Gifted by Monsignor Ferrarese

One of the great gifts that I have received is my love of music. As a kid, I used to run to the A&P where each week they had for sale an LP of Classical Music. The first disk was called “Curtain Raisers” and consisted of overtures or preludes to great operatic works. Each week another disk came out and I rushed to buy it, until I had all 12 in the set! Some were symphonies, chamber works, some vocal, some sacred. But I would put them on my rickety tiny record player and play them over and over again.

Neither of my parents were Classical Music lovers. They enjoyed popular Italian music. They just could not figure out what had gotten into me!

In high school, I would take the train to Grand Army Plaza where the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library was located and I would haunt their record collections to take back home an opera or a symphony to play on my improved stereo. My parents became a bit worried when I started bringing home German Opera! What was happening to their son?

This love of music has been such a gift to me throughout my life. It has made me a better priest since it has deeply humanized me and made me more responsive and compassionate to others.

While I was on winter vacation recently, I decided to allow the great Piano Concertos of Beethoven to mold and fashion my soul. So I took my iPad and my headphones and listened deeply to the five piano concertos created by the great musical genius of Beethoven. While listening to the fourth concerto, I seemed to be drawn into the music, feeling the music and understanding what Beethoven was saying to me. I believed I achieved an altered state of consciousness that put me at one with the music and its meaning and its composer, as well as with God. I can’t explain it any other way. It helped that I was benefiting from the tranquility of my surroundings and that I was not rushed; that I was free from tensions. My vacations tend to become retreats since it gives me more time for prayer and an opportunity to become more human and more humane.

The Lord reaches us in so many ways and bestows His gifts through a variety of means at His disposal. For me, He has chosen music and art, but for others He touches them with the joy of playing sports, or the art of gardening, or the joys of philosophy, or the comfort of conversations that edify and build up. The smile of a baby can create an ocean of care and love. For many, it is the solid ability to work at a craft or hobby which in its accomplishment brings a sense of peace and satisfaction. For still others the free care and joy of a pet that builds us up and makes us more human and loving with people can be a potent form of God’s individualized and constant care for us, often unrecognized.

This is what we try to do every Thanksgiving Day. We seek to call to mind all the blessings we have that go unrecognized in our lives. The Scriptures often state that the sin of ingratitude is the basis of all sins. Adam and Eve sinned because they were not fully thankful for the blessings that God had already lavished on them.

The fault is that we often do not develop the ability to recognize the gifts of the Lord. We lack the silence, the mindfulness and the appreciation of them. We go through life in a hurry to do the next thing and, by this rushing, go right past the blessings. Often when we are sick, we begin to value health. Why should it take that to make us see?

The cures of the blind in the Gospel are primarily about this kind of blindness: a blindness to the God who is present and active right now and right here in my life. To be cured of this blindness is to see God intimately involved in every aspect and moment of our lives using all the means at His disposal.

There is a powerful scene at the end of one of my favorite novels called “Diary of a Country Priest”. In it, the author, French novelist Georges Bernanos, has the saintly priest of the title, who is dying of stomach cancer, visit the home of a classmate of his who has left the Priesthood. He has a terrible attack of his illness there and his friend, who though has left the Priesthood can still administer last rites in an emergency, goes to get the holy oils. The saintly country priest in his dying breath says, “No need. All is Grace.” At the last moment of his life he saw that every single instance of our lives is a grace filled gift of God and that God is present in each moment of our existence. We are never alone. God is always with us. If only we had the eyes to see!

Posted in Msgr. Ferrarese | Leave a comment

Elections by Monsignor Ferrarese

With the new year, our thoughts, whether we want to or not, move toward the upcoming election for the Presidency of the United States of America, the single most powerful temporal office in the world. The world watches with unbridled curiosity mixed with admiration and fearfulness as the American people head to the poles.

We forget what a new process this really is. In former ages, it was thought that God chooses the sovereign and, as such, to disobey the King or Queen was seen not only as a political act but also a sin.

Once the principle took shape that the governor gets his or her mandate from the people, then the people must have a way of selecting whom they want to lead them. Vox Populi Vox Dei (The voice of the people is the voice of God). This makes it very important that the choice of the people be fairly and honestly done. Once the person is elected by the people, he or she must be given the opportunity to govern. And if they do not do it well, then the people should change their choice next time they make an election.

