Thursday, March 05, 2015

The Meaning of Guilt and Weakness

Fr. Nicolas Schwizer

What is the meaning of guilt and weakness? Father Kentenich affirms that soon after acknowledging our limitations and guilt, we begin our religious life; everything else remains in what is ethical. And why is that?

Dependence on God. The true meaning of our guilt is “to reach a strong awareness of dependence on God.” True religiosity consists in this. God wants our childlike dependence. And the most valuable means to root us into the heart of the Father is our misery and our guilt. Because normally we do not learn dependence on God if we do not commit faults. It is worthwhile to mention here what Father Kentenich repeated to us many times: “God loves me because of my faults; He loves me because I am small, not in spite of my being small.” Hopefully, we could all experience: The Father God loves me because of my faults and guilt.

So, I have to learn to not only live with my weaknesses and sins, but also to benefit from them. I have to sincerely face my personal misery. I must taste anew all my weaknesses and faults and surrender them in childlikeness to the Father. I should “place a ladder” on each one of them in order to rise above to the Father of mercy. The meaning and the fruitfulness of my inner poverty should be: to grow without limitations in my attachment and love for God.

Childlike surrender. All should lead me to God because He is the great and final goal of my life. Therefore, my weaknesses and faults should lead me to God. What, then, should my attitude be? “I should allow myself to fall,” says Father Kentenich. Where should I let myself fall? I should allow myself to fall into the arms of God the Father. It is OK to struggle against our miseries, to make new resolutions, to have the ethical ideal shine before us. But the most important is and should always be to let ourselves fall into the arms of God the Father, to allow oneself to fall into the heart of the merciful Father.

“For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 COR 12, 10), St. Paul tells us. We are all weak when we think of our great ideal. And when are we strong? When we take from our frailty a twofold conclusion:

(1) To say a joyful “yes” to my misery; to acknowledge before God my weaknesses and my smallness.

(2) To extend my hands towards the merciful hands of God; to place myself confidently into his Father hands.

When I am weak, then I am strong. Why am I strong? Because my misery associates with the mercy of God. Because my smallness is the great title for appealing to the mercy of the Father God.

Father Kentenich repeated to us in the last years of his life: “Acknowledged smallness is the omnipotence of the child and the impotence of the Father.” My acknowledged weakness is the triumph over the heart of God. This is the great path to soar from this world into the world beyond. This is the masterpiece of my life.

Therefore, what should be the supreme fruitfulness of all our efforts to transform ourselves into new men, mature men, in harmony and whole? The great fruitfulness should be: to decidedly grow into my being a child, conquered by a heroic childlikeness before God the Father. It is a childlikeness which makes me acknowledge – with heroic humility – my miseries. It is a childlikeness which – with heroic confidence – hurls me into the loving arms of the Father God. And it is a childlikeness which – with heroism – leads me to surrender to the God of my life, to the Father of all mercies, forever.

Questions for reflection

1. Is it easy for me to acknowledge my smallness?
2. What do I understand by “letting myself fall into”?
3. Do I believe “heroic childlikeness” possible in me?

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Would You Crucify Him?

Brethren: Peace be with you.

Today I was reflection on the old John Michael Talbot song titled, Would you Crucify Him? I'll let the lyrics speak to your heart.
Sometimes in the cool of the evening 
The truth comes like a lover through the wind 
Sometimes though my thoughts have gone misleading 
She'll ask that same old question once again 

Would you crucify him? 
Would you crucify him? 
My old friends 
But would you crucify him? 
I'm talking 'bout the sweet Lord Jesus 
If he'd stand right here among you once again

She's asking how many times 
Will you look down to the harlot 
Looking through her tears pretending you don't know 
But you were once just like her 
How can you be now so self-righteous 
When in the name of the Lord you throw the first stone

Would you crucify him? 
Would you crucify him? 
My old friends 
But would you crucify him? 
I'm talking 'bout the sweet Lord Jesus 
If he'd stand right here among you once again

So now I turn to you 
Through your years of your robes and your stained-glass windows 
And do you vainly echo your prayers say your pleasing the Lord 
Profess the marriage with your tongue 
But your mind dreams like the harlot 
And if the judge looks to your thoughts can't you guess your reward 
Yet how many times have you quoted from your Bible 
To justify your eye for your eye and your tooth for your tooth 
You say that he didn't mean 
What he was plainly saying 
And like the Pharisee, my friend you're an educated fool

Would you crucify him? 
Would you crucify him? 
My old friends 
But would you crucify him? 
I'm talking 'bout the sweet Lord Jesus 
If he'd stand right here among you once again

Monday, March 02, 2015

The universal destination of goods and the preferential option for the poor

Brethren: Peace be with you.

