Self-Referential Church

It is true that the Church must not be self-referential. Like her greatest saint, John the Baptist, she must decrease so that He may increase.

The Church's mission is to bring the salvation that Jesus offers. She does this in His sacraments. That is where we encounter Him-- in the worship of the baptised of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

One of the worst ways of being self-referential is to obsess with reform. Modernists and traditionalists both do this, but especially modernists.

In order to go about one's work, one must know who one is, and be comfortable being one's self. When you are yourself, you can do your work.

The Church must live, and be allowed to live Her life, and be herself. She must put aside the narcissistic  introspection that St. Therese calls, "a waste of spiritual energy." She must quit with this vain self-analysis. She must just be herself and be merrily about her work.

As Pope Francis says, we must take for granted who we are: the Church of two millennia, always the same, always deepening in wisdom about her Beloved. Always starting everyday with a little more insight into her Spouse. Always the same yet always surprised!

Let's be about the work of bringing the medicine of Charity, the sacraments, to a diseased world. Let us have the stability and confidence of character to open our home to the orphans and wayfarers and victims. One cannot welcome another in if one does not stay still. One cannot give if one does not have a richness of being, a calm, abiding self.


The Queen Does Not Want To Be Pope!

In response to the Holy Father's recent call for more contemplation on the theology of woman in the Church, I submit the following:

Mary is the Church in person: Mother of God and Bride of the Holy Spirit.

Mary, at the wedding of Cana, makes known the needs of the bride and groom to Our Lord. He seems to suggest that Providence hadn't necessarily ordered a miracle at this point, but bows to her suggestion that it should (He demonstrates the correctness of the Scotian idea of 'befittingness' as opposed to 'necessity'). He works His first miracle in obedience to Her.

The Church, like Mary, is given the power to bind and to loosen. She makes known the needs of mankind to God. She asks Him to apply His justice mercifully. She does not, as proverbs says, spare the rod and spoil the child, but she applies the rod first to herself, her heart pierced seven times.

It has been wisely said, if with tongue in cheek, that the husband as head of the home makes all the decisions; the wife makes known her needs, and the needs of the children, and the husband decides to do it.

This is true, and I think what Our Lady does, and what the Church does with God.

A major problem in our generation has been, however, the notion that the Church must adopt a 'searching' attitude, a 'dialogical' attitude in speaking to her children. Many in the Church say that the Church as our Mother is merciful and gentle because she is alongside us in searching for the truth, for the answers of Our Lord.

This is nonsense, as we all know, because the mercy of the Church is that she binds and loosens according to God's mercy, not in ignorance. She binds as one does a wound, not as a jailer. She loosens like water breaking, like the overflow of baptism, like Peter and Paul escaping from prison. She frees men to make vows. She heals men so that they can work and undergo the passion.

Mary, the Queen of us all, our Mother at the hospital bedside of Fatima and Lourdes, like Moses through the Red Sea of Purgatory: this is the revelation of what the Church must be.

And what the "role" of women is, in the Church.

Queenship is not being a lector, nor an "EMHC", nor an altar server. Mary was not an Apostle. She is the Domina, and dominates the world as a Mother does her home. Not overbearingly, not stridently, not from the 'front', but from the heart. She embues her home. She animates it. She dominates you in the way your heart dominates you, not in the way your mind does.

Which is why women do not serve in the liturgy. Men serve women, men are at the service of women who are the heart of the home. The priest is at the service of the Church, The Woman at Mass. The Woman is to be assisted, not to assist, for She is about to give birth. The men hurry to build her a home, even if only a stable. Rush to her side to be of service as she labors to bear Her Son. 

To "solve the "problem" of the "role" of women in the Church by making them altar servers, EMHCs, and lectors, is to trivialize their queenship. Mary is already Queen of the apostles. Altar serving would be a demotion.

Peter Is The Only One Who Walked Across The Water

The Eucharist is the most important thing. All the culture, laws, institutions, and offices of the Church are to provide the sacraments, and protect their nature, preserve them intact so that they can be given to the people.

The Blessed Sacrament is the most important and the center of all the other sacraments. It's the worship of the Incarnate Christ, here on earth, and the center of the Gospel.

