What four people on the edge of despair found in common…
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
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, the pastor put up on his 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:
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.
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. ↩
A friend of mine who is a beautiful wife and mother of seven children was in a supermarket this week. A 50 year old man stopped her and then sarcastically asked her if she knew what “caused” having seven kids. She texted me about this and then added her and her husband’s thoughts on this:
Some days the world just wears you down and a part of you starts to feel like maybe you are a freak. Not just about having a lot of kids, but about everything. And then you realize you need to spend some time in adoration and start to once again see life through Jesus’ eyes and not the world’s. The world is so blind and hard-hearted that what is beautiful and sacred just can’t be comprehended by it.
Why is the world so hard-hearted to Christians today?
As I said earlier, it’s not because we’re being hateful on issues of sexuality. So why do Catholics constantly get mocked for following Christ and His Church in the silence of their homes? Is it because they’re secretly judging their neighbors and everyone feels it? Maybe…but I think today’s feast of the Beheading of John the Baptist can shed light on the psychology of the conviction of conscience.
Now, there’s a lot of Herods in the Bible but I want to consider Herod Antipas (20 BC-AD 40), the tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea. He’s the one who mocked Jesus before His execution. He’s also the one who ordered John the Baptist’s death for having spoken out against his adulterous relationship.
Now, most Bible movies do a pretty good job at capturing the love/hate relationship between Herod and the Baptist because of this one very rich line in the Gospel: “Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.”—Mark 6:20
I believe it was Earnest Hemingway, an unbeliever, who liked to travel the Deep South of the USA and listen to fire and brimstone homilies in Baptist Churches. Apparently it made him feel alive, or at least he heard these homilies “gladly.” This curiosity was also found in Herod.
But of the 2.5 million people populating first century Palestine, why would a somewhat-powerful governor like Herod move beyond curiosity towards the murder of a homeless man who had been calling him out for living with his brother’s wife? I mean, really—2.5 million people are silent about his adultery, and then one guy who is half-dressed in skins and eating crickets calls this magistrate out for a sexual sin many miles away on the Jordan River and Herod panics? What exactly got under Herod’s skin? Or better, what gets under Herodias‘ skin? The answer is that they secretly recognize John the Baptist as the mouthpiece of the one, true God they are running from.
As I wrote in a post called Mercy Killing of Consciences:
You see, if the final exterior agent of traditional Judeo-Christian belief (the Catholic Church) reflects the interior-but-objective, flickering, dying pilot light of your conscience that you’re trying to kill, then the Catholic Church is the one thing that is keeping your conscience alive…and you hate it. This is because long before rules were found in the catechism, they were found in your heart.
I know John the Baptist wasn’t a baptized Catholic, but killing John the Baptist was Herod trying to kill his own conscience, for Herod’s conscience was not created by Herod-himself in a relativistic way, but by God-Himself in an objective way.
That’s why Obama wants to stop the Little Sisters of the Poor in the HHS mandate . That’s why a 50 year old man in a supermarket harasses a young mother of seven. Both bullies know that that’s how they should have lived. If you think this is an exaggeration, then what other explanation would there be for them to go out of their way? It has to be personal conviction of conscience at how others silently live their lives for God:
“Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us, and opposes our actions…the very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange.”—Wisdom 2:12a, 15
I don’t know that supermarket stalker’s past, but statistically an American man of his age has already paid for one to two abortions, not to mention one or two dozen dead children from several decades of abortifacient-pills-induced sex. I don’t know this guy’s conscience, heart or past, but I’m just saying statistically this is the truth for an American male of his age. (Do the math if you want.) Of course he’s going to feel convicted by a Catholic woman who lived the way he should have. His conviction came out as sarcasm. Herodias’ came out as murder.
