Thursday, June 26, 2014

St. Josemaria Escriva on Purity

Some food for thought on purity from St. Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei, whose feast day we celebrate today.

(H/T to Bro. E)

"It has always made me very sorry to hear some teachers (so many alas!) going on and on about the dangers of impurity. The result, as I have been able to verify in quite a few souls, is the opposite of what was intended, for it's a sticky subject, stickier than tar, and it deforms people's consciences with all kinds of fears and complexes, so that they come to imagine that the obstacles in the way of attaining purity of soul are almost insurmountable. This is not our way. Our approach to holy purity must be healthy and positive, and expressed in modest and clear language.

To discuss purity is really to talk about Love. I have just pointed out to you that I find it helpful in this regard to have recourse to the most holy Humanity of Our Lord, that indescribable marvel where God humbles himself to the point of becoming man, and in doing so does not feel degraded for having taken on flesh like ours, with all its limitations and weaknesses, sin alone excepted. He does all this because he loves us to distraction! He does not in fact lower himself when he empties himself. On the contrary, he raises us up and deifies us in body and soul. The virtue of chastity is simply to say Yes to his Love, with an affection that is clear, ardent and properly ordered.

We must proclaim this loud and clear to the whole world, by our words and by the witness of our lives: 'Let us not poison our hearts as if we were miserable beasts governed by our lower instincts!' A Christian writer once expressed it thus: 'Consider that man's heart is no small thing, for it can embrace so much. Do not measure its greatness by its physical dimensions, but by the power of its thought, whereby it is able to attain the knowledge of so many truths. In the heart it is possible to prepare the way of the Lord, to lay out a straight path where the Word and the Wisdom of God may pass. With your honorable conduct and your irreproachable deeds, prepare the Lord's way, smooth out his path so that the Word of God may act in you without hindrance and give you the knowledge of his mysteries and of his coming.'

Holy Scripture reveals to us that the great work of our sanctification, which is accomplished in a marvelous hidden manner by the Paraclete, takes place in both the soul and the body. 'Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?' cries the Apostle, 'Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? ... Or do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in you, whom you have received from God, and that you are no longer your own? For you have been bought at a great price. Glorify God and bear him in your bodies.'"

St. Josemaria Escriva
"For They Shall See God"
Friends of God, 178

Sunday, June 22, 2014

On Holy Eucharist - The Body and Blood of Christ

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Corpus Christi, a splendid feast that reminds us of the Real Presence of Our Lord Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

The Eucharist according to the Catechism is the source and summit of our Christian life. The Eucharist is the visible and tangible presence of Christ in His One, Holy, Apostolic and Catholic Church. What a great gift this is that we so often take for granted. In our modern and secular age, how many still believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist? Probably not many and that's sad. If anybody wishes to know how far he has advanced in the spiritual life, he just needs to become aware of how much importance and devotion he has towards the Holy Eucharist. An important realization I had lately is that the crisis of faith in the Church, the crisis of morality in our society, the crisis threatening the family can only be mitigated if we as a people of God will have a genuine renewal of faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

Not too long ago I had the opportunity and privilege to attend a Latin Mass and to experience for myself for the very first time what the celebration of the Mass looked like in the not so distant past. I must say it left a deep impression on me especially on the way the Latin Mass goers receive Holy Communion - kneeling in front of a communion rail and on the tongue with a deep reverence for Our Lord. I cannot help but compare it to the way we approach Holy Communion during Mass nowadays.

On this solemn feast of Christ's Body and Blood, I just want to encourage my fellow Catholic Christians to accord to this sacrament the highest form of reverence and respect we can muster for isn't it Jesus Christ Himself, our Supreme Eucharistic Lord, whom we receive every time we go to Communion?

Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano

The Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano is officially recognized by the Catholic Church as a true Eucharistic Miracle that took place in 8th century A.D. in the Church of St. Legontian in Lanciano, Italy as a direct response to a Basilian monk's doubt about the Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist. The relics were scientifically investigated and found to be real flesh and real blood that are still remarkably preserved more than twelve centuries later.

State of Grace

Every time I see the number of people line up to receive Holy Communion and the number of people who line up in the Confessional I cringe. How many of us sufficiently examine ourselves whether we are in a state of grace or in a state of mortal sin? We are all sinners of course and we often say at Mass that we are not worthy to receive Jesus, but still St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians admonishes us on the importance of examining oneself first in order to receive communion worthily.

Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. (1 Cor. 11:27-29)

One who is conscious of grave sin ought to have recourse to the Sacrament of Reconciliation first prior to receiving Jesus in Holy Communion. If I know I am conscious of some grave sin, I just make a spiritual communion with Jesus by praying the Anima Christi until such time I am able to go to Confession and receive Him worthily again. Why is this such a big deal? Well, if you're in a state of mortal sin, your soul is comparable to a stinking septic tank filled with poops. What a great insult to our Lord to make Him dwell in such a horrible state of our soul?

Eucharistic Fast

Canon 919 of the Code of Canon Law states, "One who is to receive the Most Holy Eucharist is to abstain from any food or drink, with the exception of water and medicine, for at least the period of one hour before Holy Communion." This practice dates back to the traditions of the early Christians. There are a few exceptions to this rule, however, especially those with regards to the sick and elderly.

Why fast? The fast before receiving Holy Communion creates a physical hunger for the Lord, which should augment our interior disposition to unite ourselves with Him spiritually. In the Old Testament, Moses fasted for 40 days before He received the Ten Commandments. Likewise, Christ Himself fasted for 40 days as a preparation for His public ministry.

Proper Disposition & Modesty

Every time we go to Mass, we should strive to develop the right disposition, appreciation and gratitude of Who it is we are going to receive or we run the risk of attending Mass for the sake of fulfilling our Sunday obligation and just going through the motions.

Do we show outward reverence when receiving Holy Communion? Are we fully aware that what we are receiving is the Lord Himself? Do we spend some quiet time in prayer after Communion to thank God for this immense gift of Himself? Have we fallen to the trap of receiving Holy Communion out of habit?

With regards to modesty inside the Church, I cannot emphasize this enough. In the olden days, Christians attended church wearing their Sunday best, an expression that pertains to the practice of wearing one's best and finest clothing in church on Sundays. This may not sound practical nowadays but at least make an effort to be as presentable and modest in the eyes of God and others. You don't want to be an occasion of sin for your neighbors do you?

Missing Mass on Sundays

One of the seven precepts of the Church is to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligations. Canon 1247 of the Code of Canon Law states, "On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass. They are also to abstain from those labors and business concerns which impede the worship to be rendered to God, the joy which is proper to the Lord's Day, or the proper relaxation of mind and body."

I practically grew up and received full Catholic education from elementary school to college, having been a product of a local parochial school and a prestigious Catholic university in Manila, but would you believe that nobody ever taught me that skipping Mass on Sundays without sufficient reason is a serious sin? This teaching was never ingrained firmly in my consciousness until only by the time I took my faith seriously by the grace of God. That should give you a glimpse of the sad state of our Catholic educational institutions nowadays. 

Communion in the Hands versus Communion on the Tongue

Although both ways are allowed by the Church, I have a personal predilection towards receiving communion on the tongue even before I attended the Latin Mass. For me it is more reverent and less subject to profanation like small particles falling off to the ground and hence being trampled underfoot, the host not being consumed right away, etc.

Blessed Mother Teresa was once asked by Fr. George Rutler, "What do you think is the worst problem in the world today?" she replied without hesitation: "Wherever I go in the whole world, the thing that makes me the saddest is watching people receive Communion in the hand." I can personally attest to this fact as I have had the privilege of attending Masses with the Missionary of Charity Sisters. They don't have qualms about touching Christ in the guise of the poor and the sick entrusted to their care but they choose, however, not to touch Him in His Real Presence in Holy Communion.

St. Thomas Aquinas has something to say on this matter:

"Out of reverence towards this sacrament, nothing touches it, but what is consecrated; hence the corporal and the chalice are consecrated, and likewise the priest's hand, for touching this sacrament. Hence it is not lawful for anyone else to touch it except from necessity, for instance, if it were to fall upon the ground, or else in some other case of urgency" (Summa Theologica, III, Q. 82, Art. 3).

On this subject matter, I want you to watch a short informative video by Michael Voris, a Catholic apologist.  You'll be surprised to know how the practice of communion in the hand came about and why communion on the tongue has always been the norm in the Universal Church.

