Sunday, December 27, 2009

Who did Adam & Eve's children marry?

Dear Rev. Know it all,
I have a question from the 4th grade class that I teach. “Since God created Adam and Eve and there was no one else on earth, wouldn't their children have to have married each other?  (Insert general grumbling, 'yuck,' 'gross!', etc. from the students.)”  Whom did Adam and Eve's children marry?"  
And if you wouldn't mind including, because I think it will also be asked, "By whom were they married?"
I am extremely grateful for your help. 
Miss Inge Link

Dear Inge, 
I must be running out of material. I am going to quote something verbatim from last weeks column: 
 I love the story that Corrie ten Boom tells in her magnificent book, “The Hiding Place.” When she was a little girl, perhaps 4or 5, her father would often take her with him when he went to the big city to buy supplies for his watch repair business. One day, as the train rolled through the Dutch countryside, little Corrie, having heard older girls talking on the playground at school, asked her father, “Papa, what is sex?” Casper ten Boom, looked at little Corrie and silently turned to stare out the window again, leaving his daughter’s question unanswered. When the train pulled into the station, Casper asked Corrie to pick up his tool bag. She did her best  but couldn’t budge the bag. Casper then said to her, “Corrie, there are some things too heavy for you to carry right now. When you are old enough, I will tell you what sex is. Til then, trust me.”  (In telling this story to your children perhaps you can substitute the word “robbery” for “sex.” I don’t want to risk a law suit. It’s odd that your students go home to watch prime time pornography masquerading as children’s programming but if you so much as mention the wrong thing some parent will haul you into court. Oh well. Where was I?)
I don’t know how God worked the whole situation out. Perhaps He made wives for the sons of Adam and Eve the same way he made Adam. Out of clay. Sort of like Gumby. Maybe He himself did the weddings. After all He walked in the garden, the Bible says.  Certainly He had the authority to officiate at weddings.  The point is that I don’t know. I don’t need to know.
The Bible isn’t a history textbook, though it has history in it. It is God’s commentary on the nature of humanity. I’ve said it before and will say it again. The Bible, especially the first chapters of the Bible, are God’s view of real events. He sees them in a fuller and more meaningful way than we can.  Perhaps Adam and Eve were a couple of cave persons. God saw more. Perhaps the ark was a flat boat on a flooded Mesopotamian plain. God saw more. Perhaps the Tower of Babel was just a three-story mud hut where a family had a really bad fight. God saw more. Perhaps Abraham was just a greasy desert wanderer. God saw more. Perhaps you and I and your little students are just short lived blips in the cosmic scheme of things. God sees more. 
That’s the point. We look at things and pretend we can take in the whole reality We can’t That’s why God gives an interpretation of these great realities and then says, “Trust me.” He tells us just enough to get us to heaven,. We want to pick apart the text in a way hides its meaning rather than reveals its meaning. I’m not saying that scholarship is a bad thing. The more we understand about the language and the context of the Scriptures, the more fully we will be able to hear what the Holy Spirit is telling us. However, a lot of so called scholarship assumes that if you can’t see it or touch it, it isn’t real and has no meaning. That was the very sin of Adam and Eve, the original sin.
Read the text before you pull it apart. Eve looked at the fruit of the tree and saw that it was good for food and for the gaining of knowledge. In other words she believed that she would be God’s equal and not have to be His child. She would no longer have to trust Him. So it is with us old folks, and believe me I have met some very old fourth graders, real cynics.  Mary, our Blessed Mother, when confronted with an impossibility, “Behold the Holy Spirit will overshadow you” said. “Okay. I’ll trust God. Whatever He wants.” The new Eve trusted. The old Eve connived. What the text says is so much more important than what the text leaves out. When the devil gets us to look at what the text doesn’t say, he manages to keep us from hearing what the text says and says so beautifully.
I am reminded of W.C. Fields, the great comedian. A friend came to visit it him as he lay dying. He found Fields reading the Bible. He said “I thought you didn’t believe any of the that stuff h. Why are you reading the Bible?” Fields responded, “I’m looking for loopholes...” Sometimes, when we try to find out what the Bible doesn’t say instead of hearing what it says, we are doing exactly the same thing, looking for loopholes.
As I have said before, some people have the souls of poets, others have the souls of appliance repairmen. When a poet says “her lips were like roses, her eyes like flame,” the literalist will say “How did she keep from burning her eyebrows? And did she have thorns to go with roses? That’s gotta hurt.”  
So tell your little cynics this: God only tells us the things in the Bible that we need to know. When science describes things one way and the Bible describes them another way, God is being a little bit poetic in order to help us understand, but He’s telling us more about the story than even scientists can.
I am reminded of one more story. St Augustine was walking by the shore trying to understand the mysteries of God, He saw a little boy digging a  hole in the sand. The little boy would dig the whole, run to the water with a clay pot and pour the water into the hole, which would then collapse. He repeated the process over and over and over until finally St, Augustine asked him what he was trying to accomplish. The boy said, “ I am trying to put the whole ocean into my hole in the sand.” Augustine laughed and said, “you’ll never fit the whole sea into that tiny hole. It’s too small and it collapses constantly. The little boy said, “And Augustine, you will fit the greatness of God into your little mind,” and then the little boy vanished from sight.
Rev. Know-it-all

Sunday, December 20, 2009

What do I tell my son about Santa Claus?

Dear Rev. Know it all,

Our youngest boy, Tim, will be turning twenty-three soon and we are worried that he may ask us whether or not there really is a Santa Claus. As Catholics, what do we say? We are disturbed by the increasing materialism of the Christmas season and worry on the one hand that our little boy will be swept up in current attitudes, the “Holiday Spirit,” so called. On the other hand, we worry that our baby will be disillusioned if we tell him that there is no Santa Claus. He still cherishes the hope that he will Santa Claus coming down the chimney on Christmas night and waits by the fireplace every December 24th with a baseball bat and a pair of handcuffs. It’s so cute to find him asleep there in his jammies on Christmas morning.

What should we do?

Mr. and Mrs. Robert Cratchet

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Crachet,

Not to worry, there is a third alternative. Somewhere between breaking the little tyke’s heart and having him continue in a deluded state of ignorant innocence, there is another alternative. There is a certain danger in allowing him to believe in a large red-suited home invader who should have died years ago from clogged arteries. Eventually he will discover that he has been duped all along, and that goes for the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, the Appendix Elf and that whole crowd. At that point he will probably make the leap to “If my parents have been lying to me all these years about someone as important as Santa Claus, perhaps they have been lying to me about God!" The loss of innocence and parental trust can be a bit unsettling, especially for one of such tender years as is your son.

I am of the opinion that parents should never lie to their children. There are a few options. I love the story that Corrie ten Boom tells in her magnificent book, “The Hiding Place.” When she was a little girl, perhaps 4 or 5, her father would often take her with him when he went to the big city to buy supplies for his watch repair business. One day, as the train rolled through the Dutch countryside, little Corrie, having heard older girls talking on the playground at school, asked her father, “Papa, what is sex?” Casper ten Boom, looked at little Corrie and silently turned to stare out the window again, leaving his daughter’s question unanswered. When the train pulled into the station, Casper asked Corrie to pick up his tool bag. She did her best but couldn’t budge the bag. Casper then said to her, “Corrie, there are some things too heavy for you to carry right now. When you are old enough, I will tell you what sex is. 'Til then, trust me.” We can always tell our children that some things are too heavy to carry now and we will tell them later. Santa Claus is not one these things, despite his girth.

As I said, I am of the opinion that parents should never lie to their children. If little Timmy asks, “Is there is a Santa Claus,” this is what I would tell him. “Yes, Timmy, there is a Santa Claus, but his real name is St. Nicholas and he doesn’t live at the North Pole, he lives in heaven with God. He doesn’t actually bring all the toys and those wonderful new pairs of sweat sox, but he was a very kind and generous bishop a long time ago, who gave gifts and helped little children. He inspires Mommy and Daddy to give gifts, and Jesus gives Mommy and Daddy the ability to give the gifts. All that stuff about elves and the North Pole is make believe, but make believe is all right and a lot of fun, if you know the truth, so you can just keep waiting for Santa by the chimney if you want to. It’s great fun”

We tell our children the dandiest things like the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and the boogey man in order to get them to do what we want. No wonder psychiatrists make a decent living. However, St. Nicholas and God are real. Perhaps you are among those who think that God is just an imaginary friend for grown-ups. I beg to differ. Jesus lived. We have more documentation about Jesus than we do for people like Julius Caesar and no one doubts that

Caesar existed. Further despite our modern pseudo-scientific skepticism, God who is unseen leaves His fingerprints everywhere. I just got a fascinating video on the latest new about the Shroud of Turin. I can hear you scientific types beginning to giggle and guffaw. Look at the issue scientifically. A flawed carbon test made on a medieval patch has convinced people who wanted to be convinced that this amazing relic is a fake. Well, read the latest. It is interesting to note that every time there is a new imaging technology, it seems that it is already built into the cloth. When Secundo Pia took a picture of the Shroud in 1898 using that relatively new-fangled technology of photography, lo and behold, the Shroud turned out to be a photographic negative. Then someone invented the VP-8 Image analyzer to interpret radio waves bouncing off distant objects. Lo and behold, when given a picture, any picture, of the Shroud, it produced a three dimensional image, something no photograph or painting had ever done. So the Shroud was shown to contain three dimensional information. Now, Dr. Petrus Soons and Dame Isabel Piczek — a Hungarian trained particle physicist, have shown that the Shroud contains holographic information. Dame Piczek says the image can only be compared to a singularity, an event horizon like a black hole!?! To believe that the thing is a medieval fraud or just an accident makes believing in Santa’s elves seems reasonable. Or how about the appearance of the Blessed Mother in Zeitoun, Egypt?. Apparently she and a few angels stood on the roof of a Church in suburban Cairo a few nights a week for about three years in the 1960's. thousands came to gawk, even Egypt’s president Gamal Abdul Nasser. (Just go to your computer and do a web search using the word “Zeitoun” Some of the websites start with the idea that such things are impossible and try to explain them away. I know people from Egypt whose families were present at the event. How about... I could go on and on. God who is bigger than the universe may be impossible to see, but He is certainly able to be known because 2000 years ago the invisible God became visible in the person of Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, and Mary who may well have wrapped Him in the Shroud when he died also wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger. He remains visible in so many, many ways. He certainly lived and lives still.

