Are you saved from eternal death by your conscience or by Jesus Christ? The primacy of conscience is the New Jansenism.
In our traditional Latin calendar, this is also called Dominica in Albis or “White-Sunday.” It is also called “Low Sunday.” My podcasts are back after some technical difficulties (which I honestly believe were preternatural, as there was no natural explanation why the last recordings did not work.) In any case, please pray for the protection of my ministries in the parish, at the abortion mill, in the streets and even online. Happy Divine Mercy Sunday!
Really, a better title of this article is “Why to stop confessing pornography badly.” Or: “Why confession without amendment will still lead to the loss of your soul.” People do not realize the danger in confessing pornography without a firm resolution of amendment to totally change their life. That is the purpose of this blog post.
Going to confession within a week (before or after) of Divine Mercy Sunday totally relieves the soul of not only the eternal effects of sin (hell) but also the temporal effects of sin (purgatory.) Jesus said to St. Faustina, “The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of My most tender mercy. Every soul in its relation to Me will contemplate My love and mercy throughout eternity. The Feast of Mercy emerged from My very depths of tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy.”—Diary 699
However, one of the requirements for a good confession is “firm resolution of amendment.” Firm resolution of amendment means that you will try to avoid the sin that you just confessed. I’m going to give you five reasons to never fall into pornography again. I write this for men, but some women mind find a loving challenge in my words, too:
1) Confession cleanses the soul but not the memory. Pornography and masturbation are both mortal sins, even when committed exclusively of the other. In fact, lustful thoughts without pornography can be mortal, for Jesus said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”—Matthew 5:27. Now add to this the fact that pornography is biochemically burned at each use into the memory section of the brain. Now add into this mix the fact that the Church teaches that confession generally relieves the eternal effects of sin (the soul) but rarely the consequences of the sin (the memory.) Now add into this mix the fact that demonologists and exorcists teach that demons have access to the memory (but demons do not have access to the substance of the soul where the Blessed Trinity resides in someone in sanctifying grace.) Combine all of the above facts of human biology and Church doctrine and this is the stunning outcome: Demons have some access to your memory of past pornography even when you are in sanctifying grace! Do you see why this addiction must be stopped as soon as possible? Accessing those memories (on your own, or with some infernal help) can be a slick road to a mental fall as you picture all the filthy things of your past. St. Francis De Sales teaches that thoughts become mortal sin when “you with full deliberation resolve to take pleasure in such delight.” Do you see why your brain can not take one more insult of filth? You don’t know when the tipping point will be, so do not presume upon confession. Confession will not cleanse your memory, but you can start doing that by making a firm resolution of amendment to never see pornography again. This will be necessary for a clean mind.
2) Pornography releases real-live demons into your home. Consider the quote of Jesus above where he says that simply looking upon a woman with lust is “adultery.” Now consider the fact that exorcists say that there are actually specific demons of adultery. Demons can probably not commit lust (since they have no physical body) but there are demons on specific missions of lust against us humans. Thus, binding yourself to a woman you see in pornography invites those demons into your home. I am not an exorcist, but I do minor-exorcisms in deliverance ministry that has taken me even to India. When I work with young fathers who have addictions and fetishes, I often notice that their children have very strange screaming patterns that almost sound diabolical. I am not saying those kids are possessed, but there are some signs of diabolical obsession in these families where the dad struggles with porn. In any case, I am totally convinced that young fathers who use pornography are bringing demons into their home. How sad that these are the very men who want to protect their family and provide for their home. The end of this article will include new weapons for them to beat this silent killer of family life. As I was writing this article tonight, I texted an exorcist friend on this topic and he wrote me: “All exorcists are consistent on this point: The continuous and unrepentant commission of mortal sins constitutes an increasing danger of demonic obsession (in a body) or infestation (in a place)… The more frequent the consent, the more open the invitation to these demons. The regular habit of viewing porn allows the entry of those unclean spirits into one’s life and home.”
3) Looking at pornography grows the child sex-slavery business even when you’re looking at adults. Here’s why:
The same men often run both industries. Huffington Post quotes “Fight the New Drug” in saying that “when these customers show up [to use prostitutes] many come ready with porn images in hand to show the women they’re exploiting—many of which are human trafficking victims controlled by pimps—what they’ll be forced to do…According to FTND CEO Clay Olsen, ‘porn fuels the demand for the sex trade’ in a way often not seen by those who view porn. ‘Traffickers have learned to package their product in a way that disguises the fact that the “performers” are forced to participate,’ said Olsen.” Thus, we must ask the question: Who are these human trafficking victims? In 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) funded a study that looked at sex trafficking of minors in the U.S. The victims in this study reported a median age of 15 years old, though some think it may be closer to 13 and others 19.
Think of your fifteen year old daughter being kidnapped and used for movies over the next ten years the next time you think that pornography is “harmless.”
4) “Normal” pornography use fosters a desire for child-porn or violence. There’s actually a science behind this. Dopamine and norepinephrine are powerful pleasure chemicals released in the brain during orgasm. But unlike normal married sex, the immediate and ubiquitous access to pornography allows those chemicals to be released so frequently that an up-regulation of the biochemical receptors happens. That means that when more receptors are made (to “catch” the more frequent floods of bio-chemicals that come at orgasm) more chemicals are similarly required to even reach simple orgasm. The outcome of this up regulation on a biochemical level has one of two earthy outcomes:
A) Total loss of sex drive. Even my most unfavorite magazine, Time Magazine, had this article to show that millions of young men have lost any desire to have sex with real women because of how often they masturbate to fake women.
B) More and more kinky porn. As I wrote, the up-regulation of receptors requires a greater flood of biochemicals to reach orgasm, and the only way to release more chemicals is to get into more shocking and kinky material. Many men get bored with “ordinary” pornography and they slowly wade into the world of child-pornography or violence. This begins with BDSM (Bondage, Domination, Sado-Maschism) but it often ends in acting out real violence, often against children. Many serial killers did not think that “innocent” pornography would ever lead them to killing, but many of them admit that the strange attraction to the next higher-high of human interaction and degradation all began with the self-abuse of simple pornography. Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy both say that pornography was their launching point into their serial killing. I have included in this footnote the quotes from fourteen serial killers on how they got their start in pornography: 1
5) St. Thomas Aquinas taught that masturbation is worse than pre-marital sex: “And therefore simple fornication, which is committed without injury to another person, is the least kind of lust.”—Summa Theologica II.II.154.12. St. Thomas is basically saying that although both are mortal sins, masturbation is actually worse than the old fashioned consensual sex behind the barn of two young lovers. Why? Because masturbation is a direct offense against nature and the Creator who gives us the option for life. At least fornication is still open to life. (St. Thomas Aquinas never fathomed that there could be a Pill to kill 500 million tiny individuals every year.) But barring the topic of contraception and abortion, we can say this confidently: Masturbation does more harm to your soul than simply having pre-marital sex. (But abortion is worse than both, and most people who have pre-marital sex are mildly open to abortion. Even without abortion or contraception, God obviously does not want us to do either fornication or masturbation.) This is also why oral sex is worse than normal intercourse. I wish every Catholic high school student in this country could read this single part of my blog post. Many Catholic young adults believe they can receive Holy Communion on that same filthy mouth that did that sick sin as long as they didn’t do the one natural sin of fornication that at least reflects the marital act!