On this feast of Corpus Christi, let us strive to live out a Eucharistic way of life with the sole aim of giving glory and honor to God. I firmly believe that these practices will help strengthen our faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

Holy Communion and the Saints

"With all the strength of my soul I urge you young people to approach the Communion table as often as you can. Feed on this bread of angels whence you will draw all the energy you need to fight inner battles. Because true happiness, dear friends, does not consist in the pleasures of the world or in earthly things, but in peace of conscience, which we have only if we are pure in heart and mind." - Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

Every morning during meditation, I prepare myself for the whole day's struggle. Holy Communion assures me that I will win the victory; and so it is. I fear the day when I do not receive Holy Communion. This bread of the Strong gives me all the strength I need to carry on my mission and the courage to do whatever the Lord asks of me. The courage and strength that are in me are not of me, but of Him who lives in me - it is the Eucharist. - St. Faustina Kowalska

"If someone knows from experience that daily Communion increases fervor without lessening reverence, then let him go every day. But if someone finds that reverence is lessened and devotion not much increased, then let him sometimes abstain, so as to draw near afterwards with better dispositions." - St. Thomas Aquinas

"All the good works in the world are not equal to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass because they are the works of men; but the Mass is the work of God. Martyrdom is nothing in comparison for it is but the sacrifice of man to God; but the Mass is the sacrifice of God for man." - St. John Vianney, Cure d'Ars

"When you have received Him, stir up your heart to do Him homage; speak to Him about your spiritual life, gazing upon Him in your soul where He is present for your happiness; welcome Him as warmly as possible, and behave outwardly in such a way that your actions may give proof to all of His Presence." - St. Francis de Sales

"If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion." - St. Maximilian Kolbe

So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. - John 6:53

Sunday, June 15, 2014

12 Quotes Against Sodomy that Everyone Should Know

It's not surprising to note that many of us do have very little knowledge on the topic of sodomy and what the Catholic Church teaches about it. We do know from the Bible that the sin of sodomy is listed as one of the sins that cries to heaven for vengeance (Gn 18:20-21) and yet sadly in our times this is quite rampant and being tolerated. We also read from the Scriptures that for this sin alone God unleashed a terrible punishment against the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. Furthermore, sodomy is said to be so heinous and abominable that even the devils themselves are so disgusted at the sight of it. Some of us may find ourselves guilty of committing this terrible sin. Some of us take carnal pleasure in viewing such by way of watching gay pornography.

To help us understand this, I am posting here useful quotes from Saints, Doctors of the Church, Church Fathers, and Ecclesiastical Writers who condemn this vice in their writings. For us to repent of this sin sincerely, we need to understand its grievousness before the eyes of God, Who will refuse not His Mercy for those who are contrite of heart and truly repentant.

1. Athenagoras of Athens (2nd Century)

Athenagoras of Athens was a philosopher who converted to Christianity in the second century. He shows that the pagans, who were totally immoral, did not even refrain from sins against nature:

"But though such is our character (Oh! why should I speak of things unfit to be uttered?), the things said of us are an example of the proverb, 'The harlot reproves the chaste.' For those who have set up a market for fornication and established infamous resorts for the young for every kind of vile pleasure – who do not abstain even from males, males with males committing shocking abominations, outraging all the noblest and comeliest bodies in all sorts of ways, so dishonoring the fair workmanship of God."

2. Tertullian (160-225)

Tertullian was a great genius and apologist of the early Church. Unfortunately, after an initial period of fervor, he succumbed to resentment and pride, left the Church and adhered to the Montanist heresy. Because of works written while still in the Church, he is considered an Ecclesiastical Writer and, as such, is commonly quoted by Popes and theologians. His treatise On Modesty is an apology of Christian chastity. He clearly shows the horror the Church has for sins against nature. After condemning adultery, he exclaims:

"But all the other frenzies of passions–impious both toward the bodies and toward the sexes–beyond the laws of nature, we banish not only from the threshold, but from all shelter of the Church, because they are not sins, but monstrosities."

3. Eusebius of Caesarea (260-341)

Eusebius Pamphili, Bishop of C├Žsarea in Palestine and the “Father of Church History,” writes in his book, Demonstratio Evangelica:

“[God in the Law given to Moses] having forbidden all unlawful marriage, and all unseemly practice, and the union of women with women and men with men.”