As for your little gem by the fireplace, I see no harm in his waiting by the fireplace to deck Santa with a baseball bat. Perhaps, by some miracle of grace, the Lord will allow the real St. Nicholas to descend from heaven and to appear in your living room. Timmy should watch out however. There is a legend that St. Nicholas punched Arius the heretic at Council of Nicea. I doubt that it’s true, but these days one can’t be too careful.

Merry Christmas, and God bless us everyone!
Rev. Know-it-all

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Farewell to a wonderful priest...

Dear Friends,
In my sadness, I hesitate to put pen to paper, (or better, finger to word processor) this week. My associate, Fr. Ron Plomillo, is returning to the Southern Philippines and I may actually have to do some work here at the parish. He is such a fine priest and such a hard worker, thus it was inevitable that his bishop would want him back. I write endless columns about the struggles of the church in the modern world and the thousands of unknown martyrs who shed their blood for Christ. He is actually going to a place where martyrdom is common. Keep Him in your prayers, and if you know Him, thank God for the privilege.
Rev. Know it all

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Why priestly celibacy? part 2

(Part 2 of response to Mr. E. Z Wayout questioning the practice of priestly celibacy in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church)
Continued from last week……..
Let’s look at the Bible. Yes, we Catholics read the Bible. We’re the ones who first wrote, edited and published it. I wonder what your wife does with such passages as Matthew 19:12 “For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs by men: and there are eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” This certainly seems to indicate that Jesus saw some role for celibacy.
Then there is St. Paul, who seems to be boasting about his celibacy in this next passage (1 Corinthians 9:5) “Have we not power to travel about with a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?” Perhaps your wife would say “See, this proves that the early Church didn’t practice celibacy. After all, no one required it of
St. Paul ”Oh, yes someone did. Jesus required it of St. Paul: (1Cor, 7: 7, 8 ) “For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man has his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. Therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they remain even as I (unmarried). ......v.28... Nevertheless, such (those who are married) shall have trouble in the flesh: but I (want to) spare you (trouble).”
The introduction of celibacy to the life of ministry was not a late thing, it happened right at the beginning. We see it in the life of St. Paul and even in the life of our Lord Jesus. (I don’t believe those loons who think Jesus and Mary Magdalene were a number.)
The following passages are even more helpful in understanding the development of priestly celibacy: (1 Timothy 3:12) “Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.” And (1 Timothy 3:2) “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, able to teach.” We know from the continuous history and teaching of the Church, that in the earliest days of the Church, married men might be chosen as clergy. They could be already married but married only once. That means if the wife of an ordained man died, he could not marry again. In fact, in most places all those who were widowed were required to remain unmarried. Any second marriage, was considered adultery. The Church wisely took the lenient view that St. Paul took, that, though celibacy for widows and widowers is better, it is still “better to marry than to burn.” (1Cor.7:9) St. Paul clearly believes that celibacy allows a person to be single minded for the service of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 7:33) “But he that is married cares for the things that are of the world, that he may please his wife.”
The Church still follows this general rule; married men may be ordained, but ordained men may not be married. Huh? Simple. If a man comes to the sacrament with a spouse, he remains married. That is more common now with certain men who are ordained and is the general custom for permanent deacons.
I think that your wife gives herself away when she says that because deacons can do just about everything priests can do, except for the 5 sacraments (Eucharist, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Holy Orders, Anointing). Buried in her comment is the reason for the development of celibacy in the Western Church. The Eucharist! Remember a long way back I said that Eastern Rite parish priests are generally married? This is not true of Eastern Rite monastic priests. They are celibate as a form of self denial. It is very interesting to note that the Eucharist is not celebrated daily in most Eastern parishes. If you want a daily Mass in much of the Eastern Christian world, you have to go to a monastery, where men are celibate. Why? Because it is customary in the Eastern Churches for even married clergy to refrain from “intimate relations”  (remembering this is a family column) as a kind of fasting and preparation for the SACRIFICE of the Mass. I don’t know if this is still common, but it certainly was.
We in the west are almost all monastic priests in that sense. We, like St. Paul, make a sacrifice, a kind of fasting for the advancement of the kingdom and the salvation of the world. It is a sacrifice worth making, but a sacrifice nonetheless. Your wife however, has given up on sacrifice by leaving the Church. She says as much when she asks, “What can a priest do that a deacon can’t?” A priest only says Mass and hears confessions and anoints. Nothing that important, he just brings Christ physically into the world and announces His healing and forgiveness. That’s all.
Luther and his followers did not believe that Mass is a sacrifice. They misinterpret the verse from Hebrews 9:28, “ Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people.” So many forsake the Christian religion for the American religion in which God does nice things for me and never tells me things I don’t want to hear. The Scriptures are clear. God wants to make us like Himself and if He is the sacrifice offered for the world, we become part of His sacrifice. In the Sacrifice of the Mass we unite ourselves to His sacrifice. (Col 1:24) “In my own flesh I make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.” In the sacrifice of the Mass I, unite my small sacrifices and self denials to His perfect sacrifice. That is the Eucharistic heart of the Catholic Faith which we is so inconvenient, that with ears itching we “find teachers to suit our own fancy.” (2Tim 4:3)
I wish your lovely wife, Anny Wayout, much luck in her search for a Church that agrees with her. I always worry that if I ever found the perfect local church, it would stop being perfect the minute I joined it. Just tell her that she is free to worship God in her way and you will worship Him in His. Happy year of the priest. 
Your friend as ever,
Rev. Know-it-all

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Why priestly celibacy (part 1)

Dear Rev. Know it all,
My wife, Anny, who has left the Church, does not believe in priestly celibacy. I tried to explain that the role of the priest requires total service, and if he had a family, it would not be fair to the congregation the priest oversees, nor to that priest's family. She said that because deacons can do just about everything priests can do, except the 5 sacraments only priests can do (Eucharist, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Holy Orders, Anointing of the Sick), why can deacons be married and not priests? I wasn't sure how to answer this. Can you help?
Mr. E. Z. Wayout

Dear Mr. Wayout,
Your wife doesn’t believe in priestly celibacy. I’m not sure that believe is the right word. I don’t believe in celibacy either. I believe in Jesus, and Jesus has asked me to practice celibacy, so I do. It’s a sacrifice He asked me to make for the sake of His Bride, the Church. He asked St. Paul to make that sacrifice, and He Himself made the same sacrifice when he lived in Galilee, 2,000 years ago. And believe me, it is a sacrifice. It becomes more and more sacrificial as I grow older. The sacrifice is not that I don’t have “intimate relations” (I try to keep this a family column). The sacrifice is that there are fewer and fewer people in this world to whom I am close, as people die or become distant.
At an age when people are bouncing grandchildren on their knees, and some randy old goats are bouncing a second or third batch of their own children on their knee, thanks to wife #2 and wife #3. Instead of being involved with family, I am facing the homestretch being involved with absolute strangers who think that there is an evil spirit in their computer hard drive or some such nonsense. (Even as I write, I can hear some of my confreres grumbling that I should be highlighting the positive.) We have the joy of such a large parish family that loves us so dearly, and I must admit that many of my parishioners have become very dear to me. It is true that we are loved by a lot of people and I am very appreciative of them, but I don’t always like their great grandmother’s recipe for boiled guava bark which they insist on making me try and watching me as I eat every last crumb.
I can hear people saying, “You know, Father, my home is your home. You’re always welcome to come over and relax.” Face it. Home is where you can scratch where it itches. If I come over to your house, pop open a beer and flop down in your Lazy-Boy to watch the TV, wearing nothing but my bathrobe and boxers you would probably have me arrested and end up joining the Episcopalian Church which is reputed to have a more refined fashion sense. The great struggle of most women is to get their spouses to wear more and cleaner clothing, at least when company comes over. With your own family you’re nothing special. A priest, however is always “on.” I have rarely been invited to anyone’s home where I don’t end up talking to some relative who is going through a crisis. I’ve actually had people run next door to get the neighbors who need to talk to a priest while I am struggling to get down the last bit of boiled guava bark. I usually can’t wait to get back to my lonely rectory where I can strip down to my bathrobe and boxers, open a beer and watch the TV.
“Boy,” you’re probably thinking “is this guy bitter.” I’m not. I like being a priest, but it’s a sacrificial way of life if you do it right. It’s supposed to be sacrificial. Christianity is sacrificial and therein lies your wife’s problem. She is not looking for Christ. He’s found on the cross. She’s looking for a good deal. Those are found at the mall.
I imagine your wife is reading the catalogue of woes I have just recited and is saying, “See. Celibacy is a bad idea! The clergy should be married and then they wouldn’t have all those problems.” No, they would have other problems. I have a friend who came into Catholicism later in life. He knows lots of ministers, their kids and has actually dated a preacher’s daughter saying, that he’s never met a clergyman’s wife or children who are actually happy. I’m sure there are preachers’ wives and kids somewhere who are happy, but for the most part, the sacrifices the clergy are expected to make have a way of spreading out to their wives and children, who end up living in the same display case that their clerical fathers (or mothers) have to endure.
I wonder if your wife has thoroughly investigated the church she claims to have left? I wonder if she knows that there are lots of married Catholic priests. There are millions of Eastern Catholics, just as Catholic as members of the Roman Rite. They listen to the pope. They love the Blessed Mother and the Communion of Saints. They believe what Jesus and Paul taught about the Real Presence and the Mass. They have the whole Bible, not just Martin Luther’s Reader’s Digest version of it, but, wonder of wonders, they have parish priests who are usually married! It is also becoming a little more common for Protestant ministers after joining the Catholic Church to become Catholic priests. So Catholic priests, under some circumstances, are married even in the Latin Rite of the Church.
The priests of the Latin Rite, such as myself, are generally celibate. Why? Most people think it’s a political-social convenience, and as you point out, it does make the sacrifices of ministry easier in some ways. I served thirty years in the worst neighborhoods, and certainly wouldn’t have done so if I’d had a wife and kids to worry about. Some people theorize that too many medieval priest were handing down their parishes to their children and besides if a priest doesn’t have to support a wife and kids it’s cheaper for the parish. I don’t think these are the real reasons for celibacy. Actually, married clergy are a good deal for a church. Protestant church hiring committees prefer hiring married clergy. It’s a two-fer (two for the price of one). They pay the minister and his wife works her tuchus off for free, doing the bake sales, the lady’s auxiliary etc. I wonder if, now that there are so many Protestant clergy women, that their husbands are expected to bake cookies. Where was I? Oh yes, Why?
To be continued...

