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Month: February 2017

“At Peace with God” – Universalism Victorious?

“At Peace with God” – Universalism Victorious?

Image result for Image of Martial Arts

 

Sometimes the things one hears cuts deep into the soul. And one is left without being able to respond.

The contemporary cultural phrase that ends all discussion is, “Well, that’s your opinion….” It takes the floor away from any search for the truth – or even an attempt to present it. It seems to be a cultural form of self-defence – like an intellectual Jiu Jitzu move? It seems to give one “peace with God”.

That, one thinks, would be unfair on the practioners of that particular Japanese martial art, which is highly effective – especially in its Brazilian form. They have courage to defend themselves against larger and, apparently, more formidable opponents. And they are willing to learn. The practioners of “Well that’s your opinion” seem to be afraid of finding out something. Is it the fear of being wrong? Or the fear of having to change? Or has Modernism sunk so deeply into everything around them that they believe all norms come from themselves? Has Universalism become their staple intellectual diet?

The reason for bringing up this point is that the present author has encountered more than a handful of souls throughout his life who have claimed to be at “peace with God” while also being involved in some very disturbing practices. Here are a couple of the situations he found himself in, when the only words he had were those directed toward God for help for some of this magical “peace”. I suppose he’s not the only one to have been there.

Firstly, there was the young nurse who worked for a profit making company who killed unborn babies. She was a regular Sunday Mass goer, and communicant. She said she was “at peace with God.”

Secondly, there was a member of prestigious ‘new movement’ who had used IVF on several occasions. She said she was “at peace with God.”

And thirdly, there was the soldier who said himself and his unit had blown up houses with old grandmothers in them, and then search them, in order to move forward safely. The presence of the elder or sick in such houses didn’t effect his decisions. He said he was “at peace with God.”

Finally, there have been countless contraceptors who have said they were “at peace with God.”

On the other hand, there have been other souls whom this author has known who have been tormented by their faults and who cried out to God for help.

There was the former soldier who – mistaking the present author for a priest – told of the murders himself and his fellow soldiers performed; killing men and burying them in their fields simply because of who they were. While in a drunken state he said these things before being directed towards Fr. Murphy.

Then there was the bishop who was unfaithful to his vow of celibacy. He turned on the present author one day, shaking as if from the effects of alcohol, before going to offer Mass. The sound of his car always running to assist his quick get away still lingers. Objectively his faults were many and his flock suffered immensely.

Finally, there was a priest-friend who was involved in the abuse of children. He told me of how, on the eve before his ordination, he confessed his moral failings to his spiritual director but was told it would be fine. The effects of 1968? He deeply wounded many children and their families – destroying trust immensely. His Archbishop sent him to a family run centre before he was caught. He received seven years in prison.

Now, who was at peace and who wasn’t? The soldier, the bishop, and the priest were not a peace – or, at least the didn’t claim to be. They were tormented by their faults. Was it a lack of compassion on the side of the Church that drove them to be tortured by their consciences? Or was it the stupidity of others that compounded it? Maybe they had never really heard the Gospel that their was a way out of their sins. Did God hear their prayers before they died? One hopes so. Did they find Him, the source of that true harmony called peace that comes from order? One hopes so.

And what about the nurse and the sweet lady from that prestigious ‘new movement’ who loves her IVF children? Why were they not tormented? Had they confessed their wrongs, or stopped being involved in them. They said they didn’t need to; their priests said they had to go by their conscience. God understood.

So there you have it. “Being at peace with God”: Real Life Stories. By some magic power maybe someone knows the gnostic secret carried by those who are at “peace” or maybe they discerned that it doesn’t really matter since God is merciful.

One wonders, therefore, is there now any need for hope, since there doesn’t seem to be anything left to confess. Hope, afterall, is the virtue by which one seeks that difficult – but possilbe to attain – good of eternal happiness in union with God.  If there is nothing left to confess then eternal happiness must already be in ones possession; God must have already bestowed one with the Beatific Vision. This, of course, is hyperbole. But if these are only rhetorical statements used for effect to try expose the dangers in the idea of discening oneself to be at peace with God even when one has to admitt the objective error in ones actions, where does all this lead to? Where is the differnce between “I’m at peace with God” and “Well, that’s just your opinion”?

“Being at peace with God” – the new norm – seems to come from oneself. Should the famous words, “Abandon Hope all you who enter here!” now be hung outside of confessionals since these a defunct? Or should it be rephrased: “You don’t need to hope in His Mercy – You’re already Fine”? For it is in God’s goodness that sinners hope – they hope to receive from His Infinite Goodness His Mercy, and so the forgiveness of all their sins. This why children were once taught to say often – so that it would become second natural to them to trust in God – this wonderful little prayer:

Oh my God, relying on Your almight power and infinite mercy and promises,

I hope to obtain pardon for my sins,

the help of Your grace,

and life everlasting,

through the merits of Jesus Christ,

my Lord and Redeemer.

