Back to Houston

A reader sent me this photo - I couldn't resist.

A reader sent me this photo – I couldn’t resist.

(I had been wondering why I felt so sluggish and easily fatigued the last few days. Today, I discover I have a bit of a nasty cold. I was planning to drive up from Katy to Houston today and re-visit sites from my pilgrimage four years ago. I really enjoyed Houston…spent the Fourth of July in 2011 there. Instead I will just stay in…in and out of bed, reading, watching TV, and hoping I shake this cold by tomorrow when I give my presentation in Katy, near Houston. Unfortunately, my work does not allow for “calling in sick.” Fortunately, God’s providence has spared me the worst of it until I have a full day off anyway. That is good…but it does put a bit of a crimp in my nostalgic sightseeing.

I said late last week I had a profound sense that some transition had occurred while Pope Francis was in the United States…that he was about to enter into the beginning of the fullness of what will one day be seen as his greatness. That marvelous Catholic intellectual, George Weigel, wrote an elegant piece last week which, really, was a foreshadowing of this.  I think, while I rest, I will share with you the full text of Pope Francis’ homily at the opening of this year’s session of the Synod on the Family. What a grace…what a gift. Enjoy – CJ)

Homily by Pope Francis opening the 2015 session of the Synod on the Family – October 4, 2015

“If we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” (1 Jn 4:12).

This Sunday’s Scripture readings seem to have been chosen precisely for this moment of grace which the Church is experiencing: the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the family, which begins with this Eucharistic celebration. The readings centre on three themes: solitude, love between man and woman, and the family.

Adam, as we heard in the first reading, was living in the Garden of Eden. He named all the other creatures as a sign of his dominion, his clear and undisputed power, over all of them. Nonetheless, he felt alone, because “there was not found a helper fit for him” (Gen 2:20). He was lonely.

The drama of solitude is experienced by countless men and women in our own day. I think of the elderly, abandoned even by their loved ones and children; widows and widowers; the many men and women left by their spouses; all those who feel alone, misunderstood and unheard; migrants and refugees fleeing from war and persecution; and those many young people who are victims of the culture of consumerism, the culture of waste, the throwaway culture.

Today we experience the paradox of a globalized world filled with luxurious mansions and skyscrapers, but a lessening of the warmth of homes and families; many ambitious plans and projects, but little time to enjoy them; many sophisticated means of entertainment, but a deep and growing interior emptiness; many pleasures, but few loves; many liberties, but little freedom… The number of people who feel lonely keeps growing, as does the number of those who are caught up in selfishness, gloominess, destructive violence and slavery to pleasure and money.

Our experience today is, in some way, like that of Adam: so much power and at the same time so much loneliness and vulnerability. The image of this is the family. People are less and less serious about building a solid and fruitful relationship of love: in sickness and in health, for better and for worse, in good times and in bad. Love which is lasting, faithful, conscientious, stable and fruitful is increasingly looked down upon, viewed as a quaint relic of the past. It would seem that the most advanced societies are the very ones which have the lowest birth-rates and the highest percentages of abortion, divorce, suicide, and social and environmental pollution.

In the first reading we also hear that God was pained by Adam’s loneliness. He said: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gen2:18). These words show that nothing makes man’s heart as happy as another heart like his own, a heart which loves him and takes away his sense of being alone. These words also show that God did not create us to live in sorrow or to be alone. He made men and women for happiness, to share their journey with someone who complements them, to live the wondrous experience of love: to love and to be loved, and to see their love bear fruit in children, as today’s Psalm says (cf. Ps 128).

This is God’s dream for his beloved creation: to see it fulfilled in the loving union between a man and a woman, rejoicing in their shared journey, fruitful in their mutual gift of self. It is the same plan which Jesus presents in today’s Gospel: “From the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female’. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh” (Mk 10:6-8; cf. Gen 1:27; 2:24).