God also elects, but not in the same way. He does not elect officials or politicians, but He has elected a people: the people of Israel to accomplish His Will and to teach the world how to live honestly and lovingly in the world.

Because God chooses a people does not mean that His favor rests only on that group of individuals and groups. The election by God of the people of Israel or a prophet is never for the benefit of the Chosen. As Tevye in ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ says to God: “Once in a while can’t you choose someone else?” It is a burden and a responsibility to be elected by God since the good of many others depends on the faithful accomplishment of the mission.

The Prophets were also elected or chosen by God to speak truth to power and to make sure that God’s eternal will is done. They also suffered for their efforts, being misunderstood or worse.

Even today, God often elects an individual to bring out the truth in some area of life. Like Jonah trying to escape God’s election, many of us prefer to run the other way when we get a glimpse that God seeks us for a very personal and important mission.

One feels the call to election deep in the interior of one’s being. Often we prefer to look the other way.

I remember as a teenager going to a preparatory seminary high school being elected by God to do something very difficult. There were two factions at war in the neighborhood and many people were not talking to other people who were on the opposing side. Someone I respected a great deal asked me how I could let this happen. I was in the seminary studying to be a priest. It was up to me to talk with the leader of the other group to bring peace to the block. I felt in the person’s words a deep truth. I knew that I was being asked by God, through this person’s words, to risk being misunderstood or even ostracized by speaking to the other side. So with my heart in my throat I went to that person and embraced him. I thought that he would either die or slug me. But neither happened. Peace came to the block, but I was exhausted and just wanted to go home!

When God calls us and elects us to a particular mission, He gives us the strength to accomplish His Will. But that still requires a great expenditure of effort and work on our part. But what is most important is the direction for which we receive our election. In politics, the election is made from below, that is, from the people; but when there is an election by God, it comes from above. This presupposes faith and belief in God.

Election in politics is a responsibility, but God’s election is a privilege that leads us to take responsible action because it is the Will of God, and God alone.

Posted in Msgr. Ferrarese | Leave a comment

Holy Helpers by Monsignor Ferrarese

One of the things that impress itself on non-Catholics about our faith is the place we give to the saints. It would seem to the outside observer that heaven is divided into different departments, such that when you have a particular need you go to that department and ask for help. For example, if you lose something and, you are directed to pray to St. Anthony. When he answers you and you find what you lost, you become a devotee of St. Anthony and thank him for the favor.

While this is clearly against Catholic teaching, it’s quite a common misunderstanding. Perhaps a better way of looking at the helping of the saints is to imagine ourselves asking a very important person for a favor. It is useful under these circumstances to enlist the help of someone who the important person thinks very highly of so that the request be given a little more prominence. So we get letters or even the very presence of the friend of the potentate to accompany us as we make our request or as we allow the friend in the case to make the appeal. This is the role of the saints. I ask St. Anthony not for the favor itself, since he is powerless to give it to me, but I ask him as a friend of mine to come with me to God when I ask it of Him (or I allow St. Anthony to make the request to God directly).

This does not mean that I cannot go directly to God myself; but, knowing my weaknesses and my sinfulness, I ask St. Anthony to accompany me that I might not lose heart. This of course presupposes that I have a deep and lasting friendship with St. Anthony. Friendship is deepened and developed by self-communication, shared joy and sorrow and the time together which helps us to understand another. It requires that we get to know the saint and allow him or her to get to know us. This is not in place of the Adoration and service to God, but as a secondary growth in the affairs of that other world to which we are hopefully directed. It is not worship of that saint, but a friendship that is developed that has, as its firm shared purpose, the worship of the God that unites us in this friendship. It is this growing relationship with a saint or saints that helps to anchor us to the direction of heaven and the afterlife, the concerns of which should more and more occupy us as we live this short and troublesome life on earth.

To illustrate what I mean, I would like to share a dream I had as a young boy growing up in Brooklyn. I was a particularly bothersome little boy of elderly parents who were at a loss how to discipline me. I was a bit of a brat! One night I had a dream. I remember it to this day even though I was about 6 or 7 years old when I had it. St. Anthony, in a very kindly way, took me aside and gently told me that I was behaving badly with my parents and that it would be good to change that. He spoke so calmly and with such love for me that I felt greatly affirmed and wanted to change, not only for my parent’s benefits, but also because I wanted to please St. Anthony who spoke to me like a big brother and best friend. When I woke up I immediately resolved to be a more behaved child so much so that my mother asked what happened that I changed so much. I told her about the dream and she understood completely and seemed very happy that St. Anthony intervened.

