My First Christmas Eve - Midnight Mass
How to be a Defender of the Faith
Priest Against Priest, Bishop Against Bishop, Cardinal Against Cardinal
It is interesting to read the many articles about controversies over the actions, homilies and comments of Pope Francis on almost any topic. Whether he did or did not spend enough time at the graves of the unborn in Korea or his actions at the synod, he is always criticized by the ‘Traditionalist’. Our Blessed Virgin Mother at Akita told us “It would be “priest against priest, bishop against bishop, cardinal against cardinal.” (http://olrl.org/prophecy/akita.shtml) When I first heard this I thought she must have been referring to Pope Francis’s Synod. However, I now have differernt thoughts.
When speaking with a friend today, she reminded me of Humanae Vitae, an encyclical from Pope Paul VI issued on July 25, 1968. As per Wikipedia, “Mainly because of its prohibition of all forms of artificial contraception, the encyclical was politically controversial, but affirms Church moral teaching from time immemorial on the sanctity of life and the procreative and unitive nature of conjugal relations.”
Pope Paul VI continued his teaching through 122 Apostolic Constitutions eight Apostolic Exhortations, 121 Apostolic Letters, innumerable homilies, letters and reflections.
Between 1980 and 1984, Pope John Paul II delivered 129 addresses relating to the nature of marital love, dubbed Catholic Theology of the Body, which fully vindicate Humanae Vitae.
Pope Benedict XVI called this topic "controversial, yet so crucial for humanity's future.”
When Pope Benedict XVI said, “controversial” it was probably the understatement of the century. Certainly, it followed the predictions of the Blessed Virgin Mother at Akita when Our Lady told us it would be “…priest against priest, bishop against bishop, cardinal against cardinal.” We can add people, priests, bishops and cardinals against the pope.
Again from Wikipedia, “It was the first time in the twentieth century that open dissent from the laity about teachings of the Church was voiced widely and publicly. The teaching has been criticized by development organizations and others who claim that it limits the methods available to fight worldwide population growth and struggle against AIDS.”
Within two days of the encyclical's release, a group of US dissident theologians, led by Rev. Charles Curran, then of The Catholic University of America, issued a statement stating, "…spouses may responsibly decide according to their conscience that artificial contraception in some circumstances is permissible and indeed necessary to preserve and foster the value and sacredness of marriage.” I believe nearly 160 clergy in the US signed a petition to the Pope protesting his encyclical.
In Canada the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops issued the controversial "Winnipeg Statement" dissenting from the Encyclical. The Dutch in 1966 issued a dissent. In Poland there were significant struggles between the Church and the Communist rulers of Poland who promoted abortion and birth control. In the Soviet Union a publication of Soviet intellectuals included an editorial and statement by Russian physicians against the encyclical. Lutherans and the World Council of Churches criticized the concepts of nature and natural law, which, in their view, still dominated Catholic theology, as outdated. By contrast, in Latin America there was much support for the Pope and his encyclical.
The controversy still rages today, nearly 50 years later. When is the last time you heard a homily on Humanae Vitae?
It seems we have always had conflicts within our group of clergy from the day St. Paul criticized our first Pope Saint Peter over circumcision, to our current Pope Francis being criticized over virtually anything and everything. Please keep praying for our clergy.
My First Christmas Eve Midnight Mass
As a child, I always thought of Christmas as a time for receiving stuff. I dreamed of, hoped for, and even prayed to God for a new bicycle, BB gun, baseball mitt or other such things. Being one of the seven children of parents of modest means, and having been born during the period of recovery from the greatest economic depression this country has ever known, my prayers were never answered. Of course, like most children who lack wisdom, I was disappointed that God did not hear my plea. That is not to say that I did not appreciate the bag of marbles, “Tinker Toy” set or the stocking stuffed full of fruit, nuts and candy; and, in spite of His complete disregard for my desires, when I said my prayers at night, I thanked him for all the “stuff” I received.
When I was in the sixth grade, I was chosen to be in the boy’s Christmas Choir and would have the opportunity to attend and sing at my first midnight Mass. Again, in my lack of wisdom, I only recognized the opportunity to get away from old, mean and strict Sister Kathleen with her math lessons and to spend more time in music class with the young, kind and pretty Sister Mary Anne. We practiced an hour a day, three days a week, X from the middle of November through Advent. We learned some new (for me) carols including the Latin “Adeste Fideles” as well as some secular songs such as the new Gene Autry song, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” which we were to sing for the school assembly. In addition to teaching us to enunciate and project our voices from our diaphragms, Sister Mary Anne stressed the importance of giving rather than receiving. She said our voices were to be a gift to the people of the church, and God gave us beautiful voices for just that purpose.
