Life’s Raging Storms


Constance Hull, over at Catholic Exchange, has written a piece upon which to reflect and you can read the full article here. Thanks to our reader, Rosalie, for bringing it to our attention.

Before I share some excerpts, I have an announcement: The first podcast is still in the making. As SteveBC noted in the comments, yesterday, beginning something new usually has some challenges. I promise you: it’s coming.

Now for the excerpts from Hull’s article: When Life Feels Like a Raging Storm.

There are periods in our lives that feel like a raging storm. The winds swirl up at high speeds, the clouds darken to a night sky mid-day, and rain pours down. The torrential downpour comes in unrelenting waves and we feel like St. Peter standing in the boat staring in fear and awe at Our Lord walking on the waves…

During periods of trial, it can be easy to stand paralyzed by the storm. We can begin to focus on the crashing waves, the wind blowing so hard we can barely stand, or to shake violently in the freezing rain. In this passage from St. Matthew, the boat was beaten by the waves from the wind, but often the storms in our lives can feel like a hurricane. Suffering, pain, anguish, affliction, and struggles in this life are meant to strengthen us, but most of us battle immense weakness in the face hardships. These are periods that can be marked by doubt, fear, anger, anxiety, mistrust, and a deep desire to flee. So, what are we to do?

Focus on Christ, not the storm

St. Peter is able to walk on water as long as he stays focused on Christ. The moment he takes his eyes off of Jesus, he begins to sink… This is also true for each one of us…

Every new downpour or crashing wave engulfs us and it becomes harder and harder to see Christ standing on the water waiting for us. Suffering always comes in waves. It is not steady, which is why we must focus on Christ and not the suffering. That is not to say that we ignore the suffering, rather, we keep our gaze fixed on Christ so He can carry the heavy load for us. In looking to Him with love and trust we are able to walk on the harshest of seas.

Get out of the boat

St. Peter firmly fixes his sights on Christ before he gets out of the boat: it is once he is on the water that he begins to doubt. We must first focus on Christ and then trust Him enough to get out of the boat…

We must get out of the boat, so that we can walk with Him through this storm. God is asking us to trust Him with every aspect of our lives, even though the process can be excruciating. The path to holiness isn’t easy, but it’s the only one worth walking.

Pray for faith

In our Fallen state, we all struggle with periods of doubt and fear. It is in times of suffering that these doubts can plague us. We can doubt God’s love for us. Question why He seems to test us so much. There may be times of anger at God or frustration. Selfishness may rear its ugly head as we have to relinquish our own will—including our plans and dreams—to God’s will. When we become paralyzed by the storms raging in our lives, we can doubt as St. Peter did walking on the sea. It is crucial in times like these that we ask the Holy Spirit to increase our faith.  Christ asks St. Peter why he had so little faith and that question can also be posed to each one of us when we doubt. Notice how Christ’s call to faith is followed by calm and peace…

Suffering is something we will all experience at one point or another in our lives. The storms of life can come on with gale force winds which nearly sweep us off of our feet. It can be difficult to keep our eyes on Christ. If we do not, then we will be plagued with doubt, anxiety, fear, and overwhelmed by the struggles of life. We will sink, just as St. Peter sinks…

He will provide all that we need to make it through the darkest of times.

Posted in Announcement, Encouragement, The Storm, Trust | 70 Comments

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

*UPDATE*

Hello everyone, this is Charlie Jr. (Chaz). I apologize for not getting the podcast out today. I had some unexpected schedule conflicts which threw my dad and I out of sync. We look to have The first episode up by Sunday. We’re both helping with conferences/ retreats this weekend. Again, sorry for the misstep. We’re getting back to the next right step as soon as possible.

********************************************************************************

As we continue in this Storm of storms, the waves of chaos become ever the more turbulent, for the winds pelt rains of confusion all around, while even our Barque of Peter has been inundated with waters bearing danger. Faith tells us Christ is near, as close as the Holy Spirit breathing in us, for the Indwelling of the Trinity is deep within the silence of our hearts – never, not even for a moment, are we forgotten. Still, it IS rough-going and we are tempted to fear, anxiety, and, perhaps, despair. Many readers have expressed their angst and dismay at the state of affairs while we teeter on the abyss of potentially world-shattering events.

In the midst of what is, I’m so excited to announce a new way of building us up which will surely hearten, calm, encourage and delight us. Charlie’s son, Chaz, is hosting a new show, The Next Right Podcast, featuring his constant, special guest: his dad, Charlie. I’m confident that as we listen to the conversations of this father-son duo, Christ’s Light will beam in the current darkness via these podcasts. Chaz has chosen audio as the means of production, thinking to provide a wide range of possibilities for us to listen in, whenever it’s convenient for each one – such as, while driving to your job, cleaning, working out or whenever else you choose to listen. Once the first show is completed, I’ll fill you in on how to access the conversation.

We’re all invited to be a part of this dynamic way of moving forward in solidarity, as we live the core message of TNRS, in these days fraught with so many unknowns.  The process of preparing for the shows will involve gathering questions from you, the readers. What are the heart cries, ponderings and issues you would like Charlie to speak to? As ever, questions must refrain from prying into prophetic details. (You knew that was coming, didn’t you? 🙂 ) From the pool of your questions, each week, five will be selected for the show. When people ask similar questions, I’ll choose one that is representative of a recurring topic. In other words, your own wording may not be exactly expressed in the phrasing of the question, but if it’s a common theme or something similar to it, it will emerge in the questioning.

You know, in any new endeavor, there will be bumps and glitches to smooth out. As a retired educator, to me, this is the fun part: adaptation. Besides, sometimes mistakes turn out to be something beautiful.

The goal is to release the first podcast on Friday, August 4th, and the comments are now open for your questions. Ask away, Friends!

 

Posted in Announcement | 408 Comments

What DOES It Mean to Trust God?

Monsignor Charles Pope has released another gem for consideration. It is I who have sought permission to reprint his articles and he allows this without supporting the prophetic elements at this site. Msgr. Pope’s blog is here should you wish to read his many articles, packed with instruction and wisdom. In this piece, he draws our focus to the very purpose of praying the Prayer for Miraculous Trust

 

What Does It Mean to Trust God? Maybe Not What You Think

We are often told to trust in God, and many of us have counseled others who are anxious or downcast to do so. But what does that mean?

In some cases, when people give this counsel they mean this: Don’t worry, God will eventually give you what want. God will come around to your way of thinking at some point. Hang in there and wait for God to answer (yourway). He’ll take care of things (in a way that pleases you).

This is not trust.

To trust is to move to the stable conviction that whatever God decides to do is the right thing. It means being at peace with what He does, what He decides. It is to accept that God often acts in paradoxical ways, in ways that are different from, or even contrary to, our notions of what is best. God often permits evils for some greater good, even if this greater good is hidden from us.

