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Keeping the faith through
2,000 years of scandal and reform . . .

    Today’s scandals call to mind a question the Rockford (Illinois) Register Star daily newspaper asked readers about how reports of Church scandals are affecting their faith. I responded with this letter to the editor:
At the Crossroads
     Just as corrupt politicians do not diminish my respect for the United States Constitution or my love for my country, just as the Andersen-Enron scandal does not diminish my belief in free enterprise, just as corrupt union leaders do not diminish my respect for legitimate union activity, and just as irresponsible journalists do not diminish my respect for freedom of the press, so the pathetic actions of a few men who betray their Church and thousands of their fellow clergy do not diminish my love for Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church or my respect for the dozens of faithful priests and bishops who have enriched my life since childhood.

     If I had a favorite math teacher who committed murder, I would grieve for him and his victim, but I would not think the murder invalidated Euclid's principles of geometry or feel my interest in math was misplaced. Neither does the action of any clergyman, priest to pope, invalidate what Jesus Christ has given us in the Church.

     I was alerted early in my spiritual journey to place my faith in Christ, not in humans. I noticed that the closest, hand-picked followers of Christ were a sorry lot: one betrays him and the others abandon him in crisis — which prepared me to expect nothing more from their successors. Scripture is replete with petty bickering and scandal in the Church. Even The Lord's Prayer itself alerted me to trouble ahead with the words, "Forgive us as we forgive others." I figured all that talk about forgiving and asking forgiveness meant we could expect to find a lot of offending going on — by ourselves and others.

     Church history is 2,000 years of scandal and reform followed by more scandal and reform. Today's scandals, horrific and repugnant, reflect the decadence evident in every area of human life in this age. People-using is ubiquitous. We are plagued by disease, poverty, ignorance, war, even mothers killing their children and children killing children. Nothing in human behavior surprises me, though it does break my heart when I think of what we could be. My faith is unfazed, but I do pray for conversion and renewal for all of us, clergy and laity, not only that we may have a stronger, healthier, holier Church, but that each of us may be a better instrument for peace and justice in a world sorely in need of Christ's healing touch. -- John Gile
“Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated,
     I put before you the one great thing to love on earth:
          the Blessed Sacrament.“
                                                            J.R.R. Tolkien

     “There is an old story about the leader of a primitive inland tribe who had never traveled more than a few miles from his prairie home and had never seen a body of water larger than a small lake, A trusted government agent took him across the plains and over the mountains to show him the ocean.

     “As he approached the sea, the prairie dweller was awestruck. The endless expanse of blue-green water; the roar of enormous waves topped by whitecaps crashing against jagged, sea-worn rocks with an explosion of spray; the seemingly motionless gulls riding the wind and hovering overhead; the wind-borne sand and saltwater mist, all presented themselves to him in a cavalcade of wonders.  He stood transfixed, marveling at everything before him.

     “After a while, he waded into the waves and dipped an empty jar into the water.  As he put the lid on the jar and returned to shore, he explained that he wanted to take it back to his people on the prairie so they could see the ocean, too.Eucharist

     “Our best efforts to describe the Eucharist are like that tribal leader’s effort to show his people the ocean in a small jar of still water. Even the most descriptive terms by which the Eucharist is known afford us only a faint hint of its majesty, its beauty, its power to change us -- and the limitless love behind it.

     “That limitless love and its power to change us are why the catechism refers to the Eucharist as “the Sacrament of sacraments” and “the sum and summary of our faith.”  All of the other sacraments and all of the teachings and works of the Church flow from and are strengthened by the Eucharist....