This is what I mean by our relationship with the saints. They are our friends and guides to help us do the will of God.

I sometimes imagine that, when I die and open the eyes of my soul in the next world, I will see, surrounding me with great welcome and love, all the saints that I got to know and love in my short journey here on earth, and that they bring me without any fear but much great reverence into the presence of almighty God Who created me and Who loves me more than anyone could here on earth. What a great moment that may be! May I do nothing here on earth that would prevent this from happening; and, if I must enter the purifying fires of Purgatory first, I do so happily and willingly knowing that my celestial friends and holy helpers will wait; and then, when ready to enter His presence, they will escort me into the joy I have always wanted.

Posted in Msgr. Ferrarese | Leave a comment

Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, continued

  • Is there any history behind this feast? Yes, there is actually.  According to About.com:

“Like many of the most ancient Christian feasts, Epiphany was first celebrated in the East, where it has been held from the beginning almost universally on January 6. Today, among both Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, the feast is known as Theophany – the revelation of God to man.

Epiphany originally celebrated four different events, in the following order of importance: the Baptism of the Lord; Christ’s first miracle, the changing of water into wine at the wedding in Cana; the Nativity of Christ, Christmas; and the visitation of the Wise Men or Magi. Each of these is a revelation of God to man: At Christ’s Baptism, the Holy Spirit descends and the voice of God is heard, declaring that Jesus is His Son; at the wedding in Cana, the miracle reveals Christ’s divinity; at the Nativity, the angels bear witness to Christ, and the shepherds, representing the people of Israel, bow down before Him; and at the visitation of the Magi, Christ’s divinity is revealed to the Gentiles – the other nations of the earth.

Eventually, the celebration of the Nativity was separated out, in the West, into Christmas; and shortly thereafter, Western Christians adopted the Eastern feast of the Epiphany, still celebrating the Baptism, the first miracle, and the visit from the Wise Men. Thus, Epiphany came to mark the end of Christmastide – the Twelve Days of Christmas, which began with the revelation of Christ to Israel in His Birth and ended with the revelation of Christ to the Gentiles at Epiphany.

Over the centuries, the various celebrations were further separated in the West, now the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated on the Sunday after January 6, and the wedding at Cana is commemorated on the Sunday after the Baptism of the Lord.

In many parts of Europe, the celebration of Epiphany is at least as important as the celebration of Christmas. In Italy and other Mediterranean countries, – the day on which the Wise Men brought their gifts to the Christ Child—while in Northern Europe, it’s not unusual to give gifts on both Christmas and Epiphany (often with smaller gifts on each of the twelve days of Christmas in between).”  http://catholicism.about.com/od/holydaysandholidays/p/Epiphany.htm

  • BTW, what is a magi? Oh, and how many magi were there? The term “magi” is the plural of magus.  You can see the root of magic and magician in the word.  The magi were a priestly caste or class from ancient Persia.   A magus, the singular, was an expert in the sciences of the time, especially astrology.  How many magi were there?  We don’t know because Scripture doesn’t give us a number or their names.  We say three due to the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh mentioned, but over history the number has varied, once there were as many as twelve.
  • What are their names? Do we have any relics of them?  Traditionally, from the 6th century on or so, the names Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar have been associated with them.  According to tradition, the relics of the Magi are at the Shrine of the Three Kings at Cologne Cathedral.
  • Is there any symbolism attached to the gifts presented to Jesus? Yes, in fact, there is.  According to U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website:  “Gold – a symbol of wealth and power identifies the recipient as a king. Frankincense – the crystalized resinous sap of a tree used as incense and as an offering, is symbolic of prayer. Myrrh – another resinous tree sap was used in healing liniments, and as an embalming ointment.  http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/christmas/christmas-january-6.cfm
  • What are some activities that we can do participate in on this day as a family or as a faith community?

Bibliography

The Catechism of the Catholic Church.  New York: Doubleday Press, 1997.

Catholicism.About.com http://catholicism.about.com/od/holydaysandholidays/p/Epiphany.htm. 2014. Web. 25 Dec. 2016.

CatholicCulture.org http://www.catholicculture.org. 2014. Web. 13 Dec 2014.

