Tag Archives: Saints

40 Martyrs of Sebaste

Today is the Memorial of the 40 Roman Soldiers who banded together in modern day Armenia, refusing to renounce Christ.  St. Basil writes of their glorious and manly martyrdom:

These holy martyrs suffered at Sebaste, in the Lesser Armenia, under the Emperor Licinius, in 320. They were of different countries, but enrolled in the same troop; all in the flower of their age, comely, brave, and robust, and were become considerable for their services. St. Gregory of Nyssa and Procopius say they were of the Thundering Legion, so famous under Marcus Aurelius for the miraculous rain and victory obtained by their prayers. This was the twelfth legion, and then quartered in Armenia. Lysias was duke or general of the forces, and Agricola the governor of the province. The latter having signified to the army the orders of the emperor Licinius for all to sacrifice [to false gods], these forty went boldly up to him, and said they were Christians, and that no torments should make them ever abandon their holy religion. The judge first endeavoured to gain them by mild usage; as by representing to them the dishonour that would attend their refusal to do what was required, and by making them large promises of preferment and high favour with the emperor in case of compliance. Finding these methods of gentleness ineffectual, he had recourse to threats, and these the most terrifying, if they continued disobedient to the emperor’s order, but all in vain. To his promises they answered that he could give them nothing equal to what he would deprive them of; and to his threats, that his power only extended over their bodies which they had learned to despise when their souls were at stake. The governor, finding them all resolute, caused them to be torn with whips, and their sides to be rent with iron hooks; after which they were loaded with chains, and committed to jail.

After some days, Lysias, their general, coming from Caesarea to Sebaste, they were re-examined, and no less generously rejected the large promises made them than they despised the torments they were threatened with. The governor, highly offended at their courage, and that liberty of speech with which they accosted him, devised an extraordinary kind of death, which, being slow and severe, he hoped would shake their constancy. The cold in Armenia is very sharp, especially in March, and towards the end of winter, when the wind is north, as it then was, it being also at that time a severe frost. Under the walls of the town stood a pond, which was frozen so hard that it would bear walking upon with safety. The judge ordered the saints to be exposed quite naked on the ice; and in order to tempt them the more powerfully to renounce their faith, a warm bath was prepared at a small distance from the frozen pond, for any of this company to go to who were disposed to purchase their temporal ease and safety on that condition.

The martyrs, on hearing their sentence, ran joyfully to the place, and without waiting to be stripped, undressed themselves, encouraging one another in the same manner as is usual among soldiers in military expeditions attended with hardships and dangers, saying that one bad night would purchase them a happy eternity. They also made this their joint prayer: “Lord, we are forty who are engaged in this combat; grant that we may be forty crowned, and that not one be wanting to this sacred number.” The guards in the mean time ceased not to persuade them to sacrifice [to false gods], that by so doing they might be allowed to pass to the warm bath. But though it is not easy to form a just idea of the bitter pain they must have undergone, of the whole number only one had the misfortune to be overcome; who, losing courage, went off from the pond to seek the relief in readiness for such as were disposed to renounce their faith; but as the devil usually deceives his adorers, the apostate no sooner entered the warm water but he expired. This misfortune afflicted the martyrs; but they were quickly comforted by seeing his place and their number miraculously filled up. A sentinel was warming himself near the bath, having been posted there to observe if any of the martyrs were inclined to submit. While he was attending, he had a vision of blessed spirits descending from heaven on the martyrs, and distributing, as from their king, rich presents and precious garments; St. Ephrem adds crowns to all these generous soldiers, one only excepted, who was their faint-hearted companion already mentioned. The guard, being struck with the celestial vision and the apostate’s desertion, was converted upon it; and by a particular motion of the Holy Ghost, threw off his clothes, and placed himself in his stead amongst the thirty-nine martyrs. Thus God heard their request, though in another manner than they imagined: “Which ought to make us adore the impenetrable secrets of his mercy and justice,” says St. Ephrem, “in this instance, no less than in the reprobation of Judas and the election of St. Matthias.”

