Wednesday, October 30, 2013

No one can will for me

In Love and Responsibility, Karol Wojtyla talks about the nature of the human person. As spiritual and bodily beings, we have the gifts of reason and free will.

He makes a crucial point: No one can will for me -- no one, not even God.

Yes, it's such a mystery that God does not force us to choose him. KW says, "If God intends to direct man to some ends, first and foremost he lets him know these ends, so that man can make them his own and strive for them on his own.

"In this, among others, lies the deepest logic of Revelation: God lets man know the supernatural end, but the decision to strive for this end, its choice, is left to man's freedom. Therefore, God does not save man against his will" (p. 11).

God invites, sometimes he even cajoles, but he never forces us. What an amazing mystery. It also throws light on the problem of evil and sin, because God doesn't force us to be good.

It is up to each one of us to choose God and goodness. No one else can do it for me.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

What do you hope for?

In today's reading from Romans, St Paul says something that at one level seems obvious, yet is so profound. He says we can only hope for what we don't yet have.
"Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience" (Rom 8:24-25).

It's easy to get discouraged in life when we don't have what we hope for. We can start to think we'll never get it.

We need many things in our earthly life, and it is fine to hope for them. But the virtue of hope is really about one thing: eternal life. In another word: heaven.

Our day to day life has so many demands and needs that have to be met. All those are important--but only relatively so. Ultimately, everything that happens to  us, everything we do, how we help others, etc., makes sense in light of heaven.

That's how we can get through sufferings and trials. Nobody likes them. But they'll pass. We won't be sick forever. Someday we'll find the job we need.  Someday that relationship will be healed. And even if what seems to be the ultimate disaster happens--we die--that's all the more reason for hope. Death is our gateway to eternal life. Like St Paul says in another place, if we hope in Christ only for this life, we are fools.

Hope is the great secret of the Christian. We hope for what we do not yet possess, confident that in due time we will reach that goal.

"I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory to be revealed in us" (Rom 8:18).

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Singing Nun---Jeanine Deckers

Today would have been the 80th birthday of Jeanine Deckers, aka The Singing Nun. She was a "one hit wonder" when Dominique soared to the top of the charts after she appeared on the Ed Sullivan show in 1963.

In real life, her story was quite tragic. I've always had a soft spot in my heart for her, perhaps because she was caught up in the winds of change that swept through the Church after Vatican II, and she seems to  have come out the worse for it.

After she left the convent, she became a struggling artist and never really went anywhere with her music. She attempted to start a school for struggling kids at one point, but the venture went under. After the Belgian government came after her claiming she owed back taxes for Dominique, she faced financial ruin. Under all the pressure she tragically took her own life at the age of 52.

In an attempt to raise funds, she came out with a disco version of Dominique in which she sings the song as she wanders through the ruins of an ancient cathedral somewhere in Belgium or France. This image of a long-faded star singing in the ruins is like an icon of the decline of faith in our time. It's rather sad. But the Church in some way lives out the mysteries of the life of Jesus. In some ages, the way of the cross and the crucifixion dominate. In others, the resurrection. The Church has certainly been walking the way of the cross as faith seems to be evaporating in so many hearts. But despite it all, we always have hope because Calvary always leads to Easter--always.

Clip of the original Dominique here.

Clip of the disco version in the ruined cathedral here.

Despite the brokenness of her life, and indeed perhaps even because of it, I firmly believe that Jesus had mercy on her soul and she came to a place of salvation. The later tragedies of her life cannot change the reality that her song about St. Dominic caused many to praise God, even if they didn't quite realize what they were singing.

May she rest in peace.

Dominique, nique, nique s'en allait tout simplement
Routier pauvre et chantant
En tous chemins, en tous lieux, il ne parle que du bon Dieu,
Il ne parle que du bon Dieu.

