Tag Archives: faithful

Catholic laity – face-to-face with bishops

What I am about to tell you is something you’ve never seen in the Catholic Church. If you have seen anything like this, contact me. I’d like to learn more.

In September, I twice saw members of the lay faithful accompany two victims of priestly sexual misconduct into a bishop’s office and help these victims present their story of abuse. I saw the bishop remove two guilty priests from active service. When they learned of it, some Catholics responded with gratitude and relief. Others were upset that their favorite priest had been outed. For many Catholics, a priest’s popularity and the convenience of a Mass schedule trumps concern for a holy priesthood.

What I didn’t see were lawsuits or exposés in the secular press. I didn’t see sheriffs raiding the chancery or ugly protests at Mass. I caught a glimpse of Christ’s Church acting like the Body of Christ with brothers confronting brothers in love and hope. I saw mature laity identifying corrupt clergy and exhorting a mature bishop.

Co-responsibility of the lay faithful

I must stress, however that bishops did not initiate this investigation, discovery, or confrontation. The lay faithful took co-responsibility for Christ’s Church according to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. The Church is too important to leave to priests and bishops alone. In over20 different passages, St. Paul commands us to love, pray, honor, forgive, encourage, exhort, and admonish one another. Bear one another’s burdens. Laity don’t need canonical authority to hold bishops accountable. Their authority is rooted in something more foundational than canon law. They call upon the moral law, basic human decency. We cannot cooperate with evil. We must expose the hidden things of darkness. By virtue of their baptism, they are obligated to admonish, exhort, and encourage one another and that includes bishops and priests.

The clergy scandal has a silver lining: forcing the lay faithful to exercise co-responsibility for the Church. Laity, of course, won’t vote on revealed dogma. They won’t confect the sacraments. They will insist that our Church be governed by the best HR practices from our flourishing businesses. Sexual harassment is intolerable at any level. Healthy churches, like healthy families, don’t hide, minimize, or deny abuse. Because St. Paul’s vision of the Church drives this new laity, they have stopped murmuring and commiserating with Catholic buddies about the darkness. They have turned on the moral spotlight to properly confront, challenge, and exhort our clergy. Learn more at nomorevictimsmi.org.

Why is it novel for the Church to act like the Church?

Archbishop Fulton Sheen, while reviewing crises among the clergy, allegedly wrote in 1972: “Who is going to save our Church? Not our bishops, not our priests and religious. It is up to you, the people. You have the minds, the eyes, the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, your bishops, like bishops, and your religious act like religious.”

Right now the world sees bishops whose moral authority is on par with Bill Cosby. I know some outstanding converts who would not have come into full communion under these present circumstances. The world deserves to witness a morally and spiritually fierce laity unwilling to compromise the Gospel. We don’t need a club for religious cronies and pious pretenders. We need and are seeing a new movement of Spirit-led communicants striving to give the world a glimpse of Christ’s Kingdom. In September, I briefly witnessed Jesus governing his Church through all its members. The Church was acting like the Church. It shouldn’t be such a novel idea.

AL KRESTA is president and chief executive officer, Ave Maria Communications, and host of Ave Maria Radio’s longtime popular show, “Kresta in the Afternoon,” heard on the EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network.

Returning the call of Christ

 No matter one’s faith, stature, professional prowess, or any other advantage, he’ll face — without exception — searing junctures for grappling with heartbreak and uncertainty. Life is chock full of them, with no roadmaps for bypassing.

Christine Valentine-Owsik

Some years ago, after an exhausting 15-year run with a succession of profitable clients, I was jarred by a 5:30 a.m. call the day after Christmas, with Dad telling me Mom had just died. We were supposed to see them for dinner that night. Why hadn’t I sensed she was as sick as she was? Many chronic health problems along with latent cancer did her in at 65, and yet I blindly assumed she’d recover. I was in shock for months, tasting despair at its worst. My business faded into meaninglessness. Daydreaming, crying, and sleeping became the norm. I was petrified and powerless as I drifted from my own life.

