The Cardinal: A Saint Valentine’s Day Story

A Happy and Blessed Saint Valentine Day to all.
-Alan

CROSSROADS-Right Choices

cardinals-in-snow3“The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost.” – G.K. Chesterton

The Cardinal is one of the most popular birds. It is the official bird of as many as seven eastern states. It has extended northward for decades from its primary habitat in the southeast. The Cardinal brightens winter days with its distinctive red color. As well its whistled song can be heard as far north as southeastern Canada. Bird feeders stocked with sunflower seeds may have aided its northward spread. – referenced, “Audubon Society”

When I was a young boy undergoing physical therapy as a result of polio, I would attend school on a half day basis until the therapy had best prepared me for full days. I was scheduled for therapy three days per week at the local Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center, since being released from the convalescent hospital, where I had spent nine months in recovery since the…

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The Decline

This silver crucifix that I wear, I wear in reparation. I was in a Jewish jewelry store one day in New York, where I had known the jeweler for twenty to twenty-five years. He said to me, “I have some silver crucifixes for you.” And he gave me a bag of crucifixes, over a hundred of them. I said, “Where did you get them?” “Oh,” he said, “from sisters; they brought them in. They told me, ‘We’re not going to wear the crucifix any more; it divides us from the world. How much will you give us for them?'” The jeweler said, “I weighed them out thirty pieces of silver.” Then he said, “What’s wrong with your church? I thought that meant something to you.” so I told him what was wrong. Three months later I received him into the church .Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Before discussing what was wrong with the church, Archbishop Sheen would first, most likely, have shown the jeweler what was right with it. What is right with the Church is its head; Jesus Christ. What is wrong with it had been wrought by a schism among its custodians. The Church is both mystical and institutional. It is living in that it’s founder is living as the Mystical Body. It is institutional because it is in this world and was left to men to run. That which is made by God is sacred and unchangeable. Those who, like the sisters in Sheen’s story, think that the Church divides them from the world are correct. When Christ was crucified there were two divisions of humanity in attendance. Those who wanted Him to come down and those who understood that he could not. Those who are of the world and wanted Him to come down only see the pain in suffering. (This is why G.K. Chesterton said: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting, but, rather, has been found to hard and left untried.”) Those who are in the world and understood that He could not come down see the love in suffering. These sisters saw the pain. The jeweler saw the love.

[According to the most recent data from solid sources, in the year 2000, 18 million Americans identified themselves as former Catholics — those who had left the Faith. One generation later, as of 2016, that number had swelled to 30 million.

Eleven million more Catholics have left the Faith since the turn of the century. There are more Catholics over 50 than under 50. And there are more Catholics over 65 than under 30. And the percentage of young people — those under 30 — in the Church is a smaller percentage than almost any other religions.

Although there are conflicting data on the actual number of Catholics in the United States, a safe number is about 73 million. Thirty million Catholics, as we said before, no longer call themselves Catholics. Just another 6 or 7 million leaving the Faith, and there will be more former Catholics than those who still identify as Catholics. Eleven percent fewer parishes since 2000; 18 percent fewer priests; and only two thirds what priests there are in active ministry. The other third are too old for active ministry. Graduate-level seminarians essentially flat lined. The slight increase in the numbers of priestly ordinations is nowhere near enough the number needed to replace those dying — not by half, in fact.

Infant baptisms off by a third. Adult conversions down by 40 percent. First Holy Communions and confirmations also both down. And marriages — perhaps the most significant barometer for the future life of the Church — down almost 50 percent since the year 2000. In fact, the only two sacraments that there aren’t officially horrible numbers for are the only ones no official records are kept for: confession and anointing of the sick. But any Catholic with working eyes knows the number of confessions has also fallen off the cliff. Even the number of Catholic funerals since the year 2000 has dropped by 16 percent.

This entire disaster — and that is what it is — must be placed squarely at the feet of the U.S. hierarchy, who have done nothing meaningful to arrest the decline and have in many ways helped speed it along. What business would tolerate such horrible results from its managers and directors? It would have fired them more than a decade ago for complete incompetence.

This is a Church in full-blown retreat.]  – Michael Voris (Church Militant)

The Church’s doors are always open to the world. But the world’s ways are not the Church’s ways. Once the Church begins adjusting to meet the ways of the world, then it no longer can be the refuge sought by those lost souls who have been discouraged by the world. For the world cannot save souls; Only God can. This is why the Church cannot, in the least, allow the poison of politics to pervert Her doctrine.

