Archive for the ‘*Faith / Church’ Category

If you read this post on Msgr. Pope’s blog, you will find many of his other outstanding reflections. For your convenience it is copied below with his kind permission.

Do You Fear the Right Thing? A Meditation on the Story of Chicken Little

by Msgr. Charles Pope (posted with permission – source)

Fear is a complex passion. On the one hand, there are things that we ought to fear such as grave physical and spiritual dangers. The fear of being near the edge of a cliff might well save our life. The fear of serious sin and the punishment we might experience or the offense to God (who loves us) is both appropriate and holy. Sadly, more people lack this holy fear rooted in the possible loss of what is most precious to us: our eternal life with God.

There are also things we fear that we should not, and things that we fear more than we should. These sorts of fears are usually rooted in our disordered and inordinate affections.

A disordered affection is a love for something that is sinful. We ought not to love it at all, but we do; this causes us to fear anyone or anything that interferes with accessing and enjoying what is fundamentally sinful.

An inordinate affection is a love for something that is good in itself, but the love we have for it is too great. Loving it too much causes us to fear the loss of it more than we should. Many things in this world are lawful pleasures, but we come to love them too much. We love things more than people, and both things and people more than God. This is all out of order. We are to use things, love people, and worship God. Too often, though, we use people, love things, and forget about God.

There is also the great struggle that many have called the “sin of human respect,” wherein we fear people more than we fear God and seek to please people more than to please God. When we fall prey to this, we are willing to do sinful things in order to ingratiate ourselves to other human beings, fearing and revering them more than we do God.

Fear is a necessary passion for us, but too often our fears are misplaced and inordinate. Our fears are easily manipulated by Satan and the world.

A major area for spiritual growth is knowing what and whom to fear. Apart from God we will seldom get this answer right. We are easy prey for the devil and the world to draw us into all sorts of inordinate and even foolish fears.

Because a story can often have an impact that mere discourse cannot, I would like to illustrate this teaching with a well-known children’s story.

The story is the basis for two phrases in common use. Most are familiar with them, but some have never read (or have forgotten) the story from which they come. The first is “The sky is falling!” and the second is “Chicken Little” (used as a description of a person).

Both these phrases come from the children’s story Chicken Little. It is a story that speaks to the need to be careful about what we fear and what we do not fear. For indeed, one of the traps of Satan is to get us to focus on what we ought not to fear, or on what is secondary, so that we do not focus on what we should fear, or on what is more important. Aristotle, citing Socrates, said that courage is the virtue of knowing what to fear and what not to fear.

Please take the time to read this story completely. It may seem tedious to us modern folks with limited attention spans, but its conclusion is made more powerful by the litany of details. Please share it with your children as well.

Chicken Little was in the woods one day when an acorn fell on her head.
It scared her so much she trembled all over.
She shook so hard, half her feathers fell out.
“Help! Help!” she cried. “The sky is falling! I must go tell the king!”
So she ran in great fright to tell the king.

Along the way she met Henny Penny.
“Where are you going, Chicken Little?” Henny Penny asked.

“Oh, help!” Chicken Little cried. “The sky is falling!”
“How do you know?” asked Henny Penny.
“Oh! I saw it with my own eyes, and heard it with my own ears,
and part of it fell on my head!”
“This is terrible, just terrible!” Henny Penny clucked. “We’d better run.”

So they both ran away as fast as they could. Soon they met Ducky Lucky. “Where are you going, Chicken Little and Henny Penny?” he asked.
“The sky is falling! The sky is falling! We’re going to tell the king!” they cried. “How do you know?” asked Ducky Lucky.
“I saw it with my own eyes, and heard it with my own ears, and part of it fell on my head,” Chicken Little said.
“Oh dear, oh dear!” Ducky Lucky quacked. “We’d better run!” So they all ran down the road as fast as they could.

