The School of Poverty by Monsignor Ferrarese


When we say that religious Brothers and Sisters take the vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience, we do not try to sanctify living in disgraceful conditions that many are forced to live in when they are poor. The vow of Poverty for a religious is more like living in a simple way, not relying on material things, but placing our hopes solely in God and His Providence.

Poverty as a vow needs to be clearly distinguished from the condition of abject misery of many that material poverty imprisons.

But it is still very real. A priest-theologian I knew said that poverty of its very nature is not something we embrace, it embraces you! And so a religious must try to learn to continually let go and rely totally on God.

Now, when someone takes the vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience, does that have any value for those of us who do not? Is it just for their own personal spiritual growth?

Any virtue has natural effects for the community of the Church. So, if a person is a better person because of the vows that they have taken, is that not benefit enough for the rest of us?

Clearly it is a good, but it does not mean that there is not another, perhaps more important, result. That additional good can be called “instructional”, for the person in consecrated life (a Nun, Monk or religious Sister or Brother) is a public witness to qualities of life that we should all strive for in quieter and more appropriate ways (for us).

The Obedience of a Monk or Nun to their superior teaches us about the value of Obedience in our own lives in the world. The root meaning of the word “obedience” is “to listen”. Do not spouses need to be obedient to one another? Arguably many of the difficulties of marriage is that the spouses are not listening to each other!

Also, the public witness to Chastity may help the couple to be faithful and chaste with one another in the more private sphere of marriage.

The spiritual value of Poverty is that it helps us to see how dependent we are on God and how much we need Him. This “Poverty of Spirit” can have tremendous advantages for us. It helps us to “Let Go and Let God” in modern parlance.

This is a struggle at any stage of life, but especially in a person’s advanced age. This period of life can rightly be called the “School of Poverty” since there are many instances when one has to let go of the most basic functions of life.

We are aging from the moment of our conception. All of human life is a journey to death or the transformation of the self into one’s eternal destiny, wrought by one’s own choices and God’s grace. But what we generally call “old age” is a particularly sped-up version of what happens in life generally.

We have to let go of much of our work, the activities that have consumed so much of our lives. This can be a great loss when one loves what they do. But that is only the beginning of the losses of aging. Our bodies start to break down. We cannot think as quickly as we did. Our eyesight and our hearing start to diminish. We need some help getting around. Our sons and daughters take away our car keys! We are assailed by a host of diminishments, the worst of which for some is the loss of the faculty of the mind. We either learn to let go, or we get into rages and resentments that hinder our spiritual growth.

In a secular “this-worldly” way of looking at life, where death is merely extinguishment, old age is seen as merely a time when things are over for us and the best we can do is to get used to it. But for the person of Faith,
old age is a time of tremendous spiritual opportunity, when one battles the demons of meaning and, in the midst of physical and psychological pain, we give over our lives to God hanging on our cross on the mount of our personal Calvary. It is not the ending of life, but its summation!

Seen in this way, an elderly person is truly a hero who combats the worst demons of life to be faithful to God, their loved ones, and their true selves.

Old age is truly a time of instruction, a school, that teaches us to let go and let God!

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The Solemnity of Pentecost

“When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, ‘Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his own native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.’   They were all astounded and bewildered, and said to one another, ‘What does this mean?’”  (New American Bible, Acts of the Apostles 2:1-12)

Pentecost was originally a feast of the Jewish faith that celebrated the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai.  It occurred fifty days after Passover, hence the name Pentecost meaning fiftieth.

Pentecost is celebrated as a Christian feast because of the events that occurred fifty days after Jesus’ Resurrection: the descent of the Holy Spirit on those individuals that had gathered in the Cenacle, the Upper Room, and inaugurated the beginning of the Church. Pentecost is one of the three most important liturgical celebrations of the Church year.  It celebrates and commemorates the establishment of the Church which is why it is referred to it as the “Birthday of the Church”.

The Pentecost Event, as I call it in my text, My Intended to be but Never, Ever, Ever to be Published Tome, is an occasion that radically impacted and drastically changed the Apostolic Church.  Hiding behind locked doors and windows in fear of their lives, the descent of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the Advocate, as promised by Jesus, transforms these individuals into people that boldly proclaimed the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus.

What does the Pentecost Event have to do with the Church today?