There’s only one truth of how humans should live, and it’s entirely found in the Catholic Church, so we should probably stop apologizing so much. Yes, it’s true that we Catholics lost a lot of credibility in the priest scandals of the past 50 years that destroyed so many lives, and for that we do need to keep apologizing. But the Truth remains on walking billboards like my friend in the supermarket. She and many others are heroes and white martyrs of marriage, like John the Baptist was a hero of marriage carrying his red martyrdom in the picture above. They’re both formidable Marriage Defenders: one married, and one celibate.
I wasn’t so clear on this at first. Yesterday, I texted my friend back that I would have punched that a** in the face if I had been there in King Soopers.
Later, I realized that creeping behind that broken old creeper’s sarcasm was probably a hunger and even sadness for the family he had contracepted away. In the face of such brokenness and/or hostility (only God knows) it can still make us wonder how to act. Here’s my suggestion: Catholics are not called to act like weird-o-cult people who act strange in order to appear holy. But we are called to live normal, fun lives in a way that seeks Christ fully, especially in the Eucharist and in the daily Rosary. Doing simply that may make others say of us: “The very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others.”
Once we boldly but humbly accept the fact that our manner of life is unlike that of others, then it’s easy “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”—Titus 3:2-5
The reason why the Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox hesitantly accept divorce and remarriage today can be traced back to a 9th century synod, where Greece had a pre-emptive episode of England’s Henry VIII’s libido issues. In fact, the Greek bishops of the 9th century held a synod to recognize the legitimacy of the emperor Constantine’s second marriage. A Greek monk, St. Theodore, stood alone in the breach, calling this synod the “Adultery-Synod,” moecho-synodus in Greek. Like history that would be repeated seven hundred years later in England with Henry VIII versus St. Thomas More, the Greek bishops and the emperor stood behind the synod of adultery, not behind the saint.
St. Theodore the Studite was also a champion in speaking against slavery and iconoclasm (removing pictures from Churches.) But in upholding traditional marriage, he suffered the most. He was whipped, imprisoned and exiled away from his monastery. The saint not only blew the whistle on the emperor, but also on those priests who gave silent consent to his sin. St. Theodore said that in “crowning adultery, the priest, Giuseppe, is in opposition to the teachings of Christ and has violated the law of God.” Roberto de Mattei remarks that “for Theodore, the Patriarch Tarasios had likewise to be condemned, since, even if not approving the new marriage, he showed himself tolerant of it, thus avoiding the Emperor’s excommunication and the priest Giuseppe’s punishment.”
St. Theodore simply stood by Jesus Christ who said: “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”—Luke 16:18
Before applying this to the upcoming synod, I want to consider an important question of Catholic morality: When a monk-saint quotes Scripture against his own bishops, how is this different from Martin Luther? If both used the Bible-alone for morality, then how could it be true that one died a heretic and the other a saint? Indeed, even the 1983 Code of Canon Law says “Christ’s faithful are bound to adhere, with a religious submission of mind, to this authentic magisterium of their Bishops.”—Can 753. Where do we draw the line as Catholics?
Before getting to the answer, I want to further build up my argument against St. Theodore. Orthodox and Catholic theologies rightly consider the transmission of truth to flow through the hierarchy of the Church (Bishops to Priests to Laity.) This is a reflection of the hierarchy of truth given through the 9 choirs of angels (Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, etc.) This hierarchy of communication should not be broken. This is how Orthodox and Catholics are different from Protestants: The order of hierarchies is not to be considered clericalist, but angelic.
For humans, the true interpretation of Sacred Scripture comes from God through the bishops through the priests through the parents to the children. This is how catechesis should work. Notice this beautiful cascading down of the truth. Similarly, within the angelic choirs’ hierarchy, there is a cascading-down of truth, but it is a non-verbal, angelic illumination: The angels who are closest to God, the Seraphim, communicate down to the Cherubim and likewise to the Thrones to the Dominations to the Powers to the Principalities to the Archangels to the Angels to finally the angels’ work in our lives on earth. (Notice that the highest angels do nothing but contemplation and the lowest angels deal with measly human affairs.)
