Late last summer and early fall the Chancery office went to great lengths in formulating, printing and producing an ad campaign built around the phone number and the "Reconnect" program. Imagine their surprise when, once the campaign was launched, that few calls were coming in. Was apathy that bad in Newark? Definitely not. You see, the Archdiocese didn't count on Ma Bell to foul things up. In this case we're talking Bell Atlantic which failed to reserve the number. To make matters worse Pac Bell in California had plucked the number in October and given it to a thirty-four year old photographer in Oceanside, California - Raul Hogland. To make matters even worse, Hogland was a born-again evangelical who was raised to hate Catholics and rather than giving up the number at first, he used it as a tool to try to talk Catholic callers out of their faith. It brings to mind Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen's famous words, "There aren't one in a hundred who hate Catholicism, but there are thousands who hate what they think is Catholicism." Hogland fit this description to a tee for he would tell callers they didn't need penance, only repentence. Like so many born-agains, he used Scripture to back up his rationalization with startled Catholic callers, taking things out of context. Hogland feels Catholics have a lot of heretical beliefs. Does he know what "heretical" means? Does he realize heretics are those who broke away from the teachings of the Church founded by Jesus Christ? He was quoted as saying: "They (Catholics) have good intentions, but they don't teach you how to receive Christ. They teach rituals." Duh, has he truly read Sacred Scripture? Wasn't the religion of the chosen people built on ritual to carry out what God wanted? Didn't Jesus establish the New Covenant built on many of the rituals of the Jewish faith? Didn't Jesus say more than once, "Unless you take up your cross and follow Me, you cannot be My disciple"? Didn't Our Lord emphasize in John 6: 54-59?: "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, you shall not have life in you. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has life everlasting and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh, and drinks My blood, abides in Me and I in him. As the living Father has sent Me, and as I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also shall live because of Me. This is the bread that has come down from Heaven; not as your fathers ate the manna, and died. He who eats this bread shall live forever." In fact this is so important Our Lord repeats this numerous times in this chapter. Isn't that showing Catholics how to receive Christ...to truly receive Him? Without question - Yes!
The problem with so many evangelicals and born-again Catholic bashers is that they're quite convincing from afar, but get them one-on-one and they hem and haw and quickly change the subject when the latter passage comes up. So also with Hogland who probably was overwhelming when talking to Catholics who were weak in their faith. But confront him with a knowledgable Catholic with proper apologetics and Hogland is putty in the hands. When we tried to talk to him he didn't want to discuss religion or have anything to do with us once we identified ourselves as the DailyCATHOLIC. We suspect all the calls coming in not only hindered his own photography business, but he finally realized he was in over his head and had enough with so many Catholics calling. He finally relented to the Archdiocese's request to surrender the number on the condition that Bell Atlantic pay for expenses accrued and possibly for lost business. We still don't know the telephone company's response, but we do know it's the right thing for Ma Bell to do since she is the one who botched it up big time.
So a compromise was reached. The Archdiocese once again has the number 877-Y-NOT-CALL to use through April 9th when the number will be Hogland's permanently. In the meantime, he has agreed to give exclusivity for that number to the See of Newark so the "Reconnect" program for Reconciliation 2000 can officially begin this coming Monday. Had we known the problems the Archdiocese was having we would have gladly loaned them our own 800-I-DO-PRAY number for a few months. After all, the latter number is easier to remember and reinforces what we must all do. We suspect it was prayer that helped resolve this, beginning with Archbishop McCarrick himself. And it is only through prayer that we can be reconciled with God through His great Sacrament of Reconciliation that erases mortal sin and floods us with His sanctifying graces. It is also through prayer that we reconcile with each other, not just fellow Catholics, but all God's children. This includes Catholic-hating evangelicals and born-agains. Hogland and the Archdiocese, at two ends of the apologetic pole, both finally came to the realization of this and worked out an amiable reconciliation. Too bad this couldn't have been done between the stubborn and proud Martin Luther and an equally stubborn and clueless Pope Leo X in the early sixteenth century. It would have saved centuries of wars, persecutions and hate. Despite his unfounded bitterness toward the Catholic Church, we say hats off to Mr. Hogland who at least saw the wisdom in reconciliation, and hats off to the Archdiocese for its perseverance and gentleness in handling such a sticky wicket.
Both parties have shown reconciliation can work. In retrospect, it was a good "dress rehearsal" for the Archdiocese's Reconciliation 2000 program. Who knows, Mr. Hogland could have another conversion experience someday in God's time and see for the first time the truths of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Prayer, not argument, can bring this to fruition along with the illumination of countless other souls who need to replace the bitterness towards others and their beliefs. This goes for Catholics as well...each and every one of us. For while we don't agree with the beliefs of Mr. Hogland and the born-agains, nor do we agree with the Muslim, Mormon, Buddhist, Hindu, or other religions, at least we can be tolerant and reach out in love following the example of one of the greatest saints of our time Mother Teresa. She exemplified what reconciliation is all about. His Holiness John Paul II understands this better than anyone. That is why he has called for Reconciliation 2000. After all, reconciliation leads to love; holding resentments lead to hate! The moral: Hate never heals! Love conquers all!
For this safe beginning of a New Year and new millennium, we give thanks to God, Who protected us from great problems.
I was a bit surprised myself! I certainly did not judge that the world was going to end or that there would be major disasters all over the world. After all, people love their wallets too much to be careless about not being up "to snuff."
However, I did expect something unfortunate happening somewhere, especially in the Third World countries. According to the news media, however, little to nothing has happened that could be of major concern.
