Arlington National Services

imag0806_1imag0809_1In this week fore and after Thanksgiving, we have two burials at Arlington National Cemetery. One was for John Stockstill (husband to Sarah); the other for Eva Poiani (wife to Claudio).

Leading up to the burial site prayers for John, there was a military band playing, and the transfer of the body to a horse drawn carriage with soldiers procession, and the walk/drive to the site. After the prayers at the burial plot, there was a military band song, 21 shot salute, and presentation of the flag to the spouse “on behalf of a grateful nation.”

For the burial today of Eva, spouse of retired soldier Claudio, it was a simpler yet still dignified burial ceremony, led by an Army priest chaplain. Afterwards the group at the internment went to the Officers Club at the adjacent Fort Meyers for a luncheon.

A burial in the holiday season is both moving (for its timing) and yet more difficult (to have an absence at this season).

Arlington Cemetery holds the remains of a few hundred thousand of the U.S. Military and family. They had three dozen planned burials there today.

Advent starts…

Happy Advent! Happy New (Church) Year.
Advent Prayer

“We alight the first candle, as we inaugurate Advent season and our new Church year. Lead us in this season of faith. Amen. (Sprinkling of the wreath) Let us pray…

Father God of the Covenant, You have made the promise of the ages, and expressed it personally in Jesus, Your Son, Co-eternal with You. We have begun again in a new Church Year, of two-thousand-sixteen ones since the Nativity Mystery. We remain in the Advent of longing unto Glory. Maranatha. Come, Lord! We are the people needing Your light and hope, as we pilgrimage on in our salvation mystery, wanting to see Your face to Face one day. For now, we will give thanks, seek Thy teachings, pray all ways, gather in community, and share our stories of You among us, in faith, as your parish watches the “Five Loaves” of Christian living bless us abundantly. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Homily Fr. Barry 1st Sunday of Advent 5 Loaves Series

Fr. Barry’s Homily 11/26-27 1st Sunday of Advent “Didache” (DID-uh-kay)

Introduction to Mass– Do the Didache. That’s the homily title today. I will explain it later. The homily today is part of a “Five Loaves” preaching series of five homilies for our Advent theme at St. Edward’s. We purposely jumped the gun and preached one of the five Advent homilies earlier, as on Thanksgiving, with Deacon Barnes, because there are five practices of key Catholic living that we wanted to cover for this Advent, and the season has just four Sundays in it, with this one being its first. So today is Homily #2 of a series of 5. Deacon preached on Diaconia (or Giving Thanks by Devoted Service) on Thursday.

Five Sundays from now is Christmas Day. By then you’ll also know what this whole “Five Loaves” approach of being Catholic is about. What are these “Five Loaves?” They are practices of the First Church, as found in Acts 2:42. The five practices have Greek terms that go along with them. See if you recognize any in your Catholic upbringing: They are “Diaconia,” “Didache,” “Koinonia,” “Liteurgia,” and “Kerygma.” So—each week we will review what one means. Today it will be “Didache.” Thank you.


“Do the Didache.” Didache is an early Church practice which is something worth looking into. In Acts 2:42 it says, that among five things, how the first disciples met regularly for the teachings. This is what is Didache. “Didache” basically means to “seek the true teachings, so as to live by them.” “Didache” means to seek the Lord’s teachings and explanations, and as He has given to us, the Church, to thus be practiced faithfully until His Return.

The word “Didache” was first known as the name of a first century document, also known as “The Teachings of the 12 Apostles,” which taught and explained how the Church was to practice her Sacraments faithfully, as in staying with the original teachings of Jesus on it. It was an important teaching back then to know how to do Mass, since it was mostly an undercover operation. The early Church was under heavy persecution.

Sometimes the word Didache was also used to describe the writings and explanations of the true and orthodox Catholic faith, as did St. Ignatius of Antioch as the world was turning past 100 a.d. The bishop-martyr wanted to keep the Church in fidelity, to keep her Catholic (that is, to be a spread-out, universal Church who kept to the one teaching in Christ). Thus, Ignatius, understood the role of apostle or bishop as leading Christ’ Flock to “seek the true teachings, so as to live by them.” Ignatius was the one who said that, and if a person followed the True Teachings, then they were “catholic.” He pretty much coined the term Catholic, and it went along with the word Didache, the following and learning of the True teachings passed on by Christ.
Here’s a picture of the 1st century didache. th

Do the Didache is my little spin phrase on “let us do the true teachings passed down to us from Christ Jesus. Do the Didache. The Church wants people in her flock to keep informed in the Lord and in reliable teachings.

bread5-loaves-and-2-fish How does the Advent Gospel today match up with Didache?
In today’s Gospel Jesus warns us of His Second Coming. Even while still here in His First Coming, Jesus explained to us how a time period would come and last for the Church, of waiting and preparing, but then He would make a Glorious Return. That time period is called The Advent of The Lord. As He describes it, via Luke’s quotes, Jesus says that in the end days it will look a lot like it was in the time of Noah, when people were not much concerned with the signs and messages of obeying God. The people then were “going along to get along”, oblivious of the danger of the coming great flood. Their brash, sinful behaviors towards God were enough to stoke His wrath to allow such an earth-altering Event. The people had not listened to God; neither would they pay any heed to the prophetic figure He raised up for that time, in Noah. God spoke to Noah, and Noah gave the warnings out of a day of reckoning to come, but almost all the people paid no serious attention to the warnings Noah gave. (What if only they did?) How about in today’s time? Who is living their Advent of the Second Coming of Christ?

Paying heed to Christ’ Teachings, and keeping up with them, and delving deeper in commitment to them is Didache. We live and look to remain steadfast in the Teachings of our Savior, so to be ready for His Return.

When is He coming?! Oh, there are some end-of-the-world alarmists, in their crazed mode, saying that it’s happening before the end of 2016, but we need not discuss them here. Our reliable Noahs of today are more central, faithful figures, such as Pope Francis. Call him a Noah figure. After the Paris terrorist bombings, Francis spoke a word to the world and to the Parisians, and after expressing opposition to such killing sprees in the blasphemous name of God (as by Allah), the pope asked the Parisians and others, that, in such times like these, could we say that, with our lives not always safe anymore, are we ready for the Lord? While some blaspheme God, are we rather blessing Him steadfastly? (In context: Many have fallen away from the Faith in Paris and in France, as in some other places.) Francis is quoted saying, then, in last November: “In the end times, are we vigilant and ready at any moment to meet God face to face?… At the end of the world Jesus’ triumph will be the triumph of the cross, the demonstration that the sacrifice of oneself out of love for one’s neighbor, in imitation of Christ, is the only victorious power and the only stable point in the midst of the upheavals and tragedies of the world.” He added: “We (believers) are called to watchfulness (in faith) and in our days there is no lack of natural and moral disasters–calling us to be focused and ready at all times.”