In any case, besides the hierarchy of the transmission of truth among the angels revealing the perversity of a Sola-Scriptura-interpretation of Divine Revelation, there is the positive and beautiful call to an order of obedience to the hierarchy in this transmission of truth in both communities—on earth and in heaven. This obedience of low angels to high angels was never violated.
Except for once—now my counterargument—when St. Michael the Archangel himself attacked Lucifer for placing himself above God Almighty. During the great angelic battle in heaven (Rev 12:7), the military ranks were indeed broken and God blessed the lower angel reminding the disobedient higher angel that no one is like God (מיכאל, Mi-cha-El? Who is like God?) Not even the Seraphim are like God.
Not even the bishops. Martin Luther broke rank against the bishops to begin a mutiny against Divine Revelation on marriage. St. Theodore the Studite broke rank against the bishops to end a mutiny against Divine Revelation of Marriage. Actually, Theodore never broke rank. He essentially said Who is like God’s Divine Revelation on the indissolubility of a sacramental marriage. Even in this, Theodore obeyed the Church hierarchy who supported the Emperors who threw him into exile three times. He never started a new “Church.” Theodore suffered within the Church—not without in schism—all for the sake of the truth. Holy Orders must be honored, but still Theodore gave primacy of place to God: No synod can change the truth of the Gospels and the traditional Magisterium.
People often say that the sensus fidei (sense of the faithful on doctrinal issues) is infallible, implying that we need a democratic vote of doctrines like contraception. Bishop Morlino of Madison wonderfully answers these people by reminding them that the infallibility of sensus fidei actually includes not only those Catholics alive, but also those dead: the billions of Catholics who have gone before these dark days, who held firm to the truths of the Gospel (or at least tried to, an important attraction to the Divine Mercy of Our Redeemer.)
Speaking of ancestors, all four of my mother’s grandparents relocated in the early 20th century from Counties Mayo and Roscommon, Ireland to the South Side of Chicago. Thus, I have a great love for Chicago Catholicism. My heart broke when I read the new Archbishop’s homily from this week (23 August 2015.) Archbishop Cupich said the following about the upcoming synod of sexuality:
“With the upcoming synod, it is clear that the Holy Father is calling the Church to examine our categories of expression about what we believe and be open to new avenues and creativity when it comes to accompanying families. All of this has much to say to us in Chicago, that we not settle for solutions that no longer work, expressions that no longer inspire and ways of working that stifle creativity and collaboration.”
With my extended family’s roots in Chicago, I have to wonder: Which expression of Catholicism is not working in Chicago? Bernadin’s seamless garment? Or perhaps Cupich is speaking of the many families found in this video of a Mass in Chicago in 1941, narrated by Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen:
To be sure, there is nothing wrong with Archbishop Cupich’s denotation in the above quote. He said nothing heretical in the above quote. But let’s remember: Only a legalistic society considers denotation without connotation. Is the connotation of Archbishop Cupich’s quote that the Catholic Church will integrate “creativity” in regards to doctrinal “solutions that no longer work” in reference to the morality of homosexual actions or Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried? We’ll have to wait until the synod to see!
Telescoping outside of the world of sexual morality, let me say a brief word on the morality of the tongue and pen: I wonder how many of us Catholics of all vocations, priest and laity, right or left, think that we’ll be able to stand before God at our death and justify our small lies and large deceptions of others by saying things like, “Technically in my denotation, I did not say…”
We priests and bishops will answer to God for teaching sins of both commission and omission, for God will not be tricked by our legalistic subterfuge. I think that at our judgment, each one of us will answer both for the denotations and connotations of our words. We will answer not only for what we “technically” said, but for the fruits in others’ lives produced by our teachings and even attitudes.
