Location, Location, Location

 

 

 

When a child, I attended the Barnum and Bailey circus at Madison Square Garden in New York City. It was advertised as the “Greatest Show On Earth.” And boasted three-ring entertainment, meaning that there were three acts occurring at the same time under the “Big Top”. The center ring highlighted the top events of the show. Therefore, the patrons’  focus was drawn there and not to the secondary acts on either side.

Pope Benedict XVI stated that Vatican II differed from other major councils, insofar as “there were no particular errors of the faith to correct and condemn, nor were there specific questions of doctrine and discipline to be clarified.” The reason for the Council, he said, was the belief of Blessed John XXIII that “the faith had to speak with a ‘renewed’ and more incisive voice, because the world was changing rapidly, but it had to maintain its perennial message intact, without giving way or compromising.” Thus the purpose of the Council, the Pope said, was “to show our world, which tends to distance itself from God, the requirements of the Gospel in all its greatness and purity.” That need continues today, Pope Benedict said. “The age in which we live continues to be marked by forgetfulness and deafness towards God.”

It is now clear that the intent of Blessed John XXIII was missed by the custodians of the church who viewed the Council’s findings not as did Pope Benedict XVI. Thereby opening a door that would allow the world’s influence to press for change in Church doctrine, not its renewal and maintenance. One of effects of Vatican II was to make the Mass more user-friendly. One change to accomplish this was the turning away from the Latin Mass. By translating the language from Latin to English the Mass was more easily understood and therefore more inclusive. The event of Pentecost, in the New Testament passage to follow, coupled with Blessed John XXIII’s belief above, offers permit for this procedural adjustment to celebrate the Holy Mass in English in place of Latin.

“And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language.” – Acts 2:6

However, there were other alterations to the Mass that in the end were not beneficial to maintaining the Faith. One in particular was the priest, when at the altar, would no longer face the tabernacle,where is housed the ciborium – a chalice-like vessel – containing the Holy Eucharist. His back had always been to the people while celebrating Mass. All attendees, including the priest, faced the living Christ in the Tabernacle. This change would have the priest face the people with his back now to the tabernacle. With the appearance that Christ, who was once looked upon, is now the onlooker peering over the priest’s shoulder. This particular change is troubling and in truth has had a negative cumulative effect. Christ, by perception, is no-longer in the most prominent location in the Sanctuary. He has been relegated to the outer ring in the subconscious minds of many, as was the secondary acts in the circus. The priest now draws the attention of the parishioner rather than Christ having the attention of all. We who have come each week to worship our God, through Christ, now arguably find ourselves too frequently being distracted from just that. This environment lends to a lesser devotion to doctrine in too many parishes now that our Savior has been perceived demoted. Even one parish straying from the norm is one too many. For Catholicism by definition and nature is universal and comprehensive. And any variation in practice must be considered heresy. In this circumstance, the mind inundated with worldly matters on entering the church remains so. How can one’s mind become centered in Christ when He is found no longer in the center.

This rearrangement has helped to facilitate the emergence of the cafeteria Catholic whose identity is diminished by indifference. One who is not centered in church cannot be expected to come to the banquet table set by Christ and partake of all the fare. Since worldly influences are less likely checked at the door, the cafeteria Catholic then chooses only to partake of what suits his tastes and has not the stomach for that which requires self-denial. Thereby denying oneself the fullness of graces granted.

“Whatever we are we are not what we ought to be.” – St. Augustine

By this reconfiguration at the altar, figuratively and literally, the tabernacle has been, although still displayed in full honor, moved from center to the side or a separate room. And to most observers location is paramount. When Christ was moved from the center of the sanctuary we, likely, are less Christ centered. And that opens the way of the ego.

