Francis: On Jesus’ Transfiguration on Mount Tabor

 12 March, 2017

Here is a translation of the address Pope Francis gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

* * *

Before the Angelus

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

The Gospel of this Second Sunday of Lent presents to us the account of Jesus’ Transfiguration (cf. Matthew 17:1-9). Taking three of the Apostles, Peter, James and John aside, He led them up a high mountain, where this singular phenomenon happened: Jesus’ face “shone like the sun, and His garments became white as light” (v. 2). Thus the Lord made that divine glory shine in His person, which could be received with faith in His preaching and in His miraculous gestures. And, accompanying the Transfiguration on the mountain was the apparition of Moses and Elijah, “talking with Him” (v. 3).

The “luminosity” that characterized this extraordinary event symbolized the purpose: to illumine the minds and hearts of the disciples, so that they could understand clearly who their Master was. It was a flash of light that opened suddenly on the mystery of Jesus and illumined His whole person and His whole story.

Now firmly on the way to Jerusalem, where He would suffer the condemnation to death by crucifixion, Jesus wished to prepare His own for this scandal — the scandal of the Cross –, for this scandal too strong for their faith and, at the same time, announce ahead of time His Resurrection, manifesting himself as the Messiah, the Son of God. And Jesus prepares them there for that sad moment of so much grief. In fact, Jesus was showing himself a different Messiah in regard to the expectations, to what they imagined about the Messiah, how the Messiah was: not a powerful and glorious king, but a humble and vulnerable Servant; not a lord of great wealth, sign of blessing, but a poor man who had no place to lay His head; not a Patriarch with numerous descendants, but a celibate without a home and without a nest. It was truly a revelation of God turned upside down, and the most disconcerting sign of this scandalous reversal is the cross. But precisely through the cross Jesus will attain His glorious Resurrection, which will be definitive, not like this Transfiguration that lasted a moment, an instant.

Jesus transfigured on Mount Tabor wished to show His disciples His glory not to avoid their passing through the cross, but to indicate where the cross leads to. One who dies with Christ, will rise with Christ. And the cross is the door of the Resurrection. One who fights with Him, will triumph with Him. This is the message of hope contained in Christ’s Cross, exhorting to fortitude in our existence. The Christian Cross is not a furnishing of the home or an ornament to wear, but the Christian cross is an appeal to the love with which Jesus sacrificed Himself to save humanity from evil and from sin. In this Lenten Season, we contemplate with devotion the image of the crucifix, Jesus on the cross: it is the symbol of the Christian faith; it is the emblem of Jesus, dead and risen for us. Let us so regard the Cross as marking the stages of our Lenten itinerary, to understand increasingly the gravity of sin and the value of the sacrifice with which the Redeemer saved us all.

The Holy Virgin was able to contemplate Jesus’ glory hidden in His humanity. May she help us to be with Him in silent prayer, and to let ourselves by illumined by His presence, to bear in our heart, through the darkest nights, a reflection of His glory.

2nd Sunday of Lent: Transfiguration (March 12) – 2017:

“And as he prayed, the appearance of his countenance was changed, and his raiment became a radiant white” (Lk. 9, 28).

In brush strokes:

  • The Transfiguration in the gospel of Luke (9, 28): “…he took Peter, James and John and went up the mountain to pray. And as he prayed, the appearance of his countenance was changed, and his raiment became a radiant white.”
  • Ratzinger commented: “In the Gospels, ‘the mountain’ is always the realm of prayer, of being with the Father. It was to this ‘mountain’ that Jesus had taken the Three who formed the core of the community of the Twelve: Peter, James and John. ‘As he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered,’ Luke tells us.”[1]
  • What is the meaning of the act of praying? Ratzinger uses this quote, as well as Lk. 6, 12 and Lk. 9, 18 to maintain that the Person of Christ – Who is the Son of the Father, and therefore totally and purely relational as divine Person – is showing who He is by the acting praying, which is the supreme relational act through His human nature.
  • Thomas has given a metaphysical account of the divine Persons as ipsum esse subsistens where esse is “the act of all acts, perfection of all perfections” [Summa Theologiae 1, 4, 1 ad 3d] in view of all creation. As a result, if created beings “are,” “Ipsum esse” is not since “Ipsum esse” is the Creator that is even if all of creation were not. And, it must be possible for creation to have not been, since it was nothing “before” being created.
  • The result of this revelation of creation from nothing is the different way of knowing God from the way we know creation. God is pure activity as Person of Father engendering Son, Son glorifying Father and Spirit as Personification of both. The beings of Creation are always individuals who are this and that The Creator, on the other hand, is such that it is not possible to know One Divine Person without knowing the Others. The action that each One is implies the reality of the Other. Hence, by our intramundane sensible way of knowing, we can know that God exists, but we cannot know the Persons in themselves as dynamic activities of Father, Son and Spirit. This only comes when That Father reveals Himself in the Son with the Spirit. St. John testified that “no one has at any time seen God. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has revealed him” (Jn. 1 , 18), and Jesus Himself testified that “No knows the Don except the Father; nor does anyoneknow the Father except the Son, and him to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Mt. 11, 27).
  • Therefore, the question Christ puts to Simon: “Who do men say that I am?” is so critical. The context of the question is the participation of Simon and the other Apostles in the prayer of Christ (Lk. 9, 18). Participating in that prayer means that they were going forth from themselves to the Father as Christ was the going forth from self to the Father. They experienced something in themselves that Christ experienced in Himself as God-man and Son of the Father. That is, they experienced being “like” Christ to some degree. And hence, Simon was able to say: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16, 16) because he experienced in himself what Christ experienced in Himself. And so, he was able to transfer the name “Christ” to the Jesus Who prayed beside him about whom he perceived the name and reality in himself. To which Christ replied: “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 16, 17). That knowledge does not come from creation, but from within the experience Simon has of himself.[2]
  • Hence, Christ is transfigured as God of Light because His divine “I” He activated His human will to do what He is: to be Relation to the Father in the form of prayer.

