Monday, April 20, 2015

St. John Vianney on the Poor Souls in Purgatory

I would like to reflect upon a quote from St. John Vianney this evening on the Poor Souls in Purgatory:

"If people only know how great is the power of the souls in Purgatory and how many graces we can obtain from God through their intercession, they would not be so forgotten. Let us pray well for them, so that they may pray for us." -St. John Vianney

Let's allow this statement from the great 19th Century Saint sink in for a minute.  He comes to some conclusions in this quote on which I would like to reflect

1.  Vianney admits that the poor souls in Purgatory are forgotten.  I was recently at a non-Catholic funeral for a relative, and I felt sorry for the relative who had died because in the entire service, not once was there a prayer offered for her soul (this was a Christian Church, which probably presumed that she is already in Heaven).  The sad thing is that we can't admit such things.  Suppose there was a stain on her soul (as is likely for many): she wouldn't be ready to see God as He is in Heaven.  He would have to dim His glory for her, and that would not be just or fair to my relative, or to anybody else entering Heaven with the stain of sin. I pray especially hard for her, as I may be the only one on earth specifically praying for her.

In many cases, however, how often do we remember the souls of the just who have gone before us, marked with the sign of Faith?  Do we haphazardly remember their date of death and offer a momentary prayer for them?  Do we offer Masses for our loved ones who have died?  If we only knew the suffering the souls endure!  If we did, we would pray every moment for them to see the glory of God; moreover, we would strive for Heavenly beatitude all the more, glorifying God in all things and asking the Saints for their intercession as an aide to our holiness.

If you are not accustomed to praying for the souls in Purgatory, would you try to offer the following prayer for them and their release from that place of suffering: "Eternal rest, grant unto them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls, and the souls of all the Faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen."  If you are in the habit of regularly praying for the souls, I invite you to pray to our Lady of Purgatory, that she may bring comfort and consolation through the mercy of God to the souls in Purgatory.  Either way, all of the Christian faithful should, at some point in the course of their day, lift up some prayer to the Holy Souls in Purgatory.  This is a great act of love that can be shown towards these souls who suffer continuously for the greater glory of God.

2.  We pray for them so they may pray for us.  Do you not think that those souls who are released to Heaven by our merits and prayers do not have a special care for us?  One can imagine, and I think it is true, that if we aid a soul in finally reaching Heaven, they would pray for us in a special way to God for our own sanctification and for God's mercy.  We ought to pray for the souls in Purgatory in a selfless manner (not just that they can pray for us); but rather, pray for them because they are suffering.  We want to alleviate their suffering, so we pray for them so that they can be rewarded Heaven sooner.  It is, however, an added bonus that they pray for us, and some of us, especially myself, need all the help we can get.

Let us take a moment to pray for the Holy Souls, that they may soon reach God's glory manifest to those in Heaven.  Our Lady, Consoler of the Souls in Purgatory, Pray for them.
May you remain close to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

April 20th, 2015

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Thomas Sunday

Dear friends,

I would like to reflect and anticipate tomorrow's Gospel passage on Thomas in the Gospel of St. John chapter 20:24-29.  There are many great things on which to reflect; I will choose two thoughts for you to ponder.  If you are  Catholic, you may want to go find your Bible and shake the dust off of it.  If you are a Protestant, reach over and grab your well worn Bible.

Point number one: "Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came."  This is the opening passage of the story of what is typically called the "Doubting Thomas" story.  His doubt, I believe, started when he know that Jesus was being crucified.  He was not there, as the sheep were scattered.  He might have been "scattered" further perhaps than some of the other Apostles.  He was not with the rest when, on Easter Sunday, Jesus came and stood in their midst.  This may naturally beg the question: where was Thomas?  It would seem that perhaps he was "getting on with his life" as before he met Jesus and was asked to walk with him.  Did Thomas start to doubt Christ even on Good Friday, and then when at least the rest of them (sans Judas Iscariot) met in Jerusalem the day after Sabbath? 

