Archives for September 2012

Always be nice!

It is his right. She is entitled to her viewpoint. It is their business. God gave us each free will. Be charitable. Don’t judge! Always be nice!!!

All true, properly understood, but not an unequivocal call to silence. To the contrary, in the face of evil we are called to speak-up. Too often, we remain quiet because we do not want to be a “busy-body.” We do not want to seem “narrow minded” or possibly be called a “hateful bigot.” We want to fit in, to belong and to be accepted.

When we remain silent in the face of evil, we are NOT being charitable. Charity is the manifestation of love and if we truly love another, ignoring objectively sinful behavior is not loving but enabling. Our silence is unavoidably a response in itself, a raising of no objection, the implicit sharing of a “like mind” and an apparent affirmation. That voice we hear telling us something is wrong is the Holy Spirit speaking to us. Staying quiet is saying “no” to Him.

Only God can can judge another’s heart and know the state of their soul. THAT judging is not our prerogative. On the other hand, we are called to fraternal correction of our brothers and sisters in their objectively sinful actions. Failing to do so is cooperation with evil. Remember that when you pray the Confiteor – I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,

In raising an objection we show the love of Christ. In humility, we seek only to help another know the truth and lead them back to God. This is a good work even when it is poorly received as it may be a seed eventually leading the other to holiness. It might also strengthen others weakened by the scandal, depending on circumstances.

Silence is not the loving response when we hear “abortion is a woman’s choice,” “prohibiting marriage is discrimination against gays,” “contraception is legitimate healthcare,” “torture is moral,” “living together takes their relationship to the next level,” or “we should bomb them back to the stone age.”

Will our voice be immediately welcomed with love and acceptance? You know it usually will not. Speaking the truth more often results in rejection, scorn, ridicule, knee-jerk name calling and other forms of persecution. St. Francis of Assisi said “Lord, grant that I might not so much seek to be loved as to love.” Our Lord Himself said:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Father Groeschel provides this perspective on persecution:

If we aren’t cleansed by the end of our days, then we will have to pass through the ultimate purification beyond death, which we call purgatory. We will then have to mourn and suffer to make up for what was lacking during our pilgrimage on this earth. So rejoice and be glad for whatever opportunities you do have to mourn and suffer persecution. Great is your reward, and shortened is your stay in the foyer of heaven.

Fr. Benedict Groeschel
Heaven in Our Hands

In Lent last year, the Holy Father directly addressed this topic (my highlights):

“Being concerned for each other” also entails being concerned for their spiritual well-being. Here I would like to mention an aspect of the Christian life, which I believe has been quite forgotten: fraternal correction in view of eternal salvation. Today, in general, we are very sensitive to the idea of charity and caring about the physical and material well-being of others, but almost completely silent about our spiritual responsibility towards our brothers and sisters. This was not the case in the early Church or in those communities that are truly mature in faith, those which are concerned not only for the physical health of their brothers and sisters, but also for their spiritual health and ultimate destiny. The Scriptures tell us: “Rebuke the wise and he will love you for it. Be open with the wise, he grows wiser still, teach the upright, he will gain yet more” (Prov 9:8ff). Christ himself commands us to admonish a brother who is committing a sin (cf. Mt 18:15). The verb used to express fraternal correction – elenchein – is the same used to indicate the prophetic mission of Christians to speak out against a generation indulging in evil (cf. Eph 5:11). The Church’s tradition has included “admonishing sinners” among the spiritual works of mercy. It is important to recover this dimension of Christian charity. We must not remain silent before evil. I am thinking of all those Christians who, out of human regard or purely personal convenience, adapt to the prevailing mentality, rather than warning their brothers and sisters against ways of thinking and acting that are contrary to the truth and that do not follow the path of goodness. Christian admonishment, for its part, is never motivated by a spirit of accusation or recrimination. It is always moved by love and mercy, and springs from genuine concern for the good of the other. As the Apostle Paul says: “If one of you is caught doing something wrong, those of you who are spiritual should set that person right in a spirit of gentleness; and watch yourselves that you are not put to the test in the same way” (Gal 6:1). In a world pervaded by individualism, it is essential to rediscover the importance of fraternal correction, so that together we may journey towards holiness. Scripture tells us that even “the upright falls seven times” (Prov 24:16); all of us are weak and imperfect (cf. 1 Jn 1:8). It is a great service, then, to help others and allow them to help us, so that we can be open to the whole truth about ourselves, improve our lives and walk more uprightly in the Lord’s ways. There will always be a need for a gaze which loves and admonishes, which knows and understands, which discerns and forgives (cf. Lk 22:61), as God has done and continues to do with each of us.

