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FATIMA AND THE PROPHETIC DIMENSION OF THE AMORIS LAETITIA CRISIS

(Photo: Public Domain, U.S.A.)

“Each of us knows how important is the teaching which represents the central theme of this Encyclical and which is today being restated with the authority of the Successor of Peter. Each of us can see the seriousness of what is involved, not only for individuials but also for the whole of society, with the reaffirmation of the universality and immutability of the moral commandments, particularly those which prohibit always and without exception intrinsically evil acts” (Pope John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, no. 115)

“Since the Ascension God’s plan has entered into its fulfillment. We are already at ‘the last hour’. ‘Already the final age of the world is with us, and the renewal of the world is irrevocably under way….” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 670)

Since first writing this post nearly a year ago the crisis over Amoris Laetitia has only deepened and accelerated, and among those who view the papal exhortation as a “paradigm shift” in Catholic morality some are even invoking the document to the point of suggesting or implying that it might be permissible to approve of or bless homosexual unions in the Church (and it is not hard to anticipate that this idea will gain further momentum under the Amoris rationale). The whole idea seems to be that –  through a process of discernment – otherwise intrinsically evil acts can be justified and seen as good in God’s eyes (see AL 301-303, for instance).

Just in the last several weeks  I have read reports about a Vatican commission studying the possibility of modifying Humanae Vitae, of a Jewish member of the Vatican Academy for Life discussing possible exceptions that would justify abortion in special circumstances, and, of course, the continuing drama involving Cardinal Marx’s nuanced remarks pertaining to the possibility of blessing homosexual unions (regarding the blessing of such unions Marx said, “This I really have to leave up to the local pastor and the accompaniment of that person”). It should be noted, as a recent article by Maike Hickson pointed out, that Bishop Franz-Josef Bode, the Vice President of the German Bishops’ Conference, “has called for a discussion about the possibility of blessing homosexual relationships. He believes there to be ‘much [that is] positive’ in such relationships.” Of course, if the Pope simply said “this blessing is not possible,” as he most definitely should have a long time ago, the laity could be spared all the confusion and harm to the faith that results.

Just a few days ago I was reading that Cardinal Gerhard Müller, whom Pope Francis removed as Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, “rejects the notion of a ‘paradigm shift’ in Church teaching.” The article from CWN adds:  “In an unusual public disagreement among prominent cardinals, the former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith takes issue with the use of a term (“paradigm shift”) that was used by the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, with reference to Amoris Laetitia. Cardinal Müller says that term ‘seems to be a relapse into a modernist and subjectivist way of interpreting the Catholic faith’.” Frankly, the phrase “paradigm shift” seems to be a euphemism (or code words) for “new teaching” or, one might contend, good old-fashioned heresy (as Cardinal Muller seems to be implying).

Here in the United States Cardinal Cupich has begun conducting conferences for Bishops on the implementation of Amoris Laetitia (and Cardinal Cupich is fond of saying that Amoris Laetitia favors a more “mature,” conscience based morality – that is, he favors the subjectivist approach to Catholic morality). And a well known papal consultor gave a talk here in America (at Boston College) where he maintained there are no longer any moral norms (Father Antonio Spadaro, who said: “It is no longer possible to judge people on the basis of a norm that stands above all.”). There are many more examples I could give of this fundamental assault on Catholic moral principles that have guided the Church for two-thousand years.

The question therefore deserves to be asked: Is the Catholic Church on the brink of destroying its own morality? The basic premise of the short outline below is that the minor chastisement prophesied at Fatima will coincide with the introduction of heresy into Church teaching. Situation ethics was strongly condemned by Pope John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor, yet we see the dangerous framework of this subjectivism in Amoris Laetitia (see 301-303), and the surge flowing therefrom to radically change Catholic morality by the approval of intrinsically evil acts. Does the Church think that God is going to remain passive during this planned and orchestrated attack on Catholic morality, which is so contrary to the moral imperative of the Fatima message and the constant teachings of the Church?

This is a speculative note regarding the prophetic dimension of this crisis in Catholic morality brought on by Amoris Laetitia. The author claims no special prophetic charism or expertise, and the outline presented here simply proceeds from his analysis of certain materials (in addition to the Bible) referenced in the note, along with the present circumstances that challenge the Church and the world. As the quote above from the Catechism states, “we are already at the last hour.”

A POSSIBLE OUTLINE OF PROPHETIC EVENTS WE MIGHT BE ENCOUNTERING PRESENTLY OR VERY SOON

1.Our key prophecy will be the first two secrets of Fatima, and we will see that the chastisement and period of peace made known in the Fatima prophecy coincide with the broad spectrum of Catholic prophecy at large.

2. We will also place weight on the following prophetic statement of Saint Pope John Paul II, which was made during a visit to the United States in 1976 when he was still a Cardinal, and reads:

“We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. I do not think that wide circles of American society or wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel versus the anti-Gospel.

“We must be prepared to undergo great trials in the not-too-distant future; trials that will require us to be ready to give up even our lives, and a total gift of self to Christ and for Christ. Through your prayers and mine, it is possible to alleviate this tribulation, but it is no longer possible to avert it. . . .How many times has the renewal of the Church been brought about in blood! It will not be different this time.” 

3. We will also note that Saint Louis de Montfort stated that the Virgin Mary (and specifically those consecrated to Mary) would play a special role in bringing forth the fulfillment of Jesus’ Kingdom in history (noting as well that scholars disagree on exactly how the Saint says this will take place). See Handbook of the Spirituality of St. Louis de Montfort, pages 345-365 on “End Times.” Another great and more recent Marian Saint, Maximilian Kolbe,  said the following:

“Modern times are dominated by Satan and will be more so in the future. The conflict with hell cannot be engaged by men, even the most clever. The lmmaculata alone has from God the promise of victory over Satan. However, assumed into heaven, the Mother of God now requires our cooperation. She seeks souls who will consecrate themselves entirely to her, who will become in her hands effective instruments for the defeat of Satan and the spreading of God’s kingdom upon earth.” (from EWTN website)

4. In his book, Catholic ProphecyThe Coming Chastisement Yves Dupont offers the following conclusion:

“I regard it as certain that there will be two different stages. The first stage will only be the beginning of sorrows [see Matt. 24:8], and it will be shortened for the sake of the elect, and the Gospel will then be preached throughout the world. This will be the period of peace under the Great Monarch, the period of conversion and general prosperity which we and our children may enjoy – in short, the period of peace promised by Our Lady of Fatima” (p.91).

