The Pope, a Condom, and the Purification of the Church


TRULY, if one does not understand the days we live in, the recent firestorm over the Pope’s condom remarks could leave the faith of many shaken. But I believe it’s part of God’s plan today, part of His divine action in the purification of His Church and eventually the whole world:

For it is time for the judgment to begin with the household of God… (1 Peter 4:17) 

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Clothed in Christ


ONE could summarize the recent five writings, from The Tiger in the Cage to The Rocky Heart, in the simple phrase: clothe yourself in Christ. Or as St. Paul put it:

…put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh. (Rom 13:14)

I want to wrap those writings together, to give you a simple image and vision of what Jesus asks of you and me. For many are the letters I receive that echo what I’ve written in The Rocky Heart… that we want to be holy, but grieve that we fall so short of holiness. It’s often because we strive to be a butterfly before entering the cocoon…


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The Rocky Heart


FOR several years, I have asked Jesus why it is that I am so weak, so impatient in trial, so seemingly devoid of virtue. “Lord,” I have said a hundred times, “I pray every day, I go to Confession every week, I say the Rosary, I pray the Office, I’ve gone to daily Mass for years… why, then, am I so unholy? Why do I buckle under the smallest trials? Why am I so quick-tempered?” I could very well repeat the words of St. Gregory the Great as I try to respond to the Holy Father’s call to be a “watchman” for our times.

Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Note that a man whom the Lords sends forth as a preacher is called a watchman. A watchman always stands on a height so that he can see from afar what is coming. Anyone appointed to be a watchman for the people must stand on a height for all his life to help them by his foresight.

How hard it is for me to say this, for by these very words I denounce myself. I cannot preach with any competence, and yet insofar as I do succeed, still I myself do not live my life according to my own preaching.

I do not deny my responsibility; I recognize that I am slothful and negligent, but perhaps the acknowledgment of my fault will win me pardon from my just judge. —St. Gregory the Great, homily, Liturgy of the Hours, Vol. IV, p. 1365-66

As I prayed before the Blessed Sacrament, begging the Lord to help me understand why I am so sinful after so many efforts, I looked up at the Crucifix and heard the Lord finally answer this painful and pervasive question…


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IF you read Custody of the Heart, then you know by now how often we fail to keep it! How easily we are distracted by the smallest thing, pulled away from peace, and derailed from our holy desires. Again, with St. Paul we cry out:

I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate…! (Rom 7:14)

But we need to hear again the words of St. James:

Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  (James 1:2-4)

Grace is not cheap, handed over like fast-food or at the click of a mouse. We have to fight for it! Recollection, which is taking custody again of the heart, is often a struggle between the desires of the flesh and the desires of the Spirit. And so, we have to learn to follow the ways of the Spirit…


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Custody of the Heart

Times Square Parade, by Alexander Chen


WE are living in dangerous times. But few are those who realize it. What I’m speaking of is not the threat of terrorism, climate change, or nuclear war, but something more subtle and insidious. It is the advance of an enemy that has already gained ground in many homes and hearts and is managing to wreak ominous destruction as it spreads throughout the world:


I am speaking of spiritual noise. A noise so loud to the soul, so deafening to the heart, that once it finds its way in, it obscures the voice of God, numbs the conscience, and blinds the eyes to seeing reality. It is one of the most dangerous enemies of our time because, while war and violence do harm to the body, noise is the killer of the soul. And a soul that has shut off the voice of God risks never hearing Him again in eternity.


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