Rev. Know-it-all

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Will my late husband know me in heaven?

Dear Rev. Know it all,
My husband died 17 months ago and I still have trouble dealing with it. I was sixty-one. I work (which is good) but at night I think and think and think!! Is my husband in heaven .. or will heaven be on earth. Therefore is he just devoid of any consciousness (asleep in Christ)? I want my husband to be aware of me and remember I was his wife on earth. And when I get to heaven, I don't want him to love everyone just the same as me. I want to be special to him, and our kids special. He can love everyone, but not the same!! Otherwise, what were we married for? Am I just supposed to forget he existed on earth and move on to the next????? I am so unhappy.

Dear Eve, 
I am so sorry for you. You are asking two separate questions. I think the Bible and the Faith answer both very clearly and simply. 
First, is my husband in heaven, or does he sleep? The Jehovah’s Witnesses talk about something called soul sleep. They claim that we await the final judgment. Until then we have no consciousness. I don’t think this is warranted by the Scriptures, nor by the Faith of the Church. The Bible says that “...we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last judgment.” This can be made to sound like we don’t sleep or it can be made to sound like we wait for the last judgment, and by implication, the resurrection. Well, which is it? The Bible also says, “ is appointed for men to die once, and then the judgment.” That sounds pretty immediate to me.
A couple other verses answer the question as far as I am concerned. “He is the same yesterday today and always,” and “We are children of God, but what we shall be has not yet come to light, but we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is.” In other words, we may think in terms of yesterday, today and tomorrow, but the moment is coming when time and space will have no longer have the same meaning for us as they do now. We live in time, but are created for timelessness. Remember that eternity really means timelessness. Think about it. You are a timeless being. Time is just the way that we limited beings sort things out.
Look in the mirror. You said you are 61. You look and see a woman, but you are the same person who was the girl who met and fell in love with your husband. There is not a new “you.” The “me” part of you can’t be seen or touched. It does not age. It is timeless and spaceless. Scientist keep trying to find the self in that fold of the brain, or this lobe or gland. I don’t think they will ever find it, because it is nowhere but in the mind of God. Certainly we experience both timelessness and time.
The body diminishes, or in my case increases, but as I look at the old stranger in the mirror I am still me. I experience time and timelessness at once. Time is just a way that we have of keeping things straight. The Maker of all things, infinite and eternal has no such limits. He is always now and is always here, never then and there. All things and all times are present to him. St Paul said that we see as in a mirror darkly. Then we shall see clearly. So if the question is, “Do we go to heaven when we die or do we wait for the resurrection of the dead and the final judgment?” the answer is “yes.” What do you mean “yes?” I mean that if St. Paul is correct in saying that we shall be like Him, then we will experience things as He experiences them. It will all be “now”, never “then.”
The second question you ask is, “Does he remember me? Will I still be his wife in heaven and will the kids and I be special to him?” The answer to that is very simple. You will be more special to him, more than you can ask or imagine. It is interesting that you use the word “same.” “I want to be special to him, and our kids special.  He can love everyone, but not the same!!” Think about this. I am a very little person with a very small heart. I can love only a few people at a time and that is with a lot of effort. God’s heart is infinite. He loves infinitely. You can’t have more or less infinity. That means that God loves me, a pretty self absorbed and irritating fellow, as much as He loves Jesus, His only begotten Son, and as much as He loves Our Blessed Mother, conceived without sin. He doesn’t love me the same as He loves them. He loves me uniquely and individually, but infinitely. He’s just that kind of person. And remember, someday, if I accept and cooperate with His grace, I will be like Him, loving infinitely and individually. You seem to have this beige idea of Heaven. Everything the same, nothing special, God is not playing favorites. It is quite the opposite. Everything and everyone is special, infinitely special. He will be your husband and better. He will be his children’s father and still more.
“Why did I marry him?” Good question. Our generation got married because we were in love. That’s nice, but alone, it isn’t much of a reason for marriage. We used to believe that marriage was a vocation, a calling from God. We moderns get all nervous when we think of death. We changed the words in the ceremony from “ ‘til death do us part” to “all the days of our life.” but death is the only thing about life that is absolutely certain. You didn’t just marry so you could have a good life. You were called by God to be married in order to get one another and your children to the happiness of heaven.
Perhaps you’ve heard me speak of people I’ve known who died and lived to tell about it. I remember one fellow who stood before God’s throne and heard his wife’s prayer to have him come back. He woke up on the emergency room table and yelled, “Why didn’t you leave me there?” He was so mad that he wouldn’t talk to his wife for three days. I remember the story of a woman who had a vision of her son who died prematurely. He told his Mom, “you have no idea how wonderful it is here.” It is more than we know and life is bigger than we can even conceive of. It isn’t just a bunch of chemicals or time schedules. It is more, in the words of St. Paul, than we can ask or imagine. I believe your husband loves you more now than he ever did, because, if he died in the Lord, he is in the process of becoming like the Lord.
Rev. Know-it-all

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Can I own a Canadian?

Dear Rev. Know it all,

Recently a friend of mine sent me the link to a site entitled "Why Can't I Own a Canadian?" Much of the content mocks Mosaic Law in context of our current day and age. I've looked around the web for info to respond to my friend but mostly I just found this very same content posted on multiple sites and people commenting on how ridiculous Judaism/Christianity is. This has really been bugging me... even to the point of losing some sleep researching answers. I thought I turn to "Charismatic Catholic Capped & Caped Crusader for Christ" for help.

Thank you & God bless!

Lee Gulistick

Dear Lee,

Who would want to own a Canadian in the first place? A Canadian will eat you out of house and home. And sometimes they only speak French. Zoot, alors! I’m just kidding about Canadians. They’re lovely people.

The question you ask about the old covenant law and the New Testament is easier to answer than one might think. Have you seen the movie Forrest Gump? There is a scene in which Forrest and his shrimp obsessed friend are cleaning the floor with tooth brushes. This exercise is not intended by his superiors to get the floor clean. It is intended to work a change in raw recruits. An inefficient way to clean floor is a fine way to create a soldier.

God's Mosaic commandments may seem arbitrary to the rebellious narcissists who populate the modern world, but remember, God wasn't just training soldiers. He was training a people to be his ambassadors to the world until the time was ripe for the Messiah and His universal message of God's love. Moses went up the mountain and received 10 commandments, all of which were fairly reasonable; don't kill, lie, steal, or commit adultery. Worship God, rest now and then. Don't envy your neighbor. Moses came down from the mountain and saw Edward G. Robinson and the Israelites dancing around the golden calf. He broke the tablets, made everybody drink the powdered up idol and went back up the mountain to try again.

This time God sent him down with 613 commandments, 603 more than the first time. Obedience to the whole law of Moses was the moral and theological equivalent of cleaning the floor with a toothbrush. When a few reasonable commandments aren't enough, God gives us more. We need them. When the need was past, Jesus came and said, "Alright, I'm from God. I'm the Messiah and I'm going to begin the restoration of the human condition as it first was in the garden when the most basic and simple commandments applied.” That's why Jesus says, "Moses allowed you to divorce, but it was not that way at first. In His own image He made them, male and female He made them. For this a man shall leave his mother and father and cling to his wife and the two shall become one flesh."