This false but real perception has opened a door to worldly views and the poison of politics. Clergy, religious and laity once of one ordered mind and will, that of Christ, now find themselves in an opinionated tug-of-war. And this is reflected in the disunity of Catholic custom and sparse attention given to the issue of sin in Homilies in various dioceses and parishes throughout western cultures. Sin is the very reason why Christ came into the world. To resolve that issue on the cross. The Catholic infected by this self-inflicted heresy has placed his soul in grave danger. The will of today’s confused Catholic does not conform to the will of God. One does not join a tennis club to play golf. If one is not getting proper guidance from bishops, priests or religious then he must, by his own volition, seek that guidance from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

By the superficial attitudes of too many toward one’s faith, marriage is no longer viewed as sacred and therefore diminishes it as a sacrament. Both contraception and abortion, among the most grievous affronts to God, are given license by the faithful either in practice or by indifference. God and our neighbor become hindrances to the individual in the pursuit of his own needs and goals, with little concern for the resulting negative effects on his disposition and soul. Many assume no individual responsibility toward maintaining the identity nor integrity of the Church which Christ has left us as a portal by which we stake claim to the place that He has prepared for us in Heaven. We must be awakened to the truth that it is sin that bars the way to Heaven.

And as a result of misinterpretation of the Vatican II Council purpose and other ill-advised changes that followed, not mentioned here, both church attendance and devoted members of the Catholic Church are at historical lows in America. The change in location of the Tabernacle, housing the Holy Eucharist(the Body of Christ); seems an insignificant and harmless alteration. Yet it has led to a change in perception, promoting heretic practice among too many of the Church’s Hierarchy, which in turn has been manifested among its congregation. In this, God cannot be well pleased. And it is only by the immeasurable mercy of Christ that the just hand of  God is stayed. For only Christ, the Son of Man and the Son of God, could understand the temptation to sin that continually assaults men and women. And in that only can we be reconciled. Center is the only locale for the One who provides the means to eternal life of perfect happiness, or allows us, by our will, to cast ourselves into eternal imperfect sorrow.

God’s plan is Christocentric. Christ gives the Church elements of objective sacredness – among them is the Holy Eucharist itself – which remain there even if the people of the Church are not holy. – Saint John Paul II 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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An Easter Sign

 

The branches seen at the entrance of our shed fell during Holy Week. They form the shape of the cross. This unusual event is only surpassed by the fact that after recent strong winds of up to 50+ miles an hour that knocked over fully loaded trash cans into the street, did in no way alter the position of the branches that you see in the photo. The cross represents not pleasure but pain. Christ shows that those who endure their own cross well in life will do what He has done. Attain eternal life as promised.

As did those who failed to separate Christ from the cross, so, too, has the winds described failed to separate those branches that represents the symbol of hope that gives value to faith. (click on the photo for a larger and better view of the cross)

With further attention paid, I noticed that the statue of Mary, Mother of God, that is positioned on the other side of our house, facing the house, was found to be facing in direct line with the cross at the shed entrance. Mary always points to Her Son. As she is our intercessor with Him.

When we find ourselves beyond the boundary of odds, we may well be in the realm of the miraculous.

 

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Easter Sunday: The Empty Tomb

A very Happy and Blessed Easter to all.
-Alan

CROSSROADS-Right Choices

“Pilate said to them, “The guard is yours; go secure it as best you can.” So they went and secured the tomb by fixing a seal to the stone and setting the guard. – Matthew 27: 65-66

“The king lay in state with the guard about Him. And the most astounding fact about this spectacle of vigilance over the dead is that the enemies of Christ expected the Resurrection, but His friends did not. It was the believers who were the skeptics. It was the unbelievers who were credulous.

None of the apostles expected a Resurrection. They had to be convinced. They had to be convinced the hard way, as Thomas had to be convinced. Believe me, the skeptics of today cannot compare with the skeptics of those days, namely the apostles. They were the doubters, and when they were convinced they proved that they believed by having their throats…

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Lent and The Paradox of the Cross

LENT

The season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday; with the participants being marked with ashes and the words “Repent and believe in the Good News” are prayed. The expectation is to imitate the example of Jesus’ prayer and fasting in the desert by our prayers, fasting and charitable works. Lent is a time for all followers of Jesus to examine their consciences and reflect on changes each can make in their lives and resolve to incorporate them, not just during the Lenten season, but as a permanent improvement as they strive to grow spiritually and perfect their souls in Him. “In this sense, Lent is a movement from one point of view to another, or, perhaps, from one interpretation of life to a different interpretation.” – Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Lent is a forty day preparation for Easter Sunday; beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending at the Triduum (the three-day period which includes Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday). As discussed above, this forty day observation is in commemoration of Jesus’ isolation from all, when He allowed Himself to be tempted by the devil. And through Satan’s failure to win Him over to sin, ensures that Satan can never defeat God. For the  great deceiver can never deceive the One who is incapable of deceiving or being deceived.