When the three wise men left Bethlehem, after paying homage to the new-born Christ, they returned by a different route than the one by which they came. Their literal purpose was to keep the murderous Herod from finding the child. So then, figuratively, it can be said that anyone who comes to Christ, with a contrite heart, does not return by the way he/she came. They are transformed. They do not retrace the paths of their old lives, but, rather, take on the path of Christ; “Deny yourself, take up your cross and come follow me.”  However, if a desperate one decides to come to the church for a promised steadfast answer to the chaotic world, only to yet find the world; then neither does that one find the answer to chaos, nor a steadfast Church.

A religion that does not hold fast to its doctrine is like a bar that begins to serve watered down liquor. Neither will faithful patrons remain, nor new ones enter in.

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All Things Made New

And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” – Revelations 21:5

The Conversion of Saul

Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

10 Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; 14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; 16 I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.  – Acts 9

Saul’s Roman name was Paul. So, then, we can say that Christ sent Paul-the converted Saul, and now most ardent disciple of Christ-to end Saul’s persecution of His Church. Christ’s disciple Ananias, as is true of the Church’s ordained  priests, acts as a conduit of Christ. Christ’s healing power works through him. Saul’s hatred had blinded him to the truth of Christ and was made manifest in physical blindness. To be healed as he was by a divine invasion required a period of suffering before the renewal. As one must suffer a dentist’s procedure before enjoying the relief from the pain of a deep cavity. To restore love from hatred is no easy task. As Christ lay in repose for three days until His resurrection so, too, Saul spent three days in blindness. Saul’s suffering through this act of conversion ends when his sight returns as the scales fall from His eyes. Reminding all again of Christ’s proclamation: “I am the light of the world.” Saul’s eyes not only open to the light of the sun, but also to the light of the Son of God. Those blind to the truth, through Him, are now made to see. And Saul/Paul by this divine invasion is now and always an exalted example of Christ’s promise; “See, I make all things new.”

As Saul’s hatred put to death many early Christians, so, too, did the hatred of humanity put to death Christianity’s founder and creator of all good things. On Good Friday the world was covered in darkness by the act of deicide. So, also, were Saul’s eyes darkened for doing the same to Christ’s Church. However, Easter Sunday comes forth like a window shade being raised to flood a gloomy room with sunlight. The darkness in the world, as was true of the darkness in Saul’s heart, was forever pushed aside by the Son-light radiating from the Light-Of-The-World; who makes all things new.

 

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Who is Roe?

On the anniversary of the Supreme Court Decision regarding Roe vs Wade I searched for the answer to a question that I’ve had for some time. Who is Roe? What motivated me in this search was the curious lack of news coverage of the annual Right To Life March in Washington D.C. each year since the Supreme Court’s decision. I attempted to find out the why by finding the who. The following information is provided by Wikipedia. It is the real woman behind the identified Roe and her story. 

In 1969, at the age of 21, McCorvey became pregnant a third time. She returned to Dallas. According to McCorvey, friends advised her that she should assert falsely that she had been raped and that she could thereby obtain a legal abortion under Texas’s law which prohibited abortion; sources differ over whether the Texas law had such rape exception. Due to lack of police evidence or documentation, the scheme was not successful and McCorvey would later admit the situation was a fabrication. She attempted to obtain an illegal abortion, but the respective clinics had been closed down by authorities.

Eventually, McCorvey was referred to attorneys Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington, who were looking for pregnant women who were seeking an abortion. The case took three years of trials to reach the United States Supreme Court, and Norma never attended a single trial. In the meantime, she had given birth to the baby in question, who was eventually adopted.

McCorvey revealed herself to the press as being “Jane Roe” soon after the decision’s issuance and stated that she sought an abortion because she was unemployable and greatly depressed. In the 1980s, McCorvey asserted that she had been the “pawn” of two young and ambitious lawyers (Weddington and Coffee) who were looking for a plaintiff with whom they could challenge the Texas state law prohibiting abortion.

In her first book, the 1994 autobiography, I Am Roe, McCorvey wrote of her sexual orientation. For many years, she had lived quietly in Dallas with her long-time partner, Connie Gonzales. “We’re not like other lesbians, going to bars,” she explained in a New York Times  interview. “We’re lesbians together. We’re homers.” That same year, she became a Christian and voiced remorse for her part in the Supreme Court decision. McCorvey has worked as part of the pro-life movement, such as Operation Rescue.

At a signing of I Am Roe, McCorvey was befriended by evangelical minister and National Director of Operation Rescue Flip Benham and later baptized on August 8, 1995, by Benham, in a Dallas, Texas, backyard swimming pool, an event that was filmed for national television. Two days later she announced that she had quit her job at the abortion clinic she was working at, and had become an advocate of Operation Rescue’s campaign to make abortion illegal.

