Bubbles by Monsignor Ferrarese

It was during the beginning of the COVID Pandemic that the word ‘bubbles’ became something more than a description of what happens to soap in a bath. Since there was such great fear during the beginning of this plague, people sought protection even in social settings. There were lots of ways to stay safe; for example, gatherings and classes were done on Zoom (did anyone even know that Zoom existed before the pandemic?!). Another way was to wear masks and before we discovered that this illness was airborne and not on surfaces, we also wore protective gloves.

But once we were within our own family or group, which we habitually were connected to, we spoke about being in our ‘protective bubble’ where the infection could not affect us since our family or group were always together and never with anyone else. Hence, we spoke about being in our ‘bubble’, a safe place to be since no one could bring in the infection.

In speaking about bubbles in this essay, I am using the term in a metaphorical way. We can live in an environment where everyone assumes the same beliefs and lives a mutually supportive existence, where contrary views of life are not admitted or even deemed to exist.

I recently had to give a class to a group of teenage students in a course on comparative religions. None of the students were Catholics nor members of any religion. They were completely agnostic, and this was a secular school. To them, I was a representative of the past who believed in something that no one took seriously anymore (or so they thought). They all grew up in well-to-do homes of a liberal perspective. Religion, in their common view or bubble, was a thing of the past. They lived in a world where there was no God and in which society was whatever they wanted it to be.

Here I was, like a dinosaur, talking to them about a God that they had never even considered to be a reality. All the issues they brought up had to do with the archaic past. I had to first set forth some basic things that I believed were at variance with this supposedly invincible set of assumptions. I tried to explain to them that I believe there is a God that created us for a purpose, that this God revealed His will through Scripture. I told them that I believe that we will be judged by how we live that life He gave us. Sin was real and deadly. Jesus was the Son of God who came to instruct us and who died to save us from the errors we are all prone to; that the Church was the community of believers who carry on the work of salvation, etc. All of this was new to them and hopefully will get them to think that there is another world possible outside their bubble; and that it is ok to question their underlying antecedent convictions which they thought had no other alternatives.

The Internet, unfortunately, instead of opening people up to new horizons often condemns them to stay within their bubbles. As soon as they request a site within their bubble, 10 other sites pop up that further walls them in. This is commonly called the ‘echo chamber effect’. This is the reason why our politics has degenerated into a kind of tribalism: the other is the enemy. Gone are the days when the late Justice Antonin Scalia and late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg could exchange opposing views and then continue in a friendship.

Many people are in rival camps or bubbles, oblivious that there may be other world views than theirs. Universities that should be places of free inquiry have become propagators of their own bubble beliefs, almost always to the detriment of faith (even in Catholic Institutions!)

We are also often afraid to ‘pop someone’s bubble’. We think that they will condemn us for being intolerant when we are merely trying to get them to perceive that their way of seeing is not the only way and that questioning their assumptions may be the first steps toward the truth.

Jesus was the great bubble popper. No one likes to have their bubble exposed. That is one of the reasons He was crucified. His teaching is profoundly unsettling to those who are comfortable in their bubbles since it is the truth that everyone is looking for, but no one really wants: the Truth that brings freedom.

I have always enjoyed the world of the Arts, but as I continue to wake up to the social bubble, we all find ourselves in, I find it necessary and pleasing to call them out of that limited world. What used to attract me by its daring and newness, lies exposed before my faith as very limited and, yes, boring. I get more excitement and joy from a page of St. John of the Cross than from the many accomplishments of the greatest of modern artists. I find God in the paintings, dances, films, and operas that I used to venerate as the ultimate in wisdom. I see in the many attacks on goodness by modern artists a lamentable blindness. The denial of the Almighty and the All-Loving in the great philosophies I now see as self-imposed limitations and as weaknesses of thought and blindness to the Truth.

It’s wonderful to be out of the social and philosophical bubble that the Church has termed ‘Modernism’!

Posted in Msgr. Ferrarese | Leave a comment

The God of Science by Monsignor Ferrarese

We are so used to having people talk about Science as though it is in opposition to God. God, they say, is all about faith; but the modern world sees Science as the arbiter of meaning and significance. After all, it is a material world and therefore the study of it belongs to Science and its strict method of procedure.

But for those of us who do not see any opposition between Science and God, we hasten to point out that God’s creation can be studied and that Science is the name of that study.

In fact, we go further. There is a mathematical substructure to all of creation (or if you are squeamish at the word, let’s just call it nature). God is the ultimate Mathematician. He invented Mathematics since He chose to make it not only exact and coherent but predictable and surprising at the same time.

