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