Monday, August 30, 2010

REF: Wind in the Willows (Response to Robin)

Robin has once again given me again the material for a blog entry. Robin is a friend who has one year from obtaining her English degree. She is intelligent and insightful and is also a lovely person! I know very little about literature, but I do have an admiration for it, and have watched some of the classics she has read. So we have some good exchanges despite my ignorance.

The background to this reflection is the following: I sent her a couple links of episodes from the highly-acclaimed 1980s British animated (claymation) television series, "The Wind in the Willows", because I thought she might enjoy them. As it turns out, she not only watched it as a child (as did I), but she is taking this novel with her favourite professor this semester! So it turned out well.

The episode she focused on was called "Wayfarers All", which was also Chapter 9 of the book. The other episode I speak of was called "Piper at the Gates of Dawn", which was Chapter 7 of the original book. For those who are not familiar with the book or the series, I really do not know if you will get much out of it.

Robin! You're giving me another great opportunity for another blog entry - but I probably won't this time (have too much else to write - and what I am about to say is "inside information" - only for those who have a familiarity with Wind in the Willows, which isn't too many these days).

How interesting you are taking this in the Fall! (and with your favourite prof!) At that point you can tell ME what it all means.

My understanding of the novel is that it was a subtle social commentary. The TV series, I believe, tried to create episodes in the same spirit (which is quite apparent in the first season as well as the fourth season - which dealt with the problem of the railway threatening the Riverbank and Wild Wood). So when you mention "a universal struggle with the 'modernization' of the 20th century" as well as "a disillusionment with colonialism and capitalism", I can definitely see that. This is where authorial intention is key, and where a knowledge of the historical situations, the attitudes toward various issues and controversies of the day, and the different movements or modes of thought on those issues and controversies. You are in a better position to evaluate these than I am (you are the English Lit expert, after all!)

Now, for Ratty's bewitchment [rubbing my hands together right now!] Chapter 7 (The Piper at the Gates of Dawn) and Chapter 9 (Wayfarers All) were not included in the original movie - they were made into separate episodes in the first season. Readers of the novel have always noticed a sort of disconnect, like these chapters don't really "fit in" with the plot, and were like separate stories that were just thrown into the novel willy-nilly. Most readers think it is just an anomaly and leave it at that. But I disagree.

First, consider that these chapters are sandwiched between the three chapters on Toad and his adventures. I think that is significant - although I do not (yet) know how that is significant (probably because I have not actually read the novel all the way through, or if I did, it has been over 20 years).

Now, just to begin with what you said. You say "in general, adventures in literature are a good thing". You cite as an example the Hobbits. But I am not sure adventures in literature are a good thing. Usually, adventures are almost like a necessary evil - the protagonist needs to go (or get sent) on a "mission" to "set things right". Is it a good thing the Hobbits went on their adventure? Yes and No. Yes, it was a good thing because the ring needed to be destroyed, but No, it is not something they wanted to do aside from the fact that it was necessary in the face of the evil that was threatening their existence. They would have rather remained in the Shire living their simple and obscure lives. The same could be said for Alice in Wonderland, the Chronicles on Narnia, etc. They are not simply pleasant, fun, and enjoyable adventures, but dangerous, difficult, and sometimes deadly missions. They are positive in the sense of a victory over evil concerning the latter and not in the sense of the former.

I do not think Ratty's adventure is seen as negative in the exact same sense, but there is something akin here. I was thinking about these two chapters one day after watching the respective episodes, and I was struck by the similarities. Yet, the thing that confused me was that the Sea-faring Rat was painted in a negative light (an "evil" character), while the Piper at the Gates of Dawn was a hero (a "good" character). It got me to thinking about how the Devil disguises himself as an angel of light, how he is a counterfeiter that seeks to present all things and come across in such a way that appears to be indistinguishable from God and that which is godly. However, a demon cannot hide his horns, so to speak, and thus there are always little indications that something is of Satan or of God.

What struck me with the Piper and the Sea Rat was their common use of music. The Piper allured Ratty and Mole, while the Sea Rat enchanted Ratty through the use of song. Now, remember that music is used both by God and by Satan. Think of Gregorian Chant (and how people have been converted to Christ through it), think of the Book of Revelation, where the music perpetually rings out, think of all those movies in which two people fall in love to the music playing from record players and tape machines. Now on the flip side, think of how Rock and Roll was banned by many stations when it first came out because it was considered "the Devil's Music", how the worshipers of the Golden Calf were reveling in song and dance, how pornographers and strip joints make use of music (but a type of music and sound which contrasts sharply with the music couples fall in love to in the movies).

Notice I said the Piper "allured" while the Sea Rat "enchanted". This, I believe, is a key distinction, and goes to the point I want to make - namely, that I think the Piper is a God-figure or a type of Christ, while the Sea Rat is akin to the Devil.

*NB* The Piper speaks about "binding wounds", seeking and finding "the stray" (the lost sheep), springing the trap (Psalm 124), and refers to himself as a "helper" (ie. "advocate") and "healer" ("divine physician"). Notice that the "statue" that "saved" Portley was that of the Greek god "Pan". Notice that in english, this name is a double-entendre - "pan" as a prefix in the English language means "all-encompassing", or one might say "universal". Here I think of the prayers over the bread and wine at the Offertory at Mass: "Benedictus es, Domine, Deus universi", literally "Blessed are you, Lord, God of the universe" (our current translation is inaccurate). Our God is the God "of the universe", of all, his love and power is "all encompassing". **

*NB* The Sea Rat, on the other hand, speaks about "wine, women, and song". He speaks about the first and third explicitly, and then he mentions how there is a "new ship in every port". Catch that? The old sailors used to speak about having "a girl in every port". Also, notice the Sea Rat's response to Ratty's challenge that the Sea Rat's life is not all that it he makes it out to be - he denies that there are trials and challenges, and instead promises only pleasure, fun, and enjoyment! Now who does that sound like to you? No Cross. That is the Devil. And if you watch "Unlikely Allies", the wicked stranger Weasel, "the one who watched", who Badger said had "sinister powers of persuasion", had that same look in his eyes that the Sea Rat did when attempting to gain power over the other weasels. It is shown at least three times. That weasel, "the one who watched", was vanquished in the end, but Badger prophesied, "he'll be back. Not in the same form and maybe not in our lifetimes, but the same evil, you can be sure. It never goes away". You see, that weasel is a type of Lucifer.**

So your third possibility, namely, "Ratty's desires speak of the desire for the eternal, for the great adventurous relationship with the Divine, which he is pursuing in the wrong place?" is the one I would go with. He is looking for God in all the wrong places. Notice what Mole says at one point: "that's not like Rat". He was not acting like "himself". When you hear someone say, "he is not acting like himself", it is almost always a bad thing (except in the case of conversion when for a period of time the new convert becomes a much better person).

This is where I think another of your possibilities come in, namely: "Ratty's desires ... speak to the colonialism theory ... : England seeks redemption through global power and soon industrialization....In this case to stay in the pastoral setting of rural England Ratty has more of a chance of meeting the Divine: the simplicity of lifestyle and closeness with God's creation will facilitate his spiritual growth...." I will leave that to you to speculate further on - that is more your area of expertise. In a subsequent response I might explore this further, but I am hungry and tired (thanks, Robin! - and I'm being both sarcastic and sincere), so will have to think and possibly write about this later.

As for this possibility: "Ratty's foiled desires speak to the Englishman's inability to think beyond himself in the world. England, especially a provincial one, is the only view he has. Any attempt to think outside the box is foiled, and the Englishman returns to his sleepy, narrow, British ways", that does not fit into my interpretation. However, I think there is some truth to this, but once again, I will have to get back to this later.

Okay, hopefully that prepares you even more for the upcoming semester. When you get a chance, watch "Piper at the Gates of Dawn" and "Unlikely Allies" - that might provide more clarity.

As it turns out, this is going to be another blog entry - it won't fit into the Facebook message box. Thanks again!


Sorry to my many readers (sarcasm - I only have 1 follower right now: thanks Rick), but I have been battling a touch of the flu, busy settling into my new life after my recent move, and have been putting all my writing efforts into a piece on the "Theology of the Body Controversy" surrounding Christopher West to kick off my next block of 7 posts.

I am going to weigh-in on this one myself - I think those on both sides (supporters and critics) have missed the key to solving this problem (which I believe has a solution). It is a sort of "middle position" - which I took not because I am trying to play a conciliatory role but because I believe it is true.

I will be sending a copy to
Dawn Eden, to Fr. Angelo, and to others who have been speaking about this issue on the Catholic blogosphere. Hopefully I will get a little more exposure and a few important "plugs" so this blog can attract a larger following.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

APS: "The 'True Spirit' of Vatican II"

A few years ago, when I was at Daily Mass one day, I found myself directly behind a gentleman who often sat in close proximity to me. The cantor that day decided to sing the Agnus Dei in Latin. The gentleman in front of me grumbled, “so much for Vatican II”. Having become rather accustomed to correcting people who cite Vatican II without having themselves read the documents, I leaned over and softly replied, “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, paragraph 36.” That upset him, and he grumbled something back. A young father who often attended the same Mass witnessed this, and he intervened and told us we had to shake hands before receiving Communion. So that was the end of the conversation.

I knew this because by this time, I had read the documents cover-to-cover three times. The first time was for a booklet I wrote called “The True Spirit of Vatican II”, in which I identified 50 issues on which the Council actually contradicted what many said was in the "spirit of Vatican II" and I presented excerpts from the documents to demonstrate it. It was written in response to such misunderstandings – which I realized by the time I got to seminary were rather widespread. I still see such misunderstandings – I always chuckle when I see someone call for married priests “in the spirit of Vatican II”. I know such people have only an impression of what Vatican II is (and a mistaken one) rather than first-hand familiarity through reading it.