In the realm of Biology, we can also say that God has created all biological life according to fixed principles that can be discerned by scientists and medical doctors. The human brain, for instance, is an amazing machine. It is so complex that, even with the greatest Artificial Intelligence experiments, nothing comes near the power and sophistication of the biological reality that is the human brain. Thus, God can also be called the Greatest Biologist in all reality since He invented Biology as well.

In today’s world, the area of the Body and Spirit that has declared a certain autonomy from the structures of reality, however, is the area of sexuality. Since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, this is an area of life, a very important area, that has declared freedom from the bounds that God, as Supreme Biologist, had set for it. Marriage and family, procreation and gender are among the areas that have been ‘liberated’.

But, if we believe that God Himself has created and established these very important areas of human life and that He has given them rules and boundaries that must be respected, then an error in the area of sexuality can have deep and destructive results for the family and, ultimately, for a society that is founded on the building blocks of the family.

This will eventually affect all of society and, by that very fact, will affect the Church.

We see this happening already in our families. Nieces and nephews, cousins and grandchildren, refusing to be married before God in the Holy Sacrament of the Altar (Matrimony). Baptized Catholics who have been brought up as practicing members of the Church (often at great expense at Catholic institutions of higher learning) refusing to have their children baptized. Families that were formerly church-going, giving up on regular attendance at Sunday Mass; and, even at the end of life, refusing to give the sick the Sacraments of Healing, and when they are called by God to their judgement, refusing them a Mass of Christian Burial.

How did we come to this sad state?

The demons know that attacking the Catholic Family through the flouting of the rules that God has established for the flourishing of true sexual development, they were dealing a death blow against the will of God and His loving plan for each of His precious creations. What better way to get back at God than in the name of ‘human rights’ destroying the family?

Recent studies have shown that Church attendance was on the way up throughout the period after the Second World War, but that it started a dreadful drop beginning in the mid-1960s. These studies seem to suggest that it was the so-called ‘Sexual Revolution’ that caused the drop, and that it has continued to decimate religious life and church attendance up until the present day. Arguably, the sex-abuse crisis in the Church and in many other sectors of modern life (including the family) may have its roots in the modern revolt against the rules imposed by God, the Biologist Supreme, which He had established to contain this awesome and potentially destructive power we call Sexuality.

Now, with the exception of adult consent, there are no rules to guide the use of the sexual gift that God gave us primarily for the procreation of children and for the strengthening of family life.

People laugh at the scene in one of the Godfather movies when Michael Corleone had to escape to Sicily to avoid arrest for the crime (and sin) of murder. He takes a shine to a beautiful Sicilian girl and begins to court her. As they walk romantically through the Sicilian countryside, the camera pans out to include a whole gaggle of family members of the young lady there to make sure that the man does not take advantage of the young lady. Everyone in the showing I went to laughed. However, maybe the old ways were true in realizing the power of sexual desire and the danger that it posed when the rules are flouted. We ‘moderns’ end up laughing at the wisdom of the past from our vantage point lying on the ruins of our culture, decimated by this ‘sexual revolution’!

We must always remember Who invented Science and why He set boundaries and gave rules for all of its areas including the sexual development of His children.

Posted in Msgr. Ferrarese | Leave a comment

Jesus is My Savior by Monsignor Ferrarese

In a recent film version of the Superman series, there was a scene where Clark Kent (who you might remember is the undercover Superman) in speaking to the independent female reporter named Lois Lane suggested that maybe someday Superman will become her savior. She quickly fires back: “I don’t need a savior!” This remark came from a mentality and attitude born from a feminist critique of the excuses women use to avoid helping themselves instead of relying on men. But the remark was strangely puzzling to me. It struck a chord in my theological understanding. We call Jesus our Savior and our Redeemer. Lois Lane’s disdain for this passive, helpless way of understanding her role in life made me think of modern man’s preference for self-reliance as a mode of active being. To be passive is generally regarded in our modern way of looking at things as to be tantamount to being a victim. Nobody wants to wait for a savior to get them out of difficulties. This led me to ask whether Jesus has lost his Redeemer and Savior status in our faith because we think we can do it all by ourselves.

Why do we need a savior if we seem to be able to solve our own problems? Why can’t we extend this to the spiritual and religious sphere?

This actually became a heresy in the early church. It was called Pelagianism. St. Augustine fought tooth and nail against this. The Pelagians said that we don’t need Christ since we have all the God-given capacities and virtues to be able to live our own life and solve our own problems.

Augustine kept pounding away at this understanding since it undercut the need for Christ in our lives. This heresy has come back again and again in our history. Today, we are awash in hundreds of self-help books that purport to give us the tools to better our own lives. Do we need a savior?

This brings up another question: what are we being saved from?

