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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Stay Awake! Don't Be Deceived!

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
1st Sunday in Advent, Nov. 29, 2015
Saints Peter and Paul Parish, Tucson, AZ

Today we begin the first week of Advent
Be vigilant
 where we focus on the end times and what will take place before the second coming of Our Lord. 

As we prepare to celebrate Our Lord’s first coming at Christmas, we are reminded that His first coming was given to us to prepare for His Second Coming.  The Lord was born into this world to prepare us for the new world that is to come.

You may recall two weeks ago that we read in the Gospel of Mark a similar message as  in today’s Gospel (Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36). Our Lord spoke about what will take place at the end of the age. He told us to pay attention to the signs of the times. He said,
“Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates.”

Today’s Gospel also emphasizes the signs which will take place at the end of time shortly before Our Lord comes again. 

However, today Our Lord teaches us -- not only the signs -- but  what we must do. He says that we must be vigilant! 

“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”

My brothers and sisters, we are called to be on guard, to stay awake, and be strong in our faith. We don’t know the day or the hour when Our Lord is going to come, but we must be prepared. We must be vigilant!

Our Lord will come at a time when many are not prepared. He says, “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.” 
These words almost seem to be addressed specifically to our generation. How many are drowsy from carousing and drunkenness or simply from the busyness of daily life?

At the time of His second coming it will be as in the time of Noah. People were marrying, eating and drinking up until the time Noah
closed the doors of the ark and the flood came and took them out. 

People became so focused on the world and so distant from the laws of God, that they had no clue that God was about to flood the world
for its iniquity. Only Noah and his family escaped because they were found worthy to escape the tribulation. 

It was a similar situation to the times of Sodom and Gomorrah. God rained fire and brimstone upon that city and no one escaped except Lot and his family. Amid the arrogance and shamelessness of the city, Lot was the only one 
found worthy to escape.

My brothers and sisters, the story of the Great Flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah should be a wakeup call for us today! The destruction was brought upon these cities and nations because they turned away from God! They indulged in rivalry and lust and practiced unnatural vice on a large scale.

In this time we need to seek the wisdom of God because history repeats itself!
Often when speaking of the end times many today will say something like, “Oh, people have always been saying that the end is near… It won’t happen in my lifetime.” 

Stay awake! Don't be deceived.
When tragedy hit on 9-11, how many people were dazed and confused. Again, when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, most of the people of New Orleans probably had no idea that over 80 percent of their city would be under water! 

We don’t know the day or the hour when our Lord is going to come, but we live in uncertain times, and today’s Gospel teaches us to be on guard, stay awake, and be strong in our faith.

If you were at one of the Masses where Deacon Paul preached last weekend, you may recall that he spoke about God’s remnant. The remnant people are those persons who strive to stay faithful to God while living in an unfaithful society and culture. In the Book of Revelation, the remnant are described as those “who do not defile themselves with [men or] woman… On their lips no deceit is found; they are unblemished.” 

The remnant are the ones who have been ransomed as the “first fruits of the human race for God and the Lamb.” (Revelation 14:4)

The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah
The remnant in the time of the Great Flood  were Noah and his family. The remnant in the time of Sodom and Gomorrah were Lot and his family. These were the persons whom God found worthy to escape the tribulations that were to come upon them. 

God is calling us to be His remnant people. He is calling those, who stay vigilant in keeping God’s commandments and bearing witness to Jesus, to be the first fruits of the new world to come. Let us be Our Lord’s faithful remnant people. Let us be vigilant and pray we have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and stand before the Son of Man.

The ordination of Fr. John Paul Shea to the priesthood

Monday, November 16, 2015

Learn A Lesson From The Fig Tree

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Nov. 15, 2015
Saints Peter and Paul Parish, Tucson, AZ

In today’s Gospel (Mark13:24-32), we focus
on the end times and the great cosmic battle. We are reminded that the world we live in today is passing away, and we are to keep our hearts focused on the world that is to come!

After Our Lord describes the dramatic scenes of what will take place during the end times, He says, “Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates.”

As He does often in the scriptures, our Lord shows us that the mysteries of God are revealed in nature. He uses examples from nature to point out signs for those with eyes to see. These signs point to when the prophesied events of the last days are near.

We do not know the time and hour when Our Lord is coming, but our Lord gives us signs to watch for when He is approaching.