Today I want to share with you this quote from the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, and offer it for your Lenten reflection, specially the highlighted parts:
The universal destination of goods and the preferential option for the poor
182. The principle of the universal destination of goods requires that the poor, the marginalized and in all cases those whose living conditions interfere with their proper growth should be the focus of particular concern. To this end, the preferential option for the poor should be reaffirmed in all its force[384]. “This is an option, or a special form of primacy in the exercise of Christian charity, to which the whole tradition of the Church bears witness. It affects the life of each Christian inasmuch as he or she seeks to imitate the life of Christ, but it applies equally to our social responsibilities and hence to our manner of living, and to the logical decisions to be made concerning the ownership and use of goods. Today, furthermore, given the worldwide dimension which the social question has assumed, this love of preference for the poor, and the decisions which it inspires in us, cannot but embrace the immense multitudes of the hungry, the needy, the homeless, those without health care and, above all, those without hope of a better future”[385].

183. Human misery is a clear sign of man's natural condition of frailty and of his need for salvation[386]. Christ the Saviour showed compassion in this regard, identifying himself with the “least” among men (cf. Mt 25:40,45). “It is by what they have done for the poor that Jesus Christ will recognize his chosen ones. When ‘the poor have the good news preached to them' (Mt 11:5), it is a sign of Christ's presence”[387].

Jesus says: “You always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me” (Mt 26:11; cf. Mk 14:7; Jn 12:8). He makes this statement not to contrast the attention due to him with service of the poor. Christian realism, while appreciating on the one hand the praiseworthy efforts being made to defeat poverty, is cautious on the other hand regarding ideological positions and Messianistic beliefs that sustain the illusion that it is possible to eliminate the problem of poverty completely from this world. This will happen only upon Christ's return, when he will be with us once more, for ever. In the meantime, the poor remain entrusted to us and it is this responsibility upon which we shall be judged at the end of time (cf. Mt 25:31-46): “Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren”[388].

184. The Church's love for the poor is inspired by the Gospel of the Beatitudes, by the poverty of Jesus and by his attention to the poor. This love concerns material poverty and also the numerous forms of cultural and religious poverty[389]. The Church, “since her origin and in spite of the failing of many of her members, has not ceased to work for their relief, defence and liberation through numerous works of charity which remain indispensable always and everywhere”[390]. Prompted by the Gospel injunction, “You have received without paying, give without pay” (Mt 10:8), the Church teaches that one should assist one's fellow man in his various needs and fills the human community with countless works of corporal and spiritual mercy. “Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God”[391], even if the practice of charity is not limited to alms-giving but implies addressing the social and political dimensions of the problem of poverty. In her teaching the Church constantly returns to this relationship between charity and justice: “When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice”[392]. The Council Fathers strongly recommended that this duty be fulfilled correctly, remembering that “what is already due in justice is not to be offered as a gift of charity”[393]. Love for the poor is certainly “incompatible with immoderate love of riches or their selfish use” [394] (cf. Jas 5:1-6).
Commentary. As an individual Catholic man I often ask myself: Where do I start? There's so much misery in this world! By temperament, I find myself avoiding ideological solutions that would force me into a quixotic quest to changing "sinful structures" because, as experience has shown, their replacement aren't any better at stamping out poverty and misery and worse, they seem to spread misery and insecurity even more.

