HOW TO OVERCOME TIMES OF ABANDONMENT

     Anyone who is committed to living out their faith knows that sometimes are easier than other times. There are times when God feels close, often called times of consolation, and there are times when God seems distant, often called times of desolation. While ups and downs in the spiritual life are normal, it is important to know how to recognize the causes and be able to navigate through times of desolation. This short response aims to explain how to remain on the spiritual path when God seems distant.

     To navigate the spiritual journey in times of desolation it is helpful to know what causes spiritual desolation. Since times of consolation and desolation refer to a person’s relationship with God it is clear that there are two parties involved, God and the human person. So these moments of desolation can be either caused by God or the human person. To truly investigate the cause of a particular moment of desolation it is essential to have a clear understanding of God’s relationship with His people and an understanding of the human person.

     God, who is all loving, never turns away from His people. His grace is always being poured into the soul as long as the soul doesn’t reject it through sin. Yet God, in His infinite knowledge may decide to shield the rays of His love from a soul for a while, making it hard to recognize Him because He knows this will ultimately lead us closer to Him. This spiritual crisis is often called the dark night. In the dark night God permits a soul to feel no emotional satisfaction or consolation in prayer. By removing the consolation God purifies the soul leading it to an ever closer relationship with Himself. Through the dark night God purifies the individual soul so that it seeks not worldly or selfish needs, but only true union with God. Since God only gives His people what they can endure, this dark night usually only comes after the soul has an established a deep relationship with Jesus Christ. Many of the great saints including Mother Teresa, St. Theresa of Avila, and St. John of the Cross experienced a prolonged dark night, which they viewed as a gift from God because they understood, not only its purifying power, but also their close intimate relationship with Christ. They knew, after proper discernment, that their dark night was a gift from God, and that the infinitely bright light of perfect union with God was about to break through.

     While the dark night can be permitted by God for the good of a soul, people should not jump to conclusions that their desolation is in fact the dark night. Since prayer is relationship with God, the desolation can be caused by God or by the human being. Each human person is created by God with a body and a soul that is intimately united to each another. The actions of the soul deeply affect the body and the actions of the body affect the soul, so the times of desolation can either be rooted in the soul or the body.

     Since prayer at its core is, union with God, the way a person lives his life effects his relationship with God. Sin, the rejection of God’s love, turns a person away from God and can be the cause of desolation in his life. While a mortal sin immediately cuts the soul off from the body of Christ, even venial sins cause a rupture in one’s relationship with God. Desolation is most often caused by a wounded relationship between a person who has committed many venial sins or by a person who has cut himself off from by the Body of Christ through mortal sin. The first step for anyone who feels abandoned by God must be to humbly admit that he is probably the cause of that separation and he needs to make a serious examination of his life and go to the Sacrament of Confession.

     Created with a body and soul that is intimately connected, what affects the body often affects the soul and can lead to moments of desolation. Sickness, added stress, an unhealthy lifestyle, bad habits etc. not only effects the body but also the soul, because what is bad for the body is bad for the soul. For example if someone is suffering from exhaustion, they may attempt to pray, but their exhaustion will keep them from feeling any connection to God. Thus anyone who feels that God is distant should look at their lifestyle and see if there may be a need to a lifestyle change to allow them to more perfectly commune with God.

     Even after one has prudently discerned what may be causing the desolation and begins to make necessary changes like going to confession or reducing stress, the desolation may remain for a period of time. Regardless of the reason for feeling abandoned in prayer it is important to continue crying out to God. The temptation of someone in desolation is to pray more or to undertake a greater penance, but St. Ignatius of Loyola counsels against this, arguing that the person should focus on being committed to the spiritual practices that were already in place before the desolation began.[1] The ultimate key to enduring times of desolation is patience. Having made a prudent discernment, often with the help of a spiritual director, that the individual is free from sin and from other physical distractions he should place his complete trust in God and proceed with his spiritual practices knowing that God is sustaining the soul even in the darkness.

[1] St. Ignatius of Loyola. Living the Discerning Life: The Spiritual Teaching of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Available at http://www.ewtn.com/series/shows/living-the-discerning-life/download/14rulesofIgnatius.pdf

14th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B

     Ez 2:2-5 / PS 123:1-2, 2, 3-4 / 2 Cor 12: 7-10 / Mk 6:1-6

     Yesterday we celebrated the 239th birthday of our great nation. As I celebrated with family and friends I could not help but be thankful that we live in a country founded on the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Yet as I celebrated the great freedom of our country I could not help but recall that those freedoms are not free. Like many of you, I am privileged to count among my friends many men and women who sacrifice so much, including some friends who have paid the ultimate price, to defend the freedom of our great country so that you and I might be free to come here and worship today.

