Category Archives: Current Events

The True Charity of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate

Scandals these days are a dime a dozen it seems. In the world and in the so-called “faithful” of the Church, we need not look to far out our front door to see that there is a lot of darkness out there. All we need to do is take a gander into our own hearts and we can see just how dark things can be. It can be greatly discouraging. For those weak in faith to see the scandals within the Church can cause them to give up on the Christian life altogether. Although there needs to be people within the Church pointing out where the darkness is within Her members, it can seem that there are not a lot of great examples of holiness today. Even though we have great things like the lives of the Saints and have access to millions of books on these incredible Catholics of the past, we need authentic witnesses today. Two weeks ago, I saw a beautifully authentic example of this in one of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, and felt that it needed to be pointed out.

2012-09-07-Novice-Investiture-01If you are not familiar with the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate (FFI), they are a beautiful religious order  founded by Fr. Stefano Maria Manelli and Fr. Gabriel Maria Pellettieri, two Franciscan Friars. According to their website they, “like the Seraphic Father St. Francis…strive to be perfectly conformed to the poor, humble, crucified Jesus through a life of charity, supernatural charity and poverty. They are totally consecrated to the Immaculate Virgin after the recent example offered by St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe.” Sadly, in recent years, the FFI received a crushing blow. The Institute, which was one of the fastest growing in the world, was brought to task by the Vatican “to restore among the Franciscans of the Immaculate the original charism that has characterized the service the Institute has rendered to the Church.” Fr. Fidenzio Volpi was assigned by the Congregation for Religious as Apostolic Commissioner to basically bring the order into line. Now a lot of what is being said online leans strongly in the favour of Fr. Volpi being tasked with ending the order itself. I cannot seem to get a clear statement as to the entire purpose of handing the Order over to Fr. Volpi. The situation, however, turned nasty.

The community was made to no longer offer the Mass of the Extraordinary Form, unless given express permission. The founder was also removed from leadership. The subordinates of the Founder were transferred to different countries. He shut down their seminary. He suspended ordinations within the Order. For a year he suppressed the activities of the Lay Apostolates affiliated with the Institute. He also suspended the publications of the Academy of the Immaculate, which produced beautiful catholic literature. There are certainly differing things being said online about how Fr. Volpi handled the Institute. There are people who say that Fr. Volpi slandered and defamed the founder, Fr. Manelli and his family. At any rate, Fr. Volpi truly in the eyes of outsiders, became the “thorn in the side” of this little institute, who though faithful to the Church’s Tradition, are not extremists by any means. Whether all the statements about Fr. Volpi are true or not, they have been treated (and still are, please pray for them) very badly by many members of the clergy and laity, and endure much slander and calumny. I share this because in the midst of all of the craziness at the hands of the Apostolic Commissioner, the Friars and Sisters of the Institute have simply kept their mouths shut and remained obedient. It smells of the sanctity of another Franciscan friar who was placed in solitary confinement for over ten years, the great St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio).

Yet, with all of this in mind, these kind Franciscans not only remain obedient, but they also remain completely humble. This is what inspired me two weeks ago. It was announced that Fr. Volpi died on June 7, 2015 (God rest his soul). The response to this from the FFI floored me again. Shortly after his death, Fr. Elias M. Mills offered a Requiem Mass for him. In the description of the video, it states that the Mass was done in “gratitude that the Franciscans of the Immaculate have for the faithful and beautiful service of Fr. Fidenzio Volpi to our community and an additional gesture of unbounded gratitude to His Holiness Pope Francis for appointing such a wonderful priest to guide and govern our Institute. May God grant Fr. Fidenzio a speedy entry into eternal rest and unending peace. Ave Maria!” I encourage you to watch the four minute video of the homily given at the Mass by Fr. Mills. For a community to speak in such kind and generous terms about a man who had done much to effectively destroy the Institute that they loved (though they may not openly admit it), is certainly a beautiful thing and an incredible example of christian charity. Loving your enemies is a true sign of a Christian, and these Franciscans knew how to best love Fr. Volpi, by offering the one thing in the world that matters most – the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. God bless the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. May we too learn how to speak well of those who have hurt us, and love them with the love that only Jesus Himself can give.

