the intention to sin in that way no more — that is to say, to renounce any affinity for the occasion of sin, which, in other words, to refuse attachment to the sin into which one had fallen.
To say that this is not possible is contrary to human experience and history. Many — having sinned and repented — have returned no more to sin. Mary Magdalene was among them. In our own lives we find that we renounce any attachment to a sin that has brought us untold misery. To say otherwise is to deprive man of freedom by holding that he is not free not to sin. But if he is not free not to sin, then he cannot be held culpable for it — for he was unable to do otherwise. In this case, there is no sin and no sanctity, nothing praiseworthy and nothing blameworthy. This is called “determinism”. We are not responsible for our behavior and choices because they are pre-determined for us by our very constitution as human beings, a constitution that does not include freedom in its inventory. What we do, we must do. And if we must do it, and cannot do otherwise, there is no sin, and eo ipso, no guilt.
But this clearly is not the case. In exercising the freedom to disagree with Church teaching (to disagree with what is true — which one can always do, but which is not understood as coherent behavior) Father so-and-so instantiates the very point he repudiates. He is free to disagree, even if he ought not. It is even within Father’s power to renounce his attachment to this error, however compelling he may find it to be. It is within his power to state it no more — even while it may not be within his will. He is even free to hold himself not be free, but in so doing utters an inescapable contradiction. The “mind” of Father so-and-so is not the “mind of the Church” — nor does it accord with human experience and a coherent notion of free agency.
Regrettably, much of what he often hear from the pulpit, you will notice, is not ,“what the Church teaches”, but “what the priest “thinks about” and “the way he look at it”, or “it seems to him” — on a given matter that most often has only marginal relevance to the Gospel reading in any event. We are not in Church, presumably, to listen to the opinions and quirks of interpretation of any given priest — but to the Word of God as the Church sees it … and not as “Father so-and-so sees it.
We hope that you find this answer satisfactory.
God keep you.
In the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Joseph Mary del Campos
Boston Catholic Journal
Thank you so very much for answering my question on the gaining of plenary indulgences ... I am completely reassured and so thankful to you.
I am afraid that we were brought up with the mentality that when a priest speaks he is speaking with the authority of the teaching of the Church. Unfortunately we have come to learn that this does not always be the case. And that is a great sadness when so many can be influenced by the words of our priests. If they only but realised the potential to educate that they hold in their hands.
Thank you, editor, with all my heart. TMC
To the Boston Journal
To whom it may concern,
I am an 18 year old student at University studying Social sciences. Since I have been at Uni I have met quite a lot of Catholics and indeed have had some very interesting exchanges with them, I admire them for their stance on pro-life issues, not only the unborn ,but the whole euthanasia debate.
The Catholic Church just seems to be drawing me...in fact I am thinking of approaching the Catholic Chaplain for instructions.. BUT ..Jack, a fellow student and a catholic, has lent me a Catholic Prayerbook, I have browsed through it and come up against a problem, can you help me? My problem is this that reading through the "Examination of Conscience" there is a list of questions, presumably that I am supposed to ask myself before going to confession?
Well the question concerns ' self pleasuring ", although they call it by another name !
I have the greatest difficult to understand WHY is this regarded by the church as a sin ? I can understand that if I attempted (I will not) to exploit a woman sexually, take advantage of her, that's wrong, I understand too that physical intimacy with another man is wrong, according to Christian ethics, but I just cannot grasp why " self pleasure", is a sin ? It ' feels good ', its not involving anyone but myself, and as it is something that I admit I do frequently, how am I going to get my head around this? I mean isn't this private ?
Perhaps you may be able to advise me, I would feel more comfortable to know why and where I stand on this one before I approach a priest, Thankyou for your kind attention.
Please pray for me because I really would like to learn to love Jesus more
Cheers ! George. Oxford
Thank you for so candid
a letter. Your forthrightness took courage, and
addresses a common problem experienced by people of
all ages, not just the young — and both genders as
Masturbartion or Self-Abuse, is intrinsically sinful because it is the enactment of the sin of Lust (which is one of the Seven Deadly Sins: Pride, Greed, Lust, Anger, Gluttony, Envy, and Sloth). We will address the term, "self-pleasuring" that you use, later and in a very important context.
Christ admonished us, “You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Saint Mathew 5.27-28)
We see that the act alone does not constitute the sin, but before the act the sin already exists in the heart — which in and of itself is sufficient to qualify already sinful desire as the act of the sin itself. This makes perfectly clear sense: the thought always precedes and precipitates the act. Were there no lust in thought, no act of lust would follow. The act is preceded by the will which gives assent to both the thought and to the actualization of the thought through the deed.