5. Another great scholar of Catholic prophecy, Father Edward Conner, in his book Prophecy for Today, sees the general sequence of prophetic events unfolding in this manner:

A. “Before the Gospel is preached and accepted in all the world, there shall come world wars and insidious doctrines accompanied by widespread persecution.

B. This era shall be terminated by the the direct interference of God destroying the evil systems or persons responsible for the persecutions; and through the leadership of a great civil ruler and a great spiritual leader, a period of peace will come during which nations will hear and accept the true Faith [this period of peace coincides with the Fatima prophecy of a period of peace].”

C. A great apostasy will follow [and Antichrist will come, leading to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the end of the world as set forth in Holy Scripture].”

6. A seminal and very long book on Catholic prophecy published in 1996, Trial, Tribulation and Triumph, by Desmond A. Birch, generally agrees that there will be a minor chastisement (meaning not the final chastisement at the end of the world), a period of peace, a major chastisement (Antichrist), and then the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. As to the minor chastisement, which will be followed by a period of peace, these are the first three elements in his long chronology of how it will come about:(1) “At some point in the future, the corrupt faithless age we live in now will come to an end either through inner conversion of sufficient number of people who turn to prayer, sacrifice, and penance,—or there will be a chastisement. This would be a Minor Chastisement preceding the Age of Peace. St Louis de Montfort described this Age of Peace as the Age of Mary. (2) If this chastisement is not averted through conversion, the Latin Church will be afflicted by heresy and schism. (3) The chastising elements will come in two forms, (a) manmade and (b)Heaven-sent” (page 553). Following his description of this minor chastisement, Birch goes on to describe the period of peace which will result, and then the rise of Antichrist and the end of the world.

7. A key insight of Birch is that the minor chastisement prophesied at Fatima (if not averted by prayer and penance) will come by way of heresy and schism entering the Church.

8. The second secret of Fatima, given to the seers on July 13, 1917, coincides with the general prophetic understanding of a chastisement and then a coming period of peace. It states (as verbatim from the Vatican website) the following:

“You have seen hell [the children’s vision of hell is the first secret] where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war is going to end: but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the Pontificate of Pius XI. When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that he is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father. To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated. In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she shall be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.”

9. Saint John Paul II was known as the “Fatima Pope,” devoting himself profoundly to the Fatima message following his having been shot and almost killed in St. Peter’s Square on May 13, 1981 (the anniversary of the first apparition of Mary at Fatima). Sister Lucia, the Fatima seer, confirmed that Pope John Paul II’s 1984 consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary had been “accepted by Heaven” (see Fatima for Today, p.260). On May 13, 1982, Pope John Paul II spoke the following words during a homily given in Fatima, Portugal:

“In the light of a mother’s love we understand the whole message of the Lady of Fátima. The greatest obstacle to man’s journey towards God is sin, perseverance in sin, and, finally, denial of God. The deliberate blotting out of God from the world of human thought. The detachment from him of the whole of man’s earthly activity. The rejection of God by man…. [He] reads it again with trepidation in his heart, because he sees how many people and societies—how many Christians—have gone in the opposite direction to the one indicated in the message of Fátima. Sin has thus made itself firmly at home in the world, and denial of God has become widespread in the ideologies, ideas and plans of human beings.”

10. Pope Benedict XVI suddenly resigned as Pope on February 28, 2013, the first Pope to resign since Pope Gregory XII in 1415.

11. On  March 13, 2013  Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Pope, becoming the 266th Pope, and the first Jesuit Pope. He took the papal name Francis. Apparently with the help of certain Cardinals, Pope Francis then embarked on an intense campaign to essentially change Catholic doctrine regarding the absolute impermissibility of  divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive the Holy Eucharist, a move which, in the opinion of some high-ranking clergy, could ultimately open up reception of the Holy Eucharist to people in other types of “irregular unions” (all of which would serve to ultimately undermine Catholic teaching regarding mortal sin because reception of the Eucharist is the summit of the Catholic life). When Pope Francis failed to obtain consensus at the Synod on the Family for the change he so earnestly desired, he nevertheless pushed his communion exception through in his Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, cleverly placing the key language for such an exception in the back of the document in the now infamous footnote 351. Although there has been a de facto schism in the Catholic Church for quite some time, Pope Francis’ bold move marked the first time a challenge to authentic Catholic teaching was undertaken at the highest level of the Church. There is now a great battle going on in the Church over Amoris Laetitia, and Pope Francis seems intent on bringing a new type of Catholic morality into existence, slowly, so as not to upset the faithful all at once (in general, this new morality –  in its fullest development – would grant those in “irregular” situations access to the Eucharist, which is an interpretation which has been proposed by some, and even Pope Francis mentioned that cohabiting couples may be in a “real marriage”). This is my sense, after careful evaluation, of where Amoris Laetitia is taking the Church; I am open to being shown where I may be wrong. My concern here is to protect the integrity of doctrine as passed on to the Church from Jesus and the apostles.

12. Based on the foregoing (relying on Desmond Birch’s insight) the conditional chastisement warned of by the Virgin Mary at Fatima is closely connected to the “the Latin Church [being] afflicted by heresy and schism.” We may have reached a pivotal point regarding the Fatima prophecy of a chastisement; it may be that such a chastisement is needed for the purification of the Church and the protection of the papacy, considering as well the great moral upheaval presently taking place in the world. Pope Benedict XVI once said, “We would be mistaken to think that Fatima’s prophetic mission is complete.”

13. It is not my job to suggest whether a particular teaching constitutes material or formal heresy. Rather, I feel called to point out that Amoris Laetitia is profoundly at odds with Saint John Paul II’s great encyclical on moral theology, Veritatis Splendor, and that the ultimate trajectory of Amoris Laetitia would lead to a dramatic reformulation of Catholic morality, allowing those in so-called “irregular unions” access to the fullness of the faith which the Eucharist is (thus essentially creating an end-run around the infallible doctrine of the Church that those in mortal sin are prohibited from receiving the Eucharist). In the end, then, the whole system of Catholic morality would be rendered optional. If this be the case, then Amoris Laetitia would represent a profound rejection of traditional, orthodox Catholic morality.

14. “In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” Pray the Rosary every day as Mary entreated us at Fatima. Pray for the Church.

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

P.S. To further understand the enormous implications to Catholic morality occasioned by Amoris Laetitia, please refer to my previous posts set forth below:

why amoris laetitia is much worse than originally … – Catholic Strength

THE HUGE “MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES” MISTAKE IN AMORIS …

does a tendency toward universalism account for amoris laetitia?