In previous generations, that answer was very simple: hell. Jesus saves us from hell through His gratuitous grace which pardons our sinfulness. Theology in the modern world has, unfortunately or fortunately, thrown out hell. In the contemporary way of thinking, we are all going to heaven since God is love. So why worry, and what is this Jesus for anyway? Better to believe in an all-powerful genderless spirit or, better yet, just believe in yourself! And so, out goes the need for Jesus except as a benevolent non-violent teacher like Gandhi or the Buddha!

But this is not Christianity. Building on the foundation of the call of the Chosen People, Christians believe that God created the world and human beings as good. But humankind freely and tragically chose to follow their own plans and ruptured the deeply beneficial plan of God. We chose the evil path. That path ends in mutual destruction both in this life and in the life to come. The stakes are high, and humankind simply does not have the resources to save itself from this horrible landslide of evil. We need a savior who is divine yet one of us as well. This is Jesus our Savior and Lord and Redeemer. Son of God and Son of Mary.

This presupposes that we believe that destruction is possible. That is a no-brainer when we think about the destructive realities in our world—just look at the newspapers! But what about hell? Hell is seen as something willed by God. Why would God do that? He is love, or so the Scriptures say! This is a great and important question.

Hell is a necessity once you give human beings freedom. There has to be an alternative to life with God. People have to be free to choose life without God. We do that by our refusal to make the decision to believe in Him and His Torah, His Gospel, His Teaching. We choose against God when we hurt others (sometimes by just refusing to help the millions who suffer each day due to our callous neglect). If you do it to the least of my brethren, you did it to me. So, in justice and in respect to our freedom there must be an alternative to Heaven. That place or state is hell. Now we have to be careful and not identify hell with the torture chambers of the imaginations of artists and mystics: To be without God is indeed horrible and the worst that can happen to us. So, the artists talk about flames and agony. When I think of hell, I think of a waiting room filled with obnoxious and self-centered people—a no man’s land of emptiness and lack of love or appreciation or care. To be there forever waiting for nothing that will ever come. This is what we choose when we refuse the love of God. While God, still merciful, does not annihilate us out of existence, He gives us what we ask for: a world without love. God is not only Love but God is Justice—giving us what we ask for.

Jesus is our Savior from this world, but we have to choose Him and make Him Lord and Redeemer of my life with all the rules and regulations that this implies. To refuse is to choose that eternal waiting room called hell.

Posted in Msgr. Ferrarese | Leave a comment

Rise & Fall by Monsignor Ferrarese

All civilizations develop and are sustained in the same way. People begin to realize that there is a coherent structure to existence and that they have an obligation to live according to the dictates of powers way beyond their level of intelligence and knowledge. They struggle to live up to the norms that they believe these ‘gods’ require and in doing this they build a system of belief, create art, and delve into science in order to better understand and direct this new project which they call (for instance) ‘Rome’ or ‘Sparta’.

Just as civilizations rise, they also fall. The most traumatic breaks occur when they cease believing that they are being guided by those transcendent beings and therefore the values that they have accepted as central to the foundation of their enterprise are null and void. As belief seeps out, the enterprise weakens and eventually no one believes in it any more. History is littered with the corpses of these civilizations.

Unfortunately, this may be true with regards to our Western Civilization which was founded not on paganism or on a more modern faith but on Christianity which many of us (1.4 billion of us) believe to be the true faith. This means the seeping-forth of belief in our civilization, when mixed in with the results of climate change and the always-threatening nuclear option, could spell not only the end of Western Civilization but of the entire world as we know it. This slow erosion, like water damage, happens almost imperceptibly but can cause wholesale destruction.

Ethically, in this scenario, first comes the unbelief, followed by the seeming freedom to do anything you choose with impunity. But then, in a world without meaning and in a future without justice or judgement, people start doing anything that they can get away with. Some even resort to suicide, random violence and mass killing. Combine this with extreme weather conditions and without the counterweight of good vs bad, right vs wrong, you can easily slip into chaos, tyranny and mutual self-destruction.

Slowly from the Enlightenment on (a real misnomer), there has been a gradual loss of belief in anything beyond this material world. If it cannot be measured and submitted to scientific analysis, it simply does not exist. This reached a moment of nihilistic ‘enlightenment’ when the philosopher Nietzsche declared that ‘God is Dead’.

Up sprang, almost immediately, the most nihilistic regimes ever to dawn on the earth: Hitler’s Nazis, Lenin’s Communistic Russia, Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Together they spawned more death than any supposedly backward religious war ever caused.

Even here in the United States, a nation founded by believing Christians who sought by the separation of Church and State to protect religion from unjust manipulation by the State, we are now seeing the free abandonment of religion and belief in God. In addition, on our collective conscience, we still have the need to address and make reparation for the three great sins of our nation: the persecution of the indigenous people of this land, slavery and persistent racism, and the denial of the right to life to millions of unborn Americans. All this is accomplished in the name of freedom and through the denial of any aspect of God’s judgement.