What signs should we watch for? He said there will be wars and rumors of wars, but it will not yet be the end. Nation will war against nation and kingdom against kingdom and there will be famines, pestilences and many earthquakes. He has said that there will be signs in the sun, the moon, the stars. The weather will become violent. The nations of the earth will be deeply troubled and confused because of the roaring and tossing of the sea. These are the beginning of the sorrows of the tribulation.

“In those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” 

Fr. John Paul Shea
My brothers and sisters, as we reflect on 
today’s Gospel passage we are reminded that we are living in a battle. We are living in a struggle. The trials and struggles, the wars, the violence, the acts of  terrorism, the hurricane Katrinas, the tsunamis… all these things are part of the growing pains that we are going through as we await the return of Our Savior.

Are we living in the time of the second coming of Jesus today? We don’t know. But Our Lord calls us to keep our eyes focused on the signs of the times. 

We have many signs today that tell us that we are living in a time of great change and upheaval. In fact, evil today is rampant! Just the other day, as you are aware, there was a shooting and rampage in Paris that has killed over a hundred people. Disregard for human life is so common today that the average person is numb to the distance  humanity has strayed from God!

We must pray and stay close to the teachings that Our Lord handed down to us. We should pray for the intercession of Blessed Mother Mary and Saint Michael.

In fact, today's readings (Daniel 12:1-3) remind us of the power of Saint Michael. In the end times, “there shall arise Michael, the

great prince, guardian of your people; it shall be a time unsurpassed in distress since nations began until that time.”

Saint Michael is the angel God has chosen to fight the devil. We need to call upon Saint Michael because the devil is on full attack today in our world, and he is leading many Catholics away from the truths of our faith.

In fact, it was a little over 100 years ago that Pope Leo XIII had composed the prayer to Saint Michael to help us today against the dangers which threaten our faith today.

It is said that on October 13, 1884, after Pope Leo XIII had finished celebrating Mass in the Vatican Chapel that he suddenly stopped at the foot of the altar. His face turned white and he stood there for about 10 minutes, as if in a trance. Then, Pope Leo immediately went from the Chapel to his office and composed the prayer to St. Michael.

When asked what had happened, Pope Leo explained that as he was about to leave the foot of the altar that he heard a conversation between the Lord and satan.

Pope Leo recounted that satan was boasting to our Lord saying, “I can destroy your Church." Our Lord then said to satan, "You can? Then go ahead and do so." Satan then responded to our Lord saying, "To do so, I need more time and more power." Our Lord asked, "How much time? How much power?” Then satan responded saying, "75 to 100 years, and greater power over those who will give themselves over to my service." So, Our Lord said, "You have the time, you will have the power. Do with them what you will."

My brothers and sisters, this revelation given to Pope Leo XIII back in 1884 is being manifested in our time today. Satan will never prevail against our Church, but he is attacking our Church with much fury as he turns many hearts away from the truth!

In today’s Gospel, Our Lord says that at the time of His coming that the angels will gather the elect.

Our Lord is gathering His elect now! He is calling us to be faithful among a twisted and degenerate society.

There will be difficult times ahead for all persons on earth in the future, and there will be difficulties and persecutions for our Church as it seeks to be a beacon of truth in a society that is rapidly losing sight of what is beautiful, sacred, and eternal!

But, as Christians we are to look at the end signs not as signs of doom but as signs of hope! We have hope because we seek not this world but the world that is to come, when all evil is destroyed and the humble inherit the earth.

Let us set our hearts not on this world which is passing away, but let us set our hearts on the fulfillment of the Kingdom that Our Lord has come to establish. Come Lord Jesus!

Did you enjoy this piece? There's more Fr. John Paul Shea. Perhaps you would like to read REFLECT: What Do You Need to Cut Out of Your Life?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Planned Parenthood is America's Giant Vomitorium

by Lawrence Fox 

In America, we have observed bohemian men and woman at "All You Can Eat" buffets frequenting the restroom to expel their self-indulgence. Sometimes, we have heard the man or  woman in the next bathroom stall mutter, “I hate when I do this do myself” while heaving their innards out. 

It is under debate whether the Romans actually had structures for the purpose of vomiting after meals as the word "Vomitorium" also applies to getting a fast exit from a theater.

But it is a fact that my wife and I have observed that American men and women do overeat at restaurants, then  expel the products of their pleasure in the toilet afterwards. 