At the foot of the cross, we realize that even a total disaster can produce immense good. We call that terrible day “Good Friday” for a reason. The apparent “total loss” of that day ushered in the New Covenant and made more than enough grace and mercy available to save the entire human race—if we but ask.

Many of us have experienced difficulties that were quite devastating to us at the time. In some cases, we have subsequently come to understand why God permitted them. We can see how we grew from the experience or how new opportunities were opened to us that, while not our preference at the time, were in fact best. In other cases, however, what went through still make little sense to us. But if we have learned to trust God, we can be at peace with His apparent “No” to our desired outcome. Trust says, “It is well with my soul.”

An old hymn with that title says,

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul
.

That is trust: the ability to say, “Whatever my lot, it is well with my soul.” It is not wrong to present our wants and wishes to God, but trusting Him means being at peace with His answer, not resenting it.

We are forever asking God to bless what we are doing, but when do we ever seek what God is blessing and then do that?

Trusting God doesn’t mean thinking that He’ll eventually give me what I want. Trusting God means being at peace with whatever He wants; knowing that He wants it is enough for me; there is peace and it is well with my soul.

Posted in Encouragement, Prayer, Trust | 123 Comments

Now Is the Time

Many in this community have worked and prayed, long and hard, for an end to abortion. Now, we have new, prime opportunities to ACT as well as PRAY at a momentous juncture in the ongoing campaign to build a Culture of Life. Now is the time. The Susan B. Anthony List sent an update after the Senate, yesterday, passed the “Motion to Proceed” to begin reconciliation efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare. From the update:

Now our pro-life majority in the Senate finally has the opportunity to advance an Obamacare repeal bill that achieves two urgent priorities for thePro-Life Movement: defund Planned Parenthood and stopping our dollars from going to health insurance plans that cover abortion.

This is all happening very quickly – so I wanted to let you know what to expect next. With the approval of the Motion to Proceed, there will now be 20 legislative hours of debate on various amendments. Once these 20 hours are up, we will then enter “vote-a-rama” in which an unlimited number of amendments could be offered, each limited to just two minutes of debate. This process will play itself out over the next few days and nights.

Your SBA List team will be working through the night – tonight and tomorrow night – to analyze the amendments one-by-one to ensure that none of them weaken the bill’s protections for unborn babies and then providing quick feedback to advise our allies in the Senate on how to vote.

These protections will be subject to very close votes and decisions by the Parliamentarian which means we don’t yet know the final form the legiuslation will take. But we will continue fighting to ensure it contains the provisions necessary to defund Planned Parenthood of our tax dollars… and save lives from abortion.

By going here, each of us can take a next right step to extend support for developing life-saving legislation. Surely contacting one’s senators, stressing the desire that s/he support the defunding of Planned Parenthood is another valuable step. Already this morning, there are reports, such as this, naming the immediate activity which bespeaks that this will be a battle to behold.

The Senate has blocked a wide-ranging proposal by Republicans to repeal much of former President Barack Obama’s health care law and replace it with a more restrictive plan.

Senators voted 57-43 late Tuesday to reject the plan in the first vote on an amendment to the bill. Those voting “no” included nine defecting Republicans.

Additional signs of the fierceness of the fight can be read here, at the Life News site.

Also complicating efforts is the news that the Senate parliamentarian may have killed the Senate bill that would defund the Planned Parenthood abortion business and repeal Obamacare.

Senate Republicans have been using the reconciliation Bill to get around a filibuster by pro-abortion Democrats who oppose defunding the nation’s biggest abortion company and repealing prohibition Obamacare that has included taxpayer-financed abortions.

The parliamentarian issued guidance saying that key portions of the defunding measure require 60 votes to pass. That’s a departure from the ruling the parliamentarian issued in 2015 concerning the same bill to repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood. The ruling then paved the way for a 50-vote passage and sending the bill to pro-abortion President Barack Obama, who vetoed it.

Getting 50 votes for the bill to defund Planned Parenthood has been a difficult enough prospect because three pro-abortion Republican women oppose defunding the Planned Parenthood abortion business. Requiring 60 votes for ultimate passage of the legislation would essentially kill it.

But there could be a solution.

Giving full assent to God’s Plan and Providence, His Power over all His creation and His Wisdom which has allowed evil to exist, we can simply note: We who oppose a culture of death and have worked and prayed for a Culture of Life, have been, and in a way now potent with the possibility of thrusting a mortal blow, extinguishing Planned Parenthood, are squarely confronting Our Mother’s adversary in these critical hours of work in the Senate. Let us rise in solidarity with all in our land who profess the primacy of the right to life as THE foundational issue in promoting and protecting every right of every individual.

 It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop. A society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized. Only respect for life can be the foundation and guarantee of the most precious and essential goods of society, such as democracy and peace. (Pope John Paul II, Evangelium vitae (1995), no. 101)

All pro-life organizations are running full steam ahead to stay on top of the developments and, then, alert people to take next right steps. Let us fully respond. Now is the time.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 15 Comments

Save Us O Lord; Carry Us Back; Rouse Your Power and Come

Children’s Rosary Prayer Group – Meets Daily in Pakistan

Surveying the condition of the world and its people, near and far, one can only imagine what the shape of things would be without Our Mother’s children, both young and old, offering her millions of penances and prayers, throughout the day, with an equal plentitude of loving next right steps to present to our Father at His Throne. Deo Gratias as hearts continue to cry, Maranatha! The screeching winds, swirling seas and violent lightening strikes bespeak the reality that the hour is late in this Time of Choosing. And within THE Choice for God are myriad choices to be made, day by day, moment by moment, to ensure we fall not prey to hopelessness and despair. Jesus, our Emmanuel, has never left us and He never will; it is we who are tempted to turn away in discouargement, losing heart – yet, we can choose, instead, to believe, to trust and to hope in Him.

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. (2Corintians 4:8)

Many of our commenters have expressed their choice to dial back on news intake and detach from additional life activities which trigger internal unrest and outright agitation. In understanding this choice, I’ve become very selective about what I read and view by seeking the wisdom of spiritual and temporal writers and speakers who bring depth of understanding and insight to the issues we face. To this end, I’ve long appreciated the writings of a great voice crying in the wilderness of our times, Fr. Dwight Longenecker. One of his recent pieces, Sparado, Straw Men and Scapegoats, is a well reasoned and piquant response to the article written by Antonio Spadaro (edit- the article is co-authored with Marcelo Figueroa), in  La Civiltà Cattolica, which some of our commenters have mentioned and many Catholic writers have analyzed. Excerpt from Fr. Longenecker:

“The article that everybody is talking about at La Civiltà Cattolica can be read here

The problem is that the authors are commenting on something they don’t know about from personal experience. It’s all theory from a few books they’ve read and perhaps a few conversations with fellow intellectuals in some coffee shop in Europe.