Merriam Webster http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/epiphany.  2014. Web.  12 Dec. 2014.

The New American Bible. The Vatican, 06 Nov. 2002.  Web. 12 Dec. 2014. <http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0839/_INDEX.HTM>

“National Migration Week 2017.” United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2016.  Web. 25 Dec. 2016. <http://www.usccb.org/about/migration-and-refugee-services/national-migration-week/>

Shrine of the Magi, Cologne Cathedral.  n.d. Web. 25 Dec. 2016. <http://www.koelnerdom.de/index.php?id=17451&L=1>

“Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord.” United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2014. Web. 16 Dec. 2014. <http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/christmas/christmas-january-4

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is WiseMen-300x215.gif

“When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.’  When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.  They said to him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet:  ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.’

Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.’

After their audience with the king they set out.  And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.  They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.’”  (New American Bible, Matthew 2:1-12)

  • Isn’t this the Feast of the Epiphany? Yes, it is.  It’s also called the Feast of the Three Kings and is known by a few other names.
  • Whatever happened to that feast? The Epiphany is traditionally celebrated on the 12th day after Christmas, January 6th. In the United States, the feast has been moved to the Sunday between January 2nd and January 8th.
  • What does the term epiphany mean? According to Merriam Webster, the term epiphany is defined as “a sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience”.
  • What do we commemorate or remember on this day? On this feast, we commemorate the manifestation of Jesus to the whole world.  Jesus is revealed to the magi who have come from the East bearing gifts and are the first individuals from the Gentile world to see or encounter the Savior of the world.

As it states in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Savior of the world. The great feast of Epiphany celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the wise men (magi) from the East, together with his baptism in the Jordan and the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee. In the magi, representatives of the neighboring pagan religions, the Gospel sees the first-fruits of the nations, who welcome the good news of salvation through the Incarnation. The magi’s coming to Jerusalem in order to pay homage to the king of the Jews shows that they seek in Israel, in the messianic light of the star of David, the one who will be king of the nations. Their coming means that pagans can discover Jesus and worship him as Son of God and Savior of the world only by turning toward the Jews and receiving from them the messianic promise as contained in the Old Testament. The Epiphany shows that “the full number of the nations” now takes its “place in the family of the patriarchs,” and acquires Israelitica dignitas (are made “worthy of the heritage of Israel”).” (#528)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Beginning Again by Monsignor Ferrarese

How many times have I begun living again? By that I mean: made resolutions (as we do around this time each year) and begun to reset my daily living to better approximate how I want to live, or, in my better mind, how the Lord wants me to live. I sort of take appraisal a few times every year: New Years Day (of course), Ash Wednesday, September (usually around Labor Day), and finally at the start of the Liturgical year, the First Sunday of Advent. At each beginning, I take stock, and then try to adjust my life to better approximate what it should look like.

Some things do stick and become permanently part of how I live my life. I remember a priest who was a member of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). He gave a conference during a retreat in which he shared the changes his life took when he become sober. He would wake up early in the morning and could not fall back to sleep. So he decided to make a virtue out of that defect by putting on a pot of coffee and doing his spiritual reading in the quiet of the early morning before the noise and the phone calls began. This struck me in a powerful way. I heard the voice of Jesus urging me to follow the priest’s example. So I decided that I would do the same. I began to wake up an hour earlier and got a little coffee maker for my room and began reading. That was over 30 years ago. I still do this, even on vacations! I began to write down the books that I completed by doing this. I know it is hard to believe but, I have the documentation to prove it: I read over 1,000 books using this simple method!

Thus, sometimes we decide on some reformation of how we do things and it sticks with us, altering our lives.

It is also true that many new beginnings meet their endings just a few days after they are begun. This should not discourage us, since it is very human to reach beyond that which we are capable at any given time.

What psychologists say about ‘SMART’ goals can help us in planning for our new year’s resolutions. They must be Specific, not so vague that we can’t discern whether we do them or not. They must be Measurable, so we can have some objective proof that we have done them (e.g. 15 minutes exercise each day, not just exercise each day). They must be Achievable, that is they have a chance of completion in a relatively short amount of time. They must be Relevant to the basic direction of the goals set; and they must be Time Bound having a beginning, middle and an end. See? SMART!

