Thursday, December 31, 2015

Thoughts on conscience by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki:

It is important to set the record straight about some incorrect statements made by John Freml in his letter to the editor (December 21, 2015). He notes that Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago has said that people in “irregular” situations, such as those who are divorced and civilly remarried and those who are in same-sex government marriages, should work with a spiritual director to come to a decision “in good conscience” about receiving Holy Communion.
Of course, those who are in “irregular situations” should talk to a qualified spiritual director or a priest in the context of sacramental confession, but forming a “good conscience” means that they will recognize and repent of their sins, resolve to reform their lives in accord with Christ’s teachings and receive absolution in the Sacrament of Reconciliation before receiving Holy Communion.
According to the canon law of the Catholic Church, Canon 916 directs those “conscious of grave sin” to refrain from receiving Holy Communion. Individuals must form their consciences in accord with Church teaching. Conscience assesses how a person’s concrete action in a given situation accords with Church teaching — not to determine whether one agrees with or accepts Church teaching in the first place.
Canon 915, however, in contrast with Canon 916, directs ministers of Holy Communion to withhold the Sacrament, not from “sinners” per se (since no one can read the state of another person’s soul), but rather, from those who “obstinately persist in manifest grave sin.” In Catholic tradition, attempting marriage following a civil divorce without a declaration of nullity and entering a “same-sex marriage” are examples of the kind of gravely wrong public action that require ministers not to admit to Holy Communion those who “obstinately persist in manifest grave sin” under Canon 915.
When withholding holy Communion from those whose conduct is described in Canon 915, a minister is not assessing personal “worthiness,” but rather, is acting in accord with an age-old sacramental discipline designed to protect both the Sacrament from the risk of possible sacrilege and the faith community from the harm of scandal caused by someone’s public conduct that is contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Thus, when Mr. Freml says that people may receive Holy Communion in such cases “even when the church hierarchy says that they should not,” this is simply not true. It is true that Jesus welcomes everyone. But as Jesus said at the last supper, so we say in the Eucharistic prayer at Mass, Jesus poured out his blood “for you and for many,” since not everyone accepts what Christ offers, just as Judas did not accept what Christ offered him.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Learning to Love.

Maybe one way of learning how to show love to our husbands, our wives, our children and neighbors, is to begin by saying it to God. Surely the rest will follow.

"It is our part to seek, His to grant what we ask; ours to make a beginning, His to bring 
it to completion; ours to offer what we can, His to finish what we cannot."
St. Jerome

Be not afraid to tell Jesus that you love Him; even though it be without feeling, this is the way to oblige Him to help you, and carry you like a little child too feeble to walk.
St. Therese of Lisieux

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

On Solitude and Loneliness

morning prayer

Solitude is not loneliness and loneliness is not simply being alone.
Loneliness is a condition of the heart, not the circumstances of life. When one is lonely there is a lack of knowing love in the depth of the human heart. Loneliness is a symptom of the yawning absence at the foundation level of each human person. It is an unhappiness at being alone which grows into a restless search for something–we know not what.
So we spend an enormous amount of time, money and energy trying to fill that gap. We try to fill it with entertainment, drugs, sex, possessions, family, friends, career. In a multitude of ways we try to fill that gap, then when all those things are over the gap is still there because we never succeeded in filling it because we were trying to satisfy a hunger with the wrong thing.
Feeding the hunger for love with everything else but love is like trying to nourish your physical hunger with anything else but food. You will not make hunger go away by drinking water or taking pills or doing exercise or sitting still and taking deep breaths and telling yourself you are not hungry.
You need food.
So your heart also needs Love. I capitalize “Love” because I am not referring to human love, (although that helps to fill the gap). I am referring to the Divine Love. We are made for God. We hunger for God’s love and that is the only thing that will satisfy the hunger.
Loneliness is the deprivation of the knowledge of that Divine Love. That’s why you can be lonely in a crowd. That’s why you can be lonely at a party. That’s why you can be lonely in a family. That’s why you can be lonely in a marriage.
The monastic life (and the word comes from monos–to be alone) is a witness to the truth that the human person is able to be solitary but not alone. The photograph is of a Carthusian monk–hermits who live the most complete life of solitude as hermits.
The solitary hermit has learned that he can live in complete peace with no one but God. This is the witness the hermit gives to the whole church. He says to me and he says to you–“See, I am a living illustration of the truth that God will supply all of your needs according to his riches in glory!” (Philippians 4:19) The hermit says, “See, I live in this cell with nothing but God. I am a living witness to the truth that you do not need all that ‘stuff’ in your life to make you happy. I am happy with nothing but God!”
Finally, the hermit is a living witness that the follower of Jesus Christ needs never to be lonely. We may be solitary, but we do not need to be lonely. We can move out of loneliness by developing a life of prayer, and through the life of prayer we will learn that “He who has God is lacking in nothing.”

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Did the Second Vatican Council Accomplish What It Set Out to Do?