Soon they met Goosey Loosey waddling along the roadside.
“Hello there, Chicken Little, Henny Penny, and Ducky Lucky,” called Goosey Loosey. “Where are you all going in such a hurry?”
“We’re running for our lives!” cried Chicken Little. “The sky is falling!” clucked Henny Penny. “And we’re running to tell the king!” quacked Ducky Lucky.
“How do you know the sky is falling?” asked Goosey Loosey.
“I saw it with my own eyes, and heard it with my own ears, and part of it fell on my head,” Chicken Little said. “Goodness!” squawked Goosey Loosey. “Then I’d better run with you.”

And they all ran in a great fright across a meadow. Before long they met Turkey Lurkey strutting back and forth. “Hello there, Chicken Little, Henny Penny, Ducky Lucky, and Goosey Loosey,” he called. “Where are you all going in such a hurry?” “Help! Help!” cried Chicken Little. “We’re running for our lives!” clucked Henny Penny. “The sky is falling!” quacked Ducky Lucky. “And we’re running to tell the king!” squawked Goosey Loosey.
“How do you know the sky is falling?” asked Turkey Lurkey.
“I saw it with my own eyes, and heard it with my own ears, and part of it fell on my head,” Chicken Little said. “Oh dear! I always suspected the sky would fall someday,” Turkey Lurkey gobbled. “I’d better run with you.”

So they all ran with all their might, until they met the fox, Foxy Loxy. “Well, well,” said Foxy Loxy. “Where are you rushing on such a fine day?”
“Help! Help!” cried Chicken Little, Henny Penny, Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey, and Turkey Lurkey. “It’s not a fine day at all. The sky is falling, and we’re running to tell the king!” “How do you know the sky is falling?” said Foxy Loxy.
“I saw it with my own eyes, and heard it with my own ears, and part of it fell on my head,” Chicken Little said. “I see,” said Foxy Loxy. “Well then, follow me, and I’ll show you the way to the king.”

So Foxy Loxy led Chicken Little, Henny Penny, Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey, and Turkey Lurkey across a field and through the woods. He led them straight to his den, and they never saw the king to tell him the sky was falling.

Notice how fearing the wrong thing, and fearing it to excess, blinded them to what was more truly to be feared, what was more truly a threat. Here lies a doorway for the devil. He incites us to fear lesser things like unpopularity, loss of money, poor health, the loss of worldly trinkets, the next election, global warming, persecution, and worldly setbacks, so that we do not fear Judgment Day and the possibility of Hell.

The day of destiny is closing in, but never mind that! The sky is falling: the wrong political party is in power; the planet is overheating; the economy is about to collapse. You might lose your home to a storm; people might not think you are pretty enough, tall enough, or thin enough. Be afraid; be very afraid! You don’t have time to pray and ask God to get you ready for Judgment Day because you are too busy being afraid that eating food X may cause cancer, or that people may be laughing at you because of the five or ten pounds you gained last Christmas, or that the Yellowstone Caldera may blow at any time.

I will not tell you that the aforementioned concerns have no merit, only that they have less merit than what most people never think about or fear: where they are going to spend eternity. Chicken Little and her friends were easy prey for Foxy Loxy because they were obsessed with lesser things and ignored more dangerous (and obvious in this case) things like a fox!

Yes, “Foxy Loxy” has you worried about smaller and passing things. Now you are easy prey. It will take but a moment for him to lead you astray and have you for dinner!

Make sure you fear the right thing. God has a plan to simplify our lives. We are to fear Him and be sober about getting ready, with His help, for the certain-to-come Day of Judgment. If we fear Him, we don’t need to fear anyone or anything else.

Bishop Robert Barron has observed that the three tallest buildings in Chicago are insurance buildings. Fear “looms large” in our culture, but no insurance company can insure you against the only certain threat you face: Judgment Day. Only God can do that.

The sky may or may not be falling. (Personally, I doubt 80% of the media’s fearmongering.) But Judgment Day surely is looming. Foxy Loxy (Satan) is waiting for you. Will he get you? Will your fear of the Lord help you to avoid falling prey to his deceptions?

Courage is fearing the right thing and the right one.