Christ is quite clear about this:
“For from the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies. These are the things that defile a man." (Saint Matthew 15.19-20)
Note that he says “de corde”
— “from the heart” — even before the acts
that follow from them — is a man defiled. This is
extremely important to understand. Every sin
proceeds from the heart, from the thoughts, as the
motivation to sin, the willingness to sin. Every act
of sexual sin is preceded by the lustful thoughts
which motivate the act. And these are sufficient in
and of themselves to constitute the act, such that
the same penalty applies to the sin in thought as to
the sin in deed. What separates the two are either
“occasion” or “opportunity” — either of which
provided would culminate in the physical act.
One must ask oneself two questions:
What in fact is one entertaining
in one’s mind while masturbating? It is, of
course, the sinful act of either fornication or
(or more grave still, a homosexual act).
The next, and logical question
is, were it possible to actualize this fantasy
with the one being fantasized about, would one
indulge in it?
The only coherent answer is yes, for otherwise one would be fantasizing about what one really did not desire, and if one did not really
desire this, one would not be masturbating.
It is quite false to maintain that the act of
masturbation hurts no one and is of itself harmless
and victimless. It injures the soul through allowing
it to succumb to sin which of itself is a moral
evil with ontological (i.e. pertaining to
“being” itself) dimensions: it either diminishes or
deprives the soul of grace —
which is the participation of the soul in the very
life of God — or in the case of mortal sin,
destroys that participation, or ones life in God,
altogether. Is there any greater evil? Sin also
injures the Church of Whose body you are a member.
“If one member suffer any
thing, all the members suffer with it.”(1
Cor. 12.26). If one is married, it constitutes an
act of infidelity and adultery against ones wife or
husband. If one is single, it constitutes the act of
fornication or adultery. What is more, it is an
offense against the person fantasized about inasmuch
as it deprives that person of his or her own
personhood, reducing that person the status of a
mere object to be used to satisfy ones lust. It is
equally a violation of the virtues of chastity and
continence. Most of all it offends God! So we see
that masturbation is hardly a “victimless” sin. I
fact, its victims are many, starting with oneself,
proceeding though others, and reaching even to God.
What is particularly interesting in your question is the terminology you use, which I recognize is not your own but which has deep implications itself which are noteworthy. Please do not understand it as a reproach to you in your question at all. It is not, nor is it meant to appear so, but brings to relief a growing problem in the lexicon currently used to address sexual issues.
The term “self-pleasuring” is a neologism (a new and artificially invented word, “made up” is one proper definition) that is really a euphemism (a more agreeable word intended to avoid a disagreeable, offensive, or shame-provoking word that is much clearer and actually proper to the concept or act involved.) I have deliberately provided definitions for the two words, “neologism” and “euphemism” in an attempt to totally clarify the issue and avoid any confusion.
Apart from the grammatical incongruity (one does not speak of “pleasuring oneself” in enjoying a meal, or “self-pleasuring oneself” in reading a book or watching a movie that one finds pleasurable) this neologism is essentially crafted in an effort to present an act or concept fraught with immorality with one that is not. Who, after all, would argue that “pleasure” is an evil in and of itself? In short, if the act or concept itself is not already understood as immoral or offensive, then it would not stand in need of a neologism or euphemism to express it, yes?
It is, somehow, less self-incriminating to express such acts as a euphemisms, and we reflexively understand this. However awkward the term, it is easier (less apt to stir ones conscience) to say that “I self-pleasure myself often” than to say “I masturbate often.” In fact, we are likely to cringe upon making such a completely overt statement. If, however, we wish to liberate this behavior (called, incidentally, “self-abuse” in correct terminology, and not “self-pleasuring”) from a negative moral connotation, we must first seek to morally neutralize it, by inserting it through “acceptable terminology”, into acceptable public discourse. Becoming acceptable in public discourse, the act becomes implicitly acceptable itself.
The entire thrust of this aside is that when we begin calling something intrinsically evil by another name that is not evil we are engaging in nothing short of deception: we begin calling what is evil good. The unpardonable sin of blasphemy, perhaps the most frightening sin of all, occurs when we conflate evil with good and good with evil. (c.f. Saint Matthew 12.22-32)
God keep you.
In the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Joseph Mary del Campos
Boston Catholic Journal
Please help me ! My life is in a mess, this time I have blown it, that's for sure! I am just turned 17, raised a Catholic, although I haven't been to church for ages. I think church is actually so, so boring! I cant believe that this is happening to me, but I have just discovered that I am already 3 months pregnant! If my parents know this I'm sure they will throw me out. My mom happens to mind what the neighbors will say and all that stuff !