The media had very little impact on Vatican I, but by Vatican II, you have a full-blown media blast. There was no planning or provision for dealing with this at the Vatican. The secular media took tremendous interest in the Council and did a tremendous amount to interpret what the Council was about. Bishops participating in the Council got more information from outside (from the media) than from inside the Council. This was a very unfortunate situation. There was no provision for the Council to communicate within itself.
The way the media covered the Council built up a lot of push behind the things the secular media wanted. The things they were for received a tremendous amount of publicity and consideration. They were cheered on.
The secular media, in general, have been, increasingly in my lifetime, not in the business of reporting, but in promoting. They’re trying to bring about change in the world, rather than being concerned primarily with accuracy. I think they were very skillful in “playing up” people. Promoting the “right” ideas became a very big thing, and if you disagreed with what they considered the “right” ideas, you didn’t get much coverage; the media didn’t mention it. If you had a good argument, you never heard anyone repeat it. Even the telling of the story was a falsification, because the arguments were over-simplified and important points left out.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Coming of Advent: By Fr. Gerald E. Murray

Reading Christopher Dawson’s writings in college left a lasting impression upon me. The great historian, a convert to Catholicism, helped me understand the Christian sense of history. The pagan notion of time, and thus history, is an endless, circular repetition of events – similar to the annual cycle of the seasons. Yet this repetitive way of interpreting reality imprisons man in a pointless round. Where are we heading if there is no end point to time, just a constant replay involving a changing cast of characters who come and go?
Christian revelation, of course, solves this dilemma. Creation has a beginning and an end. Christ is the Alpha and the Omega. Our world and our lives come from Him, and our journey through life is a quest both to walk with Him at all times (“I am with you always, to the close of the age,” Mt 28:20), and to find Him as our merciful judge when our days on earth come to their end (“Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world,” Mt 25:34).
Given this linear understanding of history, stretching from the creation to the redemption and reaching fulfillment on the Last Day, our place in time and space is relatively easier to figure out. We want to be in that great procession of pilgrims which is the Church. God has put us on this earth at the time of his choosing to accomplish His purposes. Our duty is to seek his will as we look forward to seeing him face to face either at the moment of our death, or at his Second Coming on the Last Day, if we live to see that day.
Seeking to do God’s will involves repetition of many good acts: prayers, sacrifices, reception of the sacraments, good works and kind deeds, especially towards the poor. That holy cycle of repetition is carried out in the perspective of our journey in time towards our goal, Christ. The Church has given us the Christian year as the organizing principle of our daily efforts to be with Christ, now and forever. We contemplate and celebrate Christ’s life in the liturgical calendar. The Church repeats this cycle, year after year, to instruct and guide us on how to journey towards the eternal Jerusalem. This cycle of days and years is not endless and self-contained. It is directed towards the Last Day, when the Lord will return.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops reminds us [1]: “The Advent season is a time of preparation that directs our hearts and minds to Christ’s second coming at the end of time and also to the anniversary of the Lord’s birth on Christmas. The final days of Advent, from December 17 to December 24, focus particularly on our preparation for the celebrations of the Nativity of our Lord (Christmas).”
Madonna del Parto by Piero della Francesca, c. 1455 [Museo della Madonna del Parto, Monterchi, Italy][2]
Madonna del Parto by Piero della Francesca, c. 1455 [Museo della Madonna del Parto, Monterchi, Italy]
The first part of Advent directs our thoughts to the second coming of Christ on the Last Day. Thus we begin our Christian year mediating upon the end of time. We walk now with the hidden Christ in order to be with Him when He will come to judge the living and the dead. That hidden Christ, in whom we believe though we have not seen him, was born in Bethlehem a little over 2,000 years ago. He was once seen by humble, pious men who were sent to the manger by the angels. Those same angels will herald his return when all “will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” (Mt 24:30)
The second part of Advent directs our thoughts to the birth of Him who fulfills all the prophecies given to the people of Israel. The awesome reality of the Incarnation calls for our full attention. Which brings me back to Dawson, particularly his observation that every day is a dress rehearsal for the Second Coming. That really captures the Christian sense of time and history. We are always to be ready to greet the Lord at his return. No one knows the day or the hour (Mt 24:36), but we do know that He will come.
Advent is a strong reminder that we are supposed to be ready to meet Christ. The penitential nature of the season (witness the violet vestments and no Gloria at Mass) teaches us that sin, and the habit of sin, need to be addressed by each of us. We best honor the birth of the Savior by making ourselves ready to meet him on the Last Day, which means seeking his pardon of our sins and his grace to live better as his true followers. A good confession of our sins during Advent is a most pleasing gift to the Christ Child; the absolution of our sins is Christ’s gift to those who long to see his face.
But is any of this is reflected in the way most Catholics nowadays observe Advent? Our vestigially Christian, media-dominated culture has banished most references to Christmas from the public square in America, leaving us with the consumerist creed of buy, buy, and buy. The popular celebration of the feast of the Incarnation has degenerated into spending lots of money to celebrate “the holidays.”
Advent is meant too remind us that the fitting celebration of God’s coming among us demands that we do penance and pray more. This is the necessary path to follow if we want to be truly ready for Christ’s Second Coming, and if we are to honor his birth in Bethlehem with the spirit of adoration shown by the shepherds and the Magi. Sharing gifts on Christmas is a way to imitate God’s supreme gift of His Son on Christmas. As we look forward to that celebration of God’s love at Christmas, let us re-consider the importance of Advent. The dress rehearsal is now.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Summer improvements

The walls are all covered with osb now.

There is now a partial wall on the open side of the loft, for safety.

A fire in the hearth.

Ships ladder added; much safer than an ordinary ladder.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

“The Church Cannot Paper Over Sin Under the Guise of Mercy”

Proposals that the church should invite those in irregular marriages to receive Communion, even after some act of penance or discussion with a priest in the “internal forum,” would dismiss the needs of children in order to satisfy the desires of adults. It confuses the little souls that the church is responsible for forming…
…What children need is for the church to stand with them and to speak the truth about what their parent or parents have done. As Catholics, we understand that God’s judgment is a sign of his mercy and love, especially the judgment of those actions that have destructive consequences for the people we love. Lest we forget, encouraging repentance and reparation for our wrongs toward others is for the good of our souls and for the well being of those around us.
And this brings us to our main concern. We are not bitter young people who fear change or want to see parents in irregular unions punished. On the contrary, we love our parents and want them to go to heaven. As the church is the instrument of healing for broken and wounded souls, we pray that by being excluded from the Eucharist they will recognize the gravity of their sins and seek repentance.
We do not believe, however, the church can fulfill this responsibility by papering over sin under the guise of mercy. Mercy and love must be lived in truth. If they are not, they become merely patronizing sentiments and ultimately do not have the effect of bringing people closer to Christ. To be a true field hospital in battle, we must come with medicine, not just bandages.
Based on our own experience, as well as observing our peers of all stripes and backgrounds, we have found the clarity of the church’s witness on questions of marriage and sexuality, including the theology of the body, to be transformative, life giving and healing. From those with same-sex attraction to those caught up in the hook-up culture, the splendor of the truth—coupled with friendships and relationships that help people live this truth and explore paths of healing—can give new life.