As a subset of number five, I think I should mention that I believe that masturbation is a homosexual act. Many men might think they feel manly by looking at pictures of women and masturbating. But the reality of it is: It’s a man’s hand that is leading a man to ejaculate. I might take some angry comments or emails for this one, but it has to be said: Masturbation may be one reason why so many straight men become gay. Barring the debate on whether one is “born gay,” I think we all know people who thought they were straight for a long time… and then decided they were gay. I very much believe this may be due to a man masturbating himself, since, at the end of the day, it is a homosexual act: A man is doing it to a man or a woman is doing it to a woman. This is probably tied to the above where St. Thomas Aquinas believes masturbation is worse than normal fornication.
So, really this blog post should be this excessively verbose title: Why-you-should-stop-confessing-pornography-and-start-doing-something-to-end-pornography-in-your-life-so-that-you-can-begin-to-actually-make-a-good-confession-again. None of this is for shock value. If you don’t like to read about these things from a priest, well, I don’t really like to blog about them. But not many other people are saying them, and I want to help people in this silent addiction.
Now for the good news…
If you find yourself in a cycle of pornography/masturbation and then confession every week, do not lose hope. I am proud of you for getting back up and going to confession. As Scott Hahn says, “The one thing greater than my ability to sin is my heavenly Father’s ability to forgive me.” “It does not matter how many times you fall, only how many times you get back up.”—St. Therese.
The blood of Jesus that covers us in confession is a totally free gift of grace, but for salvation to be realized, we must cooperate. If you keep falling into the cycle of pornography/masturbation and then confession every week, it is not God’s grace that is missing in your life! It is your cooperation. And because “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness” we need thermobaric weapons, not just the pellet guns of three Hail Marys a day for purity.
If you have an addiction to pornography or some other fettish, confess your sins regularly, but I do not think that you will ultimately beat it until you choose one of these spiritual thermobaric weapons:
1) 15-20 decades of the Rosary a day.
2) Fast on bread and water every Wednesday and Friday until you are two months clear of all pornography use (and consider the continuation of the practice to clear your memory of past insults of self-abuse.)
3) Join RECLAIM SEXUAL HEALTH . It is a couple hundred dollars, but many men who could never beat pornography and masturbation even after fasting have found help here. It is a system based on non-condemnation. It is a system based on getting the man to understand the pathophysiology of addiction, especially the chemical addiction of pornography. Finally, each man at the Reclaim Program gets his own personal coach on the phone who comes with total anonymity and secrecy. (In other words, he won’t call your home phone to have your wife find that you have a private coach to get you off pornography!) Reclaim is supported by many American bishops as the best way for men to get off pornography.
Nothing could be greater than the grace imparted to us on Divine Mercy Sunday, but for salvation to be realized, we must cooperate. And if you’re serious about beating the destructive, diabolical sin of pornography, please consider one of the three above “thermobaric” spiritual weapons. If you don’t do it for you, then do it for your family. Their spiritual environment hangs in the balance on your decision to take these things seriously or lightly.
- Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer of Wisconsin, speaking of his routine before hunting for a victim said, “Just…using pictures of past victims…the pornography videos, the magazines…” Jeffrey Dahmer killed 17 boys and men.
- Ted Bundy, convicted rapist and mutilation murderer of Washington, said that hard-core pornography had a “crystallizing effect” on his violent tendencies and his acting out during the 1970s.
- Arthur Gary Bishop from Utah, executed for raping and murdering five boys in the 1980s, said pornography’s “effect on me was devastating.”
- Andrei Chikatilo, a Russian serial killer, murdered at least 53 women and children. “…with pictures of naked women in his prison cell, he blamed pornography as the cause of this troubles.”
- Wisconsin resident Ed Gein, the first serial killer, aka The Butcher of Plainfield, and inspiration for movies such as Psycho, Maniac, and The Silence of the Lambs “accumulated a library of anatomy books, porn magazines, horror and adventure novel…” in the 1950s.
- John Wayne Gacy‘s wife filed for divorce in 1976 because “Gacy’s moods had become erratic, and [she] had found Gacy’s pornographic magazine collection which was all centered around young boys.” Gacy killed at least 33 young men and boys in Chicago, Illinois.
- The nickname BTK (bind, torture, kill) was given to Dennis Rader, a Kansas native, who killed 10 people. “He kept meticulous records of his fantasies and crimes in what he called his ‘mother lode’ collection of pornography.”
- David Berkowitz killed over a dozen people in New York. He joined a cult and was introduced to “drug use, sadistic pornography and violent crime.” The cult also created and distributed child pornography.
- Richard Ramirez was exposed to explicit pictures of his cousin “raping Vietnamese women and severing the heads of Vietcong soldiers.” He in turn killed at least 13 people in California.
- Edmund Kemper, a California serial killer and necrophile known as the Co-ed Killer, used pornography and detective magazines for erotic stimulation; he picked up women who were hitch-hiking, then killed, and raped them post-mortem.
- Ottis Toole from Florida became obsessed with gay pornography. He “committed his first murder at the age of 14.” During his killing spree, accompanied by Henry Lee Lucas, he killed 108 people.
- The Grim Sleeper, Lonnie Franklin Jr., “had a penchant for prostitutes and pornography.” A resident of LA, he would pick up prostitutes, take pornographic pictures of his victims, then strangle them to death. His killing spree included 11 murders.
- In the 2013 murder case of Tia Sharp, a 12-year-old girl from the UK, the judge declared to murderer Stuart Hazell, “the records of your internet searching on your mobile phone make abundantly clear that you were looking out for pornographic pictures of pre-teen girls.”
- In 2013, on the day Mark Bridger, a UK native,abducted April Jones, he “viewed online photographs of a young girl and a pornographic cartoon depicting…rape.”—https://www.netnanny.com/blog/what-serial-killers-and-murderers-think-about-pornography/ ↩
This is a talk I gave to the North Shore Latin Mass Society. It considers the historical, mystical and theological perspectives of the five sorrows of the Rosary.
This sermon is from my 8am Laetare low Mass. However, between the low Mass and the 10am Sung Mass, I was attacked by ants while talking to a parishioner outside our mission chapel! Separated by a few seconds of music on this podcast, I decided to also post that short 10am sermon. Thus, the last five minutes of this podcast is an improv sermon about the ants, but it ties especially into today’s readings and the most Holy Eucharist.
I buried a premature baby today in Louisiana, and this is the sermon I gave. It was made public with the permission of the parents, because they believed there was a message people had to hear in this podcast. If you are reading this podcast description on iTunes, please also visit my blog to see the picture at the top of the casket that the baby’s father made for her in his woodworking shop. I’ll also include some sites and footnotes that I referenced in this sermon.
I spoke in the sermon about the length of eternity, and here is a blog post I wrote with that same “beach of eternity” analogy I gave in the sermon.