 

[1] J. Ratzinger, “Behold the Pierced One,” Ignatius (1986) 20.

[2] Christ calls “Peter” (Rock) because Rock is “like” the cornerstone who Christ is (cf. Isaiah 22, 22).

 

Homo-Homophobia

 

When the Supreme Court imposed phony marriage on the entire country, the LGBTs were left wondering what to do next, how to keep their issue boiling?

Some of them, chief among them radio host/activist Michelangelo Signorelli, accurately predicted that the conservative Christian response would be to protect religious freedom, that the Christians would beg to be left alone, not forced to participate in morally objectionable religious services.

Other homosexual power centers responded by pushing the transgender thing even though they had never really been interested before. A cursory look at the New York Times demonstrates that there were next to no stories at all about transgenders per se until 2015 in the run-up to Obergefell. Stories went from one or two to more than 1,000 almost overnight.

Both responses had more to do with fundraising and keeping their issue before the public after they had swept the table at the Supreme Court. After all, gay couples could easily find other bakers and other photographers to decorate and commemorate their “nuptials.”

The quite remarkable thing that has happened is they are now willing to talk openly about their way of life. The execrable but nonetheless mainstream gay publication Advocate published a story—by a doctor no less—teaching youngsters how to train their bodies for sodomy. It makes for truly gruesome reading.

He writes, “I often tell patients that great bottoms have been doing it for quite some time, with many first experiencing it in their youth. Unfortunately, no one showed us the right way to bottom in our high school sexual education class. Still, it’s never too late to learn, and we all enjoy new and positive sexual experiences. Here’s my 101 guide to bottoming…”

The publication also ran a piece on how gay men should have regular pap smears for their backsides. Now, these pieces will not be seen outside the homosexual bubble, but even more out in the open are two shocking and revealing pieces just published in the more mainstream Huffington Post.

Keep in mind, if they did not think they had already won everything, they would not be willing to reveal the nasty underside of their way of life.

Chad Felix Greene begins “What Happens When Men Have Sex with Teenage Boys” with this rather arresting opening: “I had sex with a man as a teenager for the first time when I was 14.” He says an older man approached him in a public library and essentially assaulted him. He liked it and kept going back for more. He writes the older man “guided me through the various sexual activities.”

Greene goes on to describe his riotously sexual and dangerous teen years: “at 15 standing outside, alone, in empty parking lots at 1 a.m. waiting for complete strangers to pick me up for sex in their cars.” By 16, he “had had dozens of sexual partners.” When he left high school he said he met more gay guys his own age and he was “shocked to discover nearly all of them had experienced the same thing.”

Greene is now 34 and says he cannot imagine doing the same to a teen boy that was done to him. Even so, what he describes is commonplace, something gays hitherto would be loathe to admit.

The other story published at the Huffington Post is called “Together Along: The Epidemic of Gay Loneliness” by Michael Hobbes. It is thousands of words long and can only be described as a cry of the heart about how awful is Gay World. Hobbes describes the trajectory that separates his gay and sexually normal friends; the sexually normal go off to relationships, marriage, happiness; the gays go off to lives of furtive drug fueled anonymous sex, heavy drinking, porn, and debilitating loneliness. Hobbes cites half a dozen studies demonstrating there is something terribly wrong in Gay World.