Friends, that’s a Noah call. He basically said: One could focus outside of things, and focus on only being mad at the terrorists here, but what about also asking about how our own hearts and faith are doing? Peril will come, to Paris, here, elsewhere– but how can we endure it out without being in the right place with God? Like Noah.

The Catholic Church herself is a Noah figure as we go now into Advent season to remind ourselves and all people that indeed Jesus will return, and will people be ready for that? The Ark now is the Body of Christ, the Church, and we all need to get really into Jesus, and His Sacraments and Reign into our souls and bodies. We can only be saved in Him.

Back to today’s gospel, and the meaning of Didache. Noah was spared because he spent regular time with God, listening to Him, and being guided by Him, and obeying Him for salvation. While it was a demanding project, he kept with it. We in the Church have to listen, be guided, and obey God for the salvation to come to us in the Glory of the Lord revealed that is to come. This means taking the time to continuously be taught by God. John 6:45 says of defining the true disciple: “They shall all be taught by God.” Christ Jesus gives us the holy teachings to follow. Christ has given us the Church to steadfastly live out His teachings. Will we Do the Didache?

I put the Adult Catechism and the Teen Catechism on the display in front of our Advent altar to represent the “Didache” way of life. These objects remind us of Jesus’ words that “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled or satisfied.” As you eat the leftover turkey or ham, and stuffing, and sides, and pies– remember something else today. EAT THE HOLY TEACHINGS. BE WISE. EAT THE TEACHINGS OF THE LORD. BE STEADFAST IN YOUR ONGOING LEARNING OF THE LORD.

As you “seek the teachings,” Deacon Barnes found a cool New American Revised Version Bible that links bible chapters and verses over to related references to the Catholic Catechism teachings. Quite interestingly, it is called the Didache Bible. Now, what are other ways to “seek the teachings?” Other sacred books are out there to read. We also provide some music videos on our parish web site, as an inspiration to take that means to grow along in faith. This Friday, we have a Catholic songwriter/musician visiting the parish in Kathleen Fowle. Come here her marvelous words and soothing music and testimony. People have ministries to teach and bless us in what they have found in God.
In still another way to seek the teachings (or Do the Didache), sometimes the Lord just wants to teach things from your life experiences and first-hand learning. Can you slow down to reflect on your life and do so with God? Some people keep a spiritual journal to collect down some of the choice blessings they are learning prayerfully in God for living well.
A whole other application can be for people who are able to do so to sometime join into a Catholic small group to study the Faith.

So we have now two phrases for your Advent practice. Advent means “coming.” We are in the expected coming time of the Lord Who promised to arrive to us again for the Omega part of all things on earth, before it will be made anew. As a funny poster put it: “The Lord is Coming Soon, so start looking busy, for when He arrives, you’ll be in good stead!” But we aren’t to just appear to be busy, right? “Diaconia” (Our first of the five practices) called for us to be so thankful to God’s part in your lives so that it would lead to inspired service to others born of the Love of God. How could “Diaconia” help St. Edwards? Well, we can always use inspired, engaged persons in a parish to help her grow in God. Your service in love and thanks this week could be to take someone to the Friday concert here. Give yourself and another a spiritual gift this Friday.

“Didache,” today’s lesson, refers to teaching and learning and knowing God, and how to be His child, and how to be His people. Eat up what will help you to that goal. It will bless us all. ###

The other 3 of the Five Loaves will be spelled out in the coming Sundays.

th8zkw13e2Didache “Seek the teachings” Second of the Five Loaves of Acts 2:42 of Healthy Catholic Practices “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread, and the prayers.”


The spiritual life requires the regular practice of seeking wisdom and understanding. The disciples called Jesus “Teacher” and we read in the scriptures that the early community devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching. Didache (Greek) names our desire to go deeper, to hear the inner voice that directs our heart. In the second generation of the original Catholic Church, St. Ignatius of Antioch, a bishop, spoke to the need for each believer to hunger for the Bread of Christ, in Sacrament, but also deeply in Word and in Teaching and lived lessons in Him in community and personal edification. Ignatius reinforced the value of having authentic, appointed shepherds to the Flock of Christ (like himself) so that people were following Jesus’ teachings as first given, and heading aright. Remember Jesus urged us to ask God for help, in “Give us this daily bread…” and how He said “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; they shall have their fill and be satisfied.”

The WORD of teaching is revealed to us in many ways: through the scriptures, through the writings of the prophets and mystics, through the witness of holy men and women living as disciples in all ages, through experiences that teach us, through friends who offer insights, through moments of discovery, through suffering and difficult times, through reading, contemplation, meditation, and all types of prayer. Ultimately, the Source is the same, for God’s WORD goes forth and does not return until it accomplishes in us what is intended, as Scriptures attests. It also says: Blessed are they who hear the WORD of God and keep it.

Where do you turn regularly for inspiration and guidance, for wisdom and perspective? What practices help your understanding in life’s difficult moments and to hear the voice of the Teacher?

First Homily of the Five Loaves Advent Series: Diaconia By Deacon Barnes

This homily was given by our Deacon David Barnes. It was on Thanksgiving.

Today, being Thanksgiving Day, we hear the familiar Gospel of the 10 lepers, of which only one gave thanks. God gives us many gifts, like the cleansing of the lepers, but are we thankful? Those other nine received their cleansings but gave no thanks. I am not talking about just words, simply saying you are thankful, but rather being thankful in a meaningful way. This would be the spirit of “Diaconia.”

This Advent season our Liturgy Committee has chosen the theme of Five Practices of Christian Discipleship, daily practices to sustain us from Sunday to Sunday. These are tools to help us live as the Disciples did. Tom and Kimi Tomaszek from Oregon created a ministry they called the “the Five loaves”. They were inspired by a verse from the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, that shows how the disciples lived. Verse 42 says of that First Church, that “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and the prayers.” From that one verse, Tom and Kimi assigned the ancient five Greek principals for daily living, which they described as each one being a loaf of bread, thus the title “Five Loaves Ministry”.

You can go to Our Parish website and when it opens, a “Five Loaves” banner will pop-up at the top. There is info there, and a link to a short video and song that Tom and Kimi have chosen in a message to explain each of the five practices. You also can choose to go directly to their website, “” to see these wonderful explanations.

