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I am moving, weaving my way in and around people who are beginning to crowd the street; many headed for the Temple. Many vendors, many buyers. In short, all of Jerusalem has begun to move and it is truly a crowded, noisy and dirty city!
As I move I understand from the Mother of God that Our Dear Lord is now before Pilate for the second time. She tells me that all night Jesus has been maltreated. He has been beaten going to and from the Sanhedrin to Pilate, from Pilate to Herod, and back again to Pilate.
During the eternity of the long passage from dark to day, Jesus was thrown into a prison cell while the Temple guards and Pilateís Roman guards verbally argued over custody of the prisoner. The Temple guards had demanded their rightful duty under the law to "protect" the prisoner because the Roman governor had not yet made any ruling in the case. And here, in a prison cell, in Herodís court, these Temple guards abused our Lord and God dreadfully, pulling him this way and that. They yanked out his long hair in places, and even part of His beard. He was knocked against every stair, drug deliberately through every pile of filth, and when thrown headlong into a cell, hit His Sacred Head with such force that, had God not sustained Him, the blow would have killed Him.
The verbal abuse has been continuous and no less cruel to Jesusí ears which were made only to hear heavenly music. And His garments, once clean and pure, reflect His treatment for it is shredded in places where His sacred body has been pulled across the rough stone streets and down deep stairwells and back up again.
Exhausted in body from His agony at Gethsemane, our Lord has had no rest, and no one has given Him even a sip of water or a dirty rag to wipe His face.
I come into a courtyard where I see many Roman soldiers of varying ranks standing. They are in uniform, but not all wear their full dress uniforms.
Off to my left there is a barracks where most of the soldiers live, and another building that is detached and set off to the back in the stable for the mounted soldiers.
There has gathered a small crowd of people, those citizens of Jerusalem who, living elbow-to-elbow with the Romans as they do, know when something is taking place. These people, not unlike many today, spend their time idly watching the justice of Rome being carried o out and then spreading the gory details among all the people.
Although it is an open courtyard and sunlight spills everywhere, except under those porches which lead into the lower regions of Pilateís court, I shiver, finding it a sinister place.
NEXT INSTALLMENT: Part Two of Lesson 10: THE SCOURGING AND THE CROWNING WITH THORNS
The anniversary of these suicides coincides sadly with the first "legal" case of doctor-assisted suicide in Oregon on Wednesday. Bob Castagna, spokesman for the Oregon Catholic Conference remarked, "This is a tragic and sad day for Oregon and the United States. May God have mercy on all of us." Amen. What is this country and world coming to? In Michigan Jack Kervorkian has gained international notoriety as the "suicide-doctor," assisting at over 100 planned suicides. And we're less than a month away from another suicidal event, the Waco catastrophe. With all this violence, there is still fresh in our memories the tragic killings of students and teacher in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Our Blessed Mother said at La Salette that children would kill children and turn on their parents, parents on their children. We can see this happening more and more as the news reports these abnormal behaviors more and more on a regular basis - from Daly City, California to Jonesboro, from Pearl, Mississippi and Padukah, Kentucky to San Marcos and Escondido, California where just a few months ago a mother shot her children to death and last month a younger brother killed his sister. Violence permeates our senses and dulls our consciences today.
Referring back to Our Lord's words in Matthew, we add to the words, Behold, He is in the inner chamber, do not believe it.": Behold, He is on Channel 18, do not believe it. But enough members of the media believed that they gave the ballyhoo publicity to Chen Heng-ming, a self-proclaimed Taiwanese True Way leader who set up shop in Garland, Texas, managed to grab the media's attention that God was going to appear on Channel 18 at midnight yesterday to announce He would be arriving on earth at 10 a.m. this next Tuesday. It reminded us of the Oh God movies with the late George Burns playing the Almighty One in very human terms. Exclaimed the also-late John Denver to Burns (God), "Who'd believe it?" Well, we believe it was P.T. Barnum who said, "There is a sucker born every minute!" There were plenty of suckers crowding the Garland streets Wednesday night, but what were they expecting to see? We have gone from the sublime to the ridiculous. Everyone is looking for the spectacular. The more outlandish, the more ink or air time it receives. The more bizarre or violent, the more headlines and news bulletins they get. Didn't Jesus say "and will show great signs and wonders so as to lead astray"? He knew. Over the centuries we have had many false charlatans, but never of the quantity and diversity of today. And while gridlock was the situation in Garland with so many clamoring to "see" God, only a handful were actually "seeing" Him...but they were about ten miles away in North Dallas at Saint Monica's Catholic Church where perpetual adoration was in progress in the quietude of the chapel in the round with huge mosaic angels standing guard over the tabernacle. There, the few in prayer, knew without a doubt that God was truly present in the Tabernacle and they could "see" with their hearts through faith. This adoration is something that began about a year ago and was promoted vigorously by two close friends of ours Jack and Susan Towle who are endeavoring to spread it to other parishes throughout the Dallas area. But the fact God was truly present in the Tabernacle at St. Monica's, as well as other tabernacles in Catholic churches throughout the world, meant little to the media, meant little to the "signs and wonders chasers." It only proves the fact that the media is not interested in uncovering truth, but rather the sensational.