The dietary laws and the ritual laws fall away as the Messiah restores the first covenants between God and humanity. The natural law doesn't fall away, because it is the very reflection of the divine nature in the image of which humanity was first made. The faithful, fertile, forever relationship between Husband and Wife is the reflection of God's own reality. God is love, sacrificial love. Married love is natural. The fascinating variations we have come up with modern times are, well, unnatural. Look at the equipment. It seems clearly designed for a specific use and a specific purpose. God's nature is intimately involved in the natural, sometimes difficult, though always wondrous, relationship between man and woman.

God's nature has nothing do with eating shrimp, or mixing different crops in a field. Self-sacrificing Love and family and charity, respect for human life, these are from God's own heart. The humanist web site sight you refer to is pretty shallow. I remind you that it is the fool who says in his heart there is no God, or so says the Psalm.

Rev. Know-it-all

Sunday, November 8, 2009

How far does a father's "Headship" over his daughter extend?

Dear Rev. Know it all;
My 26 year old niece, Diodora Steinherz, and her fiancé, both Catholic, hope to marry in June. However, Diodora's parents, who are "Bible Christians" do not think her fiancé is the right person for their daughter and based on their interpretation of the biblical "headship covenant", have advised her they will not agree to the marriage. If she chooses to go against their wishes, particularly her father's wishes, they will not attend the wedding nor will they allow any of Diodora’s brothers and sisters that still live at home to attend the wedding. At this point, it would appear their intent is to "ban" her if she goes through with the wedding without their approval. This, of course, is causing many problems in the immediate as well as extended family. Is there any validity to this man’s claim that the bible states that the father must approve a grown daughter’s choice of a spouse? Does he have "authority" over his daughters until marriage? What does the bible say in regard to these matters?
Hedda Oferheels

Dear Hedda,
Dad is nuts on many, many levels. Headship covenant? Covenant implies mutuality. Unless Diodora signed on to have her father run her life and pick her spouse, I don’t think there is a covenant. I can’t find the phrase “headship covenant” in any Bible I’ve read. So, let us look at what the texts say.
1 Corinthians 11 has this to say: “I would have you know, that the head of every man is the Messiah (Christ); and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of the Messiah is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. But every woman that prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head. A man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man...... Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man..... Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God."
Then we have the text of Ephesians, chapter 5. “Be filled with the Spirit,... submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the Church: and He is the savior of the body. Therefore as the Church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. Thus ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loves his wife loves himself. No man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord of the Church.... Nevertheless, let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife should reverence her husband.”
From these texts, it is apparent that the headship and submission that St. Paul talks about have to do with the relationship between husbands and wives, not fathers and daughters. I am sure that “Dad” can counter with texts from the letters of St. John and sundry other bible bullets about children obeying and honoring their parents. It sounds from your letter that Diodora is anything but a child. Dad is probably a lost cause but I am very worried about his children, for whom I write this note. The text from Corinthians is very obscure and seems to contradict Jewish custom. Both Jewish women and men cover their heads in prayer. I have discussed this at great length with my dear friend, the Rabbi Yehuda ben Yiddishkeit, and neither he nor I can quite make heads or tails of it. The most revealing part of the text I have left out for brevity’s sake ( YOU can find it if you reference the whole text in your Bible.) St. Paul says, a woman should cover her head out of respect for the angels! That is, women are such a gift and a wonder, that even the angels are distracted by their true spiritual inner beauty. It is a biblical principle that what is sacred is covered. (Contrast that with our current barbarism.) When we read that woman is for man, not man for woman, one needs to remember the Creation story. Adam was created on the sixth day, as were the beasts. He was alone and so God caused him to fall into a deep sleep, When he woke, there was Eve, taken from his rib, that part of the body that protects the heart. Now the Hebrew sages point out that the Sabbath, the seventh day, doesn’t begin at sundown. It begins when there is not enough light to distinguish between a black and a white thread. There is that twilight, which is neither the sixth nor the seventh day. When do we sleep? When the sun goes down. It was when he awoke on Sabbath that Adam found Eve. She was God’s Sabbath gift to him. She makes him fully human, even though he had been created on the same day as the beasts. She divinizes him, for “In His own image He made them; male and female he made them.” This is why the woman is “for man,” lest the man return to the beasts. Ain’t it the truth? Most men can’t even find their socks without a woman to tell him where he put them!
The idea becomes clearer in the second reading from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians. Headship is not about control, it is about service. I never understood headship until I heard Chicago’s Cardinal George talk about it. A brainless, hair-hatted reporter once asked his Eminence, “As leader of the Archdiocese of Chicago what are going to do about yadda yadda?” The Cardinal looked shocked and said “I’m not the leader of the archdiocese. I’m its head!” Amazing! Headship and leadership are not the same thing. Leadership emerges from different places in different situations. When I am hungry, it is my stomach that leads me. It is the head’s job to get what the stomach needs, and to do it in a reasonable and healthy way, but it is nonetheless a matter of the service of the head to the body, not the other way around. In this case, the head submits to the body, for it’s well being, just as Christ submitted to death for the sake of His bride, the Church.
I always used to tell my students that the little words in a text were the most important. Here we have a fine example. The most important word in the text is “as.” No one in the Greco Roman world doubted that a woman should submit to her husband. St. Paul modifies that submission by the word “as.” A woman was not to submit as to the emperor, not as to a slave owner, but as to the Messiah (Christ in Greek). A husband was to love his wife. A Greek would have asked, “Why?” A woman had no soul. She was a domestic appliance that could have children and was also useful, as were daughters, for cementing business deals. Love and amusement, well, there were lots of other people for that sort of thing. Not only does St. Paul tell the Greeks of Ephesus to love their wives, but to love them “as” Christ loves the Church. A man is supposed to give himself for his wife, not the other way around!!! He also mentions that Christ drew a bath for His wife, the Church. Sounds pretty romantic, no? I wonder when was the last time that Diodora’s dad, Mr Steinherz, drew a bubble bath for his wife. It sounds like his favorite song is “Put Another Log on the Fire.” (Look it up if you don’t know it. A country music classic.)
St. Paul also says, (1 Corinthians 7:4) “The wife doesn’t have authority over her own body; her husband does, and likewise the husband doesn’t have authority over his own body, but his wife does.” St. Paul is, I suspect, the first person in history to say that a man is answerable to a woman, and not just a woman to a man. So you see, headship is all about service and not about domination. The whole point is moot, however, because Diodora is not a child and besides, “...for this a man leaves his parents and clings to his wife and the two become one flesh.”
I can imagine the pain that this must cause the family, but my suspicion is that Dad is not interested in Biblical principles. He seems to be a control freak who has found a theology to fit his illness. Were I your niece, I would tell this bully, “Fine if you don’t want to be part of our lives because of a nonsensical private interpretation of Scripture, that’s up to you. It will be just as well that our children will be brought up in orthodox, traditional Christianity and that you won’t be able to bully them as you’ve tried to bully me.” Such a statement is not disrespect. It is truth spoken in love (Ephesians 4:15). For the sake of the siblings and whatever grandchildren there may yet be, I would put my foot down now and say no more of the bible based bullying.

Rev. Know-it-all

PS I would encourage your niece to go as slowly as possible on the marriage and to get good marriage counseling with her fiancé before the marriage. My instinct is that Dad will do everything possible to break up the marriage just for the pleasure of saying, "I told you so."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Is it OK to let the kids go out for Halloween?

Dear Rev. Know it all;
I am worried. My next door neighbor who is a member of the First Church of the Separated Brethren with Signs and Wonders Following says that I should not allow my children to dress up and go trick or treating on Halloween. It will lead them into occult practices and they will end up demon-possessed and burning in hell. Is this true?
Yours sincerely, Mrs. Holly Weyan

Dear Holly,
   I suspect that forbidding trick-or-treating to children might have the opposite effect. I've met your neighbor's children and believe me I've been tempted to reach for the Holy Water a few times. Remember that forbidden fruit is sweetest. Children tend to develop a morbid interest in the things that their parents forbid most vehemently. Instead of saying no and hiding in the basement waiting for the apocalypse, perhaps you can encourage your children to dress as super-heroes and even saints.
   Halloween is a way to laugh at our own fears. It is a sort of whistling past the cemetery. I would not forbid moderate Halloweenieness (Yes, a new word. You heard it here first.) to children. I would forbid it to adults. Halloween has become an adult holiday, with all the attendant debauchery and drunkenness. An unhealthy fixation on things occult seems to be growing, not on the part of children but on the part of parents and older siblings. It is as if parents are refusing to grow up. I hold myself and my fellow clergy responsible, in part. There is a natural awareness of and hunger for supernatural reality. The modern church, in it's wholesale neglect of supernatural reality has sent people elsewhere for explanations of the invisible dimension of their lives. 
I think it is far more dangerous for adults and older teens to focus on the morbid and occult movies costume parties and what is up with the current popularity of sex vampires?  We Catholics are the possessors of supernatural realities: resurrection, and spiritual warfare and the casting out of demons. These thing really happen in the Catholic faith. It may sound odd, but compared to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the idea that vampires drink blood seems a demonic parody. We have the real thing. Hollywood is just mocking us.
In the past few decades, many have tried to reduce the faith to a sort of self help movement of meetings and committees and snazzy ceremonies. The pastor of St. Odillo's in Berwyn, Illinois makes the point that the struggle in the church is not between so called liberals and conservatives. It is between those who believe in supernatural reality and those who don't. We have neglected supernatural things at our own peril. The result appears to be that Halloween, once a harmless night for children to indulge in harmless fantasy and high fructose treats is fast becoming a sort of a "pagan Christmas." The message of the real Christmas is, "Be not afraid!" as the angels said to the shepherds. The message of the new paganized Halloween is, "Be afraid, be very afraid!"
This bathing in terror is really dangerous for children and adults alike. So my suggestion is that you let your kids trick or treat and laugh at the fake stuff, making sure they know it's fake. Let me suggest a simple rule of thumb. If it gives you a bit of a fright and then makes you laugh it's probably okay. If it leaves you quaking with fear and causes nightmares it is best avoided all together.
Grown ups should act like grown ups and make it a children's holiday once again. And don't be the kind that passes out apples and granola bars. Pop for the good stuff, like Almond Joys and Reese's peanut butter cups.  This year I think I'm going to dress up as a priest.
Rev. Know-it-all

PS As for the scary movies, "Abbot and Costello meet the Werewolf" is probably okay. All the dreck that's coming out of Hollywood now, I would keep off limits to children. If you think it will give them nightmares don't let them watch it. And certainly don't let them watch anything you haven't seen it first.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

How can a loving God allow suffering?

