Rod Dreher has written a very interesting book on how to confront post-Christian society, The Benedict Option.   To make a long story short, Dreher argues that Christians should respond to modern secularism by regrouping and being more intentional about forming a stronger self-identity in order to proclaim the Gospel anew.  The book builds on Alasdair MacIntyre’s landmark book, After Virtue.

An Italian Vaticanista points out that Pope Francis proposes a different approach:

Pope Francis’s second answer to the evangelization question concerns themes. To draw a comparison, St. John Paul II’s pontificate was characterized by the issue of identity and Christian primacy. Benedict XVI focused on the search for God as a consequence of the search for Truth. Pope Francis prefers to focus on language, using terms that are closer to secular culture, as in the case of the “culture of the encounter” – as if he believed that only by getting closer to the other will the the other be attracted by Christian faith.

With Pope Francis the Church’s vocabulary was then loaded up with terms that belong to the secular and secularized cultural world: culture of the encounter, sustainable development – later Christianized into “integral human development” (which is nevertheless a sociological term)the duty to protect (a term used in diplomatic language), fraternity, non-violence.

That’s the way Jesuits have always evangelized. They use a vocabulary that is not part of the Catholic tradition in order to attract people to the Catholic tradition. In the end, Francis tries to speak the language of the world, even though to do so risks generating some turmoil within the Catholic world.

Posted by: frroberts | April 25, 2017

Book of the Day

Ahlquist, G.K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense.

G.K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense. [Video]

Posted by: frroberts | April 25, 2017

Interesting Video

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Posted by: frroberts | April 22, 2017

Sermoncast: Mercy Me!

Posted by: frroberts | April 22, 2017

Pilgrimage 2018: Scotland and England!

Tentative dates: July 9-18, 2018

Likely activities:

Edinburgh

Fountains Abbey (Monastic Ruins)

FountainsAbbey-Wyrdlight 893.jpg

York Minister Cathedral:

London

Canterbury

Canterbury-cathedral-wyrdlight.jpg

Oxford

Stonehenge

 

 

Posted by: frroberts | April 21, 2017

Book of the Day

The Knox Bible

Posted by: frroberts | April 19, 2017

Recommended Reading: Spirituality

Angelli, The Excellences of the Congregation of the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri.

Laird, Into the Silent Land.

Tugwell, Ways of Imperfection.

Pitre, Jesus the Bridegroom.

Corbon, The Wellspring of Worship.

Faber, The Spirit and Genius of Saint Philip Neri.

Dubay, Happy are You Poor.

A wonderfully challenging book on every Christian’s call to imitate the poverty of Jesus Christ.  The message of the book is not easy, even for those who are deeply committed to their faith.

Nouwen, Life of the Beloved.

What is the essence of the Christian Gospel?  This question should be an easy one, but anyone who has attempted to explain the faith to a non-believer lacking a real acquaintance with Christianity usually discovers the biggest problem in explaining Christianity is where to start.  In our own spiritual lives, we often find that establishing a foundation for our spirituality is similarly difficult.  In this highly readable book Henri Nouwen attempts to provide a positive catechism for a modern agnostic skeptic.  In doing so, he reminds we who believe in Christ that the essence of the message of Jesus is love and grace.  Sadly, we often forget these two when we try to live our religion and replace them with a judgmental moralism.

Sheen, The Life of Christ.

Halik, Night of the Confessor: Christian Faith in an Age of Uncertainty.

Keating, Addiction and Divine Therapy.

We live in an age of material prosperity and spiritual poverty.  Our temptation is to try to fill the God-sized whole in our hearts with material things.  At first, our attempts seem to work.  But with each successive attempt to find our ultimate happiness in something other than God, we find less and less of it.  The spiritual desperation that ensues often leads us to fill ourselves up with more and more of the created thing, even to the point of developing a mental obsession with it.  By this point, we are addicts.

This book details how to find freedom from our addictions and true happiness in living in God’s plan for our lives.

Bouyer, Introduction to the Spiritual Life.

Posted by: frroberts | April 18, 2017

Divine Mercy

Last Sunday we reflected on the awesome gift of forgiveness that the risen Jesus offers us.   We called to mind the beautiful image of Christ standing before us, as He stood before ten of the Apostles on the first Easter, saying, “Peace be with you.”  We tried to hear His sweet voice telling us, “Look at these holy and glorious wounds.  I loved you so much that I suffered these in order to win you forgiveness for your sins.”