This is in contrast to something like, “I am going to be a better person this year.” That is not specific enough and it is certainly not measurable and, hence, not quite achievable. Resolutions like this one usually are forgotten by January 4th if they last that long! But, if the resolution follows the SMART pattern outlined, it can really change us. Even a small change that is stuck to and followed through can have lasting effects on us.

So I will tend to help people to believe in their resolutions when they are appropriate and sincere. We do great harm if we treat these honest attempts at cooperating with God in our growth as though they are here today and gone tomorrow. Cynicism is always the work of the devil since it tries to destroy one’s honest attempts at self betterment.

It is a gift of God to keep getting up, even after a disappointing fall, and to believe in God’s grace and the effectiveness of our real attempts to grow. Maybe we are successful only once in every 5 tries, but that success can go far in helping us to fulfill God’s Will in our lives, provided we put God first, over and against our own will and desires.

Trying to make resolutions and following them cannot be, however, chiefly about self-help or self-betterment. Then the danger is that we are feeding our pride. There is a great difference between fasting and dieting, though some of the results are identical. Fasting is about subjugating our natural appetites to the glory of God. Dieting is done chiefly for health reasons or, more basely, for vanity.

The desire to do something wonderful for the Lord and better discipline ourselves so that we can be more effective in serving Him puts us squarely in the virtue of Hope, the unsung middle virtue between Faith and Love. These three virtues are so important that the lack of even one of them can be disastrous to our lives and our future.

Rather what we are speaking about is what Mother Teresa meant when she said we should do something beautiful for God. May this new year bring us more closely to this self giving to God!

Posted in Msgr. Ferrarese | Leave a comment

A God That Matters by Monsignor Ferrarese

One of the unfortunate consequences of the political doctrine of the separation of Church and State is the banishment of religion from the realm of politics and the day-to-day life of the government. The Founding Fathers and Mothers never had that intention. The mechanism of true government was to be wielded always by mature human beings who were faithful to their belief in God.

But the truth is that everyone votes based on a set of internal beliefs that are private, in that they exist in the hearts and minds of the individual citizens. Even atheism is a belief with a structure and consequences that affect the practical everyday life of the world.

So the separation of Church and state cannot mean that you put your internal beliefs to the side, making them of no importance, when one goes to vote. This is absurd! What the founders of our amazing form of government meant by the separation of Church and State is that the State would leave religion alone and allow it to exercise its importance by influencing internally the individual before he or she makes external decisions that affect our nation.

This does not mean that we Catholics, for instance, work to pass laws that enshrine the Catholic Faith as normative for the nation. There cannot ever be a system of law that is based on a kind of ‘Catholic Sharia’. Nor can that be true of Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or Atheists.

But we are called upon to use the accumulated wisdom of the Scriptures and Church teaching, both in their doctrinal teaching (e.g. the Incarnation of the Word of God) as well as in their moral teaching (e.g. Thou shalt not kill), to legislate and form a government that enshrines these basic principles that affect everyone regardless of faith or tradition.

In this sense, religion is anything but a private affair. Its basic principles affect everyone. Because our founders were (for the most part) people of faith, embedded in our Constitution are certain principles derived from our Judaeo-Christian world view. The premises that we all work out of are inherently Christian. That does not mean that they are unacceptable by people of other faiths or of no faith. But they are the very substance of our assumptions about life and how we can live happily and fruitfully in this world.

The opposite is a prejudice which cannot hold water even in a limited sense. How often have people said today (especially among the ‘nones’: those of no faith or explicit adherence): “I am spiritual but not religious”.

What that often means is that I have a private connection with God that makes me feel good and I don’t need any organized structure (Religion) to involve me. This becomes very private in that there is no overt commitment to anything.

This goes against the grain of every spiritual tradition in the world, Christian or non-Christian. There is a great unanimity in all faiths that one cannot grow in spirituality unless one surrenders and submits to the spiritual discipline of growth and development. A friendship or relationship cannot grow or prosper without commitment. The avatars of the ‘I am spiritual but not religious’ school have nothing in common with spirituality. It is just a personal expression of the political prejudice that ‘You can believe in a God here in America, but a God who does not matter.’ In a sense, the personal is political!

God matters in everything we do and in every decision we make. The spiritual is, by its very nature, a religious stance. What the ‘nones’ call spirituality is a form of self-help psychology that has very limited results outside the occasional suspension of the natural and hard task of living.

