Monday, March 12, 2018

The Final Three Moments of Our Lives

Consider well how terrible is the hour of death, and how appalling the remembrance of our evil deeds will be at that time. For the spirits of darkness will recall all the harm they have done us, and remind us of the sins which we have committed at their instigation. They will not go to the death bed of the godless only, but they will be present with the elect, striving to discover something sinful whereof to accuse them. Alas ! how will it fare with us hapless mortals in that hour, and what can we say for ourselves, seeing how innumerable are the sins to be laid to our charge? What can we answer to our adversaries, when they place all our sins before us, with the object of reducing us to despair? – St. Gregory

Each of us will face three final moments at the hour of our death.  These moments will seem like centuries yet last less than a second, even less.

The first will be an awakening of the understanding of the Omnipotence of God Almighty.  In this awakening, all will be revealed to us.  The mysteries of the universe will come before us in all of their splendor and simplicity.  It will be so simple that we will instantly realize how close it was to us all of our lives, yet, we were unable to see it.  All will be revealed and all will be understood. 

We will experience unspeakable wonder– an intolerable form of the most intense wonder we have ever had on earth: a first kiss; a wedding day; the birth of a child; their first day of school; Christenings, First Communions, First Reconciliation; receiving a driver’s license, high school diploma, college degree; the first paying job after graduation; the first car and the first home; the birth of a grandchild.

The next moment will be one of full and complete, but dire, self-awareness.  Having now the complete understanding of Our Maker, the creator of the Universe, the Three Persons in One, we now see before us, our true lived life as God sees it – and we are terrified!  We are terrified to realize that what we thought were of those most mundane and insignificant of offenses (we never thought to think of them in this way during our life) were truly horrible offenses to God. We are completely ashamed now with our new knowledge. And it is now the arrival of the last one whom we think we would see – Satan himself! 

It is now Satan’s moment where we experience the greatest temptation ever. We will now know, if we haven’t ever thought of it before, what temptation really, really is and what sin, truly, truly, is. If we’ve never turned from temptation in the past, we are doomed.

Horrified, we realize we can’t do this on our own. We now wonder who will come to our aid at this most crucial moment. This is not the moment to have a reasonable hope that all men will be saved.  Will we ourselves be in a state of grace which will arm us against the onslaught of Satan’s last all-out-attempt to transgress us into temptation?  Will Jesus Himself come to your aid as a result of a loved one praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet at our bedside?

The final moment is one of eternity.  It’s a moment of either eternal abandonment or eternal victory.  It’s a moment of love or misery. There will be no guesswork about it.  We will know which way we are going.  There is no love in Hell; none.  It is pure, unadulterated, misery, self-pity, and woe.  In Purgatory, its intense suffering with hope.  In Heaven, unspeakable joy!

Where will we find ourselves in this final moment?

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Calling All "EMs" - Resign!

In a previous post, I wrote how I stopped receiving Holy Communion in the hand about five years ago. I also receive Holy Communion only from a priest or deacon. And around the same time, I also stopped being a Eucharistic Minister, more properly known as "Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion."  “Extraordinary” is the key term because “the ordinary ministers of Holy Communion are the Bishop, the Priest and the Deacon ("Redemptionis Sacramentum," Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 2004 (154)).”

Just as receiving Holy Communion in the hand is an abuse of an exception to the norm, so is the regular use of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.

Circumstances for assistance of the distribution of Holy Communion must indeed be "extraordinary:”

When the size of the congregation or the incapacity of the bishop, priest, or deacon requires it, the celebrant may be assisted by other bishops, priests, or deacons. If such ordinary ministers of Holy Communion are not present, "the priest may call upon extraordinary ministers to assist him, i.e., duly instituted acolytes or even other faithful who have been deputed for this purpose. In case of necessity, the priest may also depute suitable faithful for this single occasion (emphasis added) (GIRM 162).