This little booklet has now been incorporated into my manuscript, The New and The Old: Re-Implementing Vatican II Anew – the outline of which can be found here: http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com/2010/05/outline-new-and-old.html. The 50 issues specifically have become Chapter 7. But I would like to share a few selected issues from the original booklet (which was slightly revised for the manuscript). Perhaps you have encountered and heard some of these? Here goes:

Issue 1: "The idea that Jesus is equally present at Mass in the priest presider, the Scriptures read, the body of believers, and in the Eucharist". This is a misinterpretation of the council documents. Vatican II said: "[Jesus] is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, not only in the person of His minister . . . but especially under the eucharistic species . . . He is present in His word . . . He is present, lastly, when the Church prays and sings" (SC, 7). Hence, we see that Jesus is present "especially", or in a special way, in the Eucharist. So the movement of the tabernacle from the center of the sanctuary to Blessed Sacrament chapels, and the reorientation of seating in a circular formation, so that the people face and focus on each other, takes away from the centrality of the Eucharist at the Mass. This was stressed elsewhere: "[Catholics should help others to] receive the sacraments frequently and developing in them piety, especially Eucharistic devotion" (AA, 17). Properly interpreting and citing Vatican II's description of the Mass as font and apex of the Christian life (cited later), the Catechism of the Holy See calls Eucharist made present at the Eucharistic Sacrifice "the source and summit of the Christian life" (CCC 1324). Hence, the Eucharist should be the focus of our attention at Mass, and the center of our faith: "No Christian community, however, is built up unless it has its basis and center in the celebration of the most Holy Eucharist; from this, therefore, all education to the spirit of community must take its origin" (PO, 6); "The Most Blessed Eucharist contains the entire spiritual boon of the Church, that is, Christ himself, our Pasch and Living Bread, by the action of the Holy Spirit through his very flesh vital and vitalizing, giving life to men who are thus invited and encouraged to offer themselves, their labors and all created things, together with him. In this light, the Eucharist shows itself as the source and the apex of the whole work of preaching the Gospel" (PO, 5).

Issue 4: "Liturgical abuse, or not being faithful to the rubrics or the general instructions of the Missal in offering the Mass". According to Vatican II, any violation of the rubrics or general instructions is improper: "Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See and, as laws may determine, on the bishop . . . the regulation of the liturgy within certain defined limits belongs also to various kinds of competent territorial bodies of bishops . . . Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority" (SC, 22). As we see, only the Pope can decide in the end how the liturgy is to be offered, that priests have no authority to change the Mass, and that bishops and bishops' conferences have authority in certain limited areas. The bishops' conferences can make adaptataions, but they must be approved by Rome: "Adaptations which are judged to be useful or necessary should when be submitted to the Apostolic See, by whose consent they may be introduced" (SC, 40). Furthermore, many of these abuses cannot be justified, because "there must be no innovations [in the Mass] unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them" (SC, 23).

Issue 10: "The elimination of devotions, and even hostility towards those who practice those devotions". The Council praised established devotions, and called for them to be retained and promoted: "Popular devotions of the Christian people are to be highly commended, provided they accord with the laws and norms of the Church, above all when they are ordered by the Apostolic See" (SC, 13); "Those practices of piety that are commended by the long usage of the Church should be zealously cultivated" (OT, 8). The rosary, the scapular, devotion to the Sacred Heart, First Saturdays devotion, processions, May crownings, novenas, 40 hour devotions, and other "popular devotions" are definitely in "accord with the laws and norms of the Church", and therefore, should be "zealously cultivated".

Issue 18: "Mandatory priestly celibacy should be done away with". On the contrary, the council championed the practice, said it should be retained, and refuted the idea that priestly celibacy is an outdated practice: "The celibate state . . . is a precious gift of divine grace given by the Father to certain souls, whereby they may devote themselves to God alone the more easily, due to an undivided heart. This perfect continency, out of desire for the kingdom of heaven, has always been held in particular honor in the Church" (LG, 42). The Council wanted the practice to continue: "This holy synod asks not only priests but all the faithful that they might receive this precious gift of priestly celibacy in their hearts and ask of God that he will always bestow this gift upon his Church" (PO, 16). In fact, contrary to popular belief, the Council stated that the consecrated celibate state was superior to the married state: "Students who follow the venerable tradition of celibacy according to the holy and fixed laws of their own rite are to be educated to this state with great care. For renouncing thereby the companionship of marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven [cf. Matt. 19:12], they embrace the Lord with an undivided love . . . Let them deeply realize how gratefully that state ought to be received . . . as a precious gift of God . . . [But] let [seminarians] recognize . . . the surpassing excellence of virginity consecrated to Christ" (OT, 10). The idea that celibacy was no longer a wise practice was dismissed: "[Religious shall] not be influenced by those false doctrines which scorn perfect continence as being impossible or harmful to human development and they will repudiate by a certain spiritual instinct everything which endangers chastity" (PC, 10); "Perpetual continence . . . is held by the Church to be of great value in a special manner for the priestly life . . . celibacy has a many-faceted suitability for the priesthood . . . Insofar as perfect continence is thought by many men to be impossible in our times, to that extent priests should all the more humbly and steadfastly pray with the Church for that grace of fidelity, which is never denied those who seek it" (OP, 16). The footnotes cited in these various passages refer to numerous Church documents which support celibacy.

Issue 22: "The preference for 'pastoral priests' over 'old fashioned' and 'rigid' priests". The term "pastoral priest" is often used to refer to priests who do not take a stand against sin and error (and also fail to teach the faith if it means people will be offended). This is not supported by the Council, which said: "Priests must treat all with exceptional kindness in imitation of the Lord. They should act toward men, not as seeking to please them, but in accord with the demands of Christian doctrine and life. They should teach them and admonish them as beloved sons, according to the words of the Apostle: 'Be urgent in season, out of season, reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine' (2 Tim 4:2)" (PO, 6); "They [priests] are strenuous assertors of the truth, lest the faithful be carried about by every wind of doctrine" (PO, 9)

Issue 30: "Women choosing to pursue a career and use day care rather than stay at home and take care of their children". One interesting statement from the Council is this: "The children, especially the younger among them, need the care of their mother at home. This domestic role of hers must be safely preserved, though the legitimate social progress of women should not be underrated on that account" (GS, 52). Even though since "women now work in almost all spheres [and thus it] is fitting that they are able to assume their proper role in accordance with their own nature" (GS, 60), it was the desire of the Council that mothers stayed at home with their children. Women were free to pursue a career, but if that interfered with her role as a mother, it was certainly in conflict with this "domestic role". The Council distinguishes between the sexes: "Let them work as partners with parents and together with them in every phase of education give due consideration to the difference of sex and the proper ends Divine Providence assigns to each sex in the family and in society" (GE, 8).

Issue 50: "We must do something about the problem of overpopulation". This is usually used to justify abortion and birth control. But the ends do not justify the means: "But there are many today who maintain that the increase in world population, or at least the population increase in some countries, must be radically curbed by every means possible and by any kind of intervention on the part of public authority. In view of this contention, the council urges everyone to guard against solutions, whether publicly or privately supported, or at times even imposed, which are contrary to the moral law" (GS, 87).

If Catholics want some of these changes, they should state that. But they should not be citing Vatican II as justification for it - unless they have familiarized themselves with the documents.

Here are the other issues covered in that booklet:

Issue 2: "The view that the Sacrament of Penance is not necessary, because forgiveness can be given directly by God, with the result that some people never go to confession".

Issue 3: "The focus on the Mass as a community meal rather than a sacrifice".

Issue 5: "The use of the vernacular at Mass exclusively, and the labeling of Latin in the Liturgy as 'Pre-Vatican'".

Issue 6: "The exclusive use of modern music and vernacular ordinaries, with the elimination of Gregorian Chant".

Issue 7: "The use of rock Masses, guitar Masses, and Polka Masses, which employ folk music and jazzed up songs".

Issue 8: "The removal of artwork from, and the introduction of modern art into, the churches".

Issue 9: "Modern church architecture".

Issue 11: "The hostility towards Marian devotion".

Issue 12: "That bishops have authority over their dioceses, or that Bishops' Conferences have authority over their countries, and that the Pope has no right to intervene".

Issue 13: "Catholics do not have to assent to the teachings of the Pope unless they are infallible".

Issue 14: "Lay people should share in the governing of the Catholic Church".

Error 15: "Following the decisions of bishops' conferences, even when they are in conflict with Rome, or are not approved by Rome".

Issue 16: "Picking and choosing what councils to accept, and what teachings from the Council to accept".

Issue 17: "The view of the priest as a president of the community".

Issue 19: "The practice in various places of creating a priest shortage so that laypeople may be called upon to usurp the role of the priesthood".

Issue 20: "The call for female priests".

Issue 21: "Priests who dissent from the teachings of the Magisterium".

Issue 23: "The oppositon to catechetical homilies".

Issue 24: "Lay people should have more authority in the parish community".

Issue 25: "The push for the hierarchy to be replaced with a democratic model".

Issue 26: "The elimination of Latin in seminaries and the elimination of Thomism [Thomas Aquinas] in seminaries and Catholic schools".

Issue 27: "The dissent of religious sisters and brothers".

Issue 28: "The removal of habits in favor of secular clothing".

Issue 29: "The laity should be given a greater role of authority in the Church, and be more involved in the decision making process".

Issue 31: "That the Magisterium should accept changes based on the sense of the faithful, which disagrees with many Church teachings and practices".

Issue 32: "The dissent of the laity from Church teaching".

Issue 33: "The Catholic Church is one of many churches which are all equal".

Issue 34: "One can be saved without the Church".

Issue 35: "Seeing conversions from non-Catholic Christian groups to the Catholic Church as being unnecessary; and that praying and working for this endeavor is neither ecumenical nor in the Spirit of Vatican II".

Issue 36: "Ecumenism at the expense of Catholic truth".

Issue 37: "The call for intercommunion".

Issue 38: "It does not matter what religion one belongs to. All religions are equal"

Issue 39: "The practice of integrating New Age and Eastern religious practices into Catholicism".

Issue 40: "Each religion has its own pathway to God, rendering evangelism unnecessary".

Issue 41: "The idea that doctrine should change with the times, because Church teaching is outdated and must change to accomodate modern society and the culture".

Issue 42: "The claim that doctrine develops, and that this should result in a change of what we teach".

Issue 43: "It is fine to dissent from Church teaching if one's conscience is in disagreement with those teachings".

Issue 44: "The interpretation of Scripture and Tradition by theologians and laypeople".

Issue 45: "The Bible contains errors".

Issue 46: "The historical-critical method of interpreting Scripture over the Neo-Patristic approach".

Issue 47: "The call for a change in Church teaching regarding abortion and euthanasia".

Issue 48: "Dissent on the teaching against artificial birth control".

Issue 49: "People should be allowed to divorce and remarry".

Thursday, August 5, 2010

TOB: "Embracing Singleness" (Link)

A couple years back, my fellow Saskatchewanian, chastity speaker Carmen Marcoux, asked me to write a testimony about my life as a single man for her website, "Courtship Now". I wanted to share the link - as well as make a plug for Carmen's work and site (personally, I love the Q&A section - oops! there I go trivializing the word "love" again ... )

Here it is: http://www.courtshipnow.com/wade.html

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Requiem Mass: Drawing by Wade St. Onge

I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to Night Shifts, without which this drawing would not have been possible . . .