McCorvey’s second book, Won by Love, was published in 1998. She explained her change on the stance of abortion with the following comments:

I was sitting in O.R.’s offices when I noticed a fetal development poster. The progression was so obvious, the eyes were so sweet. It hurt my heart, just looking at them. I ran outside and finally, it dawned on me. ‘Norma’, I said to myself, ‘They’re right’. I had worked with pregnant women for years. I had been through three pregnancies and deliveries myself. I should have known. Yet something in that poster made me lose my breath. I kept seeing the picture of that tiny, 10-week-old embryo, and I said to myself, that’s a baby! It’s as if blinders just fell off my eyes and I suddenly understood the truth — that’s a baby!

I felt crushed under the truth of this realization. I had to face up to the awful reality. Abortion wasn’t about ‘products of conception’. It wasn’t about ‘missed periods’. It was about children being killed in their mother’s wombs. All those years I was wrong. Signing that affidavit, I was wrong. Working in an abortion clinic, I was wrong. No more of this first trimester, second trimester, third trimester stuff. Abortion — at any point — was wrong. It was so clear. Painfully clear.

Shortly thereafter, McCorvey released a statement that affirmed her entrance into the Roman Catholic Church, and she has been confirmed into the church as a full member.

McCorvey has also stated that she is no longer a lesbian. On August 17, 1998, she was received into the Roman Catholic church by Father Frank Pavone, the International Director of Priests for Life and Father Edward Robinson in Dallas.

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Liberty

“The man of the true religious tradition understands two things: liberty and obedience. The first means knowing what you really want. The second means knowing what you really trust.” – G.K. Chesterton

“Liberty correctly understood is the right to choose between good things in order to develop the highest reaches of our personality. But for Liberalism, liberty was not something moral, but rather something physical. It means to do, to think, or to say whatever one pleases without any regard for society, tradition, objective standards or authority. This, as can readily be seen. is not liberty but license. If liberty meant absence of all constraint, as Liberalism said it did, then the policeman who refuses to permit me to drive through a red light is interfering with my liberty, which of course is sheer nonsense.” – Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen 

Neither Conservatism nor Liberalism defines liberty. If liberty’s aim is not toward the common good then it is not liberating. The two components of liberty are justice and charity. If one group gives themselves solely to one or the other component then there is an imbalance which cannot serve the goal of the common good. In doing so justice would then tend toward cruelty and charity toward sentimentality. This is the place of division in which we now find ourselves. My parents and grandparents would find this place alienating, for it is here where the liberty they once held dear is lost.

To be free of something is to be free for something else. If that something else is the pursuit of unbridled indulgences alone, then one may  find oneself not  free at all . 

 

 

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When Reason Is Not Enough

Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe. – Saint Augustine
 

In the final of the Indiana Jones adventure series: “The Last Crusade,” our protagonists were in search of the Holy Grail; the cup that Christ used at the Last Supper as He changed bread and wine into His body and blood. As always the forces of good and evil vie for the most coveted archeological prize. Jones and His cohorts seek to preserve the grail for posterity. Their adversaries seek to pervert its power for advancing the misguided agenda  of the  Third Reich.

In the climax, Indiana is forced to enter a cave where research and reason has led both groups. His father lay mortally wounded from a gun shot by their rivals and in need of the healing power of the grail. Those who went before him never advanced any further than the entrance, as one by one the reluctant volunteers lost their heads. Indy, was armed with his father’s research notes and an advantage that his counterparts did not have; faith. Three tests had to be successfully passes to reach the Holy Grail’s location at the end of the gauntlet.

The first test was humility before God. Indy understood the nature of humility, that the others did not. So when he entered the tunnel he dropped to His knees as any should do before God. At that moment two blades swiftly passed through the space above his bowed head. The second test was to walk in the footsteps of God. Each stone square was marked with a letter. As one stepped it had to be upon each stone in the order of the letters spelling God’s name; Yahweh. Yet, When he made the first step his leg went through nearly falling to his death. He then remembered that God’s name was also spelled another way. So he gathered himself up and started with the first letter of the second spelling;” I”. It held and he made his way through the end of the tunnel. At the end of the path he faced what seemed an insurmountable challenge for men of reason alone. The third test in his father’s notes was the leap of faith. What lie before him was the entrance to the location of the Holy Grail. But, there was between him and it a great abyss. The test was not a leap of reason, but one of faith. So, Indy put his hand over his heart and with closed eyes and held breath took one long step out into nothingness. Rather than plummeting into thin air, his foot landed on a solid rock surface. He then crossed what was a camouflaged bridge to the Holy Grail.