For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God.
John 3:20-21

 

 

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Jim Gaffigan’s Scary Religion

jimgDefending the Faith in an increasingly secularized world freaks me out. I have to be honest. It is a tough proposition to speak the truth when you know that you might become less popular. It can be a great way to kill your pride, if you’re into that kind of virtuous practice. We live in an especially ruthless and cutthroat culture, where the true colours of people really begin to show themselves when you challenge their actions or opinions. Yet, it is precisely in those places where we might be uncomfortable that we are called to go and bring the truth. Yet, many catholics hide from the public eye, in order to retain some semblance of popularity, stability, etc. Some catholics even hold places where they could speak and people might listen, however, they choose the road of least resistance and keep their mouths shut. One such public figure is Jim Gaffigan.

Jim Gaffigan is a comedian from New York City. His skit about “Hot Pockets”, made him more widely known. He’s known for generally having clean humour. He is also a catholic with a family of five. I have always loved his comedy, personally. That being said, however, recently he began producing a show called the “Jim Gaffigan Show“, which can be viewed on Comedy Central. His introductory episode is definitely making people talk (including me – well done, Jim). In it, he explores the idea of being a catholic in the public sphere. Yet, instead of showing any sort of pride and joy in being part of the One Church founded by Jesus Christ, he instead focuses his attention on how afraid he is of being outed as a catholic.

The Washington Post picked up on this and wrote an article entitled, “What’s so funny about Jim Gaffigan’s Christianity?” In the article, they explore the fact of Jim’s fear. Michelle Boorstein, the writer of the article, interviewed both Jim and his wife Jeannie to discuss this. In the article, Jeannie shares that their endgame essentially was to show the “Catholicism they live – while also strategically ‘critique-proofing’ themselves.” It was a strategic move to protect themselves from ridicule. When asked if the episode related to Jim’s actual fear of being seen as a catholic, his wife definitely admitted that, “It’s resonant with Jim’s paranoia, that’s definitely true.”

During the episode, Jim admits, “I don’t want to get involved in the culture war. Religion is a very iffy business. As soon as you identify yourself as believing something, you open yourself to ridicule.” Is he right about some of the consequences? ABSOLUTELY! Is that a justifiable reason to never speak the truth though?

His wife goes on to say in the interview that, “He still has point of view, but he’s not going to take a stand because there are people who love Jim who are atheists, and who love Jim and are of all faiths. The Christian ghetto is a hard one to get out of if I’m only preaching to the choir.” Yet, if you watch the episode, there is not one ounce of joy that he takes in his faith. Sure, as a family they may not be using artificial birth control and may go to church on Sunday, but that is certainly not all that makes up what it means to be a real catholic in the world.

Do not be afraid to go out on the streets and into public places, like the first Apostles who preached Christ and the Good News of salvation in the squares of cities, towns and villages. This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel (Cfr. Rom 1,16 ). It is the time to preach it from the rooftops (Cfr. Matth 10,27 ). Do not be afraid to break out of comfortable and routine modes of living, in order to take up the challenge of making Christ known in the modern “metropolis”. It is you who must “go out into the byroads” ( Matth 22,9 ) and invite everyone you meet to the banquet which God has prepared for his people. The Gospel must not be kept hidden because of fear or indifference. It was never meant to be hidden away in private. It has to be put on a stand so that people may see its light and give praise to our heavenly Father. ~ Pope St. John Paul II to the youth of the 8th World Youth Day in Denver, CO

JPIINow, before you get your Pope Francis scapulars in a knot, I want to clearly say that I am not judging the state of Mr. Gaffigan’s soul. I am simply speaking about what he has admitted to publically, and how that compares to the call he has received in Baptism; a call that all of the baptized have received. I think in many ways all of us who take this beautiful thing called Catholicism seriously, can relate to dealing with some degree of fear of ridicule from our friends and acquaintances when speaking the Gospel. The Feast of Pentecost which we celebrated this past Sunday is a great reminder of this fact. The Apostles, though pretty solid, had not yet been invigorated by the Holy Spirit to go out into the world and preach the Gospel as they were commanded. So, they huddled up in the Cenacle and kept praying until the Promise of Jesus was fulfilled in their midst. Once the Holy Spirit showed up, they burst through the doors of the Upper Room and declared the “works of God” to the world, first in Jerusalem and spreading across the globe (Acts 2).