To a rhetorical question – probably asked as a trap to make him unpopular with the crowd, which practiced divorce as an established and inviolable fact – Jesus responds in a straightforward and unexpected way. He brings everything back to the beginning of creation, to teach us that God blesses human love, that it is he who joins the hearts of two people who love one another, he who joins them in unity and indissolubility. This shows us that the goal of conjugal life is not simply to live together for life, but to love one another for life! In this way Jesus re-establishes the order which was present from the beginning.

“What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mk 10:9). This is an exhortation to believers to overcome every form of individualism and legalism which conceals a narrow self-centredness and a fear of accepting the true meaning of the couple and of human sexuality in God’s plan.

Indeed, only in the light of the folly of the gratuitousness of Jesus’ paschal love will the folly of the gratuitousness of an exclusive and life-long conjugal love make sense. For God, marriage is not some adolescent utopia, but a dream without which his creatures will be doomed to solitude! Indeed, being afraid to accept this plan paralyzes the human heart.

Paradoxically, people today – who often ridicule this plan – continue to be attracted and fascinated by every authentic love, by every steadfast love, by every fruitful love, by every faithful and enduring love. We see people chase after fleeting loves while dreaming of true love; they chase after carnal pleasures but desire total self-giving.

“Now that we have fully tasted the promises of unlimited freedom, we begin to appreciate once again the old phrase: “world-weariness”. Forbidden pleasures lost their attraction at the very moment they stopped being forbidden. Even if they are pushed to the extreme and endlessly renewed, they prove dull, for they are finite realities, whereas we thirst for the infinite” (JOSEPH RATZINGER, Auf Christus schauen. Einübung in Glaube, Hoffnung, Liebe, Freiburg, 1989, p. 73).

In this extremely difficult social and marital context, the Church is called to carry out her mission in fidelity, truth and love. To carry out her mission in fidelity to her Master as a voice crying out in the desert, in defending faithful love and encouraging the many families which live married life as an experience which reveals of God’s love; in defending the sacredness of life, of every life; in defending the unity and indissolubility of the conjugal bond as a sign of God’s grace and of the human person’s ability to love seriously.

To carry out her mission in truth, which is not changed by passing fads or popular opinions. The truth which protects individuals and humanity as a whole from the temptation of self-centredness and from turning fruitful love into sterile selfishness, faithful union into temporary bonds. “Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way. In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love” (BENEDICT XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 3).

To carry out her mission in charity, not pointing a finger in judgment of others, but – faithful to her nature as a mother – conscious of her duty to seek out and care for hurting couples with the balm of acceptance and mercy; to be a “field hospital” with doors wide open to whoever knocks in search of help and support; to reach out to others with true love, to walk with our fellow men and women who suffer, to include them and guide them to the wellspring of salvation.

A Church which teaches and defends fundamental values, while not forgetting that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mk 2:27); and that Jesus also said: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mk 2:17). A Church which teaches authentic love, which is capable of taking loneliness away, without neglecting her mission to be a good Samaritan to wounded humanity.

I remember when Saint John Paul II said: “Error and evil must always be condemned and opposed; but the man who falls or who errs must be understood and loved… we must love our time and help the man of our time” (JOHN PAUL II, Address to the Members of Italian Catholic Action, 30 December 1978). The Church must search out these persons, welcome and accompany them, for a Church with closed doors betrays herself and her mission, and, instead of being a bridge, becomes a roadblock: “For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified have all one origin. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb 2:11).

In this spirit we ask the Lord to accompany us during the Synod and to guide his Church, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, her most chaste spouse.

