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Friday, November 28, 2008

Twilight's Confession

--> by Susan Fox
"And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come into 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 3:19-21)
Welcome to the Light: the Sacrament of Reconciliation is an intimate encounter with Jesus Christ in His Tribunal of Mercy. The movie Twilight contains a  scene that demonstrates the power of this sacrament.  Sometimes a good movie can help us understand something about human nature.
wilight is about the love between a human girl and a vampire. It has all the magic and power of Shakespeare’s tale of Romeo and Juliet, a star-crossed pair of lovers whose relationship was doomed because their historically feuding families would never agree to their marriage. In Twilight, Edward and Bella fall in love, but their relationship is doomed from the beginning because in order to be consummated it means her death. Edward is an honorable vampire in this piece of literature based on the book by Stephenie Meyer. He therefore refuses to end her life in order to bring her into his life, which can be very brutal at times. 
There is a confessional scene in the movie in which Bella, learning that Edward is a vampire, confronts him. He reveals that he is a tortured soul, loving a girl, but afraid that he’ll accidentally kill her: “You can’t love me because I’ve killed people. I’m a predator. I’m the bad guy. If you wanted to get away from me you couldn't.” And when she turns to him and says, “I trust you. You won’t hurt me.” He then concludes she must see what he really looks like. Now the whole movie is charmingly filmed in Forks, Wash., which is located in a rain forest and it’s always cloudy and raining.
One of the things that Bella finds out about Edward and his “family” of other teenage vampires (foster vampire children with adoptive vampire parents) is that they do not come to high school classes when the sun shines. So Edward must fly Bella up to the top of a mountain above the cloud cover so she can see what he looks like in the sunshine. It’s a glorious scene in which he walks up out of the clouds, the gray, the dark and the rain into a tiny slash of sunlight. It’s filmed in the woods. She sees his face and the skin on his chest. Now this is a fantasy and Edward is not your traditional ugly dead thing. Instead as he walks into the sun, Bella marvels, “Your skin is like diamonds. You are beautiful.” Now on a very human level, hopefully that is what every bride says to her bridegroom on their wedding night.             But in a spiritual sense that is what happens to every soul that walks into the Catholic Church and goes to Confession. If we could see our souls after confession, we’d exclaim, “You are beautiful!” (Confession is for people who are already baptized, and have sinned. If you are not baptized, the same thing would happen when you are baptized.) St. Faustina calls the Sacrament of Reconciliation the Tribunal of God’s Mercy.
Those who avail themselves of this sacrament have not loved the darkness, but they have come to the Light. They have come to Christ to show Him just exactly what they are – warts and all – so they might be healed. And in the Light of that encounter with Jesus Christ, we are indeed healed. I speak from years of experience. Just as the woman at the well came to draw water and instead received living water (the Holy Spirit) when she met Jesus Christ. “Sir, give me this water that I might not thirst, nor come here to draw (water).” (Jn 4:15) Ah, but first she must be cleansed. So to facilitate this, Jesus, says, “Go call your husband, and come here.” (Jn 4:16). He knew what she would say next: “I have no husband.” Jesus says to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband. This you said truly.” Her sins were confessed, and she repented. And she believed: “Sir I perceive that you are a prophet.” Christ revealed to her that He was the Messiah. The encounter with Christ completely turned her life around. She became an evangelist who told everyone in the village about Jesus: “Come see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” (Jn 4:29) And that led everyone in her village to come out to Christ. And in the tradition of the Catholic Church we celebrate her life as that of St. Photina, who converted her own family, Emperor Nero’s daughter, Domnina, and in doing so enraged the emperor. He killed Photina, her sons and her sisters – all for the Christian faith. Such was the marvelous fruit of the Samaritan’s woman single encounter with Jesus Christ at the well.
Now what about poor Edward? Does his stepping into the sunlight and confessing his sins to Bella, his love, heal him in the same manner? Absolutely not. After she says, “You are beautiful,” he walks back into the darkness and announces, “I am a monster.” What a dramatic scene. The man had such beauty, and yet his soul concludes, “I am a monster.” So do we all without the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Ah, but St. James said, “Go confess your sins to one another.” Why couldn’t Edward be healed by confessing his sins to his friend? Why could not anyone be healed by confessing their sins to their friends? We must read Holy Scripture in context: “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (James 5:14-17) St. James is recommending getting your sins forgiven by the presbuterous – elders, root of the English word priest. Saint Ambrose said, “Christ granted this power to the apostles, and from the apostles it has been transmitted to the office of priests alone.” St. John Chrysostom said, “Priests have received a power which God has not given either to angels or archangels . . . they are able to forgive our sins.”
Why can’t I just talk to God in a mirror or my friend and confess my sins? Why did Edward walk back into the darkness and say, “I am a monster”?