We have banished God from the center of our national consciousness and now are reaping the whirlwind of a lawless, godless world.

In addition, we have ceased to believe in the very thing that kept this nation together: our form of government, constitutional democracy.

What are we left with? I often wonder whether the coming environmental holocaust might be the wrath of God.

However, it is not too late. There are still many Americans living in our country that are believers in God and have for their first concern the doing of the will of God. This won’t be easy since many of the levers of power and public opinion are in the hands of unbelievers: media, the educational establishment, Hollywood. But with God, nothing is impossible (cf. Luke 1:37). This will require us to abandon the ‘secular religions’ that have emerged to supposedly fill the void and believe again in the God of the Bible and the Church. What is needed today is faith: faith in God and in other believing Christians so that we can stop the slow erosion and the decomposition of Western Civilization. God must be once again be central to our lives. This is what the founding fathers expected us to be: a country of people of faith. They created, in fact, a protection for this in the separation of Church and State.

This country was created to protect religion and not subvert it. And for good reason. Our government, our way of life, was always meant to be based on faith. This was the presupposition upon which the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution depend upon.

Posted in Msgr. Ferrarese | Leave a comment

Constant Contact by Monsignor Ferrarese

If you do anything ‘online’, you must be aware of a service of communication that is called ‘Constant Contact’. An organization that wants to get a message out about, let’s say, an event that is going to be made available, sends out an email blast through a company called ‘Constant Contact’ that gets the message out to everyone on your email contact list. As a parish, we send a constant contact email blast whenever we want to announce or remind our parishioners of an upcoming opportunity for spiritual, liturgical or social growth.

I use this particular type of communication to be an example of a development in my spiritual life of prayer that has been very fruitful. I want to share with you this discovery.

Traditionally, we view times of prayer as distinct periods of our day. They dot the landscape of the 24 hours of each unit we call ‘a day’. For some, these periods of prayer are often experienced in particular locations we associate with God: churches, chapels, hilltops, etc. These ‘compartments’ for prayer can also be at distinctive times of our day; say, for instance, in the morning and the evening, or they can be centered around meals and other occupational moments.

What all these instances of prayer have in common is that they are nestled in the greater time of our living. They are exceptional. For a long time, I thought of prayer as having to be in a particular place and at a particular time.

But then something happened to me when I encountered Eastern Orthodox Theology and Spirituality.

Confronted as the early monks of the desert were by the command of St. Paul to “pray always” or in another translation “pray ceaselessly” (cf. 1 Thess. 5:17), they devised a number of habits to make that a reality in their lives. The most famous of these methods is the recitation continually of the ‘Jesus Prayer’: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me” or slight variations of this. Included in this simple sentence is a whole Christology or study of Christ: Jesus (the fully human) is Lord and is the Christ or Messiah awaited for centuries with great longing. But He is also Son of God (fully divine), and has the power in His Mercy to heal us of sin and transform us into children of God. This simple prayer was said while they cooked and cleaned and farmed and walked down a hallway, etc.

Inherent in this approach is the notion that prayer should never be confined to only specific times (Morning or Evening) nor specific places (Church), but that it must be a constant contact with God. Instead of just the occasional prayer, this approach calls for a life of prayer. We are called to be constantly in the presence of God, talking with Him and listening to Him. Many see this as the grace of the Holy Spirit Who dwells in us, making us a temple where we worship God in everything we do.

I try to combine this invocation of the Sacred Name to a holy mindfulness and a use of short prayers that I say silently as I begin a work of God (which is really anything I do). It makes all things holy and makes me aware that God is always there, present to me.

It is hard to overstate the advantages that this approach has. It transforms life into a continual relationship with God. Consequently, it shrinks into unimportance the material things that people break their backs in achieving: honors, money, power. Next to God, these things are nothing. This involves a deep liberation from our usual servitude to these things that is now revealed to be all smoke and mirrors.

When we see that God is not one thing among others but is truly everything, even the small seemingly insignificant things become filled with great meaning and power: a smile, a sunset, a gentle breeze. Conversely, sin is revealed to be the most horrible, ungrateful and destructive reality possible since it seeks to take the place of this great God with bits and pieces of irrelevant and insignificant things that simply do not even come near the experience of God in daily life. Rather, we see the true horror of sin and its wasteful and destructive results.

Clearly the rewards of seeing God in all things and communicating in prayer throughout the day are so evident that they can be felt even by a child.