We, as baptized and confirmed Christians have this same gift. The Holy Spirit has come to dwell in us through the Sacraments, and has given us the ability to come to know the Truth, to speak and to live it in the world. For Jim Gaffigan, and I think a lot of us, we fail to tap into this reality. Yet, it is our sacred duty, instilled in us through the Sacraments, to go out into the world and “make disciples of all nations.” We must speak the truth, no matter how much the world will hate us. In light of the recent feast the Church has just celebrated, let us take this gift of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling more seriously and ask ourselves, “Are we truly unashamed of the Gospel?”

In this secularized age, when many of our contemporaries think and act as if God did not exist or are attracted to irrational forms of religion, it is you, dear young people, who must show that faith is a personal decision which involves your whole life. Let the Gospel be the measure and guide of life’s decisions and plans! Then you will be missionaries in all that you do and say, and wherever you work and live you will be signs of God’s love, credible witnesses to the loving presence of Jesus Christ. Never forget: “No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a bushel” (Mt 5:15)!
-Pope St. John Paul II

A Priest Forever

Fr. Steve MarshThis past weekend, I had the absolute honor and pleasure of attending the Ordination to the Priesthood of one of my great friends, Fr. Stephen Marsh. He was ordained this weekend with three other men. Though it was a long journey, Fr. Steve has finally arrived, and this new chapter in his life has only just begun.

While being at his Ordination Mass, I was overcome with such gratefulness for our Priests and awe for their sacred office and how God is present to us in them. However I was also saddened to know that they are so often taken for granted, and that many Priests do and have grown cold.

When we look at Salvation History, we see throughout it the great lengths that God has taken to give us this gift of Salvation, to show us his unconditional love for us, as well has His mercy and justice. We see this in a big way in scripture with the levitical priests, who offered sacrifices on our behalf. We also see this through God giving the Israelites the Manna in the desert to nourish them.

With the death and resurrection of our Lord, this did not end. It changed. With our Priests, they offer the one unbloody sacrifice of our Lord on the cross, made present at the altar, for us and with us, at Mass. This was commanded by our Lord Himself that it be done. Jesus offers Himself to the Father and also nourishes us in the Eucharist, as he is the new Manna, the Bread of the Angels. He is present in the Eucharist in His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.

What a great responsibility and gift our Priests have been given, being entrusted with this sacred duty of offering us the Sacraments, without which we would not be saved. It brings me to tears, this fact that Our God loves us so deeply, so that He deigned to make real to us now, make available to us now, through his Priests, our salvation. When we sin, and put this salvation at risk, with a firm resolution to never sin again, and a good confession, we can return to our Lord. What great mercy!

Ordination this weekendSt. Francis de Sales said “O my child, bethink you that just as the bee, having gathered heaven’s dew and earth’s sweetest juices from amid the flowers, carries it to her hive; so the Priest, having taken the Saviour, God’s Own Son, Who came down from Heaven, the Son of Mary, Who sprang up as earth’s choicest flower, from the Altar, feeds you with that Bread of Sweetness and of all delight.’

We need to remember this gift always, and pray always for our Priests, that they remain good and holy, and always advancing in virtue. St. John Chrysostom said that “If priests sin, all the people are led to sin. Hence every one must render an account of his own sins; but the priests are also responsible for the sins of others.” What a great and divine duty our Priests have.

Please keep the newly Ordained Priests in your prayers, as well as all of our current Bishops, Cardinals, and Priests, that the love of God and His Church in those who have grown cold may blaze bigger than ever before, and for the rest, that their love for God and His Church would continue to strengthen and grow. May we always be grateful for our Priests, as without them, we would not have this great gift of Salvation available to us.

 

Sacrificing virtue for the sake of relevance

I don’t know about you, but as I look back over the course of my life since I began to take this thing called “faith” seriously, I can see ways the which I have succeeded but also failed as a Catholic. I can see the ways I have witnessed to others and the ways I have possibly scandalized them. Thank God for the sacrament of confession, right? Yet, one of those failures I have seen in myself is something that has become an almost normative approach that many Christians (Catholic and otherwise) are taking to their lives and it scares me.