If Thomas was not with the others the day Christ appeared to them, you could infer that he was returning to his former life, or at least what could resemble his former life (after one has an authentic encounter with Christ one can never really return to his former life, so long as there is authentic change).  This often happens with the Christian today; in fact, the story of Thomas ought to resonate with each of us to a greater or lesser degree.  Many times in our lives, Easter Sunday represents that day when we recognize that not only are we loved by God, but that He loves us to the point of death on a cross, a humiliating way to die, and that he rose from the dead for me.  However, perhaps Thomas Sunday represents that after our conversion, sometimes we start to doubt.  It is appropriate then that we read this Gospel some time after the Resurrection account on Easter Sunday, since it usually takes time for the doubt to creep in.

Suppose we have had a profound conversion and we personally encountered Christ.  There will come a time of doubt and discouragement, when we are further from Christ than Christ would like.  In this case, Thomas was sort of falling away from the Church, which at that time consisted really of the Apostles (the Church was born from the side of Christ on the Cross).  He needed to be brought back to the Church through Christ, who reconciled him to the Church and allows Thomas to make the bold profession of Faith: "My Lord and My God."  This profound encounter with the Lord happens every day in the sacraments of Christ, whereby we can have authentic and literal encounters with Christ.  We are invited to, on a daily basis, to make an assertion of Faith about Christ crucified and raised for us.  Do we take that invitation?

We can experience the risen Christ, and physically experience the pierced side of Christ at Mass.  Here in this pierced side of Christ the life saving and redemptive flow of blood washes over the Earth, and it is the same blood of Christ we experience in the Holy Mass, every day should we want.  While Thomas is invited to put his finger in Christ's wound, we are invited to reside in the wound and experience the washing away of our sins and the act of redemption in a real way: by the blood Christ shed for us.  This is the expression of Faith Thomas needed after not being with the Church when Jesus first appeared to the Church.  He needed that expression of Faith, more than Christ needed it.  With the Church being born from the side of Christ, it is appropriate for Thomas to put his finger in the literal side of Christ in order to be washed in His blood and be reconciled to the very young Church.

The second point I would like to make is regarding Evangelization and our best efforts to Evangelize.  Does it often seem as though we fail to make progress with someone we are trying to lead to truth?  I experience this on an almost daily basis as a religion teacher.  I must take heart that I am probably making a difference in their lives even if they are just staying at me as though I had just stuffed a crow in my mouth.  Here, in this passage, we have the Apostle's efforts at Evangelization, and it falls flat.  Thomas was obstinate, and unbelieving.  But Jesus was able to convince him otherwise.  We go back to the words of John the Baptist: He must increase, I must decrease. 

The more people see Christ when they see us or when they read us on the internet, the more authentic conversion is possible.  It is not the Gospel of Bobby Murphy, but it is rather the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  When we present Christ to others in a real way that is not our own spin on the Gospel for an ulterior motive, it is here that Christ shines more brightly in the presence of others.  The Apostles were not able to move Thomas.  In order for reversion to Christ, it needed to be Christ reaching out to Thomas.  In every moment of Evangelization, it needs to be Christ and not us.  We need to remember that we are instruments of Christ.  If we try to go it alone, we will fall flat rather quickly. 

May I present two goals to make Christ the main part of Evangelization: 1.  Pray yourself to Christ, in Eucharistic Adoration and the Holy Mass as often as possible for the humility to let Christ take over every moment of Evangelization, using us as instruments as He sees fit.  2.  Invite others to pray and allow them to have an encounter with the Lord, so they can soon proclaim as St. Thomas: "My Lord and My God."  If we allow an authentic encounter to take place, then we are decreasing, and Christ is increasing in the world.

May you remain close to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. 
 St. Thomas the Apostle, pray for us.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Post- Resurrection Catechesis

This morning at Mass I had the privilege to hear part of the Resurrection account of Jesus in the Gospel of St. Luke.  There are many juicy bits in the passage, and I will leave a complete exegesis and explanation of the Gospel reading to people smarter than myself; however, I would like to focus on one small part of the Gospel.

