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March 31, 1998             SECTION ONE              vol 9, no. 64

Opening Day! Hope Springs Eternal!

     Today is Opening Day in ballparks across America when the baseball season officially gets under way. In today's editorial we reminisce about this national pasttime and how it equates with life and our journey by inning. We're not going to win every game, we're not going to go four-for-four in every outing or pitch the perfect game, but if we work on the fundamentals - God's Laws and obedience to His Holy Church, then we should gell into winners. It's all about teamwork and chemistry in sync with God's Will. For the commentary On Opening Day Hope Springs Eternal!, click on today's CATHOLIC PewPOINT

On Opening Day, Hope springs eternal!

     Today is the day the "boys of summer" return, the day when the aroma of hot dogs and peanuts waft through the stands, the day when the national pasttime takes center stage. It is a day when we put aside the troubles and futilities of life and drift back to a time when things were innocent, when rounding third heading for home was akin to "not getting any better than this." It's Opening Day which, translated for non-sports fans, means once the umpire shouts "Play Ball!" the Baseball season officially begins in cities across the land. The traditional opener where the "first pitch" takes place is in Cincinnati where it always has been. In fact, Cyndi can fondly recall her dad taking her to a few Opening Day Games in the Queen City in old Crosley Field with the slanted terrace outfield warning track where in some years it was so icy one could sled out there rather than equate it with a "summer game." This year there shouldn't be any snow when the "Reds" host the "Padres" from San Diego, a team Cyndi and I have had a special affinity for since their inception in 1968, both because they're the home town team and because of their nickname. After all, how can you root against a team with the moniker "Padres." To do so is like slapping your pastor in the face, after all, he's a Padre. So was Saint Francis, Saint Anthony, and the rest. It's a good association and we love the relationship. Then there are the "Cardinals." Many will point out that this refers to the redbird with the tuft of feathers on his head, but don't tell that to the countless St. Louis Catholics who assimilate their beloved team to a conclave of saints! Can't forget the "Angels" of Anaheim, but since they're now owned by the Disney Corporation we'd have to say they're not the angelic cherubs they once were. Football has the "Saints," College has the "Friars" such as in Providence; but most teams don't have a religious connotation and that, for the most part, is a good thing. Think about it. Football, hockey and even basketball now days are violent sports and for the Saints to kill someone just doesn't sound right. There are other monikers such as "Fighting Irish" which seem to fit the stereotype of the immigrant sons of Eire who fought for everything they had in the sense of poverty, hardship and religious persecution. You could have called the early martyrs the "Fighting Christians" for they indeed fought to preserve the faith. Even some could make a case that Jesus could have been called the "Angry Almighty" when He discovered what the temple was being used for. But we won't go that far. Nevertheless, what we're trying to point out is that while many of these sports carry a violent, rough, winner-take-all, take-no-prisoners mentality, baseball stands apart as a calming sport where the only confrontation comes with a brushback pitch now and then, with a manager challenging one of the seeing-impaired umpires, or someone sliding hard into second base. Other than that, managers and coaches have had to counsel their charges not to fraternize with the other team before a game. And that's what it is, a game. As beloved announcer Jerry Coleman, Voice of the Padres for nearly three decades, always says. "It's a beautiful day. The sun is out, the grass is green and it's time for baseball just as God planned it." While we may laugh at that there is truism there for we can just imagine the Master Creator contemplating a pasttime for His people to keep them out of trouble. If He had baseball in mind, He waited too long for the good of countless centuries of mankind who never had the thrill of cheering their son or daughter on the diamond, watching their favorite team on a balmy summer day or evening, and the comraderie that being at the ol' ballpark affords. Watching baseball is like allowing time to stand still.

