Consecrated to the Heart of the Redeemer under the patronage of the Theotokos and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

29 September 2013

GOD: Good Orderly Direction

Patient readers, thank you for your patience during the recent stylistic modifications on this blog. I think I have settled upon the colors and fonts. You may call it "something old, something new, everything borrowed, nothing blue." (Save for the blue Google widget -->) 

For any of you whose "brick and mortar" locations are close to Holy Guardian Angels Parish, here is a commercial for our annual Forty Hours Devotion. As the linked article explains in good detail, "Forty Hours" is a sacred moment for our parishioners and the larger community to renew our devotion to our Eucharistic Lord. He has made Himself available to us in this Sacrament as our true Food and Drink. Adoration increases our hunger to receive Him worthily and often. On Sunday, 29 September, Monday, 30 September, and Tuesday, 1 October, the Blessed Sacrament will be exposed after Mass until 7pm each night, when we will offer Evening Prayer with Benediction. Fr. Eugene P. Ritz, Chaplain of Berks Catholic High School, will preach every evening. Please join us--if not in person at the evening services or anytime throughout the day for a Visit, then consider devoting a period of 15 minutes or more to silent prayer whenever you can.
"I will wait, I will wait for you" (Father and Son)
+ + + + +

If there’s one thing most of us love to give but hate to receive, it's advice. Very easily we of inflated ego may feel that others try to run our lives, or consider us incompetent. Maybe they do; but that’s not our problem. Our problem may be a difficulty with being open to new opinions, suggestions, or procedures. That’s an awful problem to have!

It was Israel’s problem, according to the prophet Amos. He paints a portrait of corporeal corporate types, "fat cats" fond of their own comfort. As a jazz fan, I don’t quite understand Amos’ problem with people “improvising to the music of the harp, devising their own accompaniment." I suppose the grand scene is what the sacred author wants to impress upon us: complacent comfort-seekers unfazed by the chaotic collapse of their land, the physical and moral distress of the people. There is an obvious parallel with the Gospel, in which an unnamed rich man was condemned for casually neglecting a poor man in his field of vision, and this despite warnings: if the warnings did not come from someone else, because there wasn’t a prophet around, then perhaps they came from within, if the rich man still had a working conscience. Not to have a well-formed conscience—or to have a well-formed conscience but not to act upon it—this is the earthly beginning of the eternal hell that Jesus describes, the torment from which He wants with all His Heart to deliver us!

In Pope Francis’ recent interview, he urged pastors and preachers to consider marriage and family matters in perspective. Along those lines, this weekend’s readings remind us not to ignore other Catholic social teachings, such as the solidarity or common friendship of all people—a bond solidified in Our Savior’s redemptive sacrifice on mankind’s behalf (cf. CCC 1939). This word first pertains to the leaders of a people, who are in the best position to notice and address human needs, even as they may have the greatest risk of losing touch and becoming oblivious to those needs. It applies all the more to religious and spiritual leaders in their responsibility to impart truth with love. But all people can become leaders in their own right by a steadfast pursuit of virtue, adherence to sound teaching, and prompt response to the concerns they encounter each day.

But a good leader needs a good cabinet; that brings us back to the first point about advice. The humility to seek and take good direction is paramount for the mature human being and follower of Christ. St. Timothy had St. Paul, and took Paul’s direction seriously. The rich man…well, remember he was a fictional character in a parable; but Jesus was really speaking to the Pharisees. Whom did they have? According to the parable, the Pharisees had their religious pedigree--Abraham, Moses, and the prophets--and we can presume that they weren’t paying too much attention to them. Whom do you have? A faithful Catholic draws from Sacred Scripture, the Church’s tradition and teaching authority, a well-formed conscience, and worthy relationships.

Above all, and through all, you and I have Jesus Himself. Let’s not forget that His grace enables our attempts and facilitates our successes. But He is infinitely more than a lecturer, a mentor or a coach: He is our Savior. United to Him, and attentive to His promptings to worship and service, we can assist others along the Way of salvation.

26 September 2013

Field Hospital for the Wounded

If you asked me what facets of parish ministry I enjoy and attend to the most, outside of the celebration of the Sacraments, I would have to offer two: the Christian education of adults and youth, and ministry to the sick and infirm. Oftentimes the twain meet, for several reasons: first, the sick are a "captive audience," though it certainly is inappropriate to lecture someone who is at his or her worst; second, the sick are in a vulnerable state, with a certain receptivity to and interest in the truth, which I am eager to offer at any available opportunity.

