Tag Archive: church


The Priest

christ the priest

 

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” –John 14:18

A discussion on the Mass cannot be separate from a discussion on the gift of the priesthood. Crowing the offering of the priesthood of believers, God’s ministerial priests make the Eucharistic sacrifice present. The word “priest” means one who makes sacrifice. Chosen from among men, he presides over the banquet of love. As “another Christ” his hands, voice and body become the very instruments of Christ, used to pour out every kind of grace. The priest’s vocation is to be steward of all gifts which the Mass imparts. We see clearly that his actions, words, prayers and vesture have something to teach us about the gifts.

Gold in the vesture of the priest is not belonging to the man, but to God’s presence which wraps him as a mantle. We think of how the prophets of old chose their successors by placing their mantle upon them. We think of how Christ elected his own apostles and remember that every priest is enrolled in the apostolic ministry of preaching the Gospel to every nation.

The oil of a priest configures him especially to Christ. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit burns a brilliant seal upon his soul. It is the oil of gladness, of Our Savior’s eternal priesthood. He goes to the wellspring of Christ’s own life and draws out the Eucharist from which we all drink. He gives us the sacrament that heals, atones and saves. During the elevation of the host and chalice, let us imagine that oil is being poured out over the people, cleansing us, strengthening us, making us new.

When the priest prays quietly at the altar, he is praying for himself- and for us. Jesus’s disciples asked him: “teach us to pray” and this is what the priest does. Like the Good Shepherd who leads us, he teaches us a silent way of prayer, of turning our eyes to the Heavenly Father and trusting in Him. He lifts up his children, diligently cares for them and feeds them honey from the promised land.

The priest does many acts of reverence during Mass. He bows his head, lifts his hands, makes small crosses and big crosses. Genuflecting before the consecrated Eucharist, he shows adoration for Christ. We worship with head, hands, feet and lips because Christ became man and worshiped his Father in this way. Watching these gestures and responding to them, our whole being participates in the Holy Sacrifice.

Lastly, the priest works hard to provide for our nourishment. He spends many hours in toil, tending to the sick, weak and spiritually wounded. His celibate fecundity and wholehearted devotion become rich milk flowing in the desert. By laying down his own life for us, he provides us with a model of Christian living. In following self-abandonment, we find true happiness. What a happy sight is a priest wearing his collar amidst a bustling, public place! The priest is a quiet, humble enduring token of God’s presence with us always.

The Milk of the Mass.

milk

 

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” – Isaiah 55:1

The Mass is comprised of two parts: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, which provide nourishment and strength for our souls. We “feed” on the Word and then on the Eucharist. Their source is in Christ, the true life of the Church. What the Holy Scripture speaks of in figure, prophecy and the words of Christ, the Eucharist fulfils. We learn of the true manna from heaven, sit at his feet, and then feed upon Him. This is the milk of the Mass, which flows freely from Christ and is a supreme gift to all who believe.

All of the other gifts pass through and originate from these two teats by which the Holy Church feeds her hungry children. This is why we refer to the universal Church as “Mother Church” because she embraces and feeds people of all nations, helping them to grow into saints. Through the liturgy of the Mass, something divine descends upon us, making our hearts grow bigger, stronger and able to make more room for God’s love. As we become mature Catholics, we will draw from the ample fount of the church’s milk time and time again. Listening to the Gospel, we digest the message, letting certain words come to us and as Mary, ponder the meaning in our hearts. In such sweet instruction, we learn to become a holy people, in stinging rebuke, we notice areas that must be improved. This is the milk working in us, to bring about Christ in us.

Ingesting the Eucharist unites us with Christ. Scripture says: “A man will leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife- and they shall become one flesh”. At the moment of consecration, Our Lord leaps down from heaven’s height and takes shelter in the hands of the priest. As the canopy of love is raised over us, Christ comes forth. The one true Savior, concealed under the appearance of bread and wine, dwells in one flesh with his people, his bride. With each reception of Holy Communion, we grow more and more like Christ, our Divine Spouse. In essence, we become what we eat. What makes this mystery even more beautiful is that it is God’s work, not our own. This is the paradox of Christianity, the Living God who did not deign equality with God but became a slave. We are the truly poor ones but he becomes a poor one, ground by our teeth, totally annihilated out of love. That which is high is made low and that which is low is made high for from our feeble, sinful lays, we are called to partake in his riches.