And from “Redemptionis Sacramentum,"

Indeed, the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion may administer Communion only when the Priest and Deacon are lacking, when the Priest is prevented by weakness or advanced age or some other genuine reason, or when the number of faithful coming to Communion is so great that the very celebration of Mass would be unduly prolonged.[259]This, however, is to be understood in such a way that a brief prolongation, considering the circumstances and culture of the place, is not at all a sufficient reason.


To touch the sacred species and to distribute them with their own hands is a privilege of the ordained, one which indicates an active participation in the ministry of the Eucharist." ~Pope St. John Paul II, "Dominicae Cenae"

No one with unconsecrated hands has any business touching our Blessed Lord under the appearance of unleavened bread.  The tremendous reverence given by a priest during the consecration is evidence alone.  Do we then really believe in the Real Presence if we ourselves are touching the consecrated host the during reception or distribution of Holy Communion?

What if there is always a single priest with a large congregation you may ask?  What is the rush?  Is the use of laity then simply to move things along for the sake of time?

I remember as Extraordinary Ministry of Holy Communion feeling privileged and honored to serve this ministry.  I was often in awe as my fellow parishioners came to me to receive.  But you know what, that was a feeling. Our Catholic faith is not based on “feelings” – this is Protestantism. Our faith is based on challenging our intellect. This is the basis to Our Lord for instructing the Apostles to not tell anyone of the miracles he performed.  “Who do you say that I am?” This question requires each of us to respond intellectually.

I was recently asked to be an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion at a local Catholic hospital.  The abuse I speak of here does not apply in this circumstance.  However, I still do not feel it proper for me to do so.  Again, I have no business to be touching a consecrated host with my unconsecrated hands.  Priests and deacons need to be encouraged to serve the sick at home and at hospitals.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Catholicism: The Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End


Religious pluralism, that is the principle of allowing a peoples with different religious beliefs, without penalty or favoritism from its government, to coexist in a civil society, is a principle that honors each and everyone's will to their own religious beliefs.  However, theologically, there is no such thing as religious pluralism.

First, to believe that all religions are equal or that the true complete revelation of Jesus Christ exists in some totality of all Christianity is contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church.  First, the declaration put forth by the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith Dominus Iesus - On The Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church (DI) declares

Furthermore, “Jesus Christ, therefore, the Word made flesh, sent ‘as a man to men', ‘speaks the words of God' (Jn 3:34), and completes the work of salvation which his Father gave him to do (cf. Jn 5:36; 17:4). To see Jesus is to see his Father (cf. Jn 14:9). For this reason, Jesus perfected revelation by fulfilling it through his whole work of making himself present and manifesting himself: through his words and deeds, his signs and wonders, but especially through his death and glorious resurrection from the dead and finally with the sending of the Spirit of truth, he completed and perfected revelation and confirmed it with divine testimony... The Christian dispensation, therefore, as the new and definitive covenant, will never pass away, and we now await no further new public revelation before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Tim 6:14 and Tit 2:13)”. (DI, 5)

This means that the revelation of Jesus Christ is complete and no new revelation is coming or should be expected.  Surely, the saints, the doctors of the Church and the Church itself through the Magisterium has and will continue to broaden our intellectual understanding of this complete revelation.  But "new revelation" is exactly what other non-Catholic, Christian and non-Christian religions is being proclaimed.

Second, any reduction of the Catholic faith then in of itself tries to supply an "additional revelation" which the Catholic church tells us is not compatible with the Catholic faith. Protestantism is a reduction of the Catholic faith. Dominus Iesus says that Protestantism and many other religions, which may contain universal truths, are considered paths to the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church - the Catholic church.