     For years, while growing up in Minnesota this editor was a big "Twins" fan before migrating to San Diego after my college years. I can remember my greatest thrill was in 1965 working the pressbox as a U of M journalism intern (yes, they had interns back then, but not the notorious type of today) at old Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minnesota and how the Twin Cities went crazy over the "Twinkies" for that was the first year the Minnesota team went to the World Series as well as hosting their first All-Star game. It was a time one can still feel and taste today, as if it were just yesterday. Remember that phrase above about "time standing still?" Probably one of the fondest memories was watching the good, holy pious nuns - the St. Joseph Sisters, the Benedictines, the Notre Dame Sisters, Sisters of Mercy, and other orders - sitting there in box seats rooting for their team, habits flowing and flying! Everybody credited their presence as one of the reasons for the Twins' success that year. But other cities have their religious contingents at games. Just look around Wrigley Field on any afternoon during the Summer, or along the baseline at Fenway Park in Boston, or sitting behind the dugout in the New Camden Yards in Baltimore. Don't forget the fervent followers who pray for their teams in Catholic strongholds such as Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Philadelphia, even New York, Cleveland and many other cities throughout the country; even bible-belt places like Arlington, Texas, Atlanta, Kansas City and Houston have their diocesan dandies pulling for their favorites. We can't forget the "Dodger" contingent born in old Ebbets Field in where die-hard Catholics bequeathed their seats to priests and nuns so God would always smile on "da Bums." West Coasters would say He did when they moved to Los Angeles, but Brooklynites would argue that and latch onto a new loyalty - the "Mets." No matter where you go, baseball fever reaches from the pulpit to the bleachers where people of all faiths cheer in unison for their teams. Yet, if they don't win, they don't hang their heads and curse the heavens, they don't take it out on others, or feel depressed because, after all, it's baseball, and, unlike football, there's another game tomorrow! Hope springs eternal!

     The point is that life is a lot like baseball, because no matter how down we might feel, how discouraging we might view things today, tomorrow always holds hope! Jesus assured this when He gave us the Sacraments and His Holy Church along with the promise that He would be with us always and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. Like baseball, we can't win them all, we can't pitch a perfect game every day, we can't bat 1.000 throughout life. That's the beauty of the game and the beauty of life, we can play .300 and be a success, but no matter what average we hit for, if we follow the rules of the game and life - and what God has asked - we can't help but be contenders. Oh, the world, the flesh and the devil will score against us; we'll be thrown for a curve now and then, a spitter or slider might knock us down, we'll make some errors and give up quite a few walks as well as striking out once in awhile, but the Big Manager in the sky won't pull us. He won't demote us to the minors if we show we're really trying, if we're giving it all we've got and striving to do whatever He asks. He constantly encourages us and has even sent His Number One Cheerleader - His very Own Blessed Mother to urge us on. When we finally gell, when we work in cooperation, then we form a team, working in unison with God and our fellow man. If we can do that, we'll win our share of games and definitely be there for the final Series. Unlike baseball, however, where no one knows who is going to win it all, we've got a lock on the Celestine Championship Trophy if we play ball with God! Assured of this, we can be confident of our chances because, on Opening Day, Hope springs eternal!

Michael Cain, editor

Jesus counts on us to encourage the doubtful

     Like fans in the stands, we need to encourage our team - our fellow man when they're feeling blue, when they're having problems with their faith. That is the heart of Jesus' message in Lesson/Meditation #79 in which He counsels us to Counsel the Doubtful as part of the Spiritual Works of Mercy. We need to be sensitive to others as part of our evangelization efforts which Jesus and His Vicar on earth call us to. We can only be the teachers He wants if we study up on our faith and practice what we preach through frequent reception of the Sacraments. These Lesson/Meditations were imparted to the Hidden Flower of the Immaculate Heart in a series of 100 Meditative Lessons. Click on THE HIDDEN WAY

Lesson/Meditation #79:


(Imparted on February 8, 1995 to the Hidden Flower by Our Lord)

      Beloved Hidden Flower of My Motherís Immaculate Heart, I Am here with you and with joy do I come for your heart and soul remain little and humble before Me!

      As I continue to teach you, we go on to that Spiritual Work of Mercy most properly termed "To Counsel the Doubtful".