The American Evangelical scene is far more complex and crazy than these guys understand. Their snide comment, for instance about Evangelical fundamentalists being mostly “white men from the deep South” is a racist bigoted comment on the level of Obama’s famous and fatuous wisecrack about country folk who “cling to their religion and guns” or Mrs Clinton’s “basket of deplorables”…

But the main problem is that in the second half Spadaro and Figuerao attempt to throw Catholic conservatives into the same pick up truck as the “stupid Evangelicals”. They come up with a name “Catholic Integralists”. This shadowy group want to create a “theocracy” and go to war with the Muslims etc. etc. As others have pointed out, such American Catholics only exist in the imagination of Spadaro and Figueroa…”

Victor Davis Hanson is another writer and speaker who provides clarity amidst mass confusion. His piece, “The Fifth American War,” reflects exactly what Charlie has written and spoken about, extensively, after having revealed these things more than twenty years ago to his spiritual directors. Here’s a peek at Hanson’s beginning:

“The country is coming apart, and the advocates of radical egalitarianism are winning. The wars between Trump, the media, the deep state, and the progressive party — replete with charges and counter-charges of scandal, collusion, and corruption — are merely symptoms of a much larger fundamental and growing divide between Americans that is reaching a dangerous climax.

On four prior occasions in American history the country nearly split apart, as seemingly irreconcilable cultural, economic, political, social, geographical, and demographic fault lines opened a path to hatred and violence.”

Charlie has recommended Cardinal Sarah’s newest book and I, too, have been savoring this gem. Sweet silence, in contemplation and communion, restores peace and equilibrium in these days, nearly overwhelming with the noise of the Storm with its chaos, confusion and division. The holy silence provides opportunity to rest near the Lord’s Heart – as surely as St. John did while reclining at table – for us,  it’s reclining in the stern of the Barque of Peter, safe and resting in the Lord, a respite from raging waters, praying: Save us O Lord; carry us back; rouse your power and come.

Excerpt from Robert Cardinal Sarah’s newest book: The Power of Silence – Against the Dictatorship of Noise:

God carries us, and we live with him at every moment by keeping silence. Nothing will make us discover God better than his silence inscribed in the center of our being. If we do not cultivate this silence, how can we find God? Man likes to travel, create, make great discoveries. But he remains outside of himself, far from God, who is silently in his soul. I want to recall how important it is to cultivate silence in order to be truly with God. Saint Paul, drawing on the Book of Deuteronomy, explains that we will not encounter God by crossing the seas, because he is in our heart:

But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. (Romans 10:6-9, drawing from Deuteronomy 30:12-14, 16)

Posted in Uncategorized | 44 Comments

He Who Follows Me Will Not Walk in Darkness

The initial post about Fr. Robert Spitzer’s newest book, The Light Shines on in the Darkness, simply introduced it with endorsements from well-known contemporary spiritual writers. Let’s take a closer look at but a few of Father’s theological underpinnings which led him to write this compendium on suffering. In the book’s introduction, Father gets right to the truth that suffering is a gift:

Suffering is darkness, leading to light – if we let it…

In its initial moments it hurts, distresses, enervates, isolates, threatens and discourages – obscuring and even eclipsing the light of love, joy and peace that calls us to our true home…

There is no need to remain in the darkness, because we have been told by Jesus there is light – love, joy, peace and home – in every kind and instance of suffering, light that can transform us into a perfect reflection of God’s unconditionally loving nature. If we want to overcome the darkness – to transform it into even greater light than we experienced before the darkness – we will have to be able to see the light in the darkness, and then follow it. But this can be a challenge, because the darkness of suffering can be quite overwhelming – and when suffering is particularly acute, the darkness can seem all-encompassing…

To meet the challenge, Fr. Spitzer invites us to consider:

Jesus has made multiple promises to us – and every one of them is true…

Some of these promises are:

*Blessed are the sorrowing, for they shall be consoled. (Mt 5:4; Father’s translation)

*Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. (Mt. 11-28)

*I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (Jn 8:12)

*Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. (Jn 16:20)

Father advises us to take these promises to heart, for, says he:

“If we take Jesus’ promises to heart – if we believe that He will fulfill them now and in His Kingdom – then we will begin to see His light in the darkness… If we have faith in the promises of Jesus, the light will intensify through the darkness, and it will lead to the love and joy of Jesus Himself.

Fr. Spitzer’s expressed goal in writing his book is

“… to point us to the light in the darkness – the light of Jesus, His Father and the Holy Spirit – so that we might more easily follow it.”

And, surely, in following it, by ever acknowledging God and asking for Holy Spirit’s help, we are illumined to take our next right steps, so that God may transform us to BE His Light of Hope for those around us.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Mt 5:14-16)

Friends, in these last years of becoming part of TNRS community, I have heard – we all have heard – from many who are suffering great trials, enduring the seemingly unendurable, yet, we know God never ever gives us more than we can handle. He is with us always and, immediately, enters with us into each struggle in which we suffer. Even so, He waits for us to ask Him for help. In all candor, I remain in the thick of current challenges. Not whining and not wasting a bit of it, but it is real and raw in these days for me, as it is for so many of you and for so many we encounter all around us.

Little did I know when I ordered Fr. Spitzer’s latest book that it would affirm and articulate so well what I intuitively perceive as I live what cannot be escaped and I have discovered it is not only a compendium on suffering but also a treasury of consolation.

Father enfleshes and deepens understanding of the concepts he presents via rich detail in his book. If your preferred intake style is hearing rather than reading, you would likely benefit from the You Tube recordings of his presentations, such as this discussion of the nine Christian foundations for “suffering well.”

In future posts, we’ll focus on Father’s wisdom thoughts related to the truth that fear is useless; what is needed is trust. I’ll also share his suggested spontaneous prayers which he says can become immediate conduits of grace. We’ll consider his practical techniques for mitigating fear and anxiety. Lastly, I think it would be of great value to share Father’s suggested practices which help us CHOOSE and ACCEPT consolation.

Charlie has often written, in his posts and comments, uplifting and encouraging all who are immersed in intense suffering. His piece, The Fiery Trial of Love, is worthy of reread if you find yourself bearing heavy burdens at this time.

And I believe there is a wealth of wisdom on “suffering well” which can be shared by those in this community of believers as not one of us is immune from trials and we embrace the Lord’s dictum:

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. (Mt 16:24)

In my own times of difficulty, using a simple prayer which I learned from Fr. Spitzer long ago, I reach to God, telling Him I KNOW He is near and I KNOW He loves me, then I follow with a request that He would help me. Most often, this results in being washed in a Peace which I am not capable of producing on my own. In this I KNOW He hears me and He cares deeply, just as He said He would:

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Mt 7:11)

As the darkness deepens all around us, let us take heart in this truth expressed in Fr. Spitzer’s introduction:

There is no need to remain in the darkness, because we have been told by Jesus there is light – love, joy, peace and home – in every kind and instance of suffering, light that can transform us into a perfect reflection of God’s unconditionally loving nature… If we have faith in the promises of Jesus, the light will intensify through the darkness, and it will lead to the love and joy of Jesus Himself.”