     As I think of the countless men and women who have given their lives to protect our freedoms as Americans, I cannot help but pause for a moment to ask myself a very basic question. What is that wonderful gift of freedom that we are celebrating this weekend? Sadly many people in our society summarize freedom by saying something like “it’s my life, my body, I can do what I want; I’m free.” Yet if this is freedom our Founding Fathers created utter chaos and countless men and women have died to protect pure madness. For if freedom is the unbridled ability to do whatever we want then freedom leads to people killing other people, to people stealing others property, and to people oppressing others in every imaginable way. As Americans the true notion of freedom is engrained in us and deep down we know true freedom cannot simply be the license to do whatever we want, after all we don’t riot or protest when someone is rightly arrested for murder, theft, etc. Others want to limit freedom to the ability to do something as long as it doesn’t harm others. Yet even you and I know this still can’t be the true meaning of freedom. Why do we step in and have an intervention when one of our friends becomes an alcoholic, or an addict, why do we step in to prevent a high school teenager from continuing with her eating disorder, or to keep a depressed man from committing suicide? We rightly step in because the license to do whatever we want does not lead to freedom, it leads to the exact opposite, it leads to slavery. Ask any recovering addict if his unbridled ability to continue in his addiction was leading to freedom and he will tell you it was only leading to slavery.

     Our country was founded on a greater principle than simply man should be able to do whatever he wants. Countless men and women have died to protect the genius of the Founding Fathers that recognized man is meant to be free, free to live in truth and goodness.  What has made America exceptional is not that we are better than other people. But that for the first time, in a world that for the vast majority of its history had only known tyranny, servitude and serfdom, a system was established that allowed man the greatest opportunity to fulfill his potential as made in the image and likeness of God; and to allow this example to be a witness and call to freedom for mankind everywhere.  Look at the results!  Look at our unparalleled standard of living!

     Still, despite this offering of freedom that is the essence of the Gospel, many people continue to take offense at this Good News and reject it just as our Lord’s own people took offense to the truth and rejected Him in today’s Gospel. People continue to reject the call to holiness, which necessarily places limits on our human actions, because they are afraid that unless they can do whatever they want, they will not be truly free; but this way of thinking fails to understand that this idea of freedom does not make one free, but slaves, slaves to sin.  Slaves to the bottle, to lust and pornography, to drugs, food, anger, take your pick; every manner of vice and addiction has its roots in this false notion of freedom. It seems to me the most free people I have witnessed are those who live holy lives. I can think of no one more free than Mother Theresa or Pope Saint John Paul II.  True freedom, the freedom that God offers us, the freedom for which Jesus died to give us is the freedom to do good, to be unimpeded and unhindered in being who God created us to be, children of God in His own image and likeness, to be the most perfect self we can become.

     You see the principle of freedom does not mean that God has no place in this country. No our founding fathers knew that to remove God from the notion of freedom was to cease to have freedom at all. After all “the highest freedom is the yes in conformity with God’s will.”[1] Our Founding Fathers built a nation with the understanding that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”[2] Freedom, must be something greater than the ability to do whatever we want. Freedom then, is nothing less than the call to greatness.

     God has abundantly blessed our country; more so than in other nation in the history of the world.  We owe it to God and to the rest of humanity to strive for goodness and excellence and to make that opportunity available to others.  If we want America to be great, then it starts right here, with individuals, with you and me.  Do we choose to become a better, my more perfect self, more holy person?  Do we choose to believe, to have faith that Jesus alone is the way, the truth and the life?  Or do I take offense at Him?  For it is only through good and free individuals, that a society is good and free.  And it is only in God and His Freedom, that a nation becomes great.

[1] Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Church Fathers and Teachers. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010. Pg 62.

[2] Preamble to the Declaration of Independence.

The Remarraige of Faith and Reason

     Real truth points to and is preserved by God such that faith and reason used together may discover truth. Faith and reason are “two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.”[1] This paper aims to show that both academia and the common man have wrongly divorced philosophy and theology. Secondly it will attempt to show that there is a natural and necessary relationship between faith and reason. Lastly this paper will demonstrate that the unity of faith and reason, not the divorce, helps one see man, not as another beast, but as a man with a higher end in life.

     In recent times scholars have wrongly attempted to divorce philosophy from theology. There are many contemporary thinkers who hold that one’s religious beliefs are subjective and have no place in the objective world of academia. They hold that faith and reason are not compatible. This position results in an academic culture that rejects any notion of God for “[Academia’s] brand of scholarship forbids God access to the world.”[2]

     The Catholic Church, however, holds that faith and reason are compatible both faith and reason are rooted in God Himself, in whom there is no contradiction. “It is the one and the same God who establishes and guarantees the intelligibility and reasonableness of the natural order of things upon which scientists confidently depend.”[3] There is one God who is the Way, the Truth and the Life,[4] not a god of faith alongside a god of science.

     Taking as its starting point the fact that God exists, a point that can be demonstrated by reason without the aid of faith, the Catholic Church makes it clear that by leaving God out of academia, scholars run the risk of discovering either wrong or incomplete truths.[5] The Church does not promote fideism, the replacing of reason by faith. Nor does She promote scientism, “the philosophical notion which refuses to admit the validity of forms of knowledge other than those of the positive sciences; and it relegates religious, theological, ethical and aesthetic knowledge to the realm of mere fantasy.”[6]

     Since God exists and is the source of all knowledge it is impossible for there to be a contradiction between faith and reason because this would imply a contradiction in the source of truth, God[7] “In God there lies the origin of all things; in him is found the fullness of the mystery and in his glory consists; to men and woman there falls the task of exploring truth with their reason.”[8] The fullness of truth resides in God and man comes to learn that truth through his God – given gift of reason. Reason assists faith and faith assists reason.

