Are you saved from eternal death by your conscience or by Jesus Christ? The primacy of conscience is the New Jansenism.
Covered in this podcast is a wide range of Catholic issues, from the first Pentecost to the charismatic movement today, to St. Maximilian Kolbe. We’ll especially consider Mary’s role against demons and the syllabus of errors in modern times.
Special thanks again to the Benedictine Nuns of Mary Queen of Apostles for allowing me to use their music as the bumpers to my iTunes sermons and podcasts.
The old list has six precepts. The new list has five precepts.
aka Good Shepherd Sunday
This sermon recognizes the wolves that have caused the current crisis in the Catholic Church. In this sermon, I also describe the shepherds that God may be currently raising in order to shepherd the Church, as Christ and the early Apostles led and guarded the Church. This Sunday is appropriately called “Good Shepherd Sunday,” due to the Gospel from St. John chapter 10.
Today is the eclipsed feast day of St. Catherine of Siena in the old calendar. In line with today’s sermon, it is worth noting the seven things that God the Father told St. Catherine of Siena would restore the Catholic Church in times of crisis:
- Fiery Desire
- Endure much
- Cast the light of your patience into the darkness of perverse men.
- Don’t fear the world’s persecutions.
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.
I’m going to write on five surprising things of St. Joseph in celebration of his feast day today.
1) St. Joseph was probably born without original sin. I know this one sounds heretical, but follow me here. A nun in Ohio received private revelations from Mary and Joseph in 1956, all of which were approved by Cardinal Burke in his letter to the USCCB in 1997. These apparitions are known as “Our Lady of America.” St. Joseph said the following about himself in this apparition: “It is true, my daughter, that immediately after my conception I was, through the future merits of Jesus and because of my exceptional role of future Virgin-Father, cleansed from the stain of original sin. I was, from that moment, confirmed in grace and never had the slightest stain on my soul. This is my unique privilege among men. My pure heart also was from the first moment of existence inflamed with love for God.” Mary was conceived without original sin. Joseph was conceived with original sin. However, if this apparition is true (and I believe it is) then immediately after his conception, Joseph was cleansed by God via the merits of Jesus on the cross applied retroactively. Thus, Jesus is still the Divine Savior of His foster-father, Joseph. Many ancient saints, popes, doctors and theologians of the Church have firmly believed that St. Joseph never committed an actual sin—neither mortal, nor even venial. This theological assertion does not empty the cross of its power, but rather reveals the omnipotence of God to apply the merits of the Redemption as He sees fit, even outside of time. Again, Jesus still saved Joseph from sin. (But this one probably deflates the old joke of Joseph getting blamed for everything in the breakfast-nook by the rest of the Holy Family.)
2) St. Joseph, betrothed to Mary, was a young-virgin himself. Although not defined, this is the teaching of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. Combine this with the dogma of Mary’s perpetual virginity, and the outcome is that St. Joseph is still a virgin in heaven. This sheds light on the hidden life of Nazareth, namely, that it took great virtue—not old age—to live in celibacy with the most beautiful woman ever created. This also means that Jesus was the only child that Joseph ever raised. Imagine this father teaching his son the Hebrew Scriptures late at night in his workshop. The angels themselves could not have made greater praise than these deep but tender, joyful whispers of the Psalms coming from a carpenter’s workshop day and night. (For Scriptural clarity on the identity of the mother of those relatives of Jesus always debated to be either His “brothers” versus His “cousins,” you can decide for yourself by reading Matt 27:55-56. It’s the entire Scriptural key to Mary’s Perpetual Virginity.)