In the morning the judge ordered both those that were dead with the cold, and those that were still alive, to be laid on carriages, and cast into a fire. When the rest were thrown into a waggon to be carried to the pile, the youngest of them (whom the acts call Melito) was found alive; and the executioners, hoping he would change his resolution when he came to himself, left him behind. His mother, a woman of mean condition, and a widow, but rich in faith and worthy to have a son a martyr, observing this false compassion, reproached the executioners; and when she came up to her son, whom she found quite frozen, not able to stir, and scarce breathing, he looked on her with languishing eyes, and made a little sign with his weak hand to comfort her. She exhorted him to persevere to the end, and, fortified by the Holy Ghost, took him up, and put him with her own hands into the waggon with the rest of the martyrs, not only without shedding a tear, but with a countenance full of joy, saying courageously: “Go, go, son, proceed to the end of this happy journey with thy companions, that thou mayest not be the last of them that shall present themselves before God.” Nothing can be more inflamed or more [moving] than the discourse which St. Ephrem puts into her mouth, by which he expresses her contempt of life and all earthly things, and her ardent love and desire of eternal life. This holy father earnestly entreats her to conjure this whole troop of martyrs to join in imploring the divine mercy in favour of his sinful soul. Their bodies were burned, and their ashes thrown into the river; but the Christians secretly carried off or purchased part of them with money. Some of these precious relics were kept in Caesarea, and St. Basil says of them: “Like bulwarks, they are our protection against the inroads of enemies.”

St. Stephen and Rogue One

Spoiler alert on Rogue One for the second half of this blog post.

Today is the feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Catholic Church. His martyrdom is found in Acts chapter 7 and it contains the jarring testimony of a young deacon who chooses God’s religion over man’s intertwined religious games. Although engaging the high-powered Jewish religious leaders of Christ’s own time, St. Stephen is fearless in proclaiming how Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of all the Hebrew Scriptures. Before being stoned to death, Stephen recounts to the Pharisees all of Salvation history. Then he accuses them:

You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”—Acts 7:51-53

Why did Stephen die? The obvious answer is out of love for Jesus Christ. In fact, every martyr dies for love of Jesus Christ. But there’s a second reason that is not as obvious or ecumenical: Stephen died for the full deposit of the faith.  “Deposit of the faith” is not a romantic term but we should face the facts:  Most martyrs of the early Church (especially in the Byzantine East) died for the transmission of the deposit of the faith to remain pure against heresy. Think about it: If the early Catholic martyrs of Rome and Palestine and Byzantium had not died to maintain the purity of the Apostolic Christian faith, there would be no Catholics. Actually, there would be no Orthodox or Protestants. There would be no Christians.  It’s quite a fragile system of Apostolic succession that God put in place.

Do not think that any particular heritage or bloodline is the sole guarantor of your Faith. For example, no English or Irish Catholics reading this post would be Catholic if Italians like St. Gregory the Great had not sent missionaries to the isles up north. Gregory was born in Rome, and he himself owes his faith to more individuals than Christ:  He would never have been  baptized a Catholic, had not the Roman martyrs for hundreds of years before him maintained the courage under fire to keep the pureness of the faith. Pope St. Gregory the Great learned about Catholicism only because it was preserved by the martyrs of the Roman empire for a full five centuries prior to his own baptism.

2 Maccabees chapter 7 relays the account of the martyrdom of a Jewish woman and her seven sons.  They die not for a pure emotional love of God but to keep even the smallest of dietary laws.  So also, the martyrs died not only for Christ, but for the fullness of the Catholic faith. Every little bit. Did every little bit really matter?  Jesus said:  “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”—Matthew 5:19.  The Apostle John urges the Churches of Turkey to “return to their first love”  and the Holy Spirit warns through him that there will be consequences to watering down the faith. Today,  the faith is all but dead in Turkey.  Similarly, we must avoid any presumption that would lead us to believe that God would “owe us a living,” so to speak, in the Church in the West today.

I’ve gone to see Rogue One twice now. What struck me is that all the good guys in the movie die. At least the ones we learn by name, perish. They are either blasted or nuked by the Imperial forces. Why? Because the Rebel Alliance chose to sacrifice their lives for one single piece of information:   The digital plans for the DeathStar. Americans usually don’t like movies where all the good guys die. Europeans can handle it. But Rogue One took a risk with us Americans in wiping out almost every significant member of the Rebel Alliance against Darth Vader and his DeathStar pioneers.