But people, who cannot resist the second and third helping, also worry about their waistline. So they plan ahead by swallowing over-the-counter pills that turn fatty foods into non-digestible rubber that is then forced out of the bowels the  morning after.  

Younger women engaged in this practice of vomiting after meals are cruelly categorized as “bulimic” by medical professionals, school board counselors, and by state and federal government bureaucrats. Bulimia is defined as the habit of binge eating a large amount of food rapidly or even a small amount, followed by methods of purging the food -- vomiting or taking laxatives in order to remain slim and trim. It is identified as an eating disorder.

Then there are people -- knowing they cannot resist the third helping --  who purchase over-the-counter pills which are meant to mitigate the craving to eat. These men and women are identified as more cautious, sensible, and liberated but without the pill, they are no different from those struggling with binge eating. 

Most citizens of the modern world would identify such behavior as tragic, irresponsible, and certainly not something to be subsidized by the taxpayer. Yet remove the food from the context and replace it with sexual self-indulgence and observe how the tenor of the discussion changes. 

In America, sexually active woman are observed to frequent Planned Parenthood to expel their self-indulgence. Whether willingly or no, sometimes they are accompanied by sexually active men anxious to see the self-indulgence expelled. But often they arrive alone as the sexually active man can't be
Planned Parenthood is the Nation's largest Abortion
troubled to show that much concern for his actions.
These women drive out of the parking lot of Planned Parenthood with tears in their eyes because they have not only killed their own child, but also the relationship with the man who would not take responsibility.

It is observed time and again that women while heaving their innards lament, “I hate it when I do this do myself.” Their thoughts are unknown as they exit Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider.

From Planned Parenthood's 2012-2013 Annual Report. Shows how they have been defeating the will of the people by overturning pro-life legislation in the courts and making abortion less safe in California by allowing non-physicians to do the procedure, reducing their costs.  
Planned Parenthood is America’s Giant Vomitorium.
There men and women, who cannot resist sexual encounters, purchase over-the-counter pills which brings upon the woman the safe medical condition known as “hemorrhaging.”

The woman is told that self-induced hemorrhaging is an excellent way of forcibly expelling any potential “conceptus” the “morning after” a lunch or dinner liaison.

Younger women in large numbers are cruelly categorized as “nympho” by medical professionals, school board counselors, and by state and federal government bureaucrats.
Planned Parenthood boasts of its influence on
popular culture and television
Nymphomania describes the habit of having intercourse even in small quantities as a result of no personal control and no concept of consequences. Younger women are counseled to embrace their nymphomania as something normal and prescribed over-the-counter pills to mitigate one of the consequences of such a habit. 

When the pills do not work, then the same agencies and counselors encourage the young women to come to Planned Parenthood which is more than happy to accept their money or that of their "loving" and "good-hearted" parents and boyfriends  to expel the product of their self-indulgence; thereby allowing the younger women to stay slim and trim. 

Most citizens of the "modern" world would identify such behavior as liberating, responsible, and certainly something to be subsidized by the taxpayer.
U.S. Government Spending as a percentage of Planned Parenthood Revenues appears in ORANGE
from its 2012-2013 annual report 
In fact, the U.S. Government donated $540.6 million in Fiscal Year 2013  to Planned Parenthood to promote and perpetuate the American habit of baby vomiting. 
Monies have poured into the coffers of PlannedParenthood regardless of whether Republicans or Democrats owned Congress and the White House. 

Most Americans tragically participate in one form or another in the baby vomiting activities of Planned Parenthood.  
American Taxpayers pay for abortion through Obama "Care." Planned Parenthood boasts of getting state laws overturned that blocked Medicaid patients from getting "care" at Planned Parenthood. 
And yet, this attitude may have slightly changed  because of increased knowledge deriving from a series of undercover videos of Planned Parenthood's activities undertaken by The Center for Medical Progress. 

It has been documented that Planned Parenthood has  been altering abortion procedures in order to deliver intact children for the purpose of gutting them while they are still living and selling their fresh body parts. This practice has increased Planned Parenthood's prestige in the pseudo medical profession. Of course without missing a beat, progressives -- including Democrats, Hollywood, the LGBT lobby (hoping for a cure for AIDS) and  Medical Research -- have come to the defense of America’s Giant Vomitorium. These citizens of "modern" times view the vomiting of unborn children as liberating, responsible, and certainly something to be subsidized by taxpayers.  