 

 

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Pope Francis,

You said:

“The apparitions, the presumed current apparitions: the report has its doubts. I personally am more nasty, I prefer the Madonna as Mother, our Mother, and not a woman who’s the head of a telegraphic office, who everyday sends a message at such hour. This is not the Mother of Jesus. And these presumed apparitions don’t have a lot of value. This I say as a personal opinion. But, it’s clear. Who thinks that the Madonna says, ‘come tomorrow at this time, and at such time I will say a message to that seer?’ No.”

The one person by whom the Holy Mother of God should never be insulted is the Vicar of her Divine Son.

The Holy Spirit has the freedom to do whatever pleases Him or He deems necessary. If He chooses to send Blessed Mother Mary to convey messages to all of humanity (via apparitions or locutions) for the salvation of our souls (including yours), we should be grateful (despite your personal opinion that “these presumed apparitions don’t have a lot of value”).

One thing savvy Catholics can be sure of is that there is much more deceit perpetrated by high ranking members of the clergy than anything they should be wary of via private revelation.

Excerpt from Fr. Benedict Groeschel’s book ‘A Still, Small Voice’ regarding Medjugorje:

“In such a complex situation it is surprising to find someone [the bishop] in such a no-lose situation. The worst that can happen is that the bishop may have to make some apologies to the Virgin Mary – but then we have it on the best authority that she is very benevolent and understanding. One might assume that with a couple of Rosaries the bishop will be out of trouble with the Blessed Mother. My problem with the bishop and his advisors, as well as with everyone else except the visionaries themselves, is that they are all so sure of their respective positions. The visionaries have at least a subjective excuse for being certain. I had the opportunity to interview one of the young visionaries, Maria Paprovick, for over an hour, through an interpreter. I found her to be a rather levelheaded, sensible peasant girl. Without clear evidence of fraud or mental illness, how can anyone else be so certain in completely rejecting their accounts?

More on Medjugorje: https://fjdalessio.wordpress.com/2015/06/10/medjugorje

 

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By Father Bill Peckman

I spend a lot of time thinking, reading, and praying about why the Church is decline in this country.

The influx of immigrants from Latin America hides the number decline. Even with this influx, every measurable indicator is down: baptisms, confirmations, marriages, priestly ordinations, numbers of men’s and women’s religious, children in parochial schools and religion programs. It is grim.

How did we get here?

The major error was ditching the transcendent. We domesticated God. We became functional Arians. (This doesn’t mean racist, that would be Aryans.) It means we act as if Jesus was merely human, that He is a guru, self-help teacher, social worker extraordinaire.

To be sure, I am not talking about every parish. But as a Church in this country, we took our eyes off the ball.

Mass started looking less like the worship of God and more like a pep rally. Our churches stopped looking Catholic and were overrun by iconoclasts. We went from churches that exuded Catholic belief visually, to ubiquitous ‘sacred spaces’ that looked more like theaters.

Some places ran with the theater aspect. Worship transformed to entertainment. What I got out of it became much more important than what I put into it.

By ripping out the transcendent heart out of worship, we reduced Mass. It is little wonder that belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist plummeted. It is little wonder that priestly vocations plummeted. While the generation that ushered these things love them, the subsequent generations fled in droves.

With worship emptied of the transcendent, Catholic life soon followed. Devotional life in parishes dried up. Parish churches became Mass stations. It has been heartening to see a rise in Eucharistic Adoration.

With the focus off the transcendent, awareness also plummeted. Confession lines disappeared. Families shrunk as we started contracepting ourselves out of existence. The loud din of children gave way to seas of gray. Accommodation of the secular culture went largely unchallenged. Causes replaced action. The works of mercy declined as a false idea of social justice rose in its place.

In this mileau, it was easy for people to leave. Without the transcendent, we offer nothing more than any fraternal order. Without the transcendent, objective morality withers. With our eyes off the ball, 78% of Catholics simply quit coming to Mass. Without the source and summit that is the Eucharist, the Catholic life dies. It is starved to death.

But those who leave, even if they go nowhere else, still have that longing. Many identify that as “spiritual but not religious.” There is still an unrequited longing for the transcendent. If they cannot find it with us, they will look elsewhere, even if that means cobbling something together themselves. We can sneer and belittle them at our own peril. The fact they aren’t drawn to a pep rally isn’t on them – it is on us.