Additionally, I bring to your attention and discernment these words of the Blessed Virgin Mary in an apparition said to bear upon Fatima:

“The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres (other priests): churches and altars will be sacked; the Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord.” (Approved message of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Sister Agnes Sasagawa, Akita, Japan, October 13, 1973)

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A MIRACULOUS CRUCIFIX IN SPAIN

“There is no practice more profitable for the entire sanctification of the soul than the frequent meditation of the sufferings of Jesus Christ” (Saint Bonaventure)

The Passion of Jesus Christ rules the history of the world says the great Father Faber, and as if to put an exclamation point on this statement Jesus allowed incredible manifestations of his salvific passion to occur in the Church of Saint Peter in Limpias, Spain from 1914 through 1921.

The six foot crucifix which hangs in the Church of Saint Peter in Limpias, Spain (see image above) is, according to Joann Carroll Cruz, “a meditation on the sufferings of Our Lord and is thought to portray [Jesus] Crucified in his final moments of his agony.” Cruz adds that the “face of Our Lord is of particular beauty, with its eyes of china looking toward Heaven….” More than 8000 people, according to Cruz, have witnessed – and testified to –  supernatural phenomena associated with the facial expressions and head movements of Jesus on this beautiful crucifix. In this note, I will highlight some of the compelling testimonies of some very prominent and reliable witnesses. Given the cumulative power of so many eye-witness testimonies concerning the miraculous nature of this crucifix it seems impossible to deny the credibility of these supernatural manifestations of Jesus’ Passion.

Here is a bird’s eye view of some of the very compelling testimonies:

August/1914: While fixing an electric light over the high altar in the church, Don Antonio Lopes, a monk of the Pauline Fathers, gazed at the crucifix and noticed “with astonishment that Our Lord’s eyes were gradually closing, and for five minutes I saw them quite closed” (this is the first of 8000 testimonies regarding witnessed movements of Jesus’ face and head on the Limpias crucifix).

April/2019: A group of nuns known as the Daughters of the Cross saw both the eyes and lips of the crucifix move.

May 5, 1919: Dr. Adolfo Arenaza publishes his testimony in the secular press stating that while looking through his field glasses he saw the movement of the eyes four times. He states: “Does Our Lord really move his eyes…I am of the opinion that he really does move them, for I have seen it myself.”

August 4, 1919: Rev. Valentin Incio of Gijon visits Limpias and and wrote the following pertaining to his observation of the miraculous crucifix:

“At first our Lord seemed to be alive; His head then preserved its customary position…but His eyes were full of life and looked about in different directions….Now came the most touching moment of all. Jesus looked at all of us, but so gently and kindly, so expressively, so lovingly and divinely, that we fell on our knees and wept and adored Christ.”

September 11, 1919: Father Antonio de Torrelavega, a Capuchin monk, “sees blood streaming from the left corner of Our Lord’s mouth.” The next day he

“observed anew, only still more frequently, the movement of the eyes and…blood flowing down from the corner of the mouth. Several times He looked at me. Many other people who were kneeling round me also observed this….Now I verify it; there is no doubt the Santo Christo [crucifix] moves his eyes.”

September 15, 1919: “The Coadjutor of St. Nicholas Church in Valencia, D. Paulino Girbes, relates in his statement…that he was in the company of two Bishops and 18 priests when they knelt before the crucifix.” He states:

“We all saw the face of the Santo Cristo become sadder, paler….The eyes gave a gentle glance now at the Bishops and then in the direction of the sacristy. The features at the same time took on the expression of a man who is in his death-struggle. This lasted a long time. I could not resrain my tears and began to weep….”

There are so many other compelling testimonies of highly credible and distinguished witnesses that I don’t have time to type them all into this note! Many more detailed accounts are in Joann Carroll Cruz’ book, Miraculous Images of Our Lord. Moreover, there is a 200 plus page book from 1923, The Wonderful Crucifix of Limpias, available online, which provides numerous accounts “of the extraordinary manifestations of the crucifix at Limpias.”

CONCLUSION: The credible evidence supporting the supernatural phenomena associated with the crucifix at Limpias is simply overwhelming. Of the 8000 signed testimonies regarding this amazing phenomenon, 2500 are accompanied with legal affidavits. But what is the message of Limpias? Is it not that God so loved us that He sent his only son to give his life for our salvation? But what if we fail to honor our Lord’s Passion, or even worse if we lack gratitude for His saving death? Limpias is a powerful reminder that the Lord’s Passion is real, tremendously real, and made present in every Mass said throughout the world each day! The miraculous manifestations at Limpias are pretty amazing, but the Mass of Calvary is simply of infinite value.

“The Passion rules the history of the world. Thus it is also the secret of all biographies of individual souls. All their ruin comes from their disloyalty to the Passion. All their holiness in time, and their glory in eternity, are the consequences of their loyalty to the Passion. Jesus Christ and Him Crucified – this is the object of our present contemplation. As we grow older we set a greater price on fidelity; and where is there such faithfulness [and such indisputable proof of God’s love for you] as in the Cross? Devotion to the Passion is at once the surest sign of Predestination, and the shortest road to heaven. Happy are they whom the cruelty and treachery of life have driven to the Cross” (F.W. Faber).

Thomas L. Mulcahy, J.D.

P.S. In the following link is a detailed video of the supernatural crucifix:

Santo Christo de Limpias – YouTube

References: My information for this note comes from Joann Carroll Cruz’ book, Miraculous Images of Our Lord (TAN).

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THE FINAL HERESY AND THE FUTURE OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

(Hilaire Belloc, 1915, Public Domain, U.S.A.)

“We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. I do not think that wide circles of American society or wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel versus the anti-Gospel.” (Saint Pope John Paul II)

In the last chapter of his book, The Great Heresies, the famous Catholic historian, Hilaire Belloc, who died in 1953, discusses the nature of the final heresy to attack the Church which he calls “a wholesale assault on the fundamentals of the Faith – upon the very existence of the Faith.” The final heresy is therefore aimed at the complete destruction of the Catholic Church. And what is this final heresy, what is this manifestation of the Anti-Christ?, it is atheism. Belloc comments: “of such moment is the struggle immediately before the world.”

