“Taught the Fear of Jesus in a Small Town” — Thinking About Two Wrong, But Prevalent, Views of Religion

J.M.J.

My dear friends,

I wake up to a radio station that cycles through rock hits from the 1970’s and ’80’s. I guess that’s what manages to get me up best in the morning. A couple days ago, I heard a song frequently played on this radio station, John Mellencamp’s “Small Town.” As I lay there in bed, talking myself into getting up, one line of that song hit me more notably than it had before. The singer describes himself as, “Educated in a small town / Taught the fear of Jesus in a small town / Used to daydream in that small town / Another boring romantic, that’s me.”

JCM_-_Small_Town
“Small Town,” Riva Records

“Taught the fear of Jesus in a small town.”

I had never really considered the implications of a line like that, but it hit me forcefully then. The way the singer sees Jesus—and thus, presumably, the entire idea of faith of religion—is one of “fear.” To such a mindset, it seems, God is nothing other than someone who watches your every move to ensure you don’t do something “wrong.” God is a sort of boogeyman in the clouds who serves no real purpose besides stopping you from doing the things you want, and who has petty ideas of right vs. wrong. One bad move and you’re done for.

Now, admittedly, it is one line of one song written thirty years ago, and I can’t say how John Mellencamp views religion based on it alone. For all I know, that may not have been meant as the swipe at religion that it sounds like.

But I think it’s not unfair to say that many people today, numerous Catholics among them, do view the religion they’re taught in their formative years as being based ultimately on a fear of God, lest He find some fault with them. (Notate bene: fear of the Lord, in proper measure, is a good to be fostered; more on that in a minute). And then there’s the opposite end of the spectrum, which is arguably more prevalent within today’s world, which says that, if God exists, and if people want to “be religious,” then as long as they’re not murderers, rapists, or psychopaths, they have nothing to fear from God. Both of these views are unhealthy. The first, meant to make the believer careful to avoid anything “bad” based on the mean God in the clouds who’s out to get him, misses an essential ingredient of religion and will probably lead to resentment and, ultimately, abandonment of God. The second misses that same essential ingredient, but, not wanting to leave the believer cowering in fear, says simply that there’s nothing to fear except in a few extreme cases.

What essential ingredient is missing in these two approaches to religion? The idea of following God due to love of Him. I don’t mean love in the sense of nice, uplifting, warm-fuzzy “fluff.” I mean love like the kind we find when we really love another person: a valuing of the other person based on a genuine belief in his or her inherent merit, goodness, and worth. In the end, the primary driving force for any religious activity on our part should arise from a desire to please God because we recognize the goodness of God, the worth of God, and the love with which He acts upon mankind. “We love [God],” says John in his first letter, “because He has loved us first” (1 John 4:19). To be loved deeply by another person will very often make us love that person in return, and in the case of God, it’s no different. The individual who has a correct approach to religion, a correct understanding of God, loves Him if for no other reason than that God loves the individual so greatly in return, and that God is so perfect and benignant as to be entirely worth loving.

Genuine love of God balances out our spiritual lives, so that we are neither preoccupied with His impending wrath, nor lax enough to think that, as long as we’re not criminals, we’ve nothing to worry about. “He who loves Me will keep My commandments,” says Christ in John 14:23. This verse alone can serve as a course correction toward both views of religion given above. To the believer who approaches the Lord in terms of “fear,” it must be pointed out that the avoidance of sin is based on the principle that sin is a rejection of the love God offers, and that, by avoiding sin, the believer is avoiding offense to a loved one. This, and not fear of anger, should be his primary motivation for not sinning. To the believer who approaches the Lord with a grand laxity of conscience, it must be pointed out it does not take public atrocities to render oneself guilty of sin. “You have heard it said, ‘You shall not commit adultery,'” Our Lord tells His listeners in the Gospel of Matthew, “but I say to you, that whoever looks at a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” And earlier on, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not murder,’ but I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother shall be subject to judgement” (Mt. 5:27; 21).