These fruits (life-based or rotten) found in others’ lives (most especially our children’s catechesis, be them our spiritual children or biological children) will all be made clear at the General Judgment, for then we will see the outcome of the lives that we formed so intimately. There will be no word games at the General Judgment—only an arrival at our eternal reward—where we join those we guided in word and example, for better…or for worse.
I petition the intercession of the following two saints as I consecrate this blog to St. Maximilian Kolbe and the Holy Mother of God, aka the Holy Theotokos, the Immaculata, Mary Most Holy…”Mamma Mary!” as all the Philippina women at my parish lovingly call our mother. I also dedicate it to all the guardian angels of the entire world, and especially the angels of any people the Eternal Father has destined to read my mediocre but true blog.
May I suggest St. Maximilian Kolbe’s consecration prayer to the Mother of God? I believe St. John Paul II prayed this every day:
O Immaculata, Queen of heaven and earth, refuge of sinners and our most loving Mother, God has willed to entrust the entire order of mercy to you. I, [name] cast myself at your feet, humbly imploring you to take me with all that I am and have, wholly to yourself as your possession and property. Please make of me, of all my powers of soul and body, of my whole life, death and eternity, whatever most please you. If it please you, use all that I am and have without reserve, wholly to accomplish what was said of you: She will crush your head and You alone have destroyed all the heresies of the whole world. Let me be a fit instrument in your immaculate and merciful hands for introducing and increasing your glory to the maximum in all the many strayed and indifferent souls, and thus help extend as far as possible the blessed kingdom of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus. For wherever you enter you obtain the grace of conversion and growth in holiness, since it is through your hands that all graces come to us from the most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The above picture is taken from Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. It is clear in this movie, and in most private revelations, that Mary (the Mother of Jesus) knew Mary Magdalene long before the crucifixion.
Granted, Scripturally I know of no other time when Mary and Mary are found in the same place, except John 19:25 (the three Mary’s at the crucifixion.) So my theory can’t be proved from Scripture. However, using common sense, we can be very sure that Mary and Mary didn’t simply introduce oneself to each the other at the foot of the cross. It can be assumed that this would be an inappropriate time for introductions; Mary and Mary had to have known each other long before the crucifixion.
Even though she has very few words, let’s look at who Mary (the Mother of God) knew in the New Testament. Of course, she is at the four most important events of salvation history, which gives us an idea of who knew her:
1) The Incarnation of God as a zygote (Luke 1:38)
2) The Death of Jesus (John 19)
3) The Resurrection (Sacred Tradition)
4) Pentecost (Acts 1 and 2)
But then, on a smaller scale, it’s surprising who Mary knew. Mary seemed to have a quiet presence in the life of everybody:
On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with His disciples.—John 2:1
Mary seems to be the star of the invitation, where Jesus’ band of 12 fishermen were “also invited.” Of course, Jesus never committed any sin of gluttony, but maybe Jesus’ disciples ate too much at weddings or something, because John makes it pretty clear they were an afterthought!
The Apostles all knew Mary. Foremost was John the beloved, who was to live with the Blessed Virgin Mary after Christ’s Death (John 19:27) and assumedly after the Ascension. (Their home was uncovered in Turkey in 1891, using the private revelations of Bl. Emmerich—the same visions that guided the making of the movie, the Passion of the Christ.)
John’s brother James, whose feast day we celebrate today, was not left orphaned by Mary. As you know, Jesus sent James to evangelize Spain. However, at one point James was ready to give up after only gaining 8 disciples. Mary bi-located to him when he was praying at modern day Zaragoza, and (during the first approved Marian apparition) Mary told James not to give up, for the faith of that people would be as strong as the pillar that she was standing on.
There is a 17th century Spanish nun named Mary of Agreda who was given a private revelation of the entire life of Mary (the Mother of God.) It is put into several thousand pages of a book that you can buy, the Mystical City of God (not to be confused with the work of St. Augustine by almost the same name.) In the Mystical City of God, it is revealed to the nun of Agreda that Saul was always slated in God’s Providence to become the great Apostle of Jesus Christ to the nations.