Belloc refers to atheism as the “Modern Attack” against the Church. He says the “modern attack is materialistic because in its philosophy it considers only material causes.” It is superstitious, as well, says Belloc, because it nourishes itself on the silly vagaries of spiritualism…and other fantasies.” He mentions atheistic communism as one example of the “Modern Attack,” although perhaps a “passing one.”

Belloc maintains that this all-out attack against the Church is “now at our gates,” and he wrote The Great Heresies around 1938. He states that the “fruit” of the modern attack is to “undermine every form of restraint imposed by human experience acting through tradition,” but he maintains that there are other “evil effects” which may prove more permanent than the breakdown of sexual morality. He does say, however, that the “Modern Attack on the Faith will have in the moral field a thousand evil fruits….”

The “quarrel” we are in right now, says Belloc, “is between the Church and the anti-Church – the Church of God and the anti-God – the Church of Christ and the Anti-Christ.” Atheism thus represents the forces of the anti-God, and according to Belloc “the modern attack is far more advanced than is generally appreciated.” Even at the time he lived Belloc could say that “the mood of the faith has been largely ruined,” and that “we have already arrived at a strange pass” where the opponents of the Catholic Faith simply do not understand the Catholic Church. From this predicament, Belloc predicts that a new “paganism” will emerge that tends more towards cruelty than enlightenment.

Belloc predicts that “either we of the Faith shall become a small, persecuted, neglected island amid mankind, or we shall be able to lift at the end of the struggle the old battle cry, “Christus Imperat.”

ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY

Here we are some 80 years after Belloc wrote The Great Heresies, and his points regarding the “Modern Attack” on the Catholic faith seem spot on. What concerns me most – as we witness firsthand the breakdown of the Catholic faith in the Western world –  is the growing tendency of the Catholic Church in many quarters, and even at very high levels, to align itself in certain ways with movements that seem to be under-girded by the advance of atheism – movements like the LGBT movement and the Global Warming movement.

The LGBT movement could not have risen to its present heights without the general breakdown of religion in the culture and the repudiation of the natural law (and the repudiation of the natural law represents an attack on God’s sovereignty and Divine revelation). I don’t think anyone would deny that there has been a certain push within the Vatican to make gay unions more acceptable to the Catholic consciousness, as in the Pope’s famous “Who am I to judge” comment, and in his tacit support for the legal recognition of gay unions (but not marriage). Most recently, Vatican adviser, Father James Martin, has been prominently in the news advancing an agenda which seems to call on the Church to reverse its condemnation of the practice of homosexuality, and one of the Pope’s top advisers, Cardinal Marx, has insinuated the possibility of blessing gay unions in the Church (the perceived difficulty here with the Church, then, leans to the “LG” side of the movement).

And the Global Warming movement is no doubt closely aligned with the culture of death. There is – it cannot be denied – an alliance between the Global Warming movement and the culture of death. The Global Warming movement is full of high-ranking members (apart from the Church) who see human population as something that needs to be dramatically reduced – by contraception and abortion – in order to save the planet. The culture of death is an anti-God culture. The Vatican, itself, has shown a certain infatuation with speakers at its conferences who advocate radical population reduction policies – not that the Vatican itself in any way endorses abortion rights. However, there is a rumbling within the Vatican walls (by some) to moderate Humanae Vitae and approve of contraception (and one wonders if this development comes under the influence of global warming concerns?).  The Church, in this way, makes itself more vulnerable to be engulfed by secular ideologies that threaten to distance it from the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Sacred deposit of faith entrusted to it.

We also sense in the Vatican a movement away from the strong reaffirmation of Catholic morality that Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI watched over. In fact, with the publication of Amoris Laetitia we saw for the first time the introduction of moral relativism or situation ethics into the teachings of the Church (see AL 301-303). This would appear to be a concession to ways of thinking previously antithetical to the Church and its morality.  See my post link below:

why amoris laetitia is much worse than originally … – Catholic Strength

Fatima was a warning about atheism and its devastating consequences for society by the spreading of its errors. We are on the threshold of a new paganism, or it may even be the case that we have entered the era of the new paganism. The key characteristic of this era is that it is atheistic – that is, anti-God. The Church itself seems drawn into some of the currents of this movement, and seems even perturbed at those members who resist.  Atheism will destroy the Church. Our foundation is God and His commandments.

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

References: The quote from Pope John Paul II was made when he was a Cardinal during a visit to the United States in 1976. Pope John Paul II spoke of “the confrontation between the culture of death and the culture of life” in his encyclical, The Gospel of Life. 

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THE HEALING OF OVERSENSITIVITY

 

“We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Sensitivity can be like a virtue, as in a mature sensitivity to sin,  or as in sensitivity to those in need of emotional or material help. A sensitivity to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit is a pathway to great holiness. But in this note we are addressing over-sensitivity as a hindrance to spiritual growth and well-being. We are talking primarily about superficial wounds that should have been healed a long time ago, but wounded feelings gave a seemingly small hurt a much longer life than it deserved as it was magnified, day in and day out, completely out of proportion to the harm it should have caused. Hopefully, we will find a remedy to this problem!

Oh those wounded feelings – we give such power to them to become much more than they ever should have been! A great spiritual writer of keen psychological insight, F.W. Faber, states that oversensitivity manifested in wounded feelings “is the secret cause of one-half of the disedifying inconsistencies of religious people. It rules us more powerfully than any of our passions. It absorbs our character into itself, until it alone almost becomes our character.” He adds: “We behold every day into what depths of incalculable meanness it can plunge” otherwise “affectionate hearts” (Spiritual Conferences, p.230, as edited).

“Thus the mortification of it becomes one of the primary duties of the spiritual life; and the intense suffering which this causes is the ladder by which we climb higher” (p. 232). The “mortification of sensitiveness is a peculiar process. It is not a blunting…or putting to death of sensitiveness, as it is with vices. But it is a brave making use of the torture of our wounded feelings to get nearer God and kinder to men.”

“Sensitiveness affects us in various ways. We imagine offense has been intended where it was never dreamed of. It constructs entire imaginary histories upon what is often no foundation at all . It magnifies and exaggerates things. It puts the wildest construction upon innocent actions. It throws a monstrous significance into a catch phrase, and then broods upon it for years. Our mind is crowded with suspicions. We are hardly able to distinguish between what is shadow and what is substance. We forget God. We give shadows the power to harm us. We grow moody and bitter. Now, what grace, what conceivable Christ-like thing, can grow in such an atmosphere as this” (pages 233-34, as edited)?