Dear Rev. Know it all;
I am currently taking a course titled “Providence, Suffering and Freedom,” and have recently come across the issue of innocent suffering. This is a very hard subject to understand and so far the nature of God has come into question. If God is all powerful, all loving, and just, how can he allow innocent suffering. Assertions that God is not all powerful have been made because God would not allow his creation to be harmed if he is all powerful and all loving. I am asking what the Catholic Church's position is on the issue of innocent suffering and the all powerful nature of God.
Miss E. Rable

Dear Miss Rable,
I am always curious how anyone can walk into a Catholic church and ask such a question? We believe in redemptive suffering. In a Catholic church the center piece above the altar is usually a crucifix, not a cross, but a crucifix. A cross is two pieces of wood or some other material. A crucifix has a representation of Christ crucified. I am not supposed to say Mass unless there is a crucifix on or close to the altar, because I am offering the Holy SACRIFICE of the Mass.
I suppose part of the problem is that in our more enlightened times, we try not to have a crucifix as visibly displayed as we once did. Now we celebrate the Lord’s supper, the Eucharistic meal, the Table of the Lord, the Lord’s Banquet and so on. Bishop Annibale Bugnini, the architect of the current form of the Roman Liturgy, is said to have presented a new and improved Roman Missal (Mass Book) to Pope Paul VI. Paul studied it and said he couldn’t publish it. The word “sacrifice” was nowhere to be found in the new text. He sent it back and said try again. Thus was the sacrificial character of the Mass preserved and the promise of Christ to Peter proved true once again. The gates of Hell had not prevailed. It was Bishop Bugnini’s stated intention to create a Mass in which a Protestant would find nothing offensive. A real Protestant finds the idea of the Mass as a true sacrifice incomprehensible. Luther and Calvin rejected the idea that Mass was a sacrifice, Christ “having died once for all,” as one reads in the letter to the Hebrews, 10th Chapter, 10th verse.
Catholicism has always read that passage differently. “Once for all” can just as well mean that the one sacrifice of Calvary continues throughout all history made available not by the sacrifices of the old law but by the eternal and timeless sacrifice of the Mass. St Paul says elsewhere that “I make up in my body what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.” (Colossians 1:24) What could possibly be lacking in the sufferings of Christ? Only that Christ did not offer himself in the twenty-first century in your neighborhood. Mass extends the one eternal sacrifice to every place and time that will receive it. Mass allows me to unite my sufferings with His for love of the world and for the hope of its salvation. Jesus said “what I have done and greater still shall you do.” (John 14:12) Because I am a Christian, I do what He did. What did He do? He redeemed the world by His suffering. Why suffering? We are fallen people who live in a fallen world.
Don’t forget that unfortunate incident in the Garden of Eden, the rebellion through which sin entered the world. One of the basic premises is that the innocent suffer. That any one is innocent is an assumption. St. Paul says that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) I don’t know a single soul in this world who isn’t born a self-centered son of his mother. If God’s only requirement is completely selfless love, well, count me out. My sufferings are well deserved. But God works all thing to the good! (Romans the 8th chapter) In this fallen world God allows suffering to become the price of love. Love is not just the warm fuzzy feeling that the modern world believes it to be. True love is always sacrificial. True love says that I will do the best for you, without counting the cost to me. I will bear your sorrows and share your burdens. If by being weak I can make you strong so be it. If by being ill I can make you well, so be it. If by being broken I can make you whole, so be it. Love, true love, is always and only what we give away. Christ suffered and died for our sins, and risen, He invites us to become what He is. He invites us to join Him in the work of redemption, to join in Love’s sacrifice..
The premise you are discussing is a classic. “If God is all powerful and all loving, how can He allow or even cause suffering?” Some people like Calvin, Luther and the Muslims deny that God is all loving. He loves only the chosen. The rest He hates. There are those like Rabbi Klinghoffer, author of the book “When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” who deny that God is all powerful. Then there are those who, when faced with the apparent contradiction, say there is no God. You would think that these three are the only possibilities. The message of the Gospel brings up another possibility altogether. The all powerful God, for the sake of Love, becomes powerless in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. I’ve told this story a thousand times before but, for me, it answered the question that you are asking.
When I was much younger I had been assigned to a very poor parish. The windows were in very bad repair. Summer and winter the wind whistled through the cracks. We might just as well have held services outside. One summer morning I was saying Mass and the fruit flies were hovering around the chalice. In my mind I said to the Lord, “I believe that this is no longer bread and wine, but has become Your body and blood, but couldn’t You convince the fruit flies of this great miracle for just a moment?” Then I heard that little voice that sometimes speaks in our imagination. “When My hands were nailed to the wood of the cross, I couldn’t even brush the flies from My face.” I was thunderstruck. I could almost not continue the Mass.
To think that the hand that set the stars to spinning couldn’t even lift itself to swipe the flies from His face. If Jesus is who we claim Him to be, the visible image of the invisible God, (Colossians 1:15) then the all powerful became powerless for love of us. “What wondrous love is this oh, my soul!” as the old song tells it. When the Bible says that God loves us, it does not mean that we are just the passive recipients of a shallow emotion. It means that He wants us really and truly to be His sons and daughters. We want Him to make it all better. He wants to make us like Himself, capable of infinite and perfect love. In this sad and broken world suffering is the price of love. If you cannot understand that, you have never really loved anyone but yourself.
Rev. Know-it-all

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Isn't the Catholic view of marriage and morality just outmoded?

Dear Rev. Know it all;
Why are you so intolerant? I was infuriated by your last article. You make these blanket statements that just aren’t universally true. There are a lot of fine people who live together for a while before marriage and have very successful marriages. I lived with my husband before marriage and we have been married for almost thirty years. We have a son who lives in Seattle and is involved in environmental causes and we have a daughter who is employed at the UN, also in environmental issues. We are quite proud of them. Your insistence on traditional Catholic teaching regarding marriage and birth control certainly don’t resonate in my life. I’m glad my children are doing something to undo the damage that spiraling population has caused the world’s environment, no thanks to Catholic “Tradition.”
Connie Cubinage
Dear Connie,
Why do you think that children cause pollution? Machines cause pollution. There are quite a few countries that have successfully limited their population, the United States, China, Russia, for instance. These are also the countries that have caused the most ecological damage. As machines replace people, carbon emissions replace air. Children are biological beings who are part of the planet’s life cycle. Human beings are, in effect, biodegradable, if they live simple lives. We are born and live and die. Dust we are and to dust we shall return. It is the fast paced, do-it- now disposable consumerist society that is trashing the world. I am sure that your little gems return to see you at least twice a year. How much pollution do they cause as they jet back to the old home stead? Do they drive SUV’s to the airport and, on the way, pick up a designer coffee in a large Styrofoam cup? I imagine they are important people in a hurry. If they lived upstairs they could visit the old folks without all the pollution. No, babies aren’t ruining the earth. We consumerists are.
How nice that your rejection of tradition has worked out so well for you. I wonder how well it’s worked out for the world you inhabit. Wasn’t one of the first questions, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Excuse me. I should have said “sibling” instead of “brother.”) Our generation defied moral restrictions without concern for how it affected the world we live in. We had our rights, after all. Our concern about the pollution of the physical environment was laudable, but we have caused a kind of moral pollution which our narcissism makes us unable to perceive. I, too, am an aging ex-hippie. I remember when we said groovy and meant it, but I have changed because I am old enough now to see the harm we have done. We have filled the world with loneliness. There is a saying, “Home is where you’re safe.”
You and I created an atmosphere in which no commitment was necessarily forever and then we had our 2.5 children. I feel so sorry for kids in their early twenties. So many of them seem so rootless. They don’t seem to feel very safe. They struggle trying to make a living that meets their expectations, the consumerist expectation with which we raised them. They struggle to establish some kind of meaningful existence. From us they learned to expect a life of absolute freedom and now they seem incapable of the limitations committed relationships require.
I know so many young people who have to have a place of their own, though they can’t afford it. They have to go away to school, though they haven’t the resources. They would never consider living at home while they establish themselves financially. They need their space, their privacy, their freedom. They get married and then they find they still need their space, their privacy, their freedom. They divorce and then they have to move back home because they are buried under a mountain of debt, because space, privacy and freedom are expensive. Meanwhile mom and dad would like some space, privacy and freedom in their declining years. We are not meant to live in space, privacy and freedom, at least as it is currently defined.
Another early statement about human nature reads, “It is not good for man to be alone.” We have taught our children that they have a right to leave any commitment, any relationship they please. Have you noticed that the first relationship they leave is usually us? By being lawless and calling it freedom we have created a climate that does not really value relationship. It may have worked out for you, just like that SUV and the Styrofoam cup of pricey coffee, but it isn’t working out so well for those who have to breathe your moral pollution. You see, we are all in this together. Just as I have to live with your mess in the physical world, I have to breathe the moral and spiritual pollution that baby boomer narcissism has created.
I had an Uncle Sylvester. No really, Sylvester. We were city people for centuries, but Sylvester married a girl who’d grown up on the farm. When the depression hit, they went back to the farm and pretty much made sure the rest of family could eat during the worst of it. Old Uncle Sylvester didn’t refuse to live in crowded conditions with his in-laws and they didn’t refuse to share their meager resources. After all, they were family. I ask you, where will you go to flee from the wrath to come? Home, as the poet says, is where, when you go there, they have to take you in.
The sexual revolution has made a world that is magnificently housed, but homeless none the less.
Yours, the
Rev. Know-it-all

Monday, October 5, 2009

A rant on weddings...