About charliej373

Charlie Johnston is a former newspaper editor, radio talk show host and political consultant. From Feb. 11, 2011 to Aug. 21, 2012, he walked 3,200 miles across the country, sleeping in the woods, meeting people and praying as he went. He has received prophetic visitation all his life, which he has vetted through a trio of priests over the last 20 years, and now speaks publicly about on this site. Yet he emphasizes that we find God most surely through the ordinary, doing the little things we should with faith and fidelity. Hence the name, The Next Right Step. The visitations inform his work, but are not the focus of it. He lives in the Archdiocese of Denver in the United States.
This entry was posted in Church Governance, Family and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to Back to Houston

  1. Beckita says:

    Uniting my prayers with St. Faustina and Blessed FX Seelos for you today, Charlie, that this particular cold runs a very short course. While the poster evokes a great smile for me in its playful caption, I see more truth to it than anything. Back in the day, the sick were brought into the streets so that even when Peter’s shadow fell on them, they would be healed. My prayer has been and continues to be that the tremendous grace poured out upon this land during Pope Francis visit continues to bring forth fruit!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pam Nicholson says:

      Oh, Beckita, I do as well. You are a big fan of Fr. Seelos also. It is such a blessing for me that I had read about him, and very haphazardly about five or so years ago. His story impressed me so much, I went onto the site I am German descent, and have found we have had many more German saints than I knew or blesseds on their way to being saints. I was able to get a first-class relic at that time, and have seen some astonishing things happen when I pray with it for people who as me for prayers. I will do the same today. God bless and may the love and healing of Fr. Seelos bless you abundantly and all those for whom you pray. pam, from NJ.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Maeb says:

    Very lovely (though I believe that “dream” is not the word for the inbuild plan of the Word). Words are one thing, actions another, as is shown in this article by a Polish priest on another controversy.


  3. LukeMichael says:

    I read this this am and thought ” il Papa has his mojo on!” Prayers for him with the intercession of St JP II!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rose says:

    Charlie, I pray you will be well for tomorrow. You have such a busy schedule.
    May Jesus and Mary heal you and give you the strength you need.
    God bless you!


  5. Pam Nicholson says:

    Charlie, I cannot help but agree with you about some change that occurred while the Holy Father was here. Something has changed. Is it Divine Mercy? I only hope it catches on like wild fire of the Holy Spirit. Hearts which do not seem as though they want to let in the love the Holy Spirit, seem to have a new resolve and purpose. I see this and feel it in the atmosphere. Something most definitely is about to change, and I hope it is hearts.

    I watched EWTN coverage most of the time when I was up to it during the Holy Father’s vist. Now, we have the synod. Well, I heard the comments by Cardinal Kasper and found I have a hard time listening to him regarding marriage and dissolution and what the church teaches. I will not lash out at him, but, here’s the thing. He mentioned that Christ only said such few words on how God sees divorce. That put me in mind of such few words God says about homosexuality, a very few words, but, to the point. How many words is enough for people? Twenty, thirty, one hundred? I believe God and His Son used such few words so we would not feel the need to be tempted to test God and our resolve to follow Him. He tells it what it is to follow Him in few words. We do not have to follow Him, but, if we do, this is what it means to be a follower of Christ. Cardinal Kasper was sadly wrong in his assessment of mercy in the annulment process/receiving annulments. He went into the words of St. Thomas Aquinas. And, that to me, was big turnoff. St. Thomas would not go against the teachings of Christ Himself to make it easier for those who want annulments/dvorces to get them. I have to commend Cardinal Burke for doing exactly what he said the church is here for. He reiterated what the church teaches, and there can be no mistaking what God Himself teaches through His Church. Is Cardinal Kasper in some kind of popularity contest? When people go to meet their Maker, and they knew deep down in their hearts that they were merely trying to deceive themselves into right or wrong if an annulment was granted when it should not have, will the official of the Church be making a case that this person should enter Paradise even though God knew this person’s heart at the time of an annulment which was unwittingly achieved, so the annulled person can assume God will immediately say, “Okay, I get it, you pass.”. No, it does not work that way. We put ourselves into perdition. Well, it pretty much is still a sore reality that people do not understand that they are the final caretakers of their souls with an informed conscience. We have but one life to live, so, why would we dare to put God to the test? If we do not really want to go to Heaven, God can oblige. If we want Heaven, don’t we want God to say, “Here is your reward, good and faithful servant.”? No man can serve two masters. We must be careful of that. It will always be a more fruitful thing to desire God and all the good that comes with following Him. So, I believe we must pray for those priests, bishops, cardinals, particularly hard now who have been giving catholics a conflictive message that only a few words does not sum up God’s mercy. His mercy is for those who choose to follow Him, not the other way around. There is obvious conflict between those in the Vatican, and we must pay closer attention to what God has been saying all the time about our salvation. If we truly love Him, we will follow Him, if we love only what we can take out of this world, all the pleasures which can be short-lived at best, we serve our own needs with very little thought of what really serves us best — the reality that God has been with us through everything, but we decide to turn away from God should our desires cause us to seek to please ourselves no matter what the cost to our soul. We must choose. Or, we still do not see how small we are, and how great beyond words, God is. We surely cannot fully comprehend His greatness. God bless. pam, from NJ.