How do we turn this around?

Let’s start with focusing back on the transcendent again. In our structures, our worship, our music, our preaching, and our teaching.

This doesn’t mean we ignore the immanent. Not at all! The lessons from the transcendent must find a home in our lives. If God has placed a longing for Him, then that must be the focus at Mass. If we don’t focus on God there, we will leave people no choice but to look elsewhere.

Let us then, having established the prominence of God in our lives, revel in our being counter cultural. We are in the world but not of the world. We are yeast, light, salt, and whatever other transformative description Jesus uses to describe His people.

If we look and act the same as the secular culture around us, then we can hardly be a witness to the throngs of people who are searching for something to fill that God sized hole in their souls. After all, St. Augustine reminds us that our hearts are restless until they rest in Christ.

Our eyes need to be on the ball. Our eyes need to be on Christ. Not on the congregation. Not only the priest. They need to be on Christ.

My duty as a priest, as a pastor of souls, is to be sure the focus is on Him.

Originally posted on Facebook

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If you read this post on Msgr. Pope’s blog, you will find many of his other outstanding reflections. For your convenience it is copied below with his kind permission.

Red highlights are my doing.

More Parish Closings Nationwide – What Are We to Learn and Do?

by Msgr. Charles Pope (posted with permission – source)

It was recently announced that a substantial number of Catholic parishes will be closing in Connecticut. This is just the latest in a national trend that is likely to affect the diocese where you live, especially in the north. I’d like to offer some rather quick thoughts and then ponder what I think is the root cause for our decline.

  1. Bishops don’t close parishes, people do. While it may be juridically true that bishops formally certify or give recognition to the opening, closing, and merging of parishes, it is ultimately God’s people who create or withdraw the need for a parish. The hard truth is that Catholics are contracepting and aborting in large numbers, thus depleting our ranks. Further, in most urban areas of the northeast, barely 15% of Catholics attend Mass regularly. In comparison, during the first half of the 20th century, when many of the parishes being closed today were being built, nearly 85% of Catholics attended Mass regularly. It is unrealistic for Catholics to expect that parishes should not be closed in significant numbers when there is so little attendance and concomitant support.
  2. Some point out that large numbers of Catholics have left the Northeast and headed south and west. That helps to explain why many parishes in the south and southwest are growing (even booming), but it does not mean that the overall population of the Northeast has dropped dramatically. To some degree, there has been a failure to evangelize, but the deepest wounds are in the decline of Mass attendance and our failure to hand on the faith. We are currently burying the last generation to be taught that Sunday Mass was an obligation to be met under pain of mortal sin.
  3. There is shared responsibility. It is easy to be angry at bishops and priests when parishes must be closed. Years of poor catechesis, a lack of effective preaching, and poorly celebrated liturgies have taken their toll and the clergy bear the first responsibility in this. However, dissent and division among the faithful and a drifting from the practice of the faith are also big factors. Many priest who do preach firmly and insist on clear doctrine are made to pay dearly.
  4. At the end of day, the clergy cannot take full responsibility for the problem, nor can they address it alone. Why? Because shepherds don’t have sheep, sheep have sheep. Evangelization cannot be just a problem for the rectory; it is ultimately a family problem. Parents and grandparents must do more to summon their children home and witness the power of the liturgy and sacraments to transform.
  5. Many blame the liturgy for the low attendance. While the liturgy as commonly celebrated today can seem bland and uninspiring, and much modern Church music “banal” (as the Pope recently remarked), the proposed solutions are bewildering in number and even where implemented attract only small numbers. For example, some have cheered the reintroduction of the Traditional Latin Mass, a form of the Mass that I happen to love. However, I don’t know of a single diocese in this country in which the number of Catholics attending that form accounts for more than 1% of all Mass attendees. Thus, the problem seems deeper than the external forms.
  6. The heart of the problem is an overall malaise. There is little urgency; few seem to feel the need for the faith, the Church, the sacraments, or the Word of God. In my opinion, a steady diet of universalism (the unbiblical notion that all or the vast majority of people will be saved, no matter what) inside the Church, and a steady diet of pluralism and relativism outside the Church have played the largest role in the problem. There’s no real problem seen, no hurry, no need for what we offer. At best we are just one product on the shelf of a boutique dedicated to the non-essential niceties that people dabble in if they have the time. The common view in our culture is that religion is a nice little way of accessorizing your life, but otherwise, who cares?