Dear Rev. Know it all,
I visited your church once and am thinking about having my wedding there. How long is your main aisle?
Mary O’Burne

Dear Mary,
I am often asked that question, and never quite understand it. Are brides curious about the length of the aisle because they think a longer aisle may give them a few more minutes to back out of the whole thing? Or, as I suspect, does a long aisle prolong the glorious promenade of which a young girl dreams as she thumbs through bridal magazine as she contemplates her special day, when all eyes focus on her as she approaches her enchanted prince and all the world thinks she’s gorgeous and knows that she has bagged her man just as surely as a Wisconsin bricklayer bags a deer and ties it onto the roof of his pick up truck? I have certainly seen a few grooms who look like a frightened deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck.
Why is it that weddings cause people to spend so much time, energy and money? And more money. The average American wedding costs almost $29,000, according to “The Wedding Report”, a market research publication. $29,000!” Oh, by the by, the usual donation to the church is about $200.00. That $200 goes to the church, not to the priest. The usual gift to the priest is a hearty handclasp. The usual cost of the photographer is $2,000.00. All this tells me that the photographs are ten times more important than the grace of the sacrament, in most peoples’ estimation. The usual fee for the DJ is $1,500.00. I am consoled by this. It means that painful, occasionally obscene music loud enough to cause brain damage is only 7.5 times more important than the grace of the sacrament.
You must be thinking why is this guy so down on weddings? I am down on some weddings because I am very “up” on the sacrament of matrimony and really in favor of marriage. That’s why the modern method of marrying and the wedding industry make me crazy. They militate against marriage. Here is the heart of my complaint. IT IS STUPID TO SPEND MORE TIME AND MONEY PREPARING FOR THE WEDDING THAN YOU DO PREPARING FOR THE MARRIAGE!!! I have known people who are still paying the credit card bills generated by the wedding years after the marriage is over.
The Modern Method of Marriage, a Reprise. The following is taken from my own experiences and things people have told me (outside of confession, you’ll be glad to know.) Here goes.
A young man and a young woman meet and have a few dates. They go for a weekend at a bed and breakfast where they bed one another, and then have breakfast. If he isn’t too much of a jerk and she isn’t too picky, they are then an item. She goes to the doctor gets a prescription and goes on to a more permanent form of birth control. At some time during this stage, the uncomfortable meeting with the parents happens. Everyone is polite and “supportive.” Secretly the father of the young woman who knows exactly what’s going on, contemplates buying a gun and the mother of the young man begins gossiping with whomever will listen about how her little boy could do better. After a while, if things hold up, they begin to have the conversation about taking their relationship to the “next level” by which they mean shacking up, as we used to call it. Now, I think it’s called moving in together.
Mom and Dad buy housewarming gifts in an attempt to, once again, be supportive. They don’t want their little dears to hate them and besides, it’s what everyone is doing these days, so it can’t be wrong. They have vague thoughts about getting married at that point and mom explains to grandma and to friends at church that they are just doing it to save money for the wedding. At this stage an engagement ring may appear. At some point, when they think about getting the house and the kids, because that’s what you do, they decide to have the wedding.
They rent the hall and then go see the priest. He tells them there are four other weddings that day and they respond, “but we’ve rented the hall already.” Someone suggests a garden wedding if the church is occupied. The priest says we can’t do garden weddings. (More on this later.) The young couple begins to complain about how narrow-minded the Church is with all these rules and regulations. They eventually pick a date. Then the bottom drops out. It seems the groom is not Catholic. He was baptized in the First Reformed Church of the Druids, though he never practiced. This means there must be a dispensation for the marriage, another irritating Catholic invention, and the wedding date cannot be confirmed until the dispensation is received.
The bride goes back to her doctor, this time for a prescription for valium. Her mother joins her on this visit. Finally the dispensation is granted, The groom’s druid will do one of the readings at the wedding, the loans are taken out, the banns are published. Then there is the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. The best man comes to the rehearsal drunk out of his mind, the groom only slightly tipsy. The bride is furious at everyone for some reason known to her alone. Probably because the groom is far more interested in drinking and watching the football game on his hand held computer thing than he is in gazing lovingly into her eyes in anticipation of the great day. In fact they haven’t been, well... friendly in weeks. It is, after all, football season.
The special day comes, the best man is still drunk, the groom is hung over, no one knew about that interesting tattoo that the maid of honor had way low on her back, now revealed by the plunging back of her dress that is held up only by wishful thinking. Grandma, upon reading the logo of the maid of honor’s tattoo, has fainted. Somewhere in all this the vows are exchanged, and quite a few of the wedding party receive their first Holy Communion that day, however one of the ushers puts the host in his suit pocket not having a clue what it is. (This actually has happened to me twice.)
The pictures have been taken. The noise level in the church reaches that of an English soccer match after the riot has broken out. The children are jumping off the altar and the priest is scowling at everyone. Now on to the pictures in the forest preserve, a “must” at every wedding. There the wedding party is attacked by mosquitoes, one of the children falls into the lagoon and the bride is having a hard time smiling for the photos. The best man passes out. On to the reception.
The bride loses it because the shade of fuchsia in the floral center pieces clashes with the shade of fuchsia in the wedding party’s outfit. The groom adjourns to the bar where the game is on the television. The wedding dinner is served as music is played at a mind numbing volume. Grandma is better now. She has turned off her hearing aid. The priest is seated with the pious relatives in plaid suit coats and leaves shortly after the grace before meals.
The best man makes the toast which drones on about how he loves the groom and one begins to wonder. The college roommate/maid of honor does the same for the bride, going on for fifteen minutes about how she knew the bride would find eternal marital bliss the moment she met her in the third grade and they have been like sisters ever since. Then at some point, there is a video presentation of embarrassing photos not unlike the ones that are now shown at wakes.
The bar opens up again. The music reaches levels that cause blood to drip from some peoples’ nose and ears. The joyous event ends with the bride and groom being the last to leave the hall. They are slow to go up to the room they have rented in the hotel because nothing new or beautiful awaits them there. The groom promptly falls asleep, being heavily sedated already, and, as he snores away, with his shoes still on, our blushing bride, having shed her dress of virginal white, thinks back on this day, her special day, the most important day in her life, the day she has dreamt of since she was a little girl.
They will stay an extra day at the hotel, but cannot afford the time or money to go on a honeymoon because on Monday they will both be back at work in order to pay off the colossal bill that their special day has incurred. For some reason, the bride is depressed. Perhaps she is realizing that the high point of her life is now past and the rest of it will be spent with the lump that is now snoring beside her with whom she has never really had a serious conversation, except about the proper shade of fuchsia for the floral centerpieces. So it is that we celebrate the marriage of Christ and His Church in these enlightened and tolerant times.

Remember, none of these things happened at your wedding, thank God and don’t think from reading this that I am down on marriage or even weddings. I love a wedding celebration when there is something to celebrate. Also, it is never too late to begin again by taking Christ and His gospel seriously.

Rev. Know-it-all

P.S. Garden weddings. They look good in all the bridal magazines but they are just opportunities to feed biting insects and suffer from sunburn. It is however amusing to watch the bridesmaids sinking in the mud as they try, after a few margaritas to maneuver the newly laid sod in spiked heals. The bride is generally exhausted from not having slept for three weeks as she worries about the weather reports which are promising a 50 percent chance of typhoons and earthquakes that day. And destination weddings. Don’t get me started on Destination Weddings! You want to be married with just your closest friends on a beach in Maui. That means that Grandma can’t go because she hasn’t flown since the Hindenburg Disaster, and is thinking of cutting you out of the will, and all the friends and relatives who aren’t with you on the beach in Maui realize they aren’t very close to you after all. And I haven’t a clue how long the aisle is here at St. Dymphna’s.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

What's with kneeling for communion?