Also, to read the full account of the martyrdom of Saints Felicity and Perpetua, click this footnote here: 1
I also wrote a blog post here on this tiny Church next to the Mississippi river last year. In fact, I wrote it long before I knew I was going to offer Mass here. You’ll notice that the photos on my blog of the slain Lamb standing (located above the high altar) are beautiful. However, they are nothing like the beauty of something that happened today when I took this picture above the altar. The photos below are not edited, so I think it maybe something supernatural surrounding the funeral of little Leah Philomena, a pure lamb standing with the slain Lamb (especially interesting, considering the family chose such readings from the book of the Apocalypse.)
Vibia Perpetua, was executed in the arena in Carthage on 7 March 203. The account of her martyrdom – technically a Passion -is apparently historical and has special interest as much of it was written [section 3-10], in Latin by Perpetua herself before her death. This makes it one of the earliest pieces of writing by a Christian woman.
1. If ancient examples of faith kept, both testifying the grace of God and working the edification of man, have to this end been set in writing, that by their reading as though by the showing of the deeds again, God may be glorified and man strengthened; why should not new witnesses also be so set forth which likewise serve either end? Yea, for these things also shall at some time be ancient and necessary to our sons, though in their own present time (through some reverence of antiquity presumed) they are made of but slight account. But let those take heed who judge the one power of the Holy Spirit according to the succession of times; whereas those things which are later ought for their very lateness to be thought the more eminent, according to the abundance of grace appointed for the last periods of time. For In the last days, says the Lord, I will pour my spirit upon all flesh, and their sons and daughters shall prophesy; and upon my servants and upon my handmaids I will pour forth of my spirit; and the young men shall see visions, and the old men shall dream dreams. [Acts 2:17, cf. Joel 2:28]
We also therefore, by whom both the prophecies and the new visions promised are received and honored, and by whom those other wonders of the Holy Spirit are assigned unto the service of the Church, to which also was sent the same Spirit administering all gifts among all men, according as the Lord hath distributed unto each [I.Cor 7:17]- do of necessity both write them and by reading celebrate them to the glory of God; that no weakness or failing of faith may presume that among those of old time only was the grace of divinity present, whether in martyrs or in revelations vouchsafed; since God ever works that which He has promised, for a witness to them that believe not and a benefit to them that believe. Wherefore we too, brethren and dear sons, declare to you likewise that which we have heard and handled [I Cor 15:1?]; that both you who were present may call to mind the glory of the Lord, and you who now know by hearing may have communion with those holy martyrs, and through them with the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom is glory and honor for ever and ever. Amen.
2. There were apprehended the young catechumens, Revocatus and Felicity his fellow servant, Saturninus and Secundulus. With them also was Vibia Perpetua, nobly born reared in a liberal manner, wedded honorably; having a father and mother and two brothers, one of them a catechumen likewise, and a son, a child at the breast; and she herself was about twenty-two years of age. What follows here shall she tell herself; the whole order of her martyrdom as she left it written with her own hand and in her own words.
3. When, she said, we were still under legal surveillance and my father was liked to vex me with his words and continually strove to hurt my faith because of his love: Father, said I, Do you see (for examples) this vessel lying, a pitcher or whatsoever it may be? And he said, I see it. And I said to him, Can it be called by any other name than that which it is? And he answered, No. So can I call myself nought other than that which I am, a Christian.
Then my father angry with this word came upon me to tear out my eyes; but he only vexed me, and he departed vanquished, he and the arguments of the devil. Then because I was without my father for a few days I gave thanks unto the Lord; and I was comforted because of his absence. In this same space of a few days we were baptised, and the Spirit declared to me, I must pray for nothing else after that water save only endurance of the flesh. After a few days we were taken into prison, and I was much afraid because I had never known such darkness. O bitter day! There was a great heat because of the press, there was cruel handling of the soldiers. Lastly I was tormented there by care for the child.
Then Tertius and Pomponius, the blessed deacons who ministered to us, obtained with money that for a few hours we should be taken forth to a better part of the prison and be refreshed. Then all of them going out from the dungeon took their pleasure; I suckled my child that was now faint with hunger. And being careful for him, I spoke to my mother and strengthened my brother and commended my son unto them. I pined because I saw they pined for my sake. Such cares I suffered for many days; and I obtained that the child should abide with me in prison; and straightway I became well and was lightened of my labour and care for the child; and suddenly the prison was made a palace for me, so that I would sooner be there than anywhere else.
4. Then said my brother to me: Lady my sister, you are now in high honor, even such that you might ask for a vision; and it should be shown you whether this be a passion or else a deliverance. And I, as knowing that I conversed with the Lord, for Whose sake I had suffered such things, did promise him nothing doubting; and I said: Tomorrow I will tell you. And I asked, and this was shown me.
I beheld a ladder of bronze, marvelously great, reaching up to heaven; and it was narrow, so that not more than one might go up at one time. And in the sides of the ladder were planted all manner of things of iron. There were swords there, spears, hooks, and knives; so that if any that went up took not good heed or looked not upward, he would be torn and his flesh cling to the iron. And there was right at the ladder’s foot a serpent lying, marvelously great, which lay in wait for those that would go up, and frightened them that they might not go up. Now Saturus went up first (who afterwards had of his own free will given up himself for our -sakes, because it was he who had edified us; and when we were taken he had not been there). And he came to the ladder’s head; and he turned and said: Perpetua, I await you; but see that serpent bite you not. And I said: it shall not hurt me, in the name of Jesus Christ. And from beneath the ladder, as though it feared me, it softly put forth its head; and as though I trod on the first step I trod on its head. And I went up, and I saw a very great space of garden, and in the midst a man sitting, white-headed, in shepherd’s clothing, tall milking his sheep; and standing around in white were many thousands. And he raised his head and beheld me and said to me: Welcome, child. And he cried to me, and from the curd he had from the milk he gave me as it were a morsel; and I took it with joined hands and ate it up; and all that stood around said, Amen. And at the sound of that word I awoke, yet eating I know not what of sweet.
And at once I told my brother, and we knew it should be a passion; and we began to have no hope any longer in this world.
5. A few days after, the report went abroad that we were to be tried. Also my father returned from the city spent with weariness; and he came up to me to cast down my faith saying: Have pity, daughter, on my grey hairs; have pity on your father, if I am worthy to be, called father by you; if with these hands I have brought you unto this flower of youth- and I-have preferred you before all your brothers; give me not over to the reproach of men. Look upon your brothers; look upon your mother and mother’s sister; look upon your son, who will not endure to live after you. Give up your resolution; do not destroy us all together; for none of us will speak openly against men again if you suffer aught.
This he said fatherly in his love, kissing my hands and grovelling at my feet; and with tears he named me, not daughter, but lady. And I was grieved for my father’s case because he would not rejoice at my passion out of all my kin; and I comforted him, saying: That shall be done at this tribunal, whatsoever God shall please; for know that we are not established in our own power, but in God’s. And he went from me very sorrowful.