This past week, I was privileged to read and discuss “Lord, Have Mercy: The Healing Power of Confession,” by Scott Hahn, former Presbyterian minister turned Catholic theologian. Hahn points out in this book that when Jesus said to the paralytic in Mark’s Gospel, chapter 2, “Son, your sins are forgiven you,” the scribes sitting around watching this thing unfold disbelieved He could do this. In their hearts, they said, “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” They knew that only God can forgive sins. The only thing they hadn’t figured out was that Jesus Christ was God. Jesus wasn’t ignorant of the teachings of his people. He knew what they would think if he said, “Your sins are forgiven.” So he healed the man to show that He could forgive sins. By forgiving his sins, He revealed that he was God.

I wish someone would do a romantic movie like Twilight about Christ. He is really phenomenal, and none of it has to be made up. It’s real. So if only God can forgive sins, why are sins forgiven in the Catholic Sacrament of Reconciliation and Penance? In our Catholic discussion group this past week, my husband of 25 years told us a story I had never heard before. In his youth, he had attended well, a “holy roller” Church. And he said it was very satisfying rolling around on the floor and crying about his sins. “Oh God, please, forgive me.” But when he went back the next week, they were still rolling around on the floor. And the same thing happened the third week. He concluded they did not recognize that they had been forgiven. And the one thing he knew from his life as a Catholic was that Jesus Christ has given the power to forgive sins to the apostles and they handed that power down to the prebuterous – the priests. So the next week he went to Confession for his sins.

After the Resurrection, Jesus came among his apostles in the locked upper room, and said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:21-23)

Jesus gave the apostles a divine power that night, the power to forgive sins. No man had ever held this power before. Now we know the apostles were human and they were not perfect people (Peter denied Christ three times). But yet they were human men given a divine power. And to what purpose? So that we might be healed. Was it only that generation that would be healed of their sins? No a divine power is given in every generation because Jesus Christ said He would be with the Church until the end of time. And He is not a liar. So the line of succession from the apostles has remained unbroken in the Catholic Church. Men of every generation have been given this power to forgive sins since the time of Christ. Good men, bad men, but still a divine power given so that the people who repent, who seek the Light of Christ might indeed have an encounter with Jesus similar to the one of the Samaritan woman at the well.

Does it work? Yes, after I go to confession I don’t walk around thinking I am a monster. I feel restored to my rightful place as a beloved child of God. The healing of the Tribunal of Mercy is something that no mere man could do. It is a divine power. I tried explaining it once to a teenage girl: I go to confession and confess my sins, and I reveal my temptations. Now I have done this many times, and the temptation has completely left me. If I had confessed my sins to a man, he would have had to follow me out of the confessional and say constantly, “Susan, don’t commit that sin again.” Over and over again. But the priest doesn’t do that. He doesn’t follow me out of the confessional. He doesn’t even remember what I told him. Yet the desire, the tastiness of the sin so to speak is completely gone! That is divine power. I thank God that Jesus has given this power to Catholic priests, and I can avail myself of this sacrament of the Catholic Church frequently. I may have loved the darkness at one time, but I have come into the Light enough times to know "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." (Jn 3:21)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