I realized I needed to reorient for the good of my husband and children. The hidden toxins of relentless stress, deadlines, long days, and client commitments had eaten away at life’s margin for relaxation, downtime, and an awareness- barometer for what else was going on. Nice retainers didn’t compensate for what was traded off. My cardiac test told the tale — too-high-levels of C-reactive protein. In layman’s terms, the doc said, “Lower the stress in your life and get some healthy balance, or else.”

And it was January — the month I’ll forever associate with starting over, but without a clue on how. Dad was a new widower, and we became his weekend helpers, mediators, repair crew, and advisors. My husband picked up lots of slack — cooking, doing laundry, grocery shopping, shuttling the kids to music and sports practices, treating me like I was fine.

One snowy afternoon I went to my favorite place in town, Our Lady of Czestochowa Shrine on Beacon Hill, and sat dazed before the Blessed Sacrament. The heaters hissed in the empty chapel as my thoughts smeared in all directions. Hours of tears streamed to the floor. What did God want from me? Why did I feel so hoodwinked?

Then the wise words of my mother echoed again in the memory-chamber of my heart: Why don’t you consider using your talents for Christ? I had dismissed her suggestion as ridiculous countless times over the years, laughing, saying only desperados did that churchy stuff. They had blue hair and carried rosaries and holy cards everywhere. We were sophisticated communications pros who dressed well, had great parties, and traveled. What would I possibly do for the Church?

I soon found out.

As I was cleaning my office one afternoon — having not spent a day in it in weeks — the phone rang with a message from a new Catholic publisher. They’d been referred to me and needed some marketing help. Would I consider talking with them?

I returned the call. I re-embraced my life and purpose that day, affirmed by The Great CEO.

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK  is Legatus magazine’s Editor.

The Savior arrives as a baby

Christmas could rightly be called the holiday of the senses.

It is the season of lights and tinsel, choirs and carols, the aroma of evergreen and roasting chestnuts. Christmas comes to us with sumptuous meals, hearty laughter, and kisses beneath the mistletoe. Christmas scenes — by the old masters and by modern advertisers — decorate the walls of museums, billboards on the roadside, and cards in the mailbox. For nearly 2,000 years, the world has marked the birth of Jesus as its most festive jubilee. No other day of the year offers the world so many earthly pleasures.

But why? No pope or Church council ever declared that it should be so. Yet every year, Christmas comes onto the calendar like a sudden December wind, like the blinding sun reflected off new snow. It is a shock to the senses, to go from barren winter to the season of lights and feasting.

And so it should be, for the first Christmas — the day when Jesus Christ was born — was a shock to human history.

For millennia, humankind had lived and died, uncomprehending, in its sin, the miseries of this world inevitable and the joys few and fleeting. Then Christmas arrived, and even the calendar went mad. From that moment, all of history was cleft in two: before that day (B.C.), and after that day (A.D.). The world — with all its sights and sounds and aromas and embraces — was instantly transfigured. For the world’s redemption had begun the moment God took human flesh for His own, the moment God was born in a poor stable in Bethlehem.

The greatest Christian poem commemorates this moment when God definitively came to dwell on earth. St. John begins his Gospel by describing a God of awesome power, remote in space and transcending time: a Spirit, a Word:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through Him.

This is the God that even the pagan philosophers knew: the Prime Mover, the One, the Creator. Yet, precisely where the pagan philosophers stalled, John’s drama proceeded to a remarkable climax:

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.

This was shocking news. From the distant heavens, from remotest time, God Himself had come in flesh to “pitch His tent” among His people. Yes, God is eternally the Word, but a word is elusive, and not everyone may grasp it. Now He is also a baby, and a baby may be picked up and held and embraced.

Of all the amazing and confounding truths of the Christian religion, there is none so outrageous as this: that the Word was made flesh, in a particular little town, in a stable filled with animals, on a certain day of the year. The Word was made flesh and changed everything. This makes Christmas the most shocking feast in the calendar.

