St Peter and St Paul

In a world where celebrities are constantly being promoted or in some cases promoting themselves by compromising their life with the worlds’ materialistic and selfish creed, it seems to me that we need to look at better role models. St Peter and St Paul are the first that come to my mind.

The Call

St Peter was called by the Lord as we read in the Gospel according to St Matthew: “Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fisherman. And he said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.” This reading from the Gospel of Matthew always attracted my attention, especially the part where there is written: “Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.” What an unselfish desire to follow Christ, to preach like He preached. Such a total surrender to Christ’s words seems difficult especially when we are attached to earthly matters. The way Christ, called St Paul, on the other hand, was very different, it is perhaps the most dramatic of conversions. “It happened that while he was travelling to Damascus and approaching the city, suddenly a light from heaven shone all round him. He fell to the ground, and then he heard a voice saying, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’5 ‘Who are you, Lord?’ he asked, and the answer came, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”. Interesting as it may seems, St Augustine describes his own conversion in his Confessions (Book 8, Chapter 12) while reading St Paul’s Letter to the Romans: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provisions for the desires of the flash” (Romans 13:14). A perfect example of a convert leading another sinner to conversion, perhaps even to sainthood as mentioned above. St. Thomas Aquinas, in his discussion of grace in the Summa Theologica, describes St. Paul’s own conversion as a sudden reception of grace (in contrast to the gradual transformation over time) as “Paul, suddenly when he was in the midst of sin, his heart was perfectly moved by God.”

Life

Receiving a call means nothing, if it isn’t followed by an action in the face of such a call. In fact St Pope John Paul 2 said: “It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives.” In fact these two saints are nothing more than the fulfillment of such a quote, in fact they wouldn’t have gone down in Catholic history, hadn’t they accepted the Lord in their lives and let him stir in them such a desire. When we read the Gospel we find that, St Peter is also frequently mentioned in the Gospels as forming with James the Elder and John a special group within the Twelve Apostles, present at incidents at which the others were not present, such as at the Transfiguration of Jesus, at the raising of Jairus’ daughter and at the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. Peter often confesses his faith in Jesus as the Messiah. On the other hand St Paul wasn’t chosen by Christ to be one of his Twelve apostles, although his preaching, in words, in letters as well as in deed earned him the title of Apostle of Nations. In the end both saints were killed by Emperor Nero during the Christian persecution in Rome. They dead as they had lived, saintly men in service devoted to the Lord.

 

Defending the Tridentine Mass

In the previous blog post, I wrote what was possibly the best form of defense for the Latin Mass, that is because I displayed what saints and other distinct Catholics said about it. Today I would like to offer my view of the Mass, just one day after being part of it. The first thing that struck me was the music, so enchanting and solemn. As I joined in and raised my voice in praise I couldn’t believe that I was singing in Latin, a language Pope Pius XII considered so important that he is recorded to have said: “The day the Church abandons her universal language (Latin) is the day before she returns to the catacombs.” As I reflect on such words I can’t help but remember the crisis that the Church is facing today which is every bit as tragic as those earlier times of Christianity. I was very surprised when I read that Agatha Christie, who was not Catholic, was so appalled at the disappearance of the traditional Mass and the effect that this would have on English culture that she signed a petition to Pope Paul VI to keep it alive in England. It read in part: “The rite in question in its magnificent Latin text, has also inspired a host of priceless achievements in the arts-not only mystical works, but works by poets, philosophers, musician (such as Mozart among others), architects, painters and sculptors in all countries and epochs. Thus it belongs to universal culture as well as to churchman and formal Christians.” Why did Agatha Christie , who was no Catholic, write such a request? Because beauty matters to every one. It must be said that Pope Paul VI who was responsible to continue the Second Vatican Council after Pope John XXIII, was himself no enemy of Latin. On the contrary he said: “The Latin language is assuredly worthy of being defended with great care instead of being scorned; for the Latin Church it is most abundant source of Christian civilization and the richest treasury of piety….We must not hold in low esteem those traditions of your fathers, which were your glory for centuries.” How happy I am to be one of the few in Malta to appreciate such a glorious language and although I looked often at the English translation on the hand-held missal, I couldn’t help but reflect on the extraordinary moment I was living. As I write such words of praise about the Latin Mass, I couldn’t help but reflect on the persecution which so many traditionalists had to endure during the late 1960s, 70s and 80s when dioceses across the world, dumped the Tridentine Mass and Latin in order to introduce the Novos Ordo. Such a downfall in language brought about a downfall in music, whereby the faithful were forced to hear saccharine and theologically insipid while glorious hymns such as Salve Regina and Ubi Caritas were dumped. I finish this defense of the Tridentine Mass, which lifted my soul like no other mass in my life, by quoting Pope Benedict XVI who in his Summorum Pontificum wrote: “What was sacred for prior generations, remains sacred and great for us as well and cannot be suddenly prohibited altogether or even judged harmful.” Deus Vult!

What has been said about the Traditional Mass

Much of the opposition that traditionalists face when proclaiming their love for the Tridentine Mass, is that other Catholics fail to understand the richness that such a tradition has. In the face of such opposition, the best response is to check what the saints and other distinct Catholics said about such a Rite. Before I begin to quote the saints, I would like to present a quote by a convert, Paul Claudel. This poet,dramatist and diplomat owes his conversion to the Solemn High Mass, in fact he said: “It was the most profound and grandiose poetry, enchanted by the most august gestures ever confided to human beings. I could not sufficiently satiate myself with the spectacle of the Mass.” As this Frenchman has said so eloquently the traditional Mass, is rich in verse and gestures. One particular saint which stands out when it comes to appreciation shown in respect to the Tridentine Mass is Padre Pio . This humble friar from Italy, was concerned with the value of the Mass and men’s appreciation to it. In fact he said: “If men only appreciated the value of a holy Mass they would need traffic officers at Church doors every day to keep the crowds in order.” Ironically, it is estimated that approximately 20 million people have attended the Mass celebrated by Padre Pio. Now that is holy traffic! Sick and tired, the stigmatized priest received the dispensation to say Mass sitting, he opened his mouth and for the last time said the holy words in Latin, following the traditional Roman rite, as he had done all his life. As Blessed John Henry Newman wrote in “Callistus”: “It (the traditional Latin Mass) is virtually unchanged since the third century.” Thus it comes at no surprise the fact that many saints, who lived prior to the second Vatican Council, had something to say about the Mass in Extraordinary Form. In fact, St Alphonsus Liguori said:  “Man cannot perform a more holy, a more grand, a more sublime action than to celebrate a Mass, in regard to which the Council of Trent says: “We must needs confess that no other work can be performed…..so holy and divine as this tremendous Mystery itself. God Himself cannot cause an action to be performed that is holier and grander than the celebration of Mass.” As Catholics we are responsible to preserve the Faith and tradition, in fact St Basil the Great once said: “Who has lost and who has won in the struggle — the one who keeps the premises [buildings] or the one who keeps the Faith? The Faith obviously. That therefore the ordinances which have been preserved in the churches from old time until now may not be lost in our days,… rouse yourselves, brethren,… seeing them now seized upon by aliens.”

Effect of Trent on the Mass

The Solemn mass in extraordinary form is often referred to as “Tridentine” Mass. Such a term is misleading, since one might think that such a mass started from the Council of Trent(1545-1563), which is not the case, since the Council was responsible for proliferation of modifications of the traditional Latin Rite Mass. Having said so, these entails of the Mass had remained constant since the time of Pope St Gregory, who is one of the Doctors of the Church and one of the Latin Fathers. Thus the Council of Trent didn’t start the mass in extraordinary form, instead it helped to impose a revised missal( which is a collection of instructions for celebrating the Mass). The connection between faith and the highest form of liturgy, has its Classic expression in the Council of Trent, which dealt with the topic in three sessions: the 13th in October 1551, the 20th session in July 1562, which dealt with the Sacrament of the Eucharist, and especially the 22nd in September 1562, which produced the dogmatic chapters and canons on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. There is also a particular decree that concerns those things that need to be observed and avoided in the celebration of Mass. Thus, this is a classical and central statement, authoritative and official of the Church’s mind on the subject. Before one continues to read further one must understand that the Protestant Reformation was the main reason behind such a Council. Thus, such documents are given their necessary importance when one realizes that they are a response to what Martin Luther had said. So what did the former Augustinian priest say, which caused such a Counter Reformation?  Martin Luther had clearly and openly denied its very nature by stating that the Mass was not a sacrifice. It is true that, in order not to disturb the simple faithful, the Reformers did not immediately eliminate all those parts of the Mass which reflected the true Faith and ran contrary to their new doctrines. For example, they retained the elevation of the Host between the Sanctus and the Benedictus. For Luther and his followers, worship consisted mainly in preaching as a means of instruction and edification, interwoven with prayers and hymns. The reception of Holy Communion was only a secondary event. Luther still maintained the presence of Christ in the bread at the moment of its reception, but he strongly denied the Sacrifice of the Mass. For him the altar could never be a place of sacrifice. From this denial we can understand the consequent flaws in the Protestant liturgy, which is completely different from that of the Catholic Church. We can also understand why the Council of Trent defined the part of the Catholic Faith which concerns the nature of the Eucharistic sacrifice: it is a real saving, force. In the sacrifice of Jesus Christ the priest is a substitute of Christ himself. As a result of his ordination he is a true alter Christus. By means of the Consecration the bread is changed into the Body of Christ and the wine into His Blood. This implementation of His sacrifice is the adoration of God.

Morning after pill-Tip of the iceberg

As I began to research for today’s subject, the morning pill, a video from Planned Parenthood (an organization which has killed around 4 million babies and sold the parts of others) pops up. After two seconds the women in the video says:”accidents happen”. As I listened to such word, I couldn’t help but reflect on the sexual freedom culture that we find ourselves in.In today’s culture, be it through social media or the news, we hear the word freedom uttered often, sometimes we even use it improperly. When it comes to sexual freedom, as  in freedom in general, One is free to do whatever one likes, so long as it doesn’t damage the lives of others. Now when one applies philosophy or more specifically logic for the introduction of the morning after pill one runs into several faults.

  1. Women’s Rights: Those arguing for the legalization of the morning after pill are saying that:”Denying access to emergency contraceptives, including the morning after pill, is in breach of women’s fundamental rights.” The first way how one can go about such an argument, is that women shouldn’t speak of women’s rights in this case, after all one is not dealing with the life of the women alone, since there is another person who is being deprived of the necessary vitamins to continue to develop further. Thus one is death-dealing biologically for the unborn, by causing the newly conceived to actually be killed. Thus a woman who is using the pill is having an abortion on average every 12 to 18 months.
  2. On Women’s Health: To all the people who are labeling the lack of morning after pills in Malta, as a women’s rights issue, I hope the same people would be interested in the effects that such pills have on women’s health. Nausea, changes in appetites, tiredness, headaches and the effects go on to more serious problems, such as deep vain blood cloths, stroke, pulmonary embolism, increased risk of breast cancer. The danger to women’s health is so great that the World Health Organization has classified hormonal contraception as a Class 1 , meaning that it causes cancer in humans. Even the notorious abortion promoter, David A Grimes, MD who was a presenter for Plan B’s manufacturer before the FDA advisory committee in December 2003 acknowledged in a 2002 interview that emergency contraception has a serious negative effect on a woman’s menstrual cycle, in fact he said: “Repeated use of EC wreaks havoc on a woman’s cycle, so the resulting menstrual chaos acts as a powerful deterrent to using this method often.” In addition to this the statistics show that Plan B doesn’t work half the time, and Ella doesn’t work one-third of the time.

I called this article:”Morning after pill-Tip of the iceberg”. The main reason behind such a name lies in what Dr James Trussell, Director of Princeton’s office of Population Research, had to say:”…(emergency contraceptives pill) may at times inhibit implantation of fertilized egg in the endometrium.” Hence abortion. From a pro-life perspective , almost all the reasons mothers give for elective abortions are the same reasons they give to contraception. The contraception mentality is the root of the abortion mentality. Contraception literally means “anti-conception”. Finally birth control leads to a state of mind that treats sexual activity as if it has nothing to do with babies; babies are treated as “accidents”, as a burden to be eliminated. In this way, contraception is clearly linked to abortion. Now for those who are using such birth control measures (or suggesting them) and simply lift their shoulders and say: “I have a right.” Then I ask you:”You wouldn’t be speaking of rights, you wouldn’t even exist, if others hadn’t spoken up and defended the right to life.”

 

 

What about sin?

In today’s reading we are presented with the adulteress who asks Christ for forgiveness. When Jesus saw her humility and kind heart He forgave her. Thus forgiveness was given after a display of humility and the willingness to obey Christ’s teachings. There are many Catholics, sometimes even members of the clergy who want to polish and make nice the teachings of the Church. As Pope Benedict XVI once said: “Having a clear faith, based on the creed of the Church, is often labeled today as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and swept along by every wind of teaching, looks like the only attitude acceptable to today’s standards.” The teachings of the Church aren’t meant to be nice they are meant to be true. One of the greatest minds in Catholic Church history, St Augustine, in fact said: “Truth is like a lion, you don’t have to defend it, let it loose, it will defend itself.” In fact I was very encouraged yesterday when the priest spoke about sin. It has been a long time since we have heard such things. I was relieved and happy to hear the truth, after all there is written in the Gospel according to St John: “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” The media and the liberals seek to soften up the Church’s teaching in order to appease themselves and those around them. For example when it comes to gays many use the following quote from Pope Frances and twist it as they please: “If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and is of good will who am I to judge him?” This quote shows clearly the fact that indeed gays are accepted in Church so long as they leave behind the sodomistic lifestyle and surrender themselves to Christ. At a time when sin is being celebrated, a perfect example is yesterday’s Gay Pride Parade in Valletta, the Church must speak the truth, not twisted truth, not nice things, but only the truth. The reason why truth should be spoken is that if it isn’t spoken then the Church wouldn’t be filled with martyrs, saints or defenders of the Faith as it should be and is but instead it would be filled with thieves and liars of souls.

The History of the devotion to the Sacred Heart

During the initial years of the Church, when St John and St Paul were still preachers of the Good News here on Earth, the Church had, even then been devoted to the love of God, who so loved the world as to give it His only begotten Son, and to the love of Jesus, who so loved us as to deliver Himself up for us. But the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus had to wait. In fact, it is in the 11th and 12 centuries that we find the first unmistakable indications of devotion to the Sacred Hears. The Benedictine and Cistercian orders worked tirelessly for such devotion to rise within the Church. Having said that it seems impossible to say which of the above mentioned orders were the first to write texts and votaries about the Sacred Heart. Something which deserves special mention is the revelation that St John the Beloved mad to St Gertrude. Allowed to rest her head near the wound of the Savior’s  she heard the beating of the Divine Heart and asked John, if on the night of the last Supper, he too had felt these delightful pulsations, why he had never spoken of the fact. John replied that this revelation had been reserved for subsequent ages when the world, having grown cold, would have need of it to rekindle its love. As I write such words, I can’t help but reflect, on the fact that the world has grown cold. Cold to the suffering of others, cold to those who cry out in pain and anguish, cold are the hearts of those without love for Christ. May this feast and our devotion to it fill the empty hearts of such people and may the fire of Christ’s love burn in their hearts and inspire them to change their lives.