One of the reason we selected the five loaves for Advent is that it fits our schedule. Today being Thanksgiving Day, just happens to fit one of the five loaves, the practice of Diaconia (di-ac-o-nee-a). Diaconia means the responsibility to make a difference in the world through service, by using one’s unique set of gifts and talents for the good of all creation. These Greek words, like Diaconia and the four others, are what the early church used to describe their daily life during the period of the Acts of the Apostles. They applied to everyone. Today’s language equivalent for Diaconia is usually posed in the form of a question like: “What have you done with your time, talent and treasure, as in a response of thanks to God?”

All five practices, in Greek or as we are calling them “Loaves of bread”, are meant for every person, every day. As a Deacon, I have the same problems as you do in fulfilling my duties between Sundays. My responsibilities for formal liturgy are well defined, pf what I say and what I do here in church–that is easy. Our common problem is what to do from Monday through Saturday?
If we are to reach the spiritual life we desire, then we need to experience all five practices.

Don’t just say you are thankful for God’s gifts, but show it, by the use of them (your gifts).

We all have many demands being made on our lives. It is difficult to untangle those demands; from work to family obligations, to volunteer activities and a diminishing amount of free time. The spiritual life can grow if we give it some attention. But deciding what to do is not always easy.
Unfortunately, things are more complex in our society. The political world has adopted the language of The Church. They often talk about charity as if it is something that governments does, but institutions do not have a human heart and they almost always expect something for their generosity; usually they are buying votes. Jesus never did that, but Caesar does. Give unto God what is His!

Charity, Service, Diaconia– this comes from the human heart, (and note the heart-shaped pillow in our front of altar display– it will be our first of five props to remember the principles of Five Loaves). This first one, Diaconia, is a spiritual endeavor. There is no “quid pro quo”, unlike what we have just seen on the national stage. There is also no sense of power associated with service. A humble heart gives charity (time, talent or treasure) because it pleases God and helps the Common Good. Some people will tell you to give to this cause or that, because it will make a great difference. In reality, we often do not know what difference it will make, but there is no doubt they are appealing to your sense of power. Expect nothing in return, or it is not service.
My advice is to first, examine what your gifts are, and we are talking not just money (or financial gifts). Realize that many sell a cause, even those who use the name Catholic in their title, but in reality, some of their funds are funneled off to support just the opposite. There is modern-day help when it comes to Charities. The Charity Navigator website lists over 1,000 charities with “Catholic” in their name. Check the validity of all charities before you give them anything.

If you believe your Diaconia is for a specific cause, then look close-at-hand to where that cause can be serviced. Don’t always look to the far-off foreign place that needs help. Remember, if you do not put some of your own sweat, time and effort into the cause, you may be fooling yourself about the worthiness of the that cause. Allow me to recommend the Knights of Columbus, an organization built on Charity, Unity, Fraternity and Patriotism. Men, your spiritual life will be enhanced when working in our local neighborhood with local charities and among people of a common faith. Here, sweat, effort and time are a spiritual offering.
To live as the Disciples did, we need all five loaves. I just talked about Diaconal Service. On the Sundays of Advent, we will present the other four practices.
Mom, if I set the table, pour all the water into cups on the table, and help bring over the food to the table beforehand, might you think it would qualify me for a drumstick this year at Thanksgiving?

th8zkw13e2 Diaconia “Give your gifts”
First of the Five Loaves of Acts 2:42 of Healthy Catholic Practices
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread, and the prayers.”

The full understanding of the spiritual life comes when we believe that our unique gift is necessary for the Body of Christ. Diaconia (Greek) is our awareness of serving God by caring for one’s fellow creatures. John Henry Cardinal Newman said it well: “God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission – I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. My flesh and my heart fail, but God is the God of my heart, my portion forever.”

Throughout our lives we discover our particular gifts and talents. Some of us are gifted in music, in art, or in science. Others are talented in organization, in physical ability or sport. Some of us are blessed with a sense of humor, with the ability to listen and give comfort, or in reconciling. When we use our God-given talents and abilities to the fullest we give praise to the Giver of All Gifts. We each have a unique set of talents for only one reason – to give them away where they are needed. Miracles happen when people realize they have gifts in abundance that others need.

When others compliment you, how do you respond? What are the ways you have discovered that your particular talents are helpful to others?

The Holy Orders ministry of deacon was born from the church seeing the need to help the apostles and priests to serve and grow the Church. While the permanent diaconate remains in that special calling, all are called to some service of the Church in their lay roles. The Church is counting on it.

Arrival Movie & Hacksaw Ridge Movie Reviews/Comments


“Arrival” is the cool sci-fi film arrived recently on a big screen near you. The film begins with 12 huge UFO spheres showing up across the planet. They look real intimidating. The UFO riders aboard the space craft want to communicate with us, yet we have a very difficult time understanding their way of communication means. We in the USA at our location decide to send Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner to start peace negotiations. Good choice. (Well, at least, they are convincing actors.) These two hold our interest in the film as they try to speak with these huge, clicking-clacking, pentagonal, play-dough like figures from outer space. (Yes, we get to see them–unlike the quick glimpse of previous alien visitors, like in “Close Encounters.”)

This film is clever, innovative, and believable as a near-future event to our history. Why wouldn’t a more-mature alien race in the galaxy want to help their bumbling neighbors on earth? Especially if they have been observing us awhile?! (But a question still lurks through the story: ARE they come in peace–or to destroy us?!)

The film depicts life on earth as greatly in trouble– much like our two-thousand-teens time now. Earth is floundering in an aggressive, divided world of nations heading for destruction. Can this outside threat from space unite us?

It looks like it will be not so. Will we be even able to understand the aliens, all the while they park their cigar-shaped, football-stadium-sized ships around the world and freak the world out? Yet this expert linguist and scientist (Adams and Renner) give it a try tol make a break-through, through the access to the aliens, granted by Colonel Weber, played by Forest Whitaker. He is willing to give these non-military folks a shot at finding peace with the space visitors, rather than resort first to the usual try-to-blow-them-all-up manner of greeting to earth’s intruders.

The story (book/film) is less than attentive to the global panic going on, but turns to pass on some lessons that humanity ought to be learning here, like, maybe, (aliens or no aliens coming), we have to learn to be less “alien” to one another. We need to ask questions first, and save fighting and aggression from ever being our first response. You’ll see how the story takes the turn.

I liked the film a lot. I didn’t mind that lessons were coming at me about our understanding of being human. I liked that angle. (I will try to hold back and not reveal more of the movie.)