    • DanSouthChicago says:

      Like. God bless.


      • Pam Nicholson says:

        Do many feel as I do that something here in the US seems to be changing, or in a process of change? I hope and pray it is a new resolve by folks to reclaim what they comprehend what it is to be children of God. Forgiveness is not a commodity we put much value on. We should and we must. We must teach forgiveness, and if we find it hard to forgive in any situation, God has tools for this. So, cry out for His help, and cry out to His Mother, and ask them what to do if you have this problem, but, you must really want this as badly as anything we place great value on, but moreso. The answers are there for us, they will give them, but, we must really want it as badly as a child who wants to open the presents on Christmas morning, like when you go to confession to stop doing a particular sin you really, truly want to stop doing. We must ask ourselves things about stuff we know we need to change. We cannot do it without God. But, all things are possible with God. St. Maria Goretti understood this, and, she was really a child when she was killed, but somehow she must have learned lessons on forgiveness by her mom. If you cannot forgive, you never have peace. Look what Maria Goretti had to deal with being so beautiful and having this young man leering at her and she could see for some time that unless God made a change to him, this would get worse. She may have even believed her beauty to be a curse, but, she continued her life until it was cut short, and in the end, she appeared to this killer, whom she forgave even while dying, so he would amend his life. She truly is a saint for those who have had little experience learning about the heroic virtue of this precious little saint. God bless you, St. Maria Goretti, please pray for us! pam, from NJ.


  6. Before my faith was tested in 2004, I had a zealous interest in the “Domestic Church”. Throughout my marriage I tried to set an example for other families. I believed everything good begins in the home. From the day a man and woman are joined in the Sacrament, they are saying Yes to God. Yes to all of the graces necessary to successfully build their “Church”. Those spiritual graces become the blueprints for the church. Unity frames the church. Commitment becomes its Roof. What heats the Church is Love. We need to believe again, be retaught on the tramendous grace of tthe Sacrament of marriage. Thats why we don’t get married outdoors, or trivialize this union.

    I too would be tested, I would lose my family through suicide and for a long time turn my eyes away from the altar. I was just plain mad at God, but time truly does heal and God and I are on better terms. He is so patient.

    I believe unless we can reclaim the Sacrament, build up the domestic church we are doomed. There is no other blueprint. No false union, however distorted will be blessed by God, or given his stamp of approval.

    I adopted a bishop during the synod, one with very subversive views was given to me. It was a sign, to pray hard for him and all the bishops…

    Liked by 3 people

    • Nancy says:

      Beautifully written, I am glad your relationship with God is healing.
      I love your idea about adopting a Bishop. Wow I am sure the Holy Spirit inspired you. Thank you so much for sharing. I wll adopt a Bishop and pray for him as well.

      Please pray for me I will do the same for you.

      Your sister in Christ,

      Liked by 3 people

    • NancyA says:

      Sometimes people enter into a false union in the Church. An annulment is recognition of that fact. The grace of the sacrament might be thwarted by nullity from the beginning.