Not bad considering my medium was "Microsoft Paint".

TOB: II. Theology on Tap (Newspaper Article)

This is an article written as part of the "Theology on Tap" series. We contacted Jennifer Parks of "The Edmonton Sun", and she agreed to interview me for a piece on her racy syndicated series, "The Sex Files". I will reprint the article that was published in "The Edmonton Sun" on Thursday, March 15, 2007. The name of the article was "Just Say No?" I will save the story of the interview for another time. Here goes:

Celibacy - holding out for your "one and only" can be quite fulfilling if that is your cup of tea

The best sex advice I've received lately came from a virgin.

When Wade St. Onge first contacted me wanting to share his message I was hesitant.

What could a 29-year-old Catholic man who'd never experienced the pleasures and passions of sexuality -- let alone a single kiss -- have to teach the rest of us on the topic?

Besides, the "no sex before marriage" custom of some devout Christians doesn't have the hip and spicy mass appeal of your typical advice dispensed by sexperts.

Wouldn't telling readers to "hold out" for "the one" just alienate the majority of us who consider sex a perfectly natural and exciting part of the journey to finding a life mate?

Plenty of folks have wished they'd waited. You just don't hear of people anguishing over not having had sex sooner. But 20/20 hindsight, regret and social problems like crime, poverty and abuse, which are often statistically linked to unwanted pregnancy, just aren't enough to sell me on the celibacy option.

Sex can be fun, empowering, intimate, stress-busting, fat-burning, imaginative and an extremely bonding experience. It's a natural expression of our physical and emotional desires. It can be purely carnal one moment and cosmically eternal the next. Why deny ourselves this boundless, mysterious and undeniably exciting mode of human communication?

Still, I heard him out and I'm glad I did.

St. Onge's message is one we can all learn and grow from, whether or not we choose to have an active sex life.

The former seminary student, who's working on his masters in theology, is running a local affiliate of the international program Theology on Tap in Edmonton. His current topic: Sex and Love.

"People get into sexual relationships very quickly these days. They put the cart before the horse," says St. Onge, during an interview at a local pub.

"We listen to our urges rather than to what's the best thing for us.

"The sexual act is designed to be an expression of love for a person. When sex is an authentic expression of true love it's best." The rest, he maintains, is anticlimactic.

If you've ever felt cheap, used or empty after a one-night stand, or hurt and rejected by someone who worships your bodily temple in the bedroom then checks out emotionally afterward, then part of what St. Onge is saying may resonate with you.

If the sex you're having doesn't serve you -- making you feel safe and empowered in your self and your relationship -- then it may leave you feeling empty, needy or with a diminished respect for yourself and your body.

It's hard to move from a place of personal strength in this world without our identities and self-esteem intact.

So, should you say "no" to sex? I can't tell you that. Only you can. But I do know that when you're crushing on someone, turned on, in love or just intoxicated at 2 a.m. and your date casually asks, "your place or mine?" it can be hard to resist. Sexual chemistry and emotional need are powerful aphrodisiacs -- with or without the booze.

We need to stop, check in, and ask ourselves what's best for us overall, not just in the heat of the moment.

Whatever you do, don't fool yourself that sex is just a casual recreational activity -- it joins two people in the most intimate way. Will you still be whole when the fireworks subside? Who deserves a piece of you?

The poet and author Georg Feuerstein reveals the true nature of sexual love: "The rhythmic slamming of bodies drowns out the gentle melody that is forever pulsing at the heart. The heart delights in motionless silence. It closes its petals at the sight of blindly grasping hands that knead only flesh but feel not the Spirit's crystal texture."

Don't fall for the illusion of intimacy. Hold out for the real deal, whether or not you have a ring on your finger, a religious mandate or simply self respect.

I have admiration for people like St. Onge who live their beliefs so passionately.

He just wants others to experience the grace and virtue of authentic living. Some call it God, some call it love. Whatever it is, honour it.

Says St. Onge: "I want to give my wife every kiss."

[Please do not reprint this article out of respect for copyright laws].

TOB: I. Theology on Tap - Looking for Love? (Global TV Segment)


This was a segment done by Carolynn Gervais of Global TV, Edmonton, on our "Theology on Tap" series back in February, 2007. The title of that series was "Looking for Love?", and the talks included the theme of love as found in Scripture, Sex and Theology of the Body, the Pope's encyclical on Love, the dimension of feelings in love, and the dimension of sacrifice in love. Seen in the video are Fr. Paul Moret - then vocations director for the Archdiocese of Edmonton, Nick Simoni - then youth minister at Holy Family Parish in St. Albert, Sarah Frey - a teacher and Nick's then-fiancee (and now wife), and Myself - who helped coordinate Theology on Tap with Nick.

I'll tell the story behind this series at a future date . . .

ART: "What is Love?" (Howard Jones)


I spoke in my last artistic exegesis about the song/video "What is Love?" by Howard Jones, and how it was the "interpretive key" to "Look of Love" by ABC.

Jones sings the following: "Can anybody love anyone so much that they will never fear? ... They cannot love this much nobody can, This is why I don't mind you doubting". He is right - the love man can give is always going to be incomplete and lacking to some degree. Only Christ loved this radically.

That is why Jones asks, "What is love anyway? Does anybody love anybody anyway?" The answer is "yes and no". "Yes", some love others to some degree, and sometimes that love is strong. But "No", no human loves another human in such a way that it is "love" in the ultimate and complete sense. That is why there will always be some "doubt" in our relationships, and we will always hold back to some degree, even if just a little bit.

Which is why our hearts will be restless until they rest in God. A lover must always point his beloved to the Ultimate Lover and lead her to Him. Btw, notice the religious imagery in the background at strategic points in the video ...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

REF: Literary History (Response to Robin)

This is a reply to a friend of mine who is writing her thesis on literary history. This is my response to her blog post "AMEN-Musings on the Book of Tobit". Her post can be found on her blog http://robins-thoughts.blogspot.com/, specifically at http://robins-thoughts.blogspot.com/2010/06/amen-musings-on-book-of-tobit.html. Here goes:

Okay, my first impression after reading this was "where did she get all this wisdom"? (Matthew 6:2b). The answer, of course, is found in your last quote from Eliot. "Seek and you shall find" (Matthew 7:7b).

My second impression was a sense of confirmation that what I wrote you privately back in March about the parallel I saw between these theories of literary history and the different approaches to Scripture in the modern era. I believe there is something truly and validly analogous here, and I would advise you to go back to that email and re-read that section (labeled #1 I believe it was - the rest of the novello you can disregard).

It seems to me (and remember, my background is theology not literature) that the position of Lewis lines up with the position advocated by the Modernist and liberal Protestant Scripture scholars who saw discontinuity and dichotomy, the position of Eliot is akin to that of the Biblical Theologians who saw continuity and unity, and the position of Yeats seems to best reflect the Church's current approach which sees some validity in both and thus separates the past from the present but from there brings about an essential though not absolute unity.

I wrote a paper on the two extremes of biblical interpretation and how the Catholic approach, as it always does, takes a "middle course" so as to avoid the extremes on each side yet preserving the good and "integrating" the truth from both and weaving it all into a "synthesis". Humanity tends toward extremes, and once we hit an extreme, there is an equal but opposite reaction and thus the "pendulum" swings toward the other extreme. The Catholic Church, contrary to this "either-or" tendency, has always upheld and practiced a "both-and" approach.

I had written you earlier about how this all just seems to be a continuation of the "Faith-Reason" debate, which even though the Church has taught definitively on it never seems to go away. The Fathers of the Church were split on the use of pagan literature - some said we should feel free to read it because it has much goodness and truth in it and can even be used evangelistically by pulling out Christian themes and finding Christ-figures and bridging to the Gospel, while others said it was to be avoided because it contained many errors and reading it was a dangerous occasion of sin and apostasy. The Scholastics would later be criticized for using the pagan Aristotle and other secular scientific sources to delve deeper into the Christian faith and help to explain it (ie. the term "transubstatiation" was taken straight out of Aristotilean metaphysics). "What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?" the skeptics cried. But Aquinas explained that both faith and reason come from God, and as such, both are sources for discovering and more deeply probing the truth.

And today, there is a similar controversy. Should we read Harry Potter and watch House on TV or shun them? Should we read Freud and Marx and use their many valid points to bear on our Christian faith and as a way of dialoguing with modern man, or should we focus solely on the fact that they made some serious errors, reprove them in the strictest terms, and wipe them out from our collective consciences? John Paul II says in "Fides et Ratio" (Faith and Reason) that the "Catholic" (and "catholic") approach is to do the former and avoid the latter - which he calls "fideism" (the "opposite" error from that of "rationalism" - which was the error of Enlightenment thinkers). There are so many Catholics today who want nothing to do with Harry Potter, but yet the Bible they cite in their rejection of the series does much the same in Acts 17 when St. Paul quotes a pagan Greek poet in Athens in order to convert the philosophers, and the great evangelists in Church history have done similar by quoting the sayings and teachings of various witch-doctors and shamans and "gods" in order to build a bridge from what was true in these to the fullness of truth in the Gospel. These same Catholics get upset when anyone has a good word to say about or gives any credit to Oprah or Hawking or Dawkins for "getting it right" sometimes and pointing out things that we as Catholics sometimes miss. To many such Catholics, they deserve only contempt and rebukes and insults for "missing the mark" - after all, they do not accept the fullness of truth that is found in the Catholic Church. But is this the Church's approach? Robin, you know that it is not because you have read "Gaudium et Spes" (The Church in the Modern World) from Vatican II. You know it is not because you are familiar with "Evangelii Nuntiandi" (Evangelization in the Modern World) from Pope Paul VI. Most Catholics have not - and that is why they side with the negative approach.

That is a good transition to this point: "I feel as though I sense pride in everyone, but that, in a sense, by making judgments about literature and arguing for a case, no matter how convinced we are of ourselves and our argument, it will come across as full of pride, as 'my way or the highway.' ... We can make judgments, but with the knowledge of our place amongst those who have come before and those who will come after." And that is PRECISELY what I just did in the above paragraph! But I defend doing so because it is largely through dialogue and debate that we arrive at the fullness of truth, and to debate well, we must make the best possible case we can, which requires the conviction of our views. However, we must always be "open" and "charitable" - we must offer our opinions humbly and listen openly to the merits of our opponent's responses vis-a-vis our arguments in case they are correct so that we may allow ourselves to be convinced by the truth and thus change our views. And even if we are correct, we may learn some things from the other that we may have missed before, or be forced to think more deeply about something we previously had not.