3) St. Joseph was probably taken body-and-soul into heaven at his death. Have you ever seen a first class relic of St. Joseph? Me neither. St. Francis De Sales, a doctor of the Church, considers it definite that St. Joseph was taken body-and-soul into heaven at his death. Many such saints look to Gen 50:25 as a prophesy. Common sense dictates: Would God let his own foster father rot in the ground until His second coming? Indeed, we know that although Mary’s Assumption was unique, Mary was not the only one taken body-and-soul into heaven for a preemptive resurrection of the body. (See Gen 5:24, 2 Kings2:11 and Matt 27:53.) That St. Joseph should be among this small party of bodies in heaven is easy to believe when you consider that St. Joseph has been defined doctrinally by the magisterium as the second greatest saint. (See the writings by Pope Leo XIII.) I would have thought that the runner up to Mary would have gone to, say, St. Paul or St. Catherine of Siena. Nope. St. Joseph is the second greatest saint, even higher than the angels in glory. A simple carpenter! In fact, St. Teresa of Ávila says of St. Joseph: “I do not remember that I have ever asked anything of him which he has failed to grant.” Remember this when you pray for—and with—the dying. Since St. Joseph died with Jesus and Mary at his side, he is considered the patron of a good death. My experience is that his intercession is almost immediate.
4) St. Joseph is the head of the Holy Family. This seems obvious, but think about it: St. Joseph is #3 in holiness in his family, but he is #1 in the authority of his family. Right here we have the whole Catholic answer to the issue of women’s ordination, the role of the father as the spiritual leader of the family and even the necessity of complementary roles played by two different genders in the family. Why? Because the Holy Family reveals to post-moderns that roles themselves do not imply superiority; roles prove natural law. (Natural Law is the universal law of family and morality already stamped into the heart of human beings found in any culture.) One day, we Americans may learn that the equality of dignity enjoyed by man and woman is not the same as a bland, interchangeable sameness of family members. How boring. Rather, real roles provide beauty when they are lived without chauvinism or manipulation. Mary was holier than Joseph, but that didn’t stop her from being obedient to him. In fact, Jesus—the Divine Word of the Universe—was obedient to both of them (Luke 2:51.) So, what was Joseph’s role, anyway? That of every man: To protect, guard, provide, teach, guide and love. When a woman lets a man do this, it’s not conveying inferiority. It’s letting him live the fullness of his own masculine love for his family.
5) St. Joseph is the Return of the King. If you look at St. Joseph’s genealogy in the Gospel of St. Matthew, you will see that Joseph had to be the hidden king of Israel by being a direct descendent of King David. Why didn’t anyone know it? Because David’s royalty had to go underground to give way to a corrupt Hebrew theocracy in cahoots with Greek invaders. (For more, see the Old Testament’s 1 and 2 Maccabees, aka the Jewish Braveheart…Yes, some poor Protestans took out the most exciting book in the Bible because Luther didn’t like the Purgatory reference in 2 Macc 12:39-42.) Anyway, follow closely for one more minute: St. Joseph was “King of Israel.” This is proved right there in Matt 1:6-16. He is in the direct bloodline of King David! Read it if you think that that is a title that belongs only to Jesus. In fact, Jesus being the supposed-son of the king may have been a cruel but prophetic twist on the head-placard written by Pontius Pilate at Jesus’ crucifixion: HIC EST IESUS, REX IUDAEORUM—Matt 27:37. Of course, Jesus goes beyond Joseph as the prophesied everlasting King of Israel (2 Sam 7:12-13) since Jesus is God. If you’ve read any Scott Hahn, you know that the queen of a Jewish king was not his wife, but rather His mother (1 Kings 2:19.) Thus, if Jesus is king, then the queen of Israel is clearly Mary. Put it all together and this means: For different reasons, Mary and Joseph are both hidden royalty! The royal duty of Joseph was to guard and protect his queen, Mary. But it doesn’t end there. His duty of guarding this queen was the cameo of his longer vocation to protect the Catholic Church by his intercession in heaven. Is this a pious but random connection? No. The Church’s theology is that Mary lived as the exemplar (supreme goal and example) of the Church. This means that everything St. Joseph did once for her on earth, he would do now for the Church from his spot in heaven. Now it is easy to understand why St. Joseph’s current role is to guard and protect the Church in her pilgrim state of danger here on earth. He is summoned to protect her from both theological error and real demons. We need to call on him now more than ever in this time of nearly unprecedented confusion within the Church and diabolical attack within the family (the domestic Church.) “St. Joseph, terror of demons” is ready to help us pray and act and teach as men.