     The Church has no philosophy of her own. She promotes any line of thinking that requires both faith and reason working together to lead on to a more complete understanding of truths.  Yet the works of St. Thomas Aquinas and scholastic through are often taken as a guide because they are essentially tied to the marriage of faith and reason.[9]

     Those who wish to divorce theology from philosophy argue that one should use only his gift of reason with no assent to faith. These thinkers are correct in noting that it is not contrary to man for him to use his reason. What separates man from brute animals is his capacity for reasoning. All men should make use of their gift of reason.  “Reason is God’s greatest gift to man, and the victory of reason over unreason is also the goal of the Christian Life.”[10] These proponents of divorcing theology and philosophy, have, however, while correctly recognizing the capacity of man to reason, rejected a notion of metaphysics. For some of these thinkers only those things that can be empirically proven should be taken as true. They argue that the mathematical fact 2+2 = 4 is true because it can be empirically demonstrated while the existence of an angel is not true, because it cannot not be empirically proven to be true.

     Even some thinkers who believe in the existence of God claim that philosophy and theology are two separate subjects and as such should never interact with each other. This claim is absurd because all sciences interact with each other. Medicine, for example, requires the science of chemistry to assist in fighting diseases with drugs and physics requires the use of mathemetics for its theorems.

     It is proper for the science of philosophy to accompany theology and all the other sciences because it is the science of first principles and ultimate causes. “Philosophy is the science which by the natural light of reason studies the first causes or highest principles of all things, in other words, the science of things in their first causes, in so far as these belong to the natural order.”[11] Since philosophy is the study of things in their first causes it is proper for philosophy to accompany theology. “It is the particular responsibility of philosophy to accompany critically the development of individual academic disciplines, shedding a critical light on premature conclusions and apparent certainties.”[12]

     While the supereme being, God, is studied in both theology and philosophy, it cannot be forgotten that theology and philosophy are distinct subjects, each with their own distinct procedures which must be followed. One should not use the procedures of philosophy to do theology and vice a versa. “Even when it engages theology, philosophy must remain faithful to its principles and methods.”[13]

    Philosophy and theology are two distinct sciences which are united and necessarily relate to each other. Simply because philosophy and theology are distinct sciences should not imply that their fields cannot including the subject matter of the others science while respecting the procedures of each science. Faith and reason have reciprocal relationships; truth is discovered by faith and reason working together. Pope Benedict XVI is correct when he claims “reason and faith need one another in order to fulfill their true nature and their mission.”[14]

      Since both theology and philosophy are the study of one and the same truth, there is an inseparable correlation between faith and reason. Pope Benedict XVI summarized this correlation between faith and reason best when he claimed “I believe in order to understand and I understand the better to believe.”[15] Theology and philosophy, while separate sciences matters, are so closely linked in their subject matter. It is impossible to do theology without philosophy and impossible for a truth of philosophy to contradict a truth of theology.

       Through one’s use of reason, his faith is nurtured through every one of his experiences. “Let your faith mature through your studies, work, sport, and art.”[16] One’s relationship with God, faith, is also either nurtured or hindered by one’s everyday experiences. “The ultimate purpose of personal existence, then, is the theme of philosophy and theology alike.”[17]

     Theology and philosophy are enhanced when they are accompanied by each other. Pope John Paul II correctly claims that one cannot discuss theological issues without the assistance of philosophy. “Without philosophy’s contribution, it would in fact be impossible to discuss theological issues.”[18]

     For philosophy and theology to mutually benefit each other it must be shown that what Pope John Paul II teaches dogmatically in his encyclical letter Fides et Ratio, namely that there is no contradiction between faith and reason is true. “This truth, which God reveals to us in Jesus Christ, is not opposed to the truths which philosophy perceives. On the contrary, the two modes of knowledge lead to truth in all its fullness.”[19] The pontiff says faith and reason are not opposed to each other, rather they are complimentary, and further he warns that  they ought not be separated from each other for this would deter the discovery of truth. “Therefore, reason and faith cannot be separated without diminishing the capacity of men and women to know themselves, the world and God in an appropriate way.”[20]

     Reason assists faith by purifying and structuring her message. “Religion must continually allow itself to be purified and structured by reason.”[21] Philosophy specifically serves theology through the study of the structure of knowledge and personal communication by enabling one to speak about the issues of theology in a universal way. Philosophical thought enables one to truly understand what is meant by faith because nature is the first stage of divine revelation.[22] While God clearly places within every human heart the desire to know Him and reveals Himself to every human person, the human person first comes to experience God through the senses. “This is to recognize as a first stage of divine revelation the marvelous book of nature.”[23] Everything that we know is first known through our senses. Philosophy grasps the truth by assisting in the understanding both “the logical and conceptual structure of the propositions in which the Church’s teaching is framed.”[24] Through the use of reason one is able to understand more clearly the messages of faith.

     The claim that philosophy aids the study of theology is not a claim that truths revealed to us by faith are created by human reason. “The truth made known to us by reason is neither the product nor the consummation of an argument devised by human reason.”[25] Faith, unlike reason, is not of human origin, it is not an innate capacity. It is a gift of God.

