The One Hour Prison

 

IN my travels across North America, I have met many priests who tell me of the wrath they incur if Mass goes past one hour. I have witnessed many priests apologize profusely for having inconvenienced parishioners by a few minutes. As a result of this trepidation, many liturgies have taken on a robotic quality—a spiritual machine which never changes gears, pulsing to the clock with the efficiency of a factory.

And thus, we have created the one hour prison.

Because of this imaginary deadline, imposed primarily by the lay people, but acquiesced to by the clergy, we have in my opinion stifled the Holy Spirit.

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The Unfolding Splendour of Truth


Photo by Declan McCullagh

 

TRADITION is like a flower. 

With each generation, it further unfolds; new petals of understanding appear, and the splendor of truth spills forth new fragrances of freedom. 

The Pope is like a guardian, or rather gardener—and the bishops co-gardeners with him. They tend to this flower which sprung in the womb of Mary, stretched heavenward through the ministry of Christ, sprouted thorns upon the Cross, became a bud in the tomb, and opened in the Upper Room of Pentecost.

And it has been blossoming ever since. 

 

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The "M" Word

Artist Unknown 

LETTER from a reader:

Hi Mark,

Mark, I feel we need to be careful when we talk about mortal sins.  For addicts who are Catholic, fear of mortal sins can cause deepened feelings of guilt, shame, and hopelessness which exacerbate the addiction cycle.  I’ve heard many recovering addicts speak negatively of their Catholic experience because they felt judged by their church and could not sense love behind the warnings.  Most people simply do not understand what makes certain sins mortal sins… 

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MegaChurches?

 

 

Dear Mark,

I am a convert to the Catholic Faith from the Lutheran Church. I was wondering if you could give me more information on “MegaChurches”? It seems to me that they are more like rock concerts and places of entertainment rather than worship, I know some people in these churches. It seems that they preach more of a “self-help” gospel than anything else.

 

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Confession Passè?

 


AFTER
one of my concerts, the hosting priest invited me to the rectory for a late supper.

For dessert, he went on to boast how he hadn’t heard confessions in his parish for two years. “You see,” he grinned, “during the penitential prayers in Mass, the sinner is forgiven. As well, when one receives the Eucharist, his sins are removed.” I was in agreement. But then he said, “One only needs to come to confession when he has committed a mortal sin. I’ve had parishioners come to confession without mortal sin, and told them to go away. In fact, I really doubt any of my parishioners have really committed a mortal sin…”

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Confession… Necessary?

 

Rembrandt van Rijn, “The return of the prodigal son”; c.1662
 

OF course, one can ask God directly to forgive one’s venial sins, and He will (provided of course, we forgive others. Jesus was clear on this.) We can immediately, on the spot as it were, stop the bleeding from the wound of our transgression.

But this is where the Sacrament of Confession is so necessary.  For the wound, though not bleeding, may still be infected with “self”. Confession draws the puss of pride to the surface where Christ, in the person of the priest (John 20:23), wipes it away and applies the healing balm of the Father through the words, “…may God grant you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins….” Unseen graces bathe the injury as—with the Sign of the Cross—the priest applies the dressing of God’s mercy.

When you go to a medical doctor for a bad cut, does he only stop the bleeding, or does he not suture, cleanse, and dress your wound? Christ, the Great Physician, knew we would need that, and more attention to our spiritual wounds.

Thus, this Sacrament was his antidote to our sin.

While he is in the flesh, man cannot help but have at least some light sins. But do not despise these sins which we call “light”: if you take them for light when you weigh them, tremble when you count them. A number of light objects makes a great mass; a number of drops fills a river; a number of grains makes a heap. What then is our hope? Above all, confession. —St. Augustine, Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1863

Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church. Indeed the regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit.—Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1458

 

 

Justice of the Womb

 

 

FEAST OF THE VISITATION

While pregnant with Jesus, Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth. Upon Mary’s greeting, Scripture retells that the child within Elizabeth’s womb–John the Baptist–"leaped for joy".

John sensed Jesus.

How can we read this passage and fail to recognize the life and presence of a human person within the womb? This day, my heart has been weighed with the sorrow of abortion in North America. And the words, "You reap what you sow" have been playing through my mind.

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The Bunker

AFTER Confession today, the image of a battlefield came to mind.

The enemy fires missiles and bullets at us, bombarding us with deceptions, temptations, and accusations. We often find ourselves wounded, bleeding, and disabled, cowering in the trenches.

But Christ draws us into the Bunker of Confession, and then… lets the bomb of his grace explode in the spiritual realm, destroying the enemy’s gains, reclaiming our terrorities, and re-outfitting us in that spiritual armor which enables us to engage once again those "principalities and powers," through faith and the Holy Spirit.

We are in a war. It is wisdom, not cowardice, to frequent the Bunker.

Tolerance and Responsibility

 

 

RESPECT for diversity and peoples is what the Christian faith teaches, no, demands. However, this does not mean “tolerance” of sin.’

…[our] vocation is to deliver the whole world from evil and to transform it in God: by prayer, by penance, by charity, and, above all, by mercy. —Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island

It is charity to not only clothe the naked, comfort the sick, and visit the prisoner, but to help one’s brother not to become naked, sick, or imprisoned to begin with. Hence, the Church’s mission is also to define that which is evil, so good may be chosen.

Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.  —POPE JOHN PAUL II