Every day when we pray the Apostles' Creed we pronounce the words "We believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins..." We say "Communion of Saints" but how many truly know what that means? Most Confirmation and CCD classes don't, sadly because it is no longer emphasized. Why? We only wish we knew, but we will endeavor to analyze a few reasons that make sense for the decline. One reason is because "Communion of Saints" delineates us from the Protestants too much and in this politically-correct era of nonsense we can't offend those who don't hold credence in Purgatory or the importance of the intercession of saints. Consequently they don't believe in the Communion of Saints which includes the Church Suffering or, for that matter the Church Triumphant as well for ever since Martin Luther they've chucked most of the saints and the Blessed Virgin Mary in favor of the totally misinterpreted passage of John 14: 6 in which Our Lord says "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, but through Me." which they think means that everything else is superfluous. They forget that to honor Christ's Mother is the greatest honor we can give to Jesus. But, for the most part, trying to argue this with a non-Catholic turns into an argument more often than not instead of discussion and too many Catholics cower from this and compromise their faith in the process. This results in watering down our faith either with the purpose of not offending or not wanting to engage others in apologetics, thus plunging us into a state of perpetual inconsequence. Folks, ever since Vatican II we've taken the easy way out. That's not what Our Lord wants and not what His Spirit intended when the Council Fathers gathered for the Second Vatican Council. Nor was it their intention to shelve the excellent Baltimore Catechism. But that's what happened.
Having taught CCD and Confirmation classes for several years, this editor can see the great void that was created by the loss of the Baltimore Catechism. Rather should we say "gaping chasm!" While the new Catechism of the Catholic Church is a very good source, it is not applicable or practical to the youth because of its depth and length. We need to bring back the "black and white" facts of the Baltimore Catechism so our youth and adults as well will know their faith and be able to convey it to others. So what if they have to memorize it, that's part of the learning process that is also shucked today in favor of "responsive osmosis" where they'll learn at their own pace. Right!!! With no boundaries or responsibilities for our actions we, as a society, have fallen into that state of perpetual inconsequence. We fail to realize that there are consequences and we must "pay the piper" so to speak either now or later. It reminds us of the AAMCO commerical - "you can pay me now, or you can pay me later!" Believe us folks, you don't want to pay later! That's why Jesus established His Church on earth to help us "pay as we go" and not have the huge debt all at the end. He's even given us "crib notes" and bonus points to avoid the long lines and penalty-free pay-offs through the Sacraments in which we acquire Sanctifying Grace in building up dividends that are unparalleled. But so few really know how it all works, why it all works, when it all works, and all the other mechanics of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
The new curriculums in CCD classes are too much "feel good" oriented and over emphasize reaching out to others. While there is nothing wrong with the latter in the true Christian sense, the exclamation mark has to be on the "vertical" between man and God before we reach out horizontally to our fellow man. Too often the latter takes precedence over the former. When we do that we are closing up, for we extend our hands and then close them in reaching to God, whereas if we properly are anchored in God first and foremost, then we can more readily and correctly extend our arms out downward in a brotherly gesture to reach our fellow man. You see one of the other problems today also as a result of that state of perpetual inconsequence has its origins when they took God out of the schools. Don't tell us satan hasn't had a field day and the increased violence right up to Columbine are a direct result of this Divine void. God allows evil for good and it's interesting to note that before the shooting, no mention of the Almighty was allowed on campus whatsoever. After the trajedy that is all we hear and see, tributes to God and Jesus name everywhere with crosses for each victim. When push comes to shove, God remains supreme in all things and at the forefront of our thoughts. It's only natural.
One of the great fallouts over the past thirty years as been the deemphasis of saints. Growing up we could count on the "saint of the day" for inspiration and search for their pictures or statues, finding attributes and virtues to emulate. Today, saints' names which used to be automatic for Catholics are now being replaced by new age and popular names like Tiffany or Cody, both of which are more popular than Mary or Joseph. But those names were given to us by our parents. The one time we could choose a name was for the Sacrament of Confirmation. The purpose was to choose a saint we could call on for help in strengthening us and who we could emulate. This editor has always called on Saint Anthony of Padua as my chosen Confirmation name for fortitude. That's why it saddens us today that even in the Sacrament of Confirmation, when this indelible mark from the Holy Spirit is bestowed at the moment of the bishop's laying of hands and holy chrism to those who have passed from childhood into teenhood, even then saints continue to be downsized.
