Saturday 28th February 2015

Home » Featured Today » Currently Reading:

Christmas And Frailty

December 22, 2013 Featured Today No Comments

By JEFF MINICK

(Below is a Christmas letter from the ever-feisty Uncle Samuel to his beloved — and often clueless — nephew Hobson.)

+    +    +

Dear Hobson,

It pleases me to no end that you will attend the Christmas Midnight Mass at the Basilica with Abigail. These last four months since you met my young friend have certainly brought about some remarkable changes in you. By placing Abigail’s happiness ahead of your own selfish concerns, you are discovering the true meaning of affection, friendship, and love. When I first introduced the two of you by mail, it was my fervent hope that you would see in the lovely Abigail those advantages faith and grace have bestowed on her.
Your criticism of Catholics, particularly the charge of hypocrisy among so many in the congregation, is valid. (By the way, dear nephew, please continue to work on your grammar. A university education should have taught you that “its” is a possessive pronoun and that “it’s” is a contraction meaning “it is.” To be frank, you should have learned this convention in elementary school.)
You write that when you have previously attended Mass here in Asheville while visiting Abigail, you were astounded to see nearly everyone receiving Holy Communion. Given the vagaries of the human heart, you wonder how it is possible that so many parishioners can be in a state of grace.
Your statistics are sound: The long Communion lines versus the short confessional lines — my own spiritual judge spends most of his hour in the box reading — reveal that a majority of American Catholics either fail to comprehend what they are receiving in the Body and Blood of Christ or are ignorant of the concepts of sin and sacrilege. Various opinion polls also find that many Catholics no longer believe in the Real Presence of Christ, marking many communicants not only as benighted but also as heretical.
You write that you recognized three parishioners, know their stories, and wonder how on earth two of them can approach the altar and take the Eucharist without bursting into flames. You identify one of those taking Communion as a “gay activist,” another as a real estate agent who would hoodwink her own grandmother to make a sale, the third as a man who created a scandal by committing adultery with a co-worker.
The first two you report as receiving Holy Communion, with the adulterer declining by remaining in the pew. Here several comments are in order. The adulterer clearly has not yet made his peace with God through the Sacrament of Confession. The first two parishioners have either done so, in which case they are worthy of Communion, or else they have convinced themselves that they are innocent of any mortal sin, which would find them guilty of a second grave sin, that of sacrilege.
Your mention of the adulterer brings to mind the biblical account of the woman caught in infidelity. Because you have so rarely darkened the door of any church, let me remind you of the story. Some scribes and Pharisees bring a woman accused of adultery before Jesus. Hoping to trap Christ into breaking the Mosaic Law, they ask Him whether, according to the Law, they shouldn’t stone her to death for her deceit.
Christ replies: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” One by one the men drift away. When only the woman remains, Jesus tells her that he does not condemn her and instructs her to “go, and do not sin again.”
Two points from this story are pertinent to your remarks on the Church. The first may be found in Christ’s injunction to the woman to avoid sin, a command aimed at all of us. The second point — His words to the Pharisees — dictates that we must be prudent in our judgments of others. Actions, Christ seems to remind us, may easily be condemned or praised, but to judge the state of the soul of another human being is nearly impossible.
Take your adulterer, for instance. He clearly knows something of his faith — after all, he has exiled himself from Communion — so we can surmise he knew he was sinning when he entered into a relationship with a married woman. He surely understood that discovery would bring painful worldly consequences: the destruction of a marriage, the concomitant damage done to children in that marriage, the loss of respect in the community.