This is what Christmas teaches us: We have bodies so that we can use them to worship God, as Jesus of Nazareth did. We have bodies so that we can use them to serve others, as Jesus did. We have bodies so that we can bring comfort and consolation and healing, as Jesus did. We have bodies so we can celebrate together, as Jesus did. We have bodies for glory’s sake.

Christmas tells the story of how the flesh became holy, the body was sanctified, and simple earthly joys became hymns of praise to God. We love to hear the story over and over, and we always will love it so long as a scrap of humanity remains in us. L

MIKE AQUILINA is the author of many books, including Faith of Our Fathers (Emmaus Road), from which this essay is adapted. He has hosted 11 series on EWTN Television, and appears weekly on Sirius Radio’s “Sonrise Morning Show.”

Christ’s gift of purity at Christmas

In these days of turmoil within the Roman Catholic Church – on whether longtime doctrine should stand, or priests should remain celibate, or obedience should extend to certain apostate shepherds, or select traditions should be “relaxed” or set aside – there’s a simple but often overlooked reality in the Holy Family.

Christine Valentine-Owsik

“When the Son of God came into the world on Christmas night, He surrounded His Incarnation with the aura of chastity,” the late Fr. John Hardon stated. “His mother, He made sure, would miraculously conceive Him without carnal intercourse. She would be a virgin before birth, in birth, and after birth.” He made sure He was brought up in the virginal family of Mary and Joseph. St. Joseph, Christ’s foster father, was legitimately wed to Mary, yet remained her “most chaste spouse” throughout their marriage. We even recite those words in the Litany to St. Joseph.

Christ was a virgin during His stay on earth, and He never married. During His public life, He showed special affection for pure souls, especially John the Baptist and John the Evangelist, “the beloved Apostle.”

Huh? What a square notion in today’s sexually corrupt culture. I’ve heard ‘progressive’ priests and deacons try to mitigate truths on the Holy Family and others in the Gospels and Scriptures, in homilies and parish classes, as if they were embarrassed by them. That stirs confusion and weakens faith for sure.

Church history shows there is a clear connection between upholding the traditional states of virginity and celibacy among priests, and purity of doctrine. Priests, bishops, cardinals, and popes are our ‘teaching doctors’ of the Church. If they violate the vows of their vocation, flaunt decadence, or spread disavowing opinions, they in essence become unclean in their doctrine and lose holy credibility before us all.

Surprisingly in the 16th century, it was the great unwillingness of so many priests to remain celibate that tilted the pressure in favor of Protestantism – the mortal split from Catholicism that divided the flock. Though there were other issues as well that splintered Catholic unity, the central issue was really priestly celibacy.

And what value is there in Catholic priests remaining celibate?

If a priest is to be like Christ – in persona Christi
if he is to realistically represent the Savior, be an authentic teacher to the people, administer sacraments and counsel in Confession, and offer pure sacrifice at Mass, isn’t it fitting that he, like his Master, should remain virtuously aligned with God – in and out of season? Celibacy isn’t a ‘choice’ or something a priest simply endures. It is a gift from God – a charism – for men called to Holy Orders, in perfect imitation of the life and ministry of Christ.

Christ Himself endorsed priestly celibacy, saying that there are “…those who make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom,” and He added that “not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given” (Mt 19:12).

Celibacy is a great gift to Christ’s chosen priests, one worth preserving for the High Priest and His kingdom.

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK  is Legatus magazine’s Editor.

Defending the Church in her hour of need – two guiding principles

Our beloved Catholic Church is facing the worst crisis in 500 years. Clergy sexual abuse, rampant sexual immorality, and cover-up by Church authorities: it adds up to a Church deeply in need of reform. We are waiting anxiously to see what the hierarchy decides to do. But we have no control over their actions, and indeed, they are divided among themselves. So what can we as laity do to help our mother in her hour of need?