They are “between 2 and 10 times more likely than straight people to commit suicide … twice as likely to have a major depressive episode.” Three-quarters of “gay men who have recently arrived in New York City suffer from anxiety or depression, abused drugs or alcohol, or were having risky sex, or some combination of the three.”

Hobbes says, “gay men have fewer close friends than straight people or gay women” and the feeling of emptiness “is not just an American phenomenon. In the Netherlands, where gay marriage has been legal since 2001, gay men remain three times more likely to suffer from a mood disorder than straight men, and 10 times more likely to engage in ‘suicidal self harm’.” In Sweden, which has had civil unions since 1995 and full marriage since 2009, men married to men have triple the suicide rate of men married to women, Hobbes writes.

Hobbes mentions New York, Sweden and the Netherlands deliberately to make a point. Each are relative gay paradises so external “homophobia” cannot be a reason. Hobbes himself was “raised in a bright blue city by PFLAG parents. I’ve never known anyone who died of AIDS, I’ve never experienced direct discrimination and I came out of the closet into a work where marriage, a picket fence and a golden retriever were not just feasible but expected.” Then he says, “I’ve also been in and out of therapy more times than I’ve downloaded and deleted Grindr.” (Grindr is a particularly nasty gay website that allows men to hook up with other men right now wherever they are.)

Hobbes says part of the problem is internalized homophobia, what you might call “homo-homophobia,” but what they call “minority stress.” The theory of minority stress is that a member of a “marginalized” community may experience outright hostility or at the least require extra effort in all aspects of their lives, pressure that most of us cannot know. Maybe. Maybe not.

In their magisterial review of the literature on sexual orientation and gender identity, Drs. Lawrence Mayer and Paul McHugh write,

The social stress model probably accounts for some of the poor mental health outcomes experienced by sexual minorities, though the evidence supporting the model is limited, inconsistent and incomplete. Some of the central concepts of the model, such as stigmatization, are not easily operationalized. There is evidence linking some forms of mistreatment, stigmatization, and discrimination to some of the poor mental health outcomes experienced by non-heterosexuals, but it is far from clear that these factors account for all of the disparities between the heterosexual and non-heterosexual populations.

And not even Hobbes is fully convinced. He says the common gay life is inherently alienating, most especially with the rise of Grindr. But, even more than that, social interaction is vile. He describes coming out as homosexual and eagerly going to West Hollywood to be with his people and discovered “it was really horrifying. It’s made by gay adults, and it’s not welcoming for gay kids.” He says it’s like a jungle. Hobbes’s friend Paul says he felt just like a piece of meat. Moreover, rejection was everywhere and constant. “All of a sudden it’s not your gayness that gets you rejected. It’s your weight, or your income, or your race.”

Gay men in particular are just not very nice to each other, Hobbes reports.

Hobbes’s truly honest piece goes on and on and it is heartbreaking to read, particularly when you know that more and more teen boys have been lied to and are being lured into this noxious germ-ridden and psychologically debilitating stew.

But this is the reality of Gay World that most Americans do not know. It is the reality of Gay World that Homosexual Inc. was eager to hide and that traditional marriage leaders were quite happy to turn away from.

We are now busy defending the religious freedom not to be forced to participate in gay weddings. This is perhaps the most defensive position we could take, and therefore the weakest, and by the way, it is already largely lost. Why should we be able to refuse service to a homosexual wedding when they are just like us and it is legal?

Unless, they are not just like us. The underlying reality of Gay World is ugly and dangerous. Even they are admitting it now. But this is something Traditional Marriage Inc. has refused to consider.

One of our marriage leaders actually said he “honored” the relationships among his gay friends. Recall that super-lawyer Church Cooper was planning his lesbian daughter’s wedding at the same time he was badly defending traditional marriage in the California courts. Traditional marriage leaders have resolutely refused to engage Robert Reilly’s sodomy thesis in his Making Gay Okay: How Rationalizing Homosexual Behavior Is Changing Everything.

Some traditional marriage leaders say gay sex has nothing to do with defending marriage and we cannot work to overturn gay marriage unless and until we get our own house in order. They say we ruined marriage and gave homosexuals their opening. In fact, it was the leftist sexual revolutionaries who set out to destroy marriage.

The reality is that even after all the opprobrium heaped on the sacred institution of marriage, most people still want it, they hunger for it. According to Gallup 78 percent of those never married say they want to be married. And when married, people believe in faithfulness. Gallup reports only 10 percent think adultery is morally acceptable and this is up only 3 percent since 2001.

The fact is that the underlying hideous reality of homosexuality has been hidden from Mr. and Mrs. America. Would they be so open to it, if they knew the truth? Would young boys be lured to it if they knew the horrors that awaited them? We will only ever know if someone tells them. Who will that be?