6. Another day as we were at meal we were suddenly snatched away to be tried; and we came to the forum. Therewith a report spread abroad through the parts near to the forum, and a very great multitude gathered together. We went up to the tribunal. The others being asked, confessed. So they came to me. And my father appeared there also, with my son, and would draw me from the step, saying: Perform the Sacrifice; have mercy on the child. And Hilarian the procurator – he that after the death of Minucius Timinian the proconsul had received in his room the right and power of the sword – said: Spare your father’s grey hairs; spare the infancy of the boy. Make sacrifice for the Emperors’ prosperity. And I answered: I am a Christian. And when my father stood by me yet to cast down my faith, he was bidden by Hilarian to be cast down and was smitten with a rod. And I sorrowed for my father’s harm as though I had been smitten myself; so sorrowed I for his unhappy old age. Then Hilarian passed sentence upon us all and condemned us to the beasts; and cheerfully we went down to the dungeon. Then because my child had been used to being breastfed and to staying with me in the prison, straightway I sent Pomponius the deacon to my father, asking for the child. But my father would not give him. And as God willed, no longer did he need to be suckled, nor did I take fever; that I might not be tormented by care for the child and by the pain of my breasts.
7. A few days after, while we were all praying, suddenly in the midst of the prayer I uttered a word and named Dinocrates; and I was amazed because he had never come into my mind save then; and I sorrowed, remembering his fate. And straightway I knew that I was worthy, and that I ought to ask for him. And I began to pray for him long, and to groan unto the Lord. Immediately the same night, this was shown me.
I beheld Dinocrates coming forth from a dark place, where were many others also; being both hot and thirsty, his raiment foul, his color pale; and the wound on his face which he had when he died. This Dinocrates had been my brother in the flesh, seven years old, who being diseased with ulcers of the face had come to a horrible death, so that his death was abominated of all men. For him therefore I had made my prayer; and between him and me was a great gulf, so that either might not go to the other. There was moreover, in the same place where Dinocrates was, a font full of water, having its edge higher than was the boy’s stature; and Dinocrates stretched up as though to drink. I was sorry that the font had water in it, and yet for the height of the edge he might not drink.
And I awoke, and I knew that my brother was in travail. Yet I was confident I should ease his travail; and I prayed for him every day till we passed over into the camp prison. (For it was in the camp games that we were to fight; and the time was the feast of the Emperor Geta’s birthday.) And I prayed for him day and night with groans and tears, that he might be given me.
8. On the day when we abode in the stocks, this was shown me.
I saw that place which I had before seen, and Dinocrates clean of body, finely clothed, m comfort; and the font I had seen before, the edge of it being drawn to the boy’s navel; and he drew water thence which flowed without ceasing. And on the edge was a golden cup full of water; and Dinocrates came up and began to drink therefrom; which cup failed not. And being satisfied he departed away from the water and began to play as children will, joyfully.
And I awoke. Then I understood that he was translated from his pains.
9. Then a few days after, Pudens the adjutant, in whose charge the prison was, who also began to magnify us because he understood that there was much grace in us, let in many to us that both we and they in turn might be comforted. Now when the day of the games drew near, there came in my father to me , spent with weariness, and began to pluck out his beard and throw it on e ground and to fall on his face cursing his years and saying such words as might move all creation. I was grieved for his unhappy old age.
10. The day before we fought, I saw in a vision that Pomponius the deacon had come hither to the door of the prison, and knocked hard upon it. And I went out to him and opened to him; he was clothed in a white robe ungirdled, having shoes curiously wrought. And he said to me: Perpetua, we await you; come. And he took my hand, and we began to go through rugged and winding places. At last with much breathing hard we came to the amphitheatre, and he led me into the midst of the arena. And he said to me: Be not afraid; I am here with you and labour together with you. And he went away. And I saw much people watching closely. And because I knew that I was condemned to the beasts I marvelled that beasts were not sent out against me. And there came out against me a certain ill-favored Egyptian with his helpers, to fight with me. Also there came to me comely young men, my helpers and aiders. And I was stripped naked, and I became a man. And my helpers began to rub me with oil as their custom is for a contest; and over against me saw that Egyptian wallowing in the dust. And there came forth a man of very great stature, so that he overpassed the very top of the amphitheatre, wearing a robe ungirdled, and beneath it between the two stripes over the breast a robe of purple; having also shoes curiously wrought in gold and silver; bearing a rod like a master of gladiators, and a green branch whereon were golden apples. And he besought silence and said: The Egyptian, if shall conquer this woman, shall slay her with the sword; and if she shall conquer him, she shall receive this branch. And he went away. And we came nigh to each other, and began to buffet one another. He tried to trip up my feet, but I with my heels smote upon his face. And I rose up into the air and began so to smite him as though I trod not the earth. But when I saw that there was yet delay, I joined my hands, setting finger against finger of them. And I caught his head, and he fell upon his face; and I trod upon his head. And the people began to shout, and my helpers began to sing. And I went up to the master of gladiators and received the branch. And he kissed me and said to me: Daughter, peace be with you. And I began to go with glory to the gate called the Gate of Life.
And I awoke; and I understood that I should fight, not with beasts but against the devil; but I knew that mine was the victory.
Thus far I have written this, till the day before the games; but the deed of the games tehmsleves let him write who will.
11. And blessed Saturus too delivered this vision which he himself wrote down.
We had suffered, he said, and we passed out of the flesh, and we began to be carried towards the east by four angels whose hand touched us not. And we went not as though turned upwards upon our backs, but as though we went up an easy hill. And passing over the world’s edge we saw a very great light; and I said to Perpetua (for she was at my side): This which the Lord promised us; we have received His promise. And while we were being carried by these same four angels, a great space opened before us, as it had been a having rose-trees and all kinds of flowers. The height of the trees was after the manner of the cypress, and their leaves sang without ceasing. And there in the garden were four other angels, more glorious than the rest; who when they saw us gave us honor and said to the other angels: Lo, here are they, here are they: and marvelled. And the four angels who bore us set us down trembling; and we passed on foot by a broad way over a plain. There we found Jocundus and Saturninus and Artaxius who in the same persecution had been burned alive; and Quintus, a martyr also, who in prison had departed this life; and we asked of them where were the rest. The other angels said to us: Come first, go in, and salute the Lord.
12. And we came near to a place, of which place the walls were such, they seemed built of light; and before the door of that place stood four angels who clothed us when we went in with white raiment. And we went in, and we heard as it were one voice crying Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, without any end. And we saw sitting in that same place as it were a man, white-headed, having hair like snow; youthful of countenance; whose feet we saw not. And on his right hand and on his left, four elders; and behind them stood many other elders. And we went in with wonder and stood before the throne; and the four angels raised us up and we kissed him, and with his hand he passed over our faces. And the other elders said to us: Stand you. And we stood, and gave the kiss of peace. And the elders said to us: Go you and play. And I said to Perpetua: You have that which you desire. And she said to me: Yes, God be thanked; so that I that was glad in the flesh am now more glad.
13. And we went out, and we saw before the doors, on the right Optatus the bishop, and on the left Aspasius the priest and teacher, being apart and sorrowful. And they cast themselves at our feet and said: Make peace between us, because you went forth and left us thus. And we said to them: Are not you our Father, and you our priest, that you should throw yourselves at our feet? And we were moved, and embraced them. And Perpetua began to talk with them in Greek; and we set them apart in the pleasure garden beneath a rose tree. And while we yet spoke with them, the angels said to them: Let these go and be refreshed; and whatsoever dissensions you have between you, Put them away from you each for each. And they made them to be confounded. And they said to Optatus: Correct your people; for they come to you as those that return from the games and wrangle concerning the parties there. And it seemed to us as though they would shut the gates. And we began to know many brothers there, martyrs also. And we were all sustained there with a savour inexpressible which satisfied us. Then in joy I awoke.