Saturday, November 7, 2015

Suppressing Awareness Regarding Breast Cancer

 The late 19th and early 20th century Italian doctor and saint, Joseph Moscati, knew what it was like to live a life of science as a man of faith in a hostile culture. His counsel should be broadcast widely today as it applies to those from all walks of life:

Love the truth, show yourself as you are, without pretenses and fears. . .and if the truth causes you persecution, accept it, and if it causes you some torment, bear it. And if for the sake of truth you should sacrifice yourself and your life, be strong in your sacrifice.

That timeless pearl of wisdom is really the only way to proceed, given that some interpret the truth as an attack on their very dignity, or what they hold dear. They may not be prepared to budge, even if they hear it said that moral truth is essential to finding real happiness and peace.

Matthew Hanley

Monday, October 12, 2015

A Move.

Because my main hermitage is inaccessible during the harsher winter months I also have a place apart from it. These picture document a move from the farmhouse to a smaller place on the edge of a very small village in Manitoba. Here is a picture of the main hermitage:

Main Hermitage

Sunrise on the farm hermitage

More sunrise

Getting set to move

Farm view

Farm view

New cell.

View from new cell

View from new cell

Thursday, October 8, 2015

On Solitude.

Saint Bruno at the Cinema 
Curiously, Saint Bruno, the father of those who love solitude, found himself very much in the media over the past decade. And where? In the literary and film worlds! A film on the Carthusian life, shaped by Saint Bruno fourteen centuries ago, drew crowds of movie-goers. The film, produced by German cinematographer, Philip Groening, is a three-hour documentary with no spoken words. Appropriately enough, the film is called Die Grosse Stille, The Great Silence. The only sound in the film is that of daily life in the Charterhouse and of the Latin Gregorian Chant of the monks. The astonishing success of the film says, I think, more about the world’s thirst for silence and people’s readiness to accept a radical witness to the primacy of God, than it does about life in the Charterhouse.
Saint Bruno at the Bookstore
At about the same time, a book on Carthusian life appeared in the secular press. Written by Nancy Klein Maguire, a woman married to a former Carthusian, the book is called An Infinity of Little Hours: Five Young Men and Their Trial of Faith in the Western World’s Most Austere Monastic Order. The book became hugely popular. Again, this suggests that at very deep level, and not always consciously, people thirst for what is not of this world. “Not as the world gives do I give to you” (Jn 14:27).
Stat Crux Dum Volvitur Orbis
The Order founded by Saint Bruno has never been reformed because it was never deformed. Carthusian observances and customs remain largely unchanged. The motto of the Order is, Stat crux dum volvitur orbis, “The Cross stands still while the world spins.” Precisely because the world is weary of change, it is attracted by what is changeless, timeless, and radically faithful to tradition.
Hidden in the Heart of the Church
The Carthusian vocation is extremely rare. Countless men and women have tried life in a Charterhouse and found themselves, after a few months or, even after several years, like Jonah cast from the belly of the whale, once again on the shore of the world. And yet, from one generation to the next, the Order remains: a living organism, hidden in the heart of the Church, pulsating with the eternal rhythm of a deathless love.
Today’s feast of Saint Bruno obliges us to look more closely at the place of solitude in our own lives. There are different kinds of solitude. There is the elected aloneness of the consecrated solitary: a person’s free and conscious choice to live his life alone with God and for God alone. Sometimes this is lived within the canonical framework of an established Order such as the Carthusians. At other times it is lived outside that framework in obedience to an approved personal rule. Of those who aspire to this choice, a great number fall short of fulfilling it.
The Wounded Heart
The solitary life demands a maturity that comes only from suffering. Sometimes suffering causes one to shut down and close in upon oneself. In such a case, solitude is a particularly dangerous form of self-indulgence. Paradoxically, when suffering breaks one’s heart and opens it to God, it is the best preparation for the solitary life. One who goes into solitude without having had his heart broken, or wounded, or pierced through, cannot remain there, because the transformation of solitude into communion with God passes necessarily, and always, through a heart that has been opened by suffering, through a heart that remains open because it is wounded by love. Perhaps this is why true solitaries find themselves drawn to the mystery of the Heart of Jesus wounded by our sins. The Heart of Christ, once opened by the soldier’s lance, remains eternally open.
Our Lady of Solitude
There is the solitude of the widow. After years of a shared life, this solitude can be a terrible thing. It can also become a tremendous grace. The heart wounded by the loss of a beloved spouse can become a heart wounded by desire for communion with God and open to the sorrows of others. In the solitude of the widow the Virgin Mary holds a special place. Spanish-speaking Catholics have the devotion to Nuestra SeƱora de la Soledad, Our Lady of Solitude. The widow who acknowledges Mary and welcomes Mary into her aloneness, especially through the prayer of the Rosary, discovers in her company a hidden spring of ceaseless prayer, a source of courage and of hope.
Other Solitudes
There is also the solitude of the person who never quite fits in anywhere. There is the solitude of one repeatedly disappointed in love. There is the solitude of the child who, having suffered rejection or ridicule, knows a terrible loneliness at school and in the midst of his peers. There is the solitude of the person who never feels at home with her co-workers. There is the solitude of the person who, because he or she is afflicted and blessed with too great a sensitivity, cannot live in community without risking serious emotional damage. There is the solitude of one whose physical infirmities oblige him to live outside the arena of normal daily life. There is also solitude within marriages. There is solitude in friendships. There is solitude in community life. There is the solitude of the diocesan priest — of the Parish Priest in his presbytery and of the Curate in his flat — a solitude made all the more terrible that it exists alongside the relentless demands of pastoral service. There is solitude in the marketplace and in the midst of a whirlwind of social activities.
The Aloneness That Poisons
All of these forms of aloneness, especially when they are suffered passively, can cause one to become bitter and cynical. They can lead to a permanent state of anger, manifesting itself in aggressiveness or in depression. They can lead to self-destructive addictions and destructive behaviour.
Solitude Sanctified
When does a solitude marked by absence become a solitude filled with presence? When, instead of suffering it passively, one accepts it consciously and generously and, after having said “Yes” to it, offers it to God as a chalice ready to be filled. Every emptiness, every loneliness, every void has a certain “Eucharistic potential.” There is no void, no emptiness, no absence that God cannot fill with His presence.
Thou Searchest Out My Path
Psalm 138 is the perfect prayer for one experiencing the pain of aloneness. “O Lord, thou hast searched me and known me! Thou knowest when I sit down and when I rise up; thou discernest my thoughts from afar. Thou searchest out my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways” (Ps 138:1-3). God does not spurn the prayer of one who, with a broken heart, asks Him to reveal Himself as the One who is more present to us than we are to ourselves. It is immensely consoling to know that in the light of the Face of Christ one has nothing to hide.
Marian Solitude
It is not by chance that Saint Bruno’s Carthusians and the other Orders of the Church most marked by solitude are the very ones marked by a strong and tender devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In a sense, Mary holds the key to every solitude inhabited by God. Mary holds the key to every solitude of adoration. A solitude consecrated to Mary becomes an experience not of absence, but of presence; not of emptiness, but of fullness; not of isolation, but of communion.
Our Lord has entrusted to His Mother the transformation of every loneliness into communion. “When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing near, he said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home” (Jn 19:26-27). Mary will not come into your solitude uninvited, but if you ask her, especially by praying her Rosary, she will be there, filling it with life, sweetness, and hope.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015