However…this event was to happen much later that when it was originally “scheduled” by God, so to speak. What changed the course of history was the prayers of the mother of Jesus. After Pentecost, Mary saw in prophesy that Saul would become the chosen vessel, but she saw this was coming much later than when the Church needed such a weapon of love. Mary begged God the Father to speed up this conversion, and God the Father answered; Saul became Paul much earlier than he was slated to.
What does any of this have to do with Mary Magdalene?
A few days ago, as I was offering the Mass on the Feast day of St. Mary Magdalene, the above scene from the movie hit me: Mary holds Mary during the torture of Jesus. I realized at that moment that all the great saints of the New Testament were really close to the Mother of God. Even if you don’t believe in the private revelations that filled the movie of Mel Gibson or the Mystical City of God, common sense applied to Scripture reveals that the mother of Jesus intimately knew all the slobs and dignitaries of the New Testament.
Here’s how I want to tie all of this together:
After doing Total Consecration to Mary for the first time several years ago, I had actually come to believe the words of St. Louis De Montfort, namely, that there were a few certain saints (like St. Bernard or St. Bonaventure) who chose Mary as the quickest and surest way to Jesus Christ. For a long time, I had taken this to be a development of doctrine of the middle-ages—a wonderful and valid one, to be sure—but a development of doctrine nonetheless.
But at the Mass a few days ago in honor of St. Mary Magdalene, as I thought of the above scene of Mary and Mary, I had this realization that Jesus’ mother is the dispersal vector of zeal for her Son for not only for the great saints of the middle-ages—but for all the tycoons of the New Testament. This would surely include the conversion of St. Mary Magdalene.
In light of all the great people and the events of the first century Church, we have to come to the conclusion that the Holy Theotokos—she who carries God as the God-Bearer—is the one who gently brings all the top dogs of the New Testament to her Christ Jesus. Even with Mary Magdalene, I imagine the mother of Jesus was the quickest and strongest way to her son. So it will always be, for you and for me, too.
Before I was a priest, I was a paramedic. I remember running a call with the SWAT team in Southwest Denver. It was a midnight drug-bust and we had to accompany the police in the event that someone become wounded in the raid. We entered minutes after the SWAT team…and it had a pretty anticlimactic ending. The police arrested only two people. The young man and woman were caught in a compromised position, so to speak…and it smelled filthy. I was surprised at the stench, and it wasn’t the smell of drugs that was off-putting. Later in seminary, I remember reading on my own about how certain saints (like St. Christina the Astonishing) could smell impurity on people. I’m not claiming that the SWAT team or I had that gift. I just mean that there is a natural and a preternatural link to the fact that impurity stinks, literally.
Today, on both the old and new Catholic calendars, it is the feast of St. Mary Magdalene (22 July.) She too was filthy and with demons before meeting Jesus. How interesting, then, that the Tradition Latin Mass Gospel of today recognizes the following woman as St. Mary Magdalene:
Then turning toward the woman, [Jesus] said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave Me no kiss, but from the time I came in, she has not ceased to kiss My feet. You did not anoint My head with oil, but she has anointed My feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”—Luke 7:44-50
There is a mention in another Gospel of the smell surrounding Mary Magdalane:
Mary anointed the Feet of Jesus, and wiped Them with her hair; and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.
This quote from John 12 was actually the morning prayer antiphon taken from John chapter 12. Thus, the ancient Western Church took the controversial women of Luke 7 and John 12 to be both the same person: St. Mary Magdalene.
But notice the word “filled” in the above italics from John 12:3. The word “filled” comes from the Latin impleta or Greek “ἐπληρώθη,” meaning that the whole house was filled with that smell of that spiked nard of extremely rich oil. What the ancient liturgy is telling us in placing those words in the morning-prayer antiphon is clear: No longer was the house filled with the stench of the sins of impurity.