     “If you forget all the rest of the trappings of religion, if you forget all the dogmas and all the doctrines and all the commandments, remember that. When we have Jesus in the Eucharist, the Most Blessed Sacrament, we have Jesus, not where we want him, but where he wants us -- together in hope, united in faith, strengthened in love.” -- Pp. 133-134, At the Crossroads: A Vision of Hope, by the late Rockford  (IL) Bishop Thomas G. Doran with redactor John Gile

"...the Lord was not in the wind or in the earthquake or in the fire... There was a tiny, whispering sound, and Elijah hid his face..."
     It's hard to hear a whisper in a windstorm. That's why I'm so grateful for quiet moments before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

     The world sets me in a struggle against my true nature as it fosters the illusion that I am self-sufficient.
Yet I did not choose to live, or choose my parents, or choose the age in which I live and the talents I have or do not have. I cannot prolong my life here indefinitely, and I do not control the lives of those with whom I share my life. As I struggle against my true nature, I experience conflict, anxiety, and fear that separate me from God and diminish my capacity to love others.

    In quiet moments before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, the sand of self-confidence on which the world would have me build my life is replaced by the rock of God-confidence. In quiet moments before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, conflict and anxiety and fear give way to peace beyond expression.

     Life's stress and strife inflict wounds upon us which God alone can heal. In quiet moments before the
Physical, Mystical Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, I experience that Healing Power and recognize the Divine Compassion we are called to share with others. "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest... Learn from me, my yoke is easy and my burden light."
-- John Gile, in the spirit of The First Forest and Keeping First Things First.

"The catechism makes it very simple to know what the Church really teaches... It is the antidote for error" -- Bishop Doran

     "To address the needs of those who feel they are being tossed about by uncertainty, a new Catechism of the Catholic Church was published in 1994. The catechism is a great gift which Pope John Paul II has given to the Church in our time.
     "It is an authentic and current exposition and summary of what the Church teaches. It is useful as a review of Church teachings for those who may have forgotten important facets first learned long ago. It can be consulted when we are hesitant or doubtful about some particular point of doctrine or of discipline.

     "It is useful in that way, too, as a reference and as an aid to understanding Scripture.  As directed by Pope John Paul II, the new catechism is deeply rooted in Sacred Scripture and every bishop of the Church was consulted in its composition.

     "It is an authentic source which enables you to check on some of the things that you hear and read about what our Church teaches.  As Bishop Fulton Sheen once said, “There is not one person in a thousand who hates what the Church teaches, but there are thousands who hate what they mistakenly believe the Church teaches.”

     "The catechism makes it very simple to know what the Church really teaches and to evaluate anything:  Catholic periodicals, books, writings of theologians, sermons, homilies, anything that comes from the persons inside or outside the Church who profess to be accurately presenting or commenting on Church teachings.  Does what they say match what the catechism says?  If it does, it is correct.  If it does not, then it is wrong.  The catechism is the antidote for error." -- Pp. 68, 74-75, At the Crossroads: A Vision of Hope, by the late Rockford  (IL) Bishop Thomas G. Doran with redactor John Gile

"It's as if Christ said, "I know you humans all to well, so I'm going to stay with you in a way that you can't mess up -- in the Eucharist, Physically Present in Sacramental Form."
Bishop Doran
     The Church teaches that we experience Christ's presence at the Liturgy of the Eucharist in four ways:

     -- In the worshiping community, more or less, as the community is holy;

     -- In the priest-presider, more or less, as the priest-presider is holy;

     -- In the Scripture readings, more or less, as Scripture is properly proclaimed and understood;

     -- In the Eucharist, where Christ is present perfectly. It’s as if Christ said, “I know you humans all too well, and I know you’re going to mess up the first three, so I’m going to stay with you in a way that you can’t mess up -- in the Eucharist, Physically Present in Sacramental Form.” -- JG

“Let all the trees of the forest rejoice before the LORD who comes, who comes to govern the earth, to govern the world with justice and the peoples with faithfulness.” — Ps. 96
First Forest
More about The First Forest
"It all fits together..."
P. 2
P. 47, At The Crossroads: A Vision Of Hope
by Bishop Thomas G. Doran
with redactor John Gile
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In the spirit of The First Forest
"'Oh, no!' thought Amedeo, Feliciano is going to Rome!"
    In 1968 Pope Paul VI warned the world in Humanae Vitae of the living horror that threatens to make the twenty-first century the most barbaric and bloody in human history.
Paul VI
     Daily news brings reports of incivility and even savagery, rampant infidelity, lawlessness, abortion (forced in some countries, chosen gendercide, genocide, and infanticide in others), euthanasia (direct in some countries, passive through rationed care in others), sodomy, bestiality, and ethnic cleansing. The culture of death is beginning to make the dystopian Fahrenheit 451 read like a child's bedtime story in comparison with the diabolical behavior commonly portrayed in the media. Have we learned anything yet?