He shall sit alone, and he shall be still; for he raised himself above himself.
Lamentations 3:28.

*    *    *    *    *

Our abiding  presence in the desert is justified only when we are there for Jesus’ sake.

To enter really into the desert where we are called by God, we have a decisive choice to make: everything must be built on the Son of God, who came to put himself under the Father’s guidance in the solitude of the Judean desert.

Jesus is the source of life in the desert by the simple fact that he is, by nature, a luminous beacon, a focus of attraction for those whom the Father has placed in his interior school.

Walking in the desert is to advance in silence behind the Guide. It is to follow Jesus.
Carthusian Matins.

*    *    *    *    *

Although, in retrospect, I have had this calling since I was a little child, it was later in life that I understood and embraced it. Early in the last course of Nathanael (2009-2012) I wrote Archbishop LeGatt telling him of my vocation to silence and solitude and that lead to an opening up of a period of discernment with him. As part of the discernment process I had to write a plan of life which might simply be said to be a defined spirituality and a schedule of activities over a day, week, and year of my prayer life in the context of the Liturgical year in the life of a desert dweller. Although a schedule might be the first thing one might look at for understanding who a hermit is, it is not the core. A hermits primary relationship is with God; from there everything else flows. Silence and solitude, along with the vows one takes, in my case in Archbishop LeGatt’s hands, are means to support and express this relationship.

When all is said and done, with silence and solitude doing its work, what is left of a person is God’s love for everyone in the world; indeed, for His whole creation. A hermit’s Plan of Life is not meant to be the final say in how to approach our Lord but it is a tool to help the hermit keep his eye on the goal in the present moment.

In time the fullness of transcendence is gradually understood to be immersion into the fullness of reality. It is not a floating around in a mystical mist or a “high” of some description. But it is being fully involved in the present moment as it comes and goes. Mystics seek God as He is; most others seek God as they imagine Him to be! A hermit’s job, then, is not to produce anything but be a witness  to the primary relationship in humanity’s life: with God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To move past the understanding part, for in the end, we will never understand God completely, and to grasp in faith God’s invitation to each of us and be willing to loose control in embracing His will.

Simplicity in living one’s life flows from the acceptance the evil in our world. This evil is also present in our own hearts and, allowing God access so that healing, in time, can take place. This detachment and offering of self to God opens up a hermit to be an anonymous conduit for the love of God. It is a reframing of the classic question of WHY, to the answer WHO: our Triune God.

Some Notes

I retired from the working world at the age of 60 to try out the Hermit life style and live on a small pension. I celebrate all of the Liturgical Offices (Breviary) as well as Lectio Divina (reflective reading) including time for various prayer forms. That includes intercessions (send to ) for the Diocese of St. Boniface which I am attached too having taken my vows in Archbishop LeGatt’s hands. As far as I know, I am the only official hermit in Manitoba.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Fauna and cabin.

 Honeysuckle near the hermitage

Black Eyed Susans near the hermitage.

Thistle near the hermitage.

Hermitage deck looking South.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Cardinal Francis Arinze on Radical Discipleship and the Consecrated Life

The Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments discusses the origin, nature, and purpose of the consecrated life.

After growing up in Nigeria and being named the youngest bishop in the world at the age of 32, Cardinal Francis Arinze attended the final session of the Second Vatican Council. Following his elevation to cardinal by Pope John Paul II, he was appointed President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, a position he held until 2002, when he became the first African Cardinal to head a Vatican office, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2002-08). His biography, God's Invisible Hand, was published by Ignatius Press, as were his books The Layperson’s Distinctive Role, and Meeting Jesus and Following Him.