Dear Rev. Know it all;
My wacky pastor has done it again! What dark age cave did they find him in? Now he’s allowing people to kneel at the Communion rail for Communion if they want. It slows the line down, for one thing and it’s just plain divisive. They stick out like sore thumbs. We should all be doing the same thing at Mass. I am sick of watching him try to drag us back into the darkness of the pre-Vatican II era.
Your thoughts please.
Stan Duhptal

Dear Stan,
You must know that I am a follower of the great American philosopher, Rodney King who said, “Can’t we all just get along?” I assume that since you say, “we should all, be doing the same thing at Mass,” that you are a liberal. What’s wrong with kneeling? People come to Mass wearing God knows what, and you’re upset about kneeling? I would much rather be upset about people who, living in a dream world actually think their legs are attractive and by wearing shorts, force the rest of us to endure the sad reminders of mortality that their bony knees have become. I am reminded of something my dear departed mother once said, “I suppose there’s really nothing wrong with nakedness. It’s just that so few people look good without their clothing on.”
Believe me. You are not nearly as attractive as you think you are. People schlepp into church these days in various states of undress, wearing their best sweat suits, T-shirts, ripped jeans and cut-offs. Some do so in the deluded belief that they are being fashionable, but most, I suspect because it is more comfortable. They would come to church in their flannel jammies if they could get away with it. It has always vexed the clergy that the front rows are empty in church. I think I could solve the problem simply by putting in two or three rows of lazy boy recliners in the front. That would pack them in! Where was I? Ah, yes. Kneeling for Communion.
As for your objection that it slows things down, well, we certainly don’t want that. God is very busy on Sunday mornings, and we wouldn’t want to take up His time needlessly. Really now. If I told you that I had invented a time machine and would able to take you back to actually witness Jesus dying on the Cross and rising from the tomb, I bet you’d be anxious to take me up on the offer. Unless you have a heart of stone, I imagine that you’d fall to your knees to see the sufferings of the Son of God and the glory of His Resurrection. Well, that is precisely what Mass is: a time machine that takes us back to Calvary. You might notice that if you weren’t in such a rush to get the whole thing over with.
As for sticking out like a sore thumb, have you never heard the definition of a fanatic? A fanatic is someone who loves Jesus more than you do. What does it matter standing or kneeling? If standing is the position by which you can most honor God, then by all means stand. If you believe that you can honor God best by kneeling, then kneel. One is not better than the other if done for the honor of God, and what does it matter to you, unless of course you do think that one is better than the other. If that is true, then do the better.
Difficult as ever,
Rev. Know-it-all

Monday, September 21, 2009

Aren't only Catholics saved?

Dear Rev. Know it all;
I am writing to ask about the Jews. (I am not, NOT, an anti-Semite) Jesus said, “he who hears you (Peter) hears Me, and he who hears Me hears the One who sent Me; and “nobody gets to the Father except through Me;” and plenty of other scripture quotes from Our Lord. Is it true then, as we have always believed, that the Jews therefore do not worship the same God as we do? How can they? I thought to say that they worship the same God as we do was considered heresy. Has this changed? Can something be heretical for so many years and then now is not heretical? And what about Muslims? Do we worship the same God as they do? I heard some preacher say we all worship the same God.
Thank you,
Otto B. Wanuvus

Dear Otto,
I am a little confused by the question. I don’t think it was ever considered heresy to believe that the Jews and Christians worship the same God. The God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob is, we believe the God and Father of our Lord Jesus, the Messiah. In fact there is a heresy called Marcionism that taught the God of the old Testament was a different God than that of the New Testament. To believe that we worship a different God than that of the Jews is thus a heresy.
Muslims are another matter, I had never read a Koran until Andy Rooney of Sixty Minutes told me to. He said, “Everyone should read this book. One third is beautiful, one third is inscrutable and one third is terrifying.” There are beautiful things about love and mercy in the Koran. Then there are sayings such as “ Do not be bedizened with the bedizenments of the bedizened.” Okay. I’ll try not to be bedizened at all! Then you have verses like Surah 4 verse 34 which says "Men are in charge of women, because Allah has made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah has guarded. As for those from whom you fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is ever High Exalted, Great."
And how about "Slay them wherever you find them. Drive them out of the places from which they drove you. Idolatry is worse than carnage... if they attack you put them to the sword. Thus shall the unbelievers be rewarded: but if they desist, God is forgiving and merciful. Fight against them until idolatry is no more and God's religion reigns supreme. But if they desist, fight none except the evil-doers" (Surah 2:190–93).
Well, you may say that our Bible is full of smiting. There is a difference. The Bible is a record of God’s relationship to man. It acknowledges that God is trying to bring humanity along. Jesus was once asked why the Torah allowed divorce but He did not. He said that it was because of the hardness of our hearts that Moses allowed divorce, but it was not that way in the garden. (Mat. 19:3-9) In other words Jesus is here to restore the first condition of humanity. There are temporary arrangements on God’s part because of our weakness. There is nothing temporary in the Koran. It is the unalterable word of God (though Islamic feminists are working very hard to retranslate that particular verse. Good Luck!)
We believe that Jesus is the Word of God, God’s ultimate statement about His own nature. The Bible records human foibles as well as God’s response. It is as much about human sinfulness as it is about God’s holiness. The Koran however, is God’s unchanging and perfect word. It is not Mohammad who recommends the occasional wife beating or infidel slaying, it is God who commands it. There will never come a time when the rebellious wife should not be beaten. There will never come a time when the infidel should not be killed. God has spoken. Thus the question can be asked. Do we worship the same God that they do? I would say that to the extent that the Torah informs the Koran, we worship the same God. Muhammad seems to have included a lot of Jewish and Christian ideas in the Koran, though Muslims would hotly deny this. They believe that the Koran includes no ideas from other books. However, the God who demands slaughter, beating and vengeance as unchanging religious practice not the God that Jesus preached and whose Son He was, and so is not God.
 I have known Muslims and like most of the ones I have known. They love their wives and children, obey the laws and cut their lawns. However, if you have a Muslim friend, he isn’t a very good Muslim. Again, allow me to quote the Koran: “You see many among them making friends with unbelievers. Evil is that to which their souls prompt them. They have incurred the wrath of God and shall endure eternal torment... You will find that the most implacable of men in their enmity to the faithful are the Jews and the pagans, and that the nearest in affection to them are those who say: ‘We are Christians'" (Surah 5:80–82).
So what about all those people who aren’t us? Are they all doomed to hell? Let’s look at the Bible texts you mentioned. In your first reference I think you are referring to (Mat 10:40) “He that receives you receives Me, and he that receives Me receives Him that sent Me.” You seem to be implying that you receive God only if you receive Peter, and hence receive the Church found on the Rock which is Peter. The “you” in the first text isn’t Peter. It is a plural pronoun (humas, in Greek) and thus seems to refer to all the disciples. The second text is John 14:6 “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.'”, I believe that this text is one of the most misunderstood and misused texts in the Bible. Most people hear it as “Unless you accept Christ and join my Church you can’t go to heaven.” Look closely. The text doesn’t mention the Church or heaven. “No one comes to the FATHER except through Me (Jesus).” Most of us think that Jesus is prescribing the means of salvation in this text. He isn’t. He is prescribing the means of redemption. Well aren’t they the same thing? No, they aren’t!
If I am driving 80 miles an hour, one dark and stormy night, (which I would never do) and I am unaware that the bridge is out, I am doomed, no matter how blissfully ignorant I may be. If, however, before I plunge into the abyss, some kind soul flags me down and tells me the bridge is out, that person has become my savior. I go on to tell him that I am rushing to get back home to my family. How can I get across the torrent? That same kind soul gets in my car and shows me the way to get home. By doing this, he becomes my redeemer. “Redeem” means “to buy back.” In the ancient Greco-Roman world, if a person was caught by pirates, or captured in battle, he would be sold as a slave. If that person’s family knew his whereabouts and had the means, they would buy back their kinsman. This is what it means to redeem. It is to restore someone or something to its proper position.
So first, if we are living doomed lives, (and frankly who isn’t?) we need a savior. To this most would say, “My life isn’t doomed. I’m quite content, thank you very much!” I am reminded of a story. A fellow is driving down the I-90 and his wife calls him to tell him to watch out. There is a lunatic driving down the wrong side of the expressway. The husband responds, “One lunatic!?! I’ve seen about 50 of them driving right at me in just the past five minutes!” (For the humor impaired: the husband was the schlemiel, driving down the wrong side of the road. He thought the schlemazls coming at him were wrong. (Translation note: schlemiel = a hapless idiot. Schlemazl = his hapless victim.) No matter how content I am going south on the highway, if I think I am going north, I am still lost. Remember the verse from the song “ was lost but now am found”? We have got it all wrong. We are most certainly headed south, way south, if we live as our passions dictate. The Messiah interrupts our happy progress to hell by first telling us that we are in trouble. When we hear him and give him the steering wheel of our lives, (Is the analogy worn out yet?) He becomes our savior. But saved is not enough!
We need redemption. We need to be restored to our position in the family, the position of children of God that was offered to Adam in the garden, when he said “No thanks, I’d rather eat fruit.” God wants to make you a part of that relationship that was revealed by Jesus the Messiah. He taught us that God is love, and that we are called to be part of that relationship which is God. Jesus, the very heart of God, the visible image of the invisible God, is the only one worthy to be part of that family, that relationship. So how do I get there? By allowing God to conform me to Christ’s image. Unfortunately, this process of being made to look like Jesus involves nails and a cross. Adam’s sin has taught to me that love is a kind of narcissistic longing to have comfortable relationships. Jesus teaches from his cross that love is self sacrifice, a pouring out of life for the well being of others without thought of our own needs. Boy, am I far from that! I need a lot of redeeming. In order to enter into the fullness of life which is heaven, we have to come to the point where we are willing to lay down our lives as He was. ‘Til we get there, God will work on us if we let Him, but it is all about the relationship. Membership in an organization is not the requirement. Membership in the crucified Body of Christ is. I have met a lot of Catholics who are happy to belong to an organization, but not to the Church, as least the Church as God sees her.
So what does all this mean in reference to Jews and Muslims and pagans baptized and unbaptized? Jesus is the Torah fulfilled, the Torah come to life. He is the natural law of which St. Paul speaks in his introduction to the letter to the Romans. If God’s grace allows people to glimpse the vision of the Messiah in nature or the Law and to accept His Lordship in a way that is beyond their understanding, or ours, who am I to tell the Almighty that He can’t do that? It is safe to say that in His justice and His mercy He offers heaven to all men. How he does this is His business. He has offered it to me by means of the Church and the sacraments, especially the Body and Blood of His Son Jesus, present in the Eucharist. These, we believe, are His normal way of doing things. Heaven help me if I having been offered so great a gift, I do not accept it.
Rev. Know-it-all