 

Radical individualism is at the heart of gender theory vs. Relation As Meaning of the “Humanum”

 

What does this mean for democracy and the family?

Michael Cook | Mar 6 2017 |   13

“The love that dared not speak its name in 1894 has become the love that cannot stop gabbling on in 2017. How did this come about? Is there a thread connecting Oscar Wilde, the Stonewall Riots, same-sex marriage, Caitlin Jenner and North Caroline bathrooms?

One of clearest recent explorations of the history of changing notions of sexuality comes in an issue of the journal Communio,. In “Gender Ideology and the Humanum” Margaret H. McCarthy, an American academic, sketches out the tortured path of contemporary gender theory. It is long and dense but rewarding.

Gender ideology has been simmering for centuries, perhaps ever since the French philosopher Rene Descartes (1596-1650) conceived of man as a ghost in a machine, a mind imprisoned inside a body. His dualism shattered the ancient and mediaeval conception of man as a unity of body and soul and set the stage for a modern framework in which the mind is the master builder and the body is a just a quarry of resources.

McCarthy’s Exhibit A in her precis of recent developments is Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986), the immensely influential French feminist philosopher. In her book The Second Sex, de Beauvoir argued that women have always been defined by their relations to men and will therefore always have subordinate roles. McCarthy summarises this critique as follows:

It is important to note that at the beginning and the heart of the theory of gender as a “social construct” is a deep malaise about the body itself, in particular the female body. The root of the problem lies there, well in advance of any education or socialization of the famous “girl who will become a woman.” It is the woman’s body that opposes her existence as a person. It is therefore ultimately her own body that the woman must resist. For de Beauvoir this takes the form, predominantly, of either preventing pregnancy from occurring altogether or stopping it in its tracks should it occur.

Building on de Beauvoir’s theory that women need to become alienated from their femininity, Shulamith Firestone (1945-2012), a Canadian-American Marxist feminist, argued that the problem was deeper than male oppression. Women were oppressed by the fact of having bodies which required of them the sacrifice of child-bearing and rearing. She wrote in The Dialectic of Sex:

the end goal of feminist revolution must be, unlike that of the first feminist movement, not just the elimination of male privilege but of the sex distinction itself: genital differences between human beings would no longer matter culturally … The reproduction of the species by one sex for the benefit of both would be replaced by (at least the option of) artificial reproduction: children would be born to both sexes equally, or independently of either, however one chooses to look at it … The tyranny of the biological family would be broken.

With recent developments in reproductive technology, Firestone’s predictions are no longer looking like science fiction. IVF has become widespread; scientists are developing artificial eggs and sperm; and raising a fetus outside the human body in an artificial womb is a possibility, albeit remote.

The last figure profiled by McCarthy is Judith Butler (1956 -), whose ideas are so progressive that she can scarcely be called a feminist at all. She has popularised the notion that gender is not something essential, but “performative”; it is an illusion created by constant repetition of stylized actions. Butler’s antagonist is the body itself. The very fact of coming into the world with a body with all its characteristics – sex being just one of them – is a sign of bondage to nature which must be overcome. McCarthy observes:

To be clear, Butler is not aiming only at bad conceptions of the body (and its feminine representative), but at the idea that there be a conception of the body at all, that the body be anything in particular. It is, for Butler, the very idea of the fixity and indisputability of the body that is so pernicious, since this idea “successfully buries and masks the genealogy of power relations by which it is constituted” and by which it is put in its place.

McCarthy notes perceptively: “It is as though we are all effectively hermaphrodites regardless of our anatomy or any other physiological make up.”

The key battle is waged over what it means for a human being to be free. “What these tortured variations of ‘gender as a social construct’ share is a view of the body as a problematic limit to freedom—freedom conceived as pure self-initiating self-determination.” Ultimately the gender radicals believe that we are pure will “fastened to a dying animal”, as Yeats put it. Butler extends Descartes’ separation between mind and body to the nth degree. Mind is most free when it dominates the body and exploits it.

What explains this desperate impulse to deny the self-evident facts of biology, even to the point of ignoring discoveries that our sexual differences extend right down to the cellular level and do not exist merely in our reproductive organs?

McCarthy’s answer is novel and, if it is right, alarming. She points out a sexual body only makes sense in relations of dependence and interaction: mother-father-child and man-woman. We are all children who owe our existence to a man and a woman and our bodies speak the language of dependency and community.

To achieve the absolute freedom of which they dream, gender theorists must repudiate these relationships. Instead of the Judeao-Christian conviction that “it is not good for man to be alone”, they assert, “it is good to be alone”. “Sartre was not entirely wrong when he said, famously, that the ‘other is hell’,” comments McCarthy sardonically.