     Faith also assists reason while remaining loyal to its own science of theology. “It (faith) does not replace reason but can help to make essential values more evident.”[26] Human reason without the aid of faith, still comes up with an incomplete or wrong truth. “Philosophy has good reasons to be willing to learn from religious traditions.”[27] Faith supplies the element of truth, which can then be used by philosophy to give a greater understanding of the article of faith. “Not only is faith the mother of all worldly energies, but its foes are the fathers of all worldly confusion.”[28] Much of the confusion in the world of academia stems from the rejection of faith.

     Faith serves philosophy by challenging the philosopher to move beyond the natural to demonstrate the truth found in God, to not stop short of the whole truth by accepting only what is visible to him. “Of itself, philosophy is able to recognize the human being’s ceaselessly self-transcendent orientation toward the truth; and with the assistance of faith, it is capable of accepting the foolishness of the cross as the authentic critique of those who delude themselves that they possess the truth.”[29] Because in God rests the origin and the fullness of all things without faith, the philosopher cannot do philosophy to its fullest. “[Faith] impels reason to extend the range of its knowledge until it senses that it has done all in its power, leaving no stone unturned.”[30]

     While it is true that reason alone can demonstrate truths about God, by reason alone one cannot come to the whole truth about God. “Reason therefore needs faith if it is to be completely itself.”[31] Aristotle for example was able to prove the existence of God. Aristotle, however, was unable to come to the whole picture about God, for example the Trinity. While reason can begin to explain the Trinity, by demonstrating the existence of a God, it cannot demonstrate the existence of the Trinity. Aristotle was able to prove God’s existence through reason, but unable to prove how many gods there were, let alone that there are three Persons in one God. While later philosophers may have been able to prove the existence of a monotheistic God, it is impossible to demonstrate by reason alone the existence of the Trinity.

    The unity of faith and reason, not the divorce, helps us see man not as another beast, but as a man with a higher end in life. This relationship between faith and reason is seen clearly in the question of whether or not virginity is a virtue. The debate about the virtuosity of virginity is a strong example of how philosophy helps explain truths of the faith and how articles of faith give insights into philosophical truths. Virginity is “continence whereby integrity of the flesh is vowed, consecrated and observed in honor of the creator of both soul and flesh.”[32] It will be shown that attempting to answer this question about the virtuousness of virginity, with only the use of reason brings us to a wrong conclusion, while answering this question with reason in the light of faith brings one to a conclusion that is both logical and true.

     The Bible mentions that virginity is a virtuous act. “With respect to virgins, I have not received any commandment from the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who is trustworthy, thanks to the Lord’s mercy. It is this: In the present time of stress it seems good to me for a person to continue as he is.”[33] While the Bible clearly teaches that there is at minimum nothing wrong with virginity some thinkers see a contradiction here between faith and reason. Many fundamentalists argue that virginity is sinful because goes against the law of nature that man is ordered to procreate.

     A recent online petition, asking Pope Benedict XVI to lift the ban of priestly celibacy is a strong demonstration of the errors that can arise when faith and reason are not applied properly to each other.[34] This petition misrepresents St. Thomas Aquinas’s doctrine of natural law and tries to assert that all men should engage in sexual activity if they desire to follow the natural law. While the author of this petition doctors up St. Thomas’s teaching on natural in pseudo academic way he never does demonstrate exactly how it is that living a celibate life goes against the natural law.

    St. Thomas, a Catholic philosopher, who recognized the vital role of faith in the pursuit of reason, was in fact, able to demonstrate that virginity is not immoral and is not opposed to the Bible. St. Thomas agrees that things are wrong if they go against right reason, but demonstrated virginity does not go against right reason because it is ordered towards a supernatural end which is possible because man is not merely a natural creature, but possesses a soul which is supernatural.[35]

     Using Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, St. Thomas demonstrated that the  good for a man is threefold, the good of external things, bodily goods, and goods of the soul. These goods are hierarchical because the external goods are ordered to the bodily goods, and the bodily goods are ordered to the goods of the soul.[36]

       The purpose of celibacy is not simply to abstain from sexual intercourse for the sake of abstaining from sexual intercourse, but rather it is ordered towards an end, that is the good of the soul. Celibacy is to be undertaken for the sake of the kingdom of God. “Virginity for the sake of the kingdom of heaven is an unfolding of baptismal grace, a powerful sign of the supremacy of the bond with Christ and of the ardent expectation of his return, a sign which also recalls that marriage is a reality of this present age which is passing away.”[37] Man understands well the idea of forgoing lower goods for higher goods. An athlete, for example, forgoes the good of certain foods which would hinder his athletic performance.

     The kingdom of heaven, an eternal good is greater, than the good of the world. It follows then that a man or woman who gives up his ability to love in the exclusive way that marriage requires out of love and sacrifice for God is living a life that is perfectly ordered, and is doing a virtuous act.

     Without faith in the kingdom of heaven, one is unable to come to the understanding that virginity is good. Thinking simply with human reason, a reason that is restricted to this world, leads one to the wrong conclusion because it leaves out an important variable, the supernatural variable, the kingdom of heaven, that to which the soul is ordered.

     To believe that faith and reason are opposed to each other is to settle for incomplete truths or even falsities. In the case of virginity, without an article of faith that the soul will live on after the death of the human person, one arrives at the false belief that virginity is not a virtuous act. “Of itself, philosophy is able to recognize the human beings ceaselessly self-transcendent orientation toward the truth; and with the assistance of faith it is capable of accepting the foolishness of the cross as the authentic critique of those who delude themselves that they possess the truth.”[38] With faith and reason working together properly one comes to an understanding about the beauty of virginity.