Ironically, children are at most risk in this desiccated godless landscape. For, as an awareness of God seeps out of our culture leaving a barren desert of isolated and irrelevant pleasures, is it any wonder that the suicide rate of young people goes so high and that others are driven into random violence and the sleep of drugs. Have computers and other marvels of modern science really brought people together or have they further isolated them into hermetically sealed and invisible prison cells of continual yearning?

And yet, thankfully, God continues to call us out of our private prisons into freedom and joy with His presence and His continual love.

Why would anyone reject God and choose the prison cell?

Posted in Msgr. Ferrarese | Leave a comment

The Joy of Obedience by Monsignor Ferrarese

When one says the word ‘obedience’ we have to say that it often makes us feel negative toward it. Obedience is for children, not for adults. After all, happiness is being able to choose what one wants and to enjoy it! Or maybe not…

In addition, obedience, when it is conceived of as being blind, often is seen as an evil thing. Think of the architects of the Third Reich who, when brought to justice after World War II, said that they were merely carrying out orders given by their superiors. They were just being obedient and therefore doing their duty even if the result was the death of millions!

Blind obedience is not what I am extolling since all obedience must be to accomplish only what is moral and allowed by Almighty God. We have an obligation to refuse to be obedient if someone tells us to do what is forbidden by God. The Nazis never made that distinction. They just did what they were told. They should have resisted since the killing of innocent people is forbidden by God and they owed their ultimate obedience to God and not to Hitler.

Therefore, when I speak in glowing terms of obedience, I am not speaking of this blind obedience. God wants us to obey His voice above all the other voices that often demand contradictory things.

Now that we have detailed this very important exception to the rule, let us return to the importance of obedience to the commandments of God. The etymology of the word ‘obedience’ comes from the Latin for ‘listen’ or ‘hear’. A properly obedient person listens to the commandment with a prior openness that is essential. Many people have difficulty obeying God because they have an a priori (unacknowledged) prejudice against doing what someone else wants them to do. This often-hidden assumption is, many times, unknown to the person deciding whether to be obedient or not. Their default reaction is to refuse to do what they are asked to do by rightful authority. They are naturally rebellious without an awareness of this, so that when they are confronted by a commandment of God or His Church they immediately take a negative stance to it.

The heeding of God’s Word requires a certain pre-conscious openness that allows the Truth of God to enter into the consciousness of the human person. This openness is not universal. Many people have, without fully being aware of it, closed themselves to any possible inspiration of God by a preconscious willfulness that accepts the erroneous belief that there is no possibility of a Divine Agent (God) and, hence, no matter what, I will not (these words are essential: ‘will not’, not ‘cannot’) allow God to work in my heart and soul. One sees this, for instance, in atheistic scientists who are caught in their willed refusal to believe in anything that is not material and hence quantitative. (This is in opposition to scientists who have made the choice to believe and who therefore see their work within that context). By doing this they are using the scientific method that is to be used with material creation to dismiss anything spiritual, even though the material (science) and the spiritual (theology) are two separate domains that cannot be mixed. Thus, the unbelieving scientist, unlike the believing scientist, has made it impossible for the entry of grace into their life.

Saint John Henry Cardinal Newman realized this when he tried to convert his atheist brother to the Christian Faith. No matter what rational arguments he used to convince him, his brother simply would not consider it. He lacked a fundamental openness and a salutary self-critique to be able to hear what his brother was saying to him. He already willed that this was his belief: there is no god. Note that this is a belief just like the statement ‘God exists’. Neither of these statements can be rationally proved. Even the five proofs for the existence of God that Saint Thomas writes about are not scientific, rational proofs, but rather demonstrations that it is rational to believe in God.

This radical openness of the will is called obedience and one who is truly open in this way is joyful since their belief does not rest on argumentation but on a will act that can be reversed if the person is shown otherwise.

This is the joy of obedience: to accept the living God without proof and even with doubts.

Once the mind is connected with the graces given by faith, then the Holy Spirit releases the energy of love in the person, a love that does not depend either on the worthiness of the recipient nor on their mood. This love is therefore fearless and of such strength that nothing created can restrain it since it has been forged in a free decision to obey God without question or measure.

This is freedom. This is joy!

Posted in Msgr. Ferrarese | Leave a comment

The Horror of Heresy by Monsignor Ferrarese

As the Christian Centuries rode along, believers in the first years after the Roman Persecutions began to reflect on the person of Christ and what this new religion is all about. The Church kept growing in size and complexity: what began as a small movement of Jews was developing into a world religion.

With this expansion, it became evident that all Christians did not believe the same things. There were some divergencies from beliefs held from the beginning of the Church that seemed to be contradictory. Thus, the Church began convening Councils to decide which was the correct doctrine and which the incorrect. They called correct doctrine ‘orthodoxy’ (from the Greek words ‘right thinking’) and the false doctrine they termed ‘heresy’ (from the Greek word for ‘other thinking’).