God is my Treasure

Dear T-Bird,
I posted your whole response to the "Audacity of Despair" in the comments. But it doesn't show up very easily. You have to click on comments at the end of that posting to find it.
I am very glad you came into the Catholic Church and and that you said,"Why are we afraid of a man's opinion, when it comes right down to it; Heaven's opinion of us is the one that counts. What can man do to us? Kill us, hey I'm outta here and on to better things, so what can they do to us?"
That's a very important discernment principle in the Catholic Church that we should seek only Our Father's reward and none other. Only my Father's opinion matters. We should seek His Will, through the teachings of the Church, spiritual direction, reading Holy Scripture, the Sacraments and prayer, and therefore no man's opinion is god. Yet many people fear others' opinions. And there they live enslaved. I personally know what that enslavement is like as when I was a child and a young woman I was terribly insecure and worried what people would think of me. God - through daily Eucharistic Adoration - healed me of that enslavement. He showed me an experience I had as a child when I was only two years old. My father was sick. He had been sick since I was born, and my mother -- worried for him -- would keep me out of his room and try to keep me quiet so he could get his rest. Being kept out of that room, I somehow developed an understanding that I was not acceptable to my father. This plagued me my whole life as a deep sense of insecurity. I compensated for it by overachieving -- getting two bachelor's degrees, two master's degrees, traveling around Europe and rising in the world of journalism to a very high place. But I can remember waiting to interview the U.S. Treasury Secretary, and inside I felt like a bug about to be squashed. (He never knew that, of course -- I was a very tough newspaper woman) Then when I was 39 and I had abandoned my career to stay home with my young son, I was in the habit of dropping him off at school and going to the Adoration Chapel for an hour after wards. But on this day, the Father told me to go home and pray. So I did. And there he revealed to me the secret of my insecurity as that experience I had when I was two. I cried. But as an adult, I recognized the lie. Of course, my father had accepted me. In fact, I knew he had loved me. He died when I was four years old, so there was no way for the child to know that. But it was a lie, and so confronting that truth, I was just healed -- by God. I didn't feel like a squashed bug inside anymore. My husband and I had been married 10 years at that point, and something in him sensed that. Now he had walked on eggs our whole marriage, always afraid to say something critical even when he was mad as I would go "Boo Hoo. You don't love me." And so for three months, he was kinda mean! But it didn't bother me at all. And now we have great freedom in our marriage of 25 years to say what we think without the other person (me) getting offended.
Later I had a deeper lesson on this subject of my Father's reward. I was sitting in the home of my beloved mother. My stepfather -- who had multiple mental conditions -- was treating me like the dirt under the carpet. I felt so bad -- even knowing as I did that he couldn't help it. And then the Father reminded me that when I came to His House, which is also our house, he would welcome me, put a beautiful cloak on my shoulders, a ring on my finger and kill the fatted calf and have a nice party for me and my friends. That has stayed with me ever since, and God is my Father. The father that died and the father that was abusive, they were not perfect. Really, they were my brothers in Christ. But God is My Father! And I apologize because He is really Our Father!
You also said, "I was surprised with so much attention paid to this election by all the Parishes that the election went the way that it did. So many people attend, are their ears closed along with their hearts on these things. I know the Protestants were pushing the Republican agenda and with the Catholics combined we should have won this one. If we actually became one body in Christ, we should have defeated evil. But the scary thing is where is the heart of all of those who voted for such a man. The Bible says something about where our treasure is, there is our heart also. What is the treasure in their lives. We need to pray for these people. The real treasure is the Eucharist. What can they be focused on. I feel like saying, WAKE UP CHURCH!! Something is getting missed in Adult teaching in the church. Maybe our prayers should be about this."
Wow. That was also a very important discernment principle. Are you sure I don't know you? Where is your treasure, that is where your heart is, and the Eucharist is the greatest treasure. Catholics can never say that they have been given nothing as they have been given it ALL in the Holy Eucharist. And that is the real meaning of that Gospel Reading we had last Sunday about the servants who banked and buried the talents. I was told it was a question of practicing the piano if I was good at it. Or practicing baseball if I was good at that. But no, it referred to those Catholics who sit on their hands and vote for Obama and complain they have nothing to give back to the Church because they are poor -- when in fact they have everything in Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. And if they only shared that knowledge with others, they would realize how rich they are. I'm really glad you have this impression that the election was preached about and everyone should have known how to vote. Unfortunately, that depends on what diocese you are in. There is a fear among some in the Church that it will lose its tax exempt status if it allows its priests to preach against abortion. (Sounds like they are worried about the opinion of man and not God, right?) Some American bishops have said maybe we should stop worrying about our tax exempt status. They are concerned about God's opinion, and not that of the IRS. But I think from this election that God has settled the matter, for unless He works a miracle (and we should all pray for that) we are going to lose all our Catholic hospitals and adoption agencies, our right to stand outside abortion clinics and quietly pray, our right to exercise our freedom of conscience if we are Catholic pharmacists or doctors. We may lose our money as well -- maybe not our tax exempt status because Satan wants us to continue to be enslaved by that, but if there is widespread unemployment and the government seizes our retirement savings, there will be less money given to the church. God bless You T-Bird. Susan Fox