Now Planned Parenthood has claimed it no longer accepts money for baby parts, but really nothing has changed. They continue to promote and enforce the vomiting of children from the womb in order to allow America's sexual disorder to flourish. 

Take that, Planned Parenthood!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

On Marriage and Personal Conscience

One Woman's Story 

 by Susan Fox

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke10: 27)

Tora Hutchison had only a high school education, but she could teach a course in the theology of marriage.

Tora Hutchison, 1919 to 2001 
Her life is a testimony to the beauty of the sacrament, which she lived at great personal cost in complete fidelity to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.  

Tora was baptized a Roman Catholic as a young married woman in 1953 -- one week before me, her infant daughter. Because of Tora’s fidelity in two Catholic marriages, and one choice not to marry when the Church denied an annulment, I almost feel like I lived my entire life under the shadow of one long Synod on the Family. The questions that came up in the two-year Synod process ending Oct. 24, 2015, were questions answered in suffering and love during my lifetime by my mother.

Tora, who died in 2001 at the age of 82, would have
approved the post-synodal apostolic exhortation written by Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia.  It is a beautiful witness to the indissolubility and procreative nature of marriage between one man and one woman, making marriage a reflection of the relationship between Christ and His Church and the mirror of the interior life of the Holy Trinity. It also opens a doorway for people living in a variety of irregular situations to live again according to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through a step-by-step process of accompaniment. See Love is Faithful; Marriage is Indissoluble until Death, Amoris Laetitia is a Hymn to Fidelity in Marriage, And How to Get There.

None of the 13 small working groups of the Synod on the Family called categorically for allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion.  Unfortunately, despite the clear teaching of Amoris Laetitia against offering communion to divorced and remarried unless they are living as brother and sister and their situation is not publicly known, the issue is still an open question to some bishops. 

“My hope is the synod will leave us with open doors, not closed ones,” said German Cardinal Reinhold Marx at the conclusion of the Synod. The Chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, Marx  was among those who supported communion for divorced remarried Catholics. 

The Church has always taught that after having investigated the roots of a marriage, if it cannot find grounds to declare the marriage null, it remains valid. Under those conditions, anyone entering into a second marriage is living in an objective state of adultery, precluding reception of holy communion.

For as Jesus said,  "And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery." (Matthew 19:9)
St. Augustine reminds us: “Who dismisses his adulterous wife and marries another woman, whereas his first wife still lives, remains perpetually in the state of adultery. Such a man does not any efficacious penance while he refuses to abandon the new wife. If he is a catechumen, he cannot be admitted to baptism, because his will remains rooted in the evil. If he is a (baptized) penitent, he cannot receive the (ecclesiastical) reconciliation as long as he does not break with his bad attitude.” St. Augustine is the saint who lived with a lot of women in adulterous relationships before his conversion.

However, in the Synod, the German cardinals opined that  “in an ill-conceived attempt to respect the doctrine of the Church, repeatedly we have had harsh and merciless pastoral attitudes that created suffering,” especially for unwed mothers, children born out of wedlock, cohabiting couples, homosexual persons and those who are divorced and civilly remarried.

Tora would have agreed. She understood this suffering as she spent decades attempting to bring couples in irregular marriages back into the Church, using the same step-by-step process Pope Francis advocates. But she would have answered, “It is not the Church nor its laws that created that suffering. Obedience to the Church is obedience to Christ.”

My Catholic aunt, who regularly attended daily Mass, also found that truth through suffering. She said, “Susan I made a mess in my life. I couldn’t go to communion for two long years (while I waited for the annulment process) because I ran off and married in Las Vegas.” Marry in haste; repent at leisure -- that was her message.

But during the synod process and now in some dioceses, the wrong message has gone out. Some believe that a Catholic priest should lead those trapped in the snare of a second civil union through an examination of conscience, and let the couple decide what to do. Pope Francis did not endorse this approach. He asked priests to mercifully work with couples in a process of accompaniment and conversion, similar to what my mother did in the Legion of Mary. Bring their lives back in conformity with the Gospel in a step by step process that might take years. In the meantime, get them involved in parish activities that will not create a scandal because of their situation. Let them organise coffee and donuts, parish potlucks, be involved in Catholic discussion groups. 