Lastly…I’ve traveled to missions and parishes on five continents during the past three years and I would argue that it is mostly in Western nations where people consider religion to be a “woman thing.” Not so in the Middle East, in India, in Africa. God is for both genders. Consider the witness of the 21 Egyptian Christian martyrs whose heads were sawed off with knives last month while they were still alive. (This is not “beheading” as the media erroneously calls it. “Beheading” was something merciful that Herod did to John the Baptist.) Did you know that these 21 were not ultra-religious Copts hand-picked by ISIS for torture? They were ordinary Christian men. Did you know every one of them was given the chance to verbally deny Jesus and then accept Islam? These normal fathers and husbands submitted to a gory death on the shores of Libya instead of denying our dear Savior, Jesus Christ. Beshir Kamel, a brother of two of the martyrs, later said that his brothers and friends were “a badge of honor to Christianity…ISIS gave us more than we asked when they didn’t edit out the part where they declared their faith and called upon Jesus Christ. ISIS helped us strengthen our faith.” Yes, this was the year 2015. Perhaps it is no coincidence that both Josephs of the Bible have blessed the sands of Egypt by their courageous and manly witness when compromise could have “saved” them. St. Joseph, genetically so close to these modern heroes and martyrs of Libya/Egypt, pray for similar men to be raised up in the Church of the Americas.
—I originally wrote this article for Those Catholic Men.
The Four Last Things refer to death, judgment, heaven and hell. The 10 Last Things as a phrase does not exist, but all are found in Scripture and Tradition. Remember, Advent (starting tonight) is the time to prepare not only for Christ’s first coming, but also His second coming.
So, when is Jesus coming back to earth? The answer: At the end of the world. When is the end of the world? Jesus said, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”—Mt 25:13. A theologian of Scripture here in the USA said he believes one reason why so many men have left the Catholic faith for Protestantism is because the Catholic pulpit is silent on the apocalypse. It’s sad, especially since we have the clearest and richest tradition.
Although we’ll be discussing no specific dates, the Sacred Scriptures and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) both name the ten things that must come at the end of the world:
1) The Gospel must first be preached to the whole world. The extent of the level of the orthodoxy of the proclaimer is not clear, nor is it clear if every person or simply every nation will have heard the truth of Christ and His Church before the end of the world. At least every land will have heard the basics by the second coming of Christ.
2) The Jews will return to the Holy Land and ultimately enter the Catholic Faith. Obviously, the first of these has happened (1948) and the second has not yet happened. I had thought that the first was only a vestage of Protestant dispensationalism, but I recently discovered in Yves Dupont’s Catholic Prophesy that Saints like Alphonsus Liguori had taught that the Jews must return to Israel before Christ’s second return.
3) The Great Tribulation and Apostasy. Before the end of the world, CCC 675 speaks of “the Church’s ultimate trial” which will be both “apostasy from the truth” and “persecution.” Perhaps this one has been fulfilled. Indeed, many Catholics have apostatized, formally or informally. However, many Catholics and other Christians are being persecuted for following Christ. Since Christ’s birth, there have been 70 million Christian martyrs. Of these, the past hundred years have witnessed the majority— 45,500,000 of all 70,000,000 martyrdoms! Granted, most of these were Orthodox at the hands of communists; it’s still persecution of Christians. Jesus said this tribulation would also be accompanied by an increase in earthquakes (Mt 24:7.) Even CNN admits a marked increase in earthquakes the past 100 years.
4) The Anti-Christ or the man of lawlessness. Although there have been many anti-Christs (1 John 2:18) we’re going to have to experience the big one, “the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.”—2 Thess 2:3-4. See CCC 676–680.
5) The Restrainer. Mercy is defined as the divine limit to evil. The anti-Christ will deceive so many people that God will send someone to limit evil. His name in the Bible is “The Restrainer.” (I know “the Restrainer” sounds like the coolest Marvel Comic book hero. But he’s right in the Bible, which might explain why our Protestant brothers and sisters speculate about him more than Catholics.) Anyway, this mysterious good-guy will come along at the end of the world as an agent of Divine Mercy so that the man of lawlessness doesn’t win. “Only he who now restrains it will do so until [the man of lawlessness] is out of the way.”—2 Thess 2:7. Some Catholic theologians speculate the Restrainer will be St. John the Baptist or St. Michael the Archangel. But he is unknown at this point.