This occurred last week when our oldest son Kevin Michael, now sixteen, received the Sacrament of Confirmation along with fifty-four other teens in a beautiful ceremony at our parish with numerous priests and deacons assisting Bishop Gilbert Chavez, the long-lasting beloved auxiliary bishop of San Diego. Every part of the ritual was reverent and meaningful, but there was something missing. That was when each of the fifty-five candidates were called out by name. They were called by their baptismal name without the name they may or may not have chosen for Confirmation. It's sad that when Pope John Paul II is canonizing more saints than ever before, our diocesesan educational programs are shelving them as fast as the Holy Father presents them. We had encouraged Kevin to think seriously about taking the name Pio in honor of the newest beatified - Padre Pio but he opted instead for another saint of this century and we were delighted - Saint Maximilian Kolbe, the devoted priest of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz who gave his life to save a Jewish husband and father. Kevin not only liked the name, but felt a kindred bond to this Polish Conventual Franciscans who founded the Militia of Mary Immaculate in Rome. And that pleased us even more for it all comes full circle in the Communion of Saints with the Chuch Militant. He has become a "soldier of Christ" infused by the Spirit that won't change his personality overnight, but hopefully will change his resolve. And we pray will change the resolve of all the others to stand and fight for their faith, to "Put on the armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil" as Saint Paul calls for in Ephesians 6. That's what Confirmation is all about, to make us "soldiers of Christ" which, sadly is also deemphasized today. Now the proper word is "disciple of Christ." While that is fine, we are greatly missing the opportunity if we drop the militant nature of our faith and fail to call the confirmed "soldiers of Christ" for by not identifying the new recruits as such we are weakening the corps by pacifying them into that state of perpetual inconsequence. St. Maximilian Kolbe had a reason for calling his group of lay and clergy "Militia of Mary Immaculate" for he was a visionary who could see beyond the swastika to the glorious Triumph of Mary's Immaculate Heart promised at Fatima. The bond between John Paul II and Fr. Kolbe are strong. Both were Poles, both totally devoted to Our Lady, both realize the militant necessity of standing up for our faith and being obedient good soldiers. The strong devotion St. Maximilian had toward Our Lady of Fatima and, no doubt his intercession as a Blessed servant, played a role in the Holy Father's recovery from a bullet the Pope took on May 13, 1981. Upon his recovery, the next year the first saint John Paul II canonized during his pontificate was his fellow countryman Father Kolbe, who, in turn is doing all in his part among the Church Triumphant to help effect the Triumph in order to usher in the glorious Reign of the Sacred Heart.
Kevin and his class of fifty-five along with countless other Confirmation classes throughout the world will be the leaders of tomorrow, during that glorious time promised in Sacred Scripture and by Our Lady. It's vital that these new recruits know the faith in order that they can pass on the traditions and teachings to others in the new millennium, one where millions will flock back to the true Church. The consequences of those who don't return, or cannot convey the basic truths of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church to others: they will sadly become victims of that state of perpetual inconsequence!
We hear questions like: "Why did God allow this?" "What did I do to deserve this?"
We hear comments like: "They are being punished for some sin." "If God was truly a loving God, He would never have allowed it to happen." "If my faith were stronger, God would have saved me."
These aren't questions or comments of faith, but rather the whisperings of temptation to leave faith behind.
God never promised wealth and health for those who followed Him, He never promised us happiness in this world, only in the next. In fact, He promised the opposite. What He did promise us was His peace. A peace of mind that nothing is occurring which isn't for our benefit and/or for our loved ones. It doesn't take away the concern, the sadness, or the anxiety. It merely helps us through it.
As our Lord hung on the cross, beaten, scourged, and in pain, Our Lady didn't stand at the foot of the cross happy it was occurring. No, she was weeping, her heart was being pierced by numerous swords. She knew He was here for this, she knew what His sacrifice meant for all mankind. But it didn't take away one once of pain in her heart at seeing her Son suffer and die. But she had the 'peace' of Christ, to see her through it.
The martyr's of ancient Rome weren't happy to see their friends and relatives become human torches to light Nero's Circus. But there was a joy, a 'peace' that it was all for the good. And in fact, as has been said, the blood of the martyr's watered and nourished the seeds of faith.
It's no accident that one of the ancient symbols of Christ was an anchor. St. John of the Cross wrote that it's when we have lost everything, we come closer to God. Holding onto Him to secure us an anchor holds a ship securely.
Our Lord said that we would be like gold. Purified in a furnace. That is a painful process. The gold nugget, precious on it's own, is heated by fire and all impurities are separated from it. In this state, it is at it's most precious. And it's softest, pliable and able to be easily worked with no change in it's purity.
For those of little or no faith, this 'fire', these trials and tragedies are not occasions of growth but things to be avoided. Instead of seeking the cross to anchor themselves to, they run off into fables, anchoring themselves on themselves. Seeking 'faiths' which suit them, which gives them the illusion of being in control.
They build their houses on the sandy soil of themselves. And when a tornado comes (which they cannot control) and destroys that house, they seek to blame others rather than themselves.
When a tornado destroys a home, a town, a State, we blame God. When a loved, or ourselves, are diagnosed with a terminal illness, we blame God.
But the person of faith doesn't see these as impediments, or blocks to faith, but rather avenues of even greater faith. It won't take away the pain, or the feeling of loss. But will help ease the pain and accept the loss.
I think I speak for all those here that our prayers and thoughts are with those touched by the tragedies of the past weeks. And may the peace of Christ, a peace the world cannot give, be with you and yours, now and forever.