Many individuals might question why an event that occurred about 2,000 years ago can have any impact or meaning for us today.  Well, to me Pentecost can …

1. The Pentecost Event shows us what it truly means to be a Christian.

The word Christian does mean “Christ-like”.  Being a Christian means following Jesus and accepting his teaching, but it also means evangelization.  Evangelization may not mean vocal preaching, necessarily, but it does involve embodying and living out those principles that Jesus showed us and taught us.  As Lumen Gentium states: “Therefore in the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness…” (#39).  We are ALL called to participate in the life and mission of the Church, whatever our talents and abilities are or wherever they lie. (Prager)

2. The Pentecost Event shows us how we, as Church, can deepen our faith.

The early Christian community “…devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.” (New American Bible,Acts of the Apostles 2:42)  The Pentecost Event reveals how we can start to make our faith deeper and fuller: by educating ourselves in what the Church teaches and practices; by participating in the sacramental (communal) life of the Church, especially the Eucharist; and by developing a deeper and more vibrant prayer life. (Prager)

3. The Pentecost Event can enable us to “see” the activity of the Holy Spirit in the entire Church and the Spirit’s involvement in the Church’s mission.

The Holy Spirit is at work through all the baptized since we are all called to holiness (see #1 above).  The Holy Spirit enables the entire Church, using the myriad talents of the ordained and laity in tandem, to advance the mission of the Church:

From my perspective the Church’s mission is a vocation, a calling; all the baptized are called to “do something” and this “doing something” is composed of four parts:

  • Spreading the Good News of our salvation through Jesus; that through the Paschal Mystery we have been saved, we can achieve eternal life.
  • Being a prophetic voice to others, calling others to change their lives and lifestyles; the Church is called to have a counter-cultural impact.  We are supposed to run counter to much of what the prevailing culture often says is good, right or just.
  • Being a sign of Christ to others, being of service, ministering to others, as Jesus did; we’re supposed to be living out and embodying those values and principles that Jesus taught us and showed, by which Jesus lived.
  • Regular and active participation in the sacramental life of the Church, especially the Eucharist.   However, I would also say, for our time, the sacrament of Reconciliation is an important one, as well, depending on how one lives their life.

We have been called as Church to put this mission into action wherever our talents and abilities lie.  Some of the baptized can preach some cannot; some can teach others cannot, but we all have talents that can be utilized to advance the Church’s mission.  For most of the faithful, it most likely lies in how we live our lives on a daily basis at home with our family, in interaction with our neighbors or at work with our colleagues. (Prager) A lot will say what good can that do?  Well, those of us in “the real world” are often the only place that others can see positive examples of what it means to really be a Christian, that’s what it can do.

The one question we might want to ask ourselves is: Do others see Christ in my actions and in me?

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church, (CCC), states: “…to be in touch with Christ, we must first have been touched by the Holy Spirit. He comes to meet us and kindle faith in us.” (CCC, #683)

So not only are we an Easter people we’re also a Pentecost people, the two events are inexorably tied together – the Holy Spirit given to us by the risen Jesus continues to guide and sanctify us as Church. (Prager)

Bibliography

The Catechism of the Catholic Church.  The Vatican, 06 Nov. 2002.  Web. 18 March.2016   < http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM>

Lumen Gentium.  The Vatican, 06 Nov. 2002 Web. 25 March 2014 <http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html>

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

Prager, Edward.My Intended to be but Never, Ever, Ever to be Published Tome.  n.p.

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Dreams and Nightmares by Monsignor Ferrarese


Every age has its own falsehoods that seem perfectly reasonable, and even practical, if taken in a particular and limited sense. In the past, among certain societies, concepts of honor seemed to be important and unassailable, but taken to logical conclusions could lead to horrors like the killing of rape victims because they have “dishonored the family”.

In our contemporary American culture, we have had, and still have, questionable beliefs that can have disastrous consequences. I remember in the 1960’s we said crazy things like: “If it feels good, do it!” It never dawned on the denizens of the “Age of Aquarius” that they were giving license to pedophiles! One has to be very careful about ideas.

Good ideas can have a wonderful harvest of good fruits, but a single bad idea can be devastating in the evil it produces. Parenthetically, this is why the Church has been so concerned about heresy. A bad idea about God can have disastrous effects. The heresy that Jesus was not truly human spawned the rejection of the human in the cult of the Cathars in Southern France whose advocacy of suicide (since it frees the soul from the human!) had to be put down by armed force!