So why would such a man enter into such an affair?
Catholic writer and thinker Blaise Pascal, whose Pensées deserves your attention, once wrote: “Le coeur a ses raisons, que la raison ne connait point,” which translates as: “The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know.” To condemn the adulterer’s actions demands nothing of us — here the guilty parties have condemned themselves — but to try and understand what he was thinking and feeling offers deeper mysteries.
(Two of the world’s greatest novels, Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina, explore this theme, and Catholic novelist Graham Greene offers an exhaustive examination of the moral quandaries in The End of the Affair.)
Was the man cynically exploiting a vulnerable woman, a wife and mother unhappy in her marriage? Or was he so deeply in love that he simply couldn’t stop himself? (Think Pascal). With the affair revealed, why has he not made his Confession? Is it because he can admit his wrongdoing, but cannot yet forsake his love and confess his regret? We can’t justify any objectively immoral action, but how can we know the state of his soul?
Such questions bring us, oddly enough, to Christmas.
We Americans have turned Christmas on its head. We party and feast during Advent, which, as the Church tells us, should be a time of prayer and preparation. We rip open presents on Christmas Day, enjoy a huge feast, and then spend the Twelve Days of Christmas stripping the house of decoration and moaning over the status of our banking accounts in the wake of our spending spree. By celebrating this way, we have, as we have in so many areas of our public and private lives, brought disorder into the realm of the sacred.
Even so, the real meaning of Christmas remains clear to believers, and for me this evening, contemplation of the Nativity brings to mind one word: frailty. Think on it, nephew. Consider how the world was changed by a baby’s birth in a stable in Bethlehem two thousand years ago. Think of how this newborn, fully human and yet fully God, forever broke history in half. (To further your literary education and my own argument, I would suggest Eliot’s Journey of the Magi.)
I wonder: Have you ever held a newborn baby? (A good friend, age 52, recently held one of my infant granddaughters in his arms. He informed me he had never before held a baby. The mingled astonishment and terror on his face made me howl.)
If you have held a newborn, then you know their utter helplessness. Other than being able to breathe, they are weak, fragile beings dependent for their every need on other human beings. They are, in a word, frail.
Christ came to us as a baby. Frailty — weakness, powerlessness — was His condition when He entered our broken world. In certain ways, this frailty, this vulnerability to attack without the power to defend Himself, remained His condition His entire life. On Easter Sunday He is triumphant, yes, but at Christmas He is a baby again.
His weakness as a baby reminds me of our own human frailties. As a Catholic and a man, I am certainly aware of my own shortcomings, my temptations toward sin, my sins themselves. With each passing year, Christmas thrusts itself more deeply into my heart, making me also more and more aware of the fragility of my fellow human beings. All of us, for example, are desperate for love, more desperate, many of us, than we know.
An example: This Advent season I posted a poem on my online site containing the line: “The one who loves you just the way you are.” (That’s iambic pentameter, in case you missed poetry in college.) That short poem received more hits than anything I’ve ever posted. At Christmas, I think, we become aware that a being exists who loves us and who wants the best of us.
But enough. My great wish is that your affection for Abigail, and hers for you, continues to flourish and grow. You have found a beautiful young Catholic woman. One caveat: As I have mentioned previously, Abigail is a close friend. While it delights me to see you courting her, I wish to remind you of the consequences should you ever mistreat her. I am an old man, and you are young, but we old men can be formidable when circumstances require. Should you hurt her, I guarantee you, beloved nephew, you will never see what hit you, but you will be eating the sidewalk.
With that gentle admonition, I wish you a very Merry Christmas.