Gender theory, she says, is “meant to protect us from the reality that we are ‘from’ and ‘for’ others.” It is individualism gone stark, raving mad. Perhaps Shulamith Firestone’s tragic passing was emblematic of this Robinson Crusoe philosophy. When she died in 2012, she was schizophrenic, starving, and alone. She had been dead for a week before her body was discovered in her Manhattan apartment.

McCarthy does not discuss the political consequences of her analysis at any length. But there are two obvious developments to be expected, one in the short-term and one in the long-term.

In the short term, the family will lose its status as “the natural and fundamental group unit of society … entitled to protection by society and the State”, as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 16, 3) describes it. There is simply no privileged place for family relationships in a society which has incorporated gender theory into its legal system. If we are all free to choose our favourite mode of gender, then having children is obviously a mere personal option. People who want to raise children deserve no more respect than people who want to raise alpacas.

And in the long term, how can democracy as we know it survive? Democracy is more than just the arithmetic of 50%+1. It is a political culture which assumes that people take responsibility for each other, first within families, then within society. A political order based on gender theory which repudiates social bonds, fosters extreme individualism and teaches that the “other is hell” will be a very strange kind of democracy indeed.

So there is more at stake than just bathrooms. Whether its protagonists realise it or not, the end point of the gender project is not merely reshaping sexual behaviour, but society itself.

Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet.

Blogger: I refer you to Ivan Illich’s “BEYOND ECONOMICS AND ECOLOGY” The Radical Thought of Ivan Illich Preface by Jerry Brown, Governor of California Edited by Sajay Samuel

How the New Feminist Resistance Leaves Out American Women

 People on the National Mall for the March for Life rally in Washington. CreditAl Drago/The New York Times

Within days of Donald J. Trump’s election, the American left, newly animated in opposition, settled on a rallying cry: “Love trumps hate.” Inherent in the slogan is the idea that Mr. Trump stands for division and discrimination, while his opponents stand for love and inclusion. Nowhere was this sentiment more visible than at the Women’s March on Washington the day after the inauguration.

Though the march was driven by the left, it claimed to speak for women in general, and indeed women of all ages, races and states poured onto the National Mall. Yet lost in the action, then and since, is any sense of what the movement stands for; ultimately, it settled for a sense of what the movement is against: not just a caricature of Mr. Trump as a misogynist hellbent on sending women back to 1950s America, but anything associated with him as well. Perhaps most pointedly, while the Women’s March claimed to stand for love, nonviolence and inclusion, its organizers staunchly refused to extend that “inclusion” to pro-life women.

We cannot overlook the significance of this act, because it reveals a fatal chink in the armor of the new feminist resistance movement: its radical position on abortion. This movement will thus be unable to unite American women because it rejects the position that most American women take on abortion — that it should be completely illegal, or legal but with significant restrictions.

According to the latest Knights of Columbus/Marist Poll, an annual survey of views on abortion, just over half of all women want to see further restrictions on abortion. To millions of women, including young people like myself, this is not just a policy stance; it informs many areas of our lives as women. To us, “resistance” has to include opposition to the lie that freedom can be bought with the blood of our preborn children.

We reject the notion that we need free abortion on demand without apology. We are offended by the news media’s belligerent efforts to portray the pro-abortion movement as normal, while turning a blind eye to the millions of us who believe that women deserve something better than abortion. We reject a vitriolic minority claiming to speak on our behalf and excluding us from the “women’s movement.”

As a woman who has been involved in the pro-life movement for my entire adult life, I want to obliterate the stereotype that the people working to end abortion hate women. My movement empowers women in tangible ways. At Human Coalition, where I work, we extend tangible, compassionate help to pregnant women who believe that abortion is the best or only option available to them. This is an underserved group, and we are working to stand in the gap for them.

Groups like ours work with each woman to identify the unique circumstances that have made her feel powerless, and then we respond to those needs. That can mean going with her to apply for Medicaid; helping her to secure safe, affordable housing; finding child care solutions; or helping her improve her résumé and find employment. There is no debate: Women face hurdles in pregnancy. But I refuse to accept that peddling death in the face of crisis can ever truly empower a woman.

And it’s not just pro-life women who feel this way. The men I work alongside want to end abortion not because they want to control women, but because they agree that requiring the sacrifice of a woman’s children in exchange for her success is unimaginable.

The men I work with are creating a culture in which their own wives, daughters and sisters are empowered and supported. They are making abortion unthinkable by extending compassion and hope in a society where men have too often used abortion to oppress and exploit women.

If a movement wants to speak for me as a woman, then it must be broad enough to take my firm beliefs, and accept them as mainstream. Women who defy the abortion movement know that our power is not in a clenched fist or an act of violence against anyone — especially not against our own preborn children. Rather, our power is in upending the abortion status quo by demanding more for ourselves, for our families, and for our children.