With those lessons, I proceed here in a Catholic take on the story. With any conflict before us, using the gifts of prudence, understanding, and patience ( to name a few holy gifts) is always quite important, as we humans have been offered help im the Holy Spirit. We need to discover that we always DO have outside help from God (and we humans always do NEED that help). We can benefit from an outside source greater than ourselves. We DO need to look up, but not for Jupitarians or Martians, but to God Who is over us. God wants to tell us how we may be saved and how to live in His Grace, so to be one in peace, love and truth with others on earth, until the call to Heaven.

With this great Divine Assistance, who then really id striving to communicate with God?
imag0790_1 arrival-q
God is ready to make His arrival, whenever we call on Him. “Seek…ask…knock” are His open invites to us.

Back to more about the film “Arrival”…
This is not a “World World Z” or “War of the Worlds” or “Independence Day” sci-fi film. It is more cerebral. The aliens may not be arriving to obliterate cities or to devour humans or animals for lunch. Could you handle it if they just parked and waited for a way for each species to exchange a message? (It’s a little like Close Encounters that way.) Yet, meanwhile, as in other aliens are here movie, will the aliens notice the various military actions mounting to try to send them back into space?! Will the aliens need to retaliate with much greater force if so provoked? Uh oh.

The “Arrival” film is adapted from a book, and director Denis Villenueve and writer-adapter Eric Heirsserer stay with the book’s curious emphasis on a side story about Dr. Louise Bank’s life (the part played by Adams). For action film officianados, they have to be patient to discover (in part 3 of the story), that this side-bar reveals that something else important is going on here. Bank’s ‘visions’ and experiences and her life-long search of understanding language (as a interconnect among peoples) ties in to the climax of the movie. There is an emotional lesson that will take us out to the closing credits.

While this film is not as action-packed as Will Smith firing in wild succession to knock down the alien fleet (as in Independence Day!), this film finishes in a fashion of passing along a moral, advance-humanity lesson from the aliens and from the experiences gained by humanity trying her best to learn from adversity and weakness and brokenness.

While you get your impressive cinematography and expansive visuals and mysterious figures from the film, it really asks for you to leave and to wonder afterward what can truly unite humanity and move us forward from the chaos we are in these times.

I expect an Oscar nomination for Adams, much like Pitt got one for The Martian a couple of years ago. Sci-fi is back in the movies, but with a challenge or two to your thinking.

Oh, just a mention, don’t mistake Arrival for “The Arrival” or “Arrival II” which were atrocious Charlie Sheen movies!imag0789_1

It was worth my fitting in the time for a third film to see this late Autumn. “Hacksaw Ridge’ was that film, a really fine one, by director Mel Gibson. It’s a war picture with the most disturbing scenes ever shown in such a film, matching the intensity of “Saving Private Ryan” (SPR). While I liked SPR better overall, this one is very good, too, as it takes the cruel realities of war violence, its suffering and death, and paints a great contrast in its true story of Dennis Doss, the conscientious objector serving on the US Army’s front lines as a weapon-less medic, in the fierce WWII Pacific Okinawa battles to the Japanese. (Doss calls himself “a conscientious cooperator,” since he volunteered for the Army to win the Pacific campaign—just not to kill anyone, but to try to save wounded lives.)

Opposite to how SPR was told, which put the gripping, realistic battle sequences at the film’s opening, “Hacksaw Ridge” mostly holds back to the movie’s second half for the combat action scenes, and first tells the background family-and-faith story and love interest of this Seventh Day Adventist person. Army Medic Doss will try to live true to his calling and identity through the grueling, horrific test of war. When the combat scenes start, a big, powerful musical score (composed/produced by Rupert Gregson-Williams) and loud, manic sound effects of war will lay the foundation of an effective, intense finish. The war scenes are spectacular but are so graphic (living up to Gibson’s way of doing things—i.e. Apocalypto, Passion of the Christ, Braveheart)—that I’d advise the queasy or sensitive to skip this film.

So, will Medic Doss rise up to the situation, or will he turn to a killing fighter, or will he balk and withdraw from too challenging a call? Since the story is real, we do know that Doss was there at the Spring of 1945 land assault on this strategic Japanese coastland battle. Dennis Doss is played well by Andrew Warfield, the Army troop’s commander, Sergeant Howell, is played seriously by Vince Vaughn, Captain Glover by Sam Worthington, and Doss’ love interest named Dorothy is played by Teresa Palmer.

I took away from Hacksaw Ridge that war is much more atrocious in person than any outsider would ever know. War is hell.
I took away from the film’s story that the closed-minds of a majority can be very inhuman to a godly person and their convictions, as did Doss in this true account. Doss suffers much from his own American side (for keeping his Adventist/Christian convictions) way before the enemy fighting force of the Japanese seeks to destroy him just for being American and with its landing forces.

People of religious convictions today know that treatment both in severity (extremist Moslem- terrorists vs. Christians) and regularity (daily pressure for a pro-life Christian to succumb and comply to the secular humanist’s abhorrent ‘choice’ policies to abort and kill babies or other ‘unwanteds’ in society). Like the story of Dennis Doss, we must rise up to live our love and truth in Jesus Christ, and show the Incarnational Reality of God to the world, Who is With Us to live in the hearts of people, wanting to live out His Good Will. It will take some courage and holding to our convictions.

Hacksaw Ridge won’t win film of the year, nor will the actors win Oscars, but it should get film nomination, soundtrack nominations, and a few other nods. It’s an amazing, graphic film of war’s ugly face, as well as some of life’s ugliness. As fighting goes on today, as it does in Syria, perhaps we can understand a little better of how horrible it all is.

“Inferno” Film Review/Comments

Author Dan Brown has written a few novels depicting the Church in the backdrop of some wild tales. Usually in them, he does a rather pitiful number on us Catholics in his stories (DaVinci Code, Angels and Demons). In this one, Inferno, he broke from being so disrespectful to us, though this third film in the Dr. Langdon franchise is more violent, with gunfire depicted all about in it, and done in some solemn places, with people dying there (breaking with that famous 5th commandment), BUT there were no corrupt Cardinals running around helping the bio-terrorist in this film! So, thus, the tale was more bearable!

In the story on film here, via director Ron “Opie” Howard, the world is in peril by some rich crazed man who has invented a plague of which he will soon unleash on the world. The villian part of Bertrand Zobrist is played by Ben Foster (best known role as a hit man in “The Mechanic”) and the hero part as Dr. Robert Langdon is Tom Hanks, working with a female partner Dr. Sienna Brooks, played by Felicity Jones (who will shine in the next Star Wars film).

Since Tom Hanks plays the part of the save-the-world guy, we know the film’s outcome already. Even in the Toy Story movies as Woody, Tom’s characters all save the day and survive. He is the good guy you can bank on in a film. (As even in the movie “Mr. Banks,” right? Like as he plays Walt Disney— or in “Miracle on the Hudson,” as he plays the hero pilot?)