THE PARADOX OF THE CROSS

Jesus carried the cross an estimated distance of 650 yards. Which is a little less than a quarter of a mile. The same distance many may walk leisurely in the morning with a cup of coffee in hand or in mowing one’s lawn on a warm summer day. But for one who had just been scourged within an inch of His life, undergone intensive interrogation, suffered abuse and had little if any sleep or nourishment, that distance must have seemed like that which one would run in a marathon.

[Pheidippides, a Geek messenger, legend sates, was sent from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon(in which he had just fought), in 490 BC. It is said that he ran the entire distance without stopping and burst into the assembly, exclaiming “Victory,” before collapsing and dying.} 

It has been debated whether Jesus would have been able to carry His cross that distance considering the state of His condition. Historians tell that those condemned to crucifixion would carry the cross-bar and not the stem of the cross. Still the weight of the cross-bar was between 80 to 110 pounds. It has been shown that even a healthy man of Jesus’ presumed stature would not be able to carry the cross-bar the distance from the beating, on a path, known as the Via Dolorosa or the “way of suffering” (which was a narrow street of stone, probably surrounded by markets and crowded at the time), to the crucifixion site at Golgotha.

Along the way a centurion, anxious to get on with the crucifixion, forces a North African onlooker, Simon of Cyrene, to carry the cross; after the third fall of Jesus. Jesus follows along still bleeding and sweating a cold clammy sweat of shock, until the journey from the fortress Antonia to Golgotha ends.

To answer the debate of how Jesus could have carried the cross under His dire condition one must look beyond the physical. Jesus is referred to as the “Son of Man” and the “Son Of God.” He was both human and divine in nature. The cross he carried was made of wood, but, in truth, was composed of the sum total of humanity’s sufferings from the trials of body, mind and spirit. All of which were derived from original sin. Jesus was not sent by God to overthrow Roman Rule, but rather “to turn the world upside down in order to turn it right-side up”(G.K. Chesterton), through the conversion of human hearts from sin in order to reconcile God with His people.

To accomplish this reconciliation there must be a sacrifice. For a soul can only be cleansed of sin by the shedding of blood. And for all mankind to be forgiven, God would have to offer Himself in sacrifice. A life not to be taken, but given. It was only the unimaginable perfect love of God that could make the burden of man’s sin, which was the substance of the cross, manageable enough to be carried by Jesus. By divine love alone can the unbearable be borne ; and men and women set free from the burden of sin.

Simon was at first forced to carry Jesus’ cross. And when the journey was done, Simon may very likely had to again be forced; but this time to leave His side. For when the cross that lay upon the shoulder of God lay upon his, the role of his own sin became apparent in this act of deicide. And he too felt the cross made manageable, for his burden, along with that of humanity, had already been borne by this savior, and was now lifted from all  through divine pardon. Simon was the first of many who are called to take up their cross and follow Christ.

So the cross itself is a contradiction-a paradox. It has both a vertical stem and horizontal cross-bar. Vertical represents life, while horizontal represents death. And hanging in the intersection is Jesus the Christ. Who through His death and resurrection has triumphed over death and removed its sting. And in so doing fulfills the promise made to us all; that by following Him we too will do the same.

And with His last breath the Son Of Man bowed His head in death. Three days hence, in the rising of the Son Of God was heard “THE WORD” proclaimed, as was once uttered by the dying Pheidippides; “VICTORY!”

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The Carpenter’s Son

joseph“And his mother said to him: Son, why hast thou done so to us? Behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said to them: How is it that you sought me? Did you not know, that I must be about my father’s business?” – Luke 2: 48-49

Jesus, at the age of twelve, during the Passover, was missing for three days. When His frantic parents, who thought he was with relatives or acquaintances, had returned to Jerusalem, they found Him in the Temple discoursing with the elders. As He said, He was in His Father’s house tending to His Father’s business. All, save for His earthly parents, did not understand His meaning. For often it was said among those who knew the family: “Is this not Jesus, the son of the carpenter, Joseph?”

When God, the Father, sent His Word into the world in Christ, He sent Him by way of the womb of a sinless women. But, why to a surrogate Father who was a carpenter? Why not to a man of some other vocation?