This “morose brooding” over our wounded feelings can become “almost incurable.” The judgment is “burned into our mind” that this person has been so unkind that we simply cannot forgive him. “We have now gone very far. We have come in sight of hatred. It is possible now for us to hate. These “ugly developments of our sensitiveness” must be overcome. We must get this “ruin out of the way” (pages 234-35, as edited).

REMEDIES

Because of all the harm oversensitivity can cause to our life in general, and to our spiritual progress, it is ALL-IMPORTANT that we find the grace and strength to overcome it. Contance Hull relates that Saint Therese became overly sensitive at a very earl age secondary to her sister’s death. “She became overly-sensitive and cried easily. This would be her battle for ten years, when at fourteen, she found the grace and strength to overcome this oversensitivity and truly began to live her journey of spiritual freedom.”

The first step toward the healing of oversensitivity would seem to be an honest recognition of all the harm oversensitivity is causing in our life, together with a strong desire to overcome it (or to moderate it). In modern psychology the recognition of distorted thinking patterns is essentially curative. Our conscious thoughts, when exaggerated or magnified, become distorted and this can become the source of much unhappiness – especially for an oversensitive soul. When we learn to check these distortions, essentially keeping them down so to speak, we are on the road to recovery! This proper management of our thoughts, this “cognitive therapy,” is very helpful.

Father Faber, who lived well before the advent of cognitive behavioral therapy but seemingly anticipated its value, urges us to suffer bravely in this mortification of oversensitivity. He says: “There is abundance to mortify in all this. We must be very unsparing of ourselves. A touch will not cure the matter. We must hold the caustic firmly, and press it hard, and keep it long on the place….” We must overcome “the quickness to feel an unkindness” and the “subtlety which causes us to fancy unkind intentions when there were none.” Further, “we must check ourselves sharply whenever we have caught ourselves brooding on the matter [in our mind]” (pages 236-37, as edited).

Now in the spiritual life mortification of oversensitivity is aided by prayer and sacramental life. The call of the spiritual life is toward the love of God and neighbor. When we keep this primary call in mind – that we are under a profound obligation to love God and neighbor – it brings a proper perspective not only to all our relationships but also to all our thoughts. If to fulfill this duty we must thicken our skin a bit, and mortify our unkind thoughts, and keep a forgiving heart, all of these acts are supernaturally meritorious, causing us to grow in holiness. Let us therefore contemplate, as Faber says, “the magnificent fruits of wounded feelings when they are consecrated by grace.”

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

References: I am relying primarily on Father Faber’s essay, “Wounded Feelings,” in Spiritual Conferences (TAN Books). The essay is about thirteen pages long.

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DOES A TENDENCY TOWARD UNIVERSALISM ACCOUNT FOR AMORIS LAETITIA?

“The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.” The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1035, promulgated by Saint Pope John Paul II)

This note on the impact of “universal salvation” on the modern church begins with a somewhat frightening quote from a great spiritual writer of the nineteenth century, F.W. Faber, who seemed to have a premonition that the loss of belief in hell was going to infiltrate the Church. He says:

“The devil’s worst and most fatal preparation for the coming of Antichrist is the weakening of men’s belief in eternal punishment. Were they the last words I  might ever say to you, nothing should I wish to say to you with more emphasis than this, that next to the thought of the Precious Blood there is no thought in all your faith more precious or more needful for you than the thought of Eternal Punishment.” 

Apokatastasis is the heresy that claims that – in the end –  all men are saved. It is a denial of hell or in the eternity of hell. It’s most famous disciple was Origen. In more recent times the theology of universal salvation (universalism) has made its way back into the Church through the apokatastasis-leaning writings of the Protestant, Karl Barth, and the Catholic, Hans Urs von Balthasar, although these men speak more to the hope or probability of universal salvation than to its dogmatic certainty (still von Balthasar popularized the notion that in view of God’s infinite love it is unlikely anyone is damned forever, even if the possibility cannot be ruled out).

“The history of the doctrine of universal salvation is a remarkable one. Until the nineteenth century almost all Christian theologians taught the reality of the eternal torment of hell….Since 1800 this situation has entirely changed and no traditional Christian doctrine has been so widely abandoned as that of eternal punishment….Universal salvation is now so widely accepted… that many theologians assume it virtually without argument” (Richard Bauckham as quoted in Will Many Be Saved, p. 130). Although Mr. Bauckham’s statement may be overly broad it nevertheless gives us some perspective on the rapid disenfranchisement of the church from the doctrine of hell (as in not preaching about hell, or popularizing the notion that only horrible characters go there, or in simply not preaching about sin).

I remember reading Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation on evangelization, The Joy of the Gospel, and thinking to myself, “Wow!, he mentions hardly a word about the salvation of souls in a lengthy document dedicated to the preaching of the Gospel!” And then came the Encyclical Letter on the environment, Laudato Si, and the basic focus in that document was the salvation of  planet earth from threats such as global warming.

The purpose of this note is to question whether the infiltration of the heresy of universalism – or some modified version of it formulated to pass theological muster –  has now made its way even into the highest levels of the Church (at least in a finely nuanced manner)? My concern is that the loss of belief in eternal damnation necessarily results in a relaxation of doctrine, most especially in the area of morality. And fundamentally what is Amoris Laetitia but a relaxation or weakening of Catholic morality pertaining to intrinsically evil acts?

Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, once said: “The lack of the fear of God is the beginning of folly. When the fear of God…no longer holds sway, people lose their standard, their criterion…there emerges an idolatry…and the door is wide open for every kind of folly.” And what is most directly responsible for the loss of the fear of God among Christians than the loss of belief in eternal punishment.

As Father Dwight Longenecker said just a few years ago: “The effects of universalism on the church are catastrophic. It’s not real hard to understand. People aren’t dumb. If everyone is going to be saved, then why bother to go to church? If everyone is going to be saved there is no such thing as mortal sin. If everyone is going to be saved there is no need for evangelism. If everyone is going to be saved there is no need to feed the hungry, become a priest, build the church and become a saint.”

In Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia we are confronted by what seems to be a stunning manifestation of universalism in a Papal exhortation (at no. 297), which reads:

297. It is a matter of reaching out to everyone, of needing to help each person find his or her proper way of participating in the ecclesial community and thus to experience being touched by an “unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous”mercy. No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel! (emphasis added)

Regarding no. 297, renowned theologian “Josef Seifert warns that it’s ‘nearly unavoidable’ to deduce [from it] a denial of Hell—a fear echoed by others. Anna Silvas notes Amoris Laetitia’s ‘missing’ lexicon of eternity: ‘There are no immortal souls in need of eternal salvation to be found in the document!’ ” (from “Amoris Laetitia and the Four Last Things,” available online).

