Thursday 18th December 2014

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:

Cardinal Burke . . . “The Church depends on sound Catholic family life, and it depends on sound Catholic families.”

An Interview with Cardinal Burke  On Vatican II Q. Your Eminence, you grew up before the Second Vatican Council. How do you remember those times? A. I grew up in a very beautiful time in the Church, in which we…Continue Reading

Did Pope Francis really say all dogs go to heaven? UPDATED

That nice man, Pope Francis, says you get to see your pets again in Heaven. But Pope Benedict is a mean old Grinch who wants to remove the animals from your Nativity scene Christmas decorations. Oh, really? Please don’t believe…Continue Reading

Catholic Church in Australia links celibacy to child abuse

By Jonathan Pearlman, Sydney, and Nick Squires in Rome 8:04PM GMT 12 Dec 2014 Priests’ vows of celibacy may have led to paedophilia, the Roman Catholic Church in Australia has said, in what is believed to be the first such…Continue Reading

Pope Calls For More ‘Integration’ Of Divorced Catholics, Gays

By Francis X. Rocca Catholic News Service VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis said that the Catholic Church must consider various ways to integrate the divorced and civilly remarried in the life of the church — not merely allowing them…Continue Reading

‘I’m not worried’ about resistance, Pope Francis says in new interview

Vatican City, Dec 7, 2014 / 11:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In an interview with the Argentine daily “La Nacion” published Sunday, Pope Francis spoke on a variety of topics, giving specific attention to the ongoing reform of the Roman Curia,…Continue Reading

Catholic Church Severs Ties with Agency over Gay Adoption Ruling

The Catholic Church in Northern Ireland is pulling the plug on a long-standing relationship with the Family Care Society, a Catholic adoption agency, after a judge ruled that all adoption services must be willing to place children with same-sex couples…Continue Reading

Reaction to Chicago archbishop’s remarks on pro-abort pols receiving Communion

n a radical departure from the position of Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Blase Cupich – said to have been handpicked by Pope Francis for Chicago – has presented giving Holy Communion to pro-abortion politicians as a positive move. Asked Sunday…Continue Reading

Pope Francis dodges reporter’s question on treatment of homosexuality in Synod’s controversial mid-term report

Since the conclusion of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, reporters around the world have been wondering where Pope Francis stands on the controversial language about homosexuality in the mid-term Synod report.  The opportunity to ask the pope…Continue Reading

Archbishop Cupich Says Yes to Communion for Pro-Abortion Politicians

In October of last year veteran Italian journalist Sandro Magister wrote of the new path that many believed the Church was embarking upon. Magister observed: “In Italy, but not only there, it was the cardinal and Jesuit Carlo Maria Martini…Continue Reading

Francis calls for a change mentality in the Church, easier homilies and flexible times

Francis addresses participants of the International Pastoral Congress on the World’s Big Cities: “Go out and facilitate”, don’t be afraid of multicultural contexts or of proclaiming Jesus DOMENICO AGASSO JR ROME Francis was honest from the start: “I don’t want…Continue Reading

Chaput: It Isn’t Possible To Be Pro-life And Simultaneously Forget The Cries Of The Poor

Interview with the Archbishop of Philadelphia who is preparing to receive the Pope for the World Meeting of Families in September 2015: defending the unborn child is a vital part of the social doctrine of the Church. We need to…Continue Reading

Homosexual Activist Organization in New York Receives Catholic Grant

Washington, DC—The Lepanto Institute issued a report exposing the activities of an organization which received a $35,000 grant from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).  According to the report, the Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC) launched its…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

'From our friends at The Foundry'


Today . . .

Happy Birthday, Pope Francis!

pope693

(Vatican Radio) There was a festive atmosphere at the weekly General Audience on Wednesday, as Pope Francis celebrated his 78th birthday. As he made his way through the crowds, Pope Francis stopped by a group of seminarians from the Legion of Christ, who offered him a birthday cake, complete with lighted candles. The Holy Father also took the opportunity to…Continue Reading

Pope Francis Recalls His 1st Communion, Says to Remember Catechists

Rome, December 15, 2014 (Zenit.org) Staff Reporter On a visit to a Roman parish Sunday evening, the Pope had lively discussions with various groups from the congregation, including children preparing to receive their First Communion. He told them about his own First Communion 70 years ago. On his arrival at the parish of Saint Joseph all’Aurelio, in the western sector…Continue Reading

Pope Francis: Rigidity Is A sign Of A Weak Heart

pope692

(Vatican Radio) The day’s Gospel reading, which relates how the chief priests asked Jesus by what authority He did His works, was the focus of the Pope’s homily on Monday. It is a demand, the Pope explained, that demonstrates the “hypocritical heart” of those people – people who were not interested in the truth, who sought only their own interests,…Continue Reading

