16 October 2014

Bishops Revolt!

Looks like the Synod on the Family is back in the hands of the participant-bishops rather than the appointed leadership.

Monday's relatio was roundly denounced as an inaccurate summary of the bishops' discussion, but b/c the actual language-group reports were not made public. . .there was no way for anyone to check. 

Today, the bishops rose up and demanded that the group summaries be made public. Pope Francis and the synod chair relented and agreed to have them made available.

Fr. Z. has an English translation of the Italian-language article, along with his usual on-point commentary. He also provides links to the summaries on the Vatican website.

Even a cursory scan of the summaries will prove that the relatio was an agenda pushing one-sided mess. 

I'm not ready to believe that this whole thing was an outright manipulation; however, given my long experience with self-anointed prophets and revolutionaries in the Church and religious life. . .it wouldn't surprise me in the least to learn that it was. 

Keep praying, folks!

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15 October 2014

Take No Other Path

St Teresa of Jesus
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Sisters of Mt Carmel, NOLA

Our Lord is unrelenting in his condemnation of hypocrisy, particularly the hypocrisy of those who wield religious authority. He says to the Pharisees, “Woe to you! You are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk.” Not only does he accuse his opponents of being dead and rotting in the ground, but he also accuses them of leading their unwitting followers into uncleanliness, impurity. Thus the hypocrisy of each Pharisee is both a personal and a public failure. When spiritual leaders fall, those who follow them fall as well. Jesus concludes his indictment of the Pharisees and scribes with a pointed accusation, “You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.” Here lies the kernel of their hypocrisy: though they follow the Law to the letter, they do so only for the benefits that come with being seen doing so. They do not intend to see justice done nor do they love God; their only purpose is to lift themselves up and bask in the admiration of their followers. Therefore, Jesus says to them three times, “Woe to you. . .”

How do we avoid the temptations of hypocrisy? Paul writes to the Galatians, “If you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law. . .If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.” Paul is not giving us permission to live lawless lives, wildly following every impulse, every appetite. He is challenging us to do something far more difficult than living the letter of the Law. Rather than scrupulously obeying every jot and tittle of the rules, we are called upon to fulfill the Law; that is, we are freed by Christ to live out the purpose of the Law, the underlying freedom that the rules guide. For example, you can be meticulous in driving the posted speed limit and still believe that the other drivers deserve to be run off the road. You can come to Mass daily and still seek vengeance on your neighbor. You vow yourself to living a life of charity and still disparage your brothers and sisters. Despite a perfect driving record or a lifetime of perfect Mass attendance, you can still harbor hatred, anger, selfishness, and rivalry. Following the rules is no guarantee of a pure heart. But a pure heart makes the rules unnecessary b/c such a heart is ruled by none but the name of Jesus.

St. Teresa of Avila considers the power and purity of the Holy Name: “. . .it seems that no other name fell from [St. Paul's] lips than that of Jesus, because the name of Jesus was fixed and embedded in his heart. Once I had come to understand this truth, I carefully considered the lives of some of the saints, the great contemplatives, and found that they took no other path. . .A person must walk along this path in freedom, placing himself in God’s hands. If God should desire to raise us to the position of one who is an intimate and shares His secrets, we ought to accept this gladly.”* Walking the Way with Jesus, his name the name of freedom, and placing ourselves with him into the Father's hands – this is the perfected way of peace, the complete path to integrity and the death of personal hypocrisy. Teresa names a few of the great contemplatives of the Church as her examples: Francis, Anthony of Padua, Bernard, and Catherine of Siena. All men and women of Christ who set aside the need for power and control, the need to be right and never contradicted, the need to be seen being holy by others. Their anchor in the unmooring sin of this world: the name of Jesus, contemplated as the only path to peace. 
Christ came to fulfill the Law. As his Body, the Church, we are vowed to preach his Word. So, we share the fruits of that Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If we will lead in the Spirit, we must first follow the Spirit, and that, sisters, is exactly what we have given our lives to do. Follow the Spirit first; then, lead with the Spirit in Jesus' holy name.