Was it a good idea for Lucas Films to force us to watch our heroes die for the transmission of a single piece of information? Yes, because this is how the martyrs of the early Church saw things: The Catholic Faith was worth their blood for every single one of those small pieces of “information.” Yes, they received the courage and charity to die, primarily because they were given grace and mercy by the Blessed Trinity in their hour of agony. Yes, they died out of love of Jesus Christ. But if you look closely, many of early martyrs of Byzantium and the Roman Empire actually died to also maintain the pure deposit of the faith against certain “small” heresies that wouldn’t even be recognized by the post-modern reader.

Nowadays, people are taking sides between Cardinals on issues of doctrine that are finally making the mainstream news. The group on the left claims that their Cardinals are pastoral and merciful. The group to the right claims that their Cardinals are traditional. But many traditionalists do not understand just how traditional we are talking. We’re not lining up behind a Cardinal because he dresses like someone at the Council of Trent. We’re lining up behind men who are not only maintaining the Apostles’ Faith but also the blood of millions of “little people” to preserve it.   Literally millions.

Like Rogue One, many “little people”  died to bring us this pure, untouched information. For me to deny any single tenet of the Catholic faith has little to do with the liberal/conservative spectrum. For me to deny any single tenet of the Catholic faith would trample the blood of martyrs like St. Stephen.  St. Stephen is known as the proto-martyr because he was the first martyr of the Catholic Faith. St. Stephen proto-martyr is first Rogue One against lawyers’ manmade religion of popularity when St. Stephen presented them with Divine Revelation.

The martyrs that followed Stephen died for Jesus Christ, yes, but let’s examine a less ecumenical truth:  Jesus didn’t need those martyrs as much as we Catholics in future generations needed those martyrs to stay strong under torture.  It was a torture for your children to know the fullness of truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The whole truth.  Surrender without content is usually not worth dying for.  Neither was an ambiguous “deposit of faith” (unromantic though it be) transmitted in apostolic succession or the martyrs of the early Byzantine and Roman Empires.  I am only a priest. Too many men, women and even children died for me to learn the Catholic faith for me to tamper with that deposit of the faith with political terms like “liberal” or “conservative.”

St. Stephen was the first Rogue One. He chose truth over the false-peace contained in man’s laws. So also every martyr is a rebel against the kingdom of man; he is a Rogue for God in an enormous community of the Catholic Church.  Every one of them played a small part in brining us not only Jesus Christ and His sacraments, but also the full and saving doctrine His Church—a doctrine without which the sacraments would contain no power to live…or to die.

Women Saints’ Problems

woman jesus

I’m not sure who originally compiled this, but it is encouraging to know:  You’re not alone in your struggles.  These are the women of the school of Christ crucified.  (After writing this blog post last night, I woke up and realized I needed to add an important Nota Bene:  The below listing of saints is not a green-light for women to be doormats.  Most of these women tried to preserve their lives and even live normal lives.  The list below is simply a way to push against the Calvinist idea that suffering is a sign of divine disfavor.)

Abusive or Unfaithful Husbands
Physical Abuse
St. Rita of Cascia

Verbal Abuse
Bl. Anna Maria Taigi
St. Godelieve
St. Monica

Infidelity
St. Elizabeth of Portugal
Bl. Margaret d’Youville
Bl. Paola Gambera-Costa

Battered by Relatives or Others (Martyrs not listed here)
St. Adelaide
Bl. Agostina Pietrantoni
Eve Lavalliere
St. Germaine de Pibrac
St. Godelieve
St. Jeanne de Lestonnac
St. Jeanne Marie de Maille
St. Joaquina
Venerable Laura Vicuna
Bl. Maria Bagnesi
Bl. Mariam Baouardy

Demonic Temptations
St. Angela of Foligno
St. Catherine of Bologna
St. Catherine of Genoa
St. Catherine of Siena
St. Elizabeth of Schonau
St. Eustochiurn of Padua
St. Gemma Galgani
Bl. Helen dei Cavalcanti
St. Margaret of Cortona
Bl. Maria Fortunata Viti
St. Syncletia

Disabled
St. Angela Merici
St. Germaine de Pibrac
St. Lutgardis
Bl. Margaret of Castello

Disappointing Children
St. Clotilda
St. Louise de Marillac
St. Matilda
St. Monica

Divorced
Mother Alphonsa Hawthorne
St. Fabiola

Early Death of Children
Mother Alphonsa Hawthorne
Bl. Angela of Foligno
St. Clotilda
Concepcion Cabrera de Annida, (Conchita)
Bl. Dorothy of Mantua
St. Elizabeth Seton
St. Frances of Rome
St. Joaquina
Bl. Marguerite d’Youville
St. Matilda
St. Melania the Younger
Bl. Michelina