I have been on the forefront of defending the Church’s teaching on marriage, family, and human sexuality for the past decade. In my opinion, the laity can and must do two things.

First, we must make it our business to work for justice for the victims of clergy sexual abuse. No excuse-making. “But the Protestants and public schools have as much abuse as we do.” Perhaps true, but not relevant. The only relevant fact is our commitment to getting our own house in order. That includes: justice for the victims, and punishment for the perpetrators, including those who covered up. Justice also includes protection and support for innocent clergy.

Second, we must make it our business to proclaim the Church’s teaching on marriage, family, and human sexuality in our own sphere of influence. This is directly relevant to the current crisis. If the clergy had lived up to Church teaching, including the 6th Commandment and their vows of celibacy, none of the abuse would ever have happened.

I will go further and say: the world desperately needs to hear the Church’s timeless message. We need not apologize for our beliefs. Sexual self-command, lifelong married love, and the need of children for their parents: These teachings are good, decent, and life-giving.

We now know why we have heard so little from the clergy: too many of them are morally compromised. Others are under the thumb of corrupt superiors.

The only way we can be sure the world hears the Church’s teaching is for us, the laity, to deliver that message ourselves.

Please note: these are guiding principles, not a detailed program. Each person will implement these principles in his own unique way, depending on vocation, location, and the season of life. The mother of school children will have a very different role than an attorney at the peak of his career. Both are different from a college student or a young professional beginning her first job. But every one of these people may be needed to address a situation in a local school or church. Every one of them can spread the message of lifelong, life-giving love.

If we make excuses for ourselves or the Church, we are going to look bad, and make the Church look bad. If we act like “business as usual,” we are going to die in an empty church. More importantly, the Lord will ask each one of us for an accounting of how we handle ourselves in this great crisis.

If on the other hand, we faithful Catholics conduct ourselves with dignity and integrity and charity, we will pull our Church through this crisis. We will expose and correct evils that should have been addressed long ago. We will create room for a genuine flourishing of the Gospel. Our neighbors will be drawn to us.

In other words, this is our chance to become saints. We can be crusaders for the truth like
St. Athanasius and authentic reformers like St. Teresa of Avila. Let’s not drop the ball.

JENNIFER ROBACK MORSE, PH.D. is the founder and president of the Ruth Institute, which equips people to defend traditional Christian sexual morality. She is the author of The Sexual State: How Elite Ideologies Are Destroying Lives and Why the Church Was Right All Along.

Fitting in vs. hanging in

We Catholics often underestimate the rewards of faithful perseverance.

As in days of old – going back to Old Testament times – God’s chosen people, the Israelites, got tired of being set apart for Him, and demanded that their prophet and judge, Samuel, give them an earthly king (1 Sam 8). “We want to be as other nations,” they raged at Samuel. They longed to enjoy the tantalizations rumored from afar, and taste the comforts, honors, and wealth of neighboring pagan nations – military might, prestige, glory, opulence, and unrestricted carnality. They were late to the party, but could still make it. In reality, Israel had what wealth couldn’t buy – the Ark of the Covenant with God’s law and Presence ever with them, and commensurate protection.

But they preferred earthly kingship to God’s.

I once worked for a major Catholic company exec who said, “We Catholics want to be cool, too, you know” while we were planning a promotional campaign for a new product. He was ready to boogie with Kool and the Gang, and buy in to edgy persuasions to get noticed. It would prove a marketing nightmare and mockery of the company image. I wondered what had gotten to him. What society deems “cool” versus what Catholicism teaches as “worthy” are usually mutually exclusive. But he was serious. The rest of us: overruled.

The product? Failed, at ridiculous cost. Mr. Cool? Still there … go figure.

If philanthropy works to promote the welfare of others, usually by monetary contribution and largesse, even more should Catholics extend spiritual altruism through prayer, sacrifice, and exemplary demeanor. Because without God leading a charge, the Red Sea will inevitably close in.