When Scripture says, “Man does not live on bread alone but by every word that passes from your mouth,” we hear a reference to this sublime milk, offered in both the Gospel reading and the Holy Eucharist. For God’s word speaks to us in holy writ and it is the word of God, uttered through the priest that transforms mere bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. At the powerful word of God, every gift of the Mas springs to life. In a new creation, this life throbs, flows and covers the earth. It is important that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is prayed, lived and absorbed into our very being. How rich and blessed are we to be partakers in such choice, divine foods!

The Wine of the Mass.

 

wine

“Take me away with you–let us hurry! Let the king bring me into his chambers. We rejoice and delight in you; we will praise your love more than wine. How right they are to adore you!”– Song of Songs 1:4

 

When confronted with the mystery of the altar, the presence of God dwelling there, one is overcome by awe. Words escape some while others long to open their mouths in praise. In both cases, the heart groans silently. Have you ever taken time to notice all of the postures and gestures used during Mass? When the priest speaks a certain verse, we say a certain response. He kneels before the consecrated Eucharist, he whispers certain prayers and holds out his hands. When crossing the altar, we bow and starting the Mass, we make the sign of the cross. These actions are really just a hundred tiny ways we say “Lord, I love you.”

This disposition of reverence is the wine of the Mass. Our chanting, our vigils, our candles brightly burning are all signs of a people enamored by God’s presence. These things all serve to foster a union with God. They help us understand who God is and how we respond to Him. Reverence is the song of the wedding feast.

We behave differently at Mass than in the outside world. Feeling a sense of the sacred, our minds cease their restless churning. The structure and solemnity of the Holy Mass brings peace. It conveys a respect for the Lord’s house. In order to drink more deeply of the sacraments, we must lower ourselves, be humble and meek. It is then we hear what God is trying to tell us. Before approaching Holy Communion, we drink the cup of reverence which prepares us to drink the Saving Cup. Our palates are softened to receive the Living God.

To some, reverence is foolish, the dusty remnants of an old religion that lacks contemporary value. But nothing is further from the truth. Amidst materialism, reverence points to something higher. In a world of darkness, reverence sows light. We exert ourselves in charity, feeding the hungry caring for the sick, ministering to the sinner. Having drunk our fill, we may even give our very lives. Capable of so profoundly moving us with love of God and neighbor, wine is corresponds to the end of the Mass, which is adoration.

Wine is intoxicating, like the powerful, just and merciful presence of God, who loves us beyond measure. Our minds reel at such a love! Running and warm, it also becomes the precious Body and Blood of Christ, who intoxicated by love for us, gave up his life on the cross. Enlivened by this spirit, let us run to the King and Bridegroom of our souls!

The Honey of the Mass.

honey

 

“Know also that wisdom is like honey for you: If you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.” – Proverbs 24:14

There are some things about the Mass that we can just savor. In a sacred place, praying silently, folding our hands, perhaps whispering, we are comforted. Eyes closed, hearing a gentle hymn about the mercy of God, we are given hope. Seeking him, we know he seeks us. This is the honey of the Mass: God’s peace, which the world cannot give. The soft prayers, small gestures and mumblings of the priest are soothing to watch and hear.  A pilgrim people, we are nestled in the arms of God, and there, tell our many petitions.

Honey shows our special relationship with God. Our liturgical gestures reveal a people conversant with God, knowing him as both friend and lover. Every movement is charged with meaning, every word profound. Listening to the Gospel, let us remember that His word is like a honeycomb, beckoning us closer. As the priest recites prayers we may not be able to hear, remember that Jesus often went alone to pray. It reminds us to watch and pray.

You may notice that the words said at Mass have a set text. They are moreso echoed in every Catholic Church around the world. These petitions, handed down in the Church’s wisdom, are the prayer of the universal people of God who intercede for the world.  We don’t just recite these prayers, but enter into them, learning their meaning as we hear them again and again.