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Audacity of Despair: The Obama Administration and Catholic Culpability

by Susan Fox

Why did 55% of American Catholics vote for Barack Obama?

Under the guise of voting for hope, they chose despair.

Case in point, my friend, Phoebe, goes to daily Mass in Northern California. A very shy person, the day after the election she saw a fellow Catholic with a Barack Obama pin going to the same Mass she did. She was so shocked she forgot to be shy, and she said, "How could you vote for the most pro-abortion candidate in American history?" The woman said, "Oh, we are never going to change the abortion laws in this country. He will help the poor."

Oh yes, the man (Obama) who said he was glad that gasoline was $4.50 a gallon really cares about the poor. Tell that to the young receptionist at my veterinarian's office. I looked in her sad eyes this summer as she told me how far she had to drive to work and how she was driving in 116 degree weather without the air conditioning on to save money. I told her to move a block from work. She said in fact she and her husband were looking for a rental near their jobs.
And in fact, that daily Mass going Catholic is wrong. We were only one Supreme Court Justice away from overturning Roe v. Wade.

I apologize to the poor, to the rich, to the unborn, the young people with limited job and career opportunities and the elderly of this country for the Catholics who were so poorly
Catholics chasing
false Hope and Change

catechized by our church that they thought they were free to vote for the most pro-death candidate in American history. In point of fact, they were not. Their eternal salvation is in jeopardy, and we must pray for them.

In the days before the election, Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City urged Catholics not to vote for Barack Obama.
"You make yourself a participant in the act of abortion and you must not do it because your eternal salvation is tied up with that important choice," Bishop Finn said. "I would say, 'Give consideration to your eternal salvation.' Because to vote for a person who has expressed a fanatical determination to not only support abortion as it exists now but to remove all limitations on it through the Freedom of Choice Act, and to extend it without any recourse, throwing out all of the efforts of citizens over the last 35 years to place reasonable limits on abortion, that voting for a person who has expressed his determination to do this to Planned Parenthood, to NARAL — that you make yourself a participant in the act of abortion. That’s gravely wrong, and you mustn’t do it because your eternal salvation is tied up in that important choice."

The pastor of one of our parishes in in Phoenix, informed his daily Mass goers the next day after the election that they were not free to receive communion that day if they had voted for a pro-abortion candidate. Instead, he said, they should present themselves to him for the Sacrament of Penance. That was a courageous pastor. May God give us millions more like him.

I remember telling a Catholic friend the very same thing several years ago in a diocese far, far away. He said, he'd voted for a pro-abortion candidate. I said, "Ron, go to confession." At that time, and in that diocese, I was an alien and a stranger. In a hushed voice, they called my husband and I, "fundamentalists." That means we seriously accept the teachings of the Catholic Church and every word that is written in the Bible.