"Then he said to them, 'These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.' Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, 'Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem" (Luke 24: 44-47).  I give you the broader passage for reference.

What a beautiful passage during this Easter Week.  However, the passage has a gaping hole.  "Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures," and leaps to the conclusion: that Christ should suffer and on the third day rise.  So how does He open the Scriptures to the Apostles?  We can infer that most likely Christ said things that were not written down by Luke the Evangelist.  St. John the Evangelist sheds some light on this.  He writes, "But there are also many things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written."  John is alluding to the fact that Jesus is God; of course we cannot capture in a human book all that the "Logos" has done (See John 1 In the beginning was the Word).  However, I am sure it would also be a tall task to record all of Jesus' actions from the Annunciation until His Ascension.  Luke simply says that Christ opened the Apostles' minds to understand the Scriptures.  I think we can logically infer that He said things which were not written down, and they were passed down in the early Church. 

So how exactly did Christ teach the Apostles about how the Old Testament is fulfilled?  What passages of the Old Testament did He quote?  What did He say?  Well, I do not know.  There is a good reason I do not know: I was not there in the presence of Christ in Jerusalem when he appeared to his Apostles.  It would have been a lot easier if I had, but I live today. 

I am not trying to be snarky, but eventually we must realize that we can only infer what Jesus said: perhaps referencing Isaiah and the suffering servant, or how Melchizedek is a foreshadowing of Christ, or how God saved the people in the wilderness from the Seraph Serpents by posting a serpent on a stake, and all who looked upon it were saved (the Church recognizes this as a foreshadowing of the Crucifixion).  Perhaps He illuminated their minds with other references to Him and His suffering.  The Church, in Her 2,000 year history, has elaborated very well how the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New Testament.  This post will never intend to reiterate everything, but to give my little thought on this one passage that struck me today in the Gospel.  What I can say is that we can infer what the first post-Resurrection Catechesis actually looked like, 2,000 years after the momentous event.

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.  May you remain close to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Monday, April 6, 2015


One of the great losses in the modern world is the loss of self-awareness.  Self awareness might be self-explanatory, as one would know that self-mastery is a way to "master oneself," but is self-awareness to "aware oneself?"  Of course, if you see the play on words here, know that the writer is stepping out of himself; this is self-awareness, to know that wit does not come naturally and that I must work at achieving it.  Your comments will tell me whether I have achieved it (wit I mean) or not.

But to my original premise: that the modern man has lost for the most part, a sense of self-awareness.  In an attempt to curb that, the writer of this blog has decided to focus on what he does best: not current up to the minute details about current events, but rather reflections on how Jesus identifies himself in St. John's Gospel: "I am the way, the truth, and the life." 

Since I started this blog seven years ago, the world has changed considerably, and while it is important to recognize the changes and to be aware of what is going on, it is more important to be formed on how to react to the world in light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: that Christ, taking on a human nature, died for our sins, and that three days later, rose from the dead.  This Paschal Mystery, that is the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ, is so central to the faith of the Christian that to ignore it and to undermine it is downright detrimental to one's soul; I would daresay even dangerous!

I will repeat what I said: the Paschal Mystery is the saving event in history whereby God became man and even died!  If you think this is radical, I would agree with you.  It is the most radical reality in human history.  Our Creator died for us.  How great is this truth!

Now, why have I returned after the hiatus I have been on?  I wish to impart my own reflections, as little as they are worth, but some poor soul to read and somehow be enlightened to draw closer to Jesus, to seek His face.  These reflections are not for my glory, but for the glory of God.  It is in the act of glorifying God that our own sins are expiated and we become more Christ like, who never ceased glorifying His Father while on earth, and now even more in Heaven.  It is my prayer that some person at some point may find some writing to be beneficial to their salvation.  If this happens, then my blog did what it was intended to do.  Even if that soul is mine.