And how sweet the words of Jesus that flow from our mouths when we say: “Our Father, who art in heaven”? Our prayers join with those of the whole Church and Christ, who is the Head of the Body, prays with us. In receiving the Holy Eucharist, God becomes our humble guest. In silence, we talk to him, tell him our many needs and the needs of others. At this time, we might say private prayers in our hearts.  Because it is savored so long in the heart, honey characterizes the end of the Mass which is petition.

In our desert lives, it is necessary to seek refreshment. The sweetness of the Mass gives us energy to confront a world that is seldom peaceful. Jesus came to give us peace, to bring good tidings to all men. He taught us how to pray and united with him, we worship the Father. Our lasting union with him, is supreme happiness. In him, is our hope and the Mass reminds us of this time and time again. In his body, he died, rose and ascended. Knowing that Our Lord and God endured the hardships of life, gives us courage to face our own trials. Honey sweetens the vinegar of suffering.

 

The Oil of the Mass.

oil

 

“I have found David my servant; with my sacred oil I have anointed him” – Psalm 89:20

We each bring our own offering before God in the Holy Mass. In union with the priest, we lift up our hearts. The oil of the Mass, is our hearts, our prayerfulness, our awareness of who we are, the priestly people of God and what we are doing, offering sacrifice. It is also the crowning delight of the Mass, namely, God working through the priest. In our commingled offerings, a pungent fragrance is released. Spreading upward on our prayers and petitions, it fills the house of God.

A priestly people, we are anointed by God’s presence in the sacraments. In the Mass, our oil runs over. It exalts, it strengthens, heals and saves. This is most apparent in the consecration of the Holy Eucharist where a broken, sinful man calls down all the powers of heaven and cradles Christ in his hands. How awesome, the calling given to us, that we may share this incomprehensible blessing! In union with the priest, we offer the greatest sacrifice!

A zealous priest, in love with this sacrament of sacraments, gives forth finest oil. He has given everything, laid down his life and bursts with joy at being made a sweet oblation. The proper disposition we should carry during the Mass, is of self-sacrifice, being conformed to the salvific sacrifice of Christ. We continually apply the oil to ourselves that we may be healed and brought closer to our original dignity, that of our first parents before the fall. Thus, oil corresponds to the end of the Mass which is atonement for sins. The name “Christ” means “anointed one” and we bear his name as Christians. On our foreheads, is the seal of his kingship.

Oil spreads by virtue of its thick, moist consistency. Therefore, as a community, our oil is gathered and lavished upon others. Our anointing doesn’t run out as soon as we leave the church but rather must be spread onto the entire world. Oil is also a fuel. Filling our lamps with it, we burn brightly. This means that instead of hiding under a basket, we teach the truth. And if our lamps should run dry, we are invited to return to the most holy Eucharist and be refilled. The oil of Christ never lacks. His priesthood, and thus our priesthood, lasts forever.

 

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the most-perfect gift in which God gives himself to man, and man gives himself to God. When we go to Mass, a banquet is spread before us full of splendor, richness, sweetness and praise. God’s goodness overflows.  As a Protestant, I couldn’t really see God’s love for me, nor touch or taste it. God was an abstract person, far from us, that the preacher only talked about. Yes, he did tell us to “accept Jesus into our hearts” but this sort of prayer seemed like an intellectual exercise. When I finally discovered the Catholic Mass, I was able to say, here is truly the outward manifestation of God’s love for us! In the act of receiving communion, believed to be the actual body and blood of Jesus, “accepting Jesus into your heart” became more than just an idea but a real, concrete thing.

The Mass is our “Mysterium Tremendum”. It is the kingly, priestly and prophetic prayer of the entire people of God. Both a banquet and a sacrifice, it reopens every grace bestowed to us by Jesus on the cross of Calvary. In a lifetime, it would be impossible to understand all that happens at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass or count all its gifts. Before such a tremendous mystery, we can only reflect on bits and pieces until the whole is revealed in heaven, where at the altar not made of human hands, we will worship for all eternity. The following gifts I now reflect on are just a foretaste of what God prepares for us, that which eye has not seen and ear has not heard.