6) Widespread disturbances in nature. “Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.”—Mt 24:29-30
7) Second Coming of Jesus Christ. There’s an actual “day and hour” (Mt 24:36) to Christ’s return to earth. This day has definitely not yet come. “As the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”—Mt 24:27. Once, at a lunch, a priest with several impressive degrees snickered at me for taking these words literally. Then, I have to wonder: If Jesus doesn’t return with power, maybe he’ll return on a My Little Pony Cutie Mark Magic Princess Twilight Sparkle Charm Carriage Playset? (That’s an actual toy at Target! I have to wonder who named that…An 8 year old girl in love with a cutie named Mark who was allowed to combine her eleven favorite words randomly?) Anyway, my point isn’t to rally tough-guy fundamentalism. I just can’t imagine a fitting middle ground between Christ coming as a baby and then coming in glory. Unless…Jesus comes strolling into Seattle with corduroy pants and a Dockers short-sleeve at His awful second coming. For my part, I’ll believe the Apostle’s description of the last day: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.”—1 Thess 4:16. See CCC 681 and the 13th century hymn Dies Irae, “Day of wrath and doom impending…heaven and earth in ashes ending.” Google it. The rest of it gets even more terrible, in the ancient Latin sense of the word.
8) Final Judgment. The Church teaches that every one of us on earth will be judged by Christ at the end of life, be it our particular judgment or the general judgment. The particular judgment is what you will experience if you die before Jesus returns in glory. It’s simply your judgment when you come before God a bit after cardiac arrest. A great Spanish priest described that moment as a 2-dimensional instantaneous download of your entire life, replete with Christ’s judgment of you (heaven or hell). The general judgment, or the Last Judgment, however, is what everyone will experience when Christ returns to earth. This will also affect those who have already died. For everyone, it will be like a 3-dimensional instantaneous download of every good and evil action committed by every person on the planet (Luke 8:17) and how it affected you and vice-versa. In short, during your death and/or Christ’s return, your chance for mercy will be done. That’s what the confessional is for. On judgment day, you will answer for any unconfessed sins, and you will see how every one of your actions affected the whole world, for better or for worse. I’m not trying to scare you. This is Our Faith: You matter. See CCC 1021 and CCC 1038–1041.
9) Resurrection of the Body. Simultaneous to #8, everyone will get their body back. It will be physical, spiritual and hopefully glorified. I write “hopefully” because even those even in hell will get a body back for eternal torture (John 5:29.) Happily, 100% of those in purgatory will go to heaven and also get their glorified body back. But most adult Catholics think of heaven as an amorphous reality for the soul…kind of like a nursing home hot tub where billions of doped-up souls stare in a smiley bliss. Rather, let’s consider Jesus’ resurrection: He could eat fish but walk through walls; He shined with glory, but He had wounds. In fact, the four Catholic doctrinal points of the resurrection is that your new body will be: 1) Glorified (like Jesus at the Transfiguration), 2) Agile (not subject to gravity. I promise I’m not making this up.), 3) Subtle (from the Latin, meaning the body will obey the soul as the essential form of the body…meaning you won’t accidentally burp in your new body.) and 4) Impassible (unable to suffer.) Does this all sound just a little fantastic? CCC 996 says: “From the beginning, Christian faith in the resurrection has met with incomprehension and opposition. On no point does the Christian faith encounter more opposition than on the resurrection of the body.” Wait. No other point met with more opposition? What about contraception and same-sex marriage? You see, the resurrection of the body is the foundation of all other Catholic morality since “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”—2 Cor 5:10. Apparently, man’s notion of once-saved always-saved doesn’t fool God. See CCC 988–1019.