It has not been lost on us that the events in the news over this past few days encompasses three states we have lived in, many in close proximity. Having spent three and a half years in Bella Vista, Arkansas we can attest to the native mentality of guns being a way of life in that state. We can also see how kids would have easier access to the munitions because they are so prevalent. We can also see, not just in Arkansas, but all over, that children's psyches are very fragile and we don't realize how we, as adults, and especially the media can influence these young minds and hearts. We can place the blame on this or that, but the truth of the matter is hearts have been hardened because people are selfish and not willing to place themselves in God's providence. How many realize that self-esteem always suffers when one is rejected? How many realize that if one is not rooted in God and His laws, that low self-esteem can transfer into revenge and vendetta and create havoc such as the killings in northeast Arkansas and Daly City, California where a mother suffocated her three children this past week or countless other accounts of family murders or mass killings where the accused "went off the deep end." Can we see satan's signature in all of this? To use my Minnesotan upbringing, "You betcha!" And speaking of upbringing, this editor constantly has to say, "there but for the grace of God, go I." We cannot be immune to what is happening; we cannot close our ears to the poor and the oppressed; we cannot say it won't affect us or happen to us, because we are human and subject to the temptations and wiles of the devil. Therefore, more than ever we have to lean on God's Mercy and implore Him to protect us and our families. Our family has been exposed to all sorts of scams, been enticed to soften our stance on morality, and been in the eye of the storm more than a few times. We have lived within a few miles of Garland, Texas where many of our fellow Saint Pius X parishioners worked and lived. We have lived and visited areas that have been devastated by manmade as well as natural disasters from tornadoes to hurricanes, from floods to draught, from earthquake to fires. We cannot remain immune to what is happening, we cannot remain neutral, we cannot be flippant about the ridiculousness of the behavior patterns in the world today. Rather we must be totally committed to making a difference, totally committed to spreading the message Jesus and His Blessed Mother want imparted to all. We have to realize that it is not time to worry about being comfortable; rather seriously realize what will make God comfortable. Lent is the perfect time to get out of our worldly "comfort zone" and zone in on God's Will totally. It makes sense, at least to us, because the events in the news today are hitting too close to home for our comfort.
Three months later, Father Simon again wrote a letter to his parishoners. I wanted to share it with you, as well. It is as follows.
You cannot imagine the response that I got to the letter I addressed to my parishioners on June 24. I have gotten so many calls and letters that I am reduced to saying thank you in a form letter. Still, I simply have to write to say thank you for your support and prayers. So many people thought I was brave to do what I did.
Brave!? I simply read the Catechism and moved a few pieces of furniture. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. In the parish, some people even wept for joy when they saw the change. I am still kicking myself and asking why I didn't do this years ago. The response has been so supportive. Many wrote and expressed their sense of loneliness in the battle for Catholic orthodoxy. Well, you are not alone, neither among the laity nor the clergy.
Perhaps you have heard the definition of a neo-conservative: He is a liberal who has been mugged by reality. That certainly describes me. I was in college in the late 1960s and went the whole route--beard, sandals, protests, leafletting for feminism, and all the rest. I was nursed back to sanity by some Trappist monks and by genuinely Catholic charismatics. All my ministry has been in the inner city and mostly in the Hispanic apostolate. I teach in a seminary, part time, I am the diocesan liaison for Spanish-speaking prayer groups, and the pastor of an inner city parish. Our very poor parish in Chicago's Uptown gives away food and clothing about 4,000 times a month through a soup kitchen, a pantry, and a clothing room. We use six different languages in the liturgy: English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Lao, Korean; and we have a monthly Mass in the Coptic rite, in the Gheez language for the Eritrean community. When I arrived here, the parish was controlled by feminists and radical leftists. So I had pretty good liberal credentials.
My point in all this, is that if a parish like this and a person like me can be turned from foolish liturgical experimentation, it can happen anywhere to anyone. Don't give up! For instance, if they have taken the kneelers out of your church, go to the front and kneel on the hard floor. You'll be amazed how many will join you. That's what happened here. If your pastor tells you to stand, respectfully ask the bishop for permission to kneel. Let your light shine and pray unceasingly, and as you do pray for me and my little parish of faithful poor. I have leaned so much from them.
In the Lord,
Father Rich Simon
People have asked if they might share it or copy it (These letters June 24th, and Sept 16th that are reprinted with permission here and in my column last week). Please do! As Pilate said, "What I have written I have written." Should I be ashamed to hold the faith of two thousand years? I not only don't think so, I know so! Reproduce it and share it with all. May God bless you.
Alfonso XI, King of Castile, dies as a result of contracting the plague of the Black Death
Death of Pope Gregory XI, the last of the Avilon French Popes. Through the insistence of Saint Catherine of Siena Gregory returned the papal headquarters to Rome after a 75 year exile.
Juan Ponce de Leon discovers Florida, proclaiming it for Spain.
Start of the Scots' War of Independence from England.
Henry of Trastamara assassinates the King of Castile - Pedro at Montiel. Pedro was known as "the Cruel" because of his abuse of the Inquisition and he was the first known European monarch to be able to write fluently.
Gunpowder used for the first time in Europe by the Venetians against the Genoese in a battle of two Catholic cities over territories. This deeply troubled Pope Urban VI, the first Italian pontiff after a long line of French popes.
St. Mary's College officially opens its doors of higher learning in Winchester, England.
Birth of the Renaissance Franciscan monk from Firenze who was a master with the brush, Fra Bartolomeo.
Birth of the master painter and sculptor Raphael.
Jesuit priest Father Henry Garner is executed for complicity in the Gunpowder Plot in which King James I falsely accuses Catholics in England for not being loyal to the throne.
Death of Pope Stephen IX, born in Lorraine and known for raising the moral standards of the clergy and laity.
Death of English-born Saint Stephen Harding, abbott and reformer of the Cistercians. He is also remembered as tutor of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux.
Pope Innocent II greets returning Knights of the Templar from the Holy Lands during the crusades and declares they are an official independent unit within Holy Mother Church. Over the years this privilege would be abused and the Templars would be condemned.