With love and prayers,
Uncle Samuel

Share Button

Comment on this Article:

What about Henry VIII?

Interestingly, Jesus’ hard teaching that “what therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder” (Mt 19:6) follows not long after his insistence to Peter on the necessity of forgiveness (see Mt 18:21–35). It is true that Jesus did…Continue Reading

Sacrificing Priests on the Altar of Insurance

Fr. Bob (that’s what we’ll call him) was a faithful parish priest for more than 25 years. One day, a process server showed up at the rectory door and handed him a summons and complaint. The complaint alleged that some…Continue Reading

Catholic Colleges Must Save Students from Pornography Epidemic, Says Counseling Expert

Catholic colleges and universities owe it to their students to do everything within their power to help combat the destructive effects of pornography, argued Dr. Peter Kleponis in a recent interview with The Cardinal Newman Society. Kleponis, a licensed clinical…Continue Reading

Imagine: A Catholic Archbishop!

If it weren’t so predictable, it would be infuriating, but because of that, it is infuriating to thinking people. It’s happening again as San Francisco drops the hammer – again – on the Catholic Church and especially Archbishop Cordileone. He’s…Continue Reading

As storm brews, San Fran archbishop strikes back at school guideline critics

San Francisco, Calif., Feb 20, 2015 / 03:19 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Politicians have targeted San Francisco Catholic schools’ teacher standards, but Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone says they are a matter of Catholic mission and common sense. “Would you hire a campaign…Continue Reading

University of Scranton to end all abortion coverage

SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) – The University of Scranton plans to end employee health care coverage for abortions in cases of rape, incest and to preserve the life of the mother. The Times-Tribune of Scranton (http://bit.ly/1JstU9i ) reports Thursday that the…Continue Reading

Notre Dame Scandals under Fr. Jenkins Are Rooted in Diminished Catholic Faculty, Alumni Say

February 20, 2015, at 11:02 AM  |  By Kimberly Scharfenberger  | Following the election of University of Notre Dame President Father John Jenkins, C.S.C. to his third term, Notre Dame alumni spoke with The Cardinal Newman Society to share their…Continue Reading

Cardinal Napier: African Bishops Have Higher Priorities Than Communion for Divorced and Remarried

by CNA/EWTN NEWS 02/19/2015 Cardinal Wilfrid Napier speaks at the Vatican Press Office on Oct. 14, 2014. – Bohumil Petrik/CNA ROME — A leading African cardinal says the continent’s bishops want the upcoming Vatican synod to zero in on strengthening…Continue Reading

LGBT Catholic group gets special seating during Pope’s weekly address

(CNN)Members of New Ways Ministry — an advocacy group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Catholics — have made three pilgrimages to the Vatican, under three different popes. But only once have they been treated like VIPs. That’s the treatment…Continue Reading

Cardinal Wuerl attacks “brother bishops” as “dissenters”

It is an open secret in Washington, D.C., that Donald Cardinal Wuerl has effectively banned Raymond Cardinal Burke from entering the Archdiocese of Washington.  Several sources have confirmed this to Rorate over the years, stemming from Wuerl’s disdain for any priest…Continue Reading

The real scoop on Archbishop Blaise Cupich of Chicago

A while back, I got the impression that commenter Steve (where have you gone? I did not intend to run you off entirely, I was just asking that you dial back your comments from 11 to, say, 5) thought I…Continue Reading

The beheadings continue. What will be the response of civilization?

The beheadings continue. What will be the response of civilization? “Rome” is a target for ISIS. What that means, we aren’t sure. It seems to be code for “Christians”, the lands which once comprised Christendom. It also probably means Rome…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to subscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.

 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

A Powerful Weapon: 15 Quotes on the Holy Rosary

We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to…Continue Reading

12 Ways to Become a Committed Catholic Man

There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”, men who do not know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. This large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating…Continue Reading

Today . . .

Pope Francis returns to Vatican after Lenten retreat

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis and members of the Roman Curia have returned to the Vatican at the conclusion of their  5-day Lenten retreat held in the town of Ariccia near Rome. The spiritual exercises began last Sunday (February 22nd) and took place in the Casa Divin Maestro centre in Ariccia. In brief remarks at the conclusion of the retreat the Pope thanked Carmelite Father Bruno Secondin for leading the spiritual exercises with them. Please find…Continue Reading

Charles Rice RIP

charlie rice

Word reached  us today that longtime Catholic activist and legal scholar Charles E. Rice died during the night of February 25. We ask our readers to pray for the repose of his soul and for the consolation of his family and many friends and associates. An ardent crusader and defender of the Catholic faith, his presence will be missed. Joseph Matt, President, The Wanderer

Pope, Curia reflect on superficial religiosity

  (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis and the Roman Curia are in the middle of their weeklong Spiritual Exercises in Ariccia, outside Rome. According to L’Osservatore Romano, the retreat master, Carmelite Father Bruno Secondin, has shared reflections with the Curia on the prophet Elias. In his reflection, Fr Secondin compared the worship of the false idols in Elias’ time with a modern-day religiosity that is interested in the superficial and in measures of faith “according to…Continue Reading

Ukrainian Archbishop calls on Christians to help end conflict

2015-02-23 Vatican Radio (Vatican Radio) The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, held a press conference on Monday to share details of the ad limina visits that all Ukrainian bishops have been making to the Vatican this past week. As well as denouncing the occupation of his country by Russian forces, the Ukrainian leader appealed to all Christians to help with the worsening humanitarian crisis which has been provoked by…Continue Reading