Cardinal Arinze's most recent book, also published by Ignatius Press, is Radical Discipleship: Consecrated Life and the Call to Holiness (2015), released in conjunction with the Year of Consecrated Life, which began on November 30, 2014 and will conclude with the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple on February 2, 2016.

After growing up in Nigeria and being named the youngest bishop in the world at the age of 32, Cardinal Francis Arinze attended the final session of the Second Vatican Council. Following his elevation to cardinal by Pope John Paul II, he was appointed President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, a position he held until 2002, when he became the first African Cardinal to head a Vatican office, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2002-08). His biography, God's Invisible Hand, was published by Ignatius Press, as were his booksThe Layperson’s Distinctive Role, and Meeting Jesus and Following Him.

Cardinal Arinze's most recent book, also published by Ignatius Press, is Radical Discipleship: Consecrated Life and the Call to Holiness (2015), released in conjunction with the Year of Consecrated Life, which began on November 30, 2014 and will conclude with the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple on February 2, 2016.
Cardinal Francis Arinze, at the Vatican in a February 2013 photo, is the author of a new book, "Radical Discipleship: Consecrated Life and the Call to Holiness". (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Cardinal Arinze corresponded this past week withCatholic World Report about the meaning and uniqueness of consecrated life, the roots and development of consecrated life, and some of the challenges facing embracing and living the consecrated life today.

CWR: In the Introduction to Radical Discipleship, you focus on how discipleship consists of accepting Jesus invitation, “Follow me.” In what unique ways is the consecrated life an embrace of the call to radical discipleship?

Cardinal Arinze: The consecrated life is an embracing of the call to radical discipleship, the call to follow Christ in a radical way, because the consecrated person takes the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. The life of Jesus was a model of the three virtues lived to an extraordinary degree of commitment. All followers of Christ are indeed called to live three three virtues, but not in the same way. Consecrated people live the three virtues as vows binding them for their whole lives.

CWR: In your previous book, The Layperson's Distinctive Role, you reflected on the role of the lay person and apostolate. How do the consecrated life and the life of the lay person differ, and how do the two compliment and enrich one another?

Cardinal Arinze: The call to follow Christ as a layperson and the call to follow him as a consecrated person differ in this, that a layperson is called to witness to Christ in the secular sphere, that is, in the family, in work and leisure, in politics and government, and in trade and commerce; whereas the consecrated person is called to live a life of sacrifice of marriage, seeking earthly goods and sacrifice of one's will, and thus show that the attraction of the things of God is stronger than all earthly considerations. The layperson marries, looks for wealth, and conducts his or her own life and strives to do all this with the spirit of Christ.

These two ways of life complement each other. They show us two ways of following Christ. The layperson shows how to use the things of this world and consecrated them to God's glory. The consecrated persons shows how to renounce them for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Christianity needs both ways of witnessing to Christ.

CWR: Along similar lines, how is consecrated life distinct from the lives of priests and bishops? What confusion sometimes exist about those differences?

Cardinal Arinze: The apostolate of priests and bishops is to celebrate the sacred mysteries, to preach the word of God, and to gather the people of God together in the parish and in the diocese. The vocation of the consecrated person is different. It is to offer to God the sacrifice of the three best things on earth by the three evangelical counsels or vows of chastity, poverty and obedience.
Sometimes the same person can be a priest and also a consecrated person. Examples are Jesuit, Franciscan or Carmelite priests. In the strict sense, a religious or consecrated person is not the same as a priest. The vocations are different. The Church needs both.

CWR: What are the biblical roots of the consecrated life, and has the Church's understanding of the consecrated life developed and deepened over the centuries?

Cardinal Arinze: The biblical roots of the consecrated life from the Old Testament are the lives of the prophets and the nazirites vowed to God (cf. Num 6:6-7). But more specifically it is the life and example of Jesus Christ in the New Testament that motivates the consecrated life. He lived chaste, poor, and obedient to an exceptional degree. He proposed such a way of life to those of his followers who were ready freely to embrace it: “There are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it” (Mt 19:12). “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me" (Lk 18:22). Jesus proposes: he does not impose the consecrated life as obligatory for any of his followers.

Yes, the Church's understanding of the consecrated life has developed and deepened over the centuries. The early Christian community shared their goods. The early Fathers of the Church praised the virgins who formed communities inspired by the Gospel. Saint Anthony of Egypt (251-355) went to live in the desert. Disciples followed. Monasteries grew up with saints Pachomius, Bernard, and Benedict as leaders. Saint Francis of Assisi inaugurated the consecrated life lived not in monasteries but among the people. Nearer our times, some religious congregations have been founded for the medical or educational service of the needy or to look after street children or orphans. The very title of the Roman Curia office which is charged with encouraging the consecrated life has changed in the last forty years from Congregation for Religious to Congregation for Institutes of the Consecrated Life and Societies of the Apostolic Life.

CWR: What is the origin of the three evangelical counsels, and how do they provide a foundation for the consecrated life?

Cardinal Arinze: The origin of the three evangelical counsels is the life and example of Christ. Lives vowed to God in chastity, poverty and obedience are ways of following Christ with radical adherence to his Gospel message. While Jesus invited all his followers to be perfect as their heavenly Father is perfect (cf Mt 5:48), he proposed even more demanding offers to those ready to sacrifice marriage, earthly goods and doing one's own will "for the sake of the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 19:12).

CWR: The number of men and women in consecrated life apparently peaked, in the West, in the 1950s, and then dropped dramatically following the Council. What were some of the reasons for that sudden shift? What has the situation been like in other parts of the world?