On one recent occasion, the Church's catechetical and healing ministries joined in a hospital visit. There I met an elderly man who apparently used to belong to our parish but has not been affiliated for many years. He was a product of 12 years of Catholic education. The man was quick to share the discouraging reports he heard about Catholic church and school memberships, as well as the alleged decrease in priests' participation in individual, family, and community activities.  I assured him that our school was doing quite well, and that we continue to receive people into the Church, even though ours certainly is not a flawless community of faith, devoid of attrition. Personally I could stand to be more visible and accessible among the people; these visits were a treasured example!

A few minutes into our conversation he shared a story: he told a priest in his high school of his intent to attend a college of another Christian stripe, but the priest discouraged him because that school would require him to take a "comparative religion" class. Perhaps, the man noted, this priest's admonition deserved a helpful follow-up comment, such as, "You're always welcome to talk to me about whatever the professor says in class." That was a very good suggestion, I noted, but there wasn't much he could do about it now, over sixty years later. He agreed, and after I offered a prayer and a blessing, we parted quite amicably.

We get people when/as we get people, and encounter them as well as we can; but upon further reflection I sensed my innate desire to "fix" his situation with accurate information and winsome personality. Some days, and some times of day, my supply of both drains easily. Moreover, information and personality aren't an ailing man's greatest need!

In his now-famous interview with a fellow Jesuit, Pope Francis referred to the Church as a "field hospital for the wounded." If a car accident victim comes into the emergency ward, do you immediately give him safety information? Well, no, I guess not...

Another quote from the interview speaks to this tendency: "Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person." On one hand is the sincere desire to influence, to help a person consider another way of looking at their experience--perhaps, so they could have more compassion for a figure in their past who remains unforgiven until now (such as that priest from his high school). On the other hand there is the ego-driven intent to manufacture a certain result or state, in which the person is reduced to a "project"--an ill-fated one at that.

There was more to our conversation than I recorded here. Thank God my interactions aren't "recorded for quality assurance," but in any case, I recognized anew in this interaction the call to listen deeply and respond to the deeper concerns. Sometimes people just need to be heard and to be reminded that the Lord loves them. The rest is not necessarily my business.

20 September 2013

Never Gonna Get It, Part Two

Yesterday the Jesuit publication America magazine published the English translation of the "Interview with a Pontiff" conducted by Fr. Antonio Spadaro SJ, editor of the Italian Jesuit periodical, La Civiltà Cattolica.
(I just learned how to type variant characters on my Apple computer: à! â! æ!)
In this interview, Pope Francis says many things about many things, and I dare not attempt to summarize them, for summaries are often misleading, representing the biases of their composer.

I will mention one thing that, as far as I know, is eminently Catholic, Jesuit, and reasonable. It comes from a segment where Francis speaks about the need for pastoral approaches to matters of contemporary moral concern, such as homosexuality, gay marriage, and abortion. Church leaders  "cannot insist only on" preaching and otherwise delivering on the controversies:

"But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context."

That's what our Introduction to Scripture professor told us in the seminary regarding the interpretation of the Bible. "Just as the three most important words in real estate are, 'Location, Location, Location," the three most important words in exegesis (Scriptural interpretation) are, "Context, Context, Context." Fundamentalist approaches to exegesis tend to ignore the larger context of verses and passages.

In order to discern what the text is saying, the interpreter must consider:

  • The human authors' intention, clues to which can be found in "the conditions of their time and culture, the literary genres in use at the time, and the modes of feeling, speaking, and narrating then current" (Catechism of the Catholic Church--hereafter, "CCC," 110).
  • The Divine Author (the Holy Spirit)'s intention, which manifests in
    • The content and unity of the whole Scripture, in Testaments Old and New (CCC, 112)
    • The living Tradition of the whole Church, from the writings of the Fathers onward, encompassing the entirety of ecclesial life animated by the same Spirit (CCC, 113)
    • The analogy of faith, that is, the "coherence of the truths of faith among themselves and within the whole plan of Revelation" (CCC, 114)

Now this interview is not official magisterial teaching, but it does deserve contextual reading. The context includes everything the Church actually teaches on these matters--none of which Pope Francis ignored or gainsaid in his conversation with Fr. Spadaro.