*from The Office of Readings
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14 October 2014

Synod Freak Out!!!

Apparently, without the approval of the Pope or the involvement of the Holy Spirit, an interim report from the Synod on the Family radically altered unchangeable Church teaching on the disordered nature of same-sex attraction and SSA sexual relationships. 

Who knew that an interim report from some of the bishops at a half-finished Synod could wield such authority!

Well, it doesn't. Wield any authority, that is.  Despite what the anti-Catholic bigots of the MSM tell you.

The freak-out over this toothless report among otherwise faithful Catholics has been. . .epic.

What's most revealing is the level of distrust among the faithful in the Church's leadership. Given the way the implementation of VC2 was hijacked and abused, it's little wonder that we Catholics are skittish about councils, synods, and other ecclesial bureaucratic gatherings. 

There's also a palpable sense among the faithful that there's a nefarious movement among some of the bishops at the Synod to influence the Holy Father toward changing unchangeable doctrine.

In answer to this suspicion, I give you Fr. Robert Barron: "One of the great mysteries enshrined in the ecclesiology of the Catholic Church is that Christ speaks through the rather messy and unpredictable process of ecclesiastical argument. The Holy Spirit guides the process of course, but he doesn’t undermine or circumvent it. It is precisely in the long, laborious sifting of ideas across time and through disciplined conversation that the truth that God wants to communicate gradually emerges. If you want evidence of this, simply look at the accounts of the deliberations of the major councils of the Church, beginning with the so-called Council of Jerusalem in the first century right through to the Second Vatican Council of the twentieth century. In every such gathering, argument was front and center, and consensus evolved only after lengthy and often acrimonious debate among the interested parties. Read John Henry Newman’s colorful history of the Council of Nicaea in the fourth century, and you’ll find stories of riots in the streets and the mutually pulling of beards among the disputants. Or pick up Yves Congar’s very entertaining diary of his years at Vatican II, and you’ll learn of his own withering critiques of the interventions of prominent Cardinals and rival theologians. Or peruse John O’Malley’s history of the Council of Trent, and you’ll see that early draft statements on the key doctrines of original sin and justification were presented, debated, and dismissed—long before final versions were approved."

We are in the Age of Twitter/Facebook/Texting. . .so we are seeing every morsel of fat and gristle that goes into the Synod's sausage making.

The trick is to wait for the final document (ca. 2017) and pray for the Holy Spirit to do His mighty work!

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Three Abstracts

Here are three more abstracts. All are 16 x 20 in. on canvas board.  Obviously, still struggling to find the right light to take pics.

 Holy Innocents (RECYCLED)

Jericho (SOLD)

 Before the Throne (RECYCLED)


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12 October 2014

Invited to be transformed by the feast

28th Sunday OT 
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Mt. Carmel Academy, NOLA

The truth of the Kingdom has yet to be fully revealed much less understood. Since parables can take us deeper into the mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus uses them as the only fruitful way of teaching us the features of the coming reign of God. These short allegorical stories give us an indirect peek at the bigger truth, using the ordinary elements of daily life – the familiar people, places, and things that regular folks see and hear everyday. To understand the bigger truth a parable reveals, we compare the elements of the story to what we already know. So, who are we in the parable of the wedding feast? We aren't the king, his son, or the soldiers. We could be the guests, though we've been at the party for a while now. We can't be the poor guy who gets bounced b/c he's improperly dressed. We're still at the party. That leaves the servants. We're the servants. The ones sent out by the king to summon his guests. The ones sent out to rouse the rabble and bring them as guests to the feast. That's what we do: we go out and invite to the feast those rarely invited. As servants of the king, we obey the king.