“A sincere reflection can reinforce trust in God’s mercy, which is never denied to one who places his or her failures and needs before God,” the German group said. This is true, but when some now say the individual’s conscience should be respected and allowed to determine if access to the sacraments is possible, they deny the Mercy of God. God is not allowed to offer His Mercy when man takes the matter out of His Hands.

And they entirely forget the Catholic Church has its own Conscience. The Church is not required to give communion to someone in an objective state of serious sin, even if their subjective individual conscience says, “It's okay!"

Cardinal Marx, who participated in the Synod’s German speaking group discussion, made it clear in his press briefing, that they were using the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas during their discussions. Aquinas defined the human conscience as the “aboriginal Christ.” Out in the wild jungle of natural revelation, St. Thomas argued that even if a person’s conscience is malformed, they are obliged to obey it. But such discernment would not apply to a situation in which the Church’s position is objectively known through an annulment process.

The Conscience is the place of judgment where through reason – not emotion -- a person chooses the good and rejects evil. For a person to judge that my conscience is superior to the objective moral teaching of the Church is foolish. The Person of Jesus Christ is the Conscience of the Catholic Church. To hold your conscience superior to the teachings of the Church is to say your puny individual conscience is greater than the Mind of Christ.

Cardinal Walter Brandmüller
“Under no circumstances can pastoral work be in contradiction with doctrine. Actions of the Church need to – if they want to be Catholic – correspond to faith and dogma,” German Cardinal Walter Brandmüller said just prior to the beginning of the Synod on the Family in October. He co-authored  “Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church.”

Tora was a widow -- my father, James Burkhardt, died when I was four. When I was seven years old, my mother met Gilbert Koch in the Legion of Mary. They were in love with each other, and in love with learning more about their Catholic faith. I remember going to Eucharistic Adoration with both of them on Friday nights. Faith of Our Fathers, the Rosary, incense, and candles! I loved it.

Gilbert introduced Mom to deep sources of sanctity -- True Devotion to Mary by St. Louis Marie de Montfort and the Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales. In my living room today is a statue of St. Francis de Sales that belonged to Gilbert Koch. Gilbert – also a convert to Catholicism – asked Tora to marry him.

There was only one obstacle, which they both recognized. Gilbert had been married before his conversion. Both he and his ex-wife believed that she had never been baptized.

I was seven years old! It was firmly established in my mind at that age that people married to an unbaptized person could remarry under the Pauline privilege. How funny now to read Cardinal Marx question the very same thing on Oct. 21, 2015.

“There is a lack of synthesis in the (Church’s) theology of marriage,” Cardinal Marx asserted, “If two persons left the
German Cardinal Reinhard Marx
Protestant Church and make their civil marriage, they receive the sacrament of marriage. You will not believe it, but it’s true! Every contract between two baptized persons is a marriage. Is that possible?”

Yes, it is. The Church defines marriage as a sacrament that two baptized people bestow on each other while the Church blesses and witnesses their choice. It makes perfect sense to me. Even in the case of a marriage between unbaptized persons, they make a commitment to each other. They are called to be faithful to that commitment.

So Tora and Gilbert  dated for two years in expectation of marrying once Gilbert received a declaration of nullity in his first marriage based on his wife’s unbaptized state.

Then tragedy struck.  The mother of Gilbert’s first wife recalled she had baptized her daughter. The Church said in fact, Gilbert's first marriage between two baptised Protestants in a Protestant Church was valid. Gilbert had entered a sacramental marriage. Such is an unbreakable bond. To live with my mother would have been an act of adultery.

I’m so glad Pope Francis is trying to shorten the annulment process because I’m sure if any other couple had gone through the ordeal today that Tora and Gilbert faced,  they would have been living together when the first marriage was recognised as an unbreakable bond.  Both Tora and Gilbert had a strong sense of right and wrong, so they did not live together. Added to that, Tora was very conscious of maintaining a good example for her young daughter.

And consider this. Gilbert and Tora were Catholic converts from Protestantism. Once permission to marry was denied, they didn’t think to themselves, "Oh, we'll just go back to being 
Gilbert Koch
Picture taken with the
Brownie camera Gilbert
gave me when I was 9 years old
Protestants and get married anyway.” Tora and Gilbert listened to the Conscience of Christ. They made a heroic choice. They obeyed the Church.