May you remain close to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. 
So, it has been a while since I have been on this blog.  Lot's has happened, and it is one of my goals in life to reflect upon many different things of life, but all in good time.  I am going to post this and see if I really am back in control of my blog, and then all things are possible!

Friday, February 3, 2012

On Absolute Freedom

I would like to give you today a very short reflection on the idea of "absolute freedom" in the papal encyclical Veritatis Splendor, written by Pope John Paul II in 1993. The encyclical is based on philosophy of truth, which in today's society has become distorted into something it is not.

Veritatis Splendor #32 states: "Certain currents of modern thought have gone so far as to exalt freedom to such an extent that it becomes an absolute, which would then be the source of values." What exactly, then, is this notion of absolute freedom, and what are its consequences?

First, it must be stated that properly speaking, freedom is directed towards truth. St. Anselm, in his work On Free Will, writes that God, being most perfect, and being truth itself, is most free of all things, created and uncreated. Freedom is not merely the capacity to sin or not sin; it must go beyond this because sin is not possible in God. If sin was possible in God, it would create a duplicity in God because of the simplicity of God (cf. Summa Theologica prima pars question three for a detailed explanation of this: Get it here). Therefore, if we wanted to say that God sinned, or that God is sinful, we would have to go so far as to say that "God is sin," which would be completely contrary to everything according to reason and revelation. God is free, and because of his sinless state, He is most free.

Anselm teaches that sin diminishes the will's capacity for free will, and so as man, we are most affected because of our inclination to sin. However, Anselm says something even more: man himself, depending on his sinfulness, can have a limitation of freedom. He would argue that those who are more free are those who are able to choose the good instead of the evil. In other words, we are talking about holy people. Those who have limited freedom are sinners (which we all are eventually, especially the writer of this article), so the more free we are, the more we have accepted God's grace and risen above the mundance and truly embraced freedom!

How different is Anselm's idea of freedom and free will from modernism's idea of freedom and free will! A modernist would say that as long as you are free to do something, then you should do it. They may even go so far as to say that you "ought" to do it. As long as you are free, then you can choose to do whatever you want, even if it is a sin.

Thinking about this mentality in light of the Veritatis Splendor quote above, we can see that perhaps the writing of John Paul II were prophetic in modern day. For many, freedom has become an absolute, whereas for thousands of years, truth was the absolute. When freedom becomes the absolute, then nothing else can be absolute (two absolutes are unreasonable: you can't have two absolute gods because the definition of God means that one is all powerful). Something that is absolute must contain all else, so then Absolute Truth and Absolute Freedom cannot exist side-by-side. If freedom is indeed the absolute, then we must look to "truth" as something that participates in freedom, and that truth exists solely for the seeking of freedom, instead of freedom in seeking truth. So the modernist idea of freedom has flipped on its head freedom, and as a result, truth.

In the modernist idea of freedom, it must also be said that truth must necessarily become subjective. One idea of absolute freedom will look different from another because "we are just free," and freedom is not really a criteria for determining whether or not we ought to do something. The only criteria is that if "we are free to do it, we can do it." As a result, morality, values and the determination of good and evil would rest in the notion of freedom, instead of freedom resting in truth. Veritatis Splendor says that as a result of this absolute freedom, "Human freedom would... be able to 'create values' and would enjoy a primacy over truth, to the point that truth itself would be considered a creation of freedom" (#35). Instead of being free to have values based in truth, we have values based on freedom and an absolute, and an "end," since those who fall into absolute freedom would that you do anything ultimately because they are free to do it.