Given what I think is the root cause, how should we begin to stop the steady erosion of the practice of Catholic faith? I would agree with Dr. Ralph Martin that the first step must be to revive a more biblical vision of urgency regarding salvation. Just because many people—even among the clergy—say that there isn’t a problem doesn’t mean that there isn’t one.

Jesus was far more sober in assessing the situation. He devoted many parables and warnings to our need to attend to the salvation He offers. There are the sheep and the goats, those on the right and those on the left, the wise virgins and the foolish ones, those ready for the master’s return and those who are not, those who will hear, “Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” and those who will hear, “Depart from me. I know you not.” Jesus noted that the road to damnation was wide and many were on it, and “only a few” were on the narrow road to salvation (Matt 7:13-14).

But just try to tell any of this to most people today and see what kind of response you get. My sense is that urgency is at an all-time low. Yet biblically, directly from Jesus Himself, it is clear that the likelihood of being saved is greatly reduced when one does not repent regularly and walk in the faith actively, including a heavy dose of Scripture and frequent reception of the sacraments.

Yet few people speak this way today. Many dismiss such speech as “fear-based” argument. The fact is, however, that some things should be feared, including our tendency to be hard-hearted and hard-headed, to prefer passing things and error to eternal truths. Running about in a panic is not helpful; we need sober acceptance of our vital need for the sacraments, the proclaimed Word, holy fellowship, and the transformative power of the liturgy.

Until this sober appreciation is recovered by many and demonstrated by the few of us who remain, the steady erosion seems likely to continue. Church closings may be “coming soon to a neighborhood near you.” It is sad to lose buildings, many of them works of art, but it is even sadder to ponder the human loss that the empty buildings represent.

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If you read this post on Msgr. Pope’s blog, you will find many of his other outstanding reflections. For your convenience it is copied below with his kind permission.

Are You Smarter than a Sheep?

by Msgr. Charles Pope (posted with permission – source)

The Fourth Sunday of Easter is traditionally called Good Shepherd Sunday, for the readings focus on how our risen Lord Jesus is our shepherd, who leads us to eternal life. Of course the flip side is that we are sheep. We sometimes miss the humor of the Lord calling us sheep. He could have said we are strong and swift as horses, beautiful as gazelles, or brave as lions; instead, He said we are like sheep. I guess I’ve been called worse, but it’s a little humbling and embarrassing, really. Yet sheep are worthwhile animals and they have a certain quality that makes them pretty smart. Are you smarter than a sheep? Well, let’s look and see how we stack up as we look at this Gospel in three stages.

I. The Situation of the Sheep In this Gospel the Lord is speaking to Pharisees and almost trying to reassure them that He is not like other false shepherds, false messiahs who have led many astray. Jesus says, Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. … All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them … A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy.

The times in which Jesus lived were ones of social unrest and political turmoil. There were heightened expectations of a coming messiah who would liberate Israel from its Roman and Herodian oppressors. Given the climate of the times, most had emphasized the role of the messiah as a political and economic liberator who would come and wage war and victoriously reestablish the Davidic Monarchy in all its worldly glory.

Josephus, a Jewish historian of the time, may have exaggerated (but only a little) when he spoke of 10,000 insurrections in the years leading up to the Jewish War with the Romans (66 – 70 A.D.). Even as early as Jesus’ lifetime there had been conflicts and bloody uprisings led by numerous false messiahs. It is most likely these whom Jesus refers to as thieves and robbers. It is also likely why Jesus resisted being called Messiah except in very specific circumstances (Matt 16:16,20; Mk 8:30; Mk 14:62).