My cousin, Ralph, is a carpenter. He once constructed a new deck overlooking the back yard of our house. He first tore down the old existing deck and replaced it with a new and improved deck that served better than the first. After he had finished the deck, and as we stood upon it and admired his work, I paid him and shook his hand in gratitude for the wonderful job completed. Have you ever shaken the hand of carpenter? It is a strong firm hand of rough texture. It is a hand of one who knows hard work. But also a hand that validates the skilled craftsman. A hand that attests to a keen creative mind of one who is disciplined to the laws governing his trade. A hand that demonstrates the characteristic of one who possesses an eye for the aesthetic. A hand that transforms an idea into a reality.

Christ spent the first thirty years of His life obeying. In that He was obedient to the nurturing and direction of His earthly parents. During that period of time he learned and practiced the art of carpentry; as was the profession of Joseph. He knew the purpose and proper use of the tools of carpentry of His time; including the predecessors of the hammer and nail.

Christ’s hands were also strong and rough. Made so by His apprenticeship. Yet, His hands healed, as well. Not solely in the repair of worn furniture, leaking roofs and broken plows, but, of most importance, the restoration of a malfunctioning mankind. Broken bodies, empty hearts and tortured hopeless souls were made anew. His were not the soft hands of one who handles money or fine cloth. His work in the practice of carpentry was hard and demanding, requiring much physical strength. God sent Him not to be raised by a money changer nor a trader in goods. He was sent to one who would train Him in hard labor. For the true mission that lay before Him would be hard and laborious, as well. Joseph was a skilled craftsman in the use of the instruments of his trade. He cut and shaped the wood according to the image that he had in mind for a particular item that he was commissioned to make or repair. The parts were then firmly joined by hammer driven nails resulting in the desired product of that image.

The Son of God, too, was a craftsman. Except one of a divine nature. The knowledge, skill and discipline of His earthly trade would be implemented in the mission for which God had commissioned Him to accomplish. Christ was God’s idea and reality. As in carpentry His mission required some tearing down and rebuilding. The then unmerited altered and tainted truths being taught by the learned, which were once truths revealed in perfect purity by God to His creatures as the guiding principles of life, had to be torn asunder. And by the power of divine sacrificial love, God’s reinstated truth would be secured in the longing hearts of the contrite, as the carpenter’s hammer drives nails in fastening. By this action the son of the carpenter set the stage for the Son Of God.

In an absurd divine irony, the son of the carpenter, who often tore down to build anew, would, Himself, be torn down by the very tools of His trade. Hammer and nail that joined two pieces of wood now has fixed the hands and feet of the Son of God to the tabernacle of His own making, formed from the successful execution of His very mission.  And on that tabernacle of pain and suffering  the Son of God would achieve for mankind what no son of a carpenter ever could; redemption. The hands that once pierced to restore broken woodwork have now, themselves, been pierced to restore a broken world.

By that redemptive act, Christ would forgive the sins that have since, The Fall, separated man from a complete and loving relationship with God. And in three days hence, He would renew a never-ending relationship between God and mankind.

The work done by a good carpenter can last a lifetime. But the work of the Divine Carpenter lasts forever.

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Holy Week: “The Week That Changed The World”

A Blessed Holy Week to all. Know that the agony of Good Friday is the requisite for the ecstasy of Easter Sunday.
-Alan

CROSSROADS-Right Choices

Palm Sunday

“Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried: Hosanna, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord, the king of Israel.”- John 12:13

Holy Thursday

“And taking bread, he gave thanks, and broke it: and gave to them, saying: This is my body, which is given for you. Do this for a commemoration of me.”-Luke 22:19

“For this is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many.”-Matthew 26:28

Good Friday

“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”- Luke 23:34

“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying: Eli, Eli, lamma sabacthani?” That is, My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”-Matthew 27:46

“And Jesus crying out with a loud voice, said: Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”- Luke 23:46

Holy Saturday

” Command therefore the…

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A Deadly Trend

In 2006 I wrote a letter to the editor which appeared in my local newspaper. The Title was ” ‘Code’ is a choice.” What follows is an excerpt from that letter:

“Ben Hur” (1959) a film based on the novel “Ben Hur: A Tale Of The Christ,” won eleven Academy Awards, including Best Picture. “The Passion Of The Christ” (2004), received not one nomination from the Motion Picture Academy. The People’s Choice Award for Best Picture that year was “The Passion Of The Christ.” This weekend, “The Da Vinci Code,” based on Dan Brown’s novel, opens in theaters around the country. In the past forty-four years, the focal point and basis for the Christian faith has gone from revered to reviled. I understand that the divinity of Christ is a clear threat to the secular way of life in western culture today. It didn’t seem that way to the layman movie-goer a little over four decades ago. 