 

The Gold of the Mass:

gold

“And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.” – Malachi 3:3

When the sweet smell of incense rises in smoky curls, the organ thunders and heavenly strains of Gregorian chant hit your ears as you see the priest process by wearing vestments that shimmer like fire, you are experiencing the gold of the Mass. These are the outward treasures of the church proudly displayed. While such beauty may consist of expensive materials, they speak of the treasures of heaven rather than earth. We do not count the cost of this perfume poured out in devotion, for God is master of all things.

Some may deem beauteous things as mere externals however, we know their true purpose: our senses, sight, smell, sound, touch, are guided to heavenly realities. Mysteries are brought low, so that man may taste and see. We see before us, entrance into that paradise lost and a foretaste of eternal delight. A lavish wedding feast calls our attention, our minds and hearts.

The gold of the Mass is the priceless adornment of the temple of God, which should match the adornment in our heart. Since we cannot see the hearts of others, we are shown something to strive for, the adornment of virtue, faith, hope, charity. It is also a reminder of God’s greatest gift to us, His Only begotten Son, who was incarnated of the Virgin Mary and became man. The Lord of all creation became poor so we may be rich. He became human so we could become divine. Gold was presented to the newborn babe in Bethlehem, placed before the manger of the King of Kings. Now, chalices and plates of gold are a fitting throne for Him. From a gold vessel we receive something infinitely more precious than gold. We receive the price of our redemption: the blood of Jesus Christ!

The beauty of the Mass summons our collective memory as ransomed people of God, no longer slaves but friends and servants of the most high. A royal priesthood, whose bonds have been loosed, we stand and give thanks to God, carrying our gold, singing our song of victory. Thus the gold corresponds to the end of the Mass which is thanksgiving.

Instead of being a pompous parade of human accomplishments, fine vestments and solemn chant sing of God’s accomplishments. He shed all the glories of heaven and while still Lord of Lords, died on a barren cross for our sins. He wore the sorrowful vestments of death so we could wear the glittering garments of resurrection. Being tried in fire, gold is living. Pressed in the crucible, it emerges stronger. It is also a very pure element, mirroring pure worship. Therefore, being given an inheritance that never fades away, we echo the words: “How can I repay the Lord for his goodness to me.”

 

 

Credo

What is this Catholic faith of ours? What does it mean to be Catholic? It is history, beauty and majesty. It is a love story between God and man. It is not the mundane entertainment of the world nor is it some abstract concept of our intellect. It is a real covenant relationship, a way of life lived to the fullest. It isn’t the way of death, some sterile, modern standard that is pressed upon us day in and day out, no it is life- defying death. Jesus spoke of this saying:

“I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly” -John 10:10.

Too many people look at our faith as a set of rules and doctrines. They don’t realize that these rules and doctrines are actually a deposit of rich treasure, lovingly passed down by the apostles, and those saints and martyrs before us, originating from Christ’s undying love for us. Our doctrines and expressions are a gift, a sweet yoke. Not like the yoke of the world which burdens and destroys us. We must cast that yoke off and leave it behind. Then we can truly understand the Church’s wisdom, which is as a fount from heaven.

We worship in a liturgy because creation is liturgy, love is a liturgy. It is an act of giving and receiving and then giving again. It is speaking and being spoken to. God has always spoken to us in the law of gift. Moved by love, He spoke and all things in the universe were made and He pronounced them good. Each person, created in God’s image is a gift to be given. Christ offers us the gift of His very flesh and blood. He makes His life our own and we, enraptured by this act of love, can do nothing but adore and cry out “Amen!!”

Catholicism is a wedding, lasting throughout the ages. It is a lush garden where souls are planted and tended, where men become saints. God’s only son, the loving Bridegroom leapt down from heaven and became flesh to rescue us, to deliver us from sin and death. He gave all he had, his very life, for us. When water and blood poured from the side of the crucified Christ, a bride was taken and many sons and daughters were born anew from this union. We become God’s own sons and daughters. Because of this new identity:

“The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.” –Psalm 92-12

In this family of the Catholic Church, we have a foretaste of our promised inheritance. As a wedding gift, He bestowed the Holy Ghost, the spirit of God, so that in a spirit of hope, charity and self-sacrifice, we may show others this Kingdom of God. The husband and wife reveal God’s covenant with man, made from the beginning. The priest’s celibacy shows his mystical marriage with the Church, the chosen Bride. Nothing like this has ever happened! Through the sacraments, which are seven jewels of great price, God makes us partakers in His Divine Life. Everything that belongs to God now belongs to His people.