In “Inferno,” the lunatic is a rich man with access to plague creating, via a virus. Zobrist (the lunatic) thinks the world is getting far too overcrowded, so he has planned some massive thinning-out of the world, working with some ideas from Dante Alighieri’s Inferno and with clues he leaves to follow on Inferno themed paintings and art artifacts in Europe. Dr. Langdon and Dr. Brooks will try to foil Zobrist by stringing clue pieces they smartly follow, while racing against the clock before Doomsday. They also have all the authorities chasing after them, and an underworld figure trying to instead help them (played well by Actor Irrfan Khan). Brown’s 3rd installment film leaves out the heirarchy and priests, yet there are abundant scenes on the big screen that look Catholic with churches, cathedrals, holy paintings, and loads of ties in tbe story to Dante, the famous Catholic author. Thusly, references to heaven and hell and purgatory run throughout the movie, with lots of imagery, which pair interestingly right now for the end of our Church Year readings and Advent liturgies in Holy Mother Church, although all quite so accidentally timed. 🙂 For example, last Sunday’s Gospel fits in, too, with Dante’s Paradiso, as Luke gives us the Calvary Jesus Who tells a repentant, dying Dismas: “This day thou shall be with Me in paradise.”

In “Inferno,” the film audience wonders: Will the world be saved in time? After two hours of popcorn, soda and milk duds, you get your answer. Afterwards, if the movie has worried you about how fragile our world really is, then your Marantha prayers in Advent (Come, Lord) might be boosted, from that movie-going escape you took!

My over-all movie assessment? The beautiful scenes of Florence and all the neat references to the works of Dante are not enough to make this movie a big winner. It is just a two-hour film of some interest to pass away some time. The Inferno film is a “C+” or a three-out-of-five stars*** one at best. Tom Hanks as the main character makes it all watchable.
Also, I suppose tourism will be up in Florence after Inferno, if the world does keep going on. Good for them, it’s a pretty city.
And the reading of Dante will take an upturn, I guess.

Comments: What the film did for me is to get me reading Dante again. I last read of his works (partly) in seminary three decades ago. I picked up “The Divine Comedy,” both in a classic translation and a modern one. I think the material will fit in rather well and timely for this November end of the Church Year and into Advent. It’s a bit dramatic, sure! But why not? Hell, Purgatory and Paradise (and Christ’ Return to bring people there) is in season.

As for the filmmaker and the book-turned-story, I think it strangely seemed to sell the idea that the world’s population numbers ARE a problem and that solutions are needed to curb against more human life, with PEOPLE’S EXISTENCE as being the problem. You were encouraged to buy the villain’s main theory–that human reproduction needs to be controlled by the wise know-it-alls. Then, you are led to root against the worst case solution of the villain managing to do it by his manufactured new Black Death plague. We have Tom Hanks character Langdon to save us.
But who is to save us from the secular culture’s ideas today that abortion and lots of contraception (even as a birth control method) and controlling populations is a good idea. We have no Professor Langdon to help us on that one.

Perhaps people should listen to the wisdom coming forth from The Catholic Church on these matters. Huh?!

Of the population issue and ecology-attached arguments raised in the film, those who adhere to the liberal, permissive, God-dispelling notions may have seen this “Inferno” film and its Zobrist character as a hero, who would go to great lengths to demand upon others’ rights, especially their human right to life, to be cast aside in favor of another agenda of their own. I felt like perhaps that the story might be a manipulative one in that regard. Assaulting the world all at once might be quite bad, but how about other measures? We live in a time when many measures as such have been take that deny the dignity of each human person.
As for an overpopulation ‘problem’, I can also note that too many people’s views today are indeed to drop the planet’s number, as if other people are a “threat.” There is a basic and serious sin in this contra people position versus having more life coming from God and childbirth. This kind of world mindset and development has now forced even most families into an economical necessity to limit their offspring to one or two or no-children ( d.i.n.k. couples). It is a forced choice on most people in the world these days, and the devil of Dante’s Hell delights in it, for he hates all life from God, and the possibility of more praise to God from creatures in Paradise.
The Dante spin that Brown misused in his story (and was repeated in the film) was that in painting massive suffering in the world, as if it comes ahead by population escalations, as only by the problem of sheer numbers on earth. It’s as if we kept numbers down, that suffering would be alleviated. Yet with Dante, the real issue to grapple with is human sin itself. That was Dante’s message–and people will be held responsible for their actions, necessitating a Purgatory. And if we take lives as a means to an end, then we show ourselves as asking to be in poor light before God. Who wants that?! Not me! Not Dante.

In closing, from what I remember of previous study, Dante was writing of how there is a spiritual realm all around us, which will have eternal regard to each human day we have spent here and how we spent it. He foresaw the end of many people’s lives as an affront to God, and His kingdom offered among us, and that there will be a final judgment for it ahead. (Thus the dramatic writing and all the artwork of that drama.) In direct opposition, the secular humanist world and its agenda laughs at the beliefs of those who say there is a God and absolutes and consequences of how we live under the Almighty. We shall all see, won’t we?

Here is an Inferno quotable:

Christ the King Feast Homily

The Feast of Christ the King

After this national election in the USA, we have elected a new presidential leader for four years. It has been our system or process since the nation’s start. There is a leader above all leaders, though, who didn’t need election nor re-election for His place. He has been Lord of Lords, King of Kings, and Master forever. This God on High became revealed to us the God/man life among us in Jesus Christ.

He may not need votes or consensus or popularity, but He does ask for people to seek and know Him, and hearts and souls to openly choose Him. Those who have accepted and adored Him on earth have heralded Him as Christ the King. Catholics herald Jesus as our Savior and Lord. This feast is meant for us, first, to look back and see if He has been first choice or first place in the year of our attention and worship.

This Feast of Christ the King, coming on the last Sunday of the Church calendar, was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 as an antidote to secularism, which he saw as a problem of his time, diverting the faithful away from their focus on God. We keep the feast today, and secular humanism is a worse temptation now than it was nine decades ago. One might guess that there are more practitioners of secularism now in America, than true Christians.

What Pope Pius XI also wanted to do was have a church year go from the arrival of the Lord Immanuel to His enthronement, Jesus Christ, King of Kings, Lord of Lords. So, we have gone full circle to this feast. Next weekend begins Advent.thqa4onc71

As we declare allegiance to the Jesus, the King of Kings, we hear God’s call to turn away from the false gods of this world, and to totally get under Jesus and to live in His Kingdom life. The feast of Christ the King calls us to evaluate and, when necessary, re-adjust our mindset, our priorities, and goals. We are called to see the seductions of the world for what they are, to turn to Christ more faithfully and live our lives as children of THE King, even while we follow a president and other civic, governmental leaders. The way of following Jesus is also by His Church established, as He wants to inhabit us, and serve us and lead us by apostles of His anointing.