In addition, as we read everything with any number of cognitive biases, we may unwittingly impose those biases on what we read. There's a whole lot of head shakin' goin' on today, in light of reports that the same Holy Father today, in a speech to Catholic gynecologists, has condemned abortion, reminding us that every aborted child "has the face of Jesus Christ, the face of the Lord." Readers with any position on moral matters may raise an eyebrow, as if to say, "Well, what was that all about? What's he up to?"

While the remarks may seem strangely timed in light of the release of the interview, there really is no matter for concern, because everything the Pope has said corresponds to the Gospel and the Church's teachings, none of which he can, or would, alter.

In the same interview Pope Francis offers a splendid paradigm for preaching, one that situates even the "hard words" that homilies often must include within an appropriate context.

  • The proclamation of the saving love of God in the death and resurrection of Christ.
  • Catechesis--education on the content of faith.
  • Moral and Religious Consequences--what follows from who Christ is and what He teaches by word and action.
If all people hear from our pastors is, "Do this and shun that," their preaching is inadequate. Of course, people who live in conflict with a teaching of the Church may be hearing only what they don't want to hear, regardless of what the preacher is actually saying. We need to hear of sin, but first we need to hear of Jesus, of who He is, and what He has done in and for our human nature. People might better receive a word that challenges them, when that word is situated in the context of Gospel and catechesis; and even then, it may not go over so well. But, as always, the results are not in our hands.

The juxtaposition of the comforting interview and the jarring speech illustrate how skeptics will never "figure out" the Catholic Church. She is not to be figured out, but rather to be believed and lived. "She," meaning the hierarchy and the people--as the Pope pointed out in this interview. As long as people regard "the Church" with the third-person mentality, not including themselves among her (even while thinking or speaking of her), they will not "get" what this communion of believers is about.

18 September 2013

Never Gonna Get It

My lovin'...
When the above song came out in 1992, I was a sophomore in high school. By that time I made no secret of my interest in becoming a priest. One day, in the presence of some friends, an influential adult in my life jokingly told me that this would become my theme song. "Never gonna get it, never gonna get it..." he sang, amid howls of derisive laughter.

Now you may think, kind reader, that I have since held this man in contempt. Au contraire, for (1) he was a faithful Catholic very much involved in his parish; (2) he and I remain friendly even as our lives have moved onward from those days; and (3) you had to know him and the company he kept, which quite often included me. To my mind, he was not guilty of blasphemy toward the priesthood as much as, perhaps, an instance of contumely. (There was a lot of contumely going on in that period of time in Schuylkill County.)
This image was captured as he was slowly crying out, "ConFUndantur!" ("Let them be brought to disorder!")
Exsurgit Deus, et dissipantur inimici eius (Ps 68:1)! When you have a touch of Egomaniacal Inferiority Complex, your foes become God's foes, and either they, or you, or God, must die. This puts some serious torque in your life...In time, I would come to adopt a more compassionate attitude toward all who have ever made sport of me for any reason. May we all do the same. It's a lot better than taking it out on yourself, anyhow. Trust me, after a couple of decades of doing that, it gets old.
Misunderstanding and mockery of the celibate priesthood are "as old as the hills." Every new attempt for clarification sheds more heat than light on the conversation. Most recently, the new Vatican Secretary of State, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, gave an interview to John L. Allen, Jr. of the National Catholic Reporter. According to Allen, the Archbishop offered "the standard moderate Catholic line--priestly celibacy is a discipline, not a dogma, and can therefore be revised, but it nonetheless has value."  

Call it "moderate" if you're into politicizing religion, but to me, it's just Catholic.
"Promises, promises, my kind of promises, / can lead to joy, and hope, and love--yes, love!"
(I just had to listen to Dionne Warwick's signature version now.)
I have several Orthodox Christian friends. I very much identify with Orthodoxy's theological and liturgical Weltanschauung, having grown up with several Eastern Catholic parishes and friends in Saint Clair. In my youth I was told that "the Irish Bishops" in the late 19th-early 20th century somehow forced Eastern Catholic bishops in America to impose celibacy upon their priests (cf. Wikipedia article). Since the Second Vatican Council, and especially since the pontificate of Blessed John Paul II, Eastern Churches have been encouraged to regain and retain their customs, including the option for marriage before priestly ordination. I say "option," because monastic priests, of West and East alike, always take a solemn vow of chastity, which precludes marriage; and a voluntarily-unmarried candidate for priesthood must promise celibacy before being ordained to the ("transitional") diaconate.