      Liked by 2 people

      • John Timmons says:

        Absolutely. I had an annulment back in 1992 so I am very compassionate to people who face divorce against their will. What I wonder is may there be a tweak of a change for those who have divorce forced on them but may not qualify for an annulment.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Pam Nicholson says:

          Ever speak to a good canon lawyer? Check out the diocese you are in. You might be surprised. I will pray for you. pam, from NJ.


  7. Diane says:

    Worth a good read through or two! Our pastor read this yesterday at Mass, forgoing his homily, and he is a pastor who has a lot to say! Prayers for the Synod…Come Holy Spirit, speak to your church. Our pastor said, has no fear, no trepidation about the outcome, as he said The Holy Spirit will prevail, and nothing will prevail against the Church built upon the Rock of Peter. This gave me such peace over the Synod and all that is to come. Let us Pray the Rosary and to St. Peter, St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II. Sifting. Burnishing. Renewing. Jesus, I Trust In You, King of Mercy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Maeb says:

      Well, we are not promised the sure prevailing of the Holy Spirit over a non-ecumenical mini-council such as the synod. It is an advisory body only, and its deliberations are constrained. We are not even guaranteed the sure guidance of the Spirit in every act of governance of a Pope – far from it. But we can trust that God’s Providence holds everything.


  8. Judy says:

    A very promising start and a fine homily.


  9. Becky-TN says:



  10. Amy Hogan MD says:

    The gospel got to me today. Any chance of a Nineveh turn around in the US, or are we too late? Fatima was probably our Nineveh.


    • charliej373 says:

      The Lord is mounting a Rescue, not destruction. WE have brought destruction on ourselves, but the Lord is going to yet again Rescue us from the consequences of our actions. But this time it pleases Him to let us see the disaster we have wrought, that we may not so cavalierly ignore Him again.

      Liked by 4 people

  11. jlynnbyrd says:

    Charlie, I am praying that you will get the needed rest and healing to forge ahead and carry on with your vigorous schedule to personally reach out to enlighten and hearten the masses.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. John Timmons says:

    3 of the last 4 paragraphs seem to me as though he is exhorting the orthodox members of the clergy and particularly the audience in front of him, to open their hearts to something. I am just not exactly sure what the details are of his intentions. From what I have read elsewhere, it may be that the rules for reception of the Eucharist after divorce and re-marriage be looked at and possibly tweaked in some way. With trust in Jesus in hiw words that he will be with us always and that Pope Francis is the validly elected Vicar of Christ, I believe we must submit to the will of the Holy Spirit in these matters and not allow ourselves to be caught up in a current of schism, under the guise that we are more Catholic than the Pope. Jesus I trust in you.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Pam Nicholson says:

      Schism is borne out of scandal. Scandals and misinterpretations and the will of pride and vanity, and hopes by those who wish to cause scandal and schism will try to employ with tactics to go by a particular thing we feel but not which is true for the church. We either believe in the thing we say we believe and say it, or we can choose do fall out of the church as a whole. The church will not bend backwards to keep people in the church, rather, it is we who must decide how far forward will we allow ourselves to go to stay in step with what we say we believe. And, can we say we do it out of love and devotion for God???This catholic faith is for all who seek Christ as He said He can be found; however, if we do not agree with what we have found, we will lose it. No man can serve two masters. pam, from NJ.
      p.s. Charlie, get well, and keep writing from the heart. p.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Jason says:

    The thing is, it simply doesn’t seem possible to “tweak” those rules without at the same time either contradicting the clear words of Christ (that such second “marriages” are adulterous) or the basic principle that one must have a firm purpose of amendment in order to be validly absolved. The church already provides the answer for people who find themselves in this situation. They must live as brother and sister. This is undoubtedly a heavy cross, but God’s grace is surely sufficient.