Our church was a Monastery of the Passionist Order and we were told that our choir would include some Brothers and Seminarians of the Order; however, we never practiced with them. On Christmas Eve we were all dressed in red cassocks with white surplices and big red ribbons, tied in a bows and “Buster Brown” collars. The church was decorated beautifully with lots of candles, poinsettias, holly, evergreens and, of course, the crèche for the Baby Jesus. It was a Solemn High Mass with the Priest, Deacon and Sub Deacon all dressed in beautiful gold brocade vestments, and our choir was seated in the apse on both sides of the altar. As the Priest incensed the altar and crèche we sang “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” and “Adeste Fideles”. It was just the voices of the boys’ choir with no Seminarians in sight.
After the Gospel reading and the homily, we began singing “O Holy Night.” When we reached a certain point, we were joined by what seemed like a hundred booming, deep voices of the Brothers, singing “Fall on your knees, O’ hear the angel voices…” We had no idea these young men had been sitting silently just behind us in the chancel separated only by the wooden lattice. A warm feeling engulfed me and I’m sure I reached a little deeper into my diaphragm to project my voice more fully. I now understood what Sister Mary Anne said and I was giving my gift to my Mom and all the others who were sitting in the pews. I also understood that I was giving back to God the gift he had given to me.
Sure, being a kid, I still wanted to get “stuff” for Christmas, but from that Christmas Eve on I realized there is a joy in giving, and whenever we give from the heart we always get so much more in return. Now, sixty-five years after my first Christmas Eve midnight Mass, I still get a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye whenever I hear “O Holy Night.”
Dick Byrne (Dick is a resident of Berkeley Springs WV and a member of the Knights of Columbus)
How to be a Defender of the Faith
Spiritual warfare began when Lucifer refused to accept that God would become man. The demons were infuriated that they now must bow down to humans who would become one in Christ. (Gen 3, 1-24), (Ez 28, 12-47), (Isa 14, 12-114)
These spiritual powers of darkness had been driven from heaven by Michael and his angels and they had come to earth to wage war on the woman and her other children. Earlier by revelation (Rev 12-6) it tells how the woman gave birth to a male child who was caught up to God, so the woman is clearly Mary, and here she is Mary and the Church – under attack by Satan. (Rev 13-17)
In order to be true defenders of the faith you must know who your enemies are. Scripture tells us, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but first and foremost it is against the spiritual powers of darkness.” (Eph 6:10-20). Humans are their pawns.
This is very important because if we focus only on humans we will be playing right directly into the hands of the Powers of Darkness. Their strategy is to divide and conquer. This is the very opposite of Christ’s strategy: “That they may be one in me, Father – as you and I are one. That the world may know that you love them even as you love me!” (John 17:21)
Jesus’ strategy with humans is “Love your enemies.” So let us look at how he does this during his life. Look how he dealt with some Pharisees who so opposed Him and wanted to kill Him. He never failed to dialogue with them, especially during the last weeks of His life.
But early on, Nicodemus was won over and came to Him at night to learn more. It was to him Jesus said, “God so loved the world that He sent His Son into the world not to condemn, but to save the world. All who sin are his enemies.
We know Jesus won over this Pharisee because it was Nicodemus and another ruler of the Pharisee, Joseph of Arimathea, who took the body of Christ from the cross, having sought permission from Pilate. It was two Pharisees who brought the shroud, the myrrh and aloes to anoint Jesus, and it was they who wrapped His body for burial. These two Pharisees did this while the apostles were hiding in fear.
Scripture tells us that after the resurrection, and especially after Pentecost, many “…even of the Pharisees” were converted. This is how Jesus’ love for His enemies conquers them with love. But by far the greatest example of this is of Paul of Tarsus, the Pharisee and sworn enemy of Christ won over by His love, who became the Pharisee who won over the world with his love of Christ,
The tragedy of Christ must be ours if we are to defend the faith. The real enemies are the spiritual powers of darkness who work to divide us. Jesus works to make us one by loving us when we are His enemies by our sins against Him and against one another. In defending the faith always ask, "What would Jesus have me do?" His answer was on the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
(Jim is a father of nine children and lives with his wife in Big Cove Tannery PA)
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