“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” – Song of Solomon 6:3

What we see in the visible Church points to a wondrous, unseen reality. Our communion here on earth is united to a greater communion in heaven, those who have fought and loved before us. Out of their sacrifices, modeled after the One Sacrifice of Christ, comes our power and strength. We are weak and have nothing in this world for our treasure is elsewhere.

The Catholic faith proclaims the forgiveness of sins, that when Jesus climbed up on that rugged cross, He undid the sin of Adam and reopened the gates of paradise. And how immense is God’s love that when a priest says “I absolve you from your sins” that through the blood of Christ, we are washed clean. Our faith is one that believes second chances are possible!

“Love covers a multitude of sins” – 1 Peter 4:8

This is our faith, why add or take anything away from it? Why not love and cherish it as Christ loved and cherished us? Catholicism is the pure water in which we have been reborn. It is the Precious Blood we drink. It is God’s Holy Spirit moving and breathing within us. It is the anticipation of life and resurrection and of every good thing in the world to come.

In my little Catholic world, the only types of liturgy I hear about are the Ordinary Form (or Novus Ordo) and the Extraordinary Form (Tridentine Mass). I have gone to both and assessed the pros and cons of each. Needless to say, though I strongly praise and advocate the Tridentine Mass, I’m a person who believes in the Ordinary Form, that if done correctly, reverently and with use of Latin and chant, that it can altogether rock. In my current location however, the parish Mass is subject to corny hymns, improvisations, omissions and the dreaded laundry-list of announcements before the dismissal.  Going to parish after parish in my region, I found nearly identical issues. Without relief, I sighed in my Babylonian exile and longed for the green pastures of beauty, mystery and liturgical heaven on earth.

Facebook is nifty for meeting random people who share the same obscure interests as you do. During a venture, searching out a Latin Mass that wasn’t a gazillion miles away, I met a guy from the same area who knew about a neat, little church, of the Anglican Ordinariate, located in Orlando. For those who don’t know, the Anglican Ordinariate is basically composed of former Anglicans who’ve had enough funny stuff and re-entered into full communion with Rome. Hallelujah! That’s awesome enough, right?

We met up (after I made sure he wasn’t a Nigerian prince trying to get my credit-card number), combined gas monies and embarked on our way. I’d never been to an Anglican-Use Mass before and didn’t know what to expect. All I knew is that they used “high-English”, so in a Homer Simpson moment, my mind envisioned some frilly-collared priest reciting Shakespeare…

Incarnation Catholic Church is rather small, with brick walls and a red, painted door. It sits on green grass beside a school and playground. Inside is old architecture, exposed wood rafters, a communion rail and tall wooden, high-altar standing against luscious stained-glass. First catching my eye was the image of Mary knelt down, holding baby Christ in her arms, a bright, evening star above and these words below: “Lumen de Lumine.” -“Light of Light”. Then the tabernacle greeted me, restfully gleaming from its place behind the altar- as if Our Lord was quietly whispering, “Welcome to My house.” I automatically knew this was going to be an awesome church. The priest said Mass, all spoken and without hymns because daily Masses here, as in the Latin Rite, are low-key. When the moment of consecration took place, the priest turned towards the altar and all the stained glass, beseeching God. He lifted the host and chalice high, beneath the light of that glassy, evening star. After receiving communion, silently kneeling at the rail, in rapt contemplation, I knew I would return.