God, in His Fatherly mercy, has brought us into the new millennium and into the Church's Holy Year in safety. It is appropriate, then, for us to thank God and to continue to work on our own conversion, our prayer-life, our relationship with God in general, and our relationship with one another in particular.
In the "old days," the Sisters of Mercy used to observe the first Sunday of the month as a day of retreat to prepare for our deaths. This may seem a bit morose, but actually, it was a good practice.
Someone once wrote: "When you get up in the morning, consider that you may not live until evening. And when you go to bed at night , consider that you may not awake in the morning." This constant reminder that eternity is our end, should keep us honest and faithful and help us keep in mind that we do not have here a lasting home.
So just as we might begin our morning remembering that we are on earth for only a time, let us begin the New Year remembering the same. Not for the purpose of being morose, but for the purpose of facing reality, where good mental health is.
Let us never become so complacent that we take this life for granted; that we live as though we shall be on this earth forever. Our earthly life is short and it is a time of proving and testing. If we pass the test of the Two Great Commandments: Love of God and neighbor, we shall live happily in eternity. Fail the test and eternity of misery awaits.
So, to all of my readers, I wish you not only a Happy New Year, but a GRACE-FILLED one. A New Year in which God becomes more REAL in your lives; that you see more clearly how strong and great is His Love for you so that you will be readier to respond to His Love and love Him more generously in return.
Peace and God's Blessings for as long as you have in this millennium!
John and James were the sons of Aebedee, of the town of Bethsaida. They were fishermen by trade. They had attached themselves as disciples to John the Baptist, and from him learned that Jesus was the Messiah. They were among the first whom Jesus invited to follow Him, and later were called to be with Him permanently. They wre among the chosen Twelve. With Peter, they were permitted to share some of the more hidden experiences of their Master.
John was particularly intimate with Jesus, as his title of "beloved disciple" and his positin at the Last Supper clearly show. To him Our Lord entrusted the care of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We do not wonder, therefore, that he was able to reach such spiritual heights in his Gospel, or that tradition has assigned to him the symbol of the eagle.
The purpose of the Gospel is stated in 20, 31: "...that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name." To establish this truth, the evangelist recounts certain of Our Lord's miracles, and the teachings which were associated with them. He assumes that his readers know the Synoptic Gospels, and in some points completes their narrative. But all other possible motives of the Gospel are subordinate to his main theme, which he unfolds with convincing force.
Tomorrow: Acts of the Apostles
Death of Amadeus III, Duke of Savoy who the Council of Basle selected as the antipope Felix V, after they had deposed the legitimate Sovereign Pontiff Pope Eugene IV. Felix V remained antipope for ten years from 1439 to 1449. He died at Geneva in on this date after having done penance and being reconciled to Rome through Pope Nicholas V.
Five years after King Henry VIII had divorced Catherine of Aragon in a move that would forever change the face of the Church in England, she died. If only he would have waited!
Cardinal Michele Ghislieri becomes the 225th successor of Peter, choosing the name Pope Pius V who would not only excommunicate Queen Elizabeth of England for her persecution of Catholics, inspire a Christian victory over the Saracens at Lepanto, and decree the use of the Roman Missal, but also become a saint. It was Saint Pius V who proclaimed that the Mass approved at the Council of Trent should be said "in perpetuity." That statement has caused much consternation between old-line and new-line Catholics over the Novus Ordo Mass since Vatican II. Pius' reign would last until May 1, 1572.
Death of Pope Innocent X, 236th successor of Peter. This Roman-born pontiff papacy lasted eleven years. He advised the Czar of Russia, Alexis I to emancipate the servants of the glebe. He disapproved of the Treaty of Westphalia because a large number of cities passed under Protestant control. He celebrated the 14th Jubilee in 1650.
Election of Pope Innocent III, 176th successor of Peter. He was elected on the very same day his predecessor died, even though he did not officially take control until February 22nd. He was a man of great quality and would to on to exert an enormous influence, reestablishing his temporal authority within the Papal states and actively promoting the Fourth Crusade as well as calling the 12th Ecumenical Council in 1215, also called Lateran IV.
Death of Saint Laurence Giustiniani, Archbishop and Patriarch of Venice whose preaching and good works to all the people made him legendary in northern Italy. Also known as Lorenzo Justiniani, he died in Venice on this date and was canonized by Pope Clement X in 1670.
Death of Galileo Galilei at 77 years-old. This Italian physicist and astronomer's theories clashed with Rome at the time during an age when faith and reason weren't exactly meshing. It would be centuries before the Holy See would reconcile with Galileo who many consider the father of the modern sciences.
Pope Saint Pius X decides low cut dresses are not appropriate in church since it not only distracts others but goes against the virtues and example of the Blessed Virgin Mary and thus, the holy 257th successor of Peter bans all low-cut bodices at Holy Mass. Today the Vatican still prohibits any shorts, mini-skirts or low-cut dresses or bikini-tops inside St. Peter's, including tourists.
Election of Pope Hadrian VI, 218th successor of Peter. He was the only Dutch Pope ever elected, having been born in Utrecht, Holland. He would engage in a deep struggle against those who harassed the Church druing the midst of the Protestant Reformation and also had to deal with the Turkish threat. On both fronts he would meet with little success.
Birth of Alessandro Ludovisi in Bologna, Italy. He would go on to become a priest in the new Society of Jesus, then bishop and Cardinal and finally become the first Jesuit-trained Pope when he was appointed the 234th successor of Peter as Pope Gregory XV on February 9, 1621.