The Word on the Virtual Street
Jesuit Father Kevin O'Brien, speaking as a vowed religious, offered a kind of Apologia pro vita sua to the Washington Post the other day, specifically with respect to the "rightness" of his choice for celibacy. I can add little to his words.
The money quote: "In a world that tends to avoid commitment, prize independence, esteem competitiveness, value instant pleasure, and reduce everything to the practical and material, both the [married] couple and I profess by word and action that the most authentic and joyful human life is one lived for another."
In light of the recent hullabaloo Blogger Simcha Fisher re-posted one of her articles from two years ago: "Time for Married Priests?" offers a laywoman's perspective on the practical dimensions of celibacy. I am not naive to suppose that some people would closely scrutinize, and adopt harsh and unforgiving attitudes toward, a married priest and his family. In conversations I do mention practical aspects of celibacy such as potential conflicts with family and material concerns, but always as part of the larger context of Christ-as-Bridegroom. As it hear it coming out of my mouth the argument explanation sounds to me like it might be received with either complete consternation or credulity, or something in between.

What I Got
As a Latin-Rite Catholic studying to be a diocesan priest, I knew that voluntary celibacy was a prerequisite for seeking ordination. I'd like to think I possessed a mature appreciation of that sacred promise. But I can assure you, without violating the seal of my own Confessions (which, anyhow, applies not to the penitent, but to the confessor), that my appreciation of celibacy has had some growing to do, even since ordination. I venture to say, without personal condemnation, that many priests have shared this lot.

The choice of celibacy is not meant to be a shield against human intimacy, a back-up plan for losers in love, or a path to material comforts or personal privilege. These deficient motives tend to backfire on the bearer, and leave behind a trail of wreckage. For that reason it is important to affirm what's at stake: Celibacy leaves unfulfilled the normal human drive for sexual union, partnership, and parenthood. The human race as such depends on these things for its survival, but the individual person doesn't. However, the weight of these drives presses in on each person and demands reckoning.

The candidate for priesthood or consecrated life must squarely face what he or she is setting aside, and must commit to a healthy lifestyle that includes prayer, companionship, culture, and fitness--all suitable channels for sexual and creative energy.  Thank God, I have paid increasing attention to these things over the years, to good effect.

If "they" were to repeal mandatory celibacy tomorrow, which they won't, it would not affect me anyhow; I wouldn't thenceforth be able to "play the field." I have made that choice for life. That's not a sentence, but a statement. "For life," meaning "to engender in people's hearts a love for God, neighbor, and self"; "in order to be a living sign of the ultimate fulfillment that is the life of heaven."

These motives are difficult for people to grasp, especially if they don't have faith. The same faith that invites us to see the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ in the appearances of bread and wine, also invites us to consider how intentional non-marriage and reverence of the sexual faculty are motives for profound, passionate charity.

12 September 2013

26.2 and Beyond

I am sorely remiss...well, at least I am informing my eager readership about the outcome of my first marathon attempt. Wanna hear it? Here it goes:
For "Gun Time" (between the beginning and my beginning), add fifty seconds
Woo-hoo, as they say--and indeed, I was pleasantly surprised that I (a) finished without bonking, (2) finished within the time I predicted, and (ɣ) was ranked as I was among the other participants overall and in my age group.

There is room for improvement--it's the largest room in the house! And this suggests my complete willingness to enter another marathon.

In the last post I mentioned I do not style myself a competitive runner, as I have not contested many races thus far. But from an early age, with respect to those domains of interest to me (academic, musical), I have been competitively-minded; and with practice, who knows whether I can beat--at the very least--my previous time?

My seminary days taught me that there will always be brighter, more personable, more ______ people than I. And...that's OK...I guess...yes, it is. As you may suspect, I continue to struggle with competition. To some degree it is healthy and perhaps even holy. "Anticipate one another in showing honor," St. Paul said (Rom 12:10), but perhaps only that context--the practice of virtue--is appropriate for competition. Even there, ego (Etching God Out) can obscure the purpose of our good deeds: to "let your light that [people] may...glorify your heavenly Father" (Mt 5:16). Strangely enough, another way to read "anticipate" is, "consider [the other] better, to esteem [the other] more highly": not attempting to score higher, but to recognize the achievements of your competitors. Now there's altruism! There's magnanimity!