      O! little ones, how much doubt there is in your world! How much doubt drowns out My Light and prevents The Holy Spirit to work in your soul. O! I seep because satan has entered into My One True Church, so that the voice of My True Vicar on Earth is ridiculed and disobeyed. Now confusion and doubt are so rampant that priest is set against priest, and My little sheep are floundering in a mire of satanís lies.

      But do not be afraid or fear, for I Am with you, and where I Am all doubt must flee for he whose faith is rich and deep, and whose heart is wholly set upon Me, lives in Truth.

      How then are you, in these days of confusion and doubt, to Counsel The Doubtful? First, you must do as My Holy Mother beseeches you. Pray, fast, make sacrifice and be reconciled. Go to Holy Mass frequently, remembering always that it is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Receive Me worthily in the Most Blessed Sacrament and allow Me to abide in you.

      The Holy Spirit, The Sanctifier is He Who purifies you, transforms you into My image and likeness. The Holy Spirit must dwell in your soul where your faith is continually strengthened through grace, and through infused knowledge. In all things you must permit the Holy Spirit to guide you.

      Little children of My Most Sacred Heart in these end times doubt is everywhere, like a weed which chokes out faith. But where faith is deep there is no doubt, for there I Am to be found and there is great spiritual Light.

      Yes, this is truly the time of great persecution of all My faithful little ones. And yet it is your holy duty to Counsel the Doubtful. You must first have your own spiritual house, that is your soul, in order. Your life must be an example at all times of your faith, so that walking in My Holy Will you do not abandon the Way of Salvation at every new or fleeting idea of man. No, you must be as a rock, unmoveable, yet always pliable so as to know and accept My Holy Will!

      Then you allow the Holy Spirit to guide you. To Counsel the Doubtful is to open to them My Infinite Merits, My Infinite Mercy. You must be of great courage and speak to all of Me as the Spirit prompts you, holding out to the doubtful, timid soul a lifeline to My Most Sacred Heart. Gently, lovingly, without fear, anxiety or frustration, you speak to all who are doubtful of the Truth, and you lead them through your own example, through your prayers and sacrifices, through solid instruction in the One True Faith, so that the way of salvation may become for them illuminated by My graces, Merits and Mercy.

      You must speak about the horrors of sin and how My enemy deceives you by every means, particularly in your mind and through your human senses. You must guide the doubting soul to one of My holy priests, and you must also help the doubting soul by means of sound theological doctrine that is in full union with the magisterium of My One True Church and the Voice of My Holy Vicar Pope John Paul II.

      Allow your lives to be lives of prayer, and go frequently to the sacraments which I give to you. Only if you are strong in Me will you be able to Counsel The Doubtful.

      You, My little ones who are filled with the Holy Spirit know how confused My children are in these end times when every heresy abounds, when evil is ruler, when virtue is mocked and My One True Church will be rocked by blatant schism.

      Love all in My Name. Prayer is essential if you Love. Sacrifice and Suffering form My Cross upon your heart and soul and anchor you in My Cross.

      Little ones, truly you live in the times where all who remain faithful to Me shall understand in a very clear way all I suffered for Love of you. The faithful remnant, though small, shall cry out to me in One Voice of unity of mind and heart through the grace of The Holy Spirit.

      Know that I do not abandon you, yet I do solemnly warn you of the grave dangers yet to come. I beseech you to pour out your faith generously by giving Counsel To The Doubtful, so that many of My little ones shall be saved. I love and bless you. I give to you My Peace. Hear My Words. Live them and give them to all so that fear may be annihilated and doubt will be turned to deep faith.


Rally Time!