But there are some pernicious bad ideas that can cause havoc even today. One of these is the ideal that is often spoken about in third-rate shows on TV about “Believing in your Dream!” There is always something true in even a false belief. We should have dreams and ideals and aspirations. But we cannot absolve ourselves of testing the ideals to be sure they are truly life giving. Reason and reliance on the wisdom of the ages must be applied even to dreams.

It is simply claptrap to say that no matter what I dream, if I keep working at it, it will happen.

You hear this often when someone wins a prize: just believe and work hard and it will happen! Now, I may have a dream that I am the quarterback for the New York Giants, but at 68 years of age and in my present physical condition added to my lack of talent in this area, I can rightly and accurately say that no matter what my dream tells me, I can never be that quarterback! To spend my life trying to do it would be a waste of time and effort.

Similarly, take a high school student who wants to be an actor or a performer of some sort, who dreams of becoming a star: If they make decisions regarding schooling, practicing, etc., that are unrealistic, they may be imprisoning themselves in a future nightmare. I have met men and women in their forties and even fifties who are still waiting for that big break and even delayed marriage and family for that.

I have discussed the pain some parents feel over these unrealistic expectations that they supported with great financial sacrifices. One Dad urged his son to go back to school and get a teaching degree so that he can fall back on something reliable if his “dream” does not materialize.

My point in this long digression on unreality, and the damage caused by false ideas accepted as true, is that God calls us into what is best for us and that we need to be able to sacrifice our dreams, ideas and agendas to His Holy Will. Our own prideful stubbornness of will can work against us, and our spiritual development, especially when it is fed by the false philosophy that permeates our culture.

These illusions of the will are the playground and tool box of the Tempter, for he tries to get us to veer off the path of God’s Will, which is where our true happiness lies. He then establishes a false premise that leads to disaster for us.

The psychological field of cognitive therapy has built its whole science of the mind on this idea of the danger of the false beliefs that engender distorted perceptions of the self. When you build on faulty foundations, all the effort is wasted since the house will come tumbling down.

Hence, the importance of consulting the great saints and the tradition of the Church, since we need independent and proven objective standards so that we know we are on the right track and are not building for ourselves something that will be a colossal waste of time.

This is another reason why humility is the basis of all the virtues. It takes humility to question, for it admits our limitations and helps us not to absolutize our own agendas. As St. Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians, “…live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness [and] with patience…”

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Home Again by Monsignor Ferrarese

While the experience of Pilgrimage is exhilarating, exhausting and at the same time refreshing, it would be deceptive to say that there is where the true reality of the spiritual life abides.

That last word, “abides,” is very important. In the gospel of John, it occurs countless times. In Greek, it is the word “Menein” that is translated as “abides” and oftentimes also as “remains”. In the discourse on the Vine and the Branches, it communicates the key concept of living in or living with. It describes a state and not an event. When one lives with someone, one truly gets to know the person. Often, when going on vacation with a friend, it can seal or steal the friendship. It may show how compatible the two are or how at loggerheads they seem!

When it comes to God, we can approach the experience as an event with a beginning, a middle, and an end. This works with the concept of the Pilgrimage where we search out, and are willing to put up with, sacrifices so that we achieve that moment of connection which gives us strength. The problem with seeing God as an event is that it is too restrictive. It depends wholly on circumstances which will or will not cooperate. We climb the mountain and want to feel God, but He is elusive. He is not in the mountain or the fire or the storm, but as Elijah discovered, He is in the ubiquitous breeze.

One cannot meet with God. One must live with Him. Day in and day out. ‘Menein’. Abiding and remaining in the presence, divorced from emotions and thoughts. He walks with us and is not to be found or met, just as one cannot lose one’s faith, but merely decides to not believe.

The question that the two disciples who were following after Christ in John’s gospel asked of Christ: Where do you live? Menein. And the Lord answered: Come and see. Or better said: Come and live with me and you shall understand.

When you come back from the world of events like a Pilgrimage, the temptation is to go back to where we were as the memories recede. But, truly, God is in the breeze of daily life. We live with Him, but we do not see Him or hear Him or feel Him because of our lack of faith. Faith is a way of seeing the world in all its depth and supernatural mystery, like the face of a child without shadow or the face of an aged person whose history is written on the wrinkles of their face. If we cannot see God there, no Pilgrimage can help us. For the true Pilgrimage is into the mystery of God, and He is all around us.