Gilbert moved to Riverside, Calif. It was a good hour’s drive from Anaheim where we lived. They ceased to see each other, but not to love each other. Two years later he died from a heart attack. My mother was present with him in the hospital when he died on Oct. 30. Later, she said to me because she and Gilbert decided to separate when the annulment was denied, Gilbert now had the hope of eternal life. Love denied opened the gates of heaven to Gilbert Koch!

That is true love. Love seeks the good of the beloved even at the expense of one’s own happiness.

Quoting Pope Francis, Cardinal Marx in an address before the Synod on Oct. 14, said the Eucharist is not “a reward for perfection, but a generous remedy and food for the weak.” Who apparently could be weaker than a couple living in objective adultery (a second marriage not blessed by the Church) trying to raise their children in the Catholic Faith? This can cause some consternation.

During one Sunday Mass, the young son of one of my friends discovered two consecrated hosts, apparently received into someone’s mouth and then discarded and stuck wet underneath the pew in front of him. They found it the Sunday after the parish celebrated the children’s first Holy Communion. My friend -- without thinking -- pulled what she could off the pew and swallowed it, knowing it was the Body of Christ. I was sitting in the pew directly behind her, and witnessed the whole ordeal. We suspected two embarrassed parents left it there after they went to communion lacking the courage to tell their child that they themselves were barred from receiving communion.

Tora found similar difficulties when she was doing  door-to-door evangelization in Southern California in the 1960s. She came home one night, and said repeatedly: “Susan, thank God your father died, and we didn’t lose him through divorce.” What she meant to say is that divorce is one of the greatest horrors that she – a widow -- had ever encountered!

I experienced the same thing in the 1990s doing door-to-door evangelization intensively for one week in Iowa. A teenage girl answered the door. I told her I came from her local Catholic parish to give her greetings from her pastor.  She immediately had a change of heart. She said she was baptized, had her first communion and confirmation, but her parents divorced. The family never went to Church again! With her innocent little brother standing by watching, she said to me in a very resolved tone, “I am going to talk to my mother. I want to go back to Church.” She was a child, who had to grow up when her parents would not.

Pope Francis understands the horror of divorce, and its effect on families. That’s why he doesn’t want divorced families to feel excommunicated. They aren’t, of course, and if they remain faithful to the vows of their first marriage, they can receive all the sacraments. That’s paragraph 83 in the Final Synod Document. But even if they remarry civilly, they should still feel welcomed in the Catholic parish where they can come, participate in parish activities, and bring their children to Mass.

Tora had another opportunity to prove her faithfulness in marriage. In 1971, she married Byron Hutchison. I was her 18-year-old bridesmaid. Hutch suffered from post-traumatic syndrome, paranoia and bi-polar disorder, but we had no idea of this when she married him.  I came back from college to visit six years later, and my mother wept in my arms. This had never happened before.

“Hutch is so mean to me,” she wept. I encouraged her to get him mental health assistance, but he would have blown his stack. So I said, “Mom, YOU have to go to the doctor and find out what’s wrong with HIM.” And so she did. And finally she understood she could not take his behavior personally. He was ill.

At this point I said to her, “You know Mom, you could get the church to make a determination of nullity of your marriage because they generally don’t do Catholic weddings for people who have been in mental institutions (as Hutch had).” Mental illness can make a person legally incapable of marriage, according to Church law. But she said, “Hutch didn’t know he was mentally ill when he married me. He has a right to my faithfulness.”

And so she made the heroic choice to remain in a marriage where she suffered emotionally. On a daily basis, for 29 years until she died, she was nailed to the cross of her marriage bed. After she died in the hospital, Hutch was upset because he couldn’t find her wedding ring. But I thought to myself, “God has removed it because the marriage is no more. My mother is free in death.”

Tora’s marriage to Hutch -- an unbaptized man -- was that case I learned about when I was seven years old. They could have sought a declaration of nullity because he was not a Christian. But she did not. As a result, Hutch, who had been very anti-Catholic through most of the marriage, began to be attracted to the faith. I suggested to Tora  that when she suffered emotionally and physically (she lost one leg in her 70s due to peripheral artery disease) that her sufferings would benefit Hutch. "Oh, I so hope and pray so," she said, sitting in the chair with only one leg. Both legs pained her terribly, the visible and invisible one. 