Understanding the traditional relationship between a king and his people is helpful so that we can apply those same concepts to our relationship with Christ our King. In the periodical “The Levitical Principal” by Dennis Holt, he helpfully describes the protocol between a king and his people by outlining three principal components.

A./ The greatness of a king is determined by two things: The extent of his domain and the ability of the king to give away part of his domain and still remain great.
B/ Those who are granted an audience with the king would never approach the throne without bringing a gift for the king, to demonstrate his/her respect for the king. The visitor always presents the greatest gift he/she can bring, because the gift they give indicates the greatness of his/her life.
C/ The king, in turn, presents the visitor with a gift. But this gift must overpower and overshadow the gift presented by the visitor. (For example of this in the Bible, see 2 Chronicles 9:1-12 as a biblical example when the Queen of Sheba met with King Solomon.)

Correlating the above example with the feast of Christ the King, the Lord of the universe invites each one of us daily to come into that face-to-face audience/ relationship with Him. In Malachi 1:14 God declares Himself a great King. When we enter into His presence, we come bearing the gift that demonstrates our understanding of the great honor it is to be invited to fellowship with Him.

But what gift do we bring to this great King, the Lord? We are told that we should bring the gift that is our greatest possession; that represents the greatness of our life. Of course the gift we bring is the gift that we received from our Creator. We lay down the gift of our free will, accepting the Lordship of Christ our King over our life. We acknowledge with a humble and contrite heart that, of ourselves, we cannot do anything to merit heaven. We depend totally on the grace and mercy of our Triune God. When we offer our gift and enter into that relationship with the King, it is then that we have the capacity to receive the King’s gift to us.

His gift to us is so much more than what we have given, and it fills that God-shaped hole in us and fulfills all the longing of our hearts. And what supreme gift does the King give to those that come and stand before His throne? He gives us Himself, fully and completely, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We receive all the merits of Christ our Savior and Redeemer; we receive the love of the Father who desires that we be one with Him now and forever; and we receive His own Holy Spirit so that we can know our true identity as sons and daughters of the King, and be confident that “if the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that swells in you.” Rom 8:11

The universal call to come and kneel before the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, and to receive from the King’s treasury, is extended to all people everywhere: the rich and poor, the powerful and powerless. All are invited to abide in Christ the King and His Kingdom of light! This feast of Christ the King calls us to become consciously aware of all the distractions of our secular society and to set our eyes on Christ the King and the day He will come again in glory. Praised be Jesus Christ!

Finally, I’d like to call your attention to the beginning-again Advent theme of our parish and the “5 Loaves Practices” of Acts 2.42 living. God has a plan for His Church, and we can be good citizens of His reign by living in 5 inspired ways in the Holy Spirit. We will cover each of the five ways in the Sundays of Advent and on Thanksgiving at Mass—in knowing how to properly serve under the King of All. Hear our homilies, see our bulletin inserts, and follow all our info on the parish web site in this season up to Dec. 25th. The theme again is “The Five Loaves Practices” of Acts 2:42 living.

Rest in Peace, Alma

Alma Welch died recently, with a funeral in an Annapolis Catholic parish. She was a long time member of my home parish of St. Pius X in Bowie. She also lived in the neighborhood I grew up in, including the time from when I was in 4th grade though my high school graduation. What is important about her life to mine was that she raised her son Richard to be a leading Catholic youth in Bowie and in the parish. He was a few years older than me and provided a good example of living well for The Lord. Richard was a leader in my #730 Scouts, my trainer in altar serving, and a person I saw involved in Catholic faith as a teen and young adult. Later, with Alma’s support, he entered seminary, and upon completion of formation, he became ordained a Redemptorist priest. Fr. Richard Welch, CSSR was the first modern person to be ordained a priest from Bowie and from St. Pius X parish (or any of the area parishes).

This fact and event did make an impact on my own ordination to come in 1988 with the Archdiocese of Washington. It helped that someone else from the parish and neighborhood broke the ice (the absense of vocations from Bowie) and when I and others were discerning the call to priesthood, we knew we were following the same call already answered by Fr. Welch.

Alma was proud of her son Richard, and he was proud of her. He was the celebrant-presider of her Mass of Christian Burial at St. John Neumann church (a Redemptorist parish in Annapolis).

Following Fr. Richard in priestly ordination from the neighborhood (of a one mile stretch from Belair Dr./Kembridge Dr. to Kembridge Dr./Kenhill Dr), was myself, then Fr. Breslin OFM, then Fr. B. Knestout, then Fr. Fr. M. Knestout and Fr. Woods and Fr. Wells. Two other Bowie men with St. Pius X roots also were ordained from other parts of the parish (Allman, Coyne). We all owe some thanks to Alma and her son Fr. Richard. Rest in peace, Alma.imag0744_1. me, pictured with a Scout leader

The Spiritual Works of Mercy, Part 2 (A Rerun Blog)

The 3rd and 4th Spiritual Works of Mercy: Counsel the Doubtful and Comfort the Afflicted (or Sorrowful)

What a tremendous gift it is from The Divine Mercy when you find someone who really listens to you, who really lets you pour out your heart and share your troubles and miseries, and who then really takes your whole situation in prayer to the Lord before presuming to dole out advice to you. Plenty of people are quick to give out half-baked, ill-considered advice! But how many people do you know who really listen to you and to the Holy Spirit before they speak?

You can become that person for others if you learn to really listen to the Holy Spirit in your own life first with the help of a spiritual director. Read the New Testament every day and listen to the Lord speaking to you there. Find a good spiritual director and listen to the Lord speaking to you through his or her wise counsel. Then, having learned to listen, you will be ready and able to listen deeply to others.

We can find a good example of this in the life of St. Faustina. In her religious community, she was apparently such a good listener she earned the nickname “the dump” from her fellow sisters because they were always dumping their problems on her (see her Diary, 871). It’s not hard to discover from her Diary where she learned this art of listening. She learned it from listening to the Holy Spirit in prayer and from the same Spirit speaking to her through the guidance of her spiritual directors, such as Fr. Joseph Andrasz, S.J., and Blessed Michael Sopocko.

The 5th and 6th Spiritual Works of Mercy:
Be Patient With Those in Error or Bear Wrongs Patiently, plus also, Forgive Injuries or Offenses

This is a tough pairing. In God’s merciful love, we certainly ought to share the Catholic Faith with those who are far from Him because they need His mercy so badly. (Don’t we all!) It is an act of merciful love to share the faith with those who are in error and so need the Gospel of Jesus. We need to tell the world of Jesus’ Living Hope and Meaning, and we at least need to pray for them to know Jesus.