Further, and of great significance, the acknowledged “ghostwriter” of Amoris Laetitia, Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez, apparently leans towards universalism as seen from a 1995 article where he stated:  “I rely firmly upon the truth that all are saved.” 

So we are confronted by a conundrum: what motivated Pope Francis to tinker with Catholic moral theology in such an unprecedented manner? After all, Pope John Paul II had warned that the types of arguments made in Amoris Laetitia, wherein circumstantial exceptions are made possible for intrinsically evil acts (see AL 301-303), would constitute “a very serious error” (VS 103). Saint John Paul II specifically said:

“The negative moral precepts, those prohibiting certain concrete actions or kinds of behavior as intrinsically evil, do not allow for any legitimate exception. They do not leave room, in any morally acceptable way, for the “creativity” of any contrary determination whatsoever.” (Veritatis Splendor 67)

“The negative precepts of the natural law are universally valid. They oblige each and every individual, always and in every circumstance. It is a matter of prohibitions which forbid a given action semper et pro semper, without exception.” (VS 52)

With such strong and clear statements regarding the integrity of Catholic morality in VERITATIS SPLENDOR, what could have so easily encouraged Pope Francis to move in the opposite direction, causing great confusion in the Church, and casting a shadow over the moral teachings of the Church?

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A., J.D.

References: Will Many Be Saved?  by Ralph Martin (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.). This book was written before Pope Francis’ Papacy. Martin argues that Hans Urs von Balthasar believed in and did, in fact, teach universalism, while formulating it as a hope and not a doctrine (see p. 135). The quote from Father Faber is from Notes on Doctrinal and Spiritual Subjects, p.23).

Note: It is possible to believe in hell, or speak of hell, but to further believe that it is not eternal and will ultimately be empty (this type of belief is a form of universalism).

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WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE BORN AGAIN?

 “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5)

As you can see from the painting above, the Pharisee Nicodemus came to Jesus at night (John 3:2). The night, illuminating in its own unique way, will reveal to Nicodemus things that had escaped his attention during the busy day. After all, Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12), and the “true Light which…enlightens every man” (John 1:9).

But the darkness also symbolizes Nicodemus’ fear and ignorance. Nicodemus came to Jesus under the cover of night for fear of being seen by his fellow Pharisees. And Nicodemus’ ignorance – his being in the dark –  is seen by his inability to see that Jesus is not talking about a physical rebirth but a spiritual one.

In the “dark night” that spiritual writers talk about enlightenment doesn’t come all at once – no, such illumination is preceded by trials and tribulations, by misunderstandings, and by humiliations of the worst kind. Nevertheless, the scriptures attest that “surely the darkness shall hide me, and night shall be my light” (Psalm 139:11), and from “the recesses of the darkness he discloses, and brings the gloom forth to the light” (Job 13:22). In the physical darkness Nicodemus’ own darkness and ignorance is exposed by Jesus, and all of this is nothing short of “sheer grace” for Nicodemus, who will no doubt ponder and reflect deeply on Jesus’ words.

Jesus: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (3: 3)

Nicodemus:  “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” (3:4)

Jesus: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (3:5)

The commentators agree that there is a mix up here. By saying that a person must be born again, Jesus is using the interpretation of the Greek word anothen which means “from above,” whereas Nicodemus applies the other permissible usage of anothen which means “again”.  As one Bible commentary states:

“The Greek expression can mean either ‘again’ or ‘from above’. Nicodemus takes it to mean ‘again’, as though Jesus requires a physical rebirth to enter the kingdom. This is a misunderstanding. Jesus instead calls for a spiritual rebirth ‘from above’ (CCC 526). The Greek expression always means ‘from above’ elsewhere in John ( see 3:31; 19:11, 23).” (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible).

According to one commentary referenced below, the “vast majority” of scholars agree that the “water and the Spirit” mentioned by Jesus in John 3:5 refers to baptism, and the Catholic teaching is that baptism causes an actual spiritual regeneration. “Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte ‘a new creature,’ an adopted son of God, who has become ‘a partaker of the divine nature,’ member of Christ and co-heir with him, and a temple of the Holy Spirit” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1265; see also, 1215, which states “This sacrament is also called ‘the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit,’ for it signifies and actually brings about the birth of water and the Spirit  without which no one ‘can enter the kingdom of God’.”).”

“Through baptism we have already received the seed of eternal life, for through it we received sanctifying grace which is the radical principle of that life….” (Father Garrigou-Lagrange).

In conclusion, to be born again means to be born from above in the birth of water and the Holy Spirit which is brought about in the sacrament of baptism.

But what happened to Nicodemus? Did his “dark night” ultimately deepen his understanding and lead to his conversion? The Gospel of John tells us that after Jesus had died “Nicodemus…who had first come to him by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds’ weight. They [Jospeh of Arimathea and Nicodemus] took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.” John further tells us by implication that it was still light out because the Sabbath (sundown Friday) was “close at hand,” so that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus laid Jesus’ body in a garden “in a new tomb where no one had ever been laid” (see John 19: 38-41).

If, at the beginning of John’s Gospel we encounter Nicodemus in the darkness of night (Chapter 3), by the end of the gospel we find him walking in the light, carrying the blessed body of Jesus (Chapter 19), and lovingly placing it in the tomb of resurrection.

According to Wikipedia, “in the current Roman Martyrology of the Catholic Church, Nicodemus is commemorated along with Saint Joseph of Arimathea on August 31.”

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

Image: Jesus and Nicodemus by William Hole (Public Domain, U.S.A.)

References: Ignatius Catholic Study Bible; The Gospel of John (audio presentation) by Scott Hahn; for a more detailed account of why John 3: 5 applies to baptism, see on-line Mark Brumley’s article, “Are Catholics Born Again?”; and  Ascent of Mt. Carmel by Saint John of the Cross (I have in this note made a comparison between the dark night of the soul discussed by Saint John of the Cross and Nicodemus’ experience of darkness, and this could be considered a spiritual or allegorical interpretation). Regarding John 3:5, a commentary at biblestudytools.com says: “Except one be born of water. By far the vast majority of scholars consider the word “water” in this verse as a reference to Christian baptism. The Cambridge Bible says “the outward sign and inward grace of Christian baptism are here clearly given, and an unbiased mind can scarcely avoid seeing this plain fact.”