In the Gospel, Christ gives us baptism, which makes divine life in us possible. Confirmation is the fruition of baptism.

Baptism cleans the house so that Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament can live in us. The Blessed Sacrament is the point of baptism. "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, you have no life in you."

So: I'd say if you are baptised, you are baptised into the Church, you are made ready for Divine Life. You are made receptive to the Divine Life of Holy Communion. If you remain oriented towards Our Lord, you retain your baptismal grace. If you sin, you require absolution in the sacrament of Penance. This returns you to the proper orientation. So the orientation to, the preparedness for Jesus is the essence of baptism. But the purpose of that orientation, that preparation is Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, in the full presence of Him, body, blood, soul and divinity.

Just as when Our Lord exorcised the young man and said that if you drive out seven demons, but do not replace them with anything, with Life, evil spirits with the Holy Spirit, demons will return worse than before. Supernature abhors a vacuum. Just so, we are baptised so that God can make a home in us. And God is present in the flesh in the Blessed Sacrament.

So, even though Baptism brings us into the Church, the fullness of communion is to be at one with the Body of Christ, the Church, by receiving the literal Body of Christ in the Mass. To be in communion with Our Lord, you have to bring Him into the home he has prepared through Baptism. He is brought into you in Holy Communion. 

In order to have the Blessed Sacrament, of course, our Eucharistic Liturgy must be apostolic, and we know it is apostolic through the succession of the apostles.

So the office of Apostle, made present in the successors to the Apostles, the bishops, exists to serve the Eucharist. It exists to preserve and keep present to those who need it (namely everyone), the nature of the sacraments, above all the Blessed Sacrament. The world cannot be saved without the sacraments, so their nature must be safeguarded by the apostolic office. The bishop exists to protect and provide the Eucharist.

So, since we need baptism in order to receive the Eucharist, we get baptised. And because we need the apostles to preserve and safeguard the Eucharist, we make sure to stay in communion with the apostolic office, namely the bishop.

Now, the Roman bishop has always had the supreme office of safeguarding the sacraments. As all bishops exist to safeguard the sacraments (the culture of which is the liturgy and the faith/doctrine---"the law of praying is the law of believing"), the Roman bishop as the successor to Peter has always held a unique office, to keep present the work of Peter as head and anchor of the Apostles. As Peter "strengthened the brethren" and "fed my sheep" and was "the rock upon which I will build my Church", he not only maintained and preserved and made available the sacraments, but maintained and preserved and spread the apostolic brotherhood, the order of the apostles and their successors. His final See was Rome, and his successors always, in all the ancient Christian teaching and correspondence from the beginning, were believed by the other bishops to keep present in the world the work of St. Peter: maintaining the unity of the bishops, and in that the unity of their flocks by preserving the nature of the sacraments (and in that the liturgy and doctrine) so that means of salvation would never be extinguished (faith is the means of salvation, but saving faith is always incarnate, that is what a sacrament is: incarnate faith).

Bishops exist to preserve pure and provide readily the means of salvation, the sacraments. The Roman Bishop exists to preserve pure and intact the episcopal office. The bishops protect and provide the sacraments. The Roman Pontiff protects and provides the purity of the episcopal office. Without the bishop, no sacraments. Without the Roman Pontiff, no episcopal purity, no unity, ultimately no episcopacy. 

Without Peter, only a vaporized church of warring, pharisaical clerics, as history has always shown. Clerics who always immediately abandon the sacraments (definition of clericalism: sacerdos without sacer, a bishop or priest who neglects sacraments, becomes a cleric, a clerk, a philosopher, a desk-jockey, a podium-jockey, substituting conference tables for sacred altars).

John was a mystic, sure, but why was Peter made the Pope? Because he was the elder brother, he was the father of the Apostles, he was deepest penitent, he was the confessor who could not hold back both his confession of sins, and his confession of faith. John was the first of those "strengthened" by Peter, to see this
powerful, able leader of men, confess his faith and later his love for Jesus. Peter was the pope because he knew within himself that the confession of faith was the confession of sins, the confession that he who says "arise, walk, your sins are forgiven you" is the King, not he who judges, but He who heals. That one must not just confess one's inability to live the law ("the law is a curse") but that one must confess that failure with still the love of Job, Moses, David, blessing the name of the Lawgiver, and confessing one's faith that He will, has healed you. Diagnosis is the work of the priest, not judgement. Diagnosis always followed by medicine, so that he does not "lay on burdens he does not help to carry", the medicine of his own penance, humiliation, and martyrdom, because the medicine the bishop can give is his blood poured out, Christ's blood vicarious.