Perhaps that is what Baptism truly is: finally seeing the reality of God right in front of us. It is when, in Spanish, during the Eucharist we ask Him to “Contemplar las Luz de tu rostro”: to contemplate the light of His Face.

To the human eye, there is only a round host when the Priest intones: “Behold the Lamb of God, Behold Him who takes away the sins of the world”. But in faith, we gaze on the Light of His Countenance.

And so we unpack and get into our own bed and, as sleep comes, we greet the destination of our journey: The Lord whom we live with. And we discover that our Pilgrimage was unnecessary; or rather, we finally understand a little better that He is with us always even when we are not with Him.

A Pilgrimage teaches us to see, and I am so glad to have taken many of them throughout my life, for they force me to see what is right in front of me and realize how truly blessed I am!

When one returns from a Pilgrimage, it is often the devil’s strategy to convince us that the insights the soul had received while visiting the holy places were illusions, that nothing has changed. In fact, the evil one mounts a concerted attempt to have the soul go in the opposite direction from what it resolved on Pilgrimage. It is a measure of the damage we have done to the devil’s kingdom that he has to mount such a counter offensive. For it is in the daily life of the believer that the true battleground is found. The devil tries to belittle the progress made and to get the believer to settle into the ‘old way,’ thereby invalidating the Pilgrimage’s effects.

The devil knows that if the insights of the Pilgrimage takes ground in the daily life of the believer in Christ, he has lost a big battle and maybe, eventually, the war he is waging against God on the battlefield of the individual soul. We are but the spoils of his rage. Thus, let us take the wisdom of St. Peter to heart: “Resist [the devil], solid in your faith!”

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Pilgrims by Monsignor Ferrarese


Why do we travel from place to place? Is it just curiosity? Perhaps there is something mysterious that we are searching for. Something we lack. The seeking and the yearning seems to be part of it. It amounts to a hunger. But for what? What are we missing that will cause us to make great sacrifices by going into the unknown?

These questions become even more pressing when we talk about going on Pilgrimage. What is happening when we do this?

On the surface, we can say that we are looking for God or at least a deeper experience of Him. So we go through all the discomforts of travel and staying in strange places, sleeping on uncomfortable mattresses, so that we can feel God’s presence in a new and more tangible way.

When I went to the Holy Land, for instance, I walked where Jesus walked, but essentially it is just another place. I remember visiting Naim where Jesus raised the young man back to life and gave him back to his grieving mother. It was a little village with homes having satellite dishes and where a loud speaker proclaimed verses from the Koran. It was just another place.

When I go to Chapel or Church here at Immac, it is very familiar, but my faith teaches me that something amazing is happening. I am in the presence of God. I didn’t even have to get into a plane!

But there is still something to be said for a Pilgrimage. Perhaps it is in the effort necessary to do a Pilgrimage or perhaps to the interchange with other pilgrims that new forms of religiosity are born.

I think of the classic poem “The Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer. So many things happen to the pilgrims as each tells his story, for travel gives us time we usually do not have to be able to converse and share with one another. This is a seedbed of possibilities that would not be realized in the humdrum of daily life where we tend to settle into routines.

Plus, there is the experience of expectation and hope that a pilgrimage engenders. We are putting ourselves consciously in the hands of God and asking Him to accomplish in us His Holy Will, whatever it is. This break with the ordinary makes us even more perceptive to the ordinary as not ordinary. It alerts us to the mystery of the moment that the atmosphere of strangeness gives.

As I write this, I am in Lourdes on Pilgrimage myself. I bring to Our Lady, whose presence here is so palpable, all my hopes and fears as well as those of every member of our Parish. It is an act of faith and one of love. I am not sure it may have been possible to do this outside of a Pilgrimage. The effort and sacrifices are so necessary to it that it seems like it would be impossible when we are surrounded by our daily cares. Going outside of our comfort zones seems to be key to this experience of Pilgrimage. All the things you put up with: the bed that is not yours, the new kinds of food (American coffee!), the tiredness and the waiting, the prayer in new places that remind you of what you already know but have lost sight of etc.