As an Oblate of St. Benedict, I am to practice "the monastic values of prayer, humility, obedience, peace, patience, charity, and reverence." This derives from passages in the Rule of St. Benedict itself:
In the reception of the poor and of pilgrims  the greatest care and solicitude should be shown, because it is especially in them that Christ is received;  for as far as the rich are concerned, the very fear which they inspire wins respect for them.
 Therefore, as Oblates we are told:
Since for the Christian work is linked with charity to the poor and discipleship of Christ, Oblates must refuse to be dominated by things so that they may be free to serve God and neighbor and have something to give to the poor ( RB 31:9, 55:9)

I'm glad that the Knights of Columbus, of which I'm a member, gives me a starting point to exercise my obligation to be charitable:
Our Catholic faith teaches us to “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Members of the Knights of Columbus show love for their neighbors by conducting food drives and donating the food to local soup kitchens and food pantries, by volunteering at Special Olympics, and by supporting, both spiritually and materially, mothers who choose life for their babies. Knights recognize that our mission, and our faith in God, compels us to action. There is no better way to experience love and compassion than by helping those in need, a call we answer every day.
It's a matter of finding a need and attempting to fill it, without excuses of time and place - and that's my biggest challenge. Where to start? How much of my time and energy? I also find myself wrestling with the Calvinism permeating our free market culture which often confuses Christian charity with the promotion of poverty by means of handouts. I must cleanse myself from that attitude and alas, it has proven difficult to do.

I once promised I would fight for peace as hard and as single-minded as I once warred physically against our enemies, and to actively resist evil from the stance of peace. It is a tall order since I myself am not completely at peace. But God grants His graces to everyone, even for those like me who lack humility and sense of just proportion. These are more things for me to reflect upon during this Lenten season.

May the Lord awake in all of us a true love for the poor and those suffering hunger and want.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Leonard Nimoy, 1932-2015

Leonard Nimoy as the quintessential Mr. Spock.

Brethren, Peace be with You - "Peace, and Long Life."

I want to mark the passing of Mr. Leonard Nimoy, actor, director, writer, and even singer, best known as the Vulcan Mr. Spock in the Star Trek series and movies.

There's little I can say about Mr. Nimoy's illustrious artistic career, except to say that he inspired me in so many ways and even traits that I'm even conscious about that I can only be grateful for his gifts and a life well-lived.

Nimoy as Prophet Samuel
Mr. Nimoy played many characters throughout his career. One of the lesser known is the Prophet Samuel in the made-for-tv Bible movie David. It was a much apropos role for the versatile Jewish actor and one that moved me deeply.

In the third Star Trek movie with the original crew, The Search for Spock, we discovered that the recently-deceased Mr. Spock had been resurrected by the "Genesis Wave." As a Christian, and in common with many Jews, I expect one day in which we will also be raised up again to life, thanks to a very special "Genesis Wave." I am confident I'll be seeing Mr. Nimoy again on that morning.

Leonard Nimoy, boldly gone to where everyone else living will be going to, eventually. He was 83 years old.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

No witch doctor, shaman, or "spiritual adviser" will ever save your marriage

Brethren, Peace be with you.

Often, losers that have nothing else to do spam my comm box for the blog post titled Hedge Prayer for Return of a Wayward Spouse, seeking to advertise magical solutions through silly testimonials for some sort of "guru, witch doctor, shaman" or otherwise "spiritual adviser" who supposedly can bring back a estranged loved one to a broken soul.

These lame attempts at spamming are worrying because of the utter falsity underlying their claim and the losers' silly hope that I would clear such false advertisement on my comm box. I only have two read half of their first sentence to detect their spam and reject their comment with a few clicks.

Brethren, guard your souls. If you go for help to these charlatans you will be destroying your marriages and risking grave spiritual harm, for you will be inviting demons to "fix" a holy union they're bent upon destroying in the first place.

Three people hold the key to a successful marriage: Jesus, and the two spouses. Only these three together can fix a marriage. It only takes one spouse to reject Jesus for a marriage to succumb.

Therefore, pray for the protections of your marriage, for the constant conversion of the spouses and for the mutual and ever-present commitment to each other.