Pope Benedict XVI
Message for Lent 2012

Links are provided to the Holy Scripture citations above, but of particular importance is St. Matthew’s admonition:

“If your brother sins [against you], go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would Gentile or tax collector.”

Remember: the blanket admonition “don’t judge” is contrary to Christian charity in the face of objective evil.

Elsewhere: the wealthy Christian

Remaining on the topic of wealth this week (see the wealthy Church from Tuesday), today’s topic is the wealthy Christian – or more precisely what some Christians teach to become prosperous.

Jesus taught us in the Sermon on the Mount “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3) Poor in spirit is detachment from material things. Prosperity gospel (a/k/a prosperity theology or the “health and wealth” gospel) teaches something quite different. Not only are you promised material wealth and other non-spiritual happiness in this life, but it is an end in itself. This would be the opposite of detachment. It is also false – just another of the thousands of different Protestant interpretations of Holy Scripture.

When you have no Magisterium and lack authority protected by the Holy Spirit, almost anything is possible. In this case, the claim is that prosperity (material, physical and spiritual) is God’s promise to you and the earthly fruit of your true faith. Millions of people believe this stuff.

It seems reasonable to me to conclude that if you happen to be poor then it is a result of your weak faith. Conversely, extremely wealthy people must be the truly holy among us (sorry Catholic clergy and religious, you don’t make the grade!). Frankly, this is absurd. Holiness and wealth are independent of each other.

Father Robert Barron addressed this topic at The Integrated Catholic Life:

To give the prosperity gospellers their due, there is some biblical warrant for their position. The book of Deuteronomy consistently promises Israel that, if it remains faithful to God’s commands, it will receive numerous benefits in this world. The psalmist too assures us, “delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” And Jesus himself counsels: “seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things (food, shelter, clothing, etc.) will be added unto you.” And there is no doubt that the Bible consistently urges people to trust in the providence of God at all times. Jesus’ reminder that the birds, who neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns but who are nevertheless fed by their heavenly Father, is a summation of the Scriptural confidence in God’s care for those who have faith in him.

However, we must be attentive to the very subtle way that the Bible itself nuances and specifies these claims. The great counterpoise to the book of Deuteronomy is the book of Job, which tells the story of a thoroughly righteous man who, in one fell swoop, suffers the loss of all of his material prosperity. Job’s friends, operating out of a standard Deuteronomistic (or prosperity Gospel) point of view, argue that he must have grievously offended God, but Job – and God himself – protest against this simplistic interpretation. The deepest reason for Job’s suffering, we learn, is lost in the infinite abyss of God’s permissive will and is by no means easily correlatable to Job’s virtue or lack thereof. And Jesus himself, the very archetype of the faithful Israelite, experiences not earthly prosperity, but a life of simplicity and death on a brutal instrument of torture. If Joel Osteen and Oral Roberts were right, we would expect Jesus to have been the richest man in Nazareth and a darling of Jerusalem high society.

The resolution of this issue turns on a distinction between a conventional understanding and a divine understanding of the successful life. Deuteronomy is indeed right when it says that “prosperity” will follow from obedience to God’s will, but the prosperity in question is spiritual flourishing, and not necessarily worldly success. Obeying the divine commands does indeed lead to the right ordering of the self, and therefore to an increase in joy, even if that very obedience leads, in worldly terms, to abject suffering or failure. St. Thomas More followed the voice of his conscience and this led to the loss of his home, his family, his considerable fortune, his high political status, and eventually his life. But he died, spiritually speaking, a successful man, a saint. St. Thomas Aquinas endeavored to answer a question that many of us ask: why do the wicked often prosper and the righteous suffer? Thomas turned the question on its head by introducing the wider context of God’s purposes. Perhaps, he suggested, the good person who is deprived of material goods is actually being rewarded, since that deprivation opens him more and more to the spiritual dimension; and perhaps the wicked person who has every worldly benefit is actually being punished, since those material preoccupations close him to the only good that finally matters.

Read the Father Barrons’s whole piece: The Dangers of the Prosperity Gospel. Alternatively, Father presents generally the same content in this video:

Two other good articles on this topic are The Problem for the Prosperity Gospel at Beliefnet and The Worst Ideas of the Decade published in The Washington Post.

Elsewhere: the wealthy Church

One persistent attack against the Church is that she hordes extensive wealth for herself instead of distributing it to the poor. This is claimed to be proof of her corruption and hypocrisy. The facts are quite different than this narrative would suggest.