Cardinal Arinze: In the final analysis, only God's Providence can exhaustively explain why religious vocations rise or fall in place from time to time. In our weak human ways of explaining such developments we can say:
In Europe and North America the number of men and women in the consecrated life went up in the 1950s because people had come out of the sufferings of the Second World War and learned that things of this world are passing away, there was relative stability in society and life in the Church and the family was reasonably stable.

There was a big drop as from the end of the 1960s, not because of the Second Vatican Council, but because of the following developments in the Western world: the welfare state and greater abundance of the goods of this world; the so-called sexual revolution which was really sexual irresponsibility; problems raise by some communications media (especially the TV) which can do much good but also much harm; rapid spread of ideas good and bad; revolt against authority of all kinds especially as from 1968; freedom understood as liberty to do whatever one likes; and growing influence of materialism atheism, communism and secularism. There was also in some places a wrong interpretation of some decrees of the Second Vatican Council.

In Africa and Asia, consecrated vocations have been on the rise. Latin America is in-between the West and Africa. In Africa, in particular, the success of missionary evangelization work and the dynamism shown by the young local churches have meant the growth of larger seminaries and the yearly increase of consecrated men and women. Also helpful is the general good health of the family in Africa, although generalizations should be avoided.

CWR: You write that the consecrated life is prophetic and that it “challenges the current of life in society.” What are some examples of that prophetic quality? 

Cardinal Arinze: The consecrated life, when live authentically, can challenge the current of life in society in the following ways:

A life of vowed chastity is a proof that a life of continence is possible, with God's grace; it is a challenge against sexual irresponsibility, desecration of marriage, divorce mentality, and other sins against God's will for marriage and the family.

The vow of poverty challenges immoderate pursuit of earthly things, stealing, corruption in public life, idleness, and forgetfulness of the poor.

The vow of obedience challenges the abuse of authority, revolt against legitimate authority, selfishness in people in public service, and precipitation of tension, revolts, and wars.

A consecrated person who lives the three vows authentically is delivering a prophetic message to society.

CWR: What are the greatest challenges facing those living the consecrated life today? How can the laity help support and encourage their brothers and sisters living the consecrated life?

Cardinal Arinze: Some challenges facing those who live in the consecrated state are the following:

perseverance, ability to continue even when not sufficiently appreciated by people; constancy in the vowed life year after year; refusing to be carried away by the spirit of the world; and readiness to continue going against the current of life in the world of today. 

The laity can help, support and encourage their brothers and sisters living in the consecrated life in the following ways: prayer, advice, respect, working together at projects, encouraging their children or friends who are called to the consecrated life to embrace that vocation, and by donations in cash or kind.

 See here for the article.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Simplicity of Truth

God’s teaching, while rich in its depths for theologians, is remarkable in its simplicity for ordinary men. Simplex, the Latin word for simple, means “without fold”—one sheet or layer with nothing hidden under a fold. Complex in Latin means encircled, embraced, and enfolded—“with fold,” something not easily seen or understood. The Ten Commandments are straightforward and direct (without fold), not subtle, nuanced, or roundabout. What is complicated about “Thou shalt not commit adultery” and “Thou shalt not steal”? God’s moral law is explicit and lucid. What is incomprehensible about the Golden Rule or the Two Great Commandments: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”? While the Christian faith has profound mysteries that surpass human reason like the Trinity, the Resurrection and the Immaculate Conception and teaches in paradoxes that transcend logical reasoning (“He who is greatest among shall be your servant; whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted”), the moral law is explicit: adulterers and sodomites will not inherit the kingdom of God as St. Paul teaches. “The dictatorship of relativism” in modern thinking identified by Pope Benedict XVI produces the artful complication and obfuscation of truth that confounds the simple meaning of right and wrong.

reniWhat is simpler, the moral law that teaches that contraceptive acts are objectively sinful and inherently disordered or the ideology that argues that it is a subjective matter of individual conscience that varies from person to person and couple to couple? If the truth is simple and one, then evil is legion or many, a number of pieces of parts with no unity. The more exceptions, the more qualifications, the more distinctions—the more obscure the meaning. What is simpler, the Catholic teaching that abortion is an unspeakable evil that is always wrong or the reasoning of the Supreme Court that no one knows when life begins and that it is a private matter between a physician and patient? What is more intelligible, the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” or the argument in Roe v. Wade that killing a child in the womb is legal the first and second trimester but illegal in the third trimester except in the case of a threat to the health or life of the mother? Can anything ever be absolutely true or right if it is always mutating with more modifications? What is more luminously true, Christ’s teaching about divorce, “It was not so from the beginning,” or the legal sophistry that anyone at any time for any reason without any fault may divorce?

God does not speak in equivocal language, use technical or philosophical jargon, or communicate with specialized vocabulary. Christ often teaches with the words “Verily, verily, I say unto you,” that is, truly—that is, without any second guessing or confusion. The Beatitudes also have an unambiguous clarity: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” The innocent, the childlike, those without guile have a clear vision of the light of God. When the Word becomes Flesh in the miracle of the Incarnation, again God reveals Himself with the utmost visibility and light. When Christ asks Peter, “But who do you say I am?” Peter answer with undeniable certainty the self-evident truth: “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” The simplicity of truth means without confusion, complexity, equivocation, or doubt. Modernity, however, is notorious for what Melville in Moby Dick calls “bland deceits and civilized hypocrisies”—clever, sophisticated, intricate lies that torture the truth by burying it under layers of conflicting opinions, up to date reports, recent studies, scholarly research, recent articles, and repetitious propaganda.