Fear of the Lord is a genuine gift, and is required for a healthy relationship with God, for it keeps present before us the essential realization that God is God and we are not. God is holy, and very often, we are not. God has ultimate power over life, death, and the created world; we do not, and any power we do have is merely because He has given it to us. Fear of the Lord, as is obvious, does hinder us from sinning, so that we avoid the punishment we willfully incur on ourselves by sinning (it would be a mistake to think God “sends us to Hell,” since He does not; we send ourselves to Hell by our voluntary rejection of the one who “is Love,” the ultimate reason for and sustainer of all that exists—1 John 4:8). Despite its necessity, however, fear of the Lord should always be a secondary motivation for following God as we ought, and love ought to take the primary place. “There is no fear in love, for perfect love casts out fear; fear arises from punishment, and he who has fear has not been perfected in love” (1 John 4:18).

I guess the point of all this musing is the following: if fear is your primary motivation in following God, something’s off. If want to follow God without any fear, something’s equally off. Fostering a love of God, which will balance your perspective of God, is the key to following Him properly.

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Pretty Sanctuary vs. Auditorium Church

As I said a few posts back, priests have had a tendency to change the Mass in the last fifty years. Another common and unfortunate occurrence of the last fifty years is the issue of what will be called, for convenience’s sake, the Auditorium Church. I’m sure you can guess what I’m referring to here. Heck, your own parish may fit that category. The Auditorium Church is just what it sounds like: a worship space that looks not like a worship space, but an auditorium. A large contribution to the rise of these Auditorium Churches would be the desire among Catholics since the 1960s to do away with the Catholic and get along with Protestants by blurring the differentiating lines. For example, in these Auditorium Churches, you’ll find (most of the time) that things commonly considered “Catholic” are absent. Such things include (but are not limited to):

  • The Tabernacle (this “house of God”, as it were, is usually hidden off in a side chapel somewhere)
  • Statues
  • Stations of the Cross
  • Stained Glass
  • Kneelers (how dare we kneel before God, after all)

Such parishes have a tendency to be very happy-clappy and liberal. It makes sense. Anyone who truly knows about the Eucharist and knows what the Mass is would WANT a place to adequately glorify God. Unfortunately, these people see Holy Mass as a communal gathering, just like the church services of Protestants. Sadly for these Auditorium-loving folks (and thankfully for the Catholic identity in all of us), people do, in their heart of hearts, like–get this–beautiful churches. Yup. You got it. Pretty churches. God-glorifying churches. Ornate churches that take care and dedication to build. Does the church have to be a mini-European cathedral? No, but it should be obviously Catholic, insofar as that’s possible (the exception being a chapel in a third-world country).

There’s a very simple proof that people like “Catholic” Catholic churches.. Ask ANYBODY who normally goes to an Auditorium Parish and gets the chance to go to an obviously Catholic one. They will, almost unfailingly, declare how nice it was, and how they “love going to that church”.

Wanna venture a guess as to why that might be?

God bless,

Mike

Yes, You Can

Hello to all of you, my readers!

I’ll begin the current post by asking you this: How many times have you heard people say, almost in humor, “I’m never going to be a saint!”? Or how many Catholics do you know who are content to say, “I’ll  try to make it to Purgatory at least” as though Purgatory were some middle road for the not-too-good and the not-too-bad?

Notwithstanding the fact that such a statement shows complete ignorance of what Purgatory is, there is a very real and very strong danger here. This would be the danger of being content with the middle road. Although I’m assuming most of you don’t see Purgatory as a “Heaven easier than Heaven”, how many of you end up thinking, “Eh, I’m probably gonna end up in Purgatory if I’m saved”?

This isn’t quite as bad as deliberately choosing Purgatory since it’s supposedly “easier to get to” than Heaven, but it still shows many qualities of that indifferentism which is so harmful.

Remember when the angel told Mary, “All things are possible with God” and when St. Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ, Who strengthens me”? Do you ever feel tempted to simply brush statements like that off as a mere ideal which is not actually achievable by the common person?

If you do, resist such an urge. That’s precisely what the devil wants. He wants you to find real, deep sanctification impossible. Why? Because if you don’t think you can become, to quote Our Lord, “perfect as your heavenly Father is”, then you won’t even attempt to reach that goal.

It’s not impossible to be perfect. Hard, most definitely. But not impossible. The only thing stopping you from being a saint is your desire to be one and your trust that the Lord Who strengthened Paul can strengthen you. God does not plan for you to be a lukewarm soul. He made you and He made you for Heaven, not for Purgatory. Purgatory is a last resort and should never be looked at as a first choice. If you truly, truly want to go to Heaven without needing to enter Purgatory first, the Lord will be more than willing to grant your wish.