(Since this article was originally written, the list of people harmed by the Catholic vote has grown. Sin spreads. The list includes the families of the four Americans killed in Benghazi and families of DEA agents and Mexicans killed in "Fast and Furious" where the Obama Administration ran assault rifles into Mexico and gave them to the drug cartels. Don't forget the poor voters in Pennsylvania on election day intimidated by the Black Panthers, who were never prosecuted for their crimes. Then there are the janitors, sales associates, stocking clerks and all non-managerial employees at Forever 21, who lost their medical insurance and 10.5 hours of work a week because of Obama (doesn't) Care. The American people are suffering also with increased taxes, lost jobs, and a several trillion dollar federal budget. We have lost our right to privacy as the NSA has a log of all our phone calls and emails. Don't forget 7 million Americans killed in abortion since Barack Obama took office on Jan. 20, 2009.)

Speaking of the Bible, St. Teresa of Avila, told us hundreds of years ago that the reason for all the ills in the world is that people will not seriously read and pray the Holy Scripture every day. If we were to adopt that practice, we would solve all the world's problems. Why? The Word of God is Alive! And it is a two-edged sword, and it never goes out without coming back bearing fruit. 

In fact, the Holy Spirit is waiting to give you a personal message on every page of the Holy Bible and a different message every day, but all of it in conformity with the Deposit of Faith handed down to us by the Holy Apostles -- that Deposit carefully preserved by the authority of the Holy Catholic Church. The Holy Spirit is not a liar. He would not tell one thing to one church and the opposite thing to another, or one thing to one person and the opposite to the Church. And Jesus said he would be with the Church for all eternity, and whatsoever Peter bound on earth would be bound in heaven, and whatever he would loose on earth would be loosed in heaven. This is not some invisible Church. It is a real earthly institution with a spiritual authority.

While the successors of Peter do have the power of binding and loosing, they have not been free to change one Truth that was handed down to them by the 12 Apostles. That is called the Deposit of Faith. And true to Christ's Word, they have not changed anything. They have upheld and preserved what was given to us from the beginning. That is why Pope John Paul II said he could not ordain women. Only the Catholic Church has preserved the truths taught to us by God through Jesus Christ.

But inside that context, try this: quietly read a favorite passage of Scripture with a close friend or family member. You will be convinced the Holy Spirit said one thing. Your friend will focus on a different message in the same passage. That is how God's Word is Alive. God is speaking uniquely to each of us all day long. Just listen. Be awake and listen.
Pick up the Bible tonight.

We may just change the politics of despair in America to the politics of real hope.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Come Lord Jesus Come Nov. 4

Dear Heavenly Father,
I ask You now, will you continue to protect this nation from its own stupidity and folly? Will You guard your Church through this crisis? Or will you allow our nation to expire, lose its creativity and fail economically. This is after all what we deserve. For 35 years, we have allowed the slaughter of our own innocents. How many women have suffered after making that fatal mistake? How many children have been denied their Baptisms, First Communions, their graduation, their weddings, the chance to have children and grow old with their spouse.
I had two miscarriages 18 and 22 years ago, and I still grieve the loss of those children. At times I almost saw them running in the door with my son James, age 20, the only one to make it out of the womb alive. This past week my friends and I in the Eucharistic Apostles of the Divine Mercy went and prayed outside an abortion clinic in Tempe, AZ. One of our members was inspired to go back on Friday morning at 8 a.m. when the women line up for the abortions. She witnessed one young woman running sobbing from the clinic at 9 a.m. How long Father will you allow us to suffer from our own stupidity? You are a God of Mercy, please, please do not allow us to continue to sin in this manner. Do not leave us blind, deaf and dumb. Put people in the media who truly want to seek the truth and report it. Give us the gift of self-knowledge and the courage to do something about it. Let Americans live in reality and not on TV.
Don't get me wrong, Father, I am so pleased that at least half our Catholic bishops have spoken out, and told the American Catholics to vote pro-life. I thank you for this. I ask you to continue to give us holy, courageous bishops and priests, ones who will speak the truth from the pulpit regardless of whether it will jeopardize our tax exempt status or not. If we become so fearful of losing money that we can't defend the most helpless among us, then I fear we will become like the salt that has fallen on the ground and become spoiled. Do not allow us to hide our light under a bushel basket. Bring all quaking Christians out from under that basket on Nov. 4 and help them to put their light on a lamp stand, so that Your Son Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, will not be ashamed of His servants. Come Lord Jesus. The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come."
Susan Fox