The faith of St. Peter is to know one's sins, and to confess Sin, one's own sins, and also to confess faith that love for Christ triumphs, that Christ is God and has the power and authority to love you and forgive you. And it is a realization that we can never make up for the evils we have committed against others, and can never take it back, and even if Christ forgives, those whom we have hurt may not. And it is a realization that the only way we can atone for these sins is to forgive those who sin against us, and to repay them with a life of penance for them, and to love our neighbor not as we love ourselves, but as Christ loves him. So the faith of Peter is the determination to "be bound by others and led where you do not want to go", to be crucified with and by his brothers, and as his Lord was, on Vatican hill. To be crucified by a sinner to save his soul and his own together.

It is the humility to ask Jesus to bring him before his brother, John, who saw him run away, and to take up the responsibility to lead, without pride or confidence in his own competence. That is why Peter asks Our Lord on the beach about John. Because John did not run away from Calvary, like Peter did. He is humiliated before John. And that is why he is pope.

So does one have to submit to the governance of the successor of Peter in order to be saved? It seems clear that the Christian faith, the faith of the Gospels, tells us that to be saved one needs the sacraments. That is, one needs the faith of Peter "you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." Moreover, the faith of the one who confesses not just his own sinfulness, but confesses the power of Jesus to forgive what he has done. Confesses the power and will of Christ that the brotherhood be strengthened and fed. That they may all be one. That the Advocate is more powerful than the Adversary. 
To be saved, you must have the faith that the Roman Pontiff offers you, the confession of Peter that the pope keeps present in the world through his office. Yes, absolutely. You must believe in the Incarnate Son of God, and love Him and keep fidelity to Him as far as you are instructed. You must pursue Him, like Peter, leaping naked into the sea and swimming ashore to confess your sins, confess your belief in His power to forgive you, to forgive your enemies, to make you love your enemies, and to heal you, and then eat the food He has prepared on the fire ( of the Holy Ghost), His flesh, His Sacred Heart, Himself, His very friendship, His Person.

Does that mean you must be ecclesially governed by the Roman Pontiff? It seems to me that if you arrive at the conclusion of the logic, but "go away sad" for "this is a hard saying, who can bear it?" then there is a problem. The New Law must arise in our hearts with joy and be taken up as a joyful cross "for my yoke is easy." It is not meant to be imposed. But it is a cross.

You must share the faith of the Roman bishop. I don't know if you have to be governed by him to be saved. But it does seem that when we see that his office was instituted by Christ to maintain the unity of His family, to safeguard the nature of the means of salvation, so that the means by which we are saved, namely the sacraments, will never be snuffed out, then it seems necessary, in the sense that it seems natural, that we must be ruled by the Roman bishop, too.

I don't know if we have to be ruled by him in order to be saved. It does seem that we mustn't rebel against him, knowing what his office is. 

The Eucharist is the center of the universal Christian faith. Everything serves that. And since the Roman bishop is the always-and-everywhere protector and provider of the sacraments, it seems natural to be in communion with him not only in spirit but in living as well.

In Scripture, all waters are manifestations of, and forebears and children of the primordial and apocalyptic waters of Baptism. The chaotic abysses of Genesis reappear in the Red Sea, and again rebel against God in the Sea of Galilee. Christ subdues them there through the faith of Peter. Peter alone walks across the chaotic, diseased waters, allowing his faith to place the waters under the Redeemer's dominion. The faith of Peter transforms fallen waves into the salt and water of Baptism. He submerges but is raised up. To be baptised, you are by necessity with Peter because there is no one else out there on the waves but you, Christ, and Peter.

To be saved you must have the faith and confession of St. Peter. It seems only just to have Peter also.