The worst of it is this, I don't even know who the father actually is, me and my friends like to go clubbing and have fun., it could be one of a few guys so I cant even say, its his, or his !
I cant have a baby! I have no job, what have I to offer a child, I want an abortion, in a word I want to get rid of it.
I don't even know why I am hesitating one min I am all ready to grab a taxi and run off to planned parenthood, and the next I feel like maybe its wrong, but is it? the feeling passes but I'm more sure. All I wanted was a bit of fun and I don't see why I should pay for it now and end up with a baby. God wont expect this of me will he?
I mean surely God wont be mad at me if I do this? will he ? People tell me God is forgiving, well then if I go ahead will God forgive me? I really to want this abortion it will settle my problem and I can get on with my life, also its my life and my space isn't it ?After all I may meet an alright guy, and have a baby later on , its not that I'm saying no baby at all, but not now !
So do you think God will
forgive me ? I mean its such early stages, and
accept I know in my head I wouldn't even know I was
pregnant, but I am.
What shall I do ? I really am desperate.
Thanks a lot, I hope you don't mind me writing but I just happened to see your answer box on the journal, that's a mystery too, how on earth I arrived at the Journal, I Googled for something else entirely!
Can you put an answer on your site, please do not mail me at this address in case my Mom sees it, as both my folks use this computer. Thanks a lot.
My name is Bernadette and I am a (young) contributor to the Boston Catholic Journal. The editor asked me to answer your question or at least offer you my advice as a woman. I have read your letter carefully and I want to first say that I am sorry that you have to go through this alone — I truly can feel your pain. It is so hard to be a woman sometimes ... I know that I am not you and cannot imagine exactly what you are going through at this moment, but I can certainly relate. At one time or another, many woman goes through what you are now experiencing ... some get the answer that they are looking for, and others, like yourself, unfortunately do not. The decision that you are now faced with is probably one of the most difficult ones you will have ever have to deal with in your life, and whatever you choose to do will have an impact on you forever. I know, it is scary.
I was also (as I am sure you can guess) raised a Catholic, and I am very familiar with the teachings of my faith. The values that have been instilled in me since childhood still to this day, like yourself, affect many of my decisions and thoughts. I am not married, either, and if I found myself in your situation I could not even fathom the idea of having and affording a baby. Every woman who has found herself in your situation had probably never anticipated the possibility of having a child out of wedlock. Given all the "easy" solutions to really tough questions — especially if you are a woman — that are thrown at you so off-handedly today, obviously the first thought that would enter a woman's mind is that the easiest solution would be to have an abortion. Planned Parenthood makes it look so simple ... so "right" ... and with no consequences! A few hundred dollars and the problem is gone. Right? It would seem to be a simple fix to a big problem. Almost all women have this exact thought when faced with this decision. Even though they think about it, I just know that, deep down, many would never be able to go through with it if it weren't presented to them as an easily available, totally acceptable, and entirely guilt-free experience that is "every woman's right", right? Somehow, despite all the slick slogans and glossy brochures passed out in high school, I could never bring myself to see an abortion as a solution I could live with — simply because there is a child's life at stake, and that little baby has absolutely no voice of it's own.... their life and death it out of their hands.
Thankfully, I have never been in this positiont, but I know that these are the thoughts that you are having at this moment. I, too, would probably question whether or not God would ever be able to forgive me if I went through with something like that.... Surely He would understand that now is not the time! I can't afford it! I am not ready! He has to know this, right?! But the truth of the matter is, that He does know this, He knows everything, and He knows that you and I know that it is a terrible sin to have an abortion, because after all, it is a little baby we are talking about. HOWEVER, He also knows your pain, and knows that you are now faced with a very difficult decision, which is why, I believe, God wants me to help you figure out your options and what you can do. Now we (because hopefully you will accept my help and advice... because I am more than happy to help you with this, today, tomorrow, whenever..) must figure out what options exist.
In my opinion, you have three options. However, I do not think that "option number one" is the right one for you. Option two may be, but based on your letter and what you have said about your parents and your situation, it might not be the easiest. I think that option three has your name written all over it :)
1) Abortion -- easy? Kindda. The right choice? I hope you will come to realize, no, it is not...Not simply for the sake of the baby, but for your own sake. Abortions may seem easy, but in fact they are VERY complicated. Many women who have abortions have a VERY difficult time coping afterwards. Whether it is because of the
sickness the follows, or the mental and emotional damage. It is hard to face the fact that you have 'terminated' a pregnancy. The words are tough to swallow, and
many women mentally suffer after the operation. They wonder if they will ever be able to get pregnant again, wonder if they could have managed a baby, if their
lives would somehow be better, they have a difficult time actually SEEING children. If you do the research, the truth is not very pretty.