10) New Heavens and a New Earth. First, this earth will burn (2 Pt 3:10.) Then God will make a New Heavens and a New Earth (Is 65:17.) Where else did you expect to use your new body? Notice that the physical reality of eternity is already found in the Old Testament. For the Jews, the “age to come” will not be any more nebulous than this age. But it will be an era of peace. That era of the Messiah’s peace will permeate so deeply into creation that even the lion will lie down with the calf. (Show off that Bible trick at parties since 99% of you thought I should have written “lamb.” You’re wrong! See Isaiah 11:6.) There’s a solid section on the New Heavens and the New Earth in CCC 1042–1060. Finally, since I made fun of a goofy notion of heaven in #5, I really should highlight all of Christian history’s most beautiful description of heaven. It’s composed by the Holy Spirit through the Apostle John. This description of heaven spans from Revelation 21 to 22 (the last two chapters of the Bible) but here’s my favorite, the beginning of the end, literally and eschatologically:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more.—Rev 21:1-4a
NB I originally wrote the above for Those Catholic Men, but since pubication I had remembered a few more things that must happen before Christ returns, hence the insertion of a few “new” ones.
Today’s feast honors St. Felix of Valois, a 13th century saint who gave himself to be the ransom (replacement) of Christians taken hostage by Muslims. At Mass tonight, I preached my sermon on St. Felix and the theology of both Christianity and Islam.
In this short video, Stephen Colbert (comedian-turned-theologian) says “Faith ultimately can’t be argued; faith has to be felt.” Let’s cut through his poor philosophy and consider reality:
1) Feelings are often no different from biochemical pleasures. God uses feelings in all stages of prayer, but it is not central to the substance of the soul where the Blessed Trinity resides. If faith must be “felt” as Colbert said, then where does that leave Mother Teresa who couldn’t feel anything for 60 years of prayer? But false-positives abound, too: If I drink an enormous Chemex hipster coffee and feel like a saint who could take on the world, did I just “feel” an increase in my faith? Of course not. That is because there is some correlation between good spiritual “feelings” and the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norephinephrine. That’s why we called coffee in seminary “liquid consolation.” But we were joking. Sadly, Colbert was not. Back to neurotransmitters: These reuptake mechanisms are also found in more intense pleasures (like cocaine.) So, “feeling your faith” doesn’t increase faith anymore than cocaine. Even atheistic scientists will agree with me here: Spiritual “feelings” are frequently nothing more than the release of biochemicals in the brain. I make no moral judgment against either feelings or pleasure here. God created both and can affect both in prayer, but it’s not the central tenet of faith.
2) One’s opinion of truth is only as good as the evidence that one has to support it. Few doubt this truth in science, but if religion refers to truth, then this is true in religion also. Regarding feelings and logic together, Colbert does admit that “they do not defy each other but complement each other. ” He then says, “Logic itself will not lead me to God.” This is partly true,1 but there’s a glaring omission in the above video: The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a historical binary event (true or not true) upon which hinges our entire creed. “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”—1 Cor 15:17. Colbert inadvertently disparages the starting point of Christianity, namely, that the Resurrection and Divinity of Jesus Christ can be given some real evidence. Or rather, we can not prove that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, but we can disprove the contrary with pretty air-tight historical arguments found in books like Kreeft/Tacelli’s Handbook of Catholic Apologetics.
For all the Social Justice Catholics that promote Colbert, we have to admit it’s ironic that Colbert puts the emphasis on feelings—something the poor don’t have the luxury of always enjoying in their daily walk with Christ. The Christians being crucified by ISIS may not “feel” their faith, but they have a hope in the crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ based in a historical event. But I guess feelings are good for a multi-millionaire hanging with the Jesuits of Manhattan.
Yes, for Colbert, “faith ultimately can’t be argued; faith has to be felt.” In this philosophy, random biochemicals in the brain must take precedent over truth. Besides this conclusion being false for both Jesus on the cross (not good feelings but lots of truth) and St. Thomas Aquinas (who says very little of feelings and lots of truth) there’s actually another odd problem with Colbert Catholicism: It’s the most boring version of Catholicism we have heard since the 1970s. Almost all of my Gen-X friends raised by progressive-Catholic baby-boomers have left the Catholic Church. Inclusive-Catholicism turned out to be exclusive-Catholicism, precisely because it was founded on the feelings of a few ex-hippies instead of the Truth.