What are His orders? “The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.” Note what's missing from these orders. We are not ordered to evaluate any potential guest's wardrobe. We are not ordered to assess their moral worthiness; their social standing, wealth, health, looks, or family ties. We are not ordered to invite only those who look like us, sound like us, think like us, or believe like us. The king's order are crystal clear, “Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.” Whomever we find might be poorly dressed or morally rotten; or high-born and ugly as sin; or low-born and beautiful; or just plain folks with nothing much to do that evening. “Whomever you find” is an all-encompassing category that makes it very difficult not to invite whomever we might find. That's our job. It's what we do. After those we have invited to the feast get here, then it's the king's job to sort them all out. Not ours. The guy who's bounced out into the darkness is bounced out into the darkness b/c he's not properly dressed. In parable-terms, he's not properly disposed, not internally prepared to receive food and drink from the Lord's generous table. He's not wearing the heart and mind of one who's accepted an invitation to party eternally with the Father's Son.

The invitation we all receive to party with the Father at His Son's feast is “come as you are.” Black tie. Business casual. Beach wear. Whatever you have on is just fine. In fact, the more poorly dressed, the more poorly disposed we are for the feast, the better. The point of the feast is not to show off or network, or to advertise your worthiness for the occasion. The point is to honor and celebrate the Son's marriage. Thus says the King, “Accepting my invitation makes you worthy.” But the transformation from unworthy wretch to worthy guest cannot leave us untouched. You may arrive at the wedding feast “as you are,” but you stay at the King's table b/c you have freely given yourself over to the celebration of His Son's marriage. In other words, no one remains at the feast dressed as they arrived. And no one leaves unless they are sent by the King to invite others. Come as you are. Be made worthy. Put on a rich, new wedding garment. And leave only to spread the word of the King's generosity. The King's feast has a purpose, a goal: to bring as many in as possible and transform unworthy wretches into guests worthy of the Son. That includes you and me.

What doesn't include you and me is the intimate process of transformation that the feast begins; that is, the internal work that God alone does to change an unworthy wretch into a worthy guest. You and I are sent out to proclaim the invitation that God has made. We are ordered to invite “whomever we find,” and tell them about the feast. When they accept the invitation and return with us to the table, we are to do everything we can to help them stay; everything, that is, except lie about the transformative nature of the feast itself. We welcome. We include. We gather up and support. We pay careful attention to our own made-worthiness, and we even sacrifice to keep God's guests at the table. But the work of transformation cannot happen if the guest does not will to be transformed. And we cannot pretend that the feast does not do what it is designed to do. We cannot lie to the guest or ourselves and say that there is no need for change, there is no reason to turn around and face the King. If the guest wills to remain outside the power of the King's feast, then we can do nothing more than pray that he will return, inviting him back again and again, always welcoming, always ready to serve as the King has ordered us to serve.

Stepping outside the words and images of the parable, let's say plainly what must be said. God's invitation to receive His grace through Jesus Christ is universal. No one is excluded. Never has been, never will be. As His baptized priests, prophets, and kings, we are charged with making sure that His invitation to repentance and holiness is heard over and over and over again. Receiving His grace means repenting of our debilitating sins, confessing them, and resolving to never commit them again. It is true that God invites us to come to Him “as we are.” But the purpose of His invitation is make us holy, not to affirm us in our sin or to tell us that our sin is not really a sin. We must not misunderstand His loving invitation to share in His divine life as a nod of approval or a sign that we are perfect “as is.” If we are perfect “as is” – sin and all – then why send His only Son to die for us? Why establish the Church to administer His saving grace? In fact, why bother with an invitation at all if there is no one to save? As a Body, we are being challenged to ignore the need for repentance from sin in favor of being “welcoming and inclusive,” meaning in practice “pretending that sin isn't sin.” This is a lie, a deadly lie that kills the unrepentant and the one telling the lie.

As with all things Catholic, we are set squarely on the razor's edge, teetering delicately btw Pharisaical Judgmentalism and Wholesale Indifferentism. We cannot judge the internal transformation of any other person, nor can we ignore the obvious public signs that no transformation has taken place. Judgmentalism makes for a paltry feast. And Indifferentism renders the feast pointless. If we are to celebrate and honor the Son's sacrifice for us, then we must work hard to maintain our balance on that razor's edge: welcome and include AND expect repentance and transformation. Most especially for ourselves.

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