I have gained a renewed respect for the art of running, knowing that I have much to learn if I wish to continue and improve. I have some confidence in the likelihood of finishing subsequent marathons. If only these knots in my muscles would untangle! In that vein, I am also becoming more sensitive to my body's aches. Exercise seems to cause pain, for which reason many people choose to avoid it. Instead, I accept aches and even injuries (only minor ones so far) as an occupational hazard if I want to pursue this particular mode of fitness. Accept, but make every attempt to remedy. Accept, but often run through.

Many people have lifted me up by their prayers/positive thoughts. Their names will be written in heaven. In their service the Lord deftly hides His command to "Go and Do Likewise" (Lk 10:37). Duly noted! Although this race was a way for me to "glorify God with [my] body" (1 Cor 6:20), running is a way to fit me for maximum service to God and neighbor, in and out of strictly ministerial contexts. But it's all ministry; it's all service. In so many respects, I need to remember that I am part of the human race, equally capable of encouraging fellow travelers. I look forward to encountering you along the Way!

07 September 2013

Homily for the Vigil of My First Marathon (or rather, the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C)

Tomorrow I intend to run my first marathon in Allentown. The major sponsor is Via of the Lehigh Valley, an organization that works with the disabled. (On my blog I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago, but my blog receives fewer hits than the heavyweight champion of boxing receives in a single round.) Many of you do know that I run regularly--you might say, religiously--because you've seen me on various Berks County roads; but only a relative few outside my virtual social network know that I have been training for this race all summer. At this point there's not much else to do other than have a decent carbohydrate-laden meal, say my prayers, and try to sleep.

Keep an eye out for me!
"Who can know?" The weekend's readings should resonate well with anybody who has ever prepared for a very special event. Hear again the inspired words of the Book of Wisdom: "The deliberations of mortals are timid, and unsure are our plans. For the corruptible body burdens the soul and the earthen shelter weighs down the mind that has many concerns" (9:14-15). Well before any express doctrine of original sin, this inspired author knew the mental, emotional, and physical troubles we can cause for ourselves as we "play the waiting game"! Moreover, it seems that external conditions (our bodies, the weather, and so forth) often pose limits we can't easily transcend, despite our best efforts. As we persevere in our discipline, we never know what we may accomplish, but we also never know what lies ahead.

"Sit down...calculate...decide." Jesus poses the challenge of all time to the crowds who had joined His traveling show. If you want to follow Him, you can't stay on the periphery for very long. You must put your affairs in order. You must "renounce" all your possessions--which is to say, you must be willing to set aside whatever is in you (or whoever is among you) that is not worthy of Him. The Greek word translated here as "renounce" could also be used of a baptized person who formally rejects the faith--that's how monumental the decision for Christ must be. Recall, however, that Christ's decision for us is equally monumental. You know what He renounced. The time and attention I devoted to marathon training was considerable, in light of what was at stake and what a successful completion might require; but there is Something greater than 26.2 miles here: a journey of a lifetime, a journey unto life everlasting.

"Welcome him." St. Paul had retained a former slave named Onesimus, but he decided to return him to his master, with the expectation that he should continue to enjoy freedom. Paul is asking Philemon henceforth to consider Onesimus as a brother, and they must now be willing to accompany each other side by side along their Christian journey. I expect to run side by side along my fellow marathoners tomorrow; some I will pass, and some will pass me. A good friend told me the other day that all of us are a success story simply by virtue of showing up at the starting line. Of course, we all endeavor to persevere to the finish line, which will more likely happen if we are careful to pace ourselves, to take liquids and food as our bodies and the weather require, and--most importantly--rely on our fellow runners, our supporters, and the Hidden Hand pushing our behinds. (The Scriptural and Eucharistic analogies scream out, don't they?)

This event takes place on the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which also happens to be the ninth anniversary of my father Joseph's death. In his day he was more of a weightlifter than a runner, but I believe he will root me on from the eternal sidelines.