There are not 'two ends' of marriage

Using Benedict XVI's hermeneutic of worship one could stumble upon a new articulation of matrimony.
Jettison the terminology of 'two ends', which are obfuscatory (as Dietrich von Hildebrand said) and inadequate to describe marriage.

There is one end to any sacrament: worship, union with God.
Sex is the liturgy of the sacrament of matrimony.
It is the act of worship.
Therefore we look for its 'work', its 'opus'.

For the Mass, it is the re-presentation of Calvary.
For Matrimony it is the re-presentation of Genesis, the creation of the image of God.
The fruit of the Mass is communion with Jesus, in which is the fruit of the communion of believers.
The fruit of Matrimony is the community of spouses.

So there is ONE end: union with God
This is achieved through the the liturgy/opus/work of representing Genesis, i.e. begetting a baby.
The fruit of this work is the community of spouses.

Baptism would be the representation, too, of Calvary in which the creation of the new image of God is present in the baby.


Pope Francis a Rad Trad? The Pope of VENGEANCE!

No, he is not a rad trad, unfortunately (radical coming from radix, meaning 'back to the root, makes 'rad trad' a redundancy). His de-emphasis, so far, on worship precludes that. 

However in his ideas, even the ones that strike many of us as modernist, he might actually be a shrewd cutting edge presentation of the traditional faith.

When he says we mustn't focus on abortion, sodomy, and contraception, to the exclusion of focusing on unemployment, poverty, the bereft elderly, etc., he is in fact teaching from the Catechism OF TRENT.

There are 4 sins that, according to Trent, cry to heaven for vengeance. See this post by Taylor Marshall.

Francis is simply reminding us that we will be damned not ONLY because we murder our innocents and sterilize ourselves, but because we steal from the worker and ignore the widow, dishonor our parents, and fail the fatherless.

And honestly these are the sins in which everyone indulges, not just the non-Catholics. The latter two sins are the real danger within the Church.

Thank God the Church has finally begun to purify herself of the ambiguity towards abortion, contraception, and sodomy that we saw in the 70's, 80's, and 90's.

We haven't begun (except for Dorothy Day and other un-heeded thinkers) to purge our laxity in economics, however. 

While most Catholics know that we mustn't abort, sterilize, and sodomize (even if the majority still do so), practically NO Catholics know that they are responsible for ending the latter two sins that cry to heaven for vengeance in their own lives.

Our economy has sucked us in, our personal and collective choices as a people have sucked us into a usurious 'free' market to which we can blithely pass the buck of responsibility for our neighbors. We use the laws of the market to justify sins that the bible clearly condemns, such as taking interest from our neighbor, inflating the currency in which the worker is paid, and the savings of the elderly. 

And we 'conservatives' have the nerve to be outraged by CRS and CCHD scandals? Have we offered a traditional alternative? 

We have not had the courage to consider radical alternatives to the American, Enlightenment way of economy.

When, we the Church, do wipe the sleep out of our eyes, and consider the need for charity, we too often deputize systems, big-government and big-economy systems. We rarely care for our neighbors, assuming systems will provide care. We too often donate to, and support causes or projects, rather than being with, eating with, living and working with our neighbors.

We need to return to a Biblical economy, one that has at it's purpose not individualism, but the communal worship of God. Cardinal Ratzinger has a good chapter on this in "The Spirit of The Liturgy". The land was given to the people so that they would have a place to worship God. Instead all to often Israel used the land as the place in which to pursue their interests, their livings. The Temple was the shrunken space left for God's rights and interests. The other 99% of the land was for natural and, eventually, unnatural pursuits.

God must reign everywhere, temple and land alike. The church is his throne, the land his home, his footstool, where he puts up his feet at the end of a long, hard day, and rests in the company of his children and sings a love song to his wife.

We must be in solidarity with every brother and sister, not just our family and friends. We have to love our enemies, not just as ourselves, but as Our Lord loves them, in penance, suffering, making their good our good. Willing the good for them, at the cost of our own penance and care.

We 'conservatives' have been complacent about the sins that cry to heaven for vengeance. That we have erected our own culture of vengeance--wars against terrorism, punishments against criminals-- is a hypocrisy God can overlook only because of His great mercy and care for us.