     And now some fear there is a danger the Church itself is losing its voice in the wake of episcopal scandals. Really? Church history is 2,000 years of scandal and reform followed by more scandal and reform, calling to mind an old story emanating from Italy. It seems there was a devout Catholic, Amedeo, who wanted to share his faith with a skeptic friend, Feliciano. After several conversations with Amedeo about the Church, Feliciano finally said, "Okay, okay; I'll go to Rome, and if I like what I find there I will become Catholic."

     “Oh, no!” thought Amedeo, who was all too familiar with the human failings of Church leaders. He imagined they would turn Feliciano away permanently. Several months later Amedeo was surprised and shocked to see Feliciano at Mass and receiving the Eucharist. After Mass, Amedeo asked what happened. “Well, I went to Rome to investigate the Church as I told you I would,” Feliciano said, “and I concluded that a Church which has survived for thousands of years despite being plagued by such incompetence and even corruption has to be divinely inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit.”

     Another old story tells about troubled times: “Jesus got into a boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a violent storm came up on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by waves; but he was asleep.  They came and woke him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We are perishing!’ He said to them, ‘Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?’ Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm.

     "The men were amazed and said, ‘What sort of man is this, whom even the winds and the sea obey?’” The Church is like a ship Christ uses to pass through the waters of time. Some crew members are dedicated and competent, some are not. It has been that way since Judas. The key is to stay focused on the One Whom even the winds and the sea obey. — JG

Everything in the physical universe,
serves as a metaphor for spiritual reality
— when we look with the eyes of faith. JG
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The Source
In the spirit of The First Forest
Remembering our martyr priests . . .
Priest Martys     Pope Francis' recollection of Father Maximillian Kolbe during his visit to Auschwitz comes only days after the brutal murder of Father Jacques Hamel in France. Father Kolbe volunteered to take the place of another Auschwitz inmate about to be executed by the Nazis. I wonder how many are aware that the stripe down the front of the chasuble priests wear when they celebrate Mass represents the blood of the thousands upon thousands of priests who have been martyred for the faith.

     Father Kolbe and many other priests were murdered during the Holocaust to implement a government decree: “The people must be separated from the churches and their pastors… The possibility of church influence must be totally removed… Not until this has happened does the state leadership have influence on the individual citizens. Not until then are the people and the Reich secure in their existence for all time.” (Martin Bormann, head of the Nazi Party Chancellery, private secretary to Adolf Hitler, decree for all Gauleiters (regional party leaders).

     Just as I am grateful to my brother and sister soldiers who have given their lives that I may be blessed with the privilege and joy of liberty, so I am grateful to the priests and bishops, soldiers of Christ, who have given their lives that I may be blessed with the privilege and joy of the Eucharist. -- JG

Philadelphia highlight . . .

Where there is love,
every day is Thanksgiving Day,
  every day is Christmas.
   Venite, Domine Iesu.

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     "Are we praying for peace? Or are we praying for an end to fighting? Peace does not mean performing a frontal lobotomy on the human race. That is not peace -- that's silence. True peace can be noisy and confusing. That's because true peace is not the absence of turmoil and disagreements. Peace is the absence of injustice and bitterness and hate.

     "Prayers for peace may be answered in a strong resolve to oppose evil. And that can involve us in struggle and persecution. The world can take away our comfort. But it is powerless to make us stop loving, to drive out the presence of God, to destroy the peace only God can give. The greatest threat to peace may not be the arms in the world, but the absence of God in our hearts." (Keeping First Things First, ISBN: 9780910941020, p. 78)

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Bishop Doran
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