2) Keeping your baby -- easy? Absolutely not. The right choice? Perhaps ... perhaps not ... Based on what I have read in your letter, your parents would not support your decision to keep the child. You are only 17 and are probably not financially ready to support a child, though there are agencies out there to help (and colleges that offer support and child care if you are planning of furthering your education). The truth is, which I am sure you already know, having a baby is a huge responsibility, one that requires a lot of time, energy, money and effort. However, what you get in return is a beautiful little child that loves and depends on you and doesn't care how old you are or how much money you have. This option is by far the most difficult, and again, I am not sure if it is the best for you, only you can decide that.
Finally, in my opinion, the best option for you:
3) ADOPTION! Easy? Kindda! The right choice? It may be! I think that adoption is perfect for you for a number of reasons:
a) You seem very worried about what your parents are going to think and say. I really think that your parents would probably not be so hard on you. They wouldnot have to help you support the child. They would see that you are making an educated, responsible, and mature decision. They would not have to worry about you and how it would have an effect of your life, because really, it would not be that difficult. True, you would have to carry the baby for 9 months and go to doctors appointments and things, but that is all relatively EASY compared to the last two options! I am VERY sure that if you told your parents that you were pregnant and have thought things over and that you think it is the BEST thing for both you and the child to give it up for adoption, they would be supportive of your decision.... and if they are not, keep reading what I have to say....
c) Obviously, you are worried about yourself and the impact this will have on your life. If you give this baby up for adoption you will not have to worry about how to
afford it, who the father is, what you have to offer it, ANYTHING! You can move forward with your life in a few months and feel GOOD about your decision! You did not have an abortion, you let the child live! You can go to college! Get a great education! Get a great job! Meet a great guy! And when you are ready, have a family with the manwho loves you and who wants to support you and the baby! It is absolutely possible! You would know that your child is in good hands and is taken care of and happy.... you never know who they will become or what good things they will do :) Both your lives will be the better for it.
It really is easy to do. All you have to do is
contact an adoption agency. If you need help, I will
certainly do some research and help you find one in
your area. YOU get to pick which parents are right
for your baby! You will actually have couples
competing for you! Once you find the parents you
think will best raise your child, THEY will be there
to support you the whole way, EVEN IF YOUR PARENTS
DONT! THEY will often schedule, pay, and COME to
doctors appointments with you! THEY will always be
checking up on you! THEY will make sure you are
doing well and have what you need! THEY WILL BE
THERE WITH YOU THE ENTIRE PROCESS, BECAUSE THEY WILL
TRULY CARE ABOUT YOU AND THE BABY. There are
soooo many wonderful couples out there who would
DO ANYTHING to have a child of their own, but for
some reason, they cannot. Imagine their pain when
they found out they COULDN'T have a child. I am sure
they, too, were questioning God ... "WHY IS THIS
HAPPENING TO ME? WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? GOD, DO YOU
NOT WANT ME TO BE A PARENT?!" Now the obvious
question is, why WOULDN'T you want to help them? I
hope that you are beginning to see how this REALLY
is the right choice for you.... I hope that you are
beginning to realize that option one is NOT the only
option for you, that there is, in fact, a MUCH
BETTER OPTION just waiting for you to make your
I really, sincerely hope that this helped. Please, feel free to contact me directly or the BCJ site if there is anything else I can do to help. Please, do not be afraid to accept my help and know that I am here to help you in whatever way I can. I will certainly keep you in my prayers and look forward to hopefully hearing a response from you soon!
Your new friend,
"My question is about attending the new Mass. I find it very unnerving to attend this Mass as I feel that it is more of a social hour than time I can spend with my Lord and assisting at Mass. Besides I always attended a Mass said in Latin and with people who dressed respectfully for our Lord and women who covered their heads in respect. So my question to you is how do I go to this new Mass not really feeling like I'm attending Mass. I feel like I am just doing this for show."
First, thank you for the courage it took to ask about the Elephant in the Room that everyone sees and no one wants to talk about. Even our priests. Especially our priests — and more especially our bishops who are too deeply involved in other things of a more ... social nature, and decidedly more pressing than the salvation of souls.