Lent 2017: “Love the Cross”

Seeing how love on this side of “forever” is sufferingSuffering is not good in itself; it’s the Love that drives the suffering that is the Good

  • Metaphysical background: Creation. God is not “a” Being of the world. He is Creator of the world and therefore, He transcends the world completely, ontologically. He created the world from nothing. St. Thomas appositely referred to God not as “Ente” – that which is, but as “Esse” – “Ising.” [The Creator is the “act of all acts, perfection of all perfections:” The Father is not the Father and then engenders the Son; He is the action of engendering the Son…] The philosopher Robert Sokolowski writes in this regard: “It is natural for human reason to find itself within the context of the world, we come up against the world and its necessities as simply there, as the extreme margin of what can be thought. To think or to believe beyond the setting of the world and its necessities should be recognized for the unusual movement that it is. It is not the case that the Greek philosophers were somehow not sufficiently intelligent, or that they did not strain their minds enough, to reach a distinction that reason should come to at some time or other. The step into understanding beings as possibly never having been at all is not like the step from Homer to Plato, from the mythical articulation of things into the literal and philosophical exploration of them. It is not simply one more pace in the march of reason, or one more refinement in human self-understanding. It is a movement of a very different kind.

                        “In Christian belief we understand the world as that which might not have been, and cor-relatively we understand God as capable of existing, in undiminished goodness and greatness, even if the world had not been. We know there is a world, so we appreciate the world as in fact created, but we acknowledge that it is meaningful to say that God could have been all that there is. Such a solitary’ existence of God is counterfactual, but it is meaningful, whereas it would not be meaningful for pagan sense of the divine… When God does create, there may be ‘more’ but there is no ‘greater’ or ‘better.’ And the world must be understood appropriately, as that which might not have been. The world and everything in it is appreciated as a gift brought about by a generosity that has no parallel in what we experience in the world. The existence of the world now prompts our gratitude, whereas the being of the world prompts our wonder.”[1]

We struggle with this because the radicality of the notion of creation has been lost in the last two centuries. In our present mental horizon, the world of sensation and the bottom line is all the real there is.

In the light of the above, and to advance the idea that the Creator has suffered in His creation because He has wanted to: John Henry  Newman (Discourse 16 to Mixed Congregations:  “Mental Sufferings of Our Lord in His Passion”):

“Recollect that our Blessed Lord was in this respect different from us, that, though He was perfect man, yet there was a power in Him greater than His soul, which ruled His soul, for He was God [the Divine “I”]. The soul of other men is subjected to its own wishes, feelings, impulses, passions, perturbations; His soul was subjected simply to His Eternal and Divine Personality. Nothing happened to His soul by chance, or on a sudden; He never was taken by surprise; nothing affected Him without His willing beforehand that it should affect Him. Never did He sorrow, or fear, or desire, or rejoice in spirit, but He [the Divine “I”] first willed to be {330} sorrowful, or afraid, or desirous, or joyful. When we suffer, it is because outward agents and the uncontrollable emotions of our minds bring suffering upon us. We are brought under the discipline of pain involuntarily, we suffer from it more or less acutely according to accidental circumstances, we find our patience more or less tried by it according to our state of mind, and we do our best to provide alleviations or remedies of it. We cannot anticipate beforehand how much of it will come upon us, or how far we shall be able to sustain it; nor can we say afterwards why we have felt just what we have felt, or why we did not bear the suffering better. It was otherwise with our Lord. His Divine Person was not subject, could not be exposed, to the influence of His own human affections and feelings, except so far as He chose. I repeat, when He chose to fear, He feared; when He chose to be angry, He was angry; when He chose to grieve, He was grieved. He was not open to emotion, but He opened upon Himself voluntarily the impulse by which He was moved. Consequently, when He determined to suffer the pain of His vicarious passion, whatever He did, He did, as the Wise Man says, instanter, “earnestly,” with His might; He did not do it by halves; He did not turn away His mind from the suffering as we do—(how should He, who came to suffer, who could not have suffered but of His own act?) no, He did not say and unsay, do and undo; He said and He did; He said, “Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God; sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou fitted to Me”. He took a {331} body in order that He might suffer; He became man, that He might suffer as man; and when His hour was come, that hour of Satan and of darkness, the hour when sin was to pour its full malignity upon Him, it followed that He offered Himself wholly, a holocaust, a whole burnt-offering;—as the whole of His body, stretched out upon the Cross, so the whole of His soul, His whole advertence, His whole consciousness, a mind awake, a sense acute, a living cooperation, a present, absolute intention, not a virtual permission, not a heartless submission, this did He present to His tormentors. His passion was an action; He lived most energetically, while He lay languishing, fainting, and dying. Nor did He die, except by an act of the will; for He bowed His head, in command as well as in resignation, and said, “Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit;” He gave the word, He surrendered His soul, He did not lose it.”