On Divine Mercy Sunday, we turn toward a natural reaction in the face of such extreme forgiveness. “Is it too good to be true?”  We will accompany the Apostle Thomas as we formulate an answer to this question.

What do we know from the Bible about the Apostle Thomas?

He did not belong to Jesus’ inner circle of Peter, James the greater, and John

Unlike James the less, Peter, John, Jude and Matthew, nothing that he wrote made it into the Bible

The two other times that he speaks in the Gospels, Thomas is very confused and misunderstands Jesus.

Like every other apostle except Saint John, he abandoned Jesus during His Passion.

His name means twin, which suggests that at some point in his life he was viewed as the lesser half of a pair.  Think about it, when people call you Twin, chances are the other guy is going by a more unique and interesting name, like…Willard.

All of these details point to Thomas being an outsider among the Apostles.  Our intuition here is confirmed by the fact that Thomas is the only one of the Eleven on the evening of the first Easter not present.  He probably decided to stop coming to apostolic meetings altogether after Jesus died on the Cross.

When the other apostles tracked him down and told him the good news that Jesus had risen from the dead and had come to them with forgiveness rather than revenge, Thomas refused to believe.  We can almost hear him saying, “That’s too good to be true.  I don’t believe you.  We abandoned Jesus to crucifixion and no amount of wishful thinking is going to set that right.  Each one of us has to deal with it in his own way and move on. ”

Thomas saw Jesus do some pretty extraordinary things during His three-year public ministry.  After having seen Jesus cure the sick, raise the dead, turn water into wine, just to name a few miracles, it should not have been surprising to hear about our Lord’s Resurrection from the dead, especially because Jesus hinted that it would happen several times before His Passion.  It would be a mistake to chalk up Thomas’ unbelief to a desire for more evidence than the testimony of the other apostles.  It is far more likely that fear was what held him back accepting the good news.  We know this dynamic from our own spiritual experience.  Fear can paralyze us and close us off to new life.

When something goes badly for us, we go into survival mode.  After the shock of the crucifixion, Thomas went into survival mode by disassociating himself from the other Apostles and trying to move on with life after Jesus.   On the outside this behavior of digging in one’s heels and white knuckling it seems strong, but it is actually a telltale sign of fear.  For Thomas, it was superficially easier for him to disbelieve the Resurrection than it was to face the fact that he abandoned Jesus when our Lord needed him most.

Focusing on one’s own moral weakness and lack of faith can be a very scary thing.  We can almost hear the thinly veiled fear in Thomas’ voice when he says that he will not believe unless he can place his fingers into the nail marks and his hand into our Lord’s side.

We also try to convince ourselves that the forgiveness that Jesus offers us is too good to be true.  Why? Because we have spent so much time and energy building up our defenses and have convinced ourselves that we can be okay without placing ourselves totally in God’s hands.  We have gotten accustomed to managing our own spiritual lives. The unfortunate thing is that we can get so comfortable that we start to fear the possibility that the risen Christ brings us new life through His mercy.  Being open to that would be too risky, the devil whispers in our ear.  It would be safer to be in control of how we live and die.

 

It is a natural response and to be expected for us to have a Thomas moment in the midst of this explosion of the power of the Resurrection.  “Unless I put my finger in the nail marks and my hand into His side, I will not believe!”

Brothers and sisters, Jesus is Risen and the power of His Resurrection is at work in our lives.  But, when we allow the power of the Resurrection into our lives, God casts out all our fear.  We don’t have to spend all of our energy trying to manage the death of our parishes.  Instead, if we are in God’s will, we will continue to find that keeping up with the new life all around us is more than we can handle.

I do not have much experience changing diapers, but from what little I have with my godchildren, I am reminded that new life is messy.  Cute, but messy.  It will be the same for us.  Having a sense of humor will be key.

Jesus says to us today, “come put your finger in my hand, plunge your hand into my side, do not continue to disbelieve but believe.”

We ask for the grace, like Thomas, to respond to this invitation on bended knee, confessing “My Lord and my God.”

We should not be surprised if we wonder if the forgiveness and new life that the risen Jesus offers us is too good to be true.  Fear can be a powerful emotion.  We need to let go of fear and dream about how to be open to the good things that the Lord wants to continue to do in our lives.

 

Posted by: frroberts | April 17, 2017

What I am reading now

Reeves, America’s Bishop.

Posted by: frroberts | April 16, 2017

Her Heart will Triumph

b/t Fr. Z

Posted by: frroberts | April 16, 2017

Easter Gospel plus Short Homily

Posted by: frroberts | April 15, 2017

An Ancient Homily From Homily Saturday

Posted by: frroberts | April 15, 2017

Some Spring Cleaning

Since my parish cluster has had it own website for nearly a year, this blog will definatively revert to being a personal blog.  That means that donations and Amazon Associates revenue go to support the blog and my own priestly ministry.