Our Lady And The New Evangelization

By DONAL ANTHONY FOLEY Part 3 This article will look at the importance of the modern Marian apparitions, and particularly Fatima, and in this regard, this is what the Church, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 67) says about private revelation: “Throughout the ages, there have been so-called ‘private’ revelations, some of which…Continue Reading

Hanging Rudy Out To Dry

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN Back in 1987, this writer was invited by friends to advise them on a press conference they had called to oppose President Reagan’s signing of an INF treaty to remove all nuclear missiles from Europe. My advice: Deplore the treaty; do not attack the president. The next day, Howard Phillips declared…Continue Reading

Darfur: Hell Without The Cameras

By JOHN J. METZLER UNITED NATIONS — In recent years, there has been a dearth of media coverage of Darfur’s humanitarian crisis. What had once been a focus for both diplomatic and high-profile celebrity efforts to detail human rights abuses during more than a decade of inter-ethnic conflict in Sudan’s troubled western region, has now…Continue Reading

Culture Of Life 101 . . . “Should Serodiscordant Couples Be Permitted To Use Condoms?”

By BRIAN CLOWES (Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995. For an electronic copy of the book The Case Against Condoms, e-mail him at bclowes@hli.org.) + + + There are times when priests, ministers, and pro-life activists encounter what might be called the “ultimate hard…Continue Reading

Court Ruling Threatens Home, Savings Of Christian Florist

KENNEWICK, Wash. — A state judge ruled February 18 that Washington floral artist and grandmother Barronelle Stutzman must provide full support for wedding ceremonies that are contrary to her faith — a decision at odds with the views of most Americans according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll. The court claims that Stutzman’s referral of…Continue Reading

The Wanderer Interviews His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke . . .

burk10

By DON FIER Part 1 (Editor’s Note: Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, who previously served as Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome from June 2008 until November 2014, recently visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis. Prior to that he served as Archbishop…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

Q. As a longtime subscriber to The Wanderer, I am puzzled that your writers don’t hesitate to criticize and disagree with bishops and cardinals on particular issues, but when it comes to the Pope you automatically close shop, yet he is human just like the bishops and cardinals. There is no teaching in our Church that says one cannot disagree…Continue Reading

God’s “Foolishness” Is Wisdom

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Sunday Sermon for March 8, 2015 Third Sunday Of Lent (YR B) Readings: Exodus 20:1-17 1 Cor. 1:22-25 John 2:13-25 In the Gospel reading today, we hear about our Lord cleansing the Temple because the people had turned God’s house into a marketplace. The people, naturally, were appalled at this action because the buying and selling…Continue Reading

Pope’s Message For 30th World Youth Day . . . “Blessed Are The Pure In Heart. . . .”

VATICAN CITY (ZENIT) — Here is the Vatican-provided text of the Holy Father’s message for this year’s World Youth Day, which will be held on Palm Sunday, March 29, 2015, at the diocesan level. ZENIT News Agency published the text on February 17; all rights reserved. + + + Dear Young Friends, We continue our spiritual pilgrimage toward Krakow, where…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World . . . Lent: Season For Deeper Conversion From Death To Life

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK Italians, when the subject of marriage and therefore also of children comes up, are quick to say, “Due è basta,” meaning, “Two children are enough.” Young people decide long before they even meet the person they will marry that it will be thus also for them. If you’ve learned to love Italy and the Italians…Continue Reading

Are Statues Idols? The Meaning Of “False Idols”

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 2 “I, the Lord, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. You shall not have other gods besides me. You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Augustus Chapdelaine

By CAROLE BRESLIN Christianity has never been warmly welcomed by the authorities in China, but that did not stop the missionaries over the centuries who have gone there to save souls. Christianity has existed in various forms since the Tang Dynasty (eighth century). The first reports of Catholic priests going to China go back to the 13th century. John of…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . Blessed Jacinta Marto

By CAROLE BRESLIN In the Catholic classic Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, we learn that wisdom is to be valued much more than knowledge. There is an entire book of the Old Testament called the Book of Wisdom. While holiness does not equal happiness, we can be sure that joy comes only from God. Little Jacinta Marto, the…Continue Reading