Most normal people long for one of two ways of life:
Feelings=Pleasure=Religion of hedonism (max out on pleasure.)
Logic=Truth=Religion of Catholicism (max out on truth and love, but it hurts just a little on the way to heaven.)
At the end of the day, here are our best two options: An-unbridled-pleasure-fiend or a total saint. I don’t believe in a middle-ground—practical or theological—where you get neither.
This isn’t to say that Catholicism is cold-cut syllogisms without any affections of love of Jesus Christ. Nor does it mean that all pleasure is bad. God made feelings and God made pleasure. But at the end of the day, we have to decide if we’re going to live for feelings or the truth. 2
So, what is faith, then? “Faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not.”—Heb 11:1. Evidence means just that—evidence, as I wrote above in regards to the historical evidence for the resurrection of Christ. But if Colbert wants this at a more personal level, the word “faith” in Greek (πιστις) is actually also the same as trust. It means a trust-of-life, not just a single statement of salvation. It means daily decisions, not just a single act of consent of the intellect (Protestantism) or emotions (Colberism.) You see, if faith is trust, then this includes loving and hard decisions in the body all day long, including chastity, for “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”—2 Cor 5:10.
Jesus rarely said “Believe in me.” He frequently said “Follow me.”
Mother Teresa’s faith went deeper than both emotions and logic. For 60 years she did not “feel her faith.” Yet she got up at 3am or 4am to pray for two hours before her Eucharistic Lord and served Jesus in the poorest of the poor in the streets of Kolkata for decade after decade. Mother Teresa was living trust in the body when the feelings weren’t there. These were decisions she lived out in her body, and yet her emotions were so dark that she had to make constant acts of faith in God via her will—acts that were above and beyond the dark night of the soul that lasted a grueling 60 years. This is a tough marriage to a Divine Spouse! She often complained lovingly of her silent lover…
In fact, at the risk of scandalizing my readers, I’ll point out what she once wrote to a friend: “Pray for me, pray that I may have the courage to keep on smiling at Jesus—I understand a little the tortures of hell—without God.” I used the word “scandalized” because you should be surprised that Mother Teresa felt herself (not made herself, but felt herself) to be “without God.” And yet, she made constant acts of faith—essentially hope against hope—of having no feelings of God, yet seeking Him anyway.
Since her death, many people who felt on the verge of suicide have since found strength in the ways of Mother Teresa. People who had struggled their whole life with very personal sins and thought God abandoned them found hope in Mother Teresa. Why? Because, they reason, if God loved Mother Teresa even when she couldn’t feel Him, then His love must still be there. If God could love Mother Teresa as she was, maybe He loves me in my serious sin. They are right. And it is still His kindness that leads us to repentance.
In fact, in that same letter, Mother Teresa explained her suffering for the life of the world: “I have no words to express what I want to say, and yet last First Friday—knowingly and willingly I offered to the Sacred Heart—to pass even eternity in this terrible suffering, if this would give Him now a little more pleasure—or the love of a single soul.”
St. Thomas Aquinas found this debate so important that it’s his very first response in his 3000 page “summary” of the Catholic Faith: “It was necessary for the salvation of man that certain truths which exceed human reason should be made known to him by divine revelation. Even as regards those truths about God which human reason could have discovered, it was necessary that man should be taught by a divine revelation; because the truth about God such as reason could discover, would only be known by a few, and that after a long time, and with the admixture of many errors. Whereas man’s whole salvation, which is in God, depends upon the knowledge of this truth. Therefore, in order that the salvation of men might be brought about more fitly and more surely, it was necessary that they should be taught divine truths by divine revelation. It was therefore necessary that besides philosophical science built up by reason, there should be a sacred science learned through revelation.”—ST I.1.1 respondeo ↩
Colbert, if you ever read this, I’ll happily discuss this on or off the air in your studio. Our mutual friend, Fr. Z (not the blogger), can hook us up. ↩