     Philosophy itself is only able to go so far without the assistance of faith; however with an understanding of faith the truth is a reveled. Through the correct use of mans abilities for reason and the gift of faith one is able to comprehend the truth. When faith and reason are divorced the door is opened to error. By using both faith and reason one comes to understand the beauty of virginity.

[1] John Paul II, “Encyclical Letter on the relationship between Faith and Reason” Fides et Ratio (14 September 1998), Greeting.

[2] Ratzinger Joseph Cardinal, On the Way to Jesus Christ (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2005), 63.

[3] Fides et ratio, §34 (Boston: Saint Paul Books and Media, 1998), 47.

[4] Jn 14:6

[5] For Philosophical proofs for the existence of God see St. Thomas Aquinas’s 5 proofs found in the Summa Theologica Ia, q. 2, a. 3.

[6] Fides et ratio, § 88.

[7] For a philosophical proof for the existence of God please see again St. Thomas Aquinas’s 5 proofs for the existence of God found in the Summa Theologica Ia, q. 2, a. 3. For an explanation of how it is that God is the source of all knowledge please see the section on St. Thomas in Pasnau, Robert, “Divine Illumination”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2008/entries/illumination/&gt;.

[8] Fides et Ratio, § 17.

[9] Fides et ratio, § 49-56.

[10] Spe Salve, § 23.

[11] Maritain Jacques, An Introduction to Philosophy (Lanham: Oxford, 2005), 69.

[12] Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Jurgen Habermas, The Dialects of Secularization On Reason and Religion (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 57.

[13] Fides et Ratio, § 40.

[14] Pope Benedict XVI, “Encyclical on Hope” Spe Salve  (18 March 2011), §23, at The Holy See, http://www.vatican.va

[15] Ratzinger, On the Way to Jesus Christ, 158.

[16] Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the youth at the vigil with the young people during World Youth Day on July 19th  2008 (18 March 2011), at The Holy See, http://www.vatican.va.

[17] Fides et Ratio, § 15.

[18] Fides et Ratio, § 66.

[19] Fides et Ratio, § 34.

[20] Fides et Ratio, § 16.

[21] Ratzinger Europe Today and Tomorrow  (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 80.

[22] Fides et Ratio, § 5.

[23] Fides et Ratio, § 19.

[24] Fides et Ratio, § 66.

[25] Fides et Ratio, § 14.

[26] Ratzinger, Europe Today and Tomorrow, 66.

[27] Ratzinger and Habermas, The Dialects, 42.

[28] Chesterton G.K., Orthodoxy (New York: Barnes & Noble, 2007), 132.

[29] Fides et Ratio, § 23.

[30] Fides et Ratio, § 14

[31] Spe Salve, § 23.

[32] Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, II-II, q. 152, a. 1, in Summa theologica: Complete English Edition in Five Volumes, vol. 4, trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province (Notre Dame, IN: Christian Classics, 1981).

[33] The New American Bible. Catholic Biblical Association of America, ed. New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1970. 1Cor 7:25-26

[34] The petition can be found at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/celibacy/

[35] ST, II-II, q. 152, a. 2, trans. English Dominican Province.ST II-II 152.2

[36] ST, II-II, q. 152, a. 2, trans. English Dominican Province.ST II-II 152.2

[37] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 1619.

[38] Fides et Ratio, § 23.

Response to the Supreme Court Ruling on Homosexual Marraige

     As a man of faith I believe that every human person is deserving of love, justice and equality. Yet it is precisely because I believe in love, justice and equality for all that watching the legalization of homosexual marriage in our great country tears my heart apart. Love, justice and equality must be rooted in truth and today’s decision by our nation’s highest court has attempted to warp our nation’s founding principles of justice and equality for all by twisting the truth of what marriage is.

     While I recognize that two people of the same sex can love each other very deeply, marital love is more than just a deep love between two people; it is a union which expresses the highest form of love available to mankind. Justice Kennedy is correct that “no union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family.”[1] Yet to truly meet that strict criteria, marriage must be a union of a man and woman that is open to life. Through this marital union, a man and a woman, who because of their biological composition are different from each other, bring together their unique qualities for the good of their family, the good of our country and the good of the world. Men and women, while both equal in dignity and deserving of equal rights, are simply different yet designed to be complementary to each other. When a man and a woman join in marriage they bring together their differences to form something greater than they were apart, a fuller love which is simply not possible when two couples of the same sex attempt marriage. After all when two members of the same sex attempt marriage either the genius of the feminine or the genius of the male is missing from their marriage and thus there is something about their marriage that is incomplete. A homosexual marriage, then, is clearly not the highest form of love possible because part is missing. If our country, rightly wants to value the importance and dignity of each individual man and woman, how can we exclude either a man or a woman from the family unit and consider a family complete or whole with one of the two genders missing?

     SCOTUS, in attempting to define what marriage is has tried to lower the standard of love that exists in marriage. They have tried to redefine how human beings interact with themselves at their deepest level. This ruling has effectively washed away the history of our great country and attempted to redefine the future. By redefining marriage, our nation’s highest court, from a legal standpoint, seems to have reopened the gates to the wild west. After all what now keeps our country from legalizing marriage between a person and his pet, or a person and her Barbie Doll?