Now, you might say, "if you believe in absolute freedom, can you not still make good choices?" Yes, but a person who looks to freedom as an absolute will also be partaking in ultimately a subjective or relativistic idea of morality, and someone like this would have to be OK with someone else taking positions completely different from you, because they are free (again, not based in truth, but in freedom). For example, "Jack" might be completely against abortion, but "Jill" might be OK with it. In both examples, they might view morality as whatever is most freeing for them, and as a result, "Jack" must necessarily say that it is OK for "Jill" to be in favor of abortion. One can take this analogy even further: "Jack" says that abortion is murder, but "Jill" says that it is not murder. Because "Jack" and "Jill" are not basing their ideas on objective truth, we would have to then say that their truth becomes subjective based on how each one views how freeing their positions are. If their position brings them more freedom than another position, then they must take the former position. Ultimately, absolute freedom falls flat in trying to actually make a truth claim that is universal: "Jack" might say "there is truth," while Jill may say "there is no truth," which one is sure Jill will say truthfully.

As a result of this, can we really say that absolute freedom exists, especially if there is no standard on which to base it? Freedom, if viewed absolutely, would ultimately fall apart because absolute freedom means that we have freedom to sin or not sin. Where would that then leave God, as it is not in the nature of God to sin? Absolute truth, on the other hand, does not need the dialectic seen with absolute freedom (to sin or not sin); absolute truth does not require us to say that absolute truth is the ability to tell the truth or not tell the truth, or any other kind of dialectic. Because of this lack of dialectic, we can say that God is truth, and that leaves no duplicity in him.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas- A much needed Feast Day

Dear friends,

Tomorrow is the Feast Day of St. Thomas Aquinas, a saint who still plays a prominent role in the Church today. Thomas Aquinas was born in 1225 to a prominent family on the Italian Peninsula, and embraced his vocation to be a Dominican Mendicant, to the disappointment of his family, who wanted him to be a Benedictine.

Why is Thomas important in modern day society? Thomas was one who blended together the God given gifts of Faith and Reason. 800+ years later, Pope John Paul II will remind the world that "Faith and Reason are like two wings of a dove which rise to the contemplation of truth" (Fides et Ratio 1).

In a world where often times either Faith or Reason are jettisoned for what enlightened people, or fideists would call "absolutism" (albeit in a false sense of the word), Thomas Aquinas was one who adequately blended the two. What is this "absolutism" to which I refer? When a fideist (and by this, I mean a person who jettisons reason and relies exclusively on their idea of revelation as the only source of knowledge of God) makes a claim, it can lay too much a burden on one particular source of revelation. For example, if this exclusive source was the Bible, the question must be asked: who wrote the Bible, from where did it come, and what is the proper interpretation? These questions aren't, for the most part, answered in Scripture, so if Scripture alone was a source of Revelation, the argument can quickly fall apart. If Scripture was the only source of truth that one follows, what about its existence itself which is not talked about in scripture? Someone else can say that their religious book was divinely revealed, and then it is a battle of two different sources that both claim to be the absolute truth. This can quickly reduce Scripture into a subjective, relativist understanding, especially if another book makes opposite claims than the Bible. It follows then that there has to be a use of logic and reason when it comes to Faith, for without it, Faith has no grounding.

Sometimes the claim one makes can be seemingly contradicted within the same source (especially in the Bible where things can seemingly contradict if read in a strictly literal interpretation instead of reading Scripture according to the intention of the writer [human and divine]). Reason in many ways can help sort out seeming contradictions and other troubles of Scripture (the hard teachings). Reason is a gift from God that, in spite of what same may believe, is not totally corrupt or depraved; rather, it is a still essential truth for seeking Truth in all things.

In Thomas' magnam opus the "Summa Theologica," Thomas sufficiently used reason to inform the Faith about which he is teaching. In many of the arguments found today in the moral realm of life, reason is needed in a real and urgent way. Without reason, our Faith is not really grounded in anything; luckily, our Faith is reasonable!

We have so much to owe to Thomas and others in our history who saw the importance of reason and philosophy and employed it to teach things new as Fideists do, but rather as Christians who are grounded in "Truth." In light of Thomas, let us use reason in our arguments and discussion with those who insist on taking the lives of the less fortunate, for this truth ultimately points all things to Christ, who is the "Truth" (John 14:6) Himself.

May you remain close to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. God bless.