Ask Him and trust Him. He won’t ignore you.

How Great Thou Art

Think of the sun for a minute. Yes, that giant glowing orb that lights and warms the solar system. What happens if you decide to stare at it too directly? Well, perhaps it will become hard to see for a while. What happens if you stare at it, both too directly and for too long? You become blind. The light is to much for your eyes and you fail to have the power of vision from then on.

Now bear in mind that the sun is created (see Genesis). A created thing, then, has brilliance too great for human comprehension. Or look at angels, also created, and the fact that humans often mistake them for God and worship them (like John in Revelation). I also remember hearing of a saint who saw a human soul in the state of grace, and it was so beautiful that the saint (whose identity I forget) said, “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say there were two gods!”

So if created things are so beautiful to us, how beautiful must God Himself be?

Something to ponder as we celebrate the feast of Our Lord’s body under veiled appearances in the Blessed Sacrament.

His blessings to you,

Michael

Awesome, Awesome, Awesome, Awesome Homily by the Holy Father on the Eucharist

See title.

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

This evening I would like to meditate with you on two interconnected aspects of the Eucharistic Mystery: the worship of the Eucharist and its sacredness. It is important to take it up again to preserve it from incomplete visions of the Mystery itself, such as those which were proposed in the recent past.

First of all, a reflection on the value of Eucharistic worship, in particular adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament. It is the experience that we will also live after the Mass, before the procession, during its development and at its end. A unilateral interpretation of Vatican Council II has penalized this dimension, restricting the Eucharist in practice to the celebratory moment. In fact, it was very important to recognize the centrality of the celebration, in which the Lord convokes his people, gathers them around the twofold table of the Word and the Bread of life, nourishes them and unites them to Himself in the offering of the Sacrifice. This assessment of the liturgical assembly, in which the Lord works and realizes his mystery of communion, remains of course valid, but it must be placed in the right balance. In fact – as often happens – the stressing of one aspect ends up by sacrificing another. In this case, the accentuation placed on the celebration of the Eucharist has been to the detriment of adoration, as act of faith and prayer addressed to the Lord Jesus, really present in the Sacrament of the altar. This imbalance has also had repercussions on the spiritual life of the faithful. In fact, concentrating the whole relationship with the Eucharistic Jesus only at the moment of Holy Mass risks removing his presence from the rest of time and the existential space. And thus, perceived less is the sense of the constant presence of Jesus in our midst and with us, a concrete, close presence among our homes, as “beating Heart” of the city, of the country, of the territory with its various expressions and activities. The Sacrament of the Charity of Christ must permeate the whole of daily life.

In reality, it is a mistake to oppose celebration and adoration, as if they were in competition with one another. It is precisely the contrary: the worship of the Most Blessed Sacrament is as the spiritual “environment” in which the community can celebrate the Eucharist well and in truth. Only if it is preceded, accompanied and followed by this interior attitude of faith and adoration, can the liturgical action express its full meaning and value. The encounter with Jesus in the Holy Mass is truly and fully acted when the community is able to recognize that, in the Sacrament, He dwells in his house, waits for us, invites us to his table, then, after the assembly is dismissed, stays with us, with his discreet and silent presence, and accompanies us with his intercession, continuing to gather our spiritual sacrifices and offering them to the Father.

In this connection, I am pleased to stress the experience we will also live together this evening. At the moment of adoration, we are all on the same plane, kneeling before the Sacrament of Love. The common and ministerial priesthoods are united in Eucharistic worship. It is a very beautiful and significant experience, which we have experienced several times in Saint Peter’s Basilica, and also in the unforgettable vigils with young people – I recall, for example, those of Cologne, London, Zagreb, Madrid. It is evident to all that these moments of Eucharistic vigil prepare the celebration of the Holy Mass, prepare hearts for the encounter, so that it is more fruitful. To be all together in prolonged silence before the Lord present in his Sacrament, is one of the most genuine experiences of our being Church, which is accompanied in a complementary way with the celebration of the Eucharist, listening to the Word of God, singing, approaching together the table of the Bread of life. Communion and contemplation cannot be separated, they go together. To really communicate with another person I must know him, I must be able to be in silence close to him, to hear him and to look at him with love. True love and true friendship always live of the reciprocity of looks, of intense, eloquent silences full of respect and veneration, so that the encounter is lived profoundly, in a personal not a superficial way. And, unfortunately, if this dimension is lacking, even sacramental communion itself can become, on our part, a superficial gesture. Instead, in true communion, prepared by the colloquy of prayer and of life, we can say to the Lord words of confidence as those that resounded a short while ago in the Responsorial Psalm: “O Lord, I am thy servant; I am thy servant, the son of thy handmaid. / Thou hast loosed my bonds./ I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving /and call on the name of the Lord” (Psalm 115:16-17).