St. Josemaria Escriva

2)  The asceticism of St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, his love for the Cross and the search for it in secular ordinariness.

On October 16th, 1931, while in the street, he heard: “You are my Son; you are Christ.” The point to be made: As Creator of all that is, Christ could not be made to suffer because His divine “I” had to create that which would cause His “I” to suffer as man. That is to say: the penance and the mortification of Lent, as understood by St. Josemaria Escriva, is something that we have to search for if we are to live it as Christ lived it. Escriva wrote: “For us to reach God, Christ is the way: but Christ is on the Cross.”[2] And then: “You yourself must decide of your own free will to take up the Cross; otherwise, your tongue may say that you are imitating Christ, but your actions will belie your words. That way, you will never get to know the Master intimately, or love him truly. It is really important that we Christians convince ourselves of this. We are not walking with our Lord unless we are spontaneously depriving ourselves of many things that our whims, vanity, pleasure, or self-interest clamor for. Not a single day should pass that has not been seasoned with the salt and grace of mortification; and please get rid of the idea that you would then be miserable. What a sad little happiness you will have if you don’t learn to overcome yourself, if you let your passions and fancies dominate and crush you, instead of courageously taking up your Cross!”[3] And shortly beyond that, he gave a short phenomenology of penance: “Penance is fulfilling exactly the timetable you have fixed for yourself, even though your body resists or your mind tries to avoid it by dreaming up useless fantasies. Penance is getting up on time and also not leaving for later, without any real reason, that particular job that you find harder or most difficult to do.

               Penance is knowing how to reconcile your duties to God, to others and to yourself, by making demands on yourself so that you find enough time for each of your tasks. You are practicing penance when you lovingly keep to your schedule of prayer, despite feeling worn out, listless or cold.

               Penance means being very charitable at all times towards those around you, starting with the members fo your own family. It is to be full of tenderness and kindness towards the suffering, the sick and the infirm. It is to give patient answers to people who are boring and annoying. It means interrupting our work or changing our plans, when circumstances make this necessary, above all when the just and rightful needs of others are involved.

               Penance consists in putting up good-humoredly with the thousand and one little pinpricks of each day; in not abandoning your job, although you have momentarily lost the enthusiasm with which you started it; in eating gladly whatever is served, without being fussy.

               For parents and, in general, for those whose work involves supervision or teaching, penance is to correct whenever it is necessary. This should be done bearing in mind the type of fault committed and the situation of the person  who needs to be helped, not letting oneself be swayed by subjective viewpoints, which are oft en cowardly and sentimental.

               A spirit of penance keeps us from becoming too attached to the vast imaginative blueprints we have made for our future projects, where we have already foreseen our master strokes and brilliant successes. What joy we give to God when we are happy to lay aside our third-rate painting efforts and let him put in the features and colors of his choice.

               I could continue pointing out a multitude of details (I have just mentioned those that came immediately to mind) which you can take advantage of during the course of the day to come closer to God and to your neighbor.

Hence: Look for the Cross!

[1] Robert Sokolowski, “The God of Faith and Reason,” UNDP (1982) 19.

[2] “The Way of the Cross” – 10th Station.

[3] “Friends of God,” 129.

Forty Days into Trump Presidency, Some Major Gains for the Family and Some Questions

 

SHARON SLATER | PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE

 

 

Forty Days into Trump Presidency, Some Major Gains for the Family and Some Questions

 

 

Dear Friend of the Family,

 

I asked Sheldon Kinsel, Family Watch’s Director of Public Policy, to outline for us some of the victories and challenges for the family and family values during the first 40 days of the Trump administration. What follows is based on Sheldon’s informative report:

 

In the first 40 days of the Trump administration there have been some significant victories for the family and family values, both in the U.S. and around the world.

 

SHARON SLATER,

FWI PRESIDENT

 


However, there are still some important lingering questions since it is taking longer than expected for details of some of the new administration’s policies to emerge. This is in part due to problems with staffing the new administration.

In fact, President Trump’s critical cabinet secretary nominees are being confirmed at the slowest pace in U.S. history, largely because Senate Democrats are engaging in unprecedented delaying tactics to slow down the confirmation process. After more than 40 days, several of the 20 cabinet-level appointees still have not been confirmed. If this delay continues, it will be a long time before more of the details of Trump’s policies become clear. And even when the minority is not intentionally obstructing the confirmation process, it takes months to fill the more than 4,000 political appointments throughout the federal departments and agencies.