In our free-thinking times, we might say, ‘Why get hot and bothered about this? Live and let live! Let people think what they want!’

This seems self-evident today. But this way of thinking is flawed since it does not take in how badly damaging a false idea truly is. We see, perhaps, a hint of this in the damage caused by conspiracy theories on the internet. Someone decides to spread an idea that is false, but that they personally believe to be true. Suddenly the thought of this one person goes viral and affects the ideas and even the politics of the country.

In theology, a false idea can be deeply damaging to one’s whole spirituality. A heresy not only corrupts the beliefs of one person: it is like a virus which can spread like a contagion affecting great numbers of innocent people who may be susceptible to this sort of distortion. The consequences of heresy can be deep and long-lasting since it affects one’s view of God, of salvation and of right moral behavior.

A case in point is the Albigensian heresy in the Middle Ages which began as an earnest attempt to purge the corruption that had gotten into the Church. These heretics believed that the soul was good, but it was held prisoner in the body. The body is what caused all this evil in the Church. Thus, some of these heretics began to kill the clergy since it was their bodies that corrupted them. Some believers starved themselves to death so that they could release their souls from their bodies. Others went in a different direction: since the body did not matter, they engaged in all sorts of immoral sexual behavior since the body was so corrupt. Why fight it?

This heresy spread all through southern France and threatened the rest of Europe. The Dominican Order of Preachers was founded to combat it by preaching against this persistently dangerous heresy. Some princes resorted to violence against these heretics. One of the great preachers against the Albigensians was the Franciscan Anthony of Padua who was declared a saint right after his death. During his short life he was dubbed ‘The Hammer of Heretics’.

I mention this destructiveness of heresy because there are heresies today which threaten the unity of the Church and the orthodoxy of Her teaching.

One of the heresies (wrong ideas) is that it does not matter what faith you belong to, that they are all equally valid paths to God. This flies in the face of the very concept of Revelation. Why would God inspire Scripture if it did not matter what you believed? This heresy is called relativism and it can be found all over the world. The proclamation of the Good News is rendered unnecessary or at best a ‘nice’ thing.

Another heretical idea is that the only reality is the material. In this view, all that we call spiritual is a desire of the body and therefore an illusion. Belief in God is just this material gene that causes what has been termed ‘spiritual desires’, but in the end is just another action of the material body.

Since God is just an illusion created by a gene of the body, the corollary to this heresy is that morality is what we make of it. There are no rules given by God. Morality is determined by the historical necessities of the individual person and the culture that they find themselves in. Thus, morality can change and fit into the needs of a particular epoch. Hence the human person can change the ethics of living at will depending on the needs of the age.

These are just two heresies that come to mind. I am sure that there are many others lurking in computers all over the world!

It is one of the Church’s roles, in order to sustain the unity of the Church, to ferret these heresies and to provide persuasive argumentation to warn the Faithful to steer clear of this thinking. The Catechism of the Catholic Church was issued to clarify all sorts of things and to provide a handy reference manual that any Catholic can consult with for a particular religious or moral question. It gives the orthodox position of the Catholic Church.

Heresies are dangerous and destructive. One needs to find shelter in the Magisterium of the Church. This is what it is for!

Posted in Msgr. Ferrarese | Leave a comment

The God of Justice by Monsignor Ferrarese

One of the most frequent descriptions we receive about the nature of God is that God is love. This is undeniably true and is attested to by Holy Scripture, especially the sacred writings attributed to St. John the Evangelist.

Unfortunately, this teaching has been so emphasized that it has caused a modern distortion in our concept of the Deity. People use this teaching to create a God Who accepts everything we do, even the bad. This modern idol gives no consequences for the evil actions of His children. Therefore, even the good that human beings do is not rewarded since it does not count as an accomplishment. We are left with an ineffectual god who is not interested in the true growth of his children. Our actions do not matter and hence our dignity is compromised. We are not really made in the image and likeness of God. Our decisions, good or bad, leave no eternal footprints.

Clearly, then, God has to be a God not only of love but of justice. When one hears the two qualities of God contrasted as such, one is tempted to see them in opposition, or at least in tension with one another. But seen in God’s purpose and in the dignity God bestows on us human beings, the Justice of God and His Love are complementary. He cannot love us if He does not hold us accountable for our actions and even our words and thoughts. Because of His great love for us, every decision we make has eternal consequences. We are important to God and our growth is ensured by God’s Justice. If we choose good in the midst of our tensions of life, we will be rewarded by God; and if we choose evil, we will be punished by God. This would have seemed to be a given in ages past, but today it strikes us as shocking. The punishment of the Almighty is the giving to us of what we choose to have. In the Scriptures it says, ‘I have set before you Life and Death. Choose Life’ (cf. Deut. 30:19). Yet many of us refuse to do that and follow our own way, seduced by the tempters that God allows to test us.