Which is simpler, the Church’s teaching that all human life is sacred, precious, and of inestimable value, or eugenics theories and population control programs that only superior races, classes, or ethnic groups (the “thoroughbreds” and “the fit”) have a right to life and procreation? Which is grounded in common sense and right reason, the Church’s teaching that only God, the author of life and death, determines the moment that a person passes from this world or the freethinking that physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia are matters of personal choice with no reference to God? When every man decides for himself, then the name of evil, “legion,” exalts the chaos of the many opinions above the unity of the one truth. Which teaching is more luminous and based on the accumulated experience of the world, the idea that man is an image of God with a rational, moral, and spiritual nature—a person with inherent dignity and worth who possesses an inviolability of conscience—or the modern view that man is a product of evolution or creature of the state with no God-given rights, not even the freedom of conscience to reject dictates of government that contradict natural law or revealed religion?

What could be clearer than God’s commandment “Be fruitful and multiply,” and what is more self-evident than Nature’s design and God’s purpose for marriage in the exchange of love between man and woman? What could be possibly more perverse than reinventing the meaning of marriage and the family, the most universal of experiences? What could be more complicated than taking pills, resorting to implantations, and suffering tubal ligations and vasectomies with all their medical effects and consequences? What could be simpler than living a chaste, pure life that never risks sexually transmitted diseases or infects others with hepatitis or AIDS? What is more convoluted, unnatural, and irrational than high-risk, promiscuous behavior that invites suffering and tragedy? What is more sensible, planting seeds to bear fruit and engaging in acts that have a natural purpose or planting seeds and then killing the fruit to frustrate the act?

What is more simple and direct than the way God performs miracles: “Go, thy faith hath made thee well,”  “Take up your pallet and walk,” “Do you want to be healed?” God’s ways are not labored, devious, or bewildering. They are forthright expressions of divine power and supernatural intervention that serve a deep human need or answer a sincere prayer. In one simple act God multiplies the loaves and the fish to feed the five thousand.  In the marriage at Cana Christ makes a simple request (“Fill the jars with water”) and instantly performs the miracle of changing it to wine. In one word God heals: “Arise.” Who complicates everything more than modern man who takes a devious course and never a straight road; who resorts to a hundred measures when one will do; who needs cancer-causing pills, problematic surgeries, harmful abortions, and complicated procedures like in vitro fertilization and surrogate motherhood; and who relies on elaborate legal reasoning and artful rationalizations to make evil good and good evil? What could be more plainspoken than Christ’s unequivocal words, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”

Nature’s language and God’s word resound with simple Yes and No answers: Yes to life, No to death; Yes to the fruitfulness love, No to barren lovemaking; Yes to marriage, No to divorce; Yes to truth, No to lies. But sophisticated modern man who shuns those two simple words and their most basic meanings chooses complexity over simplicity. As Christ reminded Martha, “You are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful” (emphasis added). While modern man can think of endless ways of bypassing, circumventing, twisting, and reinventing unchanging moral truths and traditional norms, he cannot see that truth is one, simple, universal, and eternal—for all men, in all times, in all places, and in all cultures.

.Michell Kalpakgian, Ph.D

Sunday, March 29, 2015



Saint Peter's Square
24th World Youth Day
Sunday, 5 April 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Dear Young People,

Together with a growing multitude of pilgrims, Jesus had gone up to Jerusalem for the Passover. In the final stage of the journey, near Jericho, he had healed blind Bartimaeus, who called upon him as Son of David, pleading for mercy. Now – having received his sight – he had gratefully joined the group of pilgrims. At the gates of Jerusalem, when Jesus sat upon a donkey, an animal symbolizing the Davidic kingship, there spontaneously arose among the pilgrims the joyful conviction: It is He, the Son of David! Accordingly, they greet Jesus with the messianic acclamation: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”, and they add: “Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mk 11:9f.). We do not know exactly what the enthusiastic pilgrims imagined the coming kingdom of David would be like. But what about us, have we truly understood the message of Jesus, the Son of David? Have we grasped what is meant by the Kingdom of which He speaks during his interrogation with Pilate? Do we understand what it means to say that this Kingdom is not of this world? Or would we actually prefer that it were of this world?

In Saint John’s Gospel, after the account of the entry into Jerusalem, there follows a series of sayings in which Jesus explains the essential content of this new kind of Kingdom. On a first reading of these texts, we can distinguish three different images of the Kingdom in which the same mystery is reflected in a number of different ways. John recounts, first of all, that during the feast there were some Greeks among the pilgrims who “wanted to adore God” (cf. 12:20). Let us note the fact that the true intention of these pilgrims was to adore God. This corresponds perfectly to what Jesus says on the occasion of the cleansing of the Temple: “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations” (Mk 11:17). The true purpose of the pilgrimage must be that of encountering God; adoring him, and thus rightly ordering the fundamental relationship of our life. The Greeks are searching for God, their lives are a journey towards God. Now, through the two Greek-speaking Apostles, Philip and Andrew, they convey this request to the Lord: “We wish to see Jesus” (Jn 12:21). These are stirring words. Dear friends, we have gathered here for the same reason: we wish to see Jesus. With this end in view, thousands of young people travelled to Sydney last year. No doubt they will have had many different expectations in making this pilgrimage. But the essential objective was this: we wish to see Jesus.