1962 Roman Missal (available from
Baronius Press and other publishers), go to
page 9, the "Liturgical Calendar", find
the month and date of the Mass for
the forthcoming Sunday (or weekday), hunker down
in a back pew and open it to pages 889 - 896 ("Preparation
for Holy Mass") BEFORE Mass
proper begins, do as the rest of the
congregation does (if kneeling is not practiced —
yes, we know, incredible, but it happens —
kneel anyway when you know you should —
especially during the Canon of the Mass when the
species of bread and wine are transubstantiated into
the Most Holy Body and the Most Precious Blood of
Christ during the Holy Eucharist, and after
receiving Him in Holy Communion — even if everyone
just sits and drapes their arms over the backs of
the pews). You have no obligation to join in
singing that you are "The Light of the World"
(you probably do not esteem yourself to be so, and
neither do I) or, in fact, any other
maudlin ditty. At times of singing, you can quietly
read or re-read the Gospel or Epistles in your Roman
Missal — fiercely focusing on them to drown out
the strident singing and the banging of the drums
and piano. Or you could simply close your eyes,
intent upon your presence at the foot of the Cross
before which you stand at Mass. This requires holy focus. Pray to Mary.
She will help you. While it appears that everyone is paying attention to
virtually everyone else except Christ — you
are paying attention to God through either the Readings in your Missal
or your place under the Cross.
Be resolute in
fixing your gaze upon the Tabernacle in which dwells our
Blessed Lord, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. He is
there! What do you care of what others are paying
attention to? You may be the only person there who
knows what is really going on behind the clamor
and distractions surrounding you: the very Passion
of Our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross ... and
you are standing or kneeling at the foot of the Cross.
HE is why you are there! Focus on Him! He
is, after all, intent upon you! When the
clamor reaches a crescendo of self-adulation, remember
those who really surround you most closely: Christ, Mary,
and the Holy Angels surrounding the Altar. They did not
come to be entertained by
the "Music Ministry" or to be amused by the antics of the priest. They
came for you. They were waiting for you. And now you are
there. To Whom, then, will you pay close attention? At
Whose feet will you sit? Will you mount Calvary to be
with Him under the Cross ... or join the minstrels who
would drop their instruments and fall into awe and
silence before the Crucified Who is on that Cross, and
on that Altar before them — could they see Him with
the eyes of Faith. Close your eyes and see Him
Whom others fail to see with waking eyes!
Fold your hands in
front of you during the "Sign of Peace" and
humbly bow to any who turn to you, front and side,
without turning around. This is not impolite. It is
acknowledging them, if they are so disposed (and not all
are comfortable with the handshake: it is a physical
contact which not everyone welcomes, myself included,
and for many women it is a breach of modesty to grope
for the hands of everyone around them. Many a man —
although, of course, none will admit it — welcomes
this opportunity to have "physical contact" with a woman
he finds attractive, and not all grasping of hands is
entirely chaste in the heart of the one insisting upon
it. This is not prudish. It is an uncomfortable truth.
Humbly and slightly bowing in the context of the Mass is
a much deeper sign of respect than a superficial
handshake. How many talk, laugh, blow kisses, hug, or run
across the aisle to greet everyone possible —
and even have brief conversations in the process ("How
is John doing?)! And how many of these people will not
so much as acknowledge one another — whom they had
embraced with such affection in Church... on the street!
The rubrics of the Mass do not specify the
method or means of conveying the "Sign of Peace" ... and
the "V" waving of the fingers in all directions
has a long history of political overtones that, in my
opinion, has no place in the Mass. Not all Catholics,
especially older Catholics, were "Flower Children" of
Fold your hands
reverently before you as you go to Communion, heedless of
the indifferent carriage of others. You know Whom you
approach. And you can, if it is physically possible to
you, you can also genuflect on one knee and bow your head before you arise to receive Him, the
King of Kings. Do not be ashamed to honor Him so. He
promised to those that were ashamed of Him on Earth, that he
would be ashamed of them before His Father in Heaven and His
holy Angels. (St. Matthew 10.33). Saint Francis of Assisi,
the man recognized to be the most Christ-like of all men,
did not consider himself worthy to hold Our Blessed Lord in
the Eucharist in his hands. For that reason he never became
a priest. I would urge you, as our forefathers had done for
over a thousand years, to receive Him in Holy communion on your tongue,
knowing that Father Francis himself did likewise. It is an
act of utter humility and love.
After Mass, do not
flee as the others. What have you been given? Ten lepers
approached Christ to be healed, and only one returned to
give thanks (St. Luke 17.12-19). Do likewise. Go to Him in
the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar after Mass and give
Him thanks and praise. The gift you were given is far
greater than the gift given the lepers. Christ's very self!
Body and Blood!