 

Has this also gone the way of all that was taught before. Is it ‘Universalism Victorious; Catholicism No-More’?

Maybe this temporary defeat explains why confessionals are going cheap.

 

The Judge Alone Can Be Merciful

The Judge Alone Can Be Merciful

Funny how sometimes the penny just drops and you get it. Popular rhetoric calls it the ‘Ah-ha moment’. I once heard it attributed to Bernard Lonergan – the Canadian Jesuit philosopher-theologian. Whatever it’s provence the term seems to catch what is meant by ‘the penny dropping’ or ‘enlightenment’. Suddenly one sees the reason for something.

Basically, we all go from ignorance to understanding. There’s no shame in it; the shame would be in satisfaction with ignorance.

It may takes years of pondering something – just having it there as a little thought milling around in ones head. Most often it can be the nagging doubt about something not sounding quite right. Maybe some of us have more of these doubts than others due to ones temperament, or the suspicious attitude one carries toward a whole lot of things. Today people are often suspicious of any kind of authority – I susceptible to this – but I’ve wondered about it for long enough.  Then pieces start to fall into place.

If you want a revolution you’ve got to undermine the reigning authority – whether they are just or not. The original revolutionary was an angel, far more intelligent and gifted than any mere human person. His cry was, “Non serviam!” And ever since he has rebelled – not in a well thought out plan – against any legitimate authority whatsoever. He is the hater of all that is good, and he spins lie after lie after lie in order to try and entice fallen man to willing take part in his efforts to kill and kill, and kill and kill. What a pitiful creature. What a deadly enemy of every human being.

Now, I say this because often the Evil One is given more credit than God. Faith in God’s goodness, and His infallible plan, is often surplanted by the blind belief that the Devil has it all thought out – a master plan that God’s faithful ones will never be able to stop. A plan has God on the run. What a lot of rubbish! Here’s why.

The fallen angels are powerful spirits – they have immense intellects and wills – but since they have fallen from such a great height (being the creatures most like God) they have suffered the greatest damage in their fall. Satan is unable to construct ‘a plan’ due to the damage done to his intellect; all he can do – and all God permitts him to do – is to frighten us. He does this by seducing people into acting in such a way that destruction, despair, and death seem to be all that there is. He co-opts (through fear) as many souls as possible into his hatred for God and the just. The mistake? The mistake is giving him the credit for having some master plan. He hasn’t and is the most to be pitied. Imagine having lost so much.

What’s the evidence? St. John Vianney told him one evening to stop being childish – he was calling the holy priest, “Potato eater!” When pitied by Ars’s saint the Evil One screamed in annoyance and left.

Back to the point. Undermining authority – it’s the work ultimately of our mortal enemy. Hatred and destruction is what he is permitted to incite, but he has no idea where it will go. He simply smashes things (inside and outside of us) to drive us to fear. Once we are afraid then he has us in his grip. This is why the words, “Jesus I trust in You!” are extremely powerful when tempted. As he smashes he blames God – subtley suggesting that God is the cause of all our suffering; and that God does not care about us; and that God has no power to save us. And so man panics and tries to rationalise the irrational influences in his life. This leads to half-truths being raised up as the Gospel.

By God’s grace we are protected from this if we cooperate with this grace. We are able to see, even after long days of darkness, through the lie. One such lie is that surrounding the question of mercy and judging others but I recently had an eye-opener concerning this question.

Firstly, notice how everyone agrees that no-one can see into the soul of another and know where they stand before God. So, “Who am I to judge?” seems like a fair question.

Secondly, notice also how everyone agrees that mercy is what sinners have profound need for. So a Year of Mercy seems like a total gift to us all.

Problem? Yes. Well, not so much a problem as a difficulty. Authorities need to make judgements all the time. But if you want to undermine them you simply pull out the “Who am I to judge?” card, and that cripples the unknowing legitimate authority.

Secondly, every sinner needs mercy but to give mercy one has to make a judgemnt. So to smash mercy one has to fighten souls away from making hte necessary judgements.

Yes, to give mercy one has to make a judgement. How is this so? Well, the act of administering mercy is that of a superior who makes a judgement before going beyond justice to give that  gift which ‘raises man above his weaknesses.’ If one looks at the spiritual or corporal works of mercy one sees that the giver of mercy gives it from the vantage point of passing a just judgement and effectively saying, “Ah, this one needs this!” For example, to give counsel to those with doubts involves judging this to be the case. Instructing the ignorant involves judging that someone is unaware of something. While admonishing the sinner requires the giver of mercy to pass a judgement as to the serious nature of a sinners past actions or potential actions. To grant mercy one has to pass a judgemnt.