This is magnified in a place like Lourdes where you see so many sick people, so many in wheel chairs, so many broken limbs and missing body parts. All these are blessed by God and make special efforts that are almost heroic to be here. They hope for cures and healing and know that the Lord will bless them for their efforts no matter what may happen.

Their needs are terribly obvious. Many others come with carefully hidden needs: a loss of faith, addictions, broken family bonds, etc. They also need healing. They also cry out with that hidden scream that only the heavens knows. We all need Lourdes, just as those on the Camino of St. James walk for weeks and months even though they feel that they have no faith.

We all need to stop and come out of our usual lives into a new and sometimes uncomfortable stance so that we can begin to see spiritually, to see as God sees.

For in the end, our whole earthly life is one big Pilgrimage to our heavenly home. We are all broken and needy. We all seek the healing of God’s presence, sick of this world’s false cures and seeking that peace and wholeness that only God can give us. In the end, Lourdes teaches us that what we seek is in Astoria, but we have been to blind to notice it.

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Religion and Politics by Monsignor Ferrarese


This is a subject that is fraught with many divisive opinions, so I begin this reflection with caution and a fair degree of trepidation.

One can approach this subject theologically in one of two ways: The first way is to say that all human laws must be reflective of Divine Law. So a human political constitution must not in any way deviate from what God has revealed. What this presupposes is that God has left a predetermined model that all human law must follow.

The second approach is to keep religion and politics separate for their own mutual protection. This does not mean that religious persons in the state cannot use the insights and teachings of their faith to help build up the nation. This is the only way forward when there is a varied and diverse religious presence in the nation.

The first approach seems to be favored by nations in the Middle East. With the attempt to enshrine Sharia Law, law that is derived from the religious precepts of Islam, as well as democratic principles, many Muslim-majority nations have had to grapple with issues of equality. Even Israel, with its desire to see itself as a ‘Jewish State’, struggles with this issue.

The second approach is that of the separation of Church and State, pioneered by the United States and now being approved of by many nations. This can be frustrating to religious members of these countries at times who want to steer the nation according to what they see as God-given principles in an environment where many do not share those ideas. A good example is the issue of abortion. This issue is not a religious issue alone, but is a universal human issue. So the Church has to struggle to persuade others not of our faith of the wisdom of being pro-life. The emphasis is on the word ‘persuade’. This approach gives voice to people of faith while ensuring
equality under the law.

As a priest and pastor, I have to steer clear of politics by not running for office and not telling people who to vote for. But I am duty bound by my faith to preach the teaching of Christ and of His Church which have, of course, political consequences. I can say that it is the teaching of the Church that life begins at conception and that we have a responsibility to protect life at all its stages. But I cannot instruct people on whom to vote for, even if certain candidates make this position their platform. That is up to them and their consciences.

That is why I never reveal who I vote for, lest the hearer feel compelled to vote as I vote.

There is, of course, another approach to faith and politics: the position that religion has no rights or protection under the law and that the state can do whatever it wants without interference. Such is the atheistic government of China. In this kind of regime, you cannot even preach about morality if it conflicts with the state.

Since the United States is a prime example of the second model, I wish to say a little about the intersection of religion and the state as we see it in our nation.

The Church has the right to speak its truth in the public square. As long as it does not ally itself with any one party, then the government cannot do anything against Her. In fact, the government must protect the free choice of the religious citizen and what their conscience dictates to them. This is important, lest anyone feel compelled to do anything against their conscience. We have a long tradition of this ‘conscientious objection’ status beginning with the Quakers who were against war.

However, there is always the danger of trying to silence religion and making it seem that religion is holding us back in the supposed ‘progress’ of humanity. The Church will always be accused of political insubordination and being against human rights when She insists on parts of Her tradition that in that era fall into disfavor. This has happened in our day in the area of sexuality. The Church has been accused of being out-of step with ‘progress’ in this area. But the truth is that She has the theological antidote for that which is poisoning the spiritual health of our nation. Her longstanding teaching in sexual issues is the prerequisite for a genuine humanism that is the groundwork for a proper understanding of the true dignity of the human person.

In summary, the best we can do to weather the storm of uncertainties of our current social climate is to keep our Faith in Christ as the bedrock of our lives. No one can take that away from us, no matter the status of religion and politics in the world.