Only prayer to God the Father, in the Name of Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit, can bring a spouse back. But if he or she doesn't return - for God will not force His will over the freedom of the deserting spouse - then pray for the deserter's salvation, for his or her spiritual destiny is at stake.
- If you find yourself in this situation, please continue praying the Hedge Prayer for Return of a Wayward Spouse. Due to the constant spamming attempts, I closed the comment thread. Please, accept my apologies and thank you for your understanding.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Coptic Church Recognizes 21 Men Murdered by #ISIS as Holy Neo-Martyrs

Icon of the 21 Coptic Holy New Martyrs Written by Tony Rezk
(Click on it to enlarge it)

Brothers and Sisters: May the Peace of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be with all of you.

This, according to Vatican Radio:
The Coptic Orthodox Church has announced that the murder of the 21 Egyptian Christians killed by the so-called Islamic State in Libya will be commemorated in its Church calendar.

Pope Tawadros II announced that the names of the martyrs will be inserted into the Coptic Synaxarium, the Oriental Church’s equivalent to the Roman Martyrology. This procedure is also equivalent to canonization in the Latin Church. 
According to, the martyrdom of the 21 Christians will be commemorated on the 8th Amshir of the Coptic calendar, or February 15th of the Gregorian calendar. 
The commemoration falls on the feast day of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. 
Militants of the Islamic State released a gruesome video entitled “A Message Signed in Blood to the Nation of the Cross” in which they released a warning saying they were “south of Rome.” They then proceeded to behead the Christian men, some of whom were seen mouthing the words “Lord Jesus Christ” moments before their death. 
While the killings have stirred fears of the Islamic State’s close proximity to Europe, they have also strengthened many in their faith. 
In an interview with Christian channel SAT-7 ARABIC on Wednesday, Beshir Kamel, brother of two of the Coptic martyrs, even thanked the Islamic State for including their declaration of faith in the videos before killing them. 
“ISIS gave us more than we asked when they didn’t edit out the part where they declared their faith and called upon Jesus Christ. ISIS helped us strengthen our faith,” he said. 
Beshir said that he was proud of his brothers Bishoy and Samuel, saying that their martyrdom was “a badge of honor to Christianity.” 
Kamel’s interview with SAT 7-ARABIC went viral, receiving over 100,000 views within hours of its posting online. When asked what his reaction would be if he saw an Islamic State militant, Kamel recalled his mother’s response. 
"My mother, an uneducated woman in her sixties, said she would ask [him] to enter her house and ask God to open his eyes because he was the reason her son entered the kingdom of heaven,” Beshir said. 
Commentary. This is how Christian Martyrs die: in complete imitation of our Master who could've refused the Cross and even come down from it had He willed it. I join my Coptic brethren in celebrating this new crop of saints, demanding justice before the throne of the Lamb (Revelation 6:9-11):
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabi.tants of the earth and avenge our blood?”11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters,[e] were killed just as they had been.
The only thing we can be sure off is that more martyrs will be coming and not only in Africa or the Middle East, nor only at the hands of Islamofascist terrorists, but elsewhere and at the hands of people who see themselves as enlightened and "scientific." They will mock us, attempt to control us, jail us and in the end, kill us so that their consciences aren't bothered again by our witnessing.

These brothers, mostly ignored by the chattering classes of the West, recapitulate in themselves the martyrs who came before and who will come afterwards in this new era of global persecution. They have passed the test. They stand before the Throne of God and of the Lamb. They were found worthy.
Axios, axios, axios!
The blood of these martyrs is the seed of the Church!
Holy Martyrs of Libya, pray for us!
Find out more about the Coptic Orthodox Church here.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Vivificat now in Flipboard e-zine format!

Brethren: Peace be with you.

In my unending quest to share news, opinions, reflections, and prayers from my personal Catholic perspective with the world, I hereby present to you a new outlet for this blog via the Flipboard magazine publication system. You may enjoy this blog online here or  better still, download the Flipboard app for your iPad or Android device from iTunes or the Android Store and then subscribe to The Spirit Gives Life!, the name I gave Vivificat's magazine version.

You may also share articles from the blog from the e-zine and, even better, leave your comments and discuss the contents with other users within the magazine. How cool is that!

Once again, I thank you for choosing to read Vivificat in any of its forms and for considering me your companion as we pilgrimage through this life in our way to Eternity.