Legend was, that who drank from the Grail would be healed and have eternal life. Indy’s arch-enemy and Hitler acolyte was perplexed when he entered the cavern housing the grail after following Indy’s marked trail. For there before them was a great multitude of various cups. So, which was the right one? An ancient keeper and protector of the grail within said to choose wisely. An unwise choice meant death not life.  So he made a choice of a gold cup adorned with precious jewels, because he believed it would be fitting for the King of kings. Then dipped the chosen cup into a pool of water and drank. However, the man of reason alone chose poorly. His end came swiftly. Indy, was forced to prove his worthiness by doing the same, in order to be given the right to remove the grail from the room to his ailing father. He, reasoned that Christ being a humble carpenter would not possess such an extravagant cup. So Indy chose one modestly fashioned in wood with a simple gold coating within. He dipped and took a deep breath before drinking. He chose wisely. His reasoning supported by faith made all the difference. Where all else failed. Faith did not. For it is by faith not reason alone that reveals the most elusive of mysteries.

We, too, have our moments of truth. Maybe not as daunting as that in the example above, but challenging none-the-less. Faced with major surgery, a commitment to marry, a first child on the way, beginning a new job or relocating your family would give anyone pause. Most would reasonably set down on paper the pros and cons of any of these endeavors. Yet after that list was completed very likely it would be tossed away. Because in the end we must still decide. No list nor confidant can choose for us. And neither will tip the scale with any certainty of a satisfactory outcome. So one still stands before the door of doubt with but one means to impel its opening; faith.

Indiana had faith because he trusted his father’s notes. And by extension through them had faith in his father. As Indiana, we too can find the faith to see our challenges through. For our faith, as well, comes from an extension. Christ the Son extended from God the Father. In trusting the Son we trust the Father.

Reason can take us to the door of the unknown. Faith gives us confidence in what lies beyond that door.

 

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The Power Of Prayer

“If you would suffer with patience the adversities and miseries of this life, be a man of prayer. If you would obtain courage and strength to conquer the temptations of the enemy, be a man of prayer. If you would mortify your own will with all its inclinations and appetites, be a man of prayer. If you would know the wiles of Satan and unmask his deceits, be a man of prayer. If you would live in joy and walk pleasantly in the ways of penance, be a man of prayer. If you would banish from your soul the troublesome flies of vain thoughts and cares, be a man of prayer. If you would nourish your soul with the very sap of devotion, and keep it always full of good thoughts and good desires, be a man of prayer. If you would strengthen and keep up your courage in the ways of God, be a man of prayer. If you would uproot all vices from your soul and plant all virtues in their place, be a man of prayer. It is in prayer that we receive the unction and grace of the Holy Ghost, who teaches all things. – St. Bonaventure

One night after an open house event at our school, I spent some time afterward talking with my principal. When we decided that it was time to call it a night, we realized that we were the last to leave. So my principal asked if I would lock the back door as she locked the office and the front entrance on her way out to her car.
   It was a cold night and the ground surface was wet from an earlier rain, as I made my way to my car. Suddenly I found myself standing precariously on a layer of black ice. My crutch began to slip outward and I was slowly losing my balance as I was going down. While still caught between vertical and horizontal, I could see, to my right, my principal’s car speeding up the road on her way home. As loud as I could I called out to her, hoping to get her attention. But it was fruitless. Her car made the turn and was soon out of sight.
   I could feel my strength waning, and knew that I had but one chance to right myself. I prayed hard for God’s help and knew that He was with me, for the panic had subsided and I knew that with His help I’d find a way out. Both feet had found some resistance on the ground beneath me, but the crutch tip gave no same confidence. I mustered what strength I had left and with a final plea to God I pulled upward and re-planted the crutch tip hoping to find a dry spot. By the grace of God I did. I was then able to straighten myself and made steps, like the steps of an infant, toward my car that was always but five feet away.
   When I reached my car, I leaned against it as though I were the survivor of a shipwreck who had found dry land. Then I carefully got into my car pulled the door shut and exhaled a sigh of relief. After a brief prayer of thanks to the One who never leaves us orphaned in any manner, I turned the key in the ignition and headed home.
   Once we give ourselves to prayer we open a line of communication. We speak and God listens. And prayer is a two – way street. For,  when we are silent, He speaks to us. He always answers our prayer. Depending on the nature of our petition, He answers yes, no or wait. I’m grateful that He said “yes” that night.
One who prays, though he/she be the last person on earth, will yet not be alone.
 
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