Now I would like to pass briefly to the second aspect: the sacredness of the Eucharist. Also here we heard in the recent past of a certain misunderstanding of the authentic message of Sacred Scripture. The Christian novelty in regard to worship was influenced by a certain secularist mentality of the 60s and 70s of the past century. It is true, and it remains always valid, that the center of worship is now no longer in the rites and ancient sacrifices, but in Christ himself, in his person, in his life, in his paschal mystery. And yet, from this fundamental novelty it must not be concluded that the sacred no longer exists, but that it has found its fulfillment in Jesus Christ, incarnate divine Love. The Letter to the Hebrews, which we heard this evening in the Second Reading, speaks to us precisely of the novelty of the priesthood of Christ, “high priest of the good things that have come” (Hebrews 9:11), but it does not say that the priesthood is finished. Christ “is the mediator of a new covenant” (Hebrews 9:15), established in his blood, which purifies our “conscience from dead works” (Hebrews 9:14). He did not abolish the sacred, but brought it to fulfillment, inaugurating a new worship, which is, yes, fully spiritual but which however, so long as we are journeying in time, makes use again of signs and rites, of which there will be no need only at the end, in the heavenly Jerusalem, where there will no longer be a temple (cf. Revelation 21:22). Thanks to Christ, the sacred is more true, more intense and, as happens with the Commandments, also more exacting! Ritual observance is not enough, but what is required is the purification of the heart and the involvement of life.

I am also pleased to stress that the sacred has an educational function, and its disappearance inevitably impoverishes the culture, in particular, the formation of the new generations. If, for example, in the name of a secularized faith, no longer in need of sacred signs, this citizens’ processions of the Corpus Domini were abolished, the spiritual profile of Rome would be “leveled,” and our personal and community conscience would be weakened. Or let us think of a mother or a father that, in the name of a de-sacralized faith, deprived their children of all religious rituals: in reality they would end up by leaving a free field to so many surrogates present in the consumer society, to other rites and other signs, which could more easily become idols. God, our Father, has not acted thus with humanity: he has sent his Son into the world not to abolish, but to give fulfillment also to the sacred. At the height of this mission, in the Last Supper, Jesus instituted the Sacrament of his Body and his Blood, the Memorial of his Paschal Sacrifice. By so doing, he put himself in the place of the ancient sacrifices, but he did so within a rite, which he commanded the Apostles to perpetuate, as the supreme sign of the true sacred, which is Himself. With this faith, dear brothers and sisters, we celebrate today and every day the Eucharistic Mystery and we adore it as the center of our life and heart of the world. Amen.

[Translation by ZENIT]

Religions are cults, right?

Satan is a smart individual. When it comes to groups that actually have a “religious” structure and very liturgical worship, many Protestants are quick to slam them and say Jesus came to abolish religion and just wants us to have a “personal relationship with Him”.

There are three religions which tend to be the largest targets of Protestant attacks: Mormonism (the Latter-Day Saints Church), the Watchtower Society (Jehovah’s Witnesses), and of course, the Roman Catholic Church, the “whore of Babylon” of Revelation 17 herself!

Now be aware that when it comes to Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, they tend to have different views about Christ than Protestants. They deny the divinity of Christ and the Trinity and they have all these weird religious obligations.

Protestants and Catholics often see these two groups as “cults” and often deny entirely their being Christians.

And now we come to the reason why I called Satan smart. Protestants see these weird religious groups, and see that Catholics are religious and very structured, and they automatically associate the Catholic Church with these “cults”.

Satan is smart indeed.