Pope Francis is right. The great evil of our time is the abuse of the widow and the fatherless. And our collective fraud against the laborer. We must purge interest-taking from our lives. We must visit the widows, the single mothers, the victims of divorce, the fatherless children. We must protect children from abuse. We must honor our parents and care for them, and be humble to them.

Fr. Vincent McNabb had several chapters in his book on social teaching saying much the same as Francis: that the Church must proclaim the necessity of the natural law, the goodness of family life and matrimony, but that she must likewise proclaim her social teaching. 

He said it is alot to ask of people living in city apartments, on small wages, working long hours, and most inhuman of all, bereft-- because of our individualistic, mobile, rootless, career-centered, option intoxicated economy-- of community support.

Francis is saying much the same. To convert youth away from temptations of abortion, contraception, fornication, etc. (and to heal the temptations of married people to adultery, divorce, contraception, etc.) we must live rooted, Christian communities, supporting one another, building each other homes, helping each other in times of need, employing one another, godparenting, etc., sharing, welcoming the stranger and sojourner as Christ. To 'restore tradition' we must honor our father and mother, not 'retire' them from family life and governance, not consign them to the system. 

Our homes and parishes must restore the tradition of hospitality. As Francis said, the Church is a 'field hospital' for the walking wounded. The domestic Church is where those wounded souls are sent to convalesce.


Cherish Your Innocence

Pro-life work is the protection of innocents, and the work of examination of conscience. To be pro-life is to examine one's conscience, asking: do I cherish innocence? Do I love the innocent above all things?

What gets my respect: cynical worldly-wise cosmopolitanism, or sincere innocence?

Even 'beauty' is an inadequate articulation for innocence. Innocence has the preciousness, the vulnerability, and small fragility of eidelweiss, but like eidelweiss is enthroned on mountains. Suited to the heights.

Crowned with its own power and, in the end, its vindication over artifice, insincerity, and plotting manipulation, over sloth and mediocrity.

One of the many pro-life works, I submit to you, is singing. 

Singing together, particularly folk music, protects innocence, and cultivates it. Grown men singing together? Moreover, singing a song the refrain of which is:

"Ah dee doo, ah dee doo dah day. Ah dee doo, ah dee day dee. He whistled and he sang, 'til the green woods rang! And he won the heart of a lady."


"God bless America! Land that I love! Stand beside her, and guide her, through the night with the light from above."

Simplicity and abandonment of artifice are good for men. Moderating our damnable self-awareness and self-importance.

Singing together protects what innocence you have, and can even restore you to innocence. Especially when you sing with friends, who know you and have forgiven you, innocence is undeservedly restored. It is difficult to be forgiven, and to have the humility to accept innocence again from Our Lord, because we don't deserve to have it returned. Our friends know we are not innocent in ourself, and that our innocence is entirely their gift and the gift of Christ. To return to singing together, indebted so to their compassion and solidarity, is humiliating in the creative sense. Man, when he has built himself up falsely, must be made low in the sense that he is made to see the interior reality. His indigence of soul. Then his friends can help Christ raise him along with Him.

It is hard to sing with those who know your faults, but this is the best singing because it can never again become the farce that pop music is. You can never again be puffed up. You can only enter into what your friends offer, and work your way into innocence again, in fear and trembling. It takes humility to allow yourself to feel innocent again, when you are forgiven, remembering this innocence is always Christs, and to an extent the innocence of your friends who forgive you.

Those who know me know well that I am not the catalyst for innocence in our band. I have had to be converted over many years to really see what innocence requires. The singing always had the possibility, though, for Christ to use it. It was waiting to be a means by which He would give me His innocence, if I knelt and whispered, 'depart from me, Jesus, for I am a sinful man.' Watching the words that my friends were speaking, singing so that each one of us would be heard, listening so as to harmonize, relying on the greater skill of others to support my effort.

In thinking about our singing, I began to realize how little I cherish my own innocence, or respect the innocence of others. I began to realize, even that I unconsciously esteem people based less on their innocence than on their cleverness or attractiveness, or their charisma, or the pleasure of their company.

I must cherish innocence. It must have my respect, not in the conceptual way, and especially not in a patronizing way. I must esteem it as my sinful nature would esteem one with clever worldly competence, ability, and power.