Extreme Poverty
Bl. Agostina Pietrantoni
St. Bernadette of Lourdes
St. Germaine de Pibrac
St. Margaret Bourgeoys
St. Margaret of Castello
Bl. Maria Gabriella
St. Maria Goretti
Bl. Maria Fortunata Viti
Bl. Marie of the Incarnation (Acarie)
Venerable Pauline-Marie Jaricot
St. Soledad

Forced into Exile
St. Adelaide
Bl. Angela Truszkowska
St. Arthelais
St. Clotilda
St. Elizabeth of Hungary
Bl. Jeanne Marie de Maille
St. Joaquina
Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha
Sister Marina
St. Melania the Younger
St. Puicheria
St. Rose of Viterbo
St. Susanna

Gravely Ill
St. Alpais
Sister Alphonsa of India
Sister Amparo Carbonell
St. Angela Merici
Mother Angela Truszkowska
St. Arthelais
St. Bathildis
St. Bernadette of Lourdes
St. Catherine dei Ricci
St. Catherine of Siena
Edel Quinn
Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity
St. Elizabeth of Schonau
St. Gorgonia
Bl. Isabella of France
Ven. Jacinta Marto
St. Julia Falconieri
St. Julie Billiart
St. Louise de Marillac
St. Lydwine
Mother Margaret Hallahan
Margaret Sinclair
Bl. Maria Bagnesi
Bl. Maria Gabriella
St. Maria Mazzarello
Ven. Maria Teresa Quevedo
St. Mariana of Quito
Bl. Marie Rose Durocher
St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi
Bl. Paula Frassinetti
Bl. Rafka Al-Rayes
St. Raphaela
St. Romula
St. Syncletia
Bl. Teresa of the Andes
St. Teresa of Avila
Teresa Valse Pantellini
St. Therese of Lisieux

Imprisoned
Bl. Beatrice da Silva
Ven. Jacinta Marto
St. Joan of Arc
Bl. Mariam Baouardy

In-Law Problems
St. Adelaide
St. Elizabeth of Hungary
St. Elizabeth Seton
St. Godelieve
St. Helen of Skovde
St. Jeanne de Chantal
Bl. Jeanne Marie de Maille
St. Ludmila
Bl. Marguerite d’YouvilIe
Bl. Michelina
St. Pulcheria

Loss of Father or Mother
Mother Alphonsa Hawthorne
Sister Alphonsa of India
St. Angela Merici
St. Colette
St. Dymphna
Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity
St. Elizabeth Seton
Bl. Frances Scherviers
St. Gemma Galgani
St. Germaine de Pibrac
St. Humbeline
St. Jeanne Marie de Maille
St. Jeanne de Chantal
Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha
Venerable Laura Vicuna
St. Louise de Marillac
St. Margaret of Cortona
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
Mother Margaret Hallahan
Venerable Marguerite Bourgeoys
Bl. Marguerite d’Youville
Bl. Maria Bagnesi
Bl. Maria Fortunata Viti
Bl. Maria Gabriella
St. Maria Goretti
Bl. Mariam Baouardy
St. Mariara of Quito
Bl. Marie Rose Durocher
Bl. Marie of the Incarnation (Acarie)
Sister Miriam Teresa Demjanovich
St. Pulcheria
St. Radegunde
Bl. Rafka Al-Rayes
St. Raphaela
Bl. Sibyllina Biscossi
St. Susanna
St. Syncletia
St. Teresa of Avila
Bl. Sister Teresia Benedicta (Edith Stein)
St. Therese of Lisieux

Married Unhappily
Mother Alphonsa Hawthorne
Bl. Castora Gabrieffi
St. Catherine of Genoa
St. Fabiola
St. Godelieve
Bl. Marguerite d’Youville
St. Monica
St. Radegunde
St. Rita of Cascia
Bl. Zedislava Berka

Mental Illness or Judged so by Enemies
Bl. Eustochium of Padua
St. Margaret of Cortona
Bl. Michelina
Bl. Maria Fortunata Viti
St. Raphaela