NARRATIVE OF MARTYRDOM
14. These were the glorious visions of those martyrs themselves, the most blessed Saturus and Perpetua, which they themselves wrote down. But Secundulus by an earlier end God called from this world while he was yet in prison; not without grace, that he should escape the beasts. Yet if not his soul, his flesh at least knew the sword.
15. As for Felicity, she too received this grace of the Lord. For because she was now gone eight months (being indeed with child when she was taken) she was very sorrowful as the day of the games drew near, fearing lest for this cause she should be kept back (for it is not lawful for women that are with child to be brought forth for torment) and lest she should shed her holy and innocent blood after the rest, among strangers and malefactors. Also her fellow martyrs were much afflicted lest they should leave behind them so good a friend and as it were their fellow-traveller on the road of the same hope. Wherefore with joint and united groaning they poured out their prayer to the Lord, three days before the games. Incontinently after their prayer her pains came upon her. And when by reason of the natural difficulty of the eighth month she was oppressed with her travail and made complaint, there said to her one of the servants of the keepers of the door: You that thus make complaint now, what wilt you do when you are thrown to the beasts, which you didst contemn when you would not sacrifice? And she answered, I myself now suffer that which I suffer, but there another shall be in me who shall suffer for me, because I am to suffer for him. So she was delivered of a daughter, whom a sister reared up to be her own daughter.
16. Since therefore the Holy Spirit has suffered, and suffering has willed, that the order of the games also should be written; though we are unworthy to finish the recounting of so great glory, yet we accomplish the will of the most holy Perpetua, nay rather her sacred trust, adding one testimony more of her own steadfastness and height of spirit. When they were being more cruelly handled by the tribune. because through advice of certain most despicable men he feared lest by magic charms they might be withdrawn secretly from the prison house, Perpetua answered him to his face: Why do you not allow us to take some comfort, seeing we are victims most noble, namely Caesar’s, and on his feast day we are to fight? Or is it not your glory that we should be taken out thither fatter of flesh? The tribune trembled and blushed, and gave order that they should be more gently handled, granting that her brothers and the rest should come in and rest with them. Also the adjutant of the prison now believed.
17. Likewise on the day before the games, when at the last feast which they call Free they made (as far as they might) not a Free Feast but a Love Feast*, with like hardihood they cast these words at the people; threatening the judgment of the Lord, witnessing to the felicity of their passion, setting at nought the curiosity of those that ran together. And Saturus said: Is not tomorrow sufficient for you? Why do you favorably behold that which you hate? You are friends today, foes tomorrow. Yet mark our faces diligently, that you may know us again on that day. So they began all to go away thence astonished; of whom many believed.
[note: Apparently Roman, as with modern, custom the condemned were allowed a choice of food. The martyrs used the opportunity to celebrate an Agape, or Christian Love-Feast.]
18. Now dawned the day of their victory, and they went forth from the prison into the amphitheatre as it were into heaven, cheerful and bright of countenance; if they trembled at all, it was for joy, not for fear. Perpetua followed behind, glorious of presence, as a true spouse of Christ and darling of God; at whose piercing look all cast down their eyes. Felicity likewise, rejoicing that she had borne a child in safety, that she might fight with the beasts, came now from blood to blood, from the midwife to the gladiator, to wash after her travail in a second baptism. And when they had been brought to the gate and were being compelled to put on, the men the dress of the priests of Saturn, the women the dress of the priestesses of Ceres, the noble Perpetua remained of like firmness to the end, and would not. For she said: For this cause came we willingly unto this, that our liberty might not be obscured. For this cause have we devoted our lives, that we might do no such thing as this; this we agreed with you. Injustice acknowledged justice; the tribune suffered that they should be brought forth as they were, without more ado. Perpetua began to sing, as already treading on the Egyptian’s head. Revocatus and Saturninus and Saturus threatened the people as they gazed. Then when they came into Hilarian’s sight, they began to say to Hilarian, stretching forth their hands and nodding their heads: You judge us, they said, and God you. At this the people being enraged besought that they should be vexed with scourges before the line of gladiators (those namely who fought with beasts). Then truly they gave thanks because they had received somewhat of the sufferings of the Lord.
19. But He who had said Ask and you shall receive [John 16:24] gave to them asking that end which each had desired. For whenever they spoke together of their desire in their martyrdom, Saturninus for his part would declare that he wished to be thrown to every kind of beast, that so indeed he might wear the more glorious crown. At the beginning of the spectacle therefore himself with Revocatus first had ado with a leopard and was afterwards torn by a bear on a raised bridge. Now Saturus detested nothing more than a bear, but was confident already he should die by one bite of a leopard. Therefore when he was being given to a boar, the gladiator instead who had bound him to the boar was torn asunder by the same beast and died after the days of the games; nor was Saturus more than dragged. Moreover when he had been tied on the bridge to be assaulted by a bear, the bear would not come forth from his den. So Saturus was called back unharmed a second time.
20. But for the women the devil had made ready a most savage cow, prepared for this purpose against all custom; for even in this beast he would mock their sex. They were stripped therefore and made to put on nets; and so they were brought forth. The people shuddered, seeing one a tender girl, the other her breasts yet dropping from her late childbearing. So they were called back and clothed in loose robes. Perpetua was first thrown, and fell upon her loins. And when she had sat upright, her robe being rent at the side, she drew it over to cover her thigh, mindful rather of modesty than of pain. Next, looking for a pin, she likewise pinned up her dishevelled hair; for it was not meet that a martyr should suffer with hair dishevelled, lest she should seem to grieve in her glory. So she stood up; and when she saw Felicity smitten down, she went up and gave her her hand and raised her up.. And both of them stood up together and the (hardness of the people being now subdued) were called back to the Gate of Life. There Perpetua being received by one named Rusticus, then a catechumen, who stood close at her side, and as now awakening from sleep (so much was she in the Spirit and in ecstasy) began first to look about her; and then (which amazed all there), When, forsooth, she asked, are we to be thrown to the cow? And when she heard that this had been done already, she would not believe till she perceived some marks of mauling on her body and on her dress. Thereupon she called her brother to her, and that catechumen, and spoke to them, saying: Stand fast in the faith, and love you all one another; and be not offended because of our passion.
21. Saturus also at another gate exhorted Pudens the soldier, saying: So then indeed, as I trusted and foretold, I have felt no assault of beasts until now. And now believe with all your heart. Behold, I go out thither and shall perish by one bite of the leopard. And immediately at the end of the spectacle, the leopard being released, with one bite of his he was covered with so much blood that the people (in witness to his second baptism) cried out to him returning: Well washed, well washed. Truly it was well with him who had washed in this wise. Then said he to Pudens the soldier: Farewell; remember the faith and me; and let not these things trouble you, but strengthen you. And therewith he took from Pudens’ finger a little ring, and dipping it in his wound gave it back again for an heirloom, leaving him a pledge and memorial of his blood. Then as the breath left him he was cast down with the rest in the accustomed place for his throat to be cut. And when the people besought that they should be brought forward, that when the sword pierced through their bodies their eyes might be joined thereto as witnesses to the slaughter, they rose of themselves and moved, whither the people willed them, first kissing one another, that they might accomplish their martyrdom with the rites of peace. The rest not moving and in silence received the sword; Saturus much earlier gave up the ghost; for he had gone up earlier also, and now he waited for Perpetua likewise. But Perpetua, that she might have some taste of pain, was pierced between the bones and shrieked out; and when the swordsman’s hand wandered still (for he was a novice), herself set it upon her own neck. Perchance so great a woman could not else have been slain (being feared of the unclean spirit) had she not herself so willed it.