Still, there have been a number of very significant and encouraging actions in the first 40 days.

·        Reinstated Mexico City Policy. On his first working day in office President Trump reinstated this policy that prohibits U.S. funds from going to any non-governmental organization that performs or is otherwise involved in promoting abortions. This is a great pro-life victory, as it will cut a little more than US$32 million that had been funding these groups.

·        Rescinded “Guidelines” to Schools on Transgender Students. The guidelines issued by the Obama Department of Education directed school districts to allow gender-confused students to use the bathrooms, locker rooms, showers and other sexually segregated facilities of their choice regardless of their actual gender. The Obama administration justified these directions by claiming that existing federal law prohibiting discrimination of the basis of “sex” also applied to “gender identity.” The guidelines also contained a threat to the federal funding of districts that did not comply. Parents across the U.S. are particularly heartened that even though Education Secretary Betsy DeVos reportedly opposed rescinding the guidelines, President Trump sided with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and others who were pushing for doing so.

·        Appointed Nikki Haley as UN Ambassador. The former South Carolina governor is a staunch conservative and strongly pro-life. In her first few weeks at the UN she has made it clear that she will be an assertive and effective representative of the president. It is not clear yet exactly how the U.S. position will change at upcoming UN meetings, but it will certainly be more pro-family than it was under President Obama.

·        Nominated  Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. The nomination of Supreme Court justices who can serve on the high court for decades after a president leaves office is one of the most enduring impacts any president has on a wide range of policies. True to his promises during the campaign, Trump’s appointment to the vacancy on the nine-member court, Neil Gorsuch, has a well-established record as a conservative jurist who will strictly interpret the Constitution and not try to create new law from the bench.

·        Strong Administration Support for the March for Life. President Trump expressed strong support for the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. and sent Vice President Pence to speak at the event–the highest ranking elected official to ever address the marchers in person. Kellyanne Conway, the manager of Trump’s presidential campaign and now one of his key advisors, also spoke at the rally.

Also, President Trump has pledged to make sharp cuts in discretionary federal spending including the State Department budget and its programs such as foreign aid. (See our documentary “Cultural Imperialism: The Sexual Rights Agenda” to learn how the Obama administration used U.S. foreign aid as a lever to impose controversial sexual rights on developing countries.)

There will likely be additional cuts in U.S. support of the United Nations, which totals about $8 billion per year. President Trump has been outspoken in questioning the value to the U.S. of many of the UN’s activities and actions, and has called for significant changes and reforms. This is in line with a long-held negative view on the effectiveness of the UN held by a number of influential members of Congress.

It has been reported that the UN’s support for abortion is a particular concern for the Trump Administration. The U.S. government has been giving about $600 million a year to the UN for such programs.

Despite all of the positive actions, pro-family supporters in the U.S. still have a number of concerns. One is President Trump’s decision not to revoke Obama’s 2014 executive order that required contractors working for the federal government to implement nondiscrimination policies relating to the employment of homosexual and transgender individuals.

Many feel it is inappropriate for the federal government to dictate personnel policies to private employers, particularly with respect to the highly controversial concepts of gender identity and expression. Gender confusion in its most serious manifestations is a recognized mental disorder called “Gender Dysphoria.” Professionals strongly disagree on whether it is best for those suffering from gender confusion to affirm them in their chosen gender or to get them help to be comfortable with their true biological sex. (A post on Tumblr has a “Master List” that identifies 112 “genders.”) 

Across the U.S., alleged rights to gender identity protections are increasingly coming in conflict with personal and religious freedom rights not to be forced to recognize a person as the opposite gender (or as any number of the dozens of other claimed “genders”) since many hold either a personal or religious belief that gender is a biological, fixed trait at birth.

Another concern is the delay of an executive order to protect religious freedom, a promise President Trump made during his campaign. Some sources have suggested, however, that the order may have been delayed to avoid complicating the U.S. Senate’s confirmation process for Judge Gorsuch as a Supreme Court justice.

A particularly encouraging sign is the apparent growing influence of Vice President Mike Pence in policy decisions related to the family, life and other social issues. The vice president has a very strong pro-life and pro-family record, and his selection as Trump’s running mate went a long way toward easing concerns many social conservatives had about candidate Trump.

It was always clear that a Trump administration would be more supportive of life, the family, and family values in the U.S. and around the world than a President Hillary Clinton would have been. The question was always how much more supportive Donald Trump would be. 

Although some concerns still remain, overall, based on several of these significant pro-life, pro-family actions in the first 40 days of Trump’s presidency, we are very encouraged.

We will keep you apprised as new developments occur.

Sincerely,

 

 

 

Sharon Slater