Monday 22nd September 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:

Spinning the Synod

Here are five misleading claims and skewed statements about the upcoming Synod of Bishops Carl E. Olson Here’s a word that hasn’t been used much in recent discussions about the approaching Battle of the Cardin—er, the Synod of Bishops, taking…Continue Reading

Archbishop Coakley: Though City Leaders Do Not Take Seriously Threat of Inviting Evil Into Community, I Do

Washington, D.C., September 18, 2014 (Zenit.org) Here is an article from the Sooner Catholic, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, regarding the black mass scheduled at the city’s civic center for this Sunday. Archbishop Paul Coakley has used…Continue Reading

Report: Bishop Cupich of Spokane to succeed Cardinal George in Chicago

The AP broke the story, and local media is now confirming, that Bishop Blase Cupich of Spokane will succeed Cardinal Francis George as archbishop of Chicago. The Archdiocese of Chicago is expected to make the official announcement tomorrow morning at…Continue Reading

Sources confirm Cardinal Burke will be removed. But will he attend the Synod?

Sources in Rome have confirmed to LifeSiteNews that Cardinal Raymond Burke, the head of the Vatican’s highest court, known as the Apostolic Signatura, is to be removed from his post as head of the Vatican dicastery and given a non-curial…Continue Reading

Catholic Education Honor Roll Announced

Today, The Cardinal Newman Society released the list of schools recognized by the Catholic Education Honor Roll as 2014 Schools of Excellence. Since 2004 the Honor Roll has celebrated quality Catholic education throughout the United States. Honor Roll schools receiving…Continue Reading

Hermeneutic of Continuity: Pope Benedict XVI’s 10 Step Guide to Vatican II

pope200

In 2005 His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI gave a Christmas address to the Roman Curia that sparked a “Holy Revolution.” The good pontiff’s comments were received as “epoch-making” by many of those faithful to Sacred Tradition.1 At the heart of…Continue Reading

Satanists Sell Out Controversial Oklahoma ‘Black Mass’ Event, Will Stage Exorcism Despite Christian Protests

The Satanist group that will stage a controversial “black mass” at an Oklahoma City civic center has said that all 88 tickets for its Sept. 21 event are sold out. The co-founder of the group revealed that the ritual will…Continue Reading

Catholic League Bowing Out Of New York’s St. Patrick’s Parade

NEW YORK –  The Catholic League says it will sit out next year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York because parade organizers aren’t letting an anti-abortion Catholic group march. Catholic League head Bill Donohue said Thursday that his organization…Continue Reading

Catholic Cardinal McCarrick Embraces Islam

Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick offered Islamic religious phrases and insisted that Islam shares foundational rules with Christianity, during a Sept. 10 press conference in D.C. “In the name of God, the Merciful and Compassionate,” McCarrick said as he introduced himself…Continue Reading

MURDER OF CATHOLIC NUNS SHOCKS WORLD

The triple murder of three elderly Italian religious sisters in Burundi has their religious family and the local community reeling. The Italian Foreign Ministry has confirmed Monday’s death of a third missionary, Sister Bernadette Boggian, who wasdecapitated, according to a…Continue Reading

Cardinal Dolan and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade

by Hon. Bob Marshall Sept. 8, 2014 New York’s Cardinal Dolan, appointed as Grand Marshal of the 2015 St. Patrick’s Day Parade, praised the decision to allow an openly gay group to march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. “I have…Continue Reading

Founder: Catholic Studies programs help colleges fulfill call to faithfulness

St. Paul, Minn., Sep 8, 2014 / 06:03 pm (CNA).- University-level Catholic Studies programs are an essential response to the increasingly fragmented college experience, said the man who founded the first such program 20 years ago. “At the heart of…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 . . .

Pope To Albania’s Faith Leaders: Religion Is Source Of Peace

pop527

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met with leaders of the different religious communities in Albania on Sunday afternoon, insisting once again that no-one can use the name of God to commit violence. Speaking at the Catholic University of Tirana, the Pope said “Authentic religion is a source of peace and not of violence….To kill in the name of God is a…Continue Reading

Pope: No To The Use Of Religion As A Pretext For Violence

pope526

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said on Sunday that no one must consider themselves to be the “armour” of God while planning and carrying out acts of violence and oppression. “May no one” he said “use religion as a pretext for actions against human dignity and against the fundamental rights of every man and woman, above all, the right to life and the…Continue Reading

The Forever War

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN The strategy that President Obama laid out September 10 to “degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL,” is incoherent, inconsistent, and, ultimately, non-credible. A year ago, Obama and John Kerry were straining at the leash to launch air strikes on Syrian President Bashar Assad for his alleged use…Continue Reading

Marriage Is Not A Metaphor

By DONALD DeMARCO I passed through the metal detector at the Las Vegas Airport easily and uneventfully. While waiting for my wife, who was the inconvenient recipient of a more thorough random check, I turned to the attendant and told her that I was surprised to pass through the metal detector so quietly since I…Continue Reading

Reconnecting With Mary… Our Lady Of La Salette

By DONAL ANTHONY FOLEY Part 1 This is the first of two articles on the apparition of our Lady at La Salette in September 1846, which has a lot to teach us in our own day. At that time, the small nearby town of Corps, in the Grenoble region in southeastern France, was a poor…Continue Reading