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Do you believe in miracles? part 2

Dear Rev. Know it all;
Is there incontrovertible evidence of miracles? 
Nan’ B. Levere
(Continued from last week….) 
Miracles are all around us. The instantaneous growth of bone in a man crippled and oozing pus from an open wound seems impossible, but it happened. When I was a much younger man, a deacon in one of the Spanish speaking parishes of Chicago was injured in a car accident. His femur was crushed, leaving him without an intact leg bone. The parish prayer group prayed and he was healed. He walked and jumped. It was that simple. He never had difficulty walking on the leg for the rest of his life. Of course, the more sophisticated among us knew that it was just a case of hysteria, of uneducated enthusiasm. Such things don’t really happen.
I remember visiting a cousin of mine in Detroit a few years back. I mentioned that I wanted to pray at the tomb of the Venerable Solanus Casey. “You know, I was one of his miracles,” she told me. “When I was six, I had a mastoid bone infection. I was scheduled for surgery, but I was in so much pain before the surgery that my parents brought me to St. Bonaventure’s Priory in the middle of the night. Brother Solanus opened the door, invited us in and sat and talked with my parents while I played on the floor at his feet. Then he said, “Take her home. She’ll be fine. When they wheeled me into surgery the next day the doctor asked, ‘Why is this child here? There’s nothing wrong with her!’ And there has been anything wrong with my ear for the past 65 years.”
For more, read Fr. Paul Glynn’s book Healing Fire of Christ. It is an account of well documented miracles mostly from Lourdes and Fatima. He drones on and on to the point of tediousness.
If miracles are all around us, you may well ask, why aren’t they more accepted? For one thing, miracles are not what most people are looking for. Miracles can be very inconvenient. If miracles are real, then God is real. If God is real, then He can make demands on our lives. I mentioned the great French author Emile Zola. Zola is famous for defending Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer in the French army falsely accused of treason in 1894. Emile Zola despised the French establishment and French Catholics, some of whom were anti-Semitic members of that establishment. France was torn apart by the defense that Zola presented in the press and Dreyfus’ subsequent exoneration assured Zola’s place in history.
Before his defense of Dreyfus, Zola had written a book called “Lourdes.” He had promised to tell the French people the true story of Lourdes. What he produced was probably one of the greatest lies in the history of literature, the “Da Vinci Code” of its day. In researching his novel “Lourdes,” Zola spent three weeks there. On the train to Lourdes, he got to know a very sick young woman named Marie LeMarchand . She had lupus, tuberculosis and festering sores on her legs and face. Zola had said to Dr. Boissariee, one of the attending physicians at Lourdes, that, “I only wanted to see a cut finger dipped in the water and come out cured.” Marie LeMarchand was immersed in the baths at Lourdes and was instantly healed, her lesions and sores disappeared and her skin was made new. Dr. Boissariee said to the distinguished Mr. Zola, “Ah, Monsieur Zola, behold the case of your dreams!” Zola replied, “ I don’t want to look at her. To me she is still ugly.” Zola witnessed three astonishing healings at Lourdes, but told Dr. Boissariee that if “I were to see all the sick at Lourdes healed, I would not believe in a miracle.” In his novel, he referred to another case he had witnessed; that of Marie Lebranchu who was in the final stages of tuberculosis. She, too, was instantly healed. Zola kept in touch with the Ms. Lebranchu for a long while after her healing, just to make sure her cure was permanent. It was. She lived for 26 more years. Yet, in his novel Zola portrays her as “La Grivotte,” dying on the train home. He lied and became rich and famous by doing so, Captain Dreyfus notwithstanding!
Zola well understood what I said above. Miracles can be very inconvenient. If Zola had given in to the truth he himself had witnessed and had bowed before God, he would have had to give up his mistress, Jeanne Rozerot, perhaps his wealth, and above all his hatred for the Christian religion, the hatred which defined his life and had made him famous, but Zola bowed to no one but Zola. He was instrumental in making France a secular country, and so at the beginning of the 21st century, France is no longer Catholic. Soon France will no longer exist at all. Within our lifetime we may see the Islamic Republic of France. The mullahs will root up the grape vines as they did in the Holy Land when they conquered it and suppressed Christianity. They will break the breath taking windows of Chartres and the Sainte Chappelle and deface the beautiful Gothic carvings just as they dynamited the Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan. La belle France will be only a rumor, a memory. I am reminded of what Jesus said in Matt. 11:20 and following:
Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. "Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.

 The ruins of Capernaum, Bethsaida and Korazin have only recently come to light. The towns in which Jesus performed his greatest signs were buried for 15 centuries, even their locations unknown. Some of the greatest miracles of modern times have been performed in France. You do the math. The refusal to believe — the refusal, mind you — invites disaster. It always has and always will. Bon chance, Ma chère! We, in America, are not far behind you.

Rev. Know-it-all

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Is there any real proof of miracles?

Dear Rev. Know it all;
Is there incontrovertible evidence of miracles? 
Nan’ B. Levere

Dear Nan’,
First, a question: is Levere a French name? Ah... la belle France, the language, the climate, the cuisine, the wine, the countryside... toutes magnifiques! Now the answer.
Yes, there is incontrovertible proof of the miraculous. You couldn’t be more cynical about miracles than are most Catholic priests. That is why there has been a certification board at the healing shrine of Lourdes in France that has, until recently, examined every claim of the miraculous. They have certified only 67 healings at the shrine as being inexplicable by natural causes. In fact, there are a lot more healings, than just 67, perhaps thousands, but the requirements for certification are so rigorous that most miracles go unrecognized.
For instance, among the requirements are that the sick must bring doctor's certification of their illness to Lourdes and that the cures must be instantaneous and permanent. To prove that they have been permanently healed, those healed must return to Lourdes annually for re-examination. Most of those who experience a healing don’t have the means to return, but that does not mean that they are unhealed.
The following is adapted from "Recent Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary" by Stephen Breen published by The Scapular Press in 1952.
The case of Pierre de Rudder was one of the most extraordinary. De Rudder's leg had been crushed by a tree. The leg was broken in two places. The bones were sticking through the skin, and his leg became infected. De Rudder was told it would have to be amputated. He refused. For some time he used crutches to get about, but his leg was in such bad condition that he was barely able to move. He asked his employer to finance a pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in Oostacker, Belgium, (a local shrine in imitation of the more famous location in France). The Viscount du Bus, de Rudder's employer, did not believe in miracles and denied his request. Some years later, the Viscount died and was succeeded by his son, who likewise denied the supernatural, but gave de Rudder the funds out of pity.
De Rudder was a pitiful sight on the way, his leg sometimes swinging back and forth during the journey because his bones had never mended. There was an almost two inch gap between the ends of the bone where it had been injured years before and the leg could be turned completely. Heel forward, toes behind.
While praying before the shrine of Our Lady, for the grace to provide for his family, de Rudder was instantly cured. Hardly realizing it, he got up and walked without his crutches. (Remember, his leg had been useless and infected for a number of years.) Then he sank down on his knees, kneeling before the statute of Our Lady of Lourdes crying, "I'm kneeling! O my God!"
Rising again, he walked around the grotto without help of any kind. His wife saw him, exclaimed in amazement, and fainted. When de Rudder returned to Jabbeke, his native village, the Viscount was converted, and so were many others. De Rudder, who had been a public spectacle before his pilgrimage, was more so now.
A public novena of thanksgiving was made in his church and three quarters of the population attended it. There was no doubt about it: de Rudder had gone away a pathetic cripple, given up by the doctors; he had returned a healthy man—he could jump up and down to prove it!
One of de Rudder’s doctors, Dr. Van Hoestenberghe, was particularly impressed. An agnostic, he refused to believe the news until he had thoroughly examined Pierre himself. He was dumbstruck, but convinced. He was so moved by the miracle, that he prayed for the grace of belief and became a Catholic. What was more, he wrote to the Lourdes Medical Bureau at length, detailing every aspect of the infirmity and its cure. He went even further: he recommended that the case be brought to the attention of Emile Zola who had gone to Lourdes to investigate the reports of the supernatural there, and falsified the events he witnessed!
Pierre de Rudder died twenty-three years after his miraculous cure of unrelated causes. Some time later, Dr. Van Hoestenberghe obtained permission to do an autopsy. The examination revealed that there were still traces of the miraculous healing of the bones and flesh, and that there was a piece of healthy white bone more than an inch long between the two sections still scarred from former disease and infection. This piece of white bone joined the other sections together, and had been instantaneously created at the time of de Rudder's miraculous cure! There was no other explanation for it. The leg bones are still preserved.
Continued next week…...

  Rev. Know-it-all