God bless,

Michael

Pars Quarta: Reviso et Conclusio

At last we have come to the end of what I had to say on the topic of Communion in the Hand. Now, as I said in my “series announcement” post: I am NOT saying you must receive the Holy Eucharist on the tongue. The Church allows that you may receive in the hand, but as seen in Pars Prima: A Historical Windshield Wiper, she desires that care be taken and prudence exercised in performing that practice. Still, what the Church allows, she allows, and I can’t disallow anything only because of my personal taste.

With that said, let’s quickly review what has been said in the last three posts:

1) Vatican II is not responsible for Communion in the Hand

2) Care should be taken when Communion in the Hand is done

3) There are many reasons why it is more ideal to simply receive on the tongue, among them a decreased risk of profanation of particles, an increased sense of the solemnity of the action, and the personal views of the Holy Father himself

4) John Paul II and Mother Teresa, often loved by liberals, disliked Communion in the Hand

5) If someone wants to receive Communion in the Hand because that’s what the early Church supposedly did, then he should do it in the way that the early Church did

With all this said, I encourage you, if you receive in the hand on a regular basis, to consider receiving on the tongue. The results of an action so simple are marvelous, really.

May the Lord bless you, and may His mother pray for you as the month of May closes,

Michael

Pars Prima: A Historical Windshield Wiper

Well, folks, here we are at the beginning. Have you ever been in the car when it was just pouring down rain and you need the windshield wipers going or else you won’t be able to see ahead of you? Well, that’s the goal of this first post: a little history of Holy Communion in the hand. Then we’ll go into what the Church ACTUALLY has to say on the issue. Future posts will go into the problem with this manner of reception.

Contrary to popular belief, a lot of common occurrences at any given Mass in the United States were never a part of Vatican II. A lot of people think, “Oh, thanks to Vatican II we have girl altar servers and can put Communion in our own mouths, and now the priest doesn’t have his back toward us, and now we can be a big happy family holding hands at the Our Father and now we can give Communion to people and now…! It’s all so great! Thank God the Church got in touch with the times!!!! Oh, don’t you just love it?????” Vatican II never called for any of the things just listed. Actually, if you want an accurate picture of how all the modern stuff makes me feel…

If you want to know what the Council said with regards to changes in the Mass, you should read the document Sacrosanctum Concilium. Thankfully for you, I’ll write the appropriate parts here. Specifically, let’s take a look at Chapter I, section III, Reform of the Sacred Liturgy. Three statements stick out especially: 1) Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See and, as laws may determine, on the bishop; 2) in virtue of power conceded by the law, the regulation of the liturgy within certain defined limits belongs also to competent territorial bodies of bishops legitimately established; 3) Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority (emphasis mine).

And then, similarly, we find this statement in no. 22 of “General Norms”: Finally, there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing. As far as possible, notable differences between the rites used in adjacent regions must be carefully avoided.

Yet again, under “Norms Drawn From the Hierarchic and Communal Nature of the Liturgy”, we see the following: “In liturgical celebrations each person, minister or layman, who has an office to perform, should do all of, but only, those parts which pertain to his office by the nature of the rite and the principles of liturgy” (emphasis mine).

And still, again, in “Norms Based on the Didactic and Pastoral Nature of the Liturgy”, we find these three things: 1) Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites. 2) But since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended. This will apply in the first place to the readings and directives, and to some of the prayers and chants, according to the regulations on this matter to be laid down separately in subsequent chapters [notice it didn’t say, “the whole of the Mass”] 3) These norms being observed, it is for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, to decide whether, and to what extent, the vernacular language is to be used; their decrees are to be approved, that is, confirmed, by the Apostolic See. And, whenever it seems to be called for, this authority is to consult with bishops of neighboring regions which have the same language.

OK, well, why am I quoting all this stuff? To show you that innovations and whatnot were not meant to occur.

You may be saying, “Wait a minute…if Vatican II never said to do this stuff…why is it so common? Wouldn’t they have put a stop to it if it were so at odds with what they wanted?”