May it be in each of our lives. We are blessed!

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 111 Comments

Signs of the Times

Pilgrims

By Charlie Johnston

(This is an adaptation of a note I sent out to a group of friends and leaders last weekend. Several said they found it heartening enough that they thought I should submit it as a regular post. So I have. – CJ)

I find a lot of people, including the most knowledgeable, talking to me lately about how perilous the times are and what to expect. Understandable. North Korea is a tinder box, China is trying to provoke mischief, Eastern Europe is a tinderbox – and Western Europe, amazingly, even more so. Russia is making mischief, even as it tries to figure out a coherent strategy in a world gone mad. The Middle East is volatile, as is Northern Africa and Southeast Asia. Venezuela is a burning fuse in South America – and the USA is only a few steps away from open, violent conflict. The Church, traditionally the refuge in times of great crisis, is itself in great crisis, as too many Bishops think their job is to correct what they believe to be the many errors of Christ, with seeming encouragement from the top. Catholics gaze in wonder as abortion advocates, jihadists, radical population control advocates, homosexual activists and just about anyone who scorns Catholic Doctrine are welcomed at the Vatican and even appointed to Pontifical Commissions while Orthodox prelates are routinely and summarily dismissed and scolded.

As Our Lord said, “You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky; but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?” (Luke 12:56). When every institution and nation is become as unstable as a crateful of nitro-glycerin loaded on a monster truck at an Oklahoma rally, something is going to blow. Yet Our Lord said that He is with us to the end of the age – and that the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church. Our Lady told us of all these trials – and more – at Fatima, but promised that in the end, her Immaculate Heart will triumph. I know that both of their promises are true. Now the hour of darkness comes upon the world. But be not afraid: the darkness will not prevail.

I have had much instruction since the Inauguration. Yet there is no use in speaking of specifics. In fact, it would just confuse the issue – kind of like the mirror of Galadriel near the end of the Fellowship of the Rings. (I am reading the trilogy again – and it could be useful for you, as well. There is MUCH wisdom in there, which I have come to appreciate intensely). Things are bigger than I had imagined – and simultaneously easier and more terrible. A key reason is that God is moving in a way that is completely different than He has before. That should not have surprised me: when little minds argue that something can’t be from God because He has “never done it that way before,” I always chuckle ruefully. God is always startling, fresh and new. If something happens in a way that God HAS done it before, that is usually (not always) a sign of inauthenticity – that it is not from God but merely one of the satan’s pale imitations. The good news is that God will intervene on an Old Testament scale. The bad news is that this will enrage many people, causing them to double down on their revolt rather than come back to Him. The truly tragic news is that some of those who will be enraged against God are among those who count themselves as defenders of the faith.

The very best news is that we will each get the opportunity to choose. I have emphasized that before, but it is more important than even I knew. We can choose to serve God and help rebuild the culture or choose to serve ourselves and perish. Your choice will be proven by what you do, not by what you say. We cannot change that the darkness comes, nor are we necessary for God to secure the victory. All of this is, in large measure, so that we are forced to choose. So most of this note is a meditation on how we are to behave so as to firmly choose God and please Him.

After my blunder on the Inauguration, a good friend who knew how much I loved the Jeff Bridges version of the movie, “True Grit,” called me and recited my favorite line from the movie: “Well, that didn’t pan out.” It was after Bridges mounted an attack that went south and utterly failed. I love it because Bridge’s character, Rooster Cogburn, did not even think of trying to shift blame, nor did he even think of giving up. He laconically acknowledged the blunder, then moved on to the next step to complete his job. My friend waited about a week, lest I be sensitive about it, but when she called and greeted me with that line, it was my first big belly laugh about the whole situation. This encapsulates, in miniature, what our disposition is called to be in these times. The very best of you, even given the best information, are going to come up with plans that just don’t pan out. It is the human condition – and we are called to remember we are servants, not masters…that God knows what He is about – and even uses our blunders to further His Divine plan to perfection.

It is worth reading the Books of Moses again. No one, except perhaps Abraham (and later, the Apostles) had as direct a pipeline to God as Moses. Yet they wandered the desert for 40 years. Look at a map of the journey involved. A generous estimate is that from beginning to end, it was maybe 1,500 miles, which should have taken around a year (again generous). But they wandered in circles…for 40 years. Yes, the Jews had seen a multitude of miracles. Even so, given that they knew that Moses had a direct pipeline to God, their frustration had a sort of point: “if God is showing you the way, why are we wandering so aimlessly for so terribly long?” God’s ways are not like our ways. While we want to take the most direct and quickest route, in God’s plan, the journey is every bit as important as the destination – for it is the journey which proves and purifies us – and makes us fit for the destination. Yet because we insist on overlaying our way of thinking onto God, we constantly insist His way makes no sense. God’s purpose is to get us to heaven, not to any earthly advantage or destination. If we could see the fullness of what that means, we would be much more docile to seeming setbacks. It is not God’s plan that is deficient, but our expectations.

You are all leaders, called to serve God by being a sign of hope to His people during times of extremis. You are called to live your duty faithfully, with docility, fortitude and initiative. It pleases God that, in this time of our scourging (which we richly deserve), seldom will we be given simple choices between right and wrong. More often our options will be bad, worse, and truly atrocious. How we choose under those circumstances will purify and enlighten us – if it does not destroy us. I told you sometime back that I was instructed long ago by the Lord, Himself, that I would be held accountable for every soul I could have given effective witness to but did not out of anger…and that I would be held accountable for every assault on the faithful that I could have stopped but did not out of fear or false charity. This is humanly impossible – and I am NOT allowed to not act. It can only be done with fear and trembling and complete trust in God, for I have made many mistakes and will make many more before all is done. Welcome to the club, all of you.

Your most important tools in this time are love of your neighbor, expressed through duty and honor in filial love for God. It is, in part, good not to see too much with clarity because that can become a seduction to you. You see something alarming and you want to go fix it – but you know not what God’s plans are. This a tough lesson, but one God is insistent on. I thank God that I was given many lessons in it from the earliest days in order to blunt this instinct. There were a couple of occasions over the last few decades when people I loved were in places where I knew a catastrophe loomed. Every nerve in my body screamed to warn them, but I was not given leave. Having had the experience on more than a few occasions when I was younger of intervening despite God’s strictures – and thus making matters worse…or even bringing on the ill I sought to avoid…I learned a stronger docility. I prayed intensely and constantly while going about my little duty faithfully. You will learn to do the same, though I hope by less harsh means than I did. The best thing you can do for anyone is to do the little duty right in front of you with love and fidelity. Do not worry whether it humanly seems great or small. That is God’s business, not yours. Besides, our perception is so deficient that often what seems great to us is a trifle to God and what seems a trifle to us is great to God.