As you say, "we are allowed to approach our fellow man with our judgments and thoughts about life, literature, and actions, as long as we have knowledge that we don’t know the whole picture, we may be wrong, and God may want to work in ways we don’t expect. ... This is the reason why I can make judgments about THEIR judgments as well." Beautiful! And as long as we keep this always in mind, we NEVER have to fear making such judgments. We just never know which of our thoughts and ideas are correct and which of them are "cataracts". That is why "Unitatis Redintegratio" (Decree on Ecumenism) spoke about how ecumenical and religious dialogue (and by extension ALL dialogue) was always a "two-way" thing! Once again, we see the tendency towards a "synthesis" here rather than a "my way or the highway" mentality.

And so we come to the great Name: JESUS. He Himself is a great "synthesis" - fully Divine and fully Human (or completely "heavenly" and completely "earthly"). Every tendency towards fideism or rationalism is a tendency towards denying the Incarnation, which is what St. John says is the "spirit of antichrist". (1John 4:3). The Adversary's modus operandi is essentially to pull us towards extremes. Robin, he will probably never get you to deny your faith, so he tries to make your faith something that is merely intellectual, something that becomes a set of truths to believe and rules to follow, rather than a relationship of love stemming from the heart. With some, he will try to make it all about "feelings" rather than keeping it rooted in the intellect as well, and when the feelings go, the person loses his faith, or when they follow their feelings rather than the common sense God gave them and speaks through, the results will be disastrous. Satan is subtle (Genesis 3:1) - which is why we must practice humility as well. We are often oblivious to his evil designs. That is why we must "Watch" as well as "Pray" (Matthew 25:41), though our "prayer" will help us "see" more clearly and thus recognize the presence and work of Satan in various areas of our lives. The goal is the merging of our "watching" and "praying", so that there remains no line dividing "real life" and "prayer life". It is said that the great saints were all truly "contemplatives in action", that they were able to live constantly with their gaze firmly on the Lord, while remaining fully attentive to their duties in life and the people they interacted with. Once again, a "synthesis" of daily life and "prayer", of life on earth and life in heaven. ...

... I now have to return to my duties and my relations and be attentive to God in them and praise Him in the midst of them.

I think I will post a link to your article on my blog and post this response I gave here as well on mine. Thanks for giving me the material for a blog entry!

Medjugorje: VII. God's Motives

That brings us to our next question, namely: “If Medjugorje is not authentic, why would God allow this to happen”? Of course, the answer to this question is the same answer as to why God allows any form of religious deception – including televangelists, false prophets, crooked faith healers and miracle workers, heresies, etc. However, I believe there could be one additional (albeit related and consequential) reason why God may have allowed phenomenon Medjugorje to occur if it is not authentic: it would be the perfect preparation for the Antichrist, because what has happened at Medjugorje is very similar to what Satan will do with and through “the Antichrist”.

The Catechism speaks about the reign and time of the Antichrist: “Before Christ's second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the ‘mystery of iniquity’ in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh” [emphases mine]. (CCC 675) It is quite probable that this “religious deception” is akin to the Golden Calf. Keep in mind that the Golden Calf was not a “glorification of man” in the atheistic secular humanist sense. On the contrary, the Israelites declared, upon the fashioning of the Golden Calf, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt”, while Aaron responded by building an altar in front of the Calf and “announced, ‘Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord’”. (Exodus 32:4b-5) The greatest abomination in the entire Golden Calf episode was not that the Israelites were worshiping foreign gods per se. What was the greatest abomination is that the Israelites were really exalting themselves and preferring themselves to God but doing so under the guise of the worship of Yahweh and allegiance to him. This is the epitome of false religion – and Satan’s most effective method in corrupting souls. Similarly, what we see among the seers of Medjugorje is something lesser albeit akin to this, as has been pointed out earlier.

This is part of a broader problem and movement in the Church – namely, that of the “Catholic media celebrity” who desires and acquires a great deal of popularity and fame travelling around giving talks on the “Catholic speaking circuit” and appearing on Catholic radio and television, who put themselves “out there” through Facebook, Twitter, and their personal websites promoting their work and blogs disseminating their opinions and writing, through which they seek to garner as large a “following” as possible (in part so they can increase the donations which they solicit through PayPal). This has become something many Catholics are aspiring to and seeing as being sort of the “Catholic Dream” (somewhat like the “American Dream”) – among theology students at Steubenville, for instance, the goal is to (a) publish a book or recording CD, (b) gain a platform through invitations to speak at conferences and give interviews or host or run their own programs on Catholic radio and television, and (c) marry and have children despite being as busy in the Church as many priests and religious are and thus unable to spend the proper amount of time with them as his state in life requires or demands. Here we see, once again, the Golden Calf – Wealth, Sex, and Power (in the form of popularity and influence). What is becoming less common is the Catholic who desires to run from such things, who desires a hidden life of holiness which only the Father sees (Matthew 6:6b) rather than admiration from giving moving speeches, who wants to forsake the good and pleasure of marriage to make the Lord his all and cling solely to Him in celibacy and who wants to give up house and lands and possessions for the sake of the Kingdom (Luke 18:29), who wants to surrender his earthly freedom in order to more freely serve God and do His will rather than his own will and earthly and temporal desires. What is more concerning is that among those who are spoken of so highly in the Catholic Church and whose names come up when the discussions are had among practicing Catholics, it is these “Catholic celebrities” who are mentioned just as often if not more than the humble and holy priests, religious, or bishops who live a quiet and hidden life. It is the “Catholic celebrity” whom Catholics seek to have their picture taken with, whose signatures are asked for, who are approached with the hope that they may get a few words in with them. But in a room full of holy and humble nuns, those same Catholics are barely interested in approaching them – let alone having their picture taken with them. And in a room where there are “Catholic celebrities” and holy nuns, most Catholics will give the nuns little if any thought and no attention; rather, they would be seeking out the celebrities instead. In the face of such a contradiction in what we profess and how we live, the following passage comes to mind: “the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart”. (1Samuel 16:7) I will tell you that if someone were to ask me for a list of 10 priests that I looked up to most highly, Fr. John Corapi would not make it, and it is because I know him only as a speaker and thus have no idea about his humility or charity or loyalty – which is what really matters to me. And if someone were to ask me where Dr. Scott Hahn ranked on my list of Catholics I admired or looked up to, his name would not come up at all, because I do know him personally. I would have given a different answer before meeting him, when I knew him only as a gifted and passionate speaker.

We read in the next paragraph of the Catechism, “The Antichrist’s deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment.” (CCC 676) When the confident and popular Dr. Hahn draws our attention and awe more than the humble, hidden, and holy contemplative nuns that are standing on the other side of the room, or if given a choice we would have dinner with him in his mansion rather than having dinner with the holy nuns, or when we would rather be the next “Dr. Hahn” then the next lowly porter whose life and holiness goes unnoticed to all but a few brothers and God, are we not thinking according to the standards of this world? Considering the nuns are “eschatological signs”, could it not be said we have fallen prey to the “Antichrist’s deception”? Indeed it can and should be said! And it must also be said that the majority of Catholics have thus fallen prey to his deception, because most Catholics do or would do exactly what is listed above.

As for “apostasy from the truth”, once Satan can sever us from full obedience to the Church and its legitimate authorities, he can attenuate or misconstrue the truths of the faith in such a way as to get us to abandon certain tenets of the faith, which due to the Church’s teaching on the “analogy of faith” – that each belief helps support and make sensible the other beliefs – affects our entire Faith. That is why in time, schism has always inevitably led to heresy. However, even if disobedience does not lead to schism, it can lead to our going against the will of Yahweh in our hearts even though we might be obedient to the letter of the law (Luke 18:18-25) and even though, like the worshipers of the Golden Calf, we might honestly believe we are worshiping Yahweh, when in reality our hearts are far from Him. (Mark 7:6-9) What matters is following God’s will, not praying the rosary or doing good works. These latter are what Satan always uses to lull us into a false sense of security – which is why he sometimes seeks our consolation in doing such devotions or works!

Two more remarks will be given regarding the Antichrist as it might relate to Medjugorje:

(1) Jesus said that the Antichrist would perform “signs and wonders” so great that “if possible” it would “lead astray ... even the elect”. (Matthew 24:24) This is a warning to us that just as many have been so convinced in Medjugorje due to the “signs and wonders”, so too will many become “certain” in the “signs and wonders” of the anti-Christ. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to tell the difference between the authentic and the false. Only obedience can keep us from these errors. What does obedience look like in this situation? The only thing the Church has ever said officially about the apparitions is that they cannot be affirmed as supernatural, and even two decades after being taken out of the hands of the Ordinary – if that has happened – Rome has said nothing to contradict this judgment. Obedience to this would be as many blog commenters have said: namely, “I would think most Catholics truly devoted to the Church would focus on the richness of the ‘approved apparitions’. rather than continue to put faith and energy into a speculative one”; (http://patrickmadrid.blogspot.com/2010/04/medjugorje-and-maciel-effect.html) and “It is most puzzling why such priests and faithful as really thirst for visions and messages do not drink their fill from the sources of visions that have been recognized as authentic, for example, Lourdes and Fatima”; (http://www.cbismo.com/index.php?mod=vijest&vijest=287) and even “Why go after such things when we have the Word, the sacraments, and the Church?” [now unable to find link] It is fine to believe in Medjugorje, but it is not good to be so convinced about it as some are. One has to be cautious in lending such credence to an apparition which has not yet been approved.

(2) Second, as we know, Jesus had a “Forerunner” – namely “John the Baptist” (Matthew 3:1-3, 11:9-10). Will the same be true with the Antichrist? In line with what we have been saying here, it is interesting to note that the apparitions at Medjugorje began on the Feast of St. John the Baptist – June 24, 1981.