O most valiant and blessed martyrs! O truly called and elected unto the glory of Our Lord Jesus Christ! Which glory he that magnifies, honors and adores, ought to read these witnesses likewise, as being no less than the old, unto the Church’s edification; that these new wonders also may testify that one and the same Holy Spirit works ever until now, and with Him God the Father Almighty, and His Son Jesus Christ Our Lord, to Whom is glory and power unending for ever and ever. Amen.
From W.H. Shewring, trans. The Passion of Perpetua and Felicity, (London: 1931).↩
Today’s sermon is on how Jesus Christ on the cross fulfills the law of charity: Love in the shape of a cross.
The Catholic Church has taught from the days of St. Paul that it is the duty of state to use the death penalty. 1
The theory of “just war” is also an important part of the infallible moral teaching of the Catholic Church, especially as one forms the leaders of state. But today’s post is not about how to deal with enemies at the national level, but how to pray at the personal level. Jesus Christ said “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”—Matthew 5:44. Notice that such a command does not make that person not-your-enemy! Love your enemies presupposes that you are a real enough person to actually have real enemies. Not just imaginary pseudonyms from social media who want to kill you with the push of a button.
You see, simply the idea of having an “enemy” is jarring to the post-modern mind. We tend to put unity before truth. So, it’s strange that Jesus Himself had enemies. It’s tough for us Americans to grasp this, for we generally want to get alone with everyone. This is not bad, but it is bad to value unity above truth. God’s reality for our planet is that unity flows from truth. Anyone who lives this reality of metaphysics will have some enemies. Having enemies is actually necessary to get to heaven, for we need enemies to get there, primarily so that we can live the Beatitudes.
The above is a photo of desperate families escaping from Khorsabad, a town controlled by ISIS which was under Peshmerga fire. How is it that the tradition of the Catholic Church could have the Knights Templar killing Muslims at the siege of Malta and still believe in a Savior who said Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you? We have to look past the muddled theology of the past 50 years to see that the tradition of the Catholic Church actually has a more practical and more merciful approach to enemies than a new feelings-based theology. In fact, our answer today is going to come from an official prayer of the Traditional Latin Mass for enemies. Remember, this Mass was not created by a group of Catholics and Protestants sipping espresso in an Italian coffee shop, but it’s roots are “apostolic” by the infallible words of the Council of Trent. Certain parts were later changed or formulated under the blood of martyrs and the fastings and vigils of select saints over very slow centuries. So, almost all of prayers of the Traditional Latin Mass can be traced to time between the 1st and 7th century AD. This is why we can say that the liturgy is a look into the mind of God, even in reference to a single Oratio for an enemy.
As I wrote, there is actually a prayer for enemies in the Traditional Latin Mass, and this shows the mind of God:
One translation of the top prayer from the 1962 Missal is as follows:
O God, the Lover and Guardian of peace and charity, grant to all our enemies true peace and charity, together with remission of all their sins, and by Thy power deliver us from their wiles. Through Our Lord. Amen.
Let’s parce out this beautiful and powerful prayer to see how it is more merciful and practical than anything that could come from a manmade or fabricated liturgy.
O God, the lover and guardian of peace and charity
Notice that this is a prayer directed to God, not to the congregation. It recognizes that charity and peace are not social inventions, but that only God can give charity and peace, for God is love. When we divert from Him (even doctrinally) we don’t just divert from the Magisterium. We divert from the infinite Being who is Love-Itself.
Grant to all our enemies true peace and charity
I personally find it astonishing to see that the ancient tradition of the Catholic Church has something more merciful and practical for enemies than anything I found in the first five years of my priesthood praying the Mass of Paul VI. In other words, the intense saints of old all prayed that God would actually grant “peace and charity” to all their “enemies.” This presupposes that priests and saints have enemies. Thus, it is a prayer that takes blood, sweat and tears. The old Mass is so subtle, but perfectly crafted in every word. The liturgy is the bridge between God and man, even for issues as gritty as enemies. When that bridge is broken, we will forget how to live even the practical sides of life, including prayer for our enemies.
[Grant our enemies the] remission of all their sins.
Amidst all the doctrinal divisions in the Church today, we should each pray this prayer once today: “Grant to all our enemies true peace and charity, together with remission of all their sins.” (Da omnibus inimicis nostris pacem caritatemque veram: et cunctorum eis remissionem tribue peccatorum.)
This above Oratio or prayer hits all the transcendentals: Truth, beauty and goodness. It recognizes, however, that the final transcendental of oneness (or unity) can not be met by a fabricated form of man’s peace, but rather only Christ’s peace. This is a peace that has not been accepted by most of the world, as seen in the top picture of ISIS destroying more lives. We can not fake peace with the Muslims or even Catholic heretics that infiltrate the Church. But Jesus does not lose peace. In fact, He gives it in a deep but counter-cultural way: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”—John 14:27
By Thy power deliver us from their wiles.
I really, really love this part of the prayer. We pray nosque ab eorum insidiis potenter eripe which is: “Rescue us from our enemies’ insidious plans, by Your power!” This shows that the fulness of Catholicism is very practical, not amorphous or nebulous. Let’s put it all together: “God, please grant peace and love to my enemies, but keep them far from me and my loved ones!” Real people and great saints (usually one in the same like St. Paul) were not people-pleasers. They were great lovers of the person who stood before them, enough to die for their enemies. So also, we do not deny the harm done to us by our enemies, but we love them, forgive them and pray for them. 2
You see, we still (barely) live in a world more real, more material, more direct than the virtual reality of an Oculus. It will get more real when terrorist attacks increase on our soil, surely coming in 2017. Because life is real, material and direct, we need prayers that are real, material and direct. “God, please love on my enemies, but stop them from affecting my life.” Let’s pray this prayer boldly for and against 1) the enemies of tradition, 2) the enemies of unborn life and 3) the enemies of middle-Eastern Christians.
We need gritty, merciful and practical prayers like this. 2016 was a year that produced an estimated 90,000 martyrs. We have had 900,000 martyrs the past 10 years. The tradition of the Church is under siege and enemies of the pro-life movement have no intention of stopping killing babies just because Trump was elected today. I snapped this in New Orleans just a few days ago, and it perfectly illustrates love of enemies, even the enemies of innocent and tiny little children like this “death-scort.” Notice the joy of the Catholic woman behind her, as she prays her Rosary.
So, God of peace and charity, please grant peace and charity to all our enemies and even the remission of their sins. But also Lord, rescue us quickly and powerfully from their evil designs.