In all of this, one is reminded that we have before us the teaching of the Church in the Magisterium as well as the writings of the saints and sages all attesting to this truth. These are all aids to help us to come to our own acceptance of God’s will in a free decision; or our refusal to accept this.

Whatever our choice, God honors it by accepting our decision. If we refuse His divine invitation, it stands refused. This is what we call hell: to be without God forever. Where God is, there is love. To be without God is to live without being able to love nor to accept love. We are buried alive in our pride and sinfulness. The mercy of God was offered us and we declined it. This is the tragedy of damnation. It is part of the insanity of this way of thinking that we become proud of our choice: that we have been faithful to our ‘values’ and continue to refuse a God in which we have never believed.

Why doesn’t God force the souls who choose against Him to repent and accept His offer of love? Because God, in doing so, would not be respecting the free choice of His children to be against Him. They have had while on earth the benefits of the beauty of creation, the truth of the mind and the goodness of moral conduct but that was not enough to convince them and hence God honors their choice, as insane as it seems, with His acceptance and final ratification.

But, we, dear reader, are still here on this earth, not yet at our final judgement. This is the time of salvation. This is what John the Baptist heralded and what Jesus taught: God is love and even though He does not ‘need’ our love He desires it. To love God is our fulfillment and the meaning of our lives. It is shear insanity to refuse it. But, sadly, people do.

We can make a will-act right now and accept God’s offer to live according to His Holy Will for us. Then we can spend each day serving God no matter what our day is like and we can face our death with confidence and joy knowing what awaits us on the other side is our Just God who will be trustworthy and give us what we have asked for from Him: Life Eternal with Him who is Love and Who has loved us every moment of our existence with a love that is so great that even the best human love on earth: parent, spouse, child, friend is just a pale imitation of the vibrant, ardent, robust and unconditional love of God.

Posted in Msgr. Ferrarese | Leave a comment

Christ Mass by Monsignor Ferrarese

Usually at about this time of the year, there is a big battle of what to call this feast of the Incarnation. For some, it has to be Christmas. For others, in their attempt to be inclusive, they opt for Holiday. But the etymology of both really point to the same reality.

Holiday was originally spelt Holyday or, more accurately, Holy Day. Even in this ‘inclusive’ form it points to a day that is called Holy. Holiness is an attribute of God that can be shared by people who give themselves in some way to God. A Holy Day properly belongs to God and is meant to be set aside to worship Him. This helps make the holiday word a little more palatable even though it has been secularized to mean just a day we take off from work.

But the word ‘Christmas’ has also been partially secularized. It was originally a feast called the Christ Mass. This Mass refers to the Midnight Mass that was celebrated throughout the Catholic world at Midnight to celebrate that silent and holy night when the Messiah or Christos was born. We get some idea of the importance of this event in that we still date our calendar year from that day. Everything before is commonly called BC or Before Christ and everything afterwards is called AD, short for the Latin ‘Anno Domini’ which is translated ‘year of our Lord’. Thus, we are entering the two thousandth and twenty third year after the birth of Christ, signaling that that event was the central point of all history. (Sshh! Don’t tell the secularists!)

We also see the theft of elements of our religious tradition in the preparation for some key feasts of our Church. Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent is a yearly season of repentance and a communal effort by all the members of the Church to disentangle themselves from the allurement of the senses; and, through fasting, prayer and almsgiving, begin to straighten out their lives before Holy Week and the Solemnity of Easter. Because traditionally this meant no meat could be eaten for 40 days, the day before Ash Wednesday was a day of feasting when people said ‘good-bye’ (Vale in Latin) to the eating of meat (Carne in Latin). This Tuesday became known as Carnevale or in English ‘Carnival’ and was a day dedicated to lots of eating and drinking. The French called the same day ‘Fat Tuesday’ or Mardi Gras for that was the last day you ate meat which usually came with lots of fat attached! In our post-secular world, everyone has heard of Mardi Gras, but few know what Ash Wednesday and Lent mean. The Bishop of New Orleans has often had to publish a pastoral letter urging the quieting down of Mardi Gras and a remembering of the Season of Lent. Mardi Gras in that city lasts well over a month and may last longer than the 40 days of Lent!

There have even been calls to take our beloved Christmas Carols and put secular words to them so the modern agnostic singers of today don’t have to sing: ‘Hark the Herald Angels sing: Glory to the new born King!’

This has all been tried before.