Remember that on Calvary there were many, and even some among them gambled beneath Him. Do not be ashamed to do as Mary did, and not the cruel soldiers. Go to Him. And do not judge the crowd around Him at the foot of the Cross at Mass. We see appearances. God alone sees the heart. Some there are who love much and suffer much. Do not disdain them because the crowd is loud around them, too — even as the crowd was loud and scornful as Christ hung on the Cross and only Mary and John remained.
Yours is a question that deeply
vexes, even unsettles, Catholics with a deep sense
of the sacred and an earnest desire to worship God
alone in a manner due His Divine Majesty. Even this
very term "His Divine Majesty" is seldom, if ever
heard, in the New Mass. Somehow, it offends our
sense of democracy; the "progressive" notion that,
not only are all equal before God (bishop,
priest and laity alike), but that God Himself is
trespassing upon our cherished sense of a
presumed , if politely unstated, equality with Him.
Catholics no longer "do transcendence". God is
imminent in us all — rather than
transcending us and everything. In celebrating
ourselves we celebrate Him — or so
we are urged to believe. The logic is sound ... even
if the premises are deeply flawed — in fact,
completely untrue. In philosophy, Modus Ponens
always produces a sound logical argument — that is
to say, the form of the argument is always
valid even if the terms themselves are
This loss of transcendence, aptly supplanted by a suffocating sense of imminence (indwelling) is a major factor contributing to our loss of the sense —and Presence — of God. Christ is no longer the Light of the World: "We are the light of the world" as the ditty goes in virtually every parish and quite nearly at every Mass. God is an interloper in His own House; a disruptive Guest with a Divine attitude Who presumes to eclipse this "light" by momentarily distracting us from ourselves during that brief moment of Transubstantiation that we politely accord Him before resuming the celebration of ourselves and the absolute certainty of our salvation. We are the tenants who have evicted God from His own House, much as the tenant farmers in the Gospels.1 It has largely ceased to be the "House of God" and has become "Our Faith Community", our "Our Prayer Space", terms as bizarre and disconnected with the continuity of the Church as the practices that most often occur within them. The focus is "We", "Ours" ... in a word, the apotheosis of the self over God.
Think of the stultifying term, "We are Church" ... apart from its ungrammatical format (languages that use the definite ("the") and the indefinite ("a") article use it to articulate a distinction between things specific ("the house", meaning this particular and unique house) and things general ("a house" meaning any house apart from distinguishing features specific to it). This is no quibbling with words, however silly and foreign they may sound. It is a deliberate divesting of the Catholic Church's unique role as the means to salvation instituted by Christ Himself. 2 Think of "We are Government". Which government? What kind of government? Of what country? Is it the government of an empire? A republic? A democracy? A regime? There are no distinguishing features to which we can appeal. It is a senseless and meaningless utterance, because the statement lacks anything definite that we can predicate of it. It is not "the Church", or even "a Church" ... it is just, well, ... "Church."
Equally noteworthy, apart from what church it is (which we cannot answer), is whose church it is. It is no longer God's Church — it is our Church. Even if we no longer know what it is, we at least know who it belongs to. It belongs to us ... not God. It is our Church. In fact, its only distinguishing feature is that, whatever it is, it is ours. — and not Christ's. It is us! "We are Church!" For 2000 years (minus 40) it was the Body of Christ of which He is the Head. 3
Is it any wonder, then, that at the New Mass, the Novus Ordo (still valid despite its being trivialized and much abused. See the heresy of Donatism which holds that the Sacraments are invalid, and even the Mass itself, if the presiding priest is unworthy) we celebrate ourselves — rather than worship God. The focus appears to be upon everything and everyone — from the show-host priest striding jestingly in the aisles, to the miserable cacophony of pianos, drums, trap sets, cymbals, guitars, and the most dismal "folk music" (think Joan Baez and Cat Stevens) that ceased to exist 30 years ago everywhere except in the Catholic Church, to the divas inviting your applause, and Kiddie-Hour at the Altar — everyone and everything ... except Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Sacrifice (absolutely the most central feature of the Mass, apart from which there is no Mass; a now "antiquated" notion which is no longer spoken of — let alone emphasized — in most "modern" Catholic Churches.)
In short, we have not lifted ourselves to Heaven, but dragged God down the Earth — and like our priests, He, too, has largely become rather "one of the guys" ... with a cameo appearance in the Most Holy Eucharist.
We deign to favor Him with our presence at Mass ... smug in our certainty that He is keenly aware of the sleep-in, sports event, or other social obligation that we have sacrificed for Him — and of which He is surely, and most appropriately, not only cognizant but deeply grateful.