You must realize something: a lot of the “allowances” like Communion in the hand and altar girls all started out as liturgical abuses started by liberal priests who took the so-called “Spirit of Vatican II” (I didn’t know there was one…) and tried to Protestantize and spice up the Mass (for example, this one priest my mother knew allowed girl altar servers before the Vatican ever did). These ideas spread and sooner or later most people, not having read the documents of Vatican II, took them to be the norm and thought that they were a result of the Council itself. And because the ideas became so widespread and would be hard to stamp out, the Vatican gave concession. These things weren’t part of Vatican II. And as a side note–that’s why I hate when people condemn Vatican II. It didn’t DO anything! Get mad at the liberal priests who hijacked it instead.

Anyway, Communion in the hand was first given an official mention by the Church itself in 1969, when the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship replied to an appeal by bishops (particularly from the United States) requesting the implementation of this practice. The Congregation’s letter response had this to say:

” The Pope grants that throughout the territory of your conference, each bishop may, according to his prudent judgment and conscience, authorize in his diocese the introduction of the new rite for giving communion. The condition is the complete avoidance of any cause for the faithful to be shocked and any danger of irreverence toward the Eucharist. The following norms must therefore be respected.
1. The new manner of giving communion must not be imposed in a way that would exclude the traditional practice. It is a matter of particular seriousness that in places where the new practice is lawfully permitted every one of the faithful have the option of receiving communion on the tongue and even when other persons are receiving communion in the hand.
2. The rite of communion in the hand must not be put into practice indiscriminately. Since the question involves human attitudes, this mode of communion is bound up with the perceptiveness and preparation of the one receiving. It is advisable, therefore, that the rite be introduced gradually and in the beginning within small, better prepared groups and in favorable settings. Above all it is necessary to have the introduction of the rite preceded by an effective catechesis, so that the people will clearly understand the meaning of receiving in the hand and will practice it with the reverence owed to the sacrament. This catechesis must succeed in excluding any suggestion that in the mind of the Church there is a lessening of faith in the eucharistic presence and in excluding as well any danger or hint of danger of profaning the Eucharist.
3. The option offered to the faithful of receiving the Eucharistic bread in their hand and putting it into their own mouth must not turn out to be the occasion for regarding it as ordinary bread or as just another religious article. (…) Their attitude of reverence must measure up to what they are doing.

[Just for the record, if you read norm #4, you’ll notice it says that perhaps the communicant may take the Host from the ciborium for himself. Well, according to EWTN, Rome later forbade this practice]

5. Whatever procedure is adopted, care must be taken not to allow particles of the Eucharistic bread to fall or be scattered.

There are more norms as well, which you can read here: http://www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/communion_in_hand.htm

Either way, as you can see, the Church desires that much care be given when receiving the Holy Eucharist this way, since, substantially contained in every particle of that Host is God Himself, and the Church makes it clear that if a communicant desires to receive the traditional way, he must be accommodated (yes, there have been many cases of priests refusing Communion to kneeling or by-tongue receivers, which they can’t do).

Oh, man….the problem is there’s SO MUCH I could quote to you regarding this practice that no one gives any attention to. Let us think, though, for a moment: the pope is the Visible Head of the Church and he is all for reverence at Mass. If you read his book The Spirit of the Liturgy, you’ll see he makes it clear, for example, that ad orientem is the favorable position of the priest at Mass. And also, if you’ve seen any of his Masses on television, you’d notice that he only gives Communion on the tongue, with the communicant kneeling. Hey, perhaps he’s trying to set an example…

God bless you, and may His mother pray for you during May, and if you don’t mind, follow this blog via email,

Michael

Living Up To Hype

After mulling over the idea in my mind, not being sure whether a post such as this would gain positive reception from readers, I presented the idea to a person; the person liked it. So today I’m going to post about–drum roll please–the humility of non-directness. Come to think of it, I’d say non-directness is something we have quite a lot of as Catholics. But I digress. What kind of non-directness am I talking about?

Specifically, praying through saints rather than going directly to the Holy Trinity with our concerns. Because you must consider something: our God is utterly transcendent.  He is infinitely above us, and, although this shouldn’t be taken to a scrupulous degree, I think John the Baptist got it right when he said he wasn’t worthy to stoop down and untie His sandals. Similarly, think of the centurion who said, “I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof”. And finally, recall 1 Timothy 6:16 which describes Him as “dwelling in light inaccessible, Whom no one has seen, or can see”. I know the Father calls us His children, the Son calls us His friends, and the Holy Spirit calls us His temple, but I mean, honestly…Even that’s an extreme privilege. Who are we to just chat with God all we want?