Remember that the revolutionaries in France tried to wipe out all reminders of the Catholic Faith in that country, even taking Notre Dame Cathedral from the Church and proclaiming it to be a Temple of Reason! Are secularists so afraid about the potency of our Christian words and symbols that they want all memory of them wiped off the face of the earth?

In Russia, the communists tried for over 70 years to wipe out all memory of Russian Orthodoxy. It failed. There is a religious revival happening in Russian, notwithstanding the unjust and cruel invasion of the Ukraine.

We should be placing our symbols and signs of faith front and center: in front of our homes (Christmas lights were meant to symbolize Christ the Light of the World; Christmas Trees were meant to show the ever green and eternal love of God, etc.). But even when it is not Christmas, there should be a cross or crucifix in every room in our home! Pictures of Our Lady, scenes from the life of Christ, even a display of our Baptism Certificate should proclaim to all guests that this is a Catholic home! Christmas cards should be religious in theme. People now are sending pictures of their family instead of cards depicting the Incarnation of the Lord! (One can always put a picture of our family inside the card!).

In brief, we need to fight (and I mean fight) the onslaught of secularism by proudly using our religious freedom guaranteed in our Constitution to proclaim and witness to our faith in God, in Christ, and in His Church.

Fear not, says the Lord! The world is still terrified of this little Baby of Bethlehem and, like Herod, they seek to eradicate Him from the face of the earth. Don’t cooperate with them. Witness to our Christmas Faith!

Merry Christmas!

Posted in Msgr. Ferrarese | Leave a comment

Indifference by Monsignor Ferrarese

This is a tough word and an even more difficult concept since it can mean two different realities, one very good and one very bad. First let us look at the bad since it is very much the more obvious and understandable meaning of the word ‘Indifference’.

In a negative sense, it is everything that is wrong with this world. We simply don’t care enough for what is happening to our fellow men and women. We are neither hot nor cold. We don’t love or hate, we just ignore and pretend that things do not exist. The Lord in the book of Revelation is very unambiguous about how He feels about these lukewarm individuals: “I will vomit you out of my mouth”. This is a very clear understanding of where God stands with this negative form of indifference.

And it is everywhere!

For many, indifference is even more objectionable than outright hatred. Where there is found the vehemence of hatred, there often was love first that subsequently went south, so to speak. Indifference is a sort of nonchalant rejection that seems to say: you don’t matter. That this is endemic in our world is very sad. It may be indicative of a worldwide depression that robs everything of significance and interest, leaving behind a sort of boring non-engagement with life.

But in Catholic Spirituality there is a positive form of indifference. St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuit Order, in his highly influential and much used compendium of spiritual growth called “The Spiritual Exercises” writes of what he terms: ‘Holy Indifference’. By this he means a radical openness to God’s will that holds nothing as non-negotiable. “I am ready to do God’s will whatever it may be. My preferences do not matter. What is important is the will of God since in that will lies the best for my life and for those that I pray for.”

We tend to identify with what we want. What begins as a preference morphs into a necessity and finally becomes a craving that I cannot live without.

Holy Indifference frees us from that slippery slope and keeps us open and ready to do what God wants. It does require both a positive decision to think this way and a negative one to stay away from the usual things that induce our addiction to our own will.

In fact, St. Ignatius goes even further than a mere openness to God. He seeks to prepare the person to do even the things that they do not want to do. On the first level, we are to pray for whatever God wants, be it health or sickness. On the second level, we are encouraged to go against our natural propensities to take the easy way out of things. St Ignatius has the person pray for sickness if it is God’s will.

Underneath this more radical self-offering is a technique that he develops in the Spiritual Exercises that is known by its Latin name: ‘Agere Contra’. In this form of Holy Indifference, when we notice a particular failing that keeps coming out of us and disturbing the progress that God has in mind for us, we are to ‘Work Against it’. (That is the meaning of Agere Contra). So, for instance, if we are habitually late for meetings, liturgies etc. We ‘Agere Contra’ and ‘Work Against’ this by making a commitment to arrive 30 minutes before the scheduled time that we were supposed to be there. So, for instance, if it is a Mass, we leave ourselves a good amount of time to spiritually prepare for the great gift of the Holy Eucharist, by meditating on the readings of the day or by simply sitting in quiet contemplative prayer. If we do this in the right spirit we will have solved the bad habit of lateness! Holy Indifference and Agere Contra are weapons that St. Ignatius uses in the battle against evil in the soul.

They can bring us to the edges of a self-mastery that, aided with the grace of God, can do amazing things in our lives. This is what is classically called ‘Ascetism’. It reflects the role we can play in doing in the will of God. Of course, Grace brings us beyond this but it is still a good beginning that God can use to transform us into what we are being called to be.

Posted in Msgr. Ferrarese | Leave a comment