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THE POWERFUL ROLE OF MEEKNESS IN THE SPIRITUAL LIFE

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5)

“Take care to practice well the humble meekness that you owe to everybody, for it is the virtue of virtues which our Lord greatly recommended to us.” (St. Francis de Sales)

Our discussion regarding meekness begins with the teaching of Jesus, who said: “Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and you shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Of this passage Spurgeon says: “One great lesson of the gospel is to teach us to be meek—to put away our high and angry spirits, and to make us lowly in heart. Peradventure, this is the meaning of the passage— that if we will but come to Christ’s school, he will teach us the hardest of all lessons,—how to be meek and lowly in heart.” In the school of Jesus Christ, we learn the importance of meekness for living a Christian life.

Relying on Surrin, Father Faber states that “gentleness and softness were the graces our Lord [Jesus] most desired that we should copy in Himself; and certainly, whether we look at the edification of others, or the sanctification of ourselves, or of the glory our lives may give to God, we shall perceive that nothing can rank in importance before gentleness of manner and sweetness of demeanor towards others” (The Blessed Sacrament, p. 169).

Why do the meek inherit the earth? “The words [inherit the earth] may be partly allusive to the ‘kingdom of the saints of the Most High’…. They have, however, a wider and continuous fulfillment. The influence of the meek and self-controlled is in the long-run greater than that of the impulsive and passionate. Their serenity helps them to find the maximum of true joy in all conditions of life; for to them the earth is not a stage for self-assertion and the graspings of desire, but an “inheritance” which they have received from their Father” (Ellicott’s Commentary).

“Far from being weak, however, the meek possess an inner strength to restrain anger and discouragement in the midst of adversity” (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible). In this sense, meekness could never be considered weakness because a beatitude taught by Jesus (“Blesses are the meek”)  “is the original and transcendent synthesis of the Christian ethic or, more accurately and more profoundly, of the spirituality of the new covenant in Jesus Christ” (Saint Pope John Paul II). Simply put, the beatitude of meekness is not only a grace-filled power, but a very elevated manifestation of that power.

The real POWER of meekness lies in its capacity to diffuse anger. “Meekness is particularly meritorious when practiced toward those who make us suffer; then it can only be supernatural, without any admixture of vain sensibility. It comes from God and sometimes has a profound effect on our neighbor who is irritated against us for no good reason. Let us remember that the prayer of St. Stephen called down grace on the soul of Paul, who was holding the garments of those who stoned the first martyr. Meekness disarms the violent.” (Father Garrigou-Lagrange)

Additionally, Father Garrigou-Lagrange helps us to understand the difference between the virtue of meekness and mere meekness of temperament. He states:

“Meekness, or gentleness… has as its special effect, not the endurance of the vexations of life [the special effect of the virtue of patience] but the curbing of the inordinate movements of anger. The virtue of meekness differs from meekness of temperament inasmuch as, in widely diverse circumstances, it imposes the rectitude of reason illumined by faith on the sensibility more or less disturbed by anger. Meekness of temperament is exercised with facility toward those who please us and is rather frequently accompanied by ill-temper toward others. The virtue of meekness does away with this bitterness toward all persons and in the most varied circumstances. Moreover, into a just severity that is necessary at times, the virtue injects a note of calmness… Meekness, like temperance to which it is united, is the friend of the moderation or the measure which causes the light of reason and that of grace to descend into the more or less troubled sensible appetites.”

Simply put, when we become ANGRY at someone we need to let grace-filled MEEKNESS descend or enter into that anger to produce the fruit of gentleness and self-control. Meekness, then, transforms the vice of potential inordinate anger into the virtue of meekness towards our neighbor.

“The times call for the manliness of meekness more than the false courage of violence and uncontrolled anger. We need the self-conquest of meekness more than the self-centeredness of hate and brutality. We need the meekness and humility of Christ” (Father Kilian McGowan, Your Way to God, p.57)

CONCLUSION: Are not most of us in need of POWER to control our inordinate anger and resentment? What we need, then, is the virtue of MEEKNESS. “Let us often, in practice, ask our Lord for the virtue of meekness united to humility of heart. Let us ask Him for it at the moment of Communion, in that intimate contact of our soul with His, of our intellect and heart with His intellect illumined by the light of glory and His heart overflowing with charity. Let us ask Him for it by spiritual communion that is frequently renewed and, whenever the occasion presents itself, let us practice these virtues effectively and generously” (Father Garrigou-Lagrange).

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

References: The quotes from Father Garrigou-Lagrange are from The Three Ages of the Interior Life.

FIVE LEVELS OR GRADATIONS OF MEEKNESS: Relying on Father Garrigou-Lagrange I note five levels or gradations of meekness:

  1. The natural temperament of meekness.
  2. The human or acquired virtue of meekness, “causing the light of reason to descend into the sensibility”.
  3. The supernatural or infused virtue of meekness flowing from sanctifying grace (associated with the cardinal virtue of temperance, which “moderates the inordinate impulses of our sensible appetites”).
  4. The supernatural virtue of meekness profoundly strengthened by the Gift of Piety.
  5. The beatitude of meekness which is essentially the overflowing of # 4 in a person’s life.

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THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE HIDDEN POWER OF KINDNESS

 

 “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church at 1832 lists KINDNESS as one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. It says:

“1832 The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: “charity, joy, peace, patience, KINDNESS, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity [citing Galatians 5: 22-23].”

Kindness is a virtue which “lifts the spirits” and “touches the hearts” of the people we encounter in our lives. When kindness is amplified by grace theologians call it an infused or supernatural virtue gifted to us in baptism, and when that virtue of kindness becomes part of our very nature – perfecting us in grace – it is a manifestation of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Kindness therefore involves acts of kindness, and these acts of kindness can increase by way of practice, prayer and sacramental life. The goal, then, is to become proficient in producing these all-important acts of kindness in cooperation with the Holy Spirit.

The late Father Lovasik wrote a wonderful book about the power of kindness called The Hidden Power of Kindness (Sophia Press). Father Lovasik points out that even a kind smile or a small compliment can bring joy to someone. I think we should resolve to pray to the Holy Spirit to ripen the fruit of kindness in us! “Ask and you shall receive” (John 16:24 ).