Not only is Mary forgiven, but the smell of purity fills the entire house. The house is clearly analogous to the temple that is the body of St. Mary Magdalene. She now sits in the home, at Jesus’ feet, not only cleansed from her sin, but with a pacifying inebriation that comes from the anointing of a transformed soul. She is beautiful and clean, and everyone can detect this, except those who remain in spiritual pride. They remain in pride because they refuse to trust in the One they simply call “master.”
Remember also that oils were used to clean wounds. The stripped and half-dead traveller by the side of the road is approached by the good Samaritan who “binds up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.”—Luke 10:34. In ancient culture, oil was used to clean wounds, assumedly because most bacteria could not survive when drowned in strong oil. Thus, Jesus doesn’t just take away the juridical imputation of sin, but at that point makes her strong again, inside and out, through and through, to the point that the overwhelming smell of spiced nard fills the whole house, the whole new life of Mary Magdalene.
This is not just post-modern presumption of God’s mercy. How do I know? Because within the ancient office of readings that we pray (the Divine Office) there is the equally astounding call-and-return a few hours later within the Psalms called “Tertia,” still referring to St. Mary Magdalene:
- In thy comeliness and in thy beauty.
- In thy comeliness and in thy beauty.
- Go forward, fare prosperously, and reign.
- In thy beauty.
- Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
- In thy comeliness and in thy beauty. Go forward, fare prosperously, and reign.
Who would have thought that the Messiah would spiritually wed the Magdalene? But the ancient liturgy today is clear: God-Incarnate, Jesus Himself, is calling a soul once-filthy to be His bride, for she is now filled with comeliness and beauty. So go forward, and reign in that anointing that fills the whole royal house with Christ your king, your spouse. Forget your past, for you now exist in comeliness and beauty.
Last week, Planned Parenthood was exposed for handing over the tissue of dead babies for research. The president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, immediately made a press release explaining that Planned Parenthood itself did not make any money on this. Here’s proof she was lying:
America will be shocked, but the question remains: What will end abortion? Today, a woman in Louisiana texted me the answer: “Our Response: Prayer and fasting isn’t enough! We need to sacrifice all for the love of God.”
We need to sacrifice all for the love of God.
America has seen the evil of abortion, but we continue to slaughter 3,500 children a day. Why? Most women are afraid and alone when they walk into that clinic, but we as a country find ending abortion difficult because of our minor inconveniences to the libido and bank account.
Thus, the end of abortion will come only through Divine Intervention.
But maybe God Almighty is waiting for this Divine Intervention. Maybe He is waiting for people to step up to the actual doors of abortion mills for peaceful prolonged-fasts or hunger strikes. Imagine who would follow Cardinal Dolan if he led a hunger strike in front of the Planned Parenthood in the East Village of Manhattan? I would.
For nearly 800 years, young celibate men from Europe, under the mantle of Our Lady of Ransom, would offer to take the place of women and children who had been kidnapped by Muslims. Christians were rescued through several different religious orders, but it took men who would not just give up candy in Lent, but young men would agree to be handed over to the forces of darkness so that others may live.
With Planned Parenthood and ISIS promoting more death than ever in the history of the world, I believe that God is raising up young men who will give their lives in ransom. I don’t mean figuratively. I mean that we can use YouTube to reach ISIS to offer ourselves to be slaves for them. Each man could then ask ISIS that they release 5 Christian girls and 5 Muslim girls for every celibate brother or priest given in ransom against the innocent. These 10 girls (multiplied) could then return to their families.
This offering of love could be offered to the Blessed Trinity for the end of abortion, too.
ISIS is just traditional enough to partake in this exchange. Did you know that over 1,000,000 Christian slaves (from 1200 to 1900) were returned by Muslims in exchange for monks, brothers, priests (and funds raised) during the Middle Ages? Times are more ripe than ever. Surely God is raising up men for ransom again, “for even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”—Mark 10:45 and “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”—John 15:13