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”—Romans 13:1-4. JPII had some valid circumstantial arguments against the death penalty, but no Pope’s personal opinion can overturn the Divine Revelation of the Scriptures and the Council of Trent that uphold the fact that the state “bears the sword” (Rom 13 above) which is the duty to execute, albeit in justice. My emotions line up with JPII on this topic, but part of being Catholic means putting aside our emotions for the Magisterium. There’s a strong article on that here. ↩
..and sometimes blow them up, especially when they are killing and raping the innocent like ISIS does. This is the teaching of Just War theory, but to go to war, a Catholic nation (non-existent now) must meet all the requirements as seen even in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC):
“1. the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
2. all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
3. there must be serious prospects of success;
4. the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition” [CCC 2309]
I believe all four have been met for militarized nations of East and West to unite and fully eradicate ISIS.
The reason why a person should probably not use violence to shut down infant-killing centers in the United States is because the requirements for “civil disobedience” have not been met. In fact, not just one or two, but ALL OF THE FOLLOWING must be met for executing any armed resistance outside of a state-sanctioned mandate:
1. There is certain, grave, and prolonged violation of fundamental rights.
2. All other means of redress have been exhausted.
3. Such resistance will not provoke worse disorders.
4. There is well-founded hope of success.
5. It is impossible reasonably to foresee any better solution.—CCC 2243
In the battle for pre-born life, #1 and #2 have been met, but #3 and #4 have not been met to begin civil disobedience. I’m not sure about number 5. But again, all five must be met, and NOT ALL FIVE HAVE BEEN MET. In other words, violent civil disobedience can be justified for saving the innocent, but in this case it would harm the pro-life movement. Thus, you will NOT see me use violence against any killing mill. I go there with the weapons of the Holy Mass, exorcism and the Rosary… which are truly more powerful, anyway.↩
I must admit that there is something attractive and even accurate to the thesis that the Apostles were buffoons before they had the full transformation that happened at Pentecost. First, Mother Angelica points out that they never seemed to catch anything on their own even as fishermen! “Jesus chose a bunch of stinky fishermen” she reminds us as to why God chose someone like her to be a cloistered-evangelist to the nations in founding EWTN.
We have Christ’s disciples’ obvious sins, like Peter’s threefold denial of Jesus. And yet, after the Resurrection, Jesus does not say “Peter, about denying me three nights ago…You can still remain my disciple, but I’m going to have to pass-along this whole first-Pope thing.” No. After the threefold denial, Jesus gives Peter on that Sunday beach of the resurrection a full three attempts to move from simply liking Him (φιλεῖς με) to actually loving him (ἀγαπᾷς με.) Peter is embarrassed that he can’t honestly answer that he had any form of unconditional love for his friend who just died for him.
Jesus sees Peter’s humility and is not worried. Our Lord simply says: “Tend my sheep” and “Feed my sheep.” He knows that Peter will live up to the task. Peter had trusted in himself and fallen hard. But now, Peter is humbled enough to lead the Church…and Peter himself would be led to a cross where he would one day die, believing he was not worthy to die in the same shape as the Son of God. His executors agreed, and turned him upside down.
But it wasn’t just their bad fishing skills or their sins that made the Apostles look like buffoons. Without any blasphemy to the saints (and yes, the saints can be blasphemed) the evangelists made it clear that the Apostles occasionally answered as buffoons:
Jesus said: “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died.—John 4:11-14
Come on. Really. They thought that Jesus Himself didn’t actually know that asleep people wake up? Apparently not. No other explanation suffices.
or consider how obtuse they are later on the boat:
And [Jesus] cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread.—Mark 8:14
I can hear Homer Simpson saying to Chief Wiggum “I understaaaaand.” Yes, they were apparently thinking about food when Jesus said something as spiritual as “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.” This paints a picture of men astoundingly obtuse to the spiritual sense of things.
But now I want to consider some evidence that the Apostles were not buffoons. First of all, of all Ancient Near-East nations, very few tribes were as literate as the Jews in the first century. Children began memorizing the torah with honey on the letters at very tender ages. In fact, they had a large part of the Hebrew Scriptures memorized by the time they were 12 years old. We live in a time when most priests can not even name the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, so we tend to project our poor catechesis on the Apostles. But the Apostles would have know the Jewish faith, salvation history and the Hebrew Scriptures through and through and through, long before they met the Son of God face-to-face. This is a historical reality, not a pious hope. Just ask any well-read Israeli about first century life out there.
The Apostles were fishermen by trade. But originally they had “tried out”(like all 12 year old Hebrew boys at one point) to become a rabbi. This happens by being chosen at the age of 12 or so by a rabbi to be one who learns from him for years. Many years earlier, the Apostles had probably tried out but failed. But they had failed only compared to the real brainiacs of the day. This means that the Apostles would have had a large chunk of the entire Old Testament memorized long before they took their consolation prize of fishing (irony of ironies, considering which rabbi ended up choosing them as adults.)
But we must get rid of this idea that the Apostles were blue-collar morons if we really want to understand 1st century rabbinical Judaism. In fact, the parents of the Apostles expected them to be religious warriors to liberate Israel from Rome! How do we know this? Because half of the Apostles reflect the names found only in the family of Judas Maccabeus, the last family and book of the Old Testament. Notice that half of the Apostles come from Maccabees in the Old Testament (Simon x 2, Judas x 2, John x 1.) In fact, only the latter is found anywhere besides Maccabees in the whole Old Testament! 1
But now let’s fast forward to some grown Apostles: Peter’s brother is Andrew, and today is the feast of St. Andrew (30 November). The above picture is him instructing one of his early disciples, assumedly in modern-day Turkey. Similarly, it was Andrew who first introduced his brother Peter to Jesus Christ:
One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus.—John 1:40-42b
What was Andrew doing before he brought Peter to Jesus? Although Andrew may not have gone to sit from a rabbi in one of the main yeshivas (schools, ישיבה, literally meaning “sitting,” as you sit at the foot of a rabbi) we often forget that he was already following the greatest prophet of the old and new Testaments: John the Baptist. John the Baptist was not Jesus’ schizophrenic cousin in the forest like some movies portray him to be. John the Baptist is he of whom Jesus said “No man born of woman is greater than him.”—Matthew 11:11.
Notice two paragraphs above that Andrew introduces Peter to Jesus very very early in John’s Gospel. In fact, it happened in chapter one! How do we know that St. Andrew was already following St. John the Baptist before meeting Jesus? Because just a few verses before that, Andrew follows Jesus at the very referral and command of John the Baptist (Andrew’s first own master and rabbi) to do so. Notice that this happens just before what I described two paragraphs above:
The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as He walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.—John 1:35-37.
Can you imagine those three years of walking next to Jesus under a tree and eleven annoying-but-beloved friends? They must have wondered: What would Jesus say next? Where would He lead them? What miracle would come next? Which Pharisee would He anger today? Life would have been pure adventure. And yet, and yet…after the crucifixion, they are left with little faith. Those Apostles are hiding out for fear that they will be the next crucified Galileans, after their master and rabbi was mercilessly tortured and laid in the earth. Some messiah to liberate Israel from Rome!