Pope To Children: Prayer Is The Breath Of The Soul

pope685

(Vatican Radio) At the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis welcomed the children of Rome for the traditional “Bambinelli Blessing.” On Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday of Lent, Roman boys and girls bring the baby Jesus from their Nativity sets to Saint Peter’s Square to be blessed by the Pope. Speaking after the Angelus prayer, the Holy Father thanked the children…Continue Reading

Culture Of Life 101 . . . “Abortifacient Brief: Depo-Provera”

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 chapter 2 of The Facts of Life, “Abortifacients,” e-mail him at bclowes@hli.org.) + + + Depo-Provera is an injectable contraceptive drug that sometimes has an abortifacient effect. It also possesses…Continue Reading

An Advent Reflection . . . The Very Visible Sin Of Gluttony

By REY FLORES Ever since I can remember, I have always had a problem with the fluctuation of my weight. As a child, my nickname was “Gordo,” which means fat in Spanish. I wasn’t bothered when my own family called me that, but it did bother me when the other school kids would make fun…Continue Reading

Gosnell Filmmakers Reopen Crowdfunding Campaign

By LISA BOURNE (LifeSiteNews) — The producers of the forthcoming Kermit Gosnell “House of Horrors” movie are reopening their crowdfunding campaign after Indiegogo changed its rules to allow campaigns without a deadline. Magdalena Segieda, Phelim McAleer, and Ann McElhinney surpassed their previous crowdfunding goal of $2.1 million earlier this year, and the Indiegogo fundraising site…Continue Reading

The CIA And Its Torturers

By ANDREW P. NAPOLITANO When the head of the CIA’s torture unit decided to destroy videotapes of his team’s horrific work, he unwittingly set in motion a series of events that led to the release this past week of the most massive, detailed documentation of unlawful behavior by high-ranking government officials and intentional infliction of…Continue Reading

Fr. Jaki Wrote About… Cardinal Kasper’s Disbelief In The Gospel Accounts Of Christ’s Miracles

By JAMES LIKOUDIS Walter Cardinal Kasper has been regarded in liberal circles as a profound theologian and an expert on ecumenism and Jewish-Catholic relations, as well as an authority on Vatican II. At the center of a recent storm of controversy over his views on the possibility of change concerning the doctrine of the Church…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Pope’s Message For World Day of Peace . . . “No Longer Slaves, But Brothers”

VATICAN CITY (ZENIT) — Here is the text of Pope Francis’ message for the 48th World Day of Peace, which is celebrated on January 1, 2015. For a text with footnotes, go to www.zenit.org. + + + At the beginning of this New Year, which we welcome as God’s gracious gift to all humanity, I offer heartfelt wishes of peace…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World . . . True Joy Awards Intense Preparation For Christmas

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK With the arrival of these days of late Advent, we have already journeyed through the Solemnity of Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception and Gaudete, or joy, Sunday. We have taken the opportunity to deepen our love and devotion for our heavenly Mother in celebrating the singular prevenient grace of God that equipped her unique preparation for…Continue Reading

Debunking The Sola Scriptura Myth… Summing Up

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 8 According to Sacred Scripture itself, the Bible is not, and was never meant to be, the only source of divine Revelation and sole rule of faith. Jesus neither wrote anything Himself nor commanded anybody to write. On the contrary, He commanded the apostles to preach, viva voce. He commanded the apostles to preach…Continue Reading

The Canon Of Scripture

By DON FIER For several weeks in this series we’ve been examining how God, in His loving Providence, has made Himself known to us. We’ve discussed the twofold means by which His divine Revelation has been transmitted to mankind — Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture — and how the two together are inseparable elements of a single Deposit of Faith.…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. I am enthralled by the story of St. Giuseppe Moscati, the first modern doctor to be declared a saint. Could you tell me more about him? — M.G.L., Arizona. A. Giuseppe Moscati was born in 1880, the seventh of nine children, to aristocratic Italian parents who settled in Naples, where his father was a renowned magistrate and a pious…Continue Reading

Cast A Gauntlet – Sola Scriptura: Part 1

Catholic Heroes . . . Blessed Urban V

By CAROLE BRESLIN The year 1309 marked the beginning of the Avignon papacy, under Pope Clement V, who was French. The Popes of Avignon built a papal palace, increasing it in size over the next 70 years. The first crack in the control of the papacy by the French began when Pope Urban V left Avignon to reside in Rome…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Sabbas

By CAROLE BRESLIN Silence. Quiet. The search for peace, serenity, and calm has led many in today’s world to take up Yoga, Eastern mysticism, or life in remote areas to escape the noise of our modern world. This is not a modern quest. The quest for quiet has been with man for millennia. Although St. Anthony the Great (died 356)…Continue Reading

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