     There are many times in a ballgame when our team is down and looks like they could be headed for defeat, but then someone steps to the plate to get that key hit to spark a come-from-behind rally. Such was the case with Holy Mother Church when the cardinals elected Pope Alexander IV in 1254 to relieve the terrible "pitcher" before him Pope Innocent IV who had left the Church in shambles. Though Alexander was weak in military prowess, he was strong in spiritual matters and was a great crusader for the mendicant orders which would go on to save the day as you'll see in the sixty-second installment Pope Alexander IV Trying to pick up the pieces and reestablish trust. Click on THE HISTORY OF THE MASS AND HOLY MOTHER CHURCH


     A lot of work needed to be done to clean up the mess left by Innocent IV's tragic regime, but Pope Alexander IV a nephew of Pope Gregory IV did all in his power to pick up the pieces and reestablish trust in Holy Mother Church. While he was able to do the latter, the former was much harder for he was not chosen as a military power-broker but rather for his spirituality in sharp contrast to Innocent's lack of it. His naievte in battle affairs hurt Alexander deeply, but he will go down in Church annals as the pontiff who protected the mendicant orders from the onslaughts of those clergy who were jealous of the Franciscans and Dominicans, to name a few. Alexander, a close friend of Saint Clare, whom he canonized, and counseled Saint Bonaventure who was born near Viturbo, Italy where the Holy See held residence and was one of the professors at the University of Paris who implored Alexander's assistance when the charges against the Franciscans were brought by William of St. Amour who stirred the diocesan clergy to rebel. Alexander confirmed to Bonaventure that he indeed had seen the holy stigmata of Francis and asserted this in a formal document authenticating it to the world. In all, it was a trying time for the Church and no matter who sat in the Chair of Peter, little could have been done to stop the evil machinations of Manfred, bastard son of the Hohenstaufen line who ruled all of Italy. While many historians consider Alexander the scapegoat for Innocent's disasters, many others credit him with starting the papacy back on the right track spiritually.

Installment Sixty-Two

Pope Alexander IV: Trying to pick up the pieces and reestablish trust

     The fruits of Saint Francis paid off in more ways than one on December 12, 1254 when the College of Cardinals, wanting to return to Rome for the conclave were instead forced by the mayor of Naples to hold their election within the city where the crotchety Pope Innocent IV had died on December 7, 1254, elected the man who had been Cardinal Protector of the Franciscans. The man they chose as the one hundared and eighty-first successor of Peter was Cardinal Rinaldo Conti, count of Segni and the nephew of Pope Gregory IX who had canonized Francis along with Saint Anthony and Saint Dominic. His selection was due in large part by the conclave's hopes to return to the times of Gregory and to put the troubled years of Innocent IV's stormy regime. Cardinal Rinaldo chose the name Pope Alexander IV, surprising many who thought he would take the name of his uncle Gregory, but historians report out of reverence for him, Rinaldo didn't want to confuse Gregory's memory with his own. One of the first things he did was make plans for the canonization of Saint Clare who he had deep respect for and felt troubled over Innocent IV's decision to promulgate a revised Franciscan rule that permitted ownership of property and which Clare was dead set against. He sided with Clare, who wrote yet another rule which to this day is the strict rule for the Poor Clares. Besides making his dear friend Clare, who died on August 11, 1253 at the age of 61, a saint, Alexander revoked Innocent's restrictions of preaching and pastoral work on the mendicant orders which Alexander was so devoted to. Further, Alexander confirmed a document that the stigmata of St. Francis was indeed true, that he himself had seen it. Throughout his life and papacy, Alexander was true to the mendicant orders, befriending Saint Bonaventure and other saints, consulting with Saint Louis, King of France as well as beginning his own order of the Augustinian Hermits in 1256 in reparation for the sins of his predecessor and for the maladies of that age.