     In issuing their ruling, the Supreme Court has failed to realize that marriage is about a whole lot more than the romantic relationship of two individuals. Marriage is an institution centered on the procreation and education of the next generation of citizens. Only a man and a woman are designed by nature for the teaks of bringing new children into this world and we know that children receive something biologically, parentally and socially unique from both their father and their mother. In the words of Pope Francis “we must reaffirm the right of children to grow up in a family with a father and a mother.”[2] What right does a state have to tinker with what has proven over millennia to be the best atmosphere for children, a loving stable family with both a father and a mother? Who is standing up to promote love, justice and equality for children raised a homosexual marriage?

     Our great country was founded by families seeking the freedom to exist beyond oppression. In hijacking love, justice and equality, SCOTUS has effectively extended its oppressive will to all corners of our great nation. Each and every American should be shaken to the core at the flexing of such unprecedented power.

     What comes next? Will my Church who refuses to perform same-sex marriage be stripped of our tax exempt status and sued. After all if a baker can be sued for refusing to bake a cake for a homosexual wedding what is stopping people from suing churches who recognize marriage as a union between a man and a woman? As a Catholic priest, will I be arrested, charged and imprisoned for standing for my religious convictions that are millennia old? Will a nation founded under God systematically root out all vestiges of religion under the empirical rule of the Federal Justice System? I don’t know what the future holds for our country, but today I am deeply sadden that the highest court in our land has tried to erase the past and redefine the future. I love our great country, but I cannot violate my own conscience. So while I love all people, want all people to feel welcomed loved and appreciated at my Church and I despise any form of authentic injustice or inequality, I cannot agree with the court and change the definition of what marriage is because after all it’s not up to you, I, a country or the Supreme Court to define what marriage is.

[1] Supreme Court Justice Kennedy in his majority opinion for Obergefell v Hodges issued on 6/26/2015. http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/14-556_3204.pdf . Pg 28.

[2] Pope Francis. Address to the members of the International Catholic Child Bureau (BICE). April 11th, 2014. http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2014/april/documents/papa-francesco_20140411_ufficio-cattolico-infanzia.html

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

     JB 38:1,8-11 / PS 107: 23-24, 25-26, 28-29, 30-31 / 2 Cor 5: 14-17 / MK 4:35-41

     A Happy Father’s day to all of our dads. Like most people, when I was younger, I believed my dad was superman. I thought he was the world’s strongest man, he was smarter than anyone else and he was the best athlete in the world. Like many children, anytime I felt threatened or scared I ran to my dad for protection.  Yet, as I grow up I now realize how truly special my dad is, but I have been forced to face the reality that he is human just like the rest of us. While my biological Father may not actually be the world’s strongest man, or the smartest, nor the best athlete in the world, our heavenly Father, who is divine, is truly all knowing, all powerful and all loving. Just as biological Fathers, in their love for their children, seek to provide them with all they need so too does our Heavenly Father desire to provide for our every need.

     In many ways today’s Gospel is a perfect parable for our life journeys. All of us, at times, find ourselves in the midst of the violent storms of life, we find ourselves in the middle of the sea on a boat that is in real danger of sinking and we become so desperate we are willing to try anything to stay afloat. Yet so often it seems that the harder we try to navigate the stormy seas of life, the worse the storms get. I think our lives, at times, continue to spiral out of control because we look inward on ourselves and think we have to control the situation, when in reality, often times the storms of life require the assistance of others. When we were little how many of us never hesitated to run to our dad for protection? Even if it was in the middle of the night and we had to wake him up, wasn’t he often our first choice for protection? Why not become like that little child in our faith lives and run to our heavenly Father in times of need? Why not be like the apostles in today’s gospel and turn to God, who alone has the power to calm the stormy seas?

     While we can easily be tempted to believe we can take control over every aspect of our lives, nothing could be further from the truth. Note that in today’s Gospel, St. Mark gives us the detail that Jesus was asleep in the stern of the boat. He was asleep in the back of the boat where the steering is controlled. The disciples had been trying to take control, but in reality it is Jesus who sits at the controls and only when we turn our lives over to Him in complete trust and abandonment and only when we let Him take the controls can we be sure that we will pass through the storms of life unharmed.

     The early Christians saw in the image of the boat a symbol for the Church. The lesson they saw was clear. While the boat, in today’s gospel, was being tossed around, the disciples really had no other choice but to stay in the boat because if they would have jumped out of the boat they would have surely drowned. While storms will come in our lives we must remain right here in the protection of the Church. For when we remain in the Catholic Church, in this parish community with Jesus as the head we have the assistance of a 2,000 year tradition of teaching, we have the assistance of Jesus, the saints and our community to sustain us. Friends “the Church is ‘strength in weakness’ a combination of human failure and divine mercy”[1] and we know that by remaining in the protection of the Church “God makes use of evil in such a superb way and with such skill that the result is better than if there had never been evil.”[2]

     While “it is true: God disturbs our comfortable day – to – day existence,”[3] just as any good Father He is always there to be our protector and our guide, if only we are willing to turn to Him. As we gather this weekend to celebrate our Father’s let’s not forget to honor the Father of us all, God the Father. Let’s once again find the innocence of being the spiritual child of our creator. Why not be united with Him at all times in our thoughts and in our hearts so that when the storms do come we are ready and strengthened to weather them?