A l'e poque ou Jean-sans-Terre de' Angleterre etait Roi
Dominique, notre Pere, combattit les Albigeois
Repeat first 4 lines: Chorus

Ni chameau, ni diligence il parcout l'Europe a pied
Scandinavie ou Provence dans la sainte pauvrete

Enflamma de toute ecole filles et garcons pleins d'ardeur
Et pour semer la Parole inventa les Freres-Precheurs

Chez Dominique et ses freres le pain s'en vint a manquer
Et deux anges se presenterent portant de grands pains dores

Dominique vit en reve les precheurs du monde entier
Sous le manteau de la Vierge en grand nombre rassembles

Dominique, mon bon Pere, garde-nous simples et gais
Pour annoncer a nos freres la Vie et la Verite

Monday, October 07, 2013

The Rosary

Today is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. It was established by Pope Pius V, a Dominican, in thanksgiving for the victory of Lepanto.

The rosary is a very important prayer, even more so today when faith is threatened by so many things in our secular culture: a growing atheism, secularism, and humanism that seeks to order human society without God.

Genesis 3:15, a text called the Proto-evangelium because it is the first announcement of the Good News, has often been read in the Church in the light of Mary's role. The woman spoken of there will crush the head of Satan:
"I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel."

Think about that. God himself has put enmity between Satan and Mary. So Mary has a particular power in crushing the forces of evil. That's why the rosary is a powerful prayer. When we pray it, we are stepping into that divinely established way that God wants to protect his children and defeat Satan.

On the feast of the Assumption last August, Pope Francis spoke about this too:

"Mary accompanies us, struggles with us, sustains Christians in their fight against the forces of evil. Prayer with Mary, especially the rosary – but listen carefully: the Rosary. Do you pray the Rosary every day? But I’m not sure you do [the people shout “Yes!”]… Really? Well, prayer with Mary, especially the Rosary, has this “suffering” dimension, that is of struggle, a sustaining prayer in the battle against the evil one and his accomplices. The Rosary also sustains us in the battle."

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Pope Francis and Palm Sunday

A lot of discussion has arisen about Pope Francis' recent interviews. Whatever you think about it, a lot of people are confused. Two things are good to keep in mind.

1. When Pope Benedict wrote his book on Jesus, he said that it was not a work of the magisterium and so "Everyone, then, is free to contradict me." That is important to remember when it comes to non-magisterial statements of the pope. An off-the-cuff interview falls into that category. So it's healthy that Catholics are debating what Francis said and sometimes disagreeing with it. He is not speaking infallibly in these interviews.

2. I started to notice that a lot of praise was coming to Francis from unusual quarters, that is, from people who are generally not on board with Church teaching. In other words, the world has been praising him. But some of that praise is coming to him for the wrong reasons.
Some people think that he is softening the Church's teaching on the hard issues, like abortion, contraception, and same-sex unions. Actually, he is not. But that is the perception. And in the media, perception often counts more than the truth.

I think it is a lot like Palm Sunday. The crowds who turned out to praise Jesus would, just a few days later, shout violently, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" Why? Because they were praising Jesus for the wrong reasons. Perhaps they thought he would overturn the hated Roman government and be a political Messiah. But as soon as they realized Jesus was not following their agenda, they turned on him.

The same thing will happen to Francis. Once the world and the media start to realize that he is not soft-pedaling the hard teachings of the Gospel, they will turn on him too. The day will come when Francis has to proclaim some of those hard truths, and many who praise him now will turn away. And such it has to be.

Jesus said, "I have chosen you out of the world--therefore the world hates you" (Jn 15:19).  If the world didn't hate the Church, if its shepherds only accommodated the worlds' demands, we would really be in trouble. Jesus was very stark: "If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. . . . If they persecuted me, they will persecute you." (Jn 15:18-20).

That's why I feel uneasy when the world treats the pope like a rock star. He's not meant to be a rock star. He is the Rock of Peter, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Right now Francis is living his Palm Sunday moment. But just as assuredly his Good Friday will come, when he will have to climb his own Mount Calvary. Let us pray for him!