Murdered (as Confessors of the Faith or for Moral Integrity)
St. Afra
St. Agatha
Bl. Agatha Kim
Bl. Agostina Pietrantoni
Sister Amparo Carbonell
St. Anastasia
Bl. Antoria Messina
St. Barbara
Sister Carmen Moreno
St. Catherine of Alexandria
St. Cecilia
St. Dymphna
Sts. Flora and Mary
St. Helen of Skovde
St. Joan of Arc
Venerable Laura Vicuna
St. Lucy
Bl. Lucy de Freitas
St. Margaret Clitherow
Bl. Margaret of Louvain
Bl. Margaret Ward
St. Maria Goretti
Bl. Mariam Baouardy
Sister Marina
Bl. Mary Hermina Grivot
Sts. Maura and Brigid
St. Natalia
Sts. Nunilo and Alodia
Sts. Perpetua and Felicity
St. Susanna and Companions
Bl. Sister Teresia Benedicta (Edith Stein)
St. Theodota
St. Winifred of Wales

Opposition of Church Authorities to Their Hopes and Dreams
St. Elizabeth Seton
St. Joan of Arc
Mother Margaret Hallahan
Bl. Marguerite d’Youville
Sister Mary MacKiliop
St. Mary Magdalena Bentivoglio
St. Philippine Duchesne
St. Raphaela
St. Teresa of Avila

Parents not Married
St. Bridget of Theland
Bl. Eustochium of Padua
Bl. Sibyllina Biscossi

Rejected by Religious Orders
St. Clare
Bl. Eugenie Smet
St. Jeanne de Lestonnac
St. Louise de Marillac
Bl. Margaret of Castello
Venerable Marguerite Bourgeoys
St. Mariana of Quito
St. Rose of Viterbo
Bl. Teresa de Gesu, Jornet y Ibars
Mother Thecla Merlo

Ridiculed for Their Piety (Other than Martyrs)
Bl. Agostina Pietrantoni
Bl. Angela of Foligno
St. Bernadette of Lourdes
St. Catherine of Genoa
St. Catherine of Siena
St. Clelia Barbieri
St. Elizabeth of Hungary
St. Elizabeth Seton
St. Frances of Rome
Venerable Jacinta Marto
Bl. Jeanne Marie de Maille
Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha
St. Margaret of Cortona
Bl. Marguerite d’Youville
St. Mary Magdalene
St. Matilda
Sts. Nurilo and Alodia
St. Rose of Lima
St. Susanna
St. Teresa of Avila
Bl. Teresa Maria of the Cross (Bettina)
Bl. Zedislava Berka
St. Zita

Separated from Children
St. Jeanne de Chantal
Bl. Marie of the Incarnation (Acarie)

Subject to Extreme Sexual Temptation
Bl. Angela of Foligno
St. Catherine of Siena
St. Margaret of Cortona
St. Mary of Edessa
St. Mary of Egypt
St. Mary Magdalene
St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi
St. Pelagia of Antioch

Threatened by Incest
St Dymphna
Venerable Laura Vicuna
Sister Susanna
St. Winifred of Wales

Threatened with or Victim of Rape
St. Agnes
Bl. Antonia Mesina
St Joan of Arc
St. Maria Goretti
Bl. Pierina Morosini
St. Zita

Widowed
St. Adelaide
St. Anastasia
Bl. Angela of Foligno
St. Bathildis
St. Birgitta of Sweden
Bl. Castora Gabrielli
St. Clotilda
Concepcion Cabrera de Armida (Conchita)
Bl. Dorothy of Montau
St. Elizabeth of Hungary
St. Elizabeth Seton
St. Etheidreda or Audrey
St. Eulalia
St. Frances of Rome
Bl. Helen dei Cavalcanti
Bl. Ida of Boulogne
St. Jeanne de Chantal
St. Jeanne de Lestonnac
Bl. Jeanne Marie de Maille
St. Joaquina
St. Jufta
St. Louise de Marillac
Bl. Lucy de Freitas
St. Ludmila
Bl. Marguerite d’Youville
Bl. Marie of the Incarnation (Acarie)
St. Matilda
Bl. Michelina
St. Monica
St. Olga
St. Paula
St. Rita of Cascia

St. John the Baptist

st-john-the-baptist

During the second Sunday of Advent, “when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’ And Jesus answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by Me.'”—Matthew 11:2-6

 

End of the Priesthood

StPeterClaver

Today is the feast of the 17th century Jesuit, St. Peter Claver.  He’s seen above in his untiring work in Cartagena, Columbia to the slaves who were brought there from Africa.