In late September as bizarre new accusations erupted upon Judge Brett Kavanaugh, his family, and legacy – despite his prevailing in earlier confirmation hearings – Legatus magazine had just gone to press with a profile on him as a Catholic. Each hour’s breaking news was like a sickening psycho film without a predictable ending. Staffers were asking “should we still run the story?” Each time, the same conclusion emerged: he hadn’t been proven guilty of anything. Were we going to abandon him without cause? As rumors gave birth to more shocking ones – a real-life horror flick – it got harder to stay in the theatre.

Final Senate vote was scheduled for Saturday, October 6. The date was gnawing at me. The next day, October 7, would be the Feast of Our Lady of Victory, commemorating the meager Christian army’s prevailing over Muslim myriads at the Mediterranean Battle of Lepanto in 1571 – a miracle-triumph attributed to their rosaries.

A friend in Washington, D.C. told me Kavanaugh was spotted praying in his parish church on that Saturday. October 6 was also the culmination of America’s 54-day coast-to-coast rosary novena.

Amid coven-like protestors screaming in the Senate hall that afternoon, the fifth Catholic Supreme Court justice was voted in, 50-48, on a First Saturday, on the eve of the worldwide Feast of the Holy Rosary –which would be prayed across 57 countries. There’s simply no match for heaven’s intervention.

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK  is Legatus magazine’s Editor.

Priests – necessary for life

Despite faults, sins, and scandals, problems of perseverance, and crises that have afflicted the priesthood over 2,000 years, the Catholic Church would have no life without Her faithful priests. We cannot lose sight of the beauty and graces that come through our priests, not to mention their irreplaceable support and loyalty when we need them so.

Beginning with His apostles, Christ instituted the priesthood for three reasons: so that His Presence through the Holy Eucharist would be continually accessible to us; and for the sacraments of forgiveness – Confession, and final cleansing and preparation for eternity – Anointing of the Sick. Only Catholic priests can confer those three sacraments in particular, no one else

Many today forget the value of the Anointing of the Sick. But it enables forgiveness of serious sin when a person cannot make a final Confession, and can spare him eternal punishment. It’s critical that a gravely ill Catholic have access to it – his spiritual wellbeing should be prioritized to the end.

Catholic priests are our palpable connection to heaven. Through offering the Mass, bringing
us the essential sacraments, and authoritative counsel and guidance, they are our lifeline to God.

At so many critical junctures in my life – from childhood to middle age – I can point to life- changing priests who kept me on track with God’s presence and will. At my First Holy Communion in 1969, the celestial hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” thundered on the pipe organ as our second-grade class processed forward and knelt along the Communion rail of St. Bernard’s Catholic Church in Rockville, CT. Boys were in gelled crew cuts, white suits, and dress shoes, and girls in miniature ‘wedding dresses’ and veils, long pipe curls, white patent Mary Janes, and elbow-length white gloves – awaiting our eternal Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. Our pastor stopped slowly before each child, flanked by two solemn altar boys in a fog of incense, and suspended the Blessed Host before placing it on our tongue. I had never heard the glorious hymn before, and associated it since with that heavenly day. I later learned the organ, and playing that hymn still brings tears.

In high school, I remember asking our priest questions in Confession I wouldn’t broach in religion class. His authority and inspiration on Catholic teaching, along with his approachability, set me on my way with explanations that were clarifying and calming. He helped me navigate a tumultuous time as a teen and young adult. I’ll never forget him.

When caring for my dad in his final years, I called our parish priest in a panic early one morning as my father was being put on a respirator, in a medically induced coma, and the intensive-care team hurried me on making life-or-death decisions for him. Our priest explained what I could and couldn’t agree to, and as soon as dad was awake, gave him the Anointing. A devout Catholic, dad recognized the rite and prayed each prayer in tandem with him, as medical staff surrounded his bed and joined in.

Let us pray for and support always our faithful priests. As Catholics, we owe them our very lives.

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK  is Legatus magazine’s Editor.