Yes, the sacred nature of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is often trivialized ... and by many unknown. But you know, LH.
In short, yes, you and I can survive the appalling lack of reverence at so many Masses. We must ... because Christ Himself must. Day in and day out.
Mother Teresa held that the most effective means of conversion is personal example. It starts with one. And beholding the beauty of the one, another comes to know this beauty also.
God keep you.
In the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Joseph Mary del Campos
Boston Catholic Journal
1 St. Matthew
21.33-41 Saint Matthew 16.17-19
2 St. Matthew 16.17-19
3 Colossians 1:18
What does God say about pregnant single mothers? To marry or not to marry? I have 8 siblings, 6 of them are girls and 5 of them are married. From all five of them, I cannot say I would prefer to have one marriage over another, I'd prefer not have a marriage at all. All including my mother, have set an example it appears to be as having to be the one to make more sacrifices in the relationship for the sake of the children having their fathers near them (of course they all say they love their husbands still). However, I asked them one day (just the sisters), "Not counting the children, would you do it all over again. Marry the same guy and put up with everything?" All said no except one. As a girlfriend of the father of my coming baby, I am already not willing to put up with many things I see in him. I fear he isn't ready or rather doesn't want to give up on a lot of things that expectant fathers should give up on. But now I fear that perhaps I am being a little too demanding of a partner, in comparison to other girls or even my sisters. I am having trouble wanting to just settle for the norm which constitutes of: the man is a man and he is allowed to have his "manliness" with the society given definition. The women lives to serve her children and husband. My mother had a very rough life, and for many years I refused to believe that she was born to live all that suffering, now I have stop questioning or commenting on her life, I just accept it since it is her life and pertains to her only. However, I don't know that I want to spend a life next to a man and hoping and praying for the day that he will change. We don't share values, goals, and even our morality judgment is very different. Of course because we come from different backgrounds. The other day I shared with him how I needed and wanted to go to confession and to this he replied, "What did you do?" I chuckled considering that we both participated in the sin of sex and now are pregnant. I love this coming baby and I don't regret it, but i do regret having sin or even with who I sinned with if that makes any sense. I acknowledge my sin, and if this cross of mine commands me to get married than without hesitation i will pick it up and carry it.
P.S. Perhaps you recall of me writing to you earlier. And I took your advice and left the relationship. And well time later he looked for me again and I fell like the common "in-love" girl or rather "in-lust" (I don't even know now) and well now I have a brought a new innocent life into our problems. I don't even know how to tell my baby that I'm sorry.
I will answer your first question before addressing others. You ask, “What does God say about pregnant single mothers?” To marry or not to marry is another question; one for which I will offer my own suggestion, and the reasons for it.
So, “What does God say about pregnant single mothers?”
The answer to this is unequivocal and clear, and so God tells you at once and forever:
“I love you, and I love the life within you that I have created. I Alone am the Giver of Life, and I have chosen you to cooperate with Me in bringing this life — that I have willed — to being. That your will and My will are one — that the child shall live and be loved — is itself a sign of blessedness, for holiness consists in this: that your will be perfectly one, perfectly in harmony, with My will in all things. It is nothing more and nothing less.
In this state of holiness you will find happiness, and apart from it you will never find peace, for you will never possess real happiness. Why? Because always I will your good, in this life and in the next; I will what is perfectly good for you, and what is perfectly good for you will bring you happiness. There is no happiness apart from what is good, yes?
Oh, there are things pleasurable and they bring you momentary fulfillment, but not happiness. Happiness endures. Pleasure passes. Happiness and pleasure are not the same at all, My Little One. Some pleasures are good, and some are sinful, according to your state in life. Sexual pleasure is good — within the Sacrament of Marriage, but sinful outside of it.
But you know this already, my daughter — and in the Sacrament of Penance you have come to Me before. What had you found, my Little One? Mercy, compassion, and forgiveness … yes? And now you would flee Me … fear confessing that you have sinned the same sin again? Do you not remember my Only Begotten Son telling Saint Peter who had asked, “Lord, how many times should we forgive our brother? Seven times?” To which My Son answered, “Nay, seventy times seven times!” In other words, as often as forgiveness is asked, it is given — as long as the heart of the penitent is truly sorry — and even if she falls into that sin again and again through human weakness, and knows and expresses true sorrow again and again, she is forgiven! Do you think I do not know your weakness and frailty, I Who had created you? Was not My Son, in His Incarnation, like unto thee in all things except sin? He Himself in His sacred humanity intimately knows the weakness of men.