One particular blog commenter said something profound concerning the many apparitions that have been condemned in recent times: “A thought occurred to me as I was pondering all of the many things going on in the Church. Was it Leo XIII who had the dream about Satan having free rein on earth for 100 years? ... Could much of what we have been experiencing in the Church be a fruit of that unleashing? I'm thinking of the sex abuse scandal, rejection on Humanae Vitae, spurious apparitions by the dozen, Maciel, liturgical craziness, etc. ... Think of all that we have endured in the 20th century. Many of these phenomena have fooled even the Pope, Cardinals, and very learned, respected people in the Church. That century is over--now it seems that the mopping up process is beginning.” For those who have not heard about Pope Leo’s vision, we will use the account given on a certain traditionalist website: “As he was about to leave the foot of the altar, he suddenly heard voices - two voices, one kind and gentle, the other guttural and harsh. They seemed to come from near the tabernacle. The guttural voice, the voice of Satan in his pride, boasted to Our Lord: ‘I can destroy your Church.’ The gentle voice of Our Lord:
‘You can? Then go ahead and do so.’ Satan: ‘To do so, I need more time and more power.’ Our Lord: ‘How much time? How much power?’ Satan: ‘75 to 100 years, and a greater power over those who will give themselves over to my service.’ Our Lord: ‘You have the time, you will have the power. Do with them what you will.’” (http://www.stjosephschurch.net/leoxiii.htm)

This conversation sounds very much like the conversation Satan had with Yahweh regarding Job: “And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?’ Then Satan answered the Lord, ... ‘Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth thy hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse thee to thy face.’ And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your power; only upon himself do not put forth your hand.’ So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.” (Job 1:8-12) Indeed, Satan did destroy all of Job’s possessions and kill all of his family and servants, and not only left him destitute but covered in painful sores. However, in the end, Job was rewarded for remaining faithful tot he Lord. And the Lord, after explaining to Job how He ruled with absolute wisdom and with perfect judgment (Job 38-41), “restored the fortunes of Job ... and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.” (Job 42:10) The story of Job is the story of all our lives as Christians – God allows and even invites Satan to “test” us so that we may grow as children of God and increase in faith and love. We often forget how closely God and Satan work. It is an adversarial yet diplomatic relationship with political manuevering and strategic negotiating. God is bound by the fact He made Satan a free creature with powers and a will of his own, so He must handle him as one who has his own interests and will operate accordingly. Yet Satan must do likewise with God if He is to get what he wants. It is like any diplomatic relationship. However, as we know from the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ, God always wins, and in fact He has definitively won. He always gets the upper-hand and for eternity always will have it.

The traditionalist website continues with commentary: “This [vision] happened in 1884. The devil said he needed 75 to100 years. Well, 75 years from 1884 is 1959. ... It was on January 25, 1959, that John XXIII publicly summoned the Second Vatican Council.” It is here where I begin to disagree with the author of the article. I believe Vatican II was a prophetic council and is the key to conquering Satan, if we would only fully and properly implement it. However, as I explained in The New and The Old – another unpublished (though completed) manuscript, the implementation of the Council was largely hijacked, and as a result, the Church was drawn further away from Her mission rather than brought closer to fulfilling it. In fact, the Church was almost destroyed. In the manuscript, I cited Paul VI, who said in a 1972 speech, “From some fissure the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God. ... There was the belief that after the Council there would be a day of sunshine for the history of the Church. Instead, it is the arrival of a day of clouds, of tempest, of darkness, of research, of uncertainty. ... How has this come about? We believe in something that is preternatural that has come into the world precisely to disturb, to suffocate the fruits of the Ecumenical Council, and to impede the Church from breaking into the hymn of joy at having renewed in fullness its awareness of itself.”

Now, 100 years from 1884 brings us to 1984. It was in that year that John Paul II, who in large part had saved the Church from schism and destruction, and who in his acceptance speech pledged that his papacy would be devoted to implementing Vatican II (to which he was loyal and in many ways successful), consecrated Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary as Our Lady of Fatima requested. I would submit that it was this act which marked the end of Satan’s time of testing, and after which the process of undoing and repairing the damage done by Satan began. It was after this that seminaries began to return to orthodoxy, that religious communities faithful to their original charism and spirit began to once again grow, that catechesis began to improve, and that many other things began to turn around. Keep in mind that John Paul II consecrated Russia on May 13 – the day of the first apparition at Fatima, and that Leo XIII had his vision on October 13 – the day of the last apparition at Fatima, where the Miracle of the Sun occurred.

Toward the tail end of that time began the apparitions at Medjugorje. It has long been said that the closer Satan gets to defeat, the more desperate he gets, and thus the harder he fights. Knowing that his 100 years was coming to a close, could Medjugorje have been his final stand, his last great attempt to snatch souls before his time expired? Did he seek to plant something that would linger for many more years beyond the 100 he was given?

These are all theories, based upon the hypothesis that Medjugorje is a false apparition perpetuated by Satan. If it turns out that Medjugorje is authentic, then much of what is written here can be disregarded, and the point of this article is rendered moot. However, if my hypothesis is correct, this article will prove to be prophetic. And since we do not yet know which way this will turn out, we would all be wise to temper our feelings on the issue, and most importantly, heed the warnings issued in this article.

Medjugorje: VI. Satan's Motives

This brings us to the ultimate question that Medjugorje believers have for Medjugorje sceptics: namely, “why would Satan want to perpetuate a false apparition?” Dr. Miravalle, after speaking about all the “good fruits” (ie. the conversions and vocations), quotes another Medjugorje apologist as saying “if Satan is behind Medjugorje, he has made the greatest mistake of his existence.” First of all, such a claim is wrong because the greatest mistake Satan made and will ever make was in crucifying Christ. Secondly, such a statement, if indeed Satan is behind Medjugorje, shows both our human pride and ignorance. Satan is far more intelligent than we are, and outwits us on a daily basis, sometimes constantly. We will begin to answer this question through an examination of the modus operandi of Satan as we have come to know it in Scripture and Tradition.

The first thing Scripture says about Satan is that he is “subtle”, in fact “the most subtle” of all creatures. (Genesis 3:1) In his conversation with Eve, Satan did not tell a single bold-faced lie. In fact, everything he said was true – but they were merely half-truths. He told them they “would not die”, and they indeed did not – at least physically. But they did die spiritually. He said they would be like God, knowing good from evil, and indeed they were – but this was a “knowledge” that they were better off not having (in their case, “ignorance was bliss”).

In other words, Satan is a counterfeiter. He seeks to present something to us that although it seems true and seems like the good thing that we are looking and yearning for, in reality it is an evil thing that will do us harm and bring us misery. But it is presented in such a way that it seems or appears like “the real thing”. That would explain why if Medjugorje is not authentic, the Bishop was able to “get” so little that he could “use against” the seers – Satan is adept at “covering his tracks”, so to speak. Now, because the counterfeit is often so much like the “real thing”, and because he often makes use of good things, there will be some good fruit. And Satan will bear and tolerate some good fruit if in the end he can gain a great deal in the long run and inflict much damage – sometimes by using that good fruit to “trick” us into believing it is authentic and thus giving ourselves to it or submitting our minds and wills to it – sometimes to large degrees (ie. making it the center of our spirituality).

These are the principles behind religious life. The evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience are the direct renunciation of three things which are inherently good – wealth / possessions, sex / marriage, and power / influence. Jesus Himself came to possess and rule the earth, and promises us each great “rewards” and “riches” in heaven (ie. an “inheritance” or “spiritual goods”) (Matthew 6:19-20). Christ created sex and marriage as the most profound sign and analogy of His own divine love and life, and His relationship to us (Song of Songs, Hosea 2:18, 21-22; Revelation 21:1-2). Christ came to have absolute “dominion” and “power” over all things and people (Revelation 5:12), and willed that his saints “reign on earth” (Revelation 5:10) and “subdue” it and exercise “dominion” (Genesis 1:28) because every Christian is to be a priest, prophet, and king. Every bit of wealth, every sexual act, and every exercise of power is good because all these things are natural signs and partial realizations of the spiritual goods we are called to possess forever and enjoy for eternity.

However, knowing we desire these things, Satan seeks to counterfeit them or present them as something more than they really are. Instead of being signs and partial realizations that are meant to lead us to seek the greater reality and full realization we can only have in God, he seeks to present them to us as the actual reality and fullness, as ends in themselves rather than means to the end, as that which we are ultimately seeking. He strives to convince and persuade us to see and make these goods our ultimate good and thus make God at best secondary to those things and at worst irrelevant and unnecessary. Thus, he seeks to “trap” us in “idols”, which the Church has always defined not as statues, but as anything that “we make the supreme source of our joy” and set up as being preferable to God. (CCC 2113), which can include “power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc.”. This is precisely what St. Paul speaks about in Romans 1:19-25, which culminates in him speaking about “worshiping the creature rather than the creator” after speaking about “exchanging the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image” (vv. 25, 23).

The three opposites to the evangelical counsels – namely wealth, sex, and power – are the three most ancient and popular idols, and in fact, the Golden Calf epitomized these three, for the bull symbolized strength and fertility, while the gold from which it was made symbolized riches. Thus its worship promised to grant its worshipers those things. Satan, as prince of this world, has the power to grant these things to those who serve him – and those who worship idols, those who seek to make this world their ultimate end or joy without respect to God, are in the best possible position to obtain those things.

Seers from authentic apparitions almost without exception embraced religious life and thus the three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and most of those who did not thereafter lived lives of simplicity and obscurity. However, among the seers of Medjugorje, we see the opposite, which we should take as a sign of caution. We see the wealth (large houses and huge speaking fees), sex (all married, and Ivan married to a Miss America participant – in which contestants are essentially judged on the basis of their sex appeal), and power (over the audiences of eager listeners who daily stand in awe of them, believing that what they say is either a direct message or at least a second-hand message from heaven and who consider it an enormous honour and thus attempt to get in a position to speak with them or in some cases even so much as touch their garments).

With these things in mind, there are at least six reasons why Satan might want to perpetrate a false apparition and do so at Medjugorje. Unfortunately, there is much background information (concerning the deficiencies and problematic aspects of the Charismatic renewal, the tendency towards “the Catholic ghetto”, and the problems associated with lay ministry) which I cannot get into here as it is beyond our scope. Ideally, the manuscript Overcoming the World as well as the article series And He Is Divided would be read previous to this, but since they are not written let alone published yet this is not presently possible.

1. “False Devotion”. St. Louis Marie de Montfort, in his classic on Marian spirituality, True Devotion to Mary, warns believers against “false devotions”. (no. 91) He explains: “There are false devotions ... which can easily be mistaken for true ones. The devil, like a counterfeiter and crafty, experienced deceiver, has already misled and ruined many Christians by means of fraudulent devotions [emphasis mine]. ... Day by day he uses his diabolical experience to lead many more to their doom, fooling them, lulling them to sleep in sin and assuring them that a few prayers, even badly said, and a few exterior practices, inspired by himself, are authentic devotions. ... The devil leaves other devotions alone and counterfeits mostly those directed to Jesus and Mary, for example, devotion to the Holy Eucharist and to the Blessed Virgin, because these are to other devotions what gold and silver are to other metals.” (no. 90)

De Montfort identifies “seven types of false devotion”: “namely, the devotion of (1) the critical, (2) the scrupulous, (3) the superficial, (4) the presumptuous, (5) the inconstant, (6) the hypocritical, (7) [and] the self-interested.” (no. 92) Of concern to us with regards to the spirituality of Medjugorje is mainly numbers 3 and 4: the “superficial’ and the “presumptuous”.