Vanity is, by far, your deadliest enemy – and the means by which the noblest souls are taken captive by the devil. Whenever you get caught in a sterile argument seeking simply to prove you are right, step back. If your conversational partner merely wants to prove he is right – ignoring or evading those key points that must be considered, step back. In the first case, you are not arguing honestly. In the second, you are not arguing with an honest opponent. In neither case can good come – and in both cases it leaves opening for the devil. Yes, you must vigorously seek to find the truth, but when you have decided, you must cast your bread upon the water with both humility and fortitude. Not all discussion leads to truth – and discussion that can only lead to a brawl is best left behind as soon as it is indisputable that this is where it is headed. If you are charged with making the decision for a group, seek counsel. When you are satisfied you have heard all you can without going into vain repetition, make the decision firmly and without malice. To fail to make a decision leaves those associated with you rudderless and paralyzed. To make a decision without seeking counsel makes you an autocrat. Act with justice and prudence always – and when a decision must be made quickly, do so without looking back. Having made a habit of both taking counsel and acting decisively when you do have time, you will find those decisions you have to make when you don’t have the luxury of time are much better because of your habitual discipline. Now one could argue that I am often hot-tempered and combative. True enough, but those who know me best know that while I am often bold, I am rarely brash. Plus, there is another factor that most do not know. When it comes to my own interpretations or preferences, I am always willing to consider – and even eager – to get fresh insight. When it comes to something I am directed to from above, I do not cede anything. Often, when it appears that I am defending my own opinion, I am actually vigorously protecting those things that are prime directives.

The satan is very subtle in how he inflames vanity. Often, insecurity is merely a perverse form of pride. Stay away from self-absorption of all kinds. If you are constantly worrying where you fit in or whether your work is good enough, you are at the edge of vanity – for you put far more emphasis on your role in the unfolding drama and not nearly enough on the work itself. My mother was prone to this. She was ever uncertain about herself and how she was coming off – and was largely clumsy and ineffective because of it. But when her dander was up, when she got completely outside of herself for a cause, she was magnificent. I told her after our relations became very warm again that this was true. She pondered and agreed – but told me how terribly hard it was to get outside herself…that something had to be big enough for her to forget to think of or care what people thought of her for it to kick in. It is no wonder…she had some brutally tough things to deal with and ugly people when she was little. But I am grateful that after we spoke of it, while she could not call up at will the effortless competence that she had when her blood was up, she was able to act comfortably far more consistently. The devil uses our pride, our shame, our guilt and our uncertainty to hobble us. Stay focused on the work with humility and fortitude and all will be well.

Remember that there is no coercion in Christ. He calls us freely and respects our conscience. We gain converts by, first, the witness of our lives and, second, the persuasiveness of our arguments. That is not to say Christians should be milquetoasts. While we cannot force anyone to be Christian, we must also forcefully defend Christians from assaults by the enemies of the faith. We will not coerce anyone’s conscience neither will we suffer our own to be coerced.

I know many are dismayed by the strange doings in the Church. I count myself among them. I think of the Church as a great hospital for souls, founded by the Divine Physician, who commanded His followers to carry on and do likewise in His name. At times we have had “doctors” who were all doctrine and no pastoral care: who eagerly diagnosed the illnesses, but were so disgusted by the sick that they would do no doctoring. That is a betrayal of the Master – and they will be held to account for the arrogant tyrants they are. That is not the main problem now. Today we have “doctors” who, faced with a deadly disease, have no answer except to tell the dying patient he is okay just as he is while congratulating themselves on their mercy. Vain fools! Their “mercy” is to condemn their patients to death, merely soothing them in their misery. They are passive serial killers of the soul – and they will be held to account for their betrayal of the Master. In his magnificent new book, “The Power of Silence,” Robert Cardinal Sarah says that “Bishops who scatter the sheep that Jesus has entrusted to them will be judged mercilessly and severely by God.” But throughout the ages, the tares have always grown alongside the wheat – sometimes in abundance among the laity, sometimes among the consecrated. And in all ages, God has raised up just the sort of saints needed to protect His Church and defend the faithful. When Martin Luther began his dissent, there was just cause for dissent. Yet he was not content to call for reform of abuses. Had he just chased out the rats of abuse, he could have been a great reformer. But he chose to try to blow up the castle to get rid of the rats – and brought terrible divisions into Christianity. Let us resist the rats while carefully preserving the castle. In all ages, whether the bulk of corruption is found in the sheep or the shepherds – or both – we can always choose to be faithful…and the God of abundance takes those little seeds of faithfulness and multiplies them gloriously until the Church is renewed. Every period of fallow faith is merely prelude to a great new flowering. So we are called to be seeds of a great new flowering of the faith that we cannot yet see.

Recently, a friend on the team described my style of leadership as “Leadership by giving away leadership.” I like that a lot. God gives us each unique characteristics, with particular strengths. When we lead, we exercise our creative capacity – a fundamental way in which we are created in the Divine Image. If a group is led by one charismatic figure who insists it all be done his way, you unleash the creative capacity of one person. When all in the group take counsel with one another, but each is given deference in his own area of responsibility, you unleash the creative capacity of all. It is the difference between lighting a candle and firing up a great power plant. The creative capacity of all, working in unity (but not uniformity), is the nuclear power of human endeavors. So I say bear with each other and bear each other up, not just in matters of style, but in matters of judgment where the range of licit choices may vary. That is supremely important now when many choices will be between bad, worse, and truly atrocious. To insist that your conscience must be everyone’s conscience is to destroy unity for the sake of uniformity, barring of course, actual illicit means that are Magisterially forbidden in all cases. Let us not be a hand that condemns a foot because it is not a hand (1 Corinthians 12). Sometimes autocratic leaders give their subordinates leave until those subordinates make a blunder – then reassert control. I say anyone who makes no blunders is not doing enough. Support honorable colleagues at all times. Rejoice in their successes and bear them up in their failures. Cover their mistakes with your competence as you depend on them to cover your mistakes with their competence. You will thereby forge an unbreakable solidarity in good times and in bad. In these times, God calls forth a symphony of talented followers, no one-man bands.

Know that, if you are the most brilliant person in the history of the world, there is much more you don’t know than that you do. All the temporal knowledge, all the temporal power, all the money in history is a pitiful impoverished thing in the sight of heaven. The only thing any of these things is good for is how they can help us lead our fellows to Him who is all things – and for that purpose, they are great gifts, indeed. Thus, St. Thomas Aquinas was absolutely right when, after receiving a vision near the end of his life, proclaimed all his writings to be so much straw. But it was straw that led people to Christ, so rich is his reward. He spun the straw of his words into the gold of souls gained to Christ. The richest, most powerful, most brilliant man who uses his gifts to aggrandize himself is a piteous eunuch. The simplest who cares for his brother and brings one to share in the joy of Christ is a great man. How often are those who are considered great on earth regarded with pity and contempt in heaven – and those despised on earth held in the greatest honor in heaven! Bear each other up, cover each other’s failings.