What you are really asking Me, it appears, is this: “Do I still love you, as a woman, and now as a mother, outside of wedlock?” In your heart of hearts you already know the answer to this also. Yes! Not a whit less, and even the more! — because you have, apart from your soul that is precious to Me, a new life within you! A life that I have given and that you have not spurned! You love whom I love: the one I have created within you! Love you less? No! All the more! Not for your sin, but for your love — your love of Me and of the child I have given thee, that I have entrusted to thee, that you may teach the child to know Me, to love Me, and to serve Me in the world, and to be happy with Me forever in Heaven. This is the charge I have given thee. This is the purpose of the child conceived within you.
Think, my Little One! I know the end of all things … you do not. I have willed and created life in you. Do I do anything without purpose? Anything that is not totally good? I knew your child long before you were aware of this life within you!
Have no shame, Little One. Remember that My most perfect creation — Mary — first conceived My Only Begotten Son before she was married! And now I have conferred upon thee the greatest dignity, the most sublime vocation: that of motherhood!”
God Himself, then, answers your first question, and now I will attempt to answer the questions that follow it.
In speaking with your married sisters, you said that, apart from the children, “had they to do it all over again, all, save one, would not have chosen to marry.” It appears that in their marriages there is a lack of mutuality, of sharing, giving and taking in turn, in which the husbands are not solicitous of their wives needs, being preoccupied with the fulfillment of their own. I think that this perception is fairly common — and, regrettably, cuts both ways. In many ways we would like something of a “designer husband” and “designer wife” that we could tailor to our changing desires. Traits and features could be added or detracted to suit us as it pleases us best. Snip away this trait, add that, change one, transform another — and when they are old and less to our liking to discard them altogether. It is man and woman, husband and wife, as mere commodities — and not as the absolutely unique and unrepeatable persons, human beings, that they are — and none of them is perfect … nor are we.
As to the indifference of the husband to the wife, it would be well to carefully read about the mutual duties and responsibilities of a man to his wife, and of a wife to her husband, especially in light of the example that Saint Paul sets before us, of Christ’s love for the Church, and the Church’s love for Christ. (Ephesians, 5.21-31). The husband loves his wife as his own body, ever ready to deliver himself up for her as Christ did for the Church. Saint Paul states it more succinctly, “He that loveth his wife, loveth himself.”
Now, to the vitally important question — a question that you alone must answer: Should you marry, or not marry? It is now five years that you have had a relationship with this young man. I have re-read your first letter very carefully, and I will point out a few very important things that you had said within it, in May of 2010, and which appear unchanged to this day, and will likely remain unchanged.
For four years it has been thus. It is now a year later and remains so — even given the fact that you carry his child. This does not portend well. Perhaps I had told you in my first letter to you that you can only change yourself — not another. Personality traits are particularly intractable almost impossible to extinguish or alter. It is hoping to “design” another person to be other than whom they are. Yes, we want all men, all women, for Christ and His Holy Church! And everyone is invited! But we ourselves, as utterly unique as they are, cannot presume to hope to bring them to Christ or His Church at the cost of our own souls and our own salvation. It is our duty first and foremost to seek the salvation of our own souls — for they alone are totally within our grasp and amenable to our will in a way that the souls of others are not. This is not selfish. Christ Himself told us that we dare not presume to remove the speck in our brother’s eye until we have first removed the splinter from our own! No?
We would that we could bring all men to Christ — and this is a holy desire. Ever we must strive to. And yet it is not given to us to choose whom we bring to God, and away from sin. Most often our example is sufficient to inspire another to seek what we have found, the happiness that comes with faithfulness to God. But it is something that must be freely chosen by another, and all our efforts are in vain if we deceive ourselves that we can change another who is either indifferent or antagonistic to our Faith … by marrying them! This endangers your own soul — and as importantly, the soul of a child who may never come to know God or the beauty of the Faith of Holy Mother Church by being exposed to the influence of one who knows neither, or disdains both.
From what you have written, my child, nothing has changed in this young man to make him worthy of you. Because you bear his child (that God willed … not the man) does not obligate your marrying him at all. Some young women feel that a child is an impediment to the prospect of a future relationship and real love. This is not the case at all — I can testify to that personally from my experience with many young men and women who have met subsequent to the mother’s having a child by another — women who have married worthy and honorable men who have taken the mother’s child as their own.
You have done the most loving thing imaginable in keeping and loving this child within you. You will blessed in him or her. Your happiness will be multiplied, not your sorrow. Cleave to God and place yourself under the mantle of Mary Most Holy — both will accompany you, and assist you — and love you, and your child — all the days of your lives.
In the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Joseph Mary del Campos
Boston Catholic Journal