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The Good One by Monsignor Ferrarese

In the last two reflections (The Beautiful One — 04/28/19, The True One — 05/05/19), we looked at the two transcendentals of Beauty and Truth that can lead to God even in the lives of those who have not the benefits of faith. The third of these natural pathways to God is Goodness.

To be good is rightly understood by all peoples of the world. It therefore stands with the Beautiful and the True as roadways to God. For it is just in being good and doing the right thing that we are placed in contact with the divine realities of life.

A good example of this is what happened to Malcolm Muggeridge. Muggeridge was a reporter for the BBC. In his old age, he was a confirmed atheist and a skeptic when dealing with anything spiritual. One day, the executives at the BBC gave him an assignment: Do a documentary for British Television about an Albanian Nun in India who is picking up the dying in the streets of Calcutta. He was not happy about it, not because of the travel involved, but because the subject held no interest for him.

But he went anyway.

This nun, named Mother Teresa, humanly surprised him by her warmth and her strong commitment. He was amazed at the dedication expressed by the Sisters in the community, especially toward the most disfigured and abandoned of the people they picked up off the street.

If he had stayed there, it might have made no more than a dent in his view of the world. He would have returned to London and resumed his aimless and hedonistic lifestyle. But that did not happen.

Mother Teresa needed assistance at a particular moment and the other sisters were already occupied. So she asked Muggeridge to give her a hand, which he did. Everything changed.

As he began to do pure goodness, helping these dirty, unfortunate, diseased filled castaways, something was born in him: a joy.

A joy unlike the pleasures he had been perusing all his life. He was making a deep difference in the universe, one life at a time. From joy, he discovered faith; everything changed. He began to believe in God and his whole life took a 180-degree turn; he was reborn. He became a Catholic and became one of the most articulate defenders of the Christian faith. His autobiography is called “Chronicles of Wasted Time. ” By the title, you can see where he goes with it. It took a great act of courage in seeing the waste of so much time dallying with falsehood and lesser things and his final relief in coming upon the Truth and finally dedicating himself to what matters eternally.

He discovered this through acts of virtue, the exercise of Goodness. Doing works of justice and charity have a transforming ability to get us to see the things that truly matter. It helps us to walk past the apparent pleasures toward the eternal joy to which we have been summoned through our mere existence.

Of course not everyone ‘gets it’. Often the devil runs roadblocks in the form of thought patterns that disrupt the transmission of life saving strategies offered by God. That is why the ‘Desert Fathers’ always stressed vigilance and the control of thoughts so that the devil has his toys taken away. So even when we do an act of Goodness, involving real sacrifice, the evil one throws in the thought, “Now let’s get back to what I really enjoy!”

When this happens, we need to do what we do when we take our Baptismal vows, and renew them especially at Easter: renounce that thought and then go back to the prior thought of God-given peace which rewards the good action and promises that the right path chosen can make a real difference in life. In fact, when we get used to the joy of doing good, the carnal pleasures we thought so important just fall down and lose their power.

Even a confirmed atheist can approach whatever transcends our apparent existence by simply being good. As we have seen, when one is truthful, one can also open up new vistas. Entrance into the beauty of life is the third way any human being of whatever background can come to the threshold of faith.

But one cannot cross that threshold until one makes a decision to believe. Muggeridge and Chambers (from The True One — 05/05/19 ) came to that point. One can behold the beauty of life, but must make a decision in
faith. It is only then that the vast expanse of existence and reality opens up for us, both visible and invisible. Once we enter that new dimension that Beauty or Truth or Goodness lead us to, then everything changes. We realize we have been seeing things in black and white and slightly out of focus. Now we see clearly and with a sharpness that is amazing.

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The True One by Monsignor Ferrarese


In my last meditation (The Beautiful One – 04/28/19), I tried to show how beauty can bring us to God. I related some aesthetic experiences that I had, which in their beauty and mystery brought me closer to God. I would like to look at another of the “Transcendentals” to see how it may also bring us to God.

“Transcendental” is a technical theological term that refers to those things in nature, accessible to everyone, which can lead us to God. These are available to everyone in whatever culture one finds oneself. They are familiarly called: the good, the true and the beautiful. Each of them individually and all of them together can bring us to God even if we are not believers yet. These transcendentals work in the realm of what we call Natural Law: that which God imbeds in all of creation to help every human being to come to the truth of belief in God, who transcends tangible reality (hence the name: transcendental).