People often say I have a gift for conveying complex notions with vivid simplicity…and I suppose I do. But the truth is that one of my greatest frustrations is how poorly I am able to explain the true beauty of what I am shown with such tender clarity. If people could only see the goodness of the Lord, the tender and intense love He has for each of us, even a hint of the true paradise He has prepared for us, they would worry not at all about who has the biggest bucket in this little sandbox of our mortal lives. How I wish I could explain it with real convincing power, but I take consolation that, even in my clumsy way, I seem to have sparked some hope and love in some people these last few years. That we may be neighbors in heaven…now there is a worthy goal.

Make your case with vigor, act decisively in what you are responsible for, always leaving room for the knowledge that our ways are not God’s ways. I have long thought that Judas’ fault was not that he did not believe, but that he could not get beyond the bounds of his own limited perspective. I think he DID believe Jesus was the Messiah…but Judas only thought in terms of a temporal kingdom. He did not seek to betray Jesus, I don’t think, but to force His hand, to make Him reveal His supreme power…to get on with the business of restoring the kingdom of David. He substituted his judgment for that of God – and a great tragedy was that he could not even conceive that if Jesus was Messiah, that He could have a different, better plan than Judas. Let us not be Judases, eager to denounce what we have not the wit to imagine the scope of in God’s intentions. Trust Him even when we do not at all understand why He permits what He permits.

On a very bright note, Donald Trump gave a truly inspirational and noble speech in Poland. Of course, when a man speaks eloquently of faith, family, fortitude and freedom under God that gets right to the heart of what is most important to me. Even if it is not strong enough yet to forestall the darkness around us, I am grateful that we now have a core of people in government who are committed enough to those things that we can think in terms of preservation and restoration in America. This truly is global in its scope, but it is good to have something to build on.

If, somehow, this darkness fades away without the need for battle or confrontation, I will be deeply grateful and enjoy my retirement. But if as seems likely, it degenerates into a great struggle, I pray to do my little duty faithfully until the end, knowing that God will set all things right again in His good time and endeavoring to cooperate with Him in driving away the smoke that has obscured the glorious light of Christ in this poor, bleeding world of ours. You probably assume that I have reason for sending you such a long rambling missive. I don’t know exactly what is going to happen or when, but if it does, I wanted to share with you some of the mainstays of what guide me in hopes that some of it may fortify you whatever challenges come. If the “invasion of Poland” moment comes, I will probably vanish for a short time to make camp in the mountains, to pray and seek instruction in the silence. It will be brief, certainly not as much as two weeks. But should it come, I do not want you to think I have fled or been taken.

God bless all of you. You have different strengths, different characteristics, different charisms. There is no uniformity among all of us friends, but may there ever be the unity that will help us show the light of the world in all His glory! Defend the faith, hearten the faithful, defend the faithful: that is our charge, to the service of Our Lord under the banner of Our Lady.

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The Light Shines on in the Darkness

A man of incredible intellect and energy, Fr. Robert J. Spitzer, S.J., Ph.D., noticed a marked decrease in faith among college students when he was President of Gonzaga University, 1998-2009, so he founded the Magis Center with the following mission and goal in mind:

Our Mission: To provide a comprehensive and rational response to today’s “secular myths”.
Our Goal: To restore, reconstruct, and revitalize belief in God, the transcendent dignity of every human person, the significance of virtue, the higher levels of happiness, love, and freedom, and the real presence of Jesus Christ. We will find and return lost sheep to the Good Shepherd.

Through his research, Fr. Spitzer discovered four predominant myths which were contributing to the loss of faith in God and he set out to address them in his work:

The Conflict between Faith and Science.

The Conflict between Suffering and Love.

The Conflict between Christian Virtue and Freedom (and Moral Relativism)

Skepticism about the Significance and Reality of Jesus.

On Friday nights, Fr. Spitzer teaches and fields questions, based on his work, during his EWTN-hosted program, Fr. Spitzer’s Universe. Episodes of these programs can be found on You Tube. In addition to teaching via his dynamic speaking presentations, Father is a prolific writer and I highly recommend his latest book: The Light Shines on in the Darkness, Transforming Suffering through Faith (Happiness, Suffering and Transcendence)I’ll feature excerpts from this book in future posts because they are rich in discussing the theological foundations of suffering – not in an abstract way, but with real-life, heart-capturing ideas – and in offering concrete, practical prayers and exercises which facilitate our ability to remain connected with Christ, even during the most difficult trials.

We know, intellectually, we must trust God and, by His Grace, we continue to grow in this virtue as we strive to choose trust at all times. We also know this Storm will continue to intensify and, surely, we can see the necessity of such purification for our sick and troubled world. Charlie has often assured us that the events of the Storm will become an instrument to awaken God’s people and bring us back to complete reliance on Him. But how easily sane and serene thinking fly out the window when we’re saturated in chaos with commensurate intense emotions. My ardent desire in manning this post is to accomplish what we all on TNRS Team hold dear: we continue traversing the Storm, in solidarity, heartening, edifying, inspiring, interceding in prayer and supporting each other in any possible way, perhaps, in ways yet unseen. For now, let me more completely introduce Father’s new book, which was released on May 1st of this year, by including the following endorsements:

Simply one of the finest works ever compiled on the mystery of suffering. Fr. Robert Spitzer’s “The Light Shines On In The Darkness: Transforming Suffering through Faith (Happiness, Suffering, and Transcendence)” could be considered a “catechism of suffering,” but not one rooted in misery, but rather anchored in the experience of God’s great mercy and redemptive sacrifice. This is a book of hope and one that should be experienced by all Christians, and in particular, those who minister in any way shape or form in the New Evangelization. Why would a loving God allow suffering? Is there any good that can be brought forth from our trials? So much more is addressed in this opus. I could not put this book down. Pick it up, you won’t regret it!

“Suffering has the power to break or elevate the human spirit. Lived in the spirit of the Gospel and borne for the sake of others, it’s the most redemptive, transfiguring force in creation. Fr. Spitzer has written a magisterial work on the meaning of suffering, a work remarkable both for its depth and beauty.”
— Most Rev. Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Philadelphia

 

“In this trenchant and searching book, Fr. Spitzer responds to the most powerful objection to the proposition that God exists, namely, the problem of suffering. And he dares to do what very few are willing to do today: to articulate how evil and pain are ingredients in the providential design of a loving God.”
–Bishop Robert Barron, Host, Catholicism film series

 

“Fr. Spitzer draws not only from his singular intellect, but also from the deep well of his personal experience and suffering. God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. It’s edifying to see how true this is even in a man of such stature. This book is ultimately about the personal crisis of suffering everybody goes through, but nobody’s prepared for. This book is invaluable.”
Scott Hahn, Ph.D., Author, Rome Sweet Home

A wonderful interview with Fr. Spitzer concerning his new book is found here.