Regarding the superficial, de Montfort says “they say many rosaries with great haste and assist at many Masses distractedly. They take part in processions ... without inner fervour. They join ... confraternities without reforming their lives or restraining their passions or imitating [Jesus and] Mary's virtues. ... All that appeals to them is the emotional aspect of this devotion, but the substance of it has no appeal at all. If they do not feel a warmth in their devotions, they think they are doing nothing; they become upset, and give up everything, or else do things only when they feel like it. The world is full of these shallow devotees.” (no. 96)

As for the other, “presumptuous devotees ... under the fair name of Christian and servant of our Lady, conceal pride, avarice, lust, drunkenness, anger, swearing, slandering, injustice and other vices. They sleep peacefully in their wicked habits, without making any great effort to correct them. ... They take all this for granted because they say the Rosary, fast on Saturdays, are enrolled in the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary or the Scapular (etc). They say they have devotion [because] they wear the scapular ... they even say the Rosary and the Office ... as well as fasting and performing other good works.” (no. 97) De Montfort says that “such a devotion is only an illusion of the devil and a dangerous presumption” (no. 97) and “nothing in our Christian religion is so deserving of condemnation as this diabolical presumption. How can we truthfully claim to love and honour the Blessed Virgin when by our sins we pitilessly wound, pierce, crucify and outrage her Son?” (no. 98). How does this apply to Medjugorje?

The “Message of Medjugorje”, much like the “Divine Will” movement, consists in “Five Spiritual Stones”, which their respective proponents say are the keys to becoming holy. For the latter, this consists of (1) Mass, (2) Confession, (3) Fasting / Penance, (4) Scripture, and (5) The Rosary, while for the former, this consists of (1) Prayer, (2) Fasting, (3) Penance, (4) Conversion, and (5) Peace. Now obviously, these things not only lead to holiness but are also the fruits which flow from a life of holiness, and thus are certainly to be encouraged for every Christian. In other words, there is something definitely authentic about this “devotion”. However, it is also true that these things can become routine, they can become mere outward observances rather than inward prayer and authentic communication and communion. The problem with these movements which establish a program of certain daily spiritual devotions to be fulfilled is that they tend too easily towards legalism and thus do not produce the holiness they promise. It bears reminding that the Pharisees had their own “spiritual stones”, which generally consisted of Fasting (Matthew 9:14) and Tithing (Matthew 23:23) (Luke 18:12), Sunday observance and Synagogue worship (Matthew 12:1-2, 9-10), and Scripture (Matthew 23:5b). However, these good and godly practices did not make them holy because although they may have started well, their devotions became external routines rather than authentic interior encounters with God (they became a checklist of devotions to mark off) and thus their hearts were not converted through them (they did not act any differently as people do when they are converted, thus failing to develop a life of charity and virtue, and in fact developing one other serious vices, namely, religious pride). (Mark 7:6; Matthew 3:7-8)

The fact is, all of these “spiritual stones” have a particular end goal or purpose – namely, conversion to a life of virtue, especially charity. The spiritual stones are meant to empower us to do the hard work of “practicing” (a “virtue” is a “habit” which is developed through “practice”) acts of patience, love, humility, etc. Unfortunately, it can happen that (a) we can avail ourselves of all the graces we need through prayer and the sacraments but then fail to truly open ourselves to that grace by failing to properly dispose ourselves to receive, or (b) we receive sufficient grace but then expect it to transform us automatically without our cooperating by moving our will and acting, for instance, with patience in situations where we would normally react angrily due to the bad habits (vices) we have developed. This is reinforced when God’s will is outlined as consisting in pious and religious practices (as we see with the “five spiritual stones”), and thus we begin to naturally see these religious devotions as making one holy, when in fact they are means to an end that we may or may not reach through them. We thus begin to see the means as the end, and this is exactly what we said Satan’s modus operandi was. Certainly, these devotions all claim that the end goal is peace or charity - which it is in theory. However, with these devotions, this truth is easily and thus often pushed to the background of our minds. Fulfilling the repertoire of devotions becomes so much the focus that the concentration is placed almost exclusively on these than on the virtues, which becomes an afterthought. It is difficult to fit these “five stones” into one’s day or week, so one who is successful doing so will think “I am done for the day / week”, and more often than not, he thinks the virtues will just develop automatically, and thus he does not worry about being attentive to this. And the key is he does not even notice if he is not developing virtue because he thinks he has done God’s will. De Montfort says: “It is better not to burden ourselves with a multitude of prayers and pious practices but rather adopt only a few and perform them with love and perseverance.”
[emphasis mine] (no. 101) But this pitfall is what often happens with these particular devotions, when there is a certain “quota” and repertoire of prayers and spiritual practices to fulfill.

There is a booklet called Prayers and Heavenly Promises by Joan Carroll Cruz which consists in numerous prayers that have either been indulgenced, or more commonly, have “promises” of spiritual rewards attached to those who say them as given by various visions or apparitions of Jesus, Mary, or one of the Saints. The problem with such booklets and such spiritualities (whose adherents often make their prayer lives consist almost solely in such prayers) is that one cannot keep up with it all! As Ralph Martin says, you can have a nervous breakdown trying to wear every badge and scapular [as stated in his Summer, 2009 course “Theology of the New Evangelization” at Franciscan University of Steubenville]. It is like in the days when certain prayers from the Raccolta were prayed repeatedly so as to obtain as many indulgences as possible – one’s prayer life can easily become an endless pursuit of goods from the spiritual treasury rather than intimate and personal communion and an authentic relationship. This gets to De Montfort’s point about the “self-interested” devotees, “who turn to her only to win a court-case, to escape some danger, to be cured of some ailment, or have some similar need satisfied. Except when in need they never think of her.” (no. 103). We must also call to mind that De Montfort said “the world is full of these shallow devotees.” (no. 96) In other words, this is a common problem among those who practice such devotions – something the Church took far too long to address.

One might point out that the fact we often do not feel like doing these practices, and that when we do so even though we do not feel like doing it means our motive is solely for the love of God, and thus the practitioner will by that fact be growing in charity. However, sometimes it is not love for God that motivates us, bur rather (a) the feeling of personal satisfaction in fulfilling the devotion, of using all five stones, or (b) the thought that we are obtaining many graces that will benefit us personally or make us “greater” vis-a-vis other Christians, or (c) the fear of the consequences if we fail, or (d) the fact that it has become part of our daily routine, which makes us uncomfortable if we do not do it – like some who cannot go to sleep at night if they have not brushed their teeth. None of these motivations are bad per se; however, if our motivations for practicing these devotions consist primarily or solely in one or more of these, the chances are great that they will become ends in themselves, they will not be said with devotion and attention (which is essentially to authentic prayer), and thus the devotee will not develop a life of virtue through them.

2. Too Central in One`s Life and Spirituality. The second reason Satan may have is that Medjugorje has taken far too central a position in the spiritual lives of many believers. One blog commenter stated that “some people choose Medjugorje as their religion”, whereby they “filter the Catholic Church through Medjugorje, rather than the other way around.” (http://patrickmadrid.blogspot.com/2009/11/caller-to-my-open-line-radio-show-asks.html) Various problems can arise when this is the case.

A. (a) First of all, as book reviewer Jackie Parkes commented: “there is ... the danger of people becoming ‘addicted’ to the spiritual experiences generated by a visit to Medjugorje. This is particularly the case if the person who has been converted at Medjugorje was previously a lukewarm or non-practicing Catholic”. (http://www.theotokos.org.uk/pages/books/medjbook/jpreview.html) Parkes continued by mentioning one problem that arises from this: “One hears of people whose whole spiritual life revolves around the messages from various alleged visionaries”. [Ibid.] Medjugorje critic Mark Waterinckx claims to have observed the following: “One again and again wants to know the 'latest message' or the 'latest news'. ... Previous activities are replaced by Medjugorje gatherings, where one speculates about nearing punishments, about 'secrets', about the date on which Jesus will return on earth, what only 'initiates' know”. (http://en.gloria.tv/?user=16878) Granted, not all go to these extremes, and some more or less properly integrate Medjugorje into an authentic Catholic faith, but many do go too far, and this is a fact Satan has always been well aware of.

(b) Parkes mentioned another problem: “[Some] travel from one place to another to satisfy a ‘craving’ for these phenomena.’” Speaking of this, Waterinckx added, “We must develop our own prayer lives built on an intense sacramental life and be detached from seeking signs and wonders”.
[emphasis mine] This is why Parkes wisely pointed out that “Medjugorje, taken as an overall phenomenon, can thus at best be regarded as a sort of porch or vestibule of the Church proper, a sort of halfway house; but it is not a place where one should remain, spiritually, for any length of time.” Of course, this applies to all apparitions, including (and perhaps especially) Fatima. However, it seems that Medjugorje, with its focus on world-transforming secrets and ongoing daily apparitions, tends to become more central to the spiritualities and lives of more believers than Fatima has. Parkes mentions another motivation for some and cause for concern: “One of the symptoms of ... mental illness can be increased religiosity”. She adds “Interestingly, we were practicing Catholics who undoubtedly had a ‘religious awakening if you like’ at Medjugorje. But coming from a family with many alcoholics and addictive types of personalities, it comes as no surprise to read what Foley has observed. We too were carried along on the visionary trail.”

(c). It is interesting to note the particular saints which there is a devotion to among those who embrace this particular spirituality (I would call it a "mystical spirituality"). Almost all of the Saints which are focused on are the ones who exhibited various mystical gifts. For instance, they speak much about Padre Pio and how he sent his guardian angel on missions; they have a great devotion to St. Philomena who worked great miracles after her bones were discovered two centuries ago; they speak frequently about Saints who were incorrupt, bilocated or levitated, and worked various miracles and healing; and it goes without saying that there is much talk about all the "seers" and those who saw visions (St. Gertrude the Great, St. Bridget, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Margaret Mary, St. Faustina, etc.). But seldomly are they interested in reading about the "humdrum", about Saints who lived holiness but without any great displays of mysticism. And when they do speak of these Saints, it is only the mystical aspects they focus on, not the virtues they possessed and lived out. For instance, they will speak about St. John Bosco, but usually only when speaking about his "dreams" (visions) and about the mysterious dog "Grigio" (an angel?) who protected him from his enemies. It is a spirituality which desires to focus on the "immanent", the "divine inbreakings" which we can see with our eyes and hear with our ears, that we can "sense". It is akin to the Apostles wanting to stay on the mountain after the Transfiguration, or staring up into heaven after Jesus ascended. However, they were called back to the "humdrum", to the everyday battle against vice through struggle and the slow and painful process of building up virtue, to experiencing God only through faith (believing without seeing) and not through the "feeble senses". Similarly Christians are called to turn their attention more and more from St. John Bosco's dog and his dreams and shift their focus towards the love he showed his children at the oratory and the suffering he embraced in his pilgrimage of faith.