  14. NancyA says:

    It’s constantly amazing, and very telling, how differently each person reads the same words. I saw the opposite. I read a very gentle rebuke to those who think change might be coming.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. NancyA says:

    The bishops, and the faithful were quite certain that the Church would bow to contraception…. and were flabbergasted by Humanae vitae.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Kim in Ohio says:

    Hope you feel better soon Charlie.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Meriadoc says:

    Scholar Russell Hittinger recently gave an interview in which he talked about Pope Francis. It comports well with Charlie’s description of Francis as primarily a man of action rather than a writer or a thinker. It can be read here:

    Hittinger has contributed to the writings of the last three popes, and been acquainted with each one personally. His comments on the nature of each man are interesting. They dovetail nicely with Charlie’s descriptions of St John Paul as the restorer of the ship, B XVI as the polisher and fine-tuner of the ship, and now Francis as the ship’s captain.

    Our priest mentioned Francis’s opening talk yesterday in his homily with the highest praise. It’s the best thing I’ve read by Pope Francis so far. It’s focused, pertinent, feisty, and compassionate. I hope to read more such declarations in the future. Mostly, let’s pray that we can all imitate this great man of action!

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Julia says:

    God bless our Pope.

    With all the talk about what may or may not happen. I have decided to hold on to the traditions handed down to us by our parents, grandparents and for generations. The faith of our Fathers.

    I hope and pray the Synod in Rome will support the traditional family unit.

    For me, I am going to wait for Mark Mallett to put the Popes words into layman’s language. He has been a great ‘translator’ in these matters for me in the past.

    Get well soon Charlie. I think the next right step for you today is an early night me thinks.LOL


  19. janey says:

    Can someone tell me the date, place and time Charlie will be in Houston?
    Thank you so much


    • charliej373 says:

      Janey, it is tonight at 7 p.m. at Mason Creek Community Center, 20201 Kingsland Blvd. Katy, TX 77450. It is always in the “Upcoming Events” link at the top of the page here.


  20. NancyA says:

    Are readers here familiar with the story of how Jorge Bergoglio (Pope Francis) risked his own life to save lives during the dictatorship of the military junta?

    He has led a life cultivating mercy and justice, living it.


  21. NancyA says:

    Part of Pope Francis’ opening remarks at the Synod: (found at

    I should mention that the Synod is neither a convention, nor a parlor, nor a parliament or senate, where people make deals and reach compromises. The Synod is rather an Ecclesial expression, i.e., the Church that journeys together to read reality with the eyes of faith and with the heart of God; it is the Church that interrogates herself with regard to her fidelity to the deposit of faith, which does not represent for the Church a museum to view, nor even something merely to safeguard, but is a living source from which the Church shall drink, to satisfy the thirst of, and illuminate, the deposit of life.

    The Synod moves necessarily within the bosom of the Church and of the holy people of God, to which we belong in the quality of shepherds – which is to say, as servants. The Synod also is a protected space in which the Church experiences the action of the Holy Spirit. In the Synod, the Spirit speaks by means of every person’s tongue, who lets himself be guided by the God who always surprises, the God who reveals himself to little ones, who hides from the knowing and intelligent; the God who created the law and the Sabbath for man and not vice versa; by the God, who leaves the 99 sheep to look for the one lost sheep; the God who is always greater than our logic and our calculations.


  22. bflocatholic says:

    Wonderful. Beautiful. The quote from St. John Paul II brought a tear to my eye. Love that he quoted Benedict XVI as well. Pope Francis certainly has his helmet on!! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Susie Brant says:

    Charlie- I am a new reader as of a couple of weeks. Your talks have gave me much peace. I would like to read all of Pope Francis talks. Is there a website that you use?


  24. NancyA says:

    Synod “intervention” by Archbishop Chaput :
    Just wonderful!

    All the Papal visit speeches from the US visit are on the US Bishops’website also:

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Doug says:

    Wow! That was such a beautiful message by the pope. It is nice when seeing what he really says without being filtered by the media.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s