The “end of the priesthood” doesn’t mean that the Catholic priesthood is coming to an end.  By “end,” I mean the final-end of something.  As I wrote in the post The End of the Mass, “end” simply means telos or goal of its existence. What is the end of the priesthood? The answer: The glory of God and the salvation of souls.

What is the means to this end?

If you answer “the sacraments,” then you’re only a third correct.

The Catholic Church (even Canon Law) teaches that there are three munera (gifts or duties) to the holy priesthood that are necessary for the salvation of souls:

1) Teach (Teaching people the Faith.)
2) Sanctify (Sacraments)
3) Govern (Leadership)

Let’s look at the bad news in the Church and then we’ll get to the remedy.

The most shocking part of my priesthood has been the lack of respect from other Catholics, especially from pastors and parish-employees.

For example, when I was a parochial vicar (the #2 priest) at a campus ministry parish at Colorado State University in 2014, a 60 year old female employee was allowed by my pastor (the #1 priest) to have two nervous breakdowns against me.  On 30 July 2014, she had her third nervous breakdown against me (this time regarding a disagreement on who should have access to the Eucharist in the tabernacle.)  After numerous warnings, I called the police to have her removed.  The police came and removed her.  Later that week, she was so embarrassed that she threatened to sue unless the pastor fire me.

He took the bait and betrayed me.  I was removed overnight like a criminal.  Since I was physically gone, I could not tell our parishoners in-person that the reason for my removal was so silly.  I told my parishoners what happened in an email.  They weren’t happy with the decision of my pastor, and he knew it.  The students were devastated at my departure, especially for such a trivial reason.  Scrambling to maintain order, my pastor later put up on our parish website a set of pious lies (still up years later) where he stated it would be “awkward” for him to describe why I was ejected from campus ministry.  “Awkward”? In campus ministry?  hint, hint… He even quoted Scripture in pitting me against our Archbishop.

This was the first lie, however, because the Archbishop did not want to remove me from my post in campus ministry.   The Archbishop and the Vicar for Clergy both told me that I was removed at the behest of the pastor, not the Archbishop as the parish website erroneously states.  In fact, the Vicar for Clergy told me that the Archbishop purposely resisted removing me from campus ministry.  After numerous phone calls from the pastor, however, the Archbishop felt he had to do his bidding.

Why would a relatively-orthodox priest do this to me?  One man will never know another man’s intentions this side of the veil, but the solution seems obvious:   If the students found out the truth, namely, that I was canned for keeping a boundary against an unstable employee, there would be upheaval.  The other option would be to piously imply criminal behavior against me.   Now, I know that sometimes pastors scapegoat their assistant priests when there’s a problem, but to lie using holy Scripture (as the above website does) goes a step further.  I am reminded that the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that it is “blasphemous to make use of God’s name to cover up criminal practices, to reduce peoples to servitude, to torture persons or put them to death.”—CCC 2148

And to have your reputation destroyed by a brother priest is death.  It had far-reaching effects:  The very day I was removed,  the Vicar for Clergy told me I could no longer hear confessions or offer public Mass.  (In other words, I lost my faculties, which is usually reserved for civil criminals and doctrinal heretics.)  Knowing I had done nothing wrong,  I immediately got a Canon Lawyer who fought and got my faculties back.  I strangely got an email two weeks later from my Archbishop saying: “I am sorry if you understood that you have no faculties as that is not the case.”  However, a few days later, on 16 September 2014, my Archbishop gave me a letter saying that although I have my faculties, he would not give me another parish as things stood.  1

As I look back, I think that my former pastor pushed harder than he thought.  He probably thought that scapegoating me with the screaming employee was going to be a small price to quiet the unrest at the parish.  But his betrayal contributed greatly to the ending of my active priesthood in the Archdiocese of Denver… the very city where I was born, baptized and confirmed.  Also, I suppose that good decisions are hard to make when you have a high-paid campus minister pushing for the assistant priest’s departure because I was “gunning for his job” as my pastor told me right before I left.  (The young campus minister had to have a say in what I taught my students.  I denied him this months prior.)

To my knowledge, most of the solid University students rejected the rumors that parish staff had spoken directly against me or started surreptitiously around me.  I think the only lie that they nearly-all believed was that the Archbishop initiated my departure.  I blog about this today because Canon Law 220 obliges me to counter publicized lies.  It is not vengeance but justice that forces me to write.  It’s really unfortunate I have to defend my good-name online against a priest.  Christ surely did not want this of His priests.  Still, Christ is the King of Canon Law, and I believe that Canon Law may require me to given an honest account online, especially after a dishonest account was up for so long.