I must root out all in me that is cynical and does not protect the innocence of others. All words, all the ideas I suggest, all my conversation, all my songs, all my arguments, all my ideas must bow before the innocence of the other person. Their innocence is the property of God, and I must never trespass there again.
I shouldn't use curse words where others can hear them. I shouldn't laugh at T.V. shows that lampoon innocence, or snicker too worldly-wise at weakness. There is a big difference between sighing with affectionate patience at our foibles, and being entertained by mediocrity and even sin.

Most of all, I shouldn't scandalize others, not even in 'educating' them on the 'real world'. I have in the past been a source of too much reality, if by that you mean mediocrity and sin, and that shames me. Everyone knows about it but forgives. Accepting innocence given, and making that innocence your own leaves you always indebted and the worldly-wise and proud can never do it. It means you can never be cynical towards others again.

And when we are innocent or have had innocence given back to us, we must protect it.


The Importance of Our Custom of Altar Boys: "Husbands Love Your Wives, As Christ Loves His Church"

    Our parish families find themselves in the frustrating situation of being without pastors. Too often today parish churches are being closed. This is a call to come together, as the Apostles did after Pentecost, in prayer with our Blessed Mother.  We will rise to the challenges that this loss brings—and it is a loss, for the ordinary life of Christians is to have a home parish in which to worship with their spiritual father, the pastor.  The Holy Spirit will enable us to rise to the challenges if we ask Him.

     We must ask The Holy Spirit to open our hearts to His answers. This frustrating situation calls for our conversion. It asks us to examine the road we have taken for decades as a parish and as a Church that led us to have such few spiritual fathers, so few priests. And not just sacramental priests, but so few fathers in the home, such challenges to motherhood, such neglect of children and their souls.

    There is not enough time here to examine all of the cultural mistakes we have made that led us to have fewer and fewer priests, and ultimately fewer and fewer Christians.

    But we can look at one part of the bad culture, the bad way of life, we have been living, that has led to our vocational breakdown. 

    We men have rejected the way of life for which we were created by Our Father, to which we are called by Our Lord Jesus Christ.

     When fathers step forward and suffer for their families, when men have the courage to be keep faith, when men live their God-given vocation to be fathers and husbands, servants of their brides and children, the culture is strong. The Church is strong.
When bishops, priests step forward and are strong leaders, who fast, suffer, do penance for their children, who protect their bride, and teach their children to love their Mother, the culture is strong, and the Mother, the Church is strong. Spiritual Fathers, Spiritual Husbands do this by fasting, penance, prayer, and by the love-poetry that is reverent, loving liturgy.

    A zealous team of altar boys, with a strong esprit de corps is one of the fundamental ways to rebuild our parish, and return our Church from its current vocational breakdown.

    It teaches our boys and young men the discipline of Spiritual Fatherhood. It is the natural capstone of such work as the boy-scouts or sportsmanship. These cultivate the good natural husbandry in young men. In serving Holy Mass, our young men take these natural virtues and grow them through the discipline of God’s service into spiritual husbandry, into Christ-like manhood.

    In serving Holy Mass, our boys learn humility, teamwork, and discipline, as in any good work. But in proximity to the sacred mysteries, and hopefully in proximity to a devout priest, they learn that Christ must be at the heart of their manhood. That He is the Lord, their God. They learn that they must love God with their whole heart, their whole mind, their entire soul, and all their strength. They learn that the greatest enemy they must convert is their own pride. In the liturgy, they learn the love-poetry of their Mother, the Church, and their greatest hopes become united with her. God willing, they become priests, to fast, and pray for their family the Church. Or, God willing, they bring the women with whom they fall in love to their Mother, the Church, to ask her to bless their new wives and mothers and children with the love and power of Her sacraments and worship.
 To plant the seeds for a time when all Christian vocations are strong again we must maintain such traditions as men serving at the altar. We must bring our men into proximity to the service of the altar so they can learnto suffer and to lead like Christ. We cannot abandon this time-tested way. It will bear fruit not only in vocations, so that, God willing, we will one day never lack for pastors; it will bear fruit in the vocations of all families, as our boys are raised up to become spiritual heads of domestic churches. Glory Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto