Saturday, October 30, 2010

The State in the Service of the True Religion

The Feast of Christ the King is a celebration of the Social Dominion of Jesus the Christ. Unfortunately , modern politics today tend to deny the Lord the Kingship the deserves on the simple reason that there is a separation of Church and State. But does the Church really recognize the separation of Church and State? The teaching of Pope Leo XIII says otherwise:

"This kind of liberty (liberty of worship), if considered in relation to the State, clearly implies that there is no reason why the State should offer any homage to God, or should desire any public recognition of Him; that no one form of worship is to be preferred to another, but that all stand on an equal footing, no account being taken of the religion of the people, even if they profess the Catholic Faith. But to justify this, it must needs be taken as true that the State has no duties towards God, or that such duties, if they exist, can be abandoned with impunity, both of which assertions are manifestly false. For it cannot be doubted but that, by the will of God, men are united in civil society; whether its component parts be considered; or its form, which implies authority; or the vast services which it renders to man. God it is who has made man for society, and has placed him in the company of others like himself, so that what was wanting to his nature, and beyond his attainment if left to his own resources, he might obtain by association with others. Wherefore, civil society must acknowledge God as its Founder and Parent, and must obey and reverence His power and authority. Justice therefore forbids, and reason itself forbids, the State to be godless, or to adopt a line of action which would end in godlessness - namely, to treat the various religions (as they call them) alike, and to bestow upon them promiscuously equal rights and privileges. Since, then, the profession of one religion is necessary in the State, that religion must be professed which alone is true, and which can be recognized without difficulty, especially in Catholic states, because the mark of truth are engraven upon it. This religion, therefore, the rulers of the State must preserve and protect, if they would provide - as they should do - with prudence and usefulness for the good of the community. For public authority exists for the welfare of those whom it governs; and, although its proximate end is to lead men to the prosperity found in this life, yet, in doing so, it ought not to diminish, but rather to increase, man's capability of attaining to the supreme good in which his everlasting happiness consists: which never can be attained if religion be disregarded."

Leo XIII, Libertas Praestantissimum (June 20, 1888), 21.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

On the error of the Liberty of Worship

The approach of the Feast of Christ the King brings to my mind the forgotten lesson about the obligation to search for the True Worship. We always take it for granted that the Freedom of Religion is a very important human right in the post modern world. This teaching of Pope Leo XIII might surprise many of us:

"Let us examine that liberty in individuals which is so opposed to the virtue of religion, namely, the liberty of worship, as it is called. This is based on the principle that every man is free to profess, as he may choose, any religion or none.

"But, assuredly, of all the duties which man has to fulfill, that is the chiefest and holiest which commands him to worship God with devotion and piety. This follows of necessity from the truth that we are ever in the power of God, are ever guided by His will and providence, and, having come forth from Him, must return to Him. Add to which, no true virtue can exist without religion, for moral virtue is concerned with those things which lead to God as man's supreme and ultimate good; and therefore, religion which (as St. Thomas says) "performs those actions which are directly and immediately ordained for the divine honor", rules and tempers all virtues. And if it is asked which of the many conflicting religions it is necessary to adopt, reason and the natural law unhesitatingly tell us to practice that one which God enjoins, and which men can easily recognize by certain external notes whereby Divine Providence has willed that is should be distinguished, because, in a manner of such moment, the most terrible loss would be the consequence of error. Wherefore, when a liberty such as We have described is offered to man, the power is given to him to pervert or abandon with impunity the most sacred of duties, and to exchange the unchageable good for evil; which, as We have said, is no liberty, but its degeneration, and the abject submission of the soul to sin.

Pope Leo XIII, Libertas Praestantissimum (20 June 1888), 19-20.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

On the veneration of relics

Rorate Caeli blog had this post quoting from the book of the Filipino Liturgist Fr. Anscar Chupungco, OSB entitled What, Then, Is The Liturgy?: Musings and Memoir.

Fr. Anscar said, "The veneration of bodies or relics of saints is a sad chapter in the history of the liturgy...The great reformer Martin Luther, appalled by aberrations committed on relics, fiercely took issue with the Catholic Church...I can still hear my mentor Adrian Nocent's dismissive remark when he listened to stories of relics, private apparitions, and saccharine devotions: 'It's another religion!"

The twenty fifth session of the Council of Trent (3-4 December, 1563) issued a decree "On the invocation, veneration, and relics of saints, and on sacred images":

"The holy council commands all bishops and others who hold the office of teaching and have charge of the cura animarum, that in accordance with the usage of the Catholic and Apostolic Church, received from the primitive times of the Christian religion, and with the unanimous teaching of the holy Fathers and the decrees of the sacred councils, they above all instruct the faithful diligently in matters relating to intercession and invocation of the saints, the veneration of relics, and the legitimate use of images, teaching them...that the holy bodies of the holy martyrs and of others living in Christ, which were the living members of Christ and the temple of the Holy Ghost, to be awakened by Him to eternal life and to be glorified, are to be venerated by the faithful, through which many benefits are bestowed by God on men, so that those who maintain that their veneration and honor are not due to the relics of the saints, or that these and other memorials are honored by the faithful without profit, and that the places dedicated to the memory of the saints for the purpose of obtaining their aid are visited in vain, are to be utterly condemned, as the Church has already long since condemned and now again condemn them."
My experiences as an exorcist have convinced me that the only ones who are really sad that we have relics of saints to venerate are the devils themselves. It is true that through the veneration of relics, "many benefits are bestowed by God on men." Demons tremble before such objects of veneration!

It's another religion? Maybe theirs is!

Preaching in an inconvenient time

"There was a judge who neither feared God nor respected men" - this man in the Gospel reading is an appropriate description of many powerful men and women both in politics and in media who have pitted themselves against the Church on this present issue of the RH Bill. The way they shrug off any threat of excommunication and the mockery they bring into the House of God are clear indications of the absence of the fear of God in their hearts. This absence of the fear of God is an expression of contempt for the Lord - a contempt that should reveal to us the real powers behind this controversy: "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in (high) places" (Ephesians 6:12). Indeed, just as "Amelek came and waged war against Israel", so the Church's enemies wage war against her. And this is indeed a fierce battle that is not only funded by international business magnates and governments ( 430 million pesos is being set aside by the Philippine government for the purchase of artificial contraceptives for distribution) but is also supported by political power because the whole weight of the law is being placed behind it. This only shows that we do not only have powerful and influential enemies in both the government and the media. Behind them is a more powerful and infernal enemy - the Devil himself!

The world as we know it is sliding into paganism and the contempt of the Gospel is a clear manifestation of this. Far from being discouraged, we should rather see this situation as an appropriate reason for engaging in mission work. The Holy Father, in his message on World Mission Sunday today, reminds us that "the commitment to, the task of, Gospel proclamation is a duty of the whole Church , 'by her very nature is missionary' (Ad Gentes, n. 2). " St. Paul reminds us through his letter to St. Timothy, "I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus...proclaim the Word, persist in it whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching." Admittedly, today is a difficult time, an inconvenient time, to preach the Gospel because it is often met with skepticism, disguised as "academic advancement." The Gospel is often portrayed as old and outmoded, as irrelevant to the modern times we live in. However, we must persevere in proclaiming it because it is the only hope that can extricate humanity from the confusion it finds itself immersed in. "The loss of contact with God's wise design is the deepest root of modern man's confusion..." (John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, 22.) Modern man finds himself drowning in practical materialism, individualism, utilitarianism, and hedonism. St. Paul gives an appropriate description: "And since they do not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct" (Romans 1:28). He was at that time describing the pagan world before it met the Christ. Unfortunately, this same world which has already met the Christ in now sliding into its former situation. Thus, the Holy Father reminds us that "the people of our time, too, even perhaps unbeknown to them, ask believers not only 'to speak of Jesus' but 'to make Jesus seen', to make the face of the Redeemer shine out in every corner of the earth before the generations of the new millenium and especially before the youth of every continent, the privileged ones to whom the Gospel proclamation is intended. They must perceive that Christians bring Christ's word because he is the truth, because they have found in him the meaning and the truth for their own lives."

How do we proclaim the gospel at this most inconvenient time? St. Paul says, "Remain faithful to what you have learned and believed..." Our fidelity to the teachings of Jesus is the way by which we can make the face of the Redeemer shine out in every corner of the world. And this is not easy. Fidelity to him means swimming against the tide of the modern world. It means making a counter - cultural stand for the truth. I say counter-cultural because the teaching of Jesus is truly opposed to the movement of the of the world. We must insist on refuting and correcting the false assertion of the world. We refute and correct with the Scripture which is inspired by God. And of course, because our battle is against principalities and powers in high places, we need to raise our arms to God in prayer in the very manner Moses did in the first reading. Without God's help, we can do nothing. Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

The Lord assures us that he will answer our prayer. God will secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night. His justice will surely come for he is faithful. There can be no doubt about it. But will we be found faithful? Will we be found persevering in this faith of ours? Will we remain faithful to what we have learned and believed? Jesus said, "I tell you, God will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"

Saturday, October 16, 2010

On the Loss of the sense of God

"It is clear that the loss of contact with God's wise design is the deepest root of modern man's confusion, both when this loss leads to a freedom without rules and when it leaves man in 'fear' of his freedom.

"By living 'as if God did not exist', man not only loses sight of the mystery of God, but also of the mystery of the world and the mystery of his own being.

"The eclipse of the sense of God and of man inevitable leads to a practical materialism, which breeds individualism, utilitarianism, and hedonism. Here too we see the permanent validity of the words of the Apostle, 'And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct' (Rom. 1:28). The values of being are replaced by those of having. The only goal which counts is the pursuit of one's own material well-being. The so-called 'quality of life' is interpreted primarily or exclusively as economic efficiency, inordinate consummerism, physical beauty and pleasure, to the neglect of the more profound dimensions of existence - the interpersonal, spiritual and religious dimensions.

"In such a context, suffering, an inescapable burden of human existence but also a factor of possible growth, is 'censored', rejected as useless, indeed opposed as an evil, always and in every way to be avoided. When it cannot be avoided and the prospect of even some future well-being vanishes, then life appears to have lost all meaning and the temptation grows in man to claim the right to suppress it.

"Within this same cultural climate, the body is no longer perceived as a properly personal reality, a sign and place of relations with others, with God, and with the world. It is reduced to pure materiality; it is simply a complex of organs, functions, and energies to be used according to the sole criteria of pleasure and efficiency. Consequently, sexuality too is depersonalized and exploited: from being the sign, place, and language of love, that is, of the gift of self and acceptance of another, in all the other's richness as a person, it increasingly becomes the occasion and instrument for self-assertion and the selfish satisfaction of personal desires and instincts. Thus the original import of human sexuality is distorted and falsified, and the two meanings, unitive and procreative, inherent in the very nature of the conjugal act, are artificially separated: in this way, the marriage union is betrayed and its fruitfulness is subjected to the caprice of the couple. Procreation then becomes the 'enemy' to be avoided in sexual activity; if it is welcomed, this is only because it expresses a desire, or indeed the intention, to have a child 'at all costs', and not because it signifies the complete acceptance of the other and therefore an openness to the richness of life which the child represents."

Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, 22-23.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Dissent in the Church

In the heated debate on the Reproductive Rights Bill, a Jesuit theologian came out in the open to express favor for the bill. He teaches in his classes that in this issue, the Church is divided between the Vatican and the Moral Theologians. First, I disagree that the Church is divided on this issue because Moral Theologians do not consist a parallel Magisterium to that of the Pope and the Bishops in Communion with him. Theologians must remember that "the task of authentically interpreting the Word of God, whether in its written form or in that of Tradition, has been entrusted only to those charged with the Church's living Magisterium, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ." (Dei Verbum, 10; Veritatis Splendor, 27.)

Pope John Paul II had this to say about dissent in the Church:

"While exchanges and conflicts of opinion may constitute normal expressions of public life in a representative democracy, moral teaching cannot depend simply upon respect for a process: indeed, it is no way established by following the rules and deliberative procedure typical of a democracy. Dissent, in the form of carefully orchestrated protests and polemics carried on in the media, is opposed to ecclesial communion and to a correct understanding of the hierarchical constitution of the People of God. Opposition to the teachings of the Church's Pastors cannot be seen as a legitimate expression either of Christian freedom or of the diversity of the Spirit's gifts. When this happens, the Church's Pastors have the duty to act in conformity with their apostolic mission, insisting that the right of the faithful to receive Catholic doctrine in its purity and integrity must always be respected. 'Never forgetting that he too is a member of the People of God, the theologian must be respectful of them and be committed to offering them a teaching which in no way does harm to the doctrine of the faith.' "

John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, 113.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Our Lady of the Rosary

As the Church is beset with so many enemies within and without, we ought to ask our Lady of the Holy Rosary to rise once again in defense of the true religion, the Catholic faith!

"O august Queen of victories, O Virgin-ruler of paradise, at whose powerful name the heavens rejoice and hell trembles for fear, O glorious Queen of the most holy Rosary, all of us, thy highly favored humbly kneeling at they feet, on this most solemn day of the Feast of thy fresh triumphs on earth over false gods and devils, pour forth with tears the deepest affection of our hearts, and with the confidence of sons we show our miseries to thee.

"Ah, from that throne of mercy who thou art seated in queenly state, turn thy pitying gaze upon us, O Mary, and upon our families...and upon the universal Church; do thou have compassion upon us by reason of the miseries we are encompassed, and the tribulations that make life bitter for us. See, dear Mother, how many perils to body and soul surround us, what calamities and afflictions oppress us! O Mother, stay the arm of thine unheeded Son's justice and win the hearts of sinners by thy mercy; for they are our brethren and thy children, for whom the Precious Blood of Jesus was shed and thine own most gentle heart was pierced by the sword of sorrow. Show unto all men this day that thou art indeed the Queen of peace and forgiveness...

"Grant unto all of us thy abiding love and, in a special manner, thy maternal blessing...At this ver moment, O Mary, bless the Supreme Pontiff. To the former laurels of thy chaplet,l to the ancient triumphs of thy Rosary, whence thou art called the Queen of Victories, add this favor also, O Mother: give victory to the cause of religion and peace to human society. Bless our Bishop and priests...

" O blessed Rosary of Mary, sweet chain that binds us to God, bond of love that makes us one with the angels, tower of salvation amid the attacks of hell, safe harbor in the universal shipwreck, we shall never forget thee...Be thous everywhere blessed now and forever, on earth and in heaven. Amen."

Blessed Bartolo Longo

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

On the Sanctity of the Marital Act

The heated debate on the Reproductive Health bill has taken a turn for the worse when so-called "Catholic" groups emerged in support of this bill. They say that they continue to be "faithful" Catholics while rebuking the Philippine bishops for their opposition against the said bill. How can they call themselves "faithful" when the mere support of the bill in a clear defiance of the teaching of Catholic Magisterium? Many falsely think that the Church's opposition to this bill is simply founded on the fact that we equate artificial contraceptives with abortion. Many think that if this were the issue, then the Church is "mistaken" because not all contraceptives are abortifacients. Their reasoning is that contraceptives prevent conception. Therefore, how could these cause abortion when these are used before conception takes place? Without a fetus involved, there is no abortion.

But many of us forget that the issue here is not abortion but rather the integrity of the marital or the sexual intercourse between husband and wife. Pope Pius XI, in Casti Connubii, taught:

"53. And now, Venerable Brethren, we shall explain in detail the evils opposed to each of the benefits of matrimony. First consideration is due to the offspring, which many have the boldness to call the disagreeable burden of matrimony and which they say is to be carefully avoided by married people not through virtuous continence (which Christian law permits in matrimony when both parties consent) but by frustrating the marriage act. Some justify this criminal abuse on the ground that they are weary of children and wish to gratify their desire without their consequent burden. Others say that they cannot on the one hand remain continent nor on the other can they have children because of the difficulties whether on the part of the mother oron the part of family consequences.

"54. But no reason, however grave, may be put forward by which anything intrinsically against nature may become conformable to nature and morally good. Since, therefore, the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural power and purpose sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious.

"55. Small wonder, therefore, if Holy Writ bears witness that the Divine Majesty regards with greatest detestation this horrible crime and at times has punished it with death. As St. Augustine notes, 'Intercourse even with one's legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where the conception of the offspring is prevented. Onan, the son of Juda, did this and the Lord killed him for it.' (S. Augustine, De coniug. adult., lib II, n. 12, Gen XXXVIII, 8-10.)

"56. Since, therefore, openly departing from the uninterrupted Christian tradition some recently have judged it possible solemnly to declare another doctrine regarding this question, the Catholic Church, to whom God has entrusted the defense of the integrity and purity of morals, standing erect in the midst of the moral ruin that surrounds her, in order that she may preserve the chastity of the nuptial union from being defiled by this foul stain, raises her voice in token of her divine ambassadorship and through Our mouth proclaims anew: any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and the law of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin.

"57. We admonish, therefore, priests who hear confessions and others who have the care of souls, in virtue of Our supreme authority and in Our sollicitude for the salvation of souls, not to allow the faithful entrusted to them to err regarding this most grave law of God; much more, that they keep themselves immune from such false opinions, in no way conniving in them. If any confessor or pastor of souls, which may God forbid, lead the faithful entrusted to him into these errors or should at least confirm them by approval or by guilty silence, let him be mindful of the fact that he must render a strict account to God, the Supreme Judge, for the betrayal of his sacred trust, and let him take to himself the words of Christ: 'They are blind and leaders of the blind: and if the blind lead the blind, both fall into the pit.' (Matthew XV, 14.)

Pius XI, Casti Connubii, 31 December, 1930.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Protest in the Cathedral

A tourist guide, dressed as Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines, entered the Manila Cathedral in the middle of a religious service. In the presence of the Apostolic Nuncio, the Cardinal Archbishop of Manila, and the other bishops and clergy, we walks up to the sanctuary with a placard with the name "Damaso" written on it. (Padre Damaso was the name of the notorious friar in Rizal's "Noli me Tangere") He shouted in protest against the Church's stand on the Reproductive Health bill. He was incarcerated for "offending religious feelings."

What really concerns me is that so many people in cyberspace and in media expressed their support for what Celdran did. They did not take offense at the fact that he violated sacred space. What he did was offensive not only because he embarrassed the members of the religious hierarchy present. It was offensive because he did not respect the sanctity of God's temple in which the Blessed Sacrament is in the tabernacle. But many (Catholics included) did not take offense. I could not understand why people would take offense at a pastor's threat to burn the Koran and find the desecration of a religious service in the Cathedral "heroic." In fact, in as much as the followers of Islam are openly against contraceptives, will Mr. Celdran take his protest into a mosque during a Friday worship service - and will he be hailed as "heroic"?

We could not help but see this coming: this religious indifference towards an obvious sacrilege. The faithful have been accustomed to Liturgy that is entertainment. We readily admit dancers and actors in our sanctuary. How could the theatrics of this protester be any different? If the liturgy has deteriorated into entertainment or into an arena to air our political sentiments, people are bound to lose any sense of propriety (to say the least) about liturgical services and sacred places. If our churches look like and function as multipurpose halls, if the tabernacle has lost its prominent place in the churches, then people are bound to treat our temples like ordinary buildings. I am sure that Celdran, in his walking tours of Intramuros, would readily enter San Agustin Church and speak at the top of his voice to his clients but he would be more cautious in entering the Golden Mosque in Quiapo. Surely, he will take off his shoes and speak in a low voice. How strange! And stranger still is the fact that many (Catholics included) would not have sensed the difference. The loss of the sense of the sacred is taking its toll.

Fidelity in Little Acts

"How will she prove her love since love is proved by works? Well, the little child will strew flowers.

This is how my life will be consumed. I have no other means of proving my love for you other than that of strewing flowers, that is, not allowing one little sacrifice to escape, not one look, one word, profitting by all the smallest things and doing them through love. I desire to suffer for love and even to rejoice through love; and in this way I shall strew flowers before Your throne. I will not come upon one without unpetalling it for You. While I am strewing my flowers, I shall sing, for could one cry while doing such a joyful action? I shall sing even when I must gather my flowers in the midst of thorns, and my song will be all the more melodious in proportion to the length and sharpness of the thorns."

St. Therese of the Child Jesus,

Story of a Soul, Ch. IX