The Catholic Church does indeed receive a lot of money from its billion plus members. It does not keep it however. The Church is the biggest charitable organization in the world, running shelters, orphanages, schools, hospitals and many other individual charities.

No one is getting rich, even those who have not taken a vow of poverty. Our clergy and other religious are highly educated, work long hours, earn a fairly “soft” concept of when “retirement” begins (if ever) – yet are paid little materially. They do not live in lavish residences. They do not drive luxury cars (sometimes a parishioner, such as a car dealer, will loan their bishop one). Compare that to non-Catholic Christians, other religions and any secular charity.

It is true that we have beautiful churches and artwork. These are gifts to the Church for the Glory of God. They inspire and elevate the human spirit. They are not monetary investment assets but priceless spiritual ones. Secularists might think of them as part of our “operation” just as offices of the United Way are part of theirs.

Marc Barnes wrote about this topic over at Bad Catholic:

But most importantly — and this really is my point here — the wealth of the Church exists for the edification and benefit of every Catholic. Cathedrals are not solely for bishops. A throne exists for more than the man sitting on it. It is a certain nasty pride that tells the man suffering from poverty that the Beauty surrounding him — be he a homeless man appreciating the cool of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, or a Haitian saying prayers in the Cathédrale St. Jacques et St. Philippe — that it should all be torn down, sold, and given to him in the form of money. It is an offense to say, “this golden tabernacle you kneel before — it should be melted for bread.” The poor man in this position would do well to tell his just-escaped-the-Internet friend the truth that “man does not live on bread alone.”

Faulting the Cathedrals and Basilicas of the world for containing “too much” wealth is an awkward denial of the fact that the Cathedrals and Basilicas of the world are explicitly for the use of the poor, and to steal from them is to steal — not merely from the Church — but from the poor themselves, who — despite the perceptions of Hollywood — do not merely need bread, cash and contraception, but beauty, ritual, and God as well.

Make sense? The visible wealth — the very stuff that sets people complaining — is for the poor.

But surely the cardinals and Popes are rolling in it. Right? I can’t speak for the entire world, but the average salary of an American bishop is 23,000 dollars a year, about half the average American’s. The average priest’s is 40,000 dollars a year, only 20,000 of which is actually “take home cash”. And if you’re the Pope, not only does your salary suck, but you don’t get it until you’re dead. Pope’s get one gold, silver and copper coin for each year of service placed on their coffin. Blessed John Paul II received about $141 dollars.

Read the whole piece: In Defense of Nice Churches. There are many excellent comments as well.

7 Quick Takes Friday (set #75)

This week: Abortion – one story. What do Switzerland, Singapore, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany have in common? Stories of some Catholic converts. A convention features Naval power. A Florida party official shares his insights on Christianity. Andrew Klavan looks at the president’s proposal for Middle East peace. A quote of the week.

— 1 —

A mature fetus / product of conception / clump of cells / fetal placental unit / mass or blob of tissue / primordial mass…   speaks of her abortion. That is, the abortion of herself…   in this new ad from the Susan B. Anthony List:

— 2 —

What do Switzerland, Singapore, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany have in common? They are now all superior to the United States in competitiveness. In 2008, the US was #1 in global competitiveness. This is quite a slide in only 4 years.

A new report from the World Economic Forum has also found that the US has slipped to #140 (out of 144) on government deficit as a percentage of GDP.

We hit another milestone this month – public debt has reached an astronomical $16,000,000,000,000. That is well more than THREE TIMES our total debt when President Obama took office. It is enough money to paper-over the entire state of Ohio (1.5 times) in $1 bills. Don’t think that this is without serious consequences.

— 3 —

Marcel at Aggie Catholics has put together a good collection of convert videos. These are folks telling their story and why they are Catholic today. Here is a sample:

If you have not seen my collection of convert stories, by all means CLICK HERE! There you will find a searchable database of convert bloggers, links to other excellent convert story lists and a list of books by converts.

— 4 —

There is no better way to stir feelings of national pride and unity then paying tribute to our veterans. We are reminded too that our president is also the Commander-in-Chief of our powerful military. That awesome power was featured on the huge display at the Democratic National Convention:

Very impressive, except that wasn’t our navy that was featured. The Democrats featured the Russian navy’s Black Sea Fleet. The NavyTimes first noticed this. Just another confidence builder isn’t it?

— 5 —

In other convention news, Palm Beach County Democratic Chairman Mark Siegel shared his insights on Christian goals. It turns out, we simply want to slaughter Jews:

— 6 —

Andrew Klavan makes a counter-proposal to the “two-state solution” for peace in the Middle East.