B. It is not surprising that in the spiritual vacuum created by doctrinal and liturgical confusion and poor catechesis, something like a false apparition could make easy prey out of many Catholics starving for authentic Catholic spirituality. It is in such an environment that Catholics are most vulnerable to such things.

3. Schism and Loss of Faith. Third, Satan could use something like this to cause division, disobedience, and ultimately schism on the one hand or a loss of faith on the other.

(a) Regarding the first, one blog commenter stated, “I too have heard or read people saying that they would choose ‘Gospa’ over Church, if it were ever condemned.” (http://patrickmadrid.blogspot.com/2009/11/caller-to-my-open-line-radio-show-asks.html) One example of this is a post by a commenter on a blog by the name of “Nancy D”. She says the following: “Medjugorje is a very holy place. If the Vatican decides it does not merit their approval, can we really turn our backs on the Blessed Mother, on the Risen Christ, conversions, healings, the spinning sun, the golden rosaries, the gifts of faith given to us? Never! How many holy signs do we need? Should the Vatican Commission rule that Medjugorje is not deserving of our faith, then this would be the ultimate act of undermining the immence [sic] graces given to us as catholics. Millions have converted, millions have returned to our church. ... I will continue to believe no matter what the outcome of the ‘investigation’ ... While The Trinity and the Blessed Mother are everywhere, Medjugorje is where we were called to hear their whispers of love for us. No one can tell me I don't hear them.” (http://medjugorje-online.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=20791) How many people like Nancy are among those who believe in Medjugorje?

According to Dr. Miravalle, not many. This is what he says, “All true members of the Church realize obedience must come first. ... Most of the [believers in Medjugorje] I’ve met are obedient Catholics, with a great love for the Holy Father. I think that will continue regardless of what’s said about the apparitions.” (http://www.osv.com/tabid/7621/itemid/6229/A-look-at-unprecedented-Medjugorje-commission.aspx) Let us disregard for now how Dr. Miravalle chose to word this. Let us deal with the assurance given by believers in Medjugorje that they would be obedient to a negative judgment if that were to happen. It is easy for them to say that now, but when push comes to shove and their faith is really put to the test rather than just hypothetically (trials are always quite easy to handle in the abstract but difficult if not impossible when they become concrete realities), will they agree with and adhere to the Vatican’s judgment? It is uncertain. Part of the problem stems from the fact that when they say they will agree with the Vatican’s judgment, they say in the same breath (or believe in their minds if this goes unspoken) that this will not happen because they are convinced Medjugorje is authentic. Thus, if the Vatican does what to Medjugorje believers regard as “the unthinkable” – ie. make a negative judgment – will they accept this, or will they succumb to a crisis of faith having believed so ardently in it and invested so much into it that they will look for reasons to assure themselves that it is authentic as well as ways to continue to believe in its authenticity?

Now we will return to the way Dr. Miravalle worded this. Notice Miravalle does not explicitly state that believers in Medjugorje will, out of loyalty to the Holy Father, agree with the negative judgment. He basically says they will continue to be “obedient” and “love the Holy Father” “regardless of what is said” about the apparitions. Can one disagree with a negative judgment about an apparition and still be “obedient” and “love the Holy Father”? Dr. Miravalle would say “Yes”! I have just said that many believers in Medjugorje will look for a reason to continue to believe. Dr. Miravalle, in his lectures, has stated that Garabandal, which previous local bishops have condemned, has now been re-opened, and one can now once again believe in its authenticity. [See Lecture #36] Hence, Dr. Miravalle, if there was a negative judgment, may cite this as a precedent (if not publicly than privately and in his own mind) and continue to hold out hope that the same “overruling” will someday happen with Medjugorje. We must remember that Dr. Miravalle has largely staked his career on Medjugorje. Although he has done other work, Medjugorje was the topic of his dissertation and it was his chief means of notoriety and supplementary income (most of his speaking engagements have been in regards to Medjugorje and its message). If it turns out to be a false apparition, Dr. Miravalle may feel compelled to continue to believe in its authenticity.

Now, in all fairness, sceptics of Medjugorje are saying the same thing – namely, that they will believe a positive judgment from the Vatican. Will they too experience a crisis of faith? This is doubtful, since they have not invested as much (their opposition to Medjugorje, however strong it may be in some cases, still remains on the periphery of their Catholic faith) and since apparitions are in general something they believe in the possibility of. The only danger may be that those who have been the most vocal against it and who have argued against it with a great deal of assurance in their positions may have too much pride to eat the large portion of crow they will be required to eat. Secondly, although many sceptics really do want to believe it is not authentic (despite what they may say and no doubt believe to the contrary, being aware of how bad it is to think this let alone acknowledge this), they will not have as much difficulty assenting to a positive judgment because such an acknowledgement will not be as much of a stretch. The fact is, sceptics have come to despise Medjugorje because of the problems they have seen there (ie. Ivan’s lifestyle, no vocations among the seers). Those problems lead them to conclude that Medjugorje is not authentic, but if it turns out to be authentic, those problems remain problems, and one then has to grapple with how an authentic apparition can result in the aforementioned anomalies. If these are both true, there must be a reason, and the sceptic should remain sceptical of problems arising from Medjugorje and get to the bottom of why this may have happened. Finally, since no private revelation is binding on the faithful, sceptics in Medjugorje can refuse to embrace it even if a positive judgment is rendered.

(b) Regarding the second, that of the loss of faith, there are many people who experienced profound conversions to the faith at Medjugorje. One thinks immediately of Fr. Don Calloway. He was a practical pagan before his trip there, having been involved in drug dealing and immoral living. If it turns out Medjugorje was not authentic, what will happen to his vocation not to mention his faith? One whose conversion is rooted in something such as this will begin to naturally question and possibly even doubt everything else he has experienced. “If Medjugorje is not authentic, is anything I have experienced in my Christian journey authentic?” Once again, we make a connection to the Legion of Christ. Many members of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi have lost their faith, if not in Christianity than in the Catholic Church or at least a sense of trust for anyone with a position of authority in the Church. This began before the revelations about Maciel (due to the defects in the movements as they emanated from their founder), but have increased since. If Cardinal Schonborn is correct that half or more than half of his seminarians and recently ordained priests owe their vocations to Medjugorje, then a negative judgment might result in a mass-exodus and loss of faith similar to what we have seen in the Legion.

Regarding the many conversions, and the claim that Satan would never create a false apparition because of this, we have to remember this: the people who went to Medjugorje were by and large already “searching”. If there was no Medjugorje, many of those would have been attracted to other apparitions sites which have been approved by the Church, because much of what attracted them to Medjogorje is that which is present also at those other sites. However, now their spiritual experiences and conversions are going to be attributed to what will be declared a false apparition rather than an undoubtedly true and approved one, which lead some of them to doubt the experience itself, and as a result their faith as well. Among these include many priests and religious, and as a result, we may see these doubt their vocations as well.

4. Problems of the Renewal Ratified. The fourth reason is that some of the problems arising out of and associated with the Charismatic Renewal movement have been in a sense “ratified” by their association with the phenomenon. Three of those problems include (1) the tendency of lay ministers to get so consumed with their “work in the Church” that they neglect their duties towards their wives and children; (2) an over-attachment to consolations, an excessive emotionalising of the faith, and the seeking of and dependence upon “signs”; and (3) a tendency to re-create the “Catholic ghetto” due to fear of or repugnance to “the secular world” and thus failing in their duty as lay people to get involved in temporal affairs and order all things to the Gospel. Unfortunately, as was stated before, a full and thorough discussion of these points will be found in other works that are not yet written, meaning the argument made here may be greatly weakened. As such, I will only attempt to briefly make the connections between these and Medjugorje.

A. Regarding those over-involved in lay ministry, the undercutting and compromising of the grave obligation of obedience towards ecclesiastical superiors at Medjugorje is only part of a broader attack on obedience in the Church. With what was said earlier about the pre-eminence of obedience as a backdrop, it is clear that the chief error of those involved in “lay ministry” or “lay evangelism” is a disregard for Our Lord’s warning that “not everyone who calls me ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the Kingdom of God, but only those who do the will of my Father in heaven”. (Matthew 7:21ff) This passage goes on to speak of how many Christians who do great “religious” works such as preaching the Gospel, prophesying, performing miracles, and driving out demons will not be saved. This is because what matters to God is not great religious works, but rather doing His will. If God has truly called you to marriage, His will is that you be the best husband and father you can. So if you are neglecting your duties as husband and father because you are so busy “doing the work of the Lord”, then paradoxically and to some surprisingly it will be through your work in ministry and evangelism that you will lose your soul. As the prophet Samuel told King Saul when He disobeyed God’s directive to immediately kill all the animals of their conquered enemies and instead kept the best of them in order to do the greatest “religious work” of “sacrificing” them to God (the Old Testament equivalent of our Mass), “obedience is better than sacrifice”. (1Samuel 15:22) In other words, if you do a “religious work” that God has not called you to do, this is a sin. As one Protestant televangelist once said in speaking about a time in his life where he got so busy with his ministry he neglected his family, “I was doing the work of God but not the will of God. [The televangelist was James Robison, in a series in which he and his wife spoke about building and sustaining a good marriage] For lay ministers and lay evangelists, this is the chief means Satan uses to conquer their souls, for it is something that many are oblivious to. “How can one be doing other than that which is great in the eyes of God when one is doing something ‘religious’?” they think. But this is not so. One astute blog commenter (who unfortunately remains among the high minority in the Church) observed: “I'm married and would find it very difficult to receive these messages and be able to give back to the Lord what he deserves. I have a husband and children to take care of. I would not be honoring the duties of my vocation if I should give more to the Lord than my vocation allows. That is why when lay people get too involved in these apparitions and start to act like consecrated people, they often end up with broken marriages and children who've left the faith altogether. It's the same reason priests aren't allowed to marry. We have limitations and God, in his infinite mercy, has set up the Church to recognize and honor them.” (http://catholiclight.stblogs.org/archives/2010/02/hauke-on-medj.html) There are many objections and counter-arguments that may arise in the minds of many readers throughout the reading of this paragraph, but unfortunately I will have to leave them unaddressed for now.