Having looked at how beauty brings us to God, we turn to that which is true. With this one, we come up to a barrier that is unique to the modern age: there are people today who do not believe that there is anything like ‘objective truth’ (i.e. that which is true for anyone, anywhere). Like Pilate, they ask, “What is Truth?” and then move in the direction of ‘subjective truth’ (i.e. it may be true for you but not for me!).

One of the most important statements of belief that is necessary to make in this world is that there is truth that is true for everyone objectively. We have no problem with this in the realm of science. We all are searching for the cure for cancer. No one would seriously say that when an American scientist discovers it then it would only be true for Americans; that the Chinese will have to find their own cure for ‘Chinese Cancer’! Of course this is absurd! But we strongly believe in this modern world that truth is contingent on culture and on personal approbation for it to be valid! When one discovers something that is true, it must have universal value.

There is a moving moment in the book “Witness” by Whittaker Chambers. For those who do not remember the author, let me just say that Chambers was a secret Soviet spy who had a conversion experience that caused him to reveal to the American people the government officials who were actually
spying for the Soviets, chief among them was a man high up in government named Alger Hiss.

The moment of Chambers’ conversion occurred when he was feeding his infant child. He caught sight of the child’s ear, noticing as if for the first time the perfect construction of it and how exact was the design of that construction. On the spot he began to believe in God and from that moment strove to live morally and ethically. The whole house of cards fell at that moment, which led him to the confession of what he was doing and the exposing of the plot to take down the American government. In short, he
discovered and instantaneously accepted the “Truth” that there is a God and that God requires us to live lives of moral purpose and truth.

The Truth set him free.

Moral action begins in the mind, which is the arena of truth and falsehood. What begins as a thought grows through action and the emotions into action and with time into a way of being that can be false or can be true. It often takes a great deal of time to discover if we are living in truth or in falsehood. Once we are on one or the other road, God or the devil can build a structure that becomes second nature to us and remains unchallenged.

But there is a big difference. God builds in Truth, but the devil in lies. Chambers believed all the lies in the Soviet system. But it took only one truth to destroy that whole system. What God builds, beginning with the mind, is solid because it is true. What the devil builds has only the appearance of solidity, but in the end is a mirage and has no substance.

Like what is beautiful, what is true can lead anyone to God, whether they believe in Him or not!

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The Beautiful One by Monsignor Ferrarese

Have you ever been enraptured by the Holy? Sounds like a difficult question, right? But it is one of the most important religious questions you can ask since God often reveals Himself in the Beautiful. But, not just any beautiful. There is a kind of beauty that leads to awe and the experience of awe brings us to the threshold of prayer. Let me be more specific.

I have been in a couple of places that have acted on me like a communication of God through Beauty. One of them is familiar and the other not so familiar.

The first of these places was the hermitage of St. Francis called “I Carceri” in Italian. High on a mountain next to the town of St. Francis, Assisi, is the monastery built around the cave that St. Francis got away to so he could commune with God without interruption. It was a rainy day when I was there, and my friend and I decided to walk up to it. The rain came down hard, but we finally, drenched, arrived at the monastery. It was a Sunday afternoon and it looked completely deserted. No one was around, so we went in. The silence was very profound and beautiful. We walked up an old wooden staircase to the monk’s cells (I don’t think they were presently being used but were kept in exact conditions of the time so that visitors could imagine what it was like). It was such a spiritual experience walking down the corridors with simple cells on each side. The rain had increased and lightening could be seen flashing through the windows in the cells. It was (literally) awesome. When we went downstairs, we walked out into a garden and there was a very old and dead tree on one side. A beautiful white dove was perched on one of the branches, wondering who we were. The effect on both of us at that moment was mystical. I found out later that that was the tree where the birds perched as Francis gave a sermon. The beauty of the place, the solitude and the silence, spoke to both of us of the Divine Presence. We were filled with joy!

God is the supreme artist. He will use everything at His disposal to communicate His love to us.

On another occasion, I was traveling with some priest-friends through Ireland and we decided to climb Skellig Michael. Some of you might actually know this place without realizing it, as it was used in the movies “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” as the retreat and hideaway of Jedi Master Luke Skywalker! This is a cliff on a small Island off the coast of Kerry. It is hard to get to and hard to climb (the stairway built into the stones dates back to Medieval times). The stairway (with no protective railings!) rises 70 stories in altitude. Scary was not the word we used!