Below is a list of Academy nominated and award winners from the 1930’s to 1960’s. All are Christian based and the majority are specifically Catholic. The likes of which we recently have not seen nor truly appreciated as a culture for too long.

  • “Angels with Dirty Faces” 1939 Nominated Best Actor
  • “Boys Town” 1939 Won Best Actor, Nominated Best Picture, and Director
  • “The Song of Bernadette” 1943 Nominated Best Actress
  • “Going My Way” 1944 Won Best Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor, and Director
  • “The Keys of the Kingdom” Nominated Best Actor
  • “The Bells of Saint Mary” 1945 Nominated Best Picture, Actor, Actress, and Director
  • “It’s a Wonderful Life” 1946 Nominated Best Picture, Actor, and Director
  • “Joan of Arc” 1947 Nominated Best Actress
  • “Quo Vadis” 1951 Nominated Best Picture
  • “The Robe” 1953 Nominated Best Picture, and Actor
  • “The Ten Commandments” 1956 Nominated Best Picture
  • “Ben Hur” 1959 Won Best Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor, and Director
  • “The Nun’s Story” 1959 Nominated Best Actress
  • “Elmer Gantry” 1960 Won Best Actor and nominated for Best Picture
  • “Inherit the Wind” 1960 Nominated Best Actor
  • “Lillies of the Field” 1963 Won Best Actor, Nominated Best Picture
  • “Becket” 1964 Nominated Best Picture, and Actor

My reason for resurrecting this past letter – to – the – editor is due to tragic recent events. Those events have revealed that a culture which was once an advocate of life has now become one of death. Too much of what we are inundated with, through various forms of media and entertainment on a regular basis, seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day promote the latter culture. When I was a child, TV broadcasts began at approximately seven or eight AM and ended at 12 midnight. The broadcast day opened with the National Anthem and ended the day the same. All that was presented as entertainment was suitable for family viewing. And prayer had yet been removed, along with God, from public schools.

As can be gathered from my above letter…the attention of society has been diverted from God to man. It has chosen a flawed subjective approach to living life and cast aside the infallible absolute; chaos over order. In considering the increasing number of killings and the intensity of the underlying hatred that have taken place over the decades from the 50’s to present, one must take into account first how, and then why, we have come to be faced with such atrocities that are imposed by neighbor upon neighbor.

The Ten Commandments is a manual of life. It was revealed by God not only in how man  should  successfully relate to God but, also, how man can successfully relate to his fellow-man. Six of those commandments are God focused and six are neighbor focused. Christ, God incarnate, simplified the commandments by combining the two groups of six into two elementary commands which are easily remembered: 1) Love God  and 2) Love your neighbor. Neither can be accomplished without the other. By loving God we can’t help but love our neighbor. And to love our neighbor is a condition of loving God. Christ said: “No one loves me who does not do what I say,” and “He tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves.”

No weapon banned nor institution secured will ever completely resolve the dangers that one man can put upon another. Only an about-face in our culture can truly accomplish that. The decades spanned of moral degradation required in bringing us to this state need not be again endured to achieve a turn-around. For if we understand the power of the will, the reinstatement of the culture of life can be realized with but the dawn of a new day.

If we do not overcome the temptation to sin, can we then turn from the shadow of hate and death to again face the light of love and life? If our society’s present trend does not come to an end, then no elimination of weapon can protect one brother or sister from another. For out of the sins of pride and envy did “Cain rise up against Abel his brother and kill him.” – (Genesis 4:8) No specific weapon was identified in mankind’s first murder. In and of themselves, hands have the ability to caress or abuse. It all comes down to a choice.

If our hearts are one with God and one another, then we will not be capable of harm. For in that oneness does love abide. 

 

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