Please keep in mind that I am not using hyperbole when I call kindness a power! (after all, a fruit of the Holy Spirit is a tremendous, supernatural power). Authentic kindness has the power to make other people’s lives more bearable, less miserable, to repair  damaged self-esteem in a person, and even to produce joy and happiness in souls. It really is a tremendous power!  Regarding this power of kindness, Father Lovasik states:

“Not only is kindness due to everyone, but a special kindness is due to everyone. Kindness is not kindness unless it is special. Its charm consists in its fitness, its timeliness, and its individual application. Kindness adds sweetness to everything. It makes life’s capabilities blossom and fills them with fragrance. Kindness is like divine grace. It bestows on men something that neither self nor nature can give them. What it gives them is something of which they are in need, or something which only another person can give, such as consolation. Besides, the manner in which this is given is a true gift itself, better far than the thing given. The secret impulse out of which kindness acts is an instinct that is the noblest part of yourself. It is the most undoubted remnant of the image of God, given to us at the beginning” (The Hidden Power of Kindness, p.6, Cf. Frederick William Faber, Spiritual Conferences (Baltimore: John Murphy Company, 1859) at 19).

Here are Fr. Lovasik’s simple rules for being kind from his book, The Hidden Power of Kindness:

DON’TS

1. Don’t speak unkindly of anyone.

2. Don’t think unkindly about anyone.

3. Don’t act unkindly toward anyone.

(My note: of course there may be some instances when we have to speak sternly to others, but we should try to do this with the Holy Spirit’s guidance and with the good of the other person in mind. Of course, the kindness of the Holy Spirit is rooted in truth. The essential mission of the Holy Spirit is to convict us of the ruin of sin and of our salvation in Jesus – see Jesus’ farewell discourse in John’s Gospel.)

DO

1. Speak kindly of someone at least once a day.

2. Think kindly about someone at least once a day (this teaches us to think kindly, which in our secret thoughts we’re prone not to do).

3. Do an act of kindness to someone at least once a day (and as this virtue grows such acts can be multiplied).

When you are unkind, says Father Lovasik, make a short act of contrition and resolve to produce acts of kindness in your life. Practicing these simple rules isn’t easy and will require conscious effort and self-denial, but keeping them will lead to growth in holiness as we become less self-centered and more humble. Kindness, like patience, involves a certain form of mortification. Kindness is a type of love or charity. Frankly, it doesn’t cost us very much to be kind, or to say a kind word to someone.

Father Faber says that, in terms of evangelization, “kindness is the best pioneer of the Precious Blood.” He further states: “Kindness has converted more sinners than either zeal, eloquence or learning: and these last three have never converted anyone, unless they were kind also” (Spiritual Conferences, p.15).

Come Holy Spirit, Creator Blest, Uncreated Gift of the Father and the Son, and fill our hearts with kindness.

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

References: In addition to Father Lovasik’s book, I have relied on Father Faber’s famous essay, “Kindness,” and also on an internet article by Michael Hickey: “Words of Wisdom: kindness is the greatest virtue of all.”

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THE POWER OF THE MORNING OFFERING

 

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1)

“The Christian begins his day, his prayers, and his activities with the Sign of the Cross: ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.’ The baptized person dedicates the day to the glory of God and calls on the Savior’s grace which lets him act in the Spirit as a child of the Father” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2157)

There is an interesting – and even charming – moment in Pope Benedict’s encyclical on hope, Spe Salvi, when, in the midst of deep theological reflection, he suddenly pauses for a moment to pass on to us some fatherly advice on the practice of making a Morning Offering. Here is what the Pope said:

“I would like to add here another brief comment with some relevance for everyday living. There used to be a form of devotion—perhaps less practised today but quite widespread not long ago—that included the idea of “offering up” the minor daily hardships that continually strike at us like irritating “jabs”, thereby giving them a meaning. Of course, there were some exaggerations and perhaps unhealthy applications of this devotion, but we need to ask ourselves whether there may not after all have been something essential and helpful contained within it. What does it mean to offer something up? Those who did so were convinced that they could insert these little annoyances into Christ’s great “com-passion” so that they somehow became part of the treasury of compassion so greatly needed by the human race. In this way, even the small inconveniences of daily life could acquire meaning and contribute to the economy of good and of human love. Maybe we should consider whether it might be judicious to revive this practice ourselves.” (Spe Salvi, 40)

The great German Dominican, Father Albert M. Weiss, whose writings Pope Benedict was most likely familiar with, makes a most powerful comment concerning the importance of connecting up all the actions of our day with God. He states:

“All spiritual life is governed by the life of prayer. If a man ceases prayer death ensues…. [N]ot to intersperse the actions of the day with a thought of God and some pious aspiration, is to give undeniable proof that the spiritual life has not taken deep root in the soul.” (The Christian Life, pages 95-96)

Still further,  the great Jesuit and French spiritual writer, Father Lallemant, comments on the losses incurred by failing to sanctify our actions:

“The smallest measure of holiness, the least action that increases holiness, is to be preferred before scepters and crowns. Whence it follows, that by losing everyday opportunities of doing so many supernatural actions [i.e., little sacrificial acts done out of love for God] , we incur losses of happiness inconceivable in extent and all but irreparable.” (The Spiritual Doctrine, p. 197)

Put in a more positive light, Father Grou, another great French spiritual writer, states:

“Great occasions of heroic virtue are rarely presented to us. But little things are offered to us every day” (p.116).  “A soul which is faithful to its resolution of pleasing God in the smallest things will most assuredly gain the Heart of God; that it will draw to itself all His tenderness, all His favors, all His graces; that by such a practice it will amass every moment inconceivable treasures of merit….” (Father Jean Nicolas Grou, Manual for Interior Souls, p.120)

In the spiritual life we should desire to become more and more conscious of offering up all we do throughout the day for the love of God (the three books cited above emphasize this point). The practice of making a Morning Offering, and then renewing it throughout the day, helps us to accomplish this purpose and to merit additional graces for ourselves and others (see CCC 2010). However, we don’t want this practice to become stale and mechanical: we want it to spring forth from the love of God we have in our hearts and the desire we have to please God and do His will.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

P.S. There are many morning offering prayers you can find online. Saint Therese of Lisieux composed a very lengthy one. You might simply say throughout the day – or merely thinking it is all that matters – “this is for you, Jesus.” What really gives the action supernatural value is the purity of intention – doing it for the love of God. Here is a sample morning offering prayer:

Morning Offering Prayer: “O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day in union with the holy sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of your sacred heart: the salvation of souls, reparation for sin, the reunion of all Christians. I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and of all the apostles of prayer, and in particular for those recommended by our Holy Father this month.” (from Catholic.com)

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