One last thing to clarify:  Why should employees at a parish be able to influence superiors to piously euthanize a young priest’s priesthood?  One, because bill-paying pastors are afraid of even non-legitimage lawsuits after all the abuse lawsuits of the 1980s and 1990s.  The pendulum has swung from protecting bad priests to attacking good priests.  Two, when a young priest does more than the Mass—and tries to affect young people’s lives—he becomes a threat to the world of lay paychecks and the status quo of preaching.

If I ever get to the active priesthood again, I will continue to do more than just the sacraments, even if it costs me.  Of course, Holy Mass is the summit of the Catholic priesthood but it is not the sum limit.  Why? Because the sacraments are sacraments of faith. An American can receive Holy Communion at any parish, coast to coast on Sunday with almost no geographical hinderance, whether he be in sanctifying grace or not. Number of priests is not our first crisis.  Concurrent with a return to the 1962 sacraments, I propose that priests again learn the art of teaching, of fatherhood, of leadership.  Then we will see the salvation of more souls (and of course the inspiration of many more young men answering their God-given call to be a priest.)

I am a huge fan of FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) but one of the reasons they succeed is because priests since Vatican II seem to be ordained to be sacramental-distributors at mega-parishes or dying parishes, but rarely with a placement in view of friendship and leadership being an integral part of the priest’s own salvation.  The past 50 years have produced an unspoken ethos that creative thinking about the Gospel  is best left to the laity.  Thus, teaching, discipleship and even fatherhood follow suit.

Even organizations like “40 days for life” are actually doing the “duties” of the priesthood, but when priests exercise similar leadership of the “gifts” they have been given, they are often told to stop rocking the boat. Why? Because people have seen little priestly leadership the past fifty years.  When faced with a Church bleeding priests, FOCUS and 40 Days for Life have become wound control—a great wound control—but a wound control nonetheless, taking responsibility to end Satan’s decent success in reducing priestly discipleship, teaching and inter-personal communion that could have effected the salvation of millions of souls in a better way, possibly even ending abortion if every priest and bishop had come together like 40 days for Life did.

These attacks began in the seminaries. Even Dr. Brandt Pitre (my favorite theologian teaching at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans who is a husband and a father) admits that most of the great Catholic apologists today are lay precisely because the seminaries eradicated the apologetics departments in the 1970s (in favor of “ecumenism” being taught to the Church’s ordinandi.)  The New Evangelization talks a lot about spiritual fatherhood, but in practice it is in the hands of lay groups.  I don’t have proof, but I have my suspicion why:  Strong lay-leadership costs a diocese less investment than priestly communion, discipleship and leadership—a leadership that Jesus promised would bring some persecution.  Standing by a priest in persecution may reduce one’s personal advance—ecclesiastically or financially.

But it wasn’t always like this:  The priestly model of discipleship and leadership was effecting an unprecedented level of conversions in the missions of Africa and Asia for the hundred years leading up to Vatican II.  In the Index of Leading Catholic Indicators, Dr. Kenneth Jones reveals that even in the United States, the teaching office of priesthood was taken seriously, but then trailed off.  Priests who primarily fulfilled the teaching office in high schools and universities are seen in the below graph of Index of Leading Catholic Indicators.  Notice the years:

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What did the three munera (teach, sanctify and govern) of the priesthood look like through the centuries?

15th Century:  St. Bernadine of Siena would have tent-revivals with up to 30,000 people in attendance.  Known as the “Apostle of Italy,” this saint would preach for hours with scores of confessing-priests on hand.  Notice that in his case, the Mass was not the means of evangelization but the end.

17th Century: St. Peter Claver preaches the Gospel to slaves collapsing off of slave ships before baptizing them if he finds a shred of faith.  In the decades of his monotonous work and outrageous miracles, he baptized over 300,000 slaves.  See picture at the top of this post.   Notice that in his case also, the Mass was not the means of evangelization but the end.