4. Saint Jerome (340-420)

Saint Jerome is both Father and Doctor of the Church. He was also a notable exegete and great polemicist. In his book Against Jovinianus, he explains how a sodomite needs repentance and penance to be saved:

“And Sodom and Gomorrah might have appeased it [God’s wrath], had they been willing to repent, and through the aid of fasting gain for themselves tears of repentance.”

5. Saint John Chrysostom (347-407)

Saint John Chrysostom is considered the greatest of the Greek Fathers and was proclaimed Doctor of the Church. He was Archbishop and Patriarch of Constantinople, and his revision of the Greek liturgy is used until today. In his sermons about Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, he dwells on the gravity of the sin of homosexuality:

"But if thou scoffest at hearing of hell and believest not that fire, remember Sodom. For we have seen, surely we have seen, even in this present life, a semblance of hell. For since many would utterly disbelieve the things to come after the resurrection, hearing now of an unquenchable fire, God brings them to a right mind by things present. For such is the burning of Sodom, and that conflagration!…

"Consider how great is that sin, to have forced hell to appear even before its time!… For that rain was unwonted, for the intercourse was contrary to nature, and it deluged the land, since lust had done so with their souls. Wherefore also the rain was the opposite of the customary rain. Now not only did it fail to stir up the womb of the earth to the production of fruits, but made it even useless for the reception of seed. For such was also the intercourse of the men, making a body of this sort more worthless than the very land of Sodom. And what is there more detestable than a man who hath pandered himself, or what more execrable?

6. Saint Augustine (354-430)

The greatest of the Fathers of the West and one of the great Doctors of the Church, Saint Augustine laid the foundations of Catholic theology. In his celebrated Confessions, he thus condemns homosexuality:

"Those offences which be contrary to nature are everywhere and at all times to be held in detestation and punished; such were those of the Sodomites, which should all nations commit, they should all be held guilty of the same crime by the divine law, which hath not so made men that they should in that way abuse one another. For even that fellowship which should be between God and us is violated, when that same nature of which He is author is polluted by the perversity of lust."

7. Saint Gregory the Great (540-604)

Pope Saint Gregory I is called “the Great.” He is both Father and Doctor of the Church. He introduced Gregorian chant into the Church. He organized England’s conversion, sending Saint Augustine of Canterbury and many Benedictine monks there.

"Sacred Scripture itself confirms that sulfur evokes the stench of the flesh, as it speaks of the rain of fire and sulfur poured upon Sodom by the Lord. He had decided to punish Sodom for the crimes of the flesh, and the very type of punishment he chose emphasized the shame of that crime. For sulfur stinks, and fire burns. So it was just that Sodomites, burning with perverse desires arising from the flesh like stench, should perish by fire and sulfur so that through this just punishment they would realize the evil they had committed, led by a perverse desire."

8. Saint Peter Damian (1007-1072)

Doctor of the Church, cardinal and a great reformer of the clergy, Saint Peter Damian wrote his famous Book of Gomorrah against the inroads made by homosexuality among the clergy. He describes not only the iniquity of homosexuality, but also its psychological and moral consequences:

"Truly, this vice is never to be compared with any other vice because it surpasses the enormity of all vices.… It defiles everything, stains everything, pollutes everything. And as for itself, it permits nothing pure, nothing clean, nothing other than filth.…

"The miserable flesh burns with the heat of lust; the cold mind trembles with the rancor of suspicion; and in the heart of the miserable man chaos boils like Tartarus [Hell]…. In fact, after this most poisonous serpent once sinks its fangs into the unhappy soul, sense is snatched away, memory is borne off, the sharpness of the mind is obscured. It becomes unmindful of God and even forgetful of itself. This plague undermines the foundation of faith, weakens the strength of hope, destroys the bond of charity; it takes away justice, subverts fortitude, banishes temperance, blunts the keenness of prudence.

"And what more should I say since it expels the whole host of the virtues from the chamber of the human heart and introduces every barbarous vice as if the bolts of the doors were pulled out."

9. Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

Commenting upon Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (1:26-27), Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor, explains why the sin of homosexuality is so grave:

"Given the sin of impiety through which they [the Romans] sinned against the divine nature [by idolatry], the punishment that led them to sin against their own nature followed.... I say, therefore, that since they changed into lies [by idolatry] the truth about God, He brought them to ignominious passions, that is, to sins against nature; not that God led them to evil, but only that he abandoned them to evil....

"If all the sins of the flesh are worthy of condemnation because by them man allows himself to be dominated by that which he has of the animal nature, much more deserving of condemnation are the sins against nature by which man degrades his own animal nature....

"Man can sin against nature in two ways. First, when he sins against his specific rational nature, acting contrary to reason. In this sense, we can say that every sin is a sin against man’s nature, because it is against man’s right reason....

"Secondly, man sins against nature when he goes against his generic nature, that is to say, his animal nature. Now, it is evident that, in accord with natural order, the union of the sexes among animals is ordered towards conception. From this it follows that every sexual intercourse that cannot lead to conception is opposed to man’s animal nature."

10. Saint Catherine of Siena (1347-1380)

Saint Catherine, a great mystic and Doctor of the Church, lived in troubled times. The Papacy was in exile at Avignon, France. She was instrumental in bringing the Popes back to Rome. Her famous Dialogues are written as if dictated by God Himself:

"But they act in a contrary way, for they come full of impurity to this mystery, and not only of that impurity to which, through the fragility of your weak nature, you are all naturally inclined (although reason, when free will permits, can quiet the rebellion of nature), but these wretches not only do not bridle this fragility, but do worse, committing that accursed sin against nature, and as blind and fools, with the light of their intellect darkened, they do not know the stench and misery in which they are. It is not only that this sin stinks before me, who am the Supreme and Eternal Truth, it does indeed displease me so much and I hold it in such abomination that for it alone I buried five cities by a divine judgment, my divine justice being no longer able to endure it. This sin not only displeases me as I have said, but also the devils whom these wretches have made their masters. Not that the evil displeases them because they like anything good, but because their nature was originally angelic, and their angelic nature causes them to loathe the sight of the actual commission of this enormous sin.

11. Saint Bernardine of Siena (1380-1444)

Saint Bernardine of Siena was a famous preacher, celebrated for his doctrine and holiness. Regarding homosexuality, he stated:

"No sin in the world grips the soul as the accursed sodomy; this sin has always been detested by all those who live according to God.… Deviant passion is close to madness; this vice disturbs the intellect, destroys elevation and generosity of soul, brings the mind down from great thoughts to the lowliest, makes the person slothful, irascible, obstinate and obdurate, servile and soft and incapable of anything; furthermore, agitated by an insatiable craving for pleasure, the person follows not reason but frenzy.… They become blind and, when their thoughts should soar to high and great things, they are broken down and reduced to vile and useless and putrid things, which could never make them happy.... Just as people participate in the glory of God in different degrees, so also in hell some suffer more than others. He who lived with this vice of sodomy suffers more than another, for this is the greatest sin."

12. Saint Peter Canisius (1521-1597)

Saint Peter Canisius, Jesuit and Doctor of the Church, is responsible for helping one third of Germany abandon Lutheranism and return to the Church. To Scripture’s condemnation of homosexuality, he added his own:

"As the Sacred Scripture says, the Sodomites were wicked and exceedingly sinful. Saint Peter and Saint Paul condemn this nefarious and depraved sin. In fact, the Scripture denounces this enormous indecency thus: 'The scandal of Sodomites and Gomorrhans has multiplied and their sins have become grave beyond measure.' So the angels said to just Lot, who totally abhorred the depravity of the Sodomites: 'Let us leave this city....' Holy Scripture does not fail to mention the causes that led the Sodomites, and can also lead others, to this most grievous sin. In fact, in Ezechiel we read: 'Behold this was the iniquity of Sodom: pride, fullness of bread, and abundance, and the idleness of her, and of her daughters: and they did not put forth their hand to the needy, and the poor. And they were lifted up, and committed abominations before me; and I took them away as thou hast seen' (Ezech. 16: 49-50). Those unashamed of violating divine and natural law are slaves of this never sufficiently execrated depravity."

(Note: These quotes are taken from Defending A Higher Law: Why We Must Resist Same-Sex "Marriage" and the Homosexual Movement.)