On the other hand, we must be patient with God to work in other people’s lives. We must never harass, pressure, or manipulate anyone with the Good News. There is a famous bumper sticker that reads, “Please be patient: God is not finished with me yet!” That sums up pretty well what our attitude should be. Our job is but to sow the seeds of faith in the hearts and minds of those who are in grievous error. But change has to come in God’s own time. Even if we never see for ourselves the fruit of our efforts, God will surely do His part to water with the grace of conversion the seeds we have planted, when and if people are ready to receive that gift. Until then, we are just to be patient with those in error, to share the truth with them as best we can (acknowledging all the while our own limited grasp of God’s revealed truth and limited capacity to adequately express that truth to others), and to pray for them, trusting in God’s mercy and patience with us all.

Yet that is not all. Bearing Wrongs Patiently is to take Christ’ attitude to see the world as broken and fallen, and to almost expect things to be really messed up! People are bound to do you wrong, even if indirectly, and the world and its problems and dilemmas will be raining upon you regularly. While some people can isolate or shelter themselves from some of the hassle of the world, most of us come face to face with it daily. While in traffic on Rt. 301, with all the many traffic lights, I wonder where all the brilliant planners and organizers were when these development projects were approved by government, and slid past the departments of transportation. Gridlock is the consequence of some traffic wrong-doing there. Controlled growth strategies and studies could have, at least, led to some overpasses made or better traffic thru’ lanes, or somebody saying no to another traffic light put in.

In bearing wrongs, often there is no one lined up to apologize or explain things to you. You just deal with it.

In forgiving injuries, sometimes, at least, there is a person(s) asking for pardon for their hurts or injuries or offenses upon you. Then, you have the opportunity to give them a loving response of mercy.

To Forgive Injuries or Offenses, one is asked to leave the matter up to God in the end, and not to deal in this-for-that or any pay-back. In the 2015-16 Oscar winning film “The Revenant” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, the majority of the movies’ story is about a man getting his vengeance for being left for dead out in the wilderness. The film made references to the Divine Being at times, but it was humanity’s need for dealing back a serious and deadly hurt that drove the 2 hour plus drama. The survival story of the film was interesting, but not the motive for the person’s survival–that was disgusting and a turn-off (at least to the Christian view of things). “‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom 12:19). If there is any vengeance that needs to be “dished out,” in this life or the next, the only One qualified to do it is the Lord, for He alone knows the secrets of all hearts. Thus, we must always let go of any desire in our hearts for vengeance, and in that sense at least, to forgive our enemies. That means stopping ourselves from exacting “petty vengeance” as well, which includes the use of detraction or slander or gossip to get back at people for the evil they may have done to us.
In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says about the Hebrews sense of payback: ‘You have heard an eye-for-an-eye, a tooth-for-a-tooth–or hate your enemy, but I say differently now, turn the other cheek. Will love only those who love you? Return not evil for evil–your must be perfected, even as your Heavenly Father is perfect.’ In the Lord’s Prayer later in the Sermon, He adds: ‘Pray: Forgive us, Lord, as we forgive those who trespass against us.’
So, if opportunity affords it, let mercy arrive between you and hurt parties. It’s better than payback and the back-and-forth return of hate.

In short, in bearing and/or forgiving in Jesus’ Name, we are not to curse the darkness, but to pray for those in darkness. (See Mt 5:44.) Whatever temporal harm they may have done to us, those who are evil are in danger of the greatest harm of all: everlasting loss and condemnation. We want to help them, in love, for to head in a direction of God, and not further in self and shame.
We don’t want to fall into the trap of falling so low to act so petty and shameful and shallow-in-faith. There is much more happening in the spiritual world for us to be caught up in payback. What they have ever caused us to suffer pales in comparison to what they will suffer eternally if they do not repent. We want to lead them to Jesus. Plus, we know that we are in need, sometimes, for the same understanding of our faults, especially the ones we are blind to.

However, a word here of caution: Forgiveness does NOT mean blindly letting oneself be victimized. You have a duty to protect yourself and your loved ones from harm, for you are all children of God whom He made in His own image and for whom He gave His life on the Cross. That’s how valuable and precious you are in the eyes of our merciful Savior!

Forgiving our enemies, therefore, is entirely compatible with reasonable acts of self-protection. For example, forgiveness is entirely compatible with having criminals arrested and placed behind bars where they cannot do further harm to the innocent. Forgiveness is even compatible with the use of lethal force by the police or the military, as a last resort, in fending off violent criminals or aggressive foreign powers. (See Catechism, 2263-2267.)

Clearly, the duty to forgive your enemies is compatible with protecting yourself and your loved ones from harm and demanding high standards of conduct from those close to you, including your own close family members. To prevent and block the spread of evil in these ways is actually a work of mercy, not only toward yourself and your loved ones, but even toward the perpetrators of evil. The perpetrators, after all, often have little chance of ever coming to repentance without the help of the “reality therapy” meted out by those charged with the social responsibility of defending the innocent. In other words, to love and forgive your enemies is not necessarily to let them trample all over you. When there is no effective way to defend oneself or others from harm, then that may be the time and the place meekly to carry the cross of persecution. But that time and place is certainly not every time and every place!

The Seventh Work of Mercy: Pray for the Living and the Dead
Every day we are to bring our needs, the needs of our loved ones, and the needs of the whole world into the merciful Heart of Jesus. Saint Faustina herself often did this, bringing them into Christ’s “most compassionate Heart” (see Diary, 1209-1229).

This last work is most apropos to November’s start with its All Saints and All Souls days.

We pray for the living to become like Jesus, as to become holy. We pray for others, and for ourselves, to become saintly (or to become saints). It puts the happy in Happy All Saint’s Day. That’s what the holy day is about. We are a Church all striving together for the upward call in Christ, to become saints.

All Souls prayers in November remindcus to pray for the deceased and the repose of their souls, for it is good to do so (see the funeral Scriptures from Maccabees and Wisdom). We do this particularly in this month as a time of remembrance of the dead. We respect the dead (as much did Jesus for his martyr cousin John, his foster father Joseph, the holy innocents of Bethlehem, and many others). We bury the dead in a dignified and prayerful manner, too. Saturday has a parish funeral for someone, for that very reason and action for Eva Poiani.