And with that choice, God created a fascinating dynamic. By the suffering Hutch created in their lives together, which Mom united to the sufferings of Christ, he was saved. She even had a vision of herself going to communion, and Hutch following behind moving towards God. "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife; and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the believing husband: otherwise your children should be unclean; but now they are holy." (1Cor 7:14)

Though priests talked to Hutch about Catholicism after Mom died, they never asked, “Do you want to be baptized?” In the nursing home, the priest showed Hutch where they had Sunday Mass. Afterwards, Hutch went to Mass every Sunday until he died.

I once asked him, “Dad, why don’t you get the Catholic sacraments and become Catholic?” And he answered, “Susan, I don’t qualify.” But he wanted it; don’t you see? And so he had it -- Baptism by desire.

For every Sunday he went to Mass, he didn’t go for the great sermons or to hear the Word of God. Hutch was deaf as a doornail and wouldn’t wear hearing aids. He went because he believed in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. I had seen him looking covetously at the host when I gave Mom communion during one of her illnesses. He wanted Christ. The witness of Tora’s life bore good fruit.

Whereas the decision not to marry, opened the gates of heaven for Gilbert, the decision to stay married opened the gates of heaven for Hutch.

Ultimately, we have to thank Tora’s marriage to my father,
My parents, James and Tora, on their

wedding day
James Burkhardt, for Hutch’s conversion and my own. Tora converted to Catholicism because of his witness and that of his mother’s, my grandmother Dora. He was the fisher of men, who caught such an incredible swordfish (Tora) that on her tail came countless others into heaven.

Tora’s first marriage was emotionally very happy, but lasted only seven years before he died. Yet in this marriage too there was incredible suffering. My father had tuberculosis and had to have one lung removed. Tora told me of that time in the hospital when he used profane language, something she had never heard from him before, because the pain was so great.

Then he spent a year at home recovering, and gradually all their friends except one – Dean Howard – stopped coming to visit. Because of that experience of abandonment, she made a point of inviting all the little people with no families to Thanksgiving dinner every year when I was growing up.

She remembered my Dad filing the needle on his daily shot because unless it was sharp, it hurt! But that year offered great happiness as well because they had only each other, and they spent hours playing Scrabble and talking together.

Tora, Susan And James Burkhardt
When Mom discovered she was pregnant with me, my father was at the point where he nearly died. My birth came with a lot stress for her as she had to keep a baby happy, and allow her ill husband his sleep.

By the time I was four, he was recovered. We were immensely happy. People remember my father for his incredible sense of humor. So that year – 1957 – we set out for Detroit on vacation to buy a new car.

We visited family in Ohio where I came down with the measles. We drove south to New Orleans in the new car with new seatbelts on our way back to Los Angeles. But people then weren’t used to using them, so they weren’t on when we had a head-on collision on a three-lane road that allowed people to drive both directions in the middle lane.

My father’s remaining lung was punctured by windshield glass and he died three days later on April 28, 1957, the feast of a saint as yet unknown to us -- Louis Marie de Montfort. My Dad was wearing a medal of the Sacred Heart, and had just been to confession the previous weekend.

I was in the back seat when the accident occurred. I had looked up just before the accident and I saw my parents looking at one another with deep longing and love. In that last second of their lives together, they taught me what life itself was all about.

There are bishops who want to give communion to divorced and remarried Catholics not living chastely. Perhaps they don’t understand the resiliency of the Catholic laity, or the hunger of the human heart for God. With the right teaching, I have seen ordinary people literally give their lives in horrific daily suffering to remain in love and union with Christ.

If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him? ...What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? ... No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39)

Read More about Tora's pro-life passion here: A Passion for Life

Vox Populi! In the Catholic Church, the cause for sainthood can begin with the voice of the people. 

Would you like to see Tora Hutchison beatified by the Roman Catholic Church? Please write to her bishop and tell him her story has touched you, asking him to open the cause for her beatification, which is the first step towards canonization. 

Please do ask Tora to pray for your intentions! She died on June 29, and my family and I go to Mass every June 29 and ask for big miracles. God has gloriously granted all our requests. We are not the only ones who have been so blessed through her intercession. Report miracles and ask the bishop to begin the process of her beatification. He is: 

Paul D. Etienne
Archbishop of Seattle
710 9th Ave.
Seattle, Wash. 98104-2017

Send a copy of your letter, if you wish to her pastor: 

Father Peter Adoko-Enchill
St. Mary Star of the Sea
1335 Blaine Street
Port Townsend, WA 98368