— 7 —

A quote of the week is an oldie but goodie, quite apropos:

The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.


Some random thoughts or bits of information are worthy of sharing but don’t warrant their own full post. This idea was started by Jennifer Fulwiler to address this blogging need, but is guest hosted this week by Grace Patton at Camp Patton. So, some Fridays I too participate when I have accumulated 7 worthy items. Thank you Jen (and Hallie) for hosting this project!

God’s Whisper

Guest contributor:   Ed Trego

And he said, “Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out stood at the entrance of the cave. (1 Kings 19:11,13)

Have you ever just sat? Doing nothing, just sitting in a quiet place. Perhaps by yourself or even with others, but quietly, not talking, just sitting. Letting your mind wander, not really concentrating on anything or thinking of anything. If you have, I suspect that your thoughts turned to God at some point. Maybe you didn’t think specifically of God but of his creation; perhaps the sound of the wind through a tree, or a bird singing. Especially when sitting outside on a beautiful, warm, spring day you will surely notice the wonder of the world around you. If so, you are giving glory to God, for you are enjoying is the result of his loving creation.

I remember going to my wife’s family farm not far from the small town where we met, were married, and lived for a while. Her family had lived there and tended the land for generations. It was always a great treat when we got in the car on a Sunday after Mass and headed to the farm. The kids were excited about being able to run freely around the farm. Maybe fish in the pond or even ride “Ol Joe”, the farm work horse. I looked forward to the wonderful meal I knew we would have and the chance to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Dinner, as it usually is on the farm, was always around one or two in the afternoon and the rest of the day was for whatever we chose to do. Many times I chose to put a lawn chair under one of the huge old trees and just sit. Not really thinking, not paying much attention to anything. I don’t think I realized it then but what I was truly doing was opening myself up to God and his many wonders.

So many experiences of God were available to me during these times. The smell of newly mown grass or hay; the song of a bird in the trees; the smell of the apple blossoms in the small orchard; the joyful sounds of my children loving the freedom of openness, all for their fun and exploration.

My favorite of all was when my wife would come and sit beside me, holding my hand. Not talking, just feeling the love pass through our fingers; the love that God has blessed us with throughout our life together.

It’s been many years since I’ve been able to visit the farm. The family is gone now and the farm is owned by a small farming conglomerate. But these memories are still as fresh in my mind and real and treasured as if it were just yesterday.

I’ve come to understand that the peace and quietness of those summer afternoons is something that we, as humans, desperately need and seldom achieve. Our lives are so full and they seem to be getting fuller with each new advance in technology. We are so wired, connected and tied to others that we have very little opportunity to truly get away from it all.

Are you old enough to remember when you left home and didn’t get any phone calls until you got back? There was no such thing as voicemail so you didn’t even know if you’d missed a call while you were gone. It didn’t seem to matter, if it was important they’d call back.

Now we take our phone with us. Not only our phone, but email, texts, facebook, the internet, news and sports alerts and on and on and on. We are never disconnected.

Our well-being as humans, our relationship with each other, and our relationship with God require us to disconnect from the pressures and stresses of daily life. We need the quietness to listen to our inner selves and to hear the whisper of God. If we never get away from our daily grind we risk missing the call of our God. Have you ever tried to hear a whisper in a noisy room? We have to shut out the noise to hear the whisper. God rarely shouts; he speaks softly to us in the quietness of our soul.

In today’s world finding that quiet spot and time can be difficult. But if we are to truly live and know God we must find it. It doesn’t have to be a farm, or any specific place. It can be a quiet time in our home. A time without the TV, radio, computer, stereo or the ever present mobile phone blaring at us. Get rid of the distractions, take some deep breaths, relax and just sit quietly. Listen to God. Reflect on what God has done for you today, yesterday and over the years. Thank him for the many blessings he has given you. Consider the times you’ve perhaps turned from God and ask his forgiveness. But don’t do all the talking, because God has things to say as well. As important as we all think we and our thoughts are, God’s are far more important to our lives.

Listening to God isn’t like listening to your spouse or a friend. There may be a “conversation” but not usually in the sense we think of conversation. I think a better word is “communion”. We need to strive to be in communion with our God at every opportunity. As you learn to listen to God you will be better able to seek his guidance and direction in your daily life. You will want to be in constant communion with him, because that is what our heart truly desires. In The Confessions of St. Augustine, he wrote “for you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” Take the time, make the effort to listen and get to know God. It will be the best time you’ve ever spent.

Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalms 46:11)


The above meditation is a chapter from Ed’s new eBook “Thoughts of God”. Only $1.99 on Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, Sony and other fine publishers.

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