 

The grateful leper knealt for Jesus

 

Intercession is not only humbling, but it also makes our prayers more attuned to the Divine Will, since those in Heaven giving the prayer to God have already been perfected.

God bless you, and may His mother pray for you this month,

Michael

The Alarming Truth of the Diabolical

Demons aren’t talked about much, are they? When you hear the word, you probably imagine those spirits with bad tempers that Jesus went around casting out of people. They’re mean and have no use for people or God. Satan is their leader. They live in Hell. If you need a concrete picture of one, you probably think of a red guy who has horns on his head, bat-like wings, and a pitchfork, with a scheming look on his face.

Now, think of angels. If you’re at all like….well, anyone, really….you probably think of a human being who kinda glows white, has a white robe, maybe a halo over his head, feathery wings, a trumpet in hand, or you think of those little babies with wings that decorate churches and Christmas cards. The angels are on the side of God and are opposed to the demons. They live in Heaven and carry out God’s good will. Okay.

So is the above at all an accurate description of what you think when you hear of demons or angels?

The title of this post conveys the idea of demons, and so you needn’t worry yourself: we’ll definitely get there. But let us pause for a moment or two on angels. If someone asked you, “What is an angel?”, how would you respond? Think for a second of an answer. And now, with you having thought, let’s see how close to the mark you were: the correct answer is that angels are created spirits, without any bodies, who will never die. Sorry, but if you said, “They’re people in Heaven with wings” or “they’re everyone in Heaven besides God” you’re wrong. They don’t have wings, since spirits are not made of any sort of physical reality. And they’re not everyone in Heaven since angels are not humans; nor do humans become angels when they get to Heaven. The two are entirely separate creatures.

Alright, so…Angels are spirits, and they’re not humans. What does it mean to be a spirit? It means to be able to know and to love. Existing as spiritual beings, the angels, humans, and God are all able to know and love. Note also: the angels and God are spirits, humans have spirits. For the angels and for God, being a spirit constitutes the whole of what they are. Humans have spirits, along with bodies — they are not, themselves, spirits.

Now let me diverge a little: in the order of spiritual beings, the tri-personal God is, obviously, the highest: He is the one that knows and loves to the highest, most perfect degree, simply by existing. No one gives Him knowledge or causes Him to love. He does all this by being Who He is. The angels, created by this God, were given their abilities of knowledge and love. Then, there’s the humans: also given the two main faculties of spirit, but along with a physical reality, the body.

For whatever reason, the Holy Trinity decided to give the angels a higher spiritual nature than man’s. I don’t know why, but who am I to question why God does what He does? The fact of the matter is, angels are superior to humans. They have far more knowledge and are able to love to a greater degree. In fact, like God, the angels love without any emotion to obscure their vision.

Regarding the topic of angelic knowledge, I once read in a book called “How to Resist Temptation” that the knowledge of the angels is so great that they know more than any scientist could learn in a billion years; they know all about the secrets of the material universe, and finally, well…they can almost read our minds. Not in the strict sense: they don’t know certainly what we’re thinking, like God does, but they know our thoughts pretty darn well. Consider, for example: have you ever been such good friends with someone that they needn’t say something and yet you can “read them like a book”? The angels are rather like that.

At this point I’m going to finally talk about demons. We covered the following about angels: 1) they’re spirits 2) they’re distinct from humans 3) they are superior to humans and 4) they perform the operations of spiritual being to a far more intense degree than humans do. Now time for the scary part: demons are angels, and though they were cast into Hell, they never lost these qualities, besides the quality of unconditional love, which has been replaced by unconditional hate. They still have incredible genius, and they can make themselves appear good, bad, or like Jesus Himself.  The have power. They could destroy the whole, entire universe if the greater power of God didn’t prevent them. They may be evil, and their temptations may be, at times, simply annoying, but they are powerful, they mean business, and they’re not to be taken lightly. Pray to God, through Michael, through Mary, through all the other saints and Heavenly angels, for deliverance from their ensnarements.

Demons want to drag you to Hell. There’s no other way to put it.

God bless you, and may His mother pray for you during this month,

Michael