Jesus also warned that after He ascended, false messiahs would continue to plague the land:

For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time. “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it’” (Matt 24:24-26).

Ultimately these false Christs did arise and mislead many; the results were horrible. Josephus wrote that 1.2 million Jewish people lost their lives in the Jewish War with the Romans.

So this is the situation of the sheep. Jesus speaks of the dangers of false saviors, unambiguously denouncing them as thieves and robbers. We, too, are in a world in which erroneous philosophies and false messiahs seek to claim our loyalties and engage us in error.

Perhaps it is the false claims of materialism, which says the right combination of wealth and power can bring meaning and happiness. Sadly, many of the “prosperity Gospel” preachers compound this by their silence about the cross and sin.

Perhaps it is the error of secularism, which exalts the State and the culture, putting their importance above God. Many in the Church and in the Protestant denominations (both clergy and lay) follow false shepherds and call others to do so. They seek to more closely align their faith with politics, instead of their politics with faith; they show more allegiance to the “party” than to the Faith; they do not prophetically address the errors associated with their political point of view; they see their political leaders as shepherds than they do their bishops or priests. Many also follow the false shepherds of culture, looking to them for moral leadership rather than to God, the Scriptures, or the Church. If Miley Cyrus says it, it must be so, but if the Church says something, there are protests and anger. Yes, false messiahs are all around us in the secular culture. Sadly, many Catholics and Christians follow them like sheep to the slaughter.

Perhaps it is the arrogance of modern times, which claims a special enlightenment over previous eras (such as the biblical era), which were “less enlightened and tolerant.” Here, too, many false shepherds in the clothing of trendy preachers and theologians have sought to engage God’s people in this sort of arrogance: that we moderns have “come of age” and may safely ignore the wisdom of the past in the Scriptures and sacred Tradition.

Perhaps it is the promiscuity of this age, which claims sexual liberty for itself but never counts the cost in broken lives, broken families, STDs, AIDS, high divorce rates, teenage pregnancy, abortion, and so on. Sadly, many so-called preachers and supposedly Christian denominations now bless homosexual unions and ordain clergy who are practicing the homosexual “lifestyle.” Many also support abortion and contraception, while saying little or nothing about premarital sex.

Yes, the sheep are still afflicted; false philosophies and messiahs abound. Jesus calls them thieves and marauders (robbers) because they want to steal from us what the Lord has given and harm us by leading us astray. Their wish is ultimately to slaughter and destroy.

Do not be misled by the soft focus of these wolves in sheep’s clothing, with their message of “tolerance” and humanitarian concern. A simple look at the death toll in the 20th century from such ideologies shows the wolf lurking behind these foolish and evil trends that have misled the flock.

As to these false shepherds, remember that not one of them ever died for you; only Jesus did that.

II. The Shepherd and His Sheep – Having rejected false shepherds, Jesus now goes on to describe Himself as the true Shepherd:

But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.

This passage tells us not only of the true Shepherd, but also his true sheep. The true Shepherd is sent by the Father, who is the gatekeeper and has opened the way for the Son and true Shepherd. The Father has confirmed the Son by signs and wonders and by the fulfillment of prophesies in abundance.

Of the true sheep, the Lord says that they not only recognize His voice, but also that they will run from a stranger because they do not recognize his voice.

In shepherding areas, flocks belonging to different shepherds are often brought together in fenced-off areas for the night, especially during the cooler months. One may wonder how shepherds can tell which sheep belong to which shepherd. Ultimately the sheep sort themselves out. In the morning a shepherd will go to the gate and summon his sheep with a chant-like like call. Those that recognize his voice will run to him; those that do not will recoil in fear. Now that’s pretty smart, actually. Sheep may not know how to go to the moon and back, but they do know their master’s voice.

So the question for each of us is this: are you smarter than a sheep? Sheep have the remarkable ability to know their master’s voice and instinctively fear any other voice, fleeing from it.