But after they experience the Risen Christ, everything changes. They now believe. I believe that the greatest proof of the Resurrection is that 11 fearful men, literally hiding from the authorities on the first Holy Saturday, are the same men that traverse the globe and are now responsible for the fact that there are 2 billion Christians on the earth. How else could Galilean fishermen have gone from as far West as Spain (St. James) and as far East as India (St. Thomas) if they had not stuck their fingers into the nails of the Risen Jesus or the fist into His side? They were truly transformed. (Oh, and some say that Thomas made it all the way to China, but I won’t weigh in on that here.)
They have perfect knowledge of Christ at the resurrection, but the perfection of charity comes at Pentecost with Mary at their side, giving them all boldness and miracles to begin the full transformation of the world! So, yes, I do believe that there was a transformation in the lives and hearts at the Resurrection and even more at Pentecost. Perhaps even the personalities of the Apostles after the Resurrection and Pentecost are a bit changed. Either way, grace perfects nature without destroying it.
Because of this, we can be encouraged by the many falls of the personalities of the Bible when we consider how faithful God is to us, even when we are not faithful. Not that we want this to lead to presumption on God’s mercy, but St. Therese said: “It doesn’t matter how many times you fall. Only how many times you get back up.” In fact, this is truly exemplified in the many stupid decisions of the Apostles before Pentecost, and how Jesus does not only refrain from retracting His love, but He doesn’t retract His friendship, either. In fact, even their leadership as bishops and Pope of the early Church remains untouched despite all their personality flaws (impetuous, hungry, sleepy, dull, angry, etc) much like what you encounter in priests today, even in the confessional! As long as they kept the true faith and transmitted it as Christ gave it, falls among the first bishops and pope could be endured.
But we also have to put together the facts to see that the Apostles were not buffoons before Pentecost. They came from arguably the most literate culture ever on the fact of the globe (the Jews, even under occupation) and had memorized more books of the Bible by the age of 12 than most American Catholics will even read in the Bible their whole life. They were following the second greatest prophet to walk the earth, St. John the Baptist, before they were instructed on the beach by Yahweh Himself for three years, long before Pentecost. So, yes, the Apostles made some stupid comments in the Gospels and even some serious sins, but they were the most highly-educated fishermen that you ever did meet.
Burial spot of St. Andrew's body that I snapped off the Amalfi coast, Pascha 2016.
This should show any Protestant why it was wrong to take Maccabees out of the Bible, and that first century Jews surely considered it canonical if half of the parents of the Apostles would name their kids after names found only in Maccabees. ↩
I asked a close friend to write about his experience with same-sex attraction. His life reflects a poem by William Blake:
And we are put on earth a little space,
That we may learn to bear the beams of love,
And these black bodies and this sun-burnt face.
—The Little Black Boy
Each of us has different set of beams of love to bear, so I’m sure that you’ll find his life an inspiration.—Fr. Dave
I am a child of a God. I am a traditional Roman Catholic. I am a traditional Roman Catholic, a child of God who has same-sex attraction.
I have known that I was different since I was young. Ironically, while these confusing feelings were just entering my life, I had discovered the pearl of great price – I had discovered Jesus Christ. I wish I could say that, having discovered Christ, God has removed same-sex attraction and made me “normal.” He has not. This is neither a testimony about someone who experienced such profound healing that he struggles no more. But neither is it the story of the one who tried religion, failed, and rushed into the lifestyle. I am a child of God who has same-sex attraction and desires not necessarily healing but holiness. True and lasting healing will only come in eternity; but holiness starts here on earth.
True and lasting healing will come only in eternity; but holiness starts here on earth.
I have accepted the fact that this will be a struggle I have for the rest of my life. But this struggle for chastity is no different than the personal struggle that you may be dealing with in your life. The choice is before us every day – will I choose Christ and His love or will I choose that which is counterfeit? It is easy to make my struggle my primary identity, but I see it as only one aspect of my life. It does not define me.
My acceptance of my cross is not one that I embrace simply because it is a cross. A friend of mine recently said to me – I don’t know if it was an attempt to identify with my struggles – that she loved suffering. I recoiled from that statement. I did not ask for this cross. However, I embrace my cross because Christ calls me to pick up my cross and follow Him. I embrace my cross not out of self-pity but because I have experienced His love.
In Bishop Robert Barron’s new series, Catholicism: Pivotal Players, one learns that before St. Francis of Assisi received the stigmata, he prayed for two things – that he would experience the full passion and death of his Savior and, most importantly, that he would feel within himself the love that Christ had to do this major act of sacrifice. St. Francis did not morbidly ask for suffering alone; the joy in his suffering was only because of his union with Christ, and only because of Christ’s love.
A number of years ago, I had gone to a charismatic renewal conference. Although I had gone to Confession, I still beat myself up for the sins that I repented of but in the deepest recesses of my heart, I sincerely believed that God could not forgive me of such sins tied in with my struggles. After reception of Holy Communion, I calmly walked back to my seat and thoughts of past sins rushed through my mind. I cried out to the Lord, asking why, at this most sacred moment, my mind was reminding me of the worse things I had ever done. And He spoke in a still small voice. With each passing scene, I heard “And I loved you even then.” Tears welled up within me, and I truly believe I experienced the gift of tears. Christ loved me in the midst of my sin (Romans 5:8). I often think of Our Lord’s relationship with St. Peter, and how Jesus saw through the sin of Peter’s life to call Him time and again to the greatness to which he was called. Peter definitely did not change overnight, but he proved his love in the end.
For those who have same-sex attraction, there is an ever persistent fear that one will never experience love if one seeks to obey the Church’s teaching. Love in our much confused society is almost always identified with sexual expression, and yet even the Catechism says that sexuality is an expression of a person’s totality of love, including that of friendship. (CCC 2332 1). Human persons were not created for sex per se, but they were created for love and to love rightly. St. Augustine, that prodigal son who cried out that the Lord would grant Him chastity but just not yet, also said: “Set love in order in me.” (City of God XV.22) Those who authentically embrace chastity do so because they have experienced true love, and are encouraged to love others rightly.
As the years have passed, I have become more open about my struggles with same-sex attraction with close friends, most of whom are actively involved in the Faith. Whereas before the very mention of my struggle would cause me to tear up, it instead has provided an opportunity for my friends to show me authentic love. In truth, it was revelation of my struggles to Fr. Dave that has eventually led to writing this article. And, perhaps with a touch of divine humor and irony, I find myself often talking about same-sex attraction and helping others, without necessarily revealing my own struggles with this cross.
A good friend of mine who came out of the lifestyle and is now living a full and chaste life told me that the beginning of his conversion was when someone else he knew was gay told him it was possible to be chaste. That brief witness would eventually lead to his conversion back to the Catholic Church. He is a now a young man in his 20s living for Christ.
Please know that if you are someone who has same-sex attraction, I am praying for you – not that we necessarily be “healed” (though God is certainly capable of this) but that we would encounter authentic and transformative Love in Jesus Christ, and through His Church strive to live holiness in chastity. All I ask is that you would pray for me as well. God loves us so much, but He loves us too much to leave us where we are at.
“Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul. It especially concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and to procreate, and in a more general way the aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others.” ↩