Our works of mercy, both corporal and spiritual, will always appear inadequate compared to the needs of the world around us. But our Lord does not ask us to meet every need. We are only asked to do what we can and leave the rest to Him as He works out His loving plan for each human soul. Remember the “five loaves and two fish principle.” Saint Andrew said to Jesus, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many?” (Jn 6:9). That meager supply, when offered in faith to Jesus, was found to be enough to feed multitudes. So will our seemingly meager efforts to practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, guided by His Spirit and offered up to Jesus. He can work miracles with such little offerings. Some of those miracles we will never even see with our own eyes until we meet Him face-to-face in heaven. It is then when He will give us the grace to see what He sees; it is then when He will turn His loving gaze upon us and we will hear those blessed words from His own lips: “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Mt 25:23)

7 Spiritual Works of Mercy/Rerun Blog. Part 1

This is a re-run message, just adjusted for November 2016. This was written earlier in the Year of Mercy, and used in an EWTN radio series. We are only a dozen days left in the Jubilee, so I go to this “best of” blog. It’s a Long and Deep Teaching.


Do you remember what are the 7 Spiritual Works of Mercy?

Many remember more easily the 7 Corporal Works of Mercy, as in feeding the poor, slaking people’s thirst, visiting the sick or imprisoned/held bound, and etcetera.

What of the Works for the spiritual life? How is the spirit and soul engaged in Mercy? We ask because the inner person longs for nourishment in truth, goodness, and beauty, too. If we are to be healthy and strong, through and through, then some special spiritual activity (or works) should be going on. We can call it soulful sanctification!

The 7 Spiritual Works of Mercy are works of healing and even preventative medicine for poverty of the spiritual well being of people. They are as follows: (That one is to…

(1) Admonish sinners.
(2) Instruct the uninformed.
(3) Counsel the doubtful.
(4) Comfort the afflicted (or sorrowful).
(5) Be patient with those in error or Bear Wrongs Patiently.
(6) Forgive injuries or offenses.
(7) (And) Pray for the living and the dead.


Did you know the list by heart?
Do you know what each of them mean? Let’s review it. In this first blog we will cover the first two of the seven on the list.

First: Admonish Sinners
This work of mercy — “tough love,” you could call it — is one of the hardest to practice in the western world today. Why? Because we live in the “I’m-OK-you’re-OK” culture. As such, I have my own personal set of values, and you have your own personal set of values, and we are each free to practice those values to our heart’s content just as long as we do not do grievous bodily harm to others in the process (although that limitation is waived when the “others” in question are unborn children, the chronically ill, and elderly).

If you really want to be unpopular —— try admonishing someone today for, say, swearing in public or wearing provocative clothing or talking too loudly on the phone in public for everyone to hear. They won’t stand to be corrected! They say, “How dare you?” Or, how about if we would admonish society for its streaming of widespread pornography, or protest their engaging in killing babies in a non-violent witness outside an abortion clinic? It’s criticized as a violation versus their free choice. Governments and police will come against you, not the committer of the low act! Go figure!

People who are willing to practice an admonishing role for the Gospel are servants of Mercy in many cases. We are merciful to heed a warning to our youth and young adults that the living-together lifestyle is immoral, and we are merciful to speak up that it isn’t even good for the odds for a long term love to come by that co-shacking–that the facts speaks so. We admonish by using God’s revealed law, not of only our own personal opinion, as Jesus’ teachings ask for chastity before marriage. So, when and how often have you heard about this as the Church’s teaching? Not much, huh?

What does that say? It says that admonishing others is hard. Nine times out of 10, the end result of these attempts to “admonish sinners,” no matter how gently and compassionately they are performed, is that one is branded an intolerant bigot or judgmental brat, of someone of terrible judgment or of an extreme mind. You may be named, in the least, as a socially or politically person because of your moral/spiritual/ethical stand. The worldly person may be ‘offended’ that you don’t subscribe to ‘I’m-OK-you’re-OK’ culture and the Whatever goes culture. Yet we are asked to be counter-culture in our telling the world, that “you’re not OK and neither am I OK: because we are all sinners and we do need help to get back to God, and we need one another for truth to happen.”

The problem is that we live in a society dominated by people who have not made any real psychological or moral progress nor furthered themselves in real spiritual maturity. Thus, they stumble through life with an adolescent understanding of things. So, when a mature and wise, loving Christian “speaks the truth in love,” as St. Paul put it in Eph 4:15, that courage and compassion is frowned upon.

It is certainly not easy be someone who admonishes or corrects– you need to have your own act together, frequently, to gain the respect or ‘credentials’ to do it. It takes the virtue of prudence as well: finding just the right moment and just the right words, and saying them in a way that clearly affirms the human dignity of the person you are admonishing, even as they challenge him or her to fulfill his or her highest potential. Just remember, too: Jesus was perfect and people had lots of problems with Him speaking the truth.

Saint Faustina set an excellent example for us in this regard. In her convent in Poland she sometimes discerned the call of the Holy Spirit to practice such “tough love.” She actually became known in her religious community for her boldness in admonishing even older and more educated sisters in religion for their sins of malicious gossip, and some of them, in the end, grudgingly respected her for it.

Second: Instruct the Uninformed
It used to be called Instruct the Ignorant, but that word “ignorant” isn’t the phrase to use these days…
This Work of Mercy means, first of all, in accepting our God-given responsibility to be the primary source of religious education and formation for our children or families or church family. Some Catholics may be surprised to learn that it is not the local Catholic school or CCD program upon whose responsibility primarily rests for faith instruction in their home. Rather, it is with them, the parents. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children” (2223), and parents are told that through the grace of matrimony, they “receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children” (2225). This includes, from an early age, reading to our children and grandchildren Bible stories and stories of the lives of the saints, as well as great Christian works such as The Chronicles of Narnia. It means providing them with a steady diet of good Christian CDs and videos and weeding out all the dubious ones from our collection that can only cause the loss of their innocence and the confusion of their developing moral characters. It means tight restrictions on the cultural rot flowing into our homes through the TV and the Internet and the phones. It means more things like praying together as a family, too –a family Rosary or Chaplet of The Divine Mercy or Bible reading is almost unheard of in Catholic homes anymore these days. Why, O Christians, why?
We do not have to turn our homes into monasteries and convents, but we do have to heed the exhortation of St. Paul: “Do not be conformed to this world, be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom 12:2).

Beyond our homes, of course, the need for instruction in the true faith is equally urgent. Often there is not much interest going on for parish adult ed. instruction or Bible study or Holy Hours in parishes, to the discouragement of the clergy. A proverb says: For lack of knowledge, the people perish.

Yet we have so many resources available these days. How much do we use them? We will be accountable. As St. Peter taught us, “Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence” (1 Pet 3:15).