We can see an example of this in the life of Dr. Miravalle himself. The back cover of his books dating back to the 1980s have stated that he has given hundreds of talks on Medjugorje on all six continents. Besides these many speaking engagements, he is a full-time professor of theology, is a founder, president, and itinerant promoter of a lay organization called “Vox Populi Mariae Mediatrici” which is devoted to rallying support for and lobbying the Vatican to proclaim the “fifth Marian dogma”, and also studied to become and was ordained and function as a permanent deacon. During this time he gave birth to eight children. It came as little surprise to me, then, when I read in the February 18, 2009 bulletin of St. Peter’s Parish in Steubenville the following announcement: “Some of our good folks regularly present for the 11am Mass on Sundays may have noticed that Deacon Miravalle, who regularly serves as Deacon for that Mass has not, for the last few weeks, served in his usual fashion. Simply by way of information and with his approval I mentioned to him that I would simply share his wish to spend a bit more time directly with his family and participate in Mass with them. With the possibility of the permanent deaconate taking on more prominence in our diocese, it is good to recognize that any permanent deacon, although ordained as is the priest, STILL [emphasis theirs] retains his position as husband and father of his own, personal family. Thus, for the time being, if you should notice this change in procedure, simply regard his absence `formally` from our Mass as deacon, as sort of a sabbatical for the time being." In fact, I had just been discussing Dr. Miravalle`s lengthy curriculum vitae with a friend and wondering to him how such a schedule could allow a man to properly fulfill his role as husband and father. I told my friend about a man back home who had received an award from a Charismatic organization for all his work in the Church. Four years later, his wife left him – she had been left at home to raise the kids by herself because he was always gone, and she had finally had enough. A further explanation of the many things that are wrong with this picture will have to wait until And He is Divided.

B. Regarding the seeking of signs and emotional consolations, once again Satan tries to make our faith something which is “emotionally-based”. He tries to convince us that if we do not “feel” God’s consoling presence, it means He is not there. Our response is usually to “give up” on prayer, and we fail therefore to grow closer to God. Of course, the spiritual masters, such as St. John of the Cross, have always said that God deliberately withdraws consolations in order to test the Christian. God forces you into a position where your prayer must be done for His sake alone, because you personally are getting nothing out of it. The question you are asked is this: “Do you want the consolations of God or do you want the God of consolations?” If you so move your will that you continue to pray through the excruciating and wearisome desolation, you have made spiritual progress because you have grown in your love for Him, and at that point, He once again blesses you with consolations – and even to a greater degree than before. It is called the “dark night of the senses” spoken of by St. John of the Cross (Dark Night of the Soul, Book I, Chapter 9).

By that same token and for the same reason, God also wants to wean us off the “signs” and even “miracles” that He often needs to grant “spiritual babies” to get them to follow Him and trust in Him. God wants to test our faith – He wants us to believe because we acknowledge He is trustworthy and not because we see it with our own eyes as He proves it to us indubitably. “Signs” and “Miracles” are spectacular and attention-grabbing, like great and powerful winds or earthquakes or large fires. But God is humble and gentle, and speaks with a “still small voice” in the silence. (1Kings 19:11-12) Jesus said to Doubting Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” (John 20:29) When the doubting Pharisees asked for a sign, Jesus replied, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah”. (Matthew 16:4) The “sign of Jonah” was the resurrection, but only those who believed in Jesus could see the risen Christ. For in the parallel passage in Luke, Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed ... for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” (Luke 17:20-21) The Kingdom of God is in one’s heart – because that is where the Blessed Trinity resides for believers who are in the state of grace.

Therefore, the seeking of and reliance on signs must give way if one is to grow out of spiritual infancy. Perpetual signs and miracles in the life of any believer is a negative and potentially dangerous thing for such a one’s spiritual life. That is why such frequent daily apparitions that last for years in a place where solar miracles, rosaries turning to gold, and other such mystical phenomenon are frequently reported, rightly provokes scepticism. Authentic apparitions, on the contrary, usually consist of one great sign that lasts a short time but then gives way. True, at Lourdes the graces of that initial sign were distributed to many over time. However, there is really nothing dazzling about the water – it’s just ordinary water, and the sight of it does not dazzle the unbeliever as a solar miracle would, and only dazzles the believer because he associates it with the stories of miracles he has heard about.

We are often like the Apostles after the Ascension, who wanted to keep staring up at the magnificent spectacle of heavenly glory. (Acts 1:9-11) However, just as the Apostles were called to go forth from there and return to the cold, hard, and painful world in order to evangelize and minister (Acts 2-28), so too we are called to return to live our faith in the “humdrum” of everyday life in the various areas and facets of our world and mundane lives. This is another problem found in the Renewal – the failure to discern God in the everyday and see His will as much in that as in going around performing miraculous healings and doing “great works” of “winning souls for Christ” at parish missions and in preaching to other gatherings and audiences. Many Charismatics get restless in their secular professions because they cannot see how they minister in hidden ways through little acts of charity to their small number of customers and coworkers or in doing a job well and with love, and make plans instead to go about powerfully preaching the kerygma and performing great and very visible works of healing to large audiences in order to help “save the world”.

God is humble and quiet, and because fallen man is not, he fails to discern God in what is humble and quiet and thus seeks fulfillment in that which is not. Satan, on the other hand, is “flashy” and loud, not only because of his pride, but also because that is what fallen man associates God with, and that is how he gets us to embrace that which is inspired by him and thus keep us from God. Only the spiritually-mature recognize how backwards this is. The spiritually-mature do not want visions and apparitions and signs and miracles, as St. John of the Cross advised (http://www.theotokos.org.uk/pages/appdisce/smasters.html)

C. Regarding the “Catholic ghetto”, much more will be said about this in Overcoming the World. For now, we will just say that many involved in the Charismatic Renewal, like many heavily involved in the Medjugorje movement, have fallen prey to that which was pointed out by John Paul II in speaking of the lay faithful, namely, “the temptation of being so strongly interested in Church services and tasks that some fail to become actively engaged in their responsibilities in the professional, social, cultural and political world”. (Christifidelis Laici, 2) It is not uncommon to see members of both movements set up quasi-communes or at least exclusive social networks consisting of fellow members which in greater or lesser ways “quarantine” themselves from the “secular world” and from “sinners”, or at least avoiding it and them as much as possible. The “Catholic ghetto” plays into Satan’s hands because it means we leave him essentially alone to continue to dominate and impose his will on the fallen world and on fallen man. We allow it to continue rather than fight him in order to wrestle away his control of it. The “Catholic ghetto” also keeps us from much of the work of evangelization we could do and are called to do. We must ask the question, “What does it mean to be Christian? How are we to authentically live as Christians in a fallen world? What is the role of the laity in both the Church and the World?” These questions have been answered by various Church documents, the most recent being the documents of Vatican II. Many from both the Renewal and Medjugorje movements are either ignorant of much of those teachings, or are aware but are not living them. It has been my observation that the more involved one gets in either of these movements, the more divorced they are from involvement in secular affairs, from people who are not Christian or religious, and from the duties of their state as lay people. Satan would like this to continue and in fact draw more Christians down this path.

5. ``Bad Fruits``. The fifth reason is the fact that besides the “good fruits”, there have been a large number of “bad fruits” as well. We spoke earlier about how many of the alleged “bad fruits” have been witnessed at other apparitions sites as well – such as the commercialism and those who have embraced Medjugorje for financial gain. We also spoke about how many such things cannot be attributed to Our Lady, such as the fact that many mentally-unstable people have been harmed by becoming overly-attached to Medjugorje, while others have disappeared on pilgrimage, having died or been murdered . However, it must also be stated that from the paradigm of a Medjugorje sceptic, such things demonstrate why the Devil may want such a false apparition. If it is indeed not authentic, some other things that Satan may have had in mind were the illicit (and sometimes invalid) sacraments given to thousands; garnering sympathy for those who are disobedient and those priests who have broken their promise to remain celibate perpetually thus undercutting faith in and support for the Church’s discipline and teaching on celibacy vis-a-vis marriage and sex and for the perpetuity of other kinds of vows such as marital vows [aside: even with a dispensation the Church has always frowned upon this, but since priests left en masse beginning in the late 1960s, many Catholics are now turning on the Church for the fact it always grants such dispensations with sorrow and a heavy heart – see Paul VI’s encyclical “Sacerdotalis Caelibatus” (On Priestly Celibacy), paragraph 85]; the perpetuation of what is practically speaking a schism of Franciscan priests and their followers; the formation and operation of certain religious communities without permission of or submission to the local bishop; the fanaticism, broken families, disillusionment and loss of faith, and even depression and suicide among those who have become too engrossed in Medjugorje; false prophecies that kept some believers in the phenomenon from being vigilant about continuing to strive to transform and convert the world to Christ; the great influx of money that has been used in part to fund the war efforts of the communists and the political points that have been scored due to the phenomenon; the many people who either visited Medjugorje or otherwise made it central to their own spirituality that also became “visionaries”, “seers”, or “locutionists” (which Medjugorje believers recognize, one blog commenter saying that such “‘copycat’ type of missions” have “led astray some of those who have been touched by Medjugorje”) [now unable to find link] and have likewise been followed as “daughter apparitions” by Medjugorje followers; and the weakening of episcopal collegiality which has occurred when certain bishops who either believe in or are neutral about the phenomenon have allowed or even invited some of the seers to come to their dioceses and speak and manifest their visions publicly or have at least permitted believers to disseminate a great deal of information in its support, and who sometimes themselves go on pilgrimage – on occasion very publicly so, at times give it their personal endorsement in the process, and at times without informing the local bishop they are coming (which is against episcopal protocol). True, the “good fruits” may eventually outweigh the “bad fruits”, but this is something we have spoken about earlier. The fact is, Satan knows there will be good fruit which comes out of the bad – but that does not stop him from raising up as much “bad” as he can, and this provides another reason as to why he may have wanted a false apparition if it turns out to be false.

6. It should also be stated that many believers in Medjugorje will reject the “spinoff” apparitions we spoke of earlier that have been rightly condemned by the Church with the explanation that Satan wants to counterfeit apparitions in order to draw people away from Medjugorje. I would agree – except I would say that Medjugorje could be one of those apparitions, and the believers in Medjugorje may be among those who are drawn away. In fact, knowing that many believers acknowledge some apparitions are false, Satan will sometimes make a false apparition appear clearly false so as to make other (and more important) false apparitions look authentic by comparison. Hence why Medjugorje may be as orthodox and believable as it is.