The same is true for the more popular corporal works of mercy. Indeed, maybe it is because it is so obvious that a judgement is involved here that it is easy to run straight to mercy and ignore the crucial step of judging that is involved in being merciful. This is what leads to a pseudo-mercy. Mercy, afterall, has both an affective and effective dimension: the first, is the feeling of sympathy for the person suffering from some misery; while the second is the actual going toward the miserable one in order to relieve the cause of the misery. Mercy flows from a heart touched by someones misery and into an action that seeks to relieve this misery. The move from feeling to action involves looking at the person and asking, “What does this person need?” And there again is the act of judging.

Seeing who is hungry and in need of food involves passing a judgement that comes to the conclusion, “This person is hungry….” Giving someone a drink follows on from judging that the person is thirsty. It would not be merciful to give an alcholic a bottle of whiskey satiate his thirst. Similarly, clothing the naked or harboring the harborless – these acts, too, involve judging the person’s need for something more than strict justice.

Without passing a judgement how would one be able to bury the dead? One would be in a Monty Python skit where the dialogue of madness would be something like:

“This man’s dead. We need to bury him.”

“What? How do you know?”

“He’s stiff. He smells. He’s off-colour. He’s got a bullet hole in his head. He’s not breathing. He’s been like this for days. He’s dead, ain’t he?”

“No he’s not. He’s having a nap. And anyway, don’t be so judgemntal. Who are you to judge? I’m in charge around here!”

Do you get the point? Mercy stands with judgement (and of course the judgement should be just). The two stand or fall together. I have to judge before I can be merciful. In a similar way, the poor priest who is called on to absolve sinners can only do so when he has judged that a sin has been committed, confessed, and repented of with firm purpose of ammendment having been promised. He doesn’t have magic powers that allow him to see a conscience truly at peace with God. He has to deal with the facts presented to him and make a judgement based on those facts as to whether or not absolution may be granted. The judge must make a judgement before he grants mercy. Indeed, the act of refusing to give absolution may be a greater act of mercy than the sinner may realise. The priest cannot be expected to act without exercising his faculty of reasoning.

So the “Ah-ha moment” I’ve come to see is that to be merciful one has to judge the situation, one has to be guided by the facts at one’s disposal. A judgement has to be made before that which is more than justice can be given. The Guards of the Revolution push either one side or the other of the justice-mercy reality. Depending on the age they will try to destroy by splitting them from each other. The penny has dropped.

Lord have mercy on us all.

 

The Forgotten Men

The Forgotten Men

He’s a dear friend, and speaks very much like many other men who have their story to tell.

His dad was hard working, but never really there. Work became a sign of what real men where about – work and straight talking. Calling a spade for what it is; and not taking any nonsense from anyone. He’ll admit to his mistakes – but not in a public way that looks for a sympathy vote. His is the stoical Scots-Irish way.

His life was that of loss for many years: he lost his faith; he lost his wife; and he lost his children. The world around him encouraged it all and he was too caught up in the Sixties-Seventies suicide mission to realise what was going on. His own family was swept away in it too.

He had been an altar boy growing up in the Sixties. And then his world collapsed..

He went to seminary but was considered ‘psychologically unsuitable’ – he believed in celibacy – so was “asked” to take some time out.

He married to a girl he grew up with; but that didn’t flourish. Their only child died at birth.

He drank and did drugs; and worked long days doing hard labour. He was a hard man – who put his fist where his mouth was when he had to. He lived a life of disrepute but held onto some things. “Never treat a lady like dirt”, was a principle he tried to respect. He met another woman who conceived a child by him – she had the baby killed before it was born. He begged her not to do it; he begged her. He passes her in the street some days. He still grieves.

He came back to the Faith in a round about kind of way. Then he began to piece things together. He was always intelligent, but now he could see he had been a fool to follow the fools of his day. He sees now how the castration of his generation took place, and how he willing put his manhood on the chopping block.

He still grieves. He grieves the loss of his family and neighbourhood. No-one in his family returns there any more. Too poor for them now. Too dangerous. He doesn’t notice it. It’s home to him.

No-one in his family goes to Mass. One sister is an evangelical pastor who hates men and Catholic bishops. His family-parish Church (it was Polish) is gone. There’s a sports centre there now to help the poor immigrants get the message It’s empty most of the time. There’s talk of it becoming a mosque. He sees the deficiencies of manhood in this too.

Yet, he does not despair – and he hates the presumption of most sermons he hears. He does not despair because even although he sees that the lost men are forgotten about, he knows that Christ is faithful to His promises. He chose twelve men to teach all nations the truth of the Catholic Faith, and he knows no matter how much men are rejected that it is only through their hands, and through their words, that the answer is given to any doubts he may have, and that his sins are absolved.

He cries after every Confession, rapped in the mystery of God’s justice and mercy.

He listens now – even with his poor hearing – for the sacred whisper of the Forgotten Men: Hoc enim est corpus meum.

And he knows he is not alone.

He does not refuse to answer when some one asks him something in charity; nor does he sound like a gong booming.

His “yes” is yes, and his “no” is no.  He lives now by the Credo he learned years ago.