If you wish to donate to my parish cluster, you may do so by going here and scrolling to the bottom of the page.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONTINUED SUPPORT!

Posted by: frroberts | April 15, 2017

Easter is almost here, exult!

Posted by: frroberts | April 14, 2017

Another Good Friday Sermon

Now almost ten years ago I made the thirty day Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola.  During this month I maintained complete silence apart from my daily meetings with my director.  Each week of the thirty day Spiritual Exercises has a theme for the five hours that the retreatant is expected to spend meditating every day.  The unifying theme of the first week is personal sin.  After spending thirty-five hours over seven days meditating on all of the ways I had said no to God by sinning in my first twenty-five years, I felt about six inches tall.  This deep awareness of my guilt before God was heightened by the fact that there was nothing to distract me when I was not praying from the guilt that I felt–no television, no radio, no conversations, no texting, nothing.

To close out the first week, the retreatant makes a general confession to his director of all of the sins that he has committed from the age of seven onwards.  This practice has since become a somewhat regular part of my annual retreat.

Those who have worked a twelve-step program for recovery from addictive behavior will readily admit that two of the most difficult steps are 4 and 5, wherein one makes a searching and fearless moral inventory and then admits to God , oneself and to another human being the exact nature of one’s wrongs.  This is much more than a laundry list of religious duties neglected and trivial peccadilloes.  It is a brutally honest examination of the ways in which one has done real, lasting harm to others and to oneself.

General confessions and moral inventories will very often fill us fear.  They fill us with fear because it is so easy for us to spend most of our time in an imaginary world in which our problems are everyone else’s fault and we are just innocent victims.  They aren’t and we aren’t either.  The real tragedy is that the fear that holds us back from making an honest examination of conscience also makes it impossible for us to receive God’s mercy.  It is impossible to accept forgiveness for things that we stubbornly refuse to own as sins.

The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ reminds us that when absolute goodness entered the world in the flesh, we murdered Him through our sins.   In fallen human nature there is something of an allergy to goodness.  When we see someone who seems better than ourselves, we want to see him brought down to our level.  That is why the press spends so much time and energy trying to expose the dirty laundry of public figures.  We like a good scandal.  It makes us feel more secure in our own hypocrisies to expose the hypocrisy of others.

Attempts to dig up dirt on Jesus were bound to fail.  But Our Lord’s moral purity did not stop His accusers from twisting His actions and words and dragging His name and reputation through the mud so much so that they were able to get an innocent man crucified.  We can be certain that all of those directly involved in the Crucifixion had rationalizations for their roles.  We also can be very good about convincing ourselves that good is evil and evil is good in our own life when it suits our purposes and preserves our false self.

Brothers and sisters, let us be honest about our sins on this Good Friday.  All of us here have chosen at some point in our lives to turn our backs on God.  Fear of having low self-esteem should not deter us from honesty.  We have done wrong.  We have been forgetful of God.  We have harmed others.  We have not loved ourselves enough to stop inflicting needless pain on ourselves through self-destructive behaviors.

We probably have some sinful habits.  We eat or drink more than we should.  We try to control others through our anger.  We focus too much on money and possessions.  We burn with envy for what others have that we want.  We give in to lust.  We are too lazy to try to change for the better.  We think the world should revolve around us and our wants.

Here is the good news this Good Friday, God does not stop loving us with a unique, personal and unrepeatable love after we have done all of these evil things.  It almost seems like He loves us more precisely when we fall into sin.  Where sins abounds, forgiveness abounds even more.  There is the catch, however.  We cannot receive God’s forgiveness when we are living in the false self.   Too the extent that we deny that we are sinners, our sins remain.

Why?  Precisely because God loves us as sinners, we cannot receive His love and mercy when we deceive ourselves about the true nature and extent of our sins.  None of us here lives at the address of a sinless person.  Yet so often in our prayers we come before God and ask Him send to us His love and mercy at that address.  We should not be surprised when our prayers seem to go unanswered.

We come before Jesus today confessing ourselves as sinners.  Hopefully we can do so without fear of rejection or self-preserving rationalization.  Then, and only then, we will be able to receive the great gift of mercy that God sends us every day.   And it is the gift of this mercy that changes us so that we can rest more in God’s love, commit fewer sins and are more merciful towards those who have offended us.

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