In this way, it would seem that sheep are smarter than most of us are! We do not flee voices contrary to Christ; instead, we draw close and say, “Tell me more.” In fact, we spend a lot of time and money to listen to other voices. We spend buy big televisions so that the enemy’s voice can influence us and our children. We spend a lot of time watching television, listening to the radio, and surfing the Internet. We are drawn so easily to the enemy’s voice.

Not only do we not flee it, we feast on it. Instead of rebuking it, we rebuke the voice of God. We put His Word on trial instead of putting the world on trial.

The goal for us is to be more wary, like sheep, to recognize only one voice, that of the Lord speaking though His Church, fleeing every other voice.

III. The Salvation of the Sheep – The text says, Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. … I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.

Here, then, is the description of the Christian life: acceptance, access, and abundance.

Acceptance – The text says that we must enter through the gate, and the gate is Christ. We are invited to accept the offer of being baptized into Christ Jesus. In today’s first reading from Acts, Peter and the other apostles are asked by the repentant and chastened crowd, “What are we to do, my brothers?” Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit …. “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day. Yes, we are invited to enter through the gate, to be baptized into Christ Jesus. He is the gate and the way to the Father.

Access – In accepting baptism, we enter through the gate and have access to the wide, green pastures. Jesus describes this entry as “being saved.” Most of us tend to think of salvation rather abstractly, as if it is the result of a legal process through which one goes from being guilty to having the charges dismissed. That, however, is only a very partial understanding of salvation. The Greek word σωθήσεται (sothesetai) more fully means to be safe, rescued, delivered out of danger and into safety. In the New Testament it is used principally of God rescuing believers from the penalty and power of sin—bringing them into his into His safety and grace. Being saved is much more than changing legal categories; it is new life! It is power over sin; it is being kept from the poison of sin and its terrible enslaving effects. Salvation is also related to the concept of health (salus = health and well being). For the believer who accepts Christ’s offer, there is access to the protected pasture; there is supply or provision of grazing land as well. The Lord feeds His faithful and brings them strength. Yes, there is access to God’s many gifts.

Abundance – The Lord concludes by saying that He came so that we might have life more abundantly. This is the fundamental purpose of all he did. Abundant life is really what is meant by eternal life. Eternal does not refer merely to the length of life, but even more so its fullness. And while we will not enjoy this fully until Heaven, it does begin now. We, through Christ our good shepherd, gradually become more fully alive. I am more than fifty years old and my body in some physical sense is less alive, but my soul is more alive than ever! I have more joy, more confidence, more peace, and more contentment. There are many sins with which I now struggle less. I have a greater capacity to love and to forgive. The Lord has granted this by giving me access to His grace and His pasture, and feeding me there. I am more abundantly alive today than I ever was in my twenties. Yes, the Lord came that we might have life more abundantly; I am a witness of this. Eternal life has already begun in me and is growing day by day.

So, are you smarter than a sheep? If you are, then run to Jesus. Flee every other voice. Enter the sheepfold and let Him give you life.

Here is a portion of a performance of Handel’s Pastoral Symphony of the Messiah:

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The Venerable Pope Pius XII was the pope of my youth. His moral strength and integrity are much needed today. 

Excerpts from ‘Prophetic Speech of Pope Ven. Pius XII Warns of “a Church which Weakens the Law of God” [Source]:

Romans! The Church of Christ is following the road traced out for her by the divine Redeemer. She feels herself eternal; she knows that she cannot perish, that the most violent storms will not succeed in submerging her. She begs no favours; the threats and disfavor of earthly authorities do not intimidate her. She does not interfere in problems purely economic or political, nor does she occupy herself with debates on the usefulness or banefulness of one form of government or another. Always eager, in so far as she is able, to be at peace with all (cf. Rom 12:8), she renders unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, but she cannot betray or abandon that which belongs to God.