From Charlie’s post about the Prayer of Miraculous Trust:

“A prayer to abandon yourself to trust in God; to bind yourself to His will with trust rather than trying to bind Him to yours. Pope Francis called Our Lady of Guadalupe the “Virgin of Tepeyac” at her last feast day. Tepeyac Hill is where she appeared, not Guadalupe, hence the title Our Lady of Tepeyac, Mother of Conversion. At its deepest level, this is a prayer that we all convert ourselves to God’s Holy Will.

Back of card: PRAYER OF MIRACULOUS TRUST:  (This prayer is to help you turn things over to God, trusting that once you have done so, whatever He then allows is for your eternal good and that of those you love.  It lets you ask what you want of God, then closes by abandoning yourself to what God wants of you.  Do not say it more than once for any particular intention, as this is an abandonment to trust)

Begin by asking for the help of Our Lady of Tepeyac, then cross yourself and say:

By the power of Our Lord, Jesus Christ; to the honor of Our Lady, the Immaculate Conception; in service to her Immaculate Heart; I ask you Lord (state intention here and ask for the intercession of the saint of your choice).  I thank you for hearing my prayer.  Thy will be done.  Amen.

Cross yourself again, and give it over to God entirely with trust.”

I saw a pithy saying last week I will end with: “Don’t worry about tomorrow. God is already there.”

 

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Our Lady of America, Pray for Us

Our Lady of America

(A recent article by our friend, Dan Lynch.  His website, Dan Lynch Apostolates, is found here.)

Johnny Depp and Other “Kill Trump” Celebrities
Dan Lynch

Johnny Depp and other “Kill Trump” celebrities by their words and actions have made implied threats upon the life of our duly elected President, Donald Trump. Regardless of his apparent character defects, the Catholic Catechism recognizes our duty to honor his authority and to treat him with respect. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1900). He certainly has a natural right to life as recognized by our Founders.

On the eve of the celebration of our country’s Declaration of Independence, we must recognize and defend God’s natural law that our Founders recognized. Thomas Jefferson wrote the immortal words in the Declaration, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Last month, actor Johnny Depp alluded to the assassination of President Lincoln by actor John Wilkes Booth, with an apparent reference to President Trump, by asking a crowd, “When was the last time an actor killed a President?…It has been awhile and maybe it is time.” The crowd cheered.

Last May, celebrity Kathy Griffin posed for abhorrent photos holding a mask that looked like the bloodied head of President Trump. How do you think that would affect his innocent children? President Trump tweeted, “My children, especially my 11 year-old son, Barron, are having a hard time with this. Sick!”

At January’s Women’s March on Washington, celebrity Madonna mused in a speech that she’d “thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House.”

A summer production of Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar in New York City had a President Trump look-alike actor dressed like our President who played the part of Julius Caesar. He was bloodily assassinated on stage with the implication that President Trump’s presidency should end in the same way.

We should recognize and honor our President’s legitimate authority and respect his dignity and his life and not make him an implied target for assassination. St. Paul said to pray “for all in authority, [such as our President] that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.” (1Timothy 2:1-4).

The Catholic Catechism teaches us:

  • Human society can be neither well-ordered nor prosperous unless it has some people invested with legitimate authority to preserve its institutions and to devote themselves as far as is necessary to work and care for the good of all….
  • Every human community needs an authority to govern it. The foundation of such authority lies in human nature. It is necessary for the unity of the state. Its role is to ensure as far as possible the common good of the society.
  • The authority required by the moral order derives from God: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” (Romans 13:1-2; cf. 1 Peter 2:13-17).
  • The duty of obedience requires all to give due honor to authority and to treat those who are charged to exercise it with respect, and, insofar as it is deserved, with gratitude and good-will. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1897-1900).

Let us pray for President Trump, Pope St. Clement of Rome’s ancient prayer for political authorities:  “Grant to them, Lord, health, peace, concord, and stability, so that they may exercise without offense the sovereignty that you have given them. Master, heavenly King of the ages, you give glory, honor, and power over the things of earth to the sons of men. Direct, Lord, their counsel, following what is pleasing and acceptable in your sight, so that by exercising with devotion and in peace and gentleness the power that you have given to them, they may find favor with you.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1900).

The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared in Indiana to the visionary Sister Mildred in 1956 and identified herself as “Our Lady of America, The Immaculate Virgin, Patroness of your land.” She promised peace and protection if we responded to her requests.

Change will come to America either through violence or conversions. Let us pray through Our Lady of America her Novena for conversions, true change and hope and for her promised peace and protection, especially for our President.

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Another Fortnight for Freedom

(Each year dioceses around the country arrange special events to highlight the importance of defending religious freedom. This year the Fortnight for Freedom is from June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day.  It is I who have requested permission from Msgr. Charles Pope to reprint his articles. ~Beckita)

Fortnight for Freedom: Please Spend Some Time Working and Praying to Defend Your Religious Freedom

By Msgr Charles Pope                                                                                                June 22, 2017

There has been a steady erosion of religious liberty in the United States in recent years. It has been challenged through a broad range of incidents, requirements from the medical world, health insurance mandates, and court decisions. We often take our religious freedom for granted, but it is under substantive though sometimes subtle challenge. We are in the midst of a sea change; we are being told that religion has no place in the marketplace, in the public forum.

It is one thing to request that the government, in its official capacity, refrain from sponsoring sectarian prayer, but it is quite another to tell believers that they are not allowed to express their religion, refer to God, or pray in any sort of public way.

Further, religious exemptions — historically granted when religious beliefs and government policy collide — are gradually being removed, not included at all, or interpreted so strictly that they can never apply. Catholic institutions are gradually being pressured to provide contraceptives in medical plans, to cooperate in adoptions by gay couples or single parents, to provide spousal benefits to gay couples, and to cooperate in providing abortion coverage (by not being able to opt out of plans that provide such coverage).

Some of the erosion of religious liberty is subtle, hidden deep in the details of legislation and the strict interpretations of various judges. It requires the Church and other religious organizations to fight on multiple fronts in a wearying number of cases involving (arcane but significant) legal minutia.

On some level, the erosion of religious liberty is simply due to the sheer number of legal maneuvers occurring in multiple jurisdictions simultaneously. The Church and other religious entities may win an individual battle in one case only to have to face multiple appeals and similar battles in other jurisdictions. Keeping the faithful organized and alert, and maintaining the legal resources to meet every challenge is difficult. It is a kind of death by a thousand cuts.