Once there were three trees on a hill in the woods. They were discussing their hopes and dreams.
The first tree said, "Someday I hope to be a treasure chest. I could be filled with gold, silver and precious gems...”
Then the second tree said, "Someday I will be a mighty ship. I will take kings and queens across the waters and sail to the corners of the world...”
Finally the third tree said, "I want to grow to be the tallest and straightest tree in the forest. People will see me on top of the hill and look up to my branches, and think of the Heavens and God and how close to them I am reaching. I will be the greatest tree of all time and people will always remember me."
Woodsmen came upon the trees. With the first tree he said, "This looks like a strong tree, I think I should be able to sell the wood to a carpenter" ... and he began cutting it down.
At the second tree a woodsman said, "This looks like a strong tree, I should be able to sell it to the shipyard."
When the woodsmen came upon the third tree, the tree was frightened because he knew that if they cut him down his dreams would not come true.
One of the woodsmen said, "I don't need anything special from my tree so I'll take this one", and he cut it down."
When the first tree arrived at the carpenters, he was made into a feed box for animals. He was then placed in a barn and filled with hay.
This was not at all what he had prayed for. The second tree was cut and made into a small fishing boat. His dreams of being a mighty ship and carrying kings had come to an end.
The third tree was cut into large pieces and left alone in the dark. The years went by, and the trees forgot about their dreams.
Then one day, a man and women came to the barn. She gave birth and they placed the baby in the hay in the feed box that was made from the first tree. The man wished that he could have made a crib for the baby, but this manger would have to do. The tree could feel the importance of this event and knew that it had held the greatest treasure of all time.
Years later, a group of men got in the fishing boat made from the second tree. One of them was tired and went to sleep. While they were out on the water, a great storm arose and the tree didn't think it was strong enough to keep the men safe. The men woke the sleeping man, and he stood and said "Peace" and the storm stopped. At this time, the tree knew that it had carried the King of Kings in its boat.
Finally, someone came and got the third tree. It was carried through the street as the people mocked the Man who was carrying it.
When they came to a stop, the man was nailed to the tree and raised in the air to die at the top of a hill. When Sunday came, the tree came to realize that it was strong enough to stand at the top of the hill and be as close to God as was possible, because Jesus had been crucified on it.
The moral of this story is that when things don't seem to be going your way, always know that God has a plan for you. If you place your trust in Him, He will give you great gifts. Each of the trees got what they wanted, just not in the way they had imagined. We don't always know what God's plans are for us. We just know that His ways are not our ways, but His ways are always best.
God bless you!
Yes, it was by Almighty God's desire that I, a mere creature and a lowly handmaid, should guide these holy men and women further along the path of prayer which opens the heart to receive the Holy Spirit, and receive Him in abundance.
Meditate upon this brief scene which I have given my littlest one, and place your heart amongst all these hearts which were united. In the days which followed my Divine Son'' Ascension, we learned the full meaning of community. There was no murmuring or gossip. No one vied with another over where he sat, or slept, over what he had to eat or drink. All that each possessed belonged to al freely, and the good will of their hearts was the beginning preparation each needed to receive the Holy Spirit.
Dear children, you cannot understand my Divine Son's words, nor can you live them if you do not possess the Holy Spirit and constantly seek this possession. When, in the fullness of time Almighty God has sent me among you to warn of the dangerous path the evil one has laid for all my children, the Holy Spirit, Whose spouse I am, precedes me. Now after so long a time many still doubt my words, be they the words given to those who see me, or those who hear me.
Understand, little children, that this dissension is because of the evil one who prompts you to doubt, thus closing your heart and stopping the Holy Spirit.
Dear children, it is not difficult, but you must begin by an act of your will to seek the inpouring of the Holy Spirit. For I am here to guide you just as I guided the Apostles, the disciples, and holy women in the days after the Ascension.
And, little children, this, too, was ordained by God that the Mother, who is the heart of every family, must help all in her family to leave behind the mind and its ego, and be humble little children quite content to sit at their Mother's knee and listen, learn and obey.
For all my mortal life, obedience was my shield. I sought only the Will of God, and I did not refuse His least request. So, too, must you do as you advance in this the age of true spiritual darkness.
The Holy Spirit seeks you. He comes, radiantly beautiful to begin to transform you into the image of my Divine Son. If you would persevere, then contemplate upon this scene, and learn from it that God's Love is Infinite and His Spirit moves with great power over the face of the earth. For I solemnly tell you the Second Pentecost is already at your doorstep. For some, He has already knocked and received admittance. But many are the doors of hearts that are bolted shut. Awaken, and pray to the Holy Spirit, for the age is upon you when you will not persevere in the True Faith if you are not surrendered to the Sanctifier.
Pray in union with this first Christian community. Be patient. Keep watch. He, the Advocate, the Paraclete, shall come in an instant, and the truth of all my Divine Son did and spoke shall be made known. Prepare with prayer from your heart, and do not be afraid.