Now, it is well known what the totalitarian and anti-religious State requires and expects from her [the Church] as the price for her tolerance and her problematic recognition. That is, it would desire:

a Church which remains silent, when she should speak out;

a Church which weakens the law of God, adapting it to the taste of human desires, when she should loudly proclaim and defend it;

a Church which detaches herself from the unwavering foundation upon which Christ built her, in order to repose comfortably on the shifting sands of the opinions of the day or to give herself up to the passing current;

a Church which does not withstand the oppression of conscience and does not protect the legitimate rights and the just liberties of the people;

a Church which, with indecorous servility, remains enclosed within the four walls of the temple, which forgets the divine mandate received from Christ: Go forth to the street corners (Matt 22:9), teach all peoples (Matt 28:19).

Beloved sons and daughters! Spiritual heirs of an innumerable legion of confessors and martyrs!

Is this the Church whom you venerate and love? Would you recognize in such a Church the features of your Mother’s face? Can you imagine a Successor of the first Peter, who would bow to similar demands?

The Pope has the divine promises; even in his human weaknesses, he is invincible and unshakable; he is the messenger of truth and justice, the principle of the unity of the Church; his voice denounces errors, idolatries, superstitions; he condemns iniquities; he makes charity and virtue loved.

Can he [the Pope] then remain silent when in a nation the churches which are united to the center of Christendom, to Rome, are snatched away through violence or cunning; when all the Greek-Catholic bishops are imprisoned because they refuse to apostatize from their faith; when priests and the faithful are persecuted and arrested because they refuse to leave their true Mother Church?

Can the Pope remain silent, when ….

Read the rest here.

Status of the Church at the end of Pope Pius XII’s reign:

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Excerpt from ‘Interview of His Excellency Mons. Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of Karaganda (Kazakhstan)’

You called a few years ago to issue new “Syllabus errorum”. What popular “errors” are most threatening our faith in present time?

The list would be as follows:

1) The theory of a pre-conciliar and a post-conciliar Church in the sense of rupture or discontinuity, preferring the “post-conciliar” Church, and considering the real Church as the “conciliar church”, creating thereby the notion of a new church, the “Church of Vatican II”.

2) The theory that other Christian confessions or other religions are objectively also ways of salvation wanted by God.

3) The theory that women have to receive access to ordained ministries at least to the deaconate, an aspiration which is favored by the wide spread practice of female acolytes and lectors, a practice not at least indicated by the documents of Vatican II.

4) Doubts about the perpetual virginity of Our Lady, especially about the virginal birth of Jesus and of the virginity of Our Lady during birth giving (virginitas in partu).

5) The theory that the Holy Mass is predominantly a fraternal banquet and that the sacrificial aspect of the Holy Mass is only metaphorical or a sacrifice of praise (such an error increased largely step by step also due to a typical banquet-style manner of celebrating Mass, i.e. the generalized practice of the celebration “versus populum”, which non in the least was indicated by the fathers of Vatican II.

6) The lack of the belief in the transubstantiation and even in the real presence (largely caused by the modern practice of Communion in hand, a practice, which the Council fathers never could imagine and which Paul VI himself considered dangerous.

7) Erroneous opinions about episcopal collegiality, attributing to the college of the bishops an ordinary supreme power of government of the universal Church, creating a kind of double-head of the body of the Church, what is against the Divine constitution of the Church.

8) An erroneous application of the principle of episcopal collegiality by means of the Episcopal Conferences on national and international levels, weakening thereby the Divinely established individual authority of teaching and governing of the diocesan bishop.

9) Doubts about the eternity of hell.

10) Doubts about the real possibility of eternal condemnation to hell of human beings, which means that the hell is empty.

11) Doubts about the necessity of expiation of temporal punishments in purgatory.

12) A naturalistic view of the Christian life and truth, so that activism and social engagement become predominant to the detriment of prayer and adoration of God, which means a kind of neo-pelagianism.

13) Non-recognition of the grave immorality of contraception.

14) Practical errors about the indissolubility of a valid matrimony (favored by the practice of admittance of divorced to Holy Communion).

15) Errors about the objective disorder of homosexual acts and of homoerotism and the objective immorality of same sex civil unions, because they favor ultimately sodomy.

16) Confusion about the essential difference of the ministerial and the common priesthood.

17) Doubts about the convenience of the clerical celibate and his perennial value because of apostolic tradition.

Read the entire interview here.

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