Consider the following small sample involving the Church and/or fellow Christians:

•  Catholics Charities no longer able to provide adoption services –  As reported by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), “Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington — which has provided support to children and families for over eighty years — had a partnership with the District of Columbia for its foster care and public adoption program.  However, in 2010, a law redefining legal marriage to include two people of the same sex took effect.  The District then informed Catholic Charities that it would no longer be an eligible foster care and adoption partner.  Why?  Because, as a Catholic organization, Catholic Charities was committed to placing children with married [opposite sex] couples so that each child would have the experience of a mom and a dad.” Similar “decertification” occurred in foster care/ adoption services in Boston, San Francisco, and Illinois. “In the name of tolerance, we’re not being tolerated,” said Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois.

•  Christian business owners threatened with fines and/or decertification – Increasing numbers of laws are being passed which seek to force business owners with firmly held religious beliefs to choose between providing services that violate those religious beliefs and suffering potentially devastating legal/financial consequences. A few such cases follow:

oNew Mexico – The owners of a photography studio refused to photograph a same-sex “commitment ceremony” because they did not want to participate in a ritual that contradicted their beliefs. In 2013, the New Mexico Supreme Court denied the owners’ appeal, affirming the lower court opinion that the studio violated the New Mexico Human Rights Act.
oIdaho – In 2014, two Protestant ministers (a husband and wife) who operate a wedding chapel in Coeur d’Alene refused to officiate at a same-sex “wedding.” City officials informed the ministers that this violated the city’s ordinance outlawing discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of “sexual orientation.” The city eventually chose not to prosecute the ministers.
oWashington – A florist who turned down a request to provide flowers for a same-sex “wedding” was sued by the Washington State Attorney General. In February 2017, the Washington Supreme Court ruled against the florist on the basis that she had violated the state’s anti-discrimination laws, despite the fact that she had served this particular customer (who she knew was in a same-sex relationship) for almost ten years before declining to participate in this particular event.
oColorado – Two men “married” in Massachusetts approached a Denver bakery to make a “wedding” cake for their “wedding” reception in Denver. For religious reasons, the owner of the bakery declined to make the cake. The two men filed a complaint with the Colorado Division of Civil Rights, which found that the bakery had violated the law. The Colorado State Attorney General’s office then filed a complaint against the bakery, resulting in further rulings against the bakery. The baker has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
oVermont – For allegedly not hosting a “wedding” reception for a same-sex “couple,” the Catholic owners of a bed and breakfast establishment settled a discrimination lawsuit, requiring them to (1) pay a $10,000 civil penalty, (2) pay $20,000 to a charitable trust, and (3) not host wedding receptions of any kind. Upon settling the lawsuit, the owners of the bed and breakfast said, “No one can force us to abandon our deeply held beliefs about marriage.”
oNew Jersey – The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights found that a Methodist organization violated a public accommodations law by not allowing a same-sex civil union ceremony to take place at its boardwalk pavilion.

Business owners should not be compelled to act against their deeply held religious beliefs. There are plenty of businesses willing to serve those who wish to engage in these controversial behaviors, which challenge long-held (even ancient) moral understandings. If a Christian baker refuses to serve a person with same-attraction who seeks to buy a cake, simply due to the customer’s sexual orientation, that would constitute an unreasonable act of discrimination by the part of the baker. However, if this same person seeks to engage the Christian baker to provide a cake that directly celebrates and/or affirms an act that the baker considers sinful, that would impose an undue and unnecessary burden on the baker. This is because it compels the baker to either violate his conscience or face serious legal and/or financial consequences.

•  Catholic employers required to cover objectionable medicines and “medical” procedures – The Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate — which requires coverage for sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients, abortion-inducing drugs — still contains language requiring religious institutions to facilitate or fund such coverage even if it is contrary to their moral teaching. This is because the federal government claims the right to define which religious institutions are “religious enough” to merit protection of their religious liberty.

•  Catholic humanitarian services organization required to provide or refer for objectionable medicines and “medical” procedures – After years of excellent performance by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) in administering contract services for victims of human trafficking, the federal government changed its grant specifications such that MRS was required to provide or refer for contraceptive and abortion services, in direct violation of Catholic teaching.

•  Christian student organizations not officially recognized on campus – In its history of over 100 years, the University of California Hastings College of Law has denied official recognition to only one student group — the Christian Legal Society — because it requires its leaders to be Christian and to abstain from sexual activity outside of marriage.

•  Christians may not rent school buildings to hold services – In 1994, New York City’s Department of Education denied the request of the Bronx Household of Faith and several other Christian Churches to rent space from public schools on weekends for worship services, even though non-religious groups were permitted to rent the same space for numerous other purposed. In 2011, a federal appellate court upheld New York City’s ban (on allowing private worship services to be conducted in vacant public schools on weekends) and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case. The city’s policy is a simple case of discrimination against religious believers: people may assemble in vacant school space for any peaceful purpose—except religious worship.

These sorts of bans, legal motions, suits, and fines, are becoming increasingly widespread, and the legal landscape is often shifting. This steady “drip, drip, drip” is helping to erode religious liberty and free speech related to religion.

It is essential that we remain vigilant in these matters. Some want to exclude Christians — indeed all believers — from the public marketplace of ideas. There are increasing numbers of strident secularists who insist that the only legal place for religious expression is inside of a church building or on church-owned property. This is not right and it is not constitutional:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of a religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. (First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution).

Christians and other religious individuals have no less right to free speech, to assemble peaceably, or to petition the government, than any other individuals or groups. Yet many are increasingly arguing that the mere fact that a religious perspective is involved (or that this perspective is not in keeping with recent moral shifts in our culture) should exclude religious people altogether from having a place in the public square. Indeed, in many cases they argue that we should be fined and forced out of the marketplace.

Recognize that in many public schools, our children can be exposed to almost any philosophy, some of them aberrant and with limited supported from the general populace. At the same time, even referring to the Bible as an historical factor in this nation’s history may trigger a lawsuit. Condoms are freely distributed in most schools, yet the mere presence of a Bible is often greeted with hostility by school administrators. Providing information about (and even celebrating) “gay pride,” “transgenderism,” and “gender diversity” is often required in schools, but the mere mention of Jesus (or Christianity) or Christian students quietly praying voluntarily in the school courtyard is often forbidden. This is exclusion of the Catholic and biblical vision is both inequitable and illegal.

Religious Liberty is about more than institutions such as the Catholic Church having rights. The point is that you have a right to the free exercise of your faith. There are people, organizations, and governments agencies seeking to limit or even eliminate your right to religious liberty.

You also have the right to free speech, and there is nothing in the Constitution that says your free speech rights don’t include religious topics or references to God and the biblical moral view. Many people and organizations are seeking to legally silence any religious speech and any religiously based motivations.

Don’t let this happen. Be sober and vigilant about these threats to your liberties. Insist that Christians have the same rights that other citizens do in speaking to their values publicly and in seeking to influence public discussion and public policy.

We need to be alert in these matters and stay thirsty for justice. Work with your local diocese and take part in needed actions such as contacting your representatives when laws are under consideration.

The USCCB maintains a website with a wealth of information on this topic, and it is updated frequently: Fortnight for Freedom.

 

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