[1] Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger .Dogma and Preaching Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011. Pg 223

[2] Wilfrid Stinssen. Into Your Hands, Father Abandoning Ourselves to the God Who Loves Us. San Francisco: Ignatius Press 2011.Pg 15.

[3] Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Jesus of Nazareth Part III. San Francisco: Image, 2012. Pg 103.

Wedding Homily for my brother and sister in law

Perhaps the most abused word in the English language is the word love. Today we claim that we love God, you love your spouse, you love your children, but we also claim to love our dog, we love chocolate and how many of us say we love Laura’s dress? In fact I bet Philip loves that you love her dress and being his brother I love that he loves that you love Laura’s dress. With all this talk of love in the world don’t you think it would be helpful, at this moment, when we celebrate the love between Laura and Philip, to stop for just a moment and ask the age-old question “what is love?”

     The true meaning of love, which we celebrate today, is very simply the expression that I need you. Now this need between you is not 50% of Laura and 50% of Philip coming together as the yin and the yang, but rather 100% of Laura being offered to Philip and 100% of Philip being offered to Laura. You do not need each other to complete you, each of you are your own complete person and it is because you are each your own persons that you are able to give yourself totally to the other. It is this total gift of self to one another that makes your marriage a reality. In fact, as you know, the two of you are the ministers of this sacrament. I stand here as the Church’s witness and to offer the Church’s blessing, but the sacrament of marriage is not confected by me, it is conferred by each of you offering yourself totally to each other.

     My friends to be loved means to know that we are worth it in someone’s eyes. Certainly all of us need to look no further than the crucifix, to see that we are worth it to God, after all He sent His only Son into this world to die for us, but today’s sacrament of marriage reminds all of you who are married that you are also worth it in the eyes of your spouse, and your marriage shows the world a reflection of the love that God has for each and everyone of us. Philip and Laura today, you will stand before us and promise to give yourself completely to each other. You will no longer live for yourself but for the other.

     Your marriage is the way in which you will help each other become who God intends each of you to be; your yes to each other is a promise to make the other a saint. Today you stand not only before your friends but also before God and promise to give yourself totally to your spouse. Just as Christ gave Himself for us on the cross, you promise to lay down your life for one another, after all “no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”[1]  Today you promise to give yourself totally, faithfully and fruitfully, until death, to one another, mirroring the love God has for each of us, and you promise to work to bring each other and your children to our heavenly home.

     As you stand before us today and say “I do” you will form a new relationship, the two of you will become one. Your love for one another will unite the two of you into one. The “I” will become the “we”, and the “mine” will become “ours”. By following the example of Christ, in daily laying down your life for one another, the Holy Spirit will increasingly lead each of you through your life long journey on your way to your ultimate goal of eternal life.

     The love we celebrate today is not some romantic idea expressed simply in words or feelings, but rather an expression to each other in your deeds, an expression that says through your way of life that you matter so much to me I will give my life for you. This love you express is not some feeling that may go away later in life. No “to fall into love means to fall into something, and that something is responsibility.”[2] Regardless of where life takes you, you are promising to journey unceasingly with each other on the path to heaven, until death takes you from this earth.  The love you express with complete freedom today seeks to limit your own freedom for the good of the other for “true love by its nature is uncompromising it is the freeing of self from selfishness and egotism.”[3] Through your marriage you will no longer look in on yourself, but outwardly to the other, taking responsibility for the other through faithful married service.

     So then what is this love that we are celebrating today? The great English writer G.K. Chesterton summarized love saying, “Love is bound; and the more it is bound the less it is blind.”[4] Today you come and sacramentally bind your love to each other for the rest of your life. You say to your spouse, you matter so much to me that I am willing to lay down my life for you to lead you to your true and ultimate goal of heaven. While the world puts so many different ideals about love before us, your marriage today is a reminder to us that true love, in imitation of the Blessed Trinity, is a laying down of one’s life for the good of the other. So after today’s wedding when you say to each other I love you, you will be saying in the words of the great 4th century Archbishop of Constantinople, St. John Chrysostom “I have taken you in my arms, and I love you, and I prefer you to my life itself. For the present life is nothing, and my most ardent dream is to spend it with you in such a way that we may be assured of not being separated in the life reserved for us … I place your love above all things, and nothing would be more bitter or painful to me than to be of a different mind than you.”[5]

[1] Jn 15:13

[2] Fulton Sheen. The World’s First Love Mary, Mother of God. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press) 2011. Pg. 26.

[3] Fulton Sheen. The World’s First Love Mary, Mother of God. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press) 2011. Pg. 29.

[4] Chesterton, GK. Orthodoxy. (1905 Reprint in Lexington, KY April 2013) Pg. 63.

[5] St. John Chrysostom, Hom. in Eph. 20,8:PG 62,146-147.