I know he's keeping an eye out for me!
In these precarious times we do not forget to pray and sacrifice for the situation in Syria; these people deserve far more attention than a local marathon, and this particular competitor. Christ, the Prince of Peace knows the reality of violence in the world; He was the Innocent Victim for man's sins! And yet He advocated violence, believe it or not: He wants us to vigorously oppose that within us which does not tend toward the love of God and neighbor. And where did He learn that? From Mary, the Queen of Peace, whose steady hand and steady spouse together raised God the Son in the fullness of humanity.  May all oppressors swiftly come to recognize the oppressed as their brothers and sisters, and may we all boldly attend to peaceful solutions to the conflicts in our lives!

06 September 2013

Fast Away the Old Self Passes

Only today did I read that the U.S. Catholic bishops are requesting that people fast, pray, and abstain from the freedom of those who are addicted to pornography.

A few days ago, Pope Francis requested a day of universal prayer and fasting for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Syria.

Read here the U.S. Catholic Bishops' information on fasting.

If I were to describe the human condition in one word, it would be "addiction," or, if you prefer, "attachment." For some, addiction has the unsavory connotations of the "rock bottom," the point at which a person experiences maximum humiliation and pain--landing on skid row or a rehab center, or a body bag.

But nowadays addiction is a much broader concept with a wider breadth of experiences. Addicts can be rich or poor, notorious or neglected. They have only to be dependent upon a mind- or mood-altering substance or activity. Addictions have spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical ramifications. This makes sense, because we are "composite" beings--physical and spiritual beings. Whatever affects one, necessarily affects the other.

Addicted people have an "old self" that cannot or will not grow. Take today's Gospel reading, in which Jesus speaks about the advantage of pouring new wine into new wineskins. This lesson is followed by a curious observation: "And no one who has been drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good’” (Lk 5:39). Jesus is the "New Wine," the Way of Life that many of His listeners reject in favor of old ways. Addicts' old ways no longer profit them, but the fact doesn't sufficiently prevent them from further demoralization. Addicts' loved ones, meanwhile, are also enervated by their self-serving behavior.

Here are two quotes from prolific Christian writer C. S. Lewis:
(1) “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
(2) “And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.” 
God alone will fully satisfy the desires of the human heart, because He made the human heart. Try though we may to attain that satisfaction by other things, our attempts will not work very long or very well.

Prayer, that is, conversation with God, is the mortar of our spiritual edifice. It is the "refresh" button that makes for a new self, always being conformed unto His likeness. He likes people to be at peace with Him, with their neighbor, and within themselves. He likes peace among nations. He likes people to live in freedom from personal and social slavery.

Fasting trains the senses to recognize what is truly good, trains the intellect to comprehend what is truly good, and trains the will to choose what is truly good. As we learn to live beyond our instincts, we develop a deeper instinct--a new tendency toward God and neighbor that is fully human because it is conscious and free.

Fasting of whatever sort attunes us to our own lack. Our relationship with God (and with all creation in God and for God's sake) is always in need of renewal and improvement. When we recognize just how much we "miss" that cup of coffee, TV show, hamburger, bowl of ice cream, lottery ticket, etc., precisely then are we alerted to (1) our own need for complete satisfaction, which no earthly good can provide; and (2) the material and spiritual deficits that other people share, deficits often much deeper than ours.

The people of Syria have been living in a brutal dictatorship; but the decision to combat force with force is widely considered to be ill-advised. By storming the heavens with sacrifice, we are not trying to convince God to make things work out our way. He forces nobody to make or retract decisions. It is unlikely that our President or Congress cares that Catholics and other people of good will are choosing to pray and fast for an end to violence in Syria. But then again, wouldn't it be nice if our leaders witnessed a more united front, especially among our Catholic people? It seems like such a pipe dream now, I must admit.

Pornographic practitioners have enslaved women, men, and children on many levels, reducing the human person to body parts, appearance, and physical prowess. While men and women ideally rely on sexual intercourse for the propagation of the species and the bonding of spouses, pornography limits what used to be known as "the conjugal act" to the sensate aspects of the orgasm, thereby separating the experience of the orgasm from procreation and union. Mutual pleasure becomes the only aim, and eventually it turns out that the pleasure doesn't even have to be mutual.

But this or any other knowledge, by itself, doesn't stop addicts from using. The knowledge of Christ's call for peace--even the joy of a people with no quarrels--doesn't stop the powerful from exerting themselves wrongly at whatever cost.

O Christ, Christ, come quickly! Satisfy the hearts of all Your people!