20th century:  Fr. Mateo Crawley of the Sacred Heart Fathers preaches the family enthronement of the Sacred Heart on 6 continents to possibly hundreds of thousands of people.  He disciples priests all over Asia, teaching them about the Sacred Heart.  As dozens of languages were spoken among them, he taught them in Latin, as it was the first half of the 20th century.  Because they had all learned Latin in seminary, all of these priests understood him, and these priests took this discipleship and lit huge areas of Asia on fire with the love of Jesus Christ.  Notice that in his case too, the Mass was not the means of evangelization but the end.

The Novus Ordo seems particularly geared to entertainment by the priest and blurred lines between laity and the priesthood.  Thus, it is no wonder that the New Mass becomes the priest’s main interaction with the laity—his one outlet for creativity.  But the saintly priests before Vatican II had to use their gifts and creativity outside of the sacraments to bring people to the sacraments.

The problem now is that the implementation of the new Mass will never be able to keep up with the entertainment of evangelical “Mega Churches” with which both are geared.  So, we will continue to lose Catholics to those communities until we return to the roots of Peter and Paul’s way of worship (surely the primitive form of the Tridentine Mass.)

Jesus did establish the Mass when He said “Do this in memory of me.” To be sure, this is the most important work of the priest, but how can it make a man a good priest if he does nothing ex opere operantis for the salvation for souls?  Nowadays, many priests who only offer the Mass will be honored by diocese-wide parties for being great pastors, simply for having never rocked the boat.

But if priests don’t step up to the altar for leadership-based teaching, then the Holy Spirit will still raise up heroic young families who will demonstrate leadership (governance) and teaching (also a duty of the priesthood.) Thus, we have the concessionary but powerful work of FOCUS, FMC, Endow, Totus Tuus, 40 days for life and the Augustine Institute.

Still, it is a trick of Satan to make people think of the priest as a magician who simply transforms things. This error misses the truth that the sacraments are sacraments of faith, and we will not see the Catholic Church rejuvenate until priests are ordained to do all three munera of the priesthood, for Jesus asked His priests to do more than the sacraments a few times a week:

  • Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Luke 18:22)
  • Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.” (Matthew 10:8)
  • Teach them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:20)

Notice those verbs include a lot more words than confect and absolve.  A hypersacramental view has no place in the Gospel.  Even the Council of Trent explains that faith must be demonstrated before the sacraments are administered.  If we don’t return to teaching and exorcising, it could be the end of the priesthood!

 

But we know this won’t happen because Christ’s promise will come true again:  The Church will have priests of fatherhood and orders with leadership, perhaps looking something like the old orders of ransom. I’d encourage any young man reading this to obediently ask his superior (bishop or religious order superior) if, upon ordination, he will be allowed to exercise all three munera of Canon Law (teach, sanctify and govern.)  The young man should then respectfully ask his superior or bishop if he’ll stick behind him when he is persecuted for hard teachings.  If not, then know, young man, that you may possibly do more for Christ’s kingdom as a celibate contemplative or even as a husband and father who—at least—is allowed to teach his own children.


  1.  Up to this point, I had admittedly been through a lot of parishes in five years since my ordination.  Like this parish, my departures came down to arguments with pastors regarding Extraordinary “ministers” of Holy Communion (EMHCs.)  But this situation was different with all of the dishonesty.  The sad thing is that I could have left peacefully like previous parishes.  For example, my previous parish in Fort Collins—I was not fired from.  I requested to leave it because of arguments surrounding EMHCs.  My pastor and my previous bishop peacefully allowed me to move on to another assignment.  Most everywhere, parish staff has always found me hard to work with.  For this last parish, the honest announcement from the pulpit would have been: “Fr. Nix was dismissed for calling the cops on an employee” or even “Fr. Nix was dismissed by the pastor because the staff found him hard to work with.”  But this would not have criminalized me, and the students would have known that my stubbornness would not justify the termination of a successful apostolate (10-40 hours a week in the confessional.)   It is as if my superiors predicted that the young faithful students would see that my self-confidence (and even arrogance at times) was not a crime worthy of the punishment of overnight-removal.  In fact, one Sunday between my calling the cops and my pastor dismissing me, he actually told me that I could stay if I apologized to the woman for calling the cops on her.   I remember my response verbatim:  “Not only will I not apologize.  I hold you responsible for not protecting me.”  And yet, to this day, I do not regret calling the cops to protect myself.  Even if I’m wrong about that, the main point here is that I could have stayed if I had apologized, meaning there are no “awkward” explanations like their website says.  I think that their nearly-ending my priesthood in Colorado was simply vengeance for me making staff feel inadequate.