There is no pretention in the Anglican-Use Mass. English elegance and simplicity combine well with Latin mystique and splendor. In Chicago, we would say they’re “keepin it real.” Kind of like that quaint taco-stand on the South Side, crafted with perfection: you know Jose was born in America but he serves it “autentico”. There’s a world of difference between the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and street-food but sometimes, we must use earthly things to describe that which is heavenly.  One can tell from the air of solemnity, you’re there to ponder divine things. The words are lofty, wrought with “thee’s” and “thou’s” enough to make a KJV-only Baptist jealous. Truly, the prayers are poetry raised heaven-ward. Latin-Mass lovers would find themselves home at an Anglican-Use liturgy, not because of Latin (although that varies- the second Mass I attended there had the consecration and last Gospel in Latin) but because that old-world fear of God is present, a tangible encounter with something bigger and older than yourself.

I encourage people who are interested in more traditional liturgy or maybe just something different to check this out. Maybe you are like me, loving the Ordinary Form but lamenting over its execution in the local parishes, looking to jar your earthly senses into heaven? Maybe you’re an Anglican who’s searching for something more consistent, ancient and unified? You may even be a Tridentine-Mass only person who’s temporarily trapped in Central Florida, feeling misunderstood because you miss kneeling and pretty vestments. Maybe you are craving a quiet retreat? If so, Incarnation Catholic Church in College Park, Orlando might be just the place for you! Check out their website, visit and ye now come back.

 

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See Incarnation Catholic Church at theparish.org

The day after my ill-fated encounter with the lady spiritual director, I went to visit another one. You could say I am pretty serious about this spiritual direction thing. I have realized I am the type of person who learns best by example. Regrettably, few people set a good Christian example in my life. Around the age of 13, I learned by example that Christians were better people than everyone else, they were holier, richer and nicer- and by nicer, I mean they had nicer things.  All too soon, I learned I couldn’t be that way, for I was sinful, poor and lacked nice things… No shiny car with a “Jesus” bumper sticker on it, pretty dress to wear on Easter or blonde hair shot with “good-girl” highlights. I remember being told that if I suffered- or was sad, I possessed little faith and this sent me running to the altar-call basically every Sunday.

Fast forward about 10 years and I am Catholic. I am Catholic because I was shown Christians were people just like everyone else but they TRIED to be holy. They could be rich or poor and the nicest “things” were virtues and sacraments, given as gifts from God. Three people figured majorly in my conversion to faith: Brad Poole, Father (now Monsignor) Stanley Deptula and Father Brian Brownsy.

Brad was my first Catholic friend- my first real Christian friend too. He was first to tell me that if I were the only person on earth, Jesus would have still died for me. I learned from Brad that suffering didn’t mean a lack of faith; it meant God loved you and wanted you closer to Him. God desires our hearts and being Christian isn’t just going to church on Sunday, it is a life journey.

Father Stanley taught me about the mercy of Christ. Instead of shunning my idiosyncrasies, he saw a soul that hungered for God. In his office, I had my first confession and though I was terrified, he remained patient and even allowed his two dogs to sit nearby, because they gave me peace. This powerful sacrament and kindly gesture showed forth forgiveness- and a God who gives second-chances.

Father Brownsy was my first Christian teacher. His Masses were the first I attended. He revealed the Sacred Scriptures, how they instruct us day-by-day, and showed me a beautiful world of prayer and liturgy. To these three people, through whom God’s grace so brilliantly shined, I am forever indebted.

It has been five years since my entry into the ancient, beautiful world of Catholic Christianity and I’m still in great need of examples. Left on my own for so long, I have grown dull, stunted and confused. Yes, I study the faith constantly and perhaps know more doctrine, Scripture and history than your average Catholic, but without a stability of spirit, it means little. Thus, spiritual direction!

I sat down with this new spiritual director and spoke to him and he spoke to me.  He was far removed from the lady I met yesterday, expressing gentle love instead of harsh condescension. In short time, he revealed two issues: First, my true happiness would come only if I depended wholly on God- and His will for me. Second, people aren’t naturally capable of love- they must be taught how to love. I must learn how to love so that others could in turn, see love within me. …and this guy didn’t even know about my dysfunctional childhood issues! See the problem is that I want what I want. I wish to choose my life, to become better- often independently of God’s will. I can’t save myself- and this scares the living heck out of me!