     One of the greatest maladies was the fallout from the reign of German Emperor Frederick II Hohenstaufen in the person of his illigitimate son Manfred who had run amok during Innocent's regime and had forced the papacy to Naples where it would remain during Alexander's entire papacy. Though Alexander tried to reason with Manfred, when he realized it was hopeless for Manfred was in the same mold as his notorious late father, the Pope had no choice but to excommunicate the new monarch on March 25, 1255, just as Alexander's uncle had done to Manfred's father. To further ensure protection against the retaliation of Manfred, Alexander made a blunder by ceding the vassal kingdom of Sicily to Edmund of Lancaster, the second son of King Henry III of England in 1255. To make matters worse, Alexander had inherited the care of Frederick's other son Conrad who had been entrusted to Innocent, and was unknowingly sheltering this child named Conradin who would become one of the Church's greatest enemies. Rather than return him to Manfred's care, the Pope held on to Conradin even though he had given the territory of Sicily and the dukedom of Swabia to England for protection; this in contrast to what was promised Conradin in his will. Nevertheless, in these matters, Alexander, not a military or political savvy man, made the same mistake as Innocent had, getting caught up in the bitter struggle with the hated Hohenstaufens, he shopped Sicily to the highest bidder. England won out, but could not afford to maintain the budget to support a military in this land. When William of Holland, who had been elevated to the German throne after Innocent IV deposed Frederick II, died in 1256, the choice to succeed him was among Conradin, Richard of Cornwall of England and Alfonso of Castile in Spain. Alexander was not sure who to support, but he knew one thing for sure, he couldn't promote the young Conradin. Therefore, out of deference to Henry III, despite his problems, he opted to back Richard of Cornwell. To support Richard's rule and because of Henry's shortage of funds in Sicily, Henry taxed the English clergy heavily, drawing the ire of the entire ecclesiastical body of England against Alexander for his decision to side with Henry and Richard. For Alexander it was a no-win situation. To add to his miseries, when Alexander attempted to reassert papal authority in Sicily, Manfred crushed the papal troops mercilessly in 1258. This resulted in total control of all of Italy and Rome by Manfred and the papacy was reduced to retreating to Viterbo. Though Alexander had longed to return to Rome, he knew it was impossible for Rome was not only ruled by Manfred's people, but the families were trying once again to gain control. In a strange twist of irony, because of Manfred's influence the families, that had so devastated the Holy See for two centuries before, were unable to take complete control. Shortly after Manfred's victory over Alexander's troops, rumor reached him that Conradin was dead. This prompted Manfred to proclaim himself king of Palermo which resulted in the union of the Hohenstauffen followers and the powerful Ghibellini throughout Italy, giving Manfred even more power and entrenching him in Roman circles where he was even nominated for Roman Senator in the spring of 1261.

     While Alexander IV's military prowess and diplomatic dealings were a complete disaster, he would go down in the annals of popes and Church history as a great protector and promoter of the mendicant orders and upheld the spiritual principles of Holy Mother Church, governing with justice and wisdom. Because of political problems, Alexander was not able to elevate any bishops to cardinal during his papacy. Nevertheless, he wrote extensively on popular jurisprudence and forbade summary trials in the question of heresy. When the University of Paris' diocesan clergy challenged the teaching credentials of the Franciscan Friars there, Alexander stepped in and, with permission of King Louis, took them under his wing, ruling in favor of the mendicants over the seculars. Alexander sought desperately to keep the fervor of the crusades alive, but with King Louis' defeat and the constant bickering between countries throughout Europe, not to mention the sad state the papacy had fallen to during Innocent's pontificate and the military defeats during Alexander's, little hope was given to uniting the nations of Europe to fight off the infidels. It would resurrect in the future, but not at this time during Alexander's days. He died on May 25, 1261 a broken-hearted pontiff in Viturbo, deeply grieving for the evil running rampant throughout Europe and especially his own beloved Italy, and his feelings of helplessness to do anything about it. Dark times had befallen the Church but, in future years, they would get even darker. Had it not been for the fact this was the One, True Church who Christ had promised to be with always and "the gates of hell would not prevail against it", the Church definitely would have been crushed.

Next installment: Pope Urban IV - The French Cardinal who became the "Corpus Christi" Pope

Click here to go to SECTION TWO or click here to return to the graphics front page of this issue.

March 31, 1998 volume 9, no. 64         DAILY CATHOLIC