It was so beautiful to be in the middle of the Atlantic with birds flying beneath us! This is such a beautiful spot! At the top of the cliff is an ancient monastery dating back to the 5th century. Monks had prayed there for their entire lives!

The beauty and the remoteness and the thought of believers praying to God there for their entire lives filled us with a reverent awe just like in Assisi. No other experience can come close to religious experience in its power, depth and effects.

I find too that, in the realm of music, God can reach depths of joy and insight that normally one cannot even approach. Recently I attended a performance of Mozart’s Opera “La Clemenza di Tito (The Clemency of Titus)”, which was an evening length meditation on forgiveness and reconciliation as well as a study of the tensions between mercy and justice in a good leader like Titus. This opera is over 200 years old yet it has a depth of power and (though Christ is not mentioned) a humane and even Christian spirit that was transfixing and transformative.

God is always trying to reach us: through the beauty of a sunset, the smile of a child, the hard work of a parent, etc. Part of truly living is being receptive to Him and allowing Him to keep shaping and transforming us.

Prayerfulness is the ambiance that opens us to these experiences. But we still have to be vigilant and alert for we do not know when and how the Lord will reach us!

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See, I Make All Things New! by Monsignor Ferrarese

There was a very heartrending moment in the film “The Passion of the Christ” that was also powerfully encouraging. Jesus is on the way to Crucifixion, carrying His Cross; He is bloody and dirty. His Mother approaches filled with compassion and pain. He looks at her through the blood and the dirt on His face and tells her: “Do not worry. See, I make all things new”. I can’t watch that scene without my eyes filling with tears. It is so beautiful in the midst of such ugly horror.

That particular quote is not found at that same place in the Passion Narrative in Scripture, though. It is a quote from Christ in the Book of the Apocalypse.

But truly, in accepting suffering that is so hideous through His love and obedience to the Father, Christ has transformed even that horrible evil into Redemption for the whole human race. By doing that, He has redefined what it means to be human and compassionate. He has bestowed on humankind the ability to transform even evil into good. In an amazing repetition of the act of the creation of the universe out of nothing, He has made all things new: all is possible. The self-gift of Jesus to the Father had unbelievable transforming power. He has fertilized the world with the seed of His self-offering. And He established the sacred principle so beautifully; but, if the seed dies, it produces abundant fruit. This gift enables all of us through His grace to get out of the cycle of avoiding pain and seeking pleasure to a continual repairing of the brokenness of this world.

The graces of the Resurrection flow not from the empty tomb, but from the Sacrifice of Calvary. Death and Resurrection are forever united in the new world order established by Christ’s sacrifice.

That is why Easter is the greatest feast of the year! We celebrate the Love of Good Friday made victorious by the raising of Jesus by the Father. It is why a large part of each of the Gospels is the Passion Narratives. Though death by Crucifixion was the most awful, shameful way to die, deliberately engineered to curse a person forever, Christ has transformed it into our hope and promise. The early Church and Saint Paul never downplayed the Agony of Calvary, though many groups urged them to drop it as a disincentive for the new faith. Quite the opposite: St. Paul only proclaimed Christ Crucified! He knew the countercultural significance of the way He died and the reason why He died. That was the whole point! It changed everything. It made all things new. Evil was defeated definitively.

It is the reason why, when I was a kid, I got to wear all new clothes on Easter Sunday. Everyone dressed up to assent to the Victory of Christ and the bright morning of promise that Easter brings. Easter is filled with joy, not because it is Spring and there are bunny rabbits about (such a terrible reduction of the meaning of Easter!), but it is joyous because everything can bring us to God. He has freed us and opened up the floodgates of grace!

The very word Easter refers to the East—where the Sun rises and brings us a new day. So Christ is the Son who rises and transforms everything into possibilities of grace and a share in the Victory of Christ.

It is a holy time when we can try to bring peace to our families—not by preaching at them, but by modeling for them the joy of the Easter Proclamation and the significance it has to our daily lives: “Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her!”

And so we proclaim to one another as the Greek Orthodox do: “Christ is Risen!” To which we respond: “Christ is Risen indeed!” A Blessed Easter to You All!

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