Therefore, these separated Churches and communities as such, though we believe they suffer from defects, have by no means been deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church. The lack of unity among Christians is certainly a wound for the Church; not in the sense that she is deprived of her unity, but “in that it hinders the complete fulfillment of her universality in history. (DI, 17)

Third, to me it is logical that the Catholic Church is the true path to salvation.  For fifteen hundred years only the Catholic Church existed.  While the term "catholic" first appeared in the year 107 A.D. when St. Ignatius of Antioch used the term in his Letter to the Smyrnaeans that he wrote to Christians in Smyrna (, its use described the set of beliefs in place up until that time, as well as for all perpetuity.


Just as there is one Christ, so there exists a single body of Christ, a single Bride of Christ: “a single Catholic and apostolic Church." Furthermore, the promises of the Lord that he would not abandon his Church (cf. Mt 16:18; 28:20) and that he would guide her by his Spirit (cf. Jn 16:13) mean, according to Catholic faith, that the unicity and the unity of the Church — like everything that belongs to the Church's integrity — will never be lacking. (DI, 16)

To say then that the fullness of truth is a collection of all beliefs would mean that there are many "brides" of Christ -and that would make no sense whatsoever!  Also, to admit to the inclusion of non-Catholic Christianity in the full deposit of faith would mean that Christ abandoned his Church.

Fifth, the Catholic Church has something that no other Christian church has - the full legitimate set of Sacraments. The "sacraments are outward signs of inward grace, instituted by Christ for our sanctification." ( I mean, bring on that grace!  Who couldn't use more of that supernatural help to get us past our failures and our sufferings?

Sixth, no book can interpret itself. If you have every written anything that someone else has read, you know this to be true. My first experience of this was when I was in college and had to write a short story for an English class. The name of the short story was The Potted Plant and it was a semi-biographical story of my immaturity and my alcoholic mother. The story was the first selected by the professor to be read aloud in class. I listened with astonishment to the many interpretations of my story which were far from my intention.

Only the author of a story can truly interpret it completely and accurately. The Holy Bible can only be properly interpreted by its Author. To claim that the Holy Bible is not so hard that it can be self-interpreted is over-generalizing and reducing the glory of God.  The Catholic Church has a single teaching source to guide us through the proper interpretation of the Holy Bible - "the ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Pope and the bishops in communion with him teach the faithful the truth to believe, the charity to practice, the beatitude to hope for." (CCC, 2034)

In closing, "the Catholic faithful are required to profess that there is an historical continuity — rooted in the apostolic succession— between the Church founded by Christ and the Catholic Church.  This is the single Church of Christ... which our Saviour, after his resurrection, entrusted to Peter's pastoral care (cf. Jn 21:17) (16)... Therefore, there exists a single Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him." (DI, 17)

Thursday, December 29, 2016

No One Should Die Alone

My Uncle Marcel was my mother's only sibling. He earned three degrees, was a member of the US Peace Corps in the early 1960s serving in the Philippines, was a tenured Associate Professor of Biology, and upon his retirement, was named professor Emeritus.

Uncle Marcel was one of those relatives who would pull you aside and ask you "what are you doing?"  As a late teenager I would look at him quizzically and ask what he meant.  He would repeat the question until I understood what he was really asking - what are you doing with your life?  His question was appropriate at the time, having dropped out of college to work at a local supermarket chain.  I can certainly credit him with helping me return to college and get myself on track for a career in computer science.

But later in life, my uncle was elusive.  He didn't attend any family events and did not stay in contact with his only sister after my grandparents passed away.  It was years before I heard from one of his best friends, a fellow colleague and professor, that he had fallen ill and wanted to see me.  His illness was brief and for a very short time, I visited him on several occasions.  But his elusiveness returned and it had been a few years between that time and the time I learned of him suffering a major heart attack just recently.

Along with my mother and my sister, we visited my uncle in the ICU.  We learned that he also suffered a massive stroke, most likely associated with his heart attack.  He was not doing well.  He seemed to slightly respond to our voices when we visited him but was generally unresponsive.  I was then contacted by an associate of his that was his Power of Attorney.  He was able to get arrange a discussion with the ICU doctor where we learned that he would not survive a day without his breathing tube.  My uncle had a do not resuscitate order, which we honored.  His breathing tube was removed and he passed away peacefully some ninety minutes later.