Posted in Msgr. Ferrarese | Leave a comment

St. Stephen, the Protomartyr

First Century

Chosen as one of the 7 deacons mentioned in Acts of the Apostles

Called the Protomartyr, the first martyr of the Church

He was martyred by stoning

Saul of Tarsus was present at his stoning; Saul goes on to be converted to Christianity and is better known as Paul, the greatest missionary in Christian history

Like Jesus, Stephen prayed that his killers would be forgiven by God

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Fourth Sunday of Advent

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.

When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,
which means “God is with us.”

When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. Mt 1:18-24

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Way Forward by Monsignor Ferrarese

One of my favorite stories is about my Aunt who I visited in Italy while I was a college student. She was elderly and very depressed. She would sigh a lot. You could feel the heaviness that she carried even in the words and thoughts she uttered. She saw the down side of everything. When she found the negative, she was almost relieved for she would not be fooled into putting her hopes in something that would ultimately disappoint her.

After a few days living with her, I was more than ready to move on! After breakfast, before taking my leave of her, I noticed a beautiful canary in a cage in her kitchen. Trying one last time to cheer her up I remarked, “Auntie, what a beautiful bird you have!” Without missing a beat, she responded with a sigh, “Yes, but he doesn’t sing!” At that, I gave up and left the house, continuing on my journey!

In fairness to my Aunt, I must add that she may have been struggling with a case of the illness of depression which needs to be treated by medication. This did not cross my mind at the time, but it may have been true.

Nevertheless, for our purposes in this reflection, let us assume that it was a rut she was in that was able to be corrected by changes in attitude and the appreciation of things. It has been my observation that many times we can get stuck in negativity and get trapped in the swamp of complaint that does not cause us to move forward and, in fact, can create a climate of stagnation, not only for the individual, but also for the small community around the person.

The reason why this is such a quagmire is that complaint is another word for complacency. Why do anything or hope for anything if everything will always come out the way the things are now or even worse? Complaint is its only reason to be. People who live a life of constant complaint give up on growth and progress. While there is a healthy complaint that leads to corrective action, the kind of complaint I am speaking about is a habitual complaint that defines the person’s stance toward reality. Unfortunately, this is becoming the culture in which we live. It is a closed system that does not admit of change or betterment. It has a fundamentally flawed perception that things can’t be better and that one’s only choice is to accept this situation as definitive and unchangeable. Connected to this is a deeply depleted view of the human person as helpless and unreformable, which is manifestly untrue to the Gospel message of Christ to repent. If change is not possible, then why call us to repent?

This is an excessively passive view of reality. Things happen to us and we have no power to change any part of our lives. In this view, what you experience now is to be ceaselessly repeated, leading to a kind of cynicism in which nothing good can truly happen and that all one can do in life is complain about things. When disaster strikes and a person makes a lamentable and serious sin or mistake, then no reform is possible. There can be no second chances. The evil action was, in a sense, expected and proves that this person cannot be trusted; and even beyond this, trust is a stupid action which is ridiculous since no one can truly be trusted.

At the very basis of this stance on reality is an unchangeable sadness that change and even redemption is not possible. One can plainly see how depressing this attitude can be. But, like a virus, it has infected our daily lives in a culture that does not exalt the human person as a creation of God and as someone who is capable of change and betterment and who always has a chance to grow even after extreme failures. There are no second chances in today’s tabloid world. Our world looks eagerly for signs of weakness; then attacks with ferocity that weakness, hounding and shunning those individuals. In a world in which sex is considered an almost ultimate value, the failures in this area are considered the most mortal; and, in a world without salvation or a redeemer, they become unforgivable. No second chances are allowed.

This runs in contrast to the Church’s teachings that sees forgiveness and rehabilitation as possible for everyone with the strength of Christ’s grace. Our way of life and its moral strictness is, in the end, much more open to change and redemption than the world’s two-faced pessimism: do whatever you like sexually, but if you trip off one of the modern world’s favorite issues (as evidenced in the inquisition we call the ‘modern free press’), you will be shamed and hated forever!

The way forward is to trust the age-old wisdom of the Scriptures set forth clearly by the Church’s teaching. It is hard and difficult, but in the end it gives life and, even if we fail at it, Confession, repentance and a new life is always possible, no matter the sin.

Posted in Msgr. Ferrarese | Leave a comment