I was at a show two weekends ago, and a frontman for the local hardcore band Mirrors and Tides said, “The things I hate most in the world are the things I hate most in myself.” I had to agree that I find that correlation not only with the negative things in the world, but also in the local church. When I look at my life, I can see the times when I have chosen to look cool, funny, or simply did not want to rock the boat, instead of being an active witness of the Truth. This still happens for me. We all want to be liked, and it can be really hard for us to stand up and be virtuous in the face of possible persecution. We really hate discomfort. Yet, as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said, “you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”

I am tired of the ways I make compromises for the sake of ease. I hope I’m not the only one. Yet, the battle against lukewarmness within myself can be won or lost based on the comprises I make. If you have had dogs in your life, you know well the scent that a dog can take on by simply going outside. If not, just imagine how your clothes smell after spending 15 minutes in a Subway restaurant. Same difference. The same goes for us when we mentally start taking on worldly attitudes. The more time we spend adopting these base attitudes, the less we smell like the Gospel. Yet, many Christians even pride themselves in looking like the world.

r-JACK-WHITE-STEPHEN-COLBERT-large570There are many examples of this that come to mind, including people like Stephen Colbert, who some people hold up as an example of what a good modern day Catholic should look like. Recently, a video was posted showing him and Jack White of the White Stripes talking catholic jargon (I do not want to link to it because it is highly offensive, despite its theme). These sacred and holy things (for the most part), were sandwiched in-between cuss words. To appeal to a worldly crowd, these two resulted to debasing these holy things with the words they surrounded them with, because to simply talk about this would just be perhaps too extreme for their viewers.

Yet, as I said before, the things I hate in the world are those things that I hate in myself, and sure enough, I can point to times in my life where I’ve done very similar things. My point is that even though I have been the one to compromise, it is wrong, and I’m calling it for what it is. If, as Bl. Paul VI said, “from some fissure the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God,” it has entered through people like me, who have made small compromises, which amount to little cracks in the foundation of our Christian lives. The Second Vatican Council cannot be blamed for screwing things up in the Church for the last 40 years. We need to point to ourselves and see that those fissures are those little compromises which, over time, grew from cracks into gaping holes.

Lukewarmness can affect us all, but it begins to show itself little by little. Though there are many ways this lukewarmness can show up, one of the main ways is in our words and how we speak. I find this most especially true for myself. The way we hold our words can be a great litmus test to see how we are holding ourselves in check and where our self control lies. St. James says in his epistle that, “If any one thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this man’s religion is vain”(James 1:26). St. James also spends most of the third chapter of his epistle speaking about the restless evil of the tongue. Jesus Himself says in Matthew’s Gospel, that “not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man” (Matt 15:11).

The way we speak is a big deal. Our level of self control can be seen at how well we can hold our tongues in check. Again, if you’re struggling, you’re not alone. This is a clarion call for all of us to take stock of our words, whether spoken, written, and even in thought. We know that if we struggle with control of our tongues that there may be other things in our lives which also need to be reined in. Lukewarmness leads to little compromises which lead to even greater compromises. Unchecked venial sins can lead to mortal sins. This is just the nature of what happens when we give up being vigilant with ourselves.

No matter how good our intentions are, the more we look like the world, the more worldly we will become. In order to be the “Salt of the Earth” and “Light of the World” as Christ calls us to be, there must be a visible distinction between us and the bland darkness of the world. We have to “run the race so as to win”, not just stand still when it comes to being real life christians. We cannot simply pander to the culture and fool ourselves into thinking people will effectively listen. Our history, especially within the last 50 years of the Church shows that catering to worldliness only serves to cause you to lose the fire of faith. It cannot be transmitted effectively that way at all. The Christian life is like the below video states, “It is like going the wrong way on a moving sidewalk. Walk and you stay put. Stand still and you go backwards. To get ahead, you have to hustle.” Our actions follow our words. God spoke and it was. So lets get serious about being vigilant with our tongues and using our speech to speak life into the world. May our speech mirror the Life that dwells within us through baptism, who spoke and it was. It’s time to take the race seriously and stop trying to appeal to being relevant at the cost of virtue. Don’t just stand there – hustle!

 

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