Concerning this request, what did Jesus say and do at the time? It does not emerge clearly from the Gospel whether any meeting took place between those Greeks and Jesus. Jesus takes a much longer view. The essence of his response to those people’s request is this: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12:24). In other words: what matters here is not a brief conversation with one or two people who then return home. I will come, like a grain of wheat that has died and is risen, in a manner that is totally new and beyond the limits of the moment, to encounter the world of the Greeks. Through the resurrection, Jesus surpasses the limits of space and time. As the Risen One, he is journeying towards the vast horizon of the world and of history. Yes indeed, as the Risen One he goes to the Greeks and speaks with them, he shows himself to them in such a way that they who are far away become near, and it is in their language, in their culture, that his word is carried forward in a new way and understood in a new way – his Kingdom comes. Thus we can recognize two essential characteristics of this Kingdom. The first is that it comes by way of the cross. Since Jesus gives himself completely, then as the Risen One he can belong to all and become present to all. In the holy Eucharist, we receive the fruit of the grain of wheat that died, the multiplication of the loaves that continues to the end of the world and throughout all time. The second characteristic is this: his Kingdom is universal. The ancient hope of Israel is fulfilled: this Davidic kingship no longer has boundaries. It extends “from sea to sea” – as the prophet Zechariah says (9:10) – in other words, it embraces the whole world. Yet this is possible only because it is not a kingship of political power, but is based solely on the free adherence of love – a love which, for its part, is a response to the love of Jesus Christ who gave himself for all. I think that above all we must learn these two things over and over again – universality and catholicity. This means that no-one can propose himself, his culture, his generation and his world as an absolute. It means that we all have to accept one another, renouncing something of ourselves. Universality includes the mystery of the cross – going beyond ourselves, obeying the communal word of Jesus Christ in the communal Church. Universality is always a transcending of ourselves, a renunciation of something that is ours. Universality and the cross go together. Only thus is peace created.

The saying about the grain of wheat that dies is still located within Jesus’ response to the Greeks, in fact it is his response. Then, however, he goes on to formulate once again the fundamental law of human existence: “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (Jn 12:25). In other words, the one who wants to have his life for himself, living only for himself, keeping everything to himself and exploiting all its possibilities – is actually the one who loses his life. Life becomes boring and empty. Only by self-abandonment, only by the disinterested gift of the “I” in favour of the “you”, only in the “yes” to the greater life, the life of God, does our life also become broad and great. Thus this fundamental principle established by the Lord is ultimately identical to the principle of love. Love, in fact, means letting go of oneself, giving oneself, not wanting to possess oneself, but becoming free from oneself: not retiring into oneself – (what will become of me?) – but looking ahead, towards the other – towards God and towards the men that he sends to me. And once again, this principle of love, which defines man’s path, is identical to the mystery of the cross, to the mystery of death and resurrection that we encounter in Christ. Dear friends, perhaps it is relatively easy to accept this as the fundamental great vision of life. In practice, however, it is not a question of simply recognizing a principle, but of living according to the truth that it contains, the truth of the cross and resurrection. Hence, once again, a single great decision is not enough. It is certainly important, it is essential to dare to take the great fundamental decision once, to dare to utter the great “yes” that the Lord asks of us at a certain moment of our lives. But the great “yes” of the decisive moment in our life – the “yes” to the truth that the Lord puts before us – must then be won afresh every day in the situations of daily life when we have to abandon our “I” over and over again, placing ourselves at the Lord’s disposal when deep down we would prefer to cling to our “I”. An upright life always involves sacrifice, renunciation. To hold out the promise of a life without this constant re-giving of self, is to mislead. There is no such thing as a successful life without sacrifice. If I cast a glance back over my whole life, I have to say that it was precisely the moments when I said “yes” to renunciation that were the great and important moments of my life.

At the end of the passage, Saint John uses a modified form of Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Olives in his redaction of our Lord’s “Palm Sunday” sayings. First comes the statement: “my soul is troubled” (12:27). Here we see Jesus’ fear, amply illustrated by the other three evangelists – his fear before the power of death, before the whole abyss of evil that he sees and into which he must descend. The Lord suffers our fears together with us, he accompanies us through the final anguish into the light. Then, in John’s narrative, Jesus makes two petitions. The first, expressed only conditionally, is this: “What shall I say – Father, save me from this hour?” (12:27). As a human being, even Jesus feels impelled to ask that he be spared the terror of the passion. We too can pray in this way. We too can grumble before the Lord, like Job, we can present him with all the pleas that arise within us when we are faced with the injustice of the world and the difficulty of our own “I”. When we come before him, we must not take refuge in pious phrases, in a world of make-believe. Praying always also means struggling with God, and like Jacob, we can say to him: “I will not let you go, unless you bless me!” (Gen 32:26). But then comes Jesus’ second petition: “Glorify your name!” (Jn 12:28). In the Synoptics, it is expressed in another way: “Not my will, but yours be done!” (Lk 22:42). In the end, God’s glory, his lordship, his will, is always more important and more true than my thought and my will. And this is the essential point in our prayer and in our life: learning this right order of reality, accepting it intimately; trusting in God and believing that he is doing what is right; that his will is truth and love; that my life becomes good if I learn to adhere to this right order. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus are for us the guarantee that we can truly trust God. It is in this way that his Kingdom is realized.

Dear Friends! At the end of this liturgy, the young people of Australia will hand over the World Youth Day Cross to their counterparts from Spain. The Cross is on a journey from one side of the world to the other, from sea to sea. And we are accompanying it. With the Cross, we move forward along its path and thus we find our own path. When we touch the Cross, or rather, when we carry it, we touch the mystery of God, the mystery of Jesus Christ. The mystery that God so loved the world – us – that he gave his only-begotten Son for us (cf. Jn 3:16). We touch the marvellous mystery of God’s love, the only genuinely redemptive truth. But we also touch the fundamental law, the constitutive norm of our lives, namely the fact that without this “yes” to the Cross, without walking in communion with Christ day by day, life cannot succeed. The more we can make some sacrifice, out of love for the great truth and the great love, out of love for the truth and for God’s love, the greater and richer life becomes. Anyone who wants to keep his life for himself loses it. Anyone who gives his life – day by day in small acts, which form part of the great decision – that person finds it. This is the challenging, but also profoundly beautiful and liberating truth that we wish to enter into, step by step, as the Cross makes its journey across the continents. May the Lord bless this journey. Amen.

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