Corpus Christi Year B

Corpus Christi Year B 

Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis

Ex 24:3-8 / PS 116: 12-13, 15-16, 17-18 / Heb 9:11-15 / Mk14:12-16, 22-26

     When we approach the altar to receive Holy Communion, what will we see? What will we be thinking? What will we be holding in our hearts? How we answer this question depends on if we really believe that the Eucharist is truly the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. Notice in today’s Gospel account of the Last Supper Jesus did not say, ‘this is a symbol of my body or this represents my body,’ no, He said, “THIS IS MY BODY.” Likewise with the chalice He did not say ‘this is a symbol of my blood,” but rather “THIS IS MY BLOOD.” To believe the Eucharist is simply a symbol of Christ makes absolutely no sense. “Since then He Himself declared and said of the Bread, This is My Body, who shall dare to doubt any longer? And since He has Himself affirmed and said, This is My Blood, who shall ever hesitate, saying, that it is not His blood?”[1] Further in the Gospel of St. John, Jesus tells us “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you.”[2] Just after saying that we must eat His body and drink His blood, St. John recounts that many of Jesus’ disciples left Him and returned to their former way of life. If Jesus were just speaking figuratively don’t you think He would have called back those who were leaving Him saying something like “hold on, it’s not really my body, it only symbolizes my body.” Jesus says what He means and means what He says.

     My brothers and sisters, today’s feast of Corpus Christi reminds us of the inestimable love God has for us, a love so great that He sent His only Son into this world to suffer and die for us and today, He continues to bless us with the opportunity to share in that same sacrifice and thus attain our eternal salvation. In our responsorial psalm, in which we just sang, “the cup of salvation I will raise,” we sang the same words which were sung at the end of the Passover meal. At that Passover meal, which we call the Last Supper, “[Jesus] took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it.” In those days that cup was a large cup full of wine with two handles, which was passed around the table as each disciple took a drink which symbolized their friendship and intimacy. The blessing would have begun with a standard Jewish prayer formula: “Blessed are you, O Lord our God, ” but then Jesus altered the usual blessing. According to St. Mark, Jesus said: “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be poured out for many.” Jesus is obviously speaking about His own Passion, in which He would spill His precious blood for the forgiveness of sins. At the end of the meal, just before He was to be handed over to His death Jesus chanted the psalm “I will raise the cup of salvation, ” and He meant it in a unique way: namely, that He would allow Himself to be raised up on the Cross. His body would weep its precious blood.

     In just a few moments that same cup of salvation will be raised on our altar. The priest cradles the chalice of wine with the hands that were anointed with chrism at his ordination and blesses it by repeating Jesus’ words: “this is my blood.” Then the priest raises the chalice, offering it to the Father. So you see, the priest acts on behalf of Jesus to make His sacrifice present on the altar in this time and in this place. The very same sacrifice that was prefigured by Moses’ sacrifice recounted in today’s first reading, instituted by Christ at the Last Supper and that was enacted at Calvary is made present here so that all of us can share in the same graces He won by His Sacrifice on Calvary. Each of you will also join in the raising of the chalice. By virtue of your baptism, you belong to the common priesthood of believers and so also have a share in Christ’s Priesthood. You partake in offering His sacrifice in your mind and heart along with the priest. So at each Mass bring your regrets, anxieties, fears, uneasiness, joys and gratitude and in the silence of your heart offer them to Christ. Then at Communion when you drink from the chalice, you will literally raise the cup of salvation to your lips, just like the disciples. And while our chalice doesn’t have two handles, there is still a hand-off: from the hand of the priest, to the hand of the baptized. It’s as if we were at the Last Supper sharing the sacrificial banquet with Jesus and the disciples. Yet there is a big difference between the Last Supper and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that we celebrate today. At the Last Supper Jesus had not yet died. The disciples partook of the Body and Blood of Jesus prior to His Passion, while we partake afterwards. The disciples received the Body and Blood of Jesus who had not yet suffered. We receive the Body and Blood of Jesus crucified and risen: His glorious Body bearing the marks of His sorrowful Passion.

     What a magnificent gift! “The Eucharist is not just a ritual meal; it is the shared prayer of the Church, in which the Lord prays together with us and gives us himself,”[3] and yet look at all the empty pews! So many people in the world are on a quest for God, as St. Augustine says “our hearts are restless until they find rest in you O God”[4] and He is right here. I bet though, if we were handing out gold or silver every Sunday, there would be a line from here to the arch; we would not have churches large or numerous enough to contain the multitudes that would be fighting to get inside. But our Lord is not content to give us merely earthly satisfaction; He wants us to give us eternal life! Holy Communion gives us strength for it is the most revealing proof of God’s love for us, and the most powerful means of fostering that infinite love in our lives.

     So when we approach the altar for Holy Communion, we should do so with the utmost reverence and presence of mind and heartfelt desire. We should worship the loving sacrifice of Jesus’ Blood poured out for our sins and long to enjoy the salvation that Jesus offers. When we drink from the chalice, Jesus comes into us in a most intimate way. He befriends us. My brothers and sisters, as you receive our Lord in Holy Communion beg the Holy Spirit to open your heart to that friendship. Beg the Lord for the graces that come with Holy Communion. And finally, look forward to the heavenly banquet in which we will recline with Jesus and enjoy His company.

[1] St. Cyril of Jerusalem. Lecture 22 chapter 4 paragraph 1.

[2] Jn 6:53

[3] Joseph Ratzinger Collected Works Vol 11. Pg 534.

[4] St. Augustine. Confessions Book 1 Chapter 1.