The Saint Who Was Never Born

By DONALD DeMARCO St. Raymond Nonnatus came into the world in the early 13th century (1200 or 1204 according to scholars) in Portello, Catalonia (Spain). His appended name, in Latin, means “not born.” He was taken from the womb of his mother by caesarean section after her death. Shakespeare used this notion of not being…Continue Reading

Bluster And Bluff In The Baltic

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN “I say to the people of Estonia and the people of the Baltics, today we are bound by our treaty alliance. . . . Article 5 is crystal clear: An attack on one is an attack on all. So if . . . you ever ask again, ‘who’ll come to help,’…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Priestly Celibacy: Unnatural? Or . . . Supernatural? The Faith Of The Early Christians

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 5 It is a very comfortable position for the defenders of sola Scriptura to wish to interpret it according to their own criteria. In so doing, they pick and choose verses here and there to justify their views. God’s first commandment to mankind, “Be fruitful and multiply,” seems to be the “dogma” against celibacy.…Continue Reading

Catechesis In The Twenty-First Century

By Don Fier “In order to arrive at a systematic knowledge of the content of the faith, all can find in the Catechism of the Catholic Church a precious and indispensable tool. It is one of the most important fruits of the Second Vatican Council.” With these words in his apostolic letter Porta Fidei announcing the upcoming Year of Faith…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. I am currently reading Paul Likoudis’ excellent but shocking book Amchurch Comes Out, regarding incidents of immoral conduct among our clergy, the cover-up, and the accompanying damage that has been wrought within the Church. I recall being alarmed while involved with religious education in our then parish in the late 1980s and attending diocesan seminars for teachers and hearing…Continue Reading

Our Attitude Should Be The Same As Christ’s

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Twenty-Sixth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR A) Readings: Ezek. 18:25-28 Phil. 2:1-11 Matt. 21:28-32   In the Gospel reading today our Lord asks the question of which son did the will of his father: the one who said he would not go into the field but eventually did or the one who said he would go…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World . . . “And Who Is My Neighbor?” The Embryo And The ALS patient

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK The prophet Jeremiah in chapter 20 bewails his isolation as a result of the scorn of nonbelievers: “The word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day.” He describes his temptation to throw in the towel as a prophet tasked by God with a message for mankind: “I say to myself,…Continue Reading

Cast A Gauntlet – Sola Scriptura: Part 1

Catholic Heroes… St. Joseph Of Cupertino

By CAROLE BRESLIN Now that the school year has begun, students — especially Catholic students — will find recourse to their favorite patron saint of studying. Some may choose St. Thomas Aquinas or St. Augustine of Hippo. For those students who find it difficult to retain what they read and write about it, perhaps this saint will encourage them: St.…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… Mother Teresa Of Calcutta

By CAROLE BRESLIN After returning from a visit to Mother Teresa of Calcutta and giving a retreat to her Missionaries of Charity there, Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ, told a class of lay faithful, “Americans are living in a dream world.” He spoke of the thousands of people dying on the streets of Calcutta where Mother had begun her work…Continue Reading

What to Do If Your Boyfriend Wants You to Get an Abortion?

by Krisi Burton Brown | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 2/20/14 4:00 PM Washington, DC (LiveActionNews) — Note: This article is for any girl or woman who is feeling pressured into having an abortion. If you are a guy who is trying to find out how to stop an abortion, please see this article written for dads. 1.  Stand your…Continue Reading

It’s Time to Build Schools, from the Ground Up

February 13, 2014 by Anthony Esolen   It might have been worth repairing, if it had once been noble and beautiful, or at least conceived in an orderly way, for ordinary human purposes. But it wasn’t. It was constructed upon false principles. Its walls looked like those of a bad factory. It smelled like a warehouse. It could be terribly…Continue Reading

Why I am Pro-Life

February 4, 2014   Pro-Lifers   By Therese Recinella   Editor’s note. This tribute was posted on Therese Recinella’s Facebook account. She is graciously allowing us to reprint it in NRL News Today.   There are many things that I could say about my Dad, but what I want people to know is this: My parents faithfully raised 8 children…Continue Reading

Fathers . . . The Essential Role of the Father

Posted on February 10, 2014 by The Catholic Gentleman 13 Comments   Divorce rates skyrocketing; adultery rampant; non-married cohabitating couples; children abandoned by their fathers or mothers; “same-sex unions” adopting children and calling this the “modern family”; pornography invading homes, leading to powerful addictions and total alienation from other members of the family: all of this is a bird’s eye view…Continue Reading

How Much is One Billion Dollars?

This article appeared in the March 20, 1941 issue of The Wanderer. (Well, 70 years later we can add 15 trillion into the example.) Here’s a simple and homely illustration of what one billion dollars amounts to: Suppose we take an imaginary boy, aged 15 years, and assign to him the task of counting one billion dollars in one-dollar bills.…Continue Reading

Planned Parenthood

This article appeared in The Wanderer, April 3, 1941.  (WOW, Look what we have 70 years later.) A group which calls itself the National Committee for Planned Parenthood has begun a nationwide campaign to have the promotion of birth control included in State and national health programs. The committee—which, according to propaganda sheets reaching our desk has a branch in…Continue Reading

Questions of Non-Catholics . . . Answered by Father Richard Felix, O.S.B.

Reprinted from The Wanderer April 10, 1941 Why Does God allow us to be tempted? God allows us to be tempted so that we may prove our attachment to him and merit a higher place in heaven. Temptations are the lot of all men; they are the battle ground upon which heaven is won or lost. “The kingdom of heaven…Continue Reading