There is a realization that I haven’t been taught how to truly love, I mean I think I’ve been taught how to truly love but I really haven’t. This is because I keep resisting it. I keep expecting everything to change around me instead of changing myself. Moreso, my problem is I like myself but I don’t love myself. My life and my existence must be seen with God’s eyes and not man’s eyes whose perception of truth changes every day. So there you have it: two issues brought before the light. They hang on my heart like twin weights of pride and fear, begging to be loosed. As I set these goals and continue seeking spiritual direction, please, if you read this, pray for me.

That is what we Christians do.

Dear, Life Magazine and editors of Life Magazine:

I recently bought and read your “Pope Francis” issue of Life Magazine, Volume 13. No. 8 March 29, 2013. It was full of beautiful photographs and packed with information that was fairly free of bias. I commend you for giving the historical facts about Catholicism being Christianity’s oldest branch, the excavation of St. Peter’s tomb and the myth of Pope Joan. However your gloss over the Crusades was one-sided, viewing them more as a campaign for material gain than a defensive maneuver to protect Christian pilgrims.

Your coverage of past popes and their lives was meaningful. It keenly followed the history of Catholicism up to the present day. Your connecting the dots from antiquity to this modern day was very engaging.  Most people do not realize how old the Catholic Church is and that its roots lie in Biblical times, starting from the apostles. Thank you for showing us this!

Now I must share some criticism. On the section about Pope Benedict XVI, a flash of bias came out strongly. Your treatment of him was harsh, implying he was a cold figure of the “old church” with his outdated bans on birth-control and gay-marriage. Worst of all, you said he did nothing to stop child abuse.

Allow me to make my first point that Pope Benedict’s stance on moral issues is no different from any other pope’s. Both John Paul II and even the darling John XXIII spoke against gay-marriage and birth-control. Pope Francis has already and will continue to do the same, going to uphold what the Catholic Church has taught for 2,000 years. It’s absurd to think otherwise and reflects a very poor understanding of Catholicism. The problem is precisely that you don’t understand the Catholic Church. You even state: “The Catholic Church is older than democracy”. Yet you seek to impose modern, democratic values on it?

The Church doesn’t need to get with the times, it is beyond the times. Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said: “If the Church should marry the modern age, she would find herself a widow”. Don’t you get it? Catholicism came before this era and will be here after. It is something bigger than us- because it came from Someone bigger than us. Instead of criticizing Catholic leaders for not catering to modern whims, your publications should appreciate their perseverance, ancient tradition and sticking to principles laid down by Jesus Christ – not the majority vote.

Allow me to make my second point. A majority of child-abuse cases occurred before Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate. Some date back from the 60’s and 70’s before he was even ordained a priest! May I also elaborate on the fact that our own American society does little to stop the exploitation and abuse of children that happens in our schools, by their relatives or human traffickers. In fact, a child is more likely to be molested at school or at home than in a Catholic Church. Where is our accountability? Why don’t we take responsibility for producing a culture where children are prepared for sexual activity at increasingly younger ages? We cannot even live up to the rigorous standards we apply to the Catholic Church.

Moreso, the measures Benedict XVI implemented to protect future abuse and his changes to discipline in the Vatican went completely unmentioned. To be honest, it looked like you couldn’t find the answers and looked for someone to blame.

Lastly, more detail was given to Pope Benedict XVI’s shortcomings than to his brilliance as a theologian and burning love for his faith. As I said, you regarded him as more “cold, old church” than a man who wanted to set things right. Could he have done better? Yes. We all can do better.

Pope Benedict XVI was a shining example of Christian discipleship who made others fall in love with Christ. It was sad you couldn’t see this beneath the scapegoating. Your criticism of previous popes such as Pius XII and of the College of Cardinals was more fair. Why couldn’t you be fair to Benedict XVI? The man was old, weary and beaten down by years of the media basically crucifying him. Beneath all the power, you should have seen a human being. I figured you could have treated him more kindly is all.

You may not all be Christian, maybe none of you are, but I believe you can learn a thing or two from Christ when he said: “The measure by which you judge others will be measures unto you.”

Sincerely,

Rachel Gohlman.

 

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Overall rating :6 out of 10 (slightly above average but still pretty average)