My uncle was a baptized and confirmed Catholic.  He stepped away from his faith calling himself an atheist shortly after receiving his PhD in Biology.  After we learned of his condition, we arranged for a priest to administer the Anointing of the Sick.  On the first night we saw him, we prayed a Divine Mercy Chaplet over him.  After they removed his breathing tube, I stayed with my uncle until he passed away.  No one should die alone.  I prayed a Rosary for him while I was with him before he passed.

Praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet at the hour of death can bring many special graces:

"My daughter, encourage souls to say the chaplet which I have given to you. It pleases Me to grant everything they ask of Me by saying the chaplet. ... Write that when they say this chaplet in the presence of the dying, I will stand between My Father and the dying person, not as the just Judge but as the merciful Savior (Diary, 1541).
"At the hour of their death, I defend as My own glory every soul that will say this chaplet; or when others say it for a dying person, the indulgence is the same" (Diary, 811).
I pray that God's mercy was granted to my Uncle.

Eternal rest grant to him O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him.  
May he rest in peace. 

Please Call a Sin a Sin

In between my attempts to earn an undergraduate degree, I worked full-time for a New England supermarket chain.  There was a manager there who I admired for his hard-work and more importantly, his hard-hitting truth-telling.  I would fume over his words and comments about my work ethic and attitude.  But then, after getting over my self-centered and pouting self, I would understand what he was saying and began to think it made sense. I would hate him one moment and then love him the next.

My favorite teachers, colleagues, and relatives are those that humble me and make me think.  My Uncle Marcel was two of these: a relative and Associate Professor.  But that's another post for later.

I find myself starving for this hard-hitting and humbling experience at Mass. But I really struggle.  I hear the same spiritual cliches repackaged over and over again during most homilies.  It takes some serious concentration for me during Mass to find the nugget where God is speaking to me.  I am a sinner and often tune out or get distracted.  Perhaps this is the point where God is trying to reach me.

But there are very few hand-clapping, foot-stomping, standing ovations for most homilies I hear (of which by the way, these reactions if I had reason to do them would be irreverent at Mass - yet another post).  I get it: to call contraception, pre-marital sex, cohabitation, homosexuality, and same-sex marriage sins would collectively strike the hearts of nearly every Catholic in one or more ways.  It would hurt and anger all of us. I would guess that many would walk out of Mass right then and there; many others would never return. But it is the truth and we must hear it.  Instead, we hear safe and non-controversial messages, while in and of themselves are true, are not creating life-long Catholics that are confessing their sins nor adoring Our Lord in Eucharistic Adoration.

Matthew Kelly puts it very well when he talks about the Seven Levels Of Intimacy.  We are stuck in cliches and facts. We are fearful of expressing opinions, of being judged, and of not being accepted. We are afraid if people really knew us, they wouldn't love us.  We are also afraid of submitting ourselves to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church and accepting its authority about how is the best way to live.

It's not easy for us though on many levels. We face progressive and modernist priest and deacons that won't call or acknowledge a sin as a sin; parishes with protestant-like hand gestures at the words "And with your spirit" or hand-holding during the Lord's Prayer; parishes with ecumenical work camps and ecumenical vacation bible schools; and parishes with youth ministry programs that still use barbecues, ice cream socials, and mountain hikes as a means of raising life-long Catholics.  None of these things work - the Pew Research Studies that show that adults who self-identify as Catholic is declining and those who identify as "nones" is increasing, Declining Mass attendance, use of the Sacraments, and empty pews prove it.

Let's stop staying safe with the small talk. Let's learn and be eager to be engaged with the hard-hitting, intellectual high ground. Let's ask more of ourselves, our family, and our parish.  And most of all, let's step up and call a sin a sin, seek God's forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance, and accept the authority of the Catholic Church.