Sunday, November 24, 2019

Getting Your Bearings in a Troubled World

Robert Cardinal Sarah. The Day Is Now Far Spent. Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition. 

Schneider, Bishop Athanasius. Christus Vincit: Christ’s Triumph Over the Darkness of the Age. Angelico Press. Kindle Edition. 

For a long while now, I have been encountering good people, Catholics, both priests and lay faithful, who suffer immensely from the incertitude which seems to have the Church in our day in its grasp. 

The simplest way to elaborate or translate what I mean by that statement is to say that within the last couple of years we have lost that authority which is or was the Catechism of the Catholic Church. A text which is supposed to summarize and lay out for our time what has always and everywhere been believed in the Catholic Church is getting modified or called into question to the extent that it has been deprived of its authority and we of our surety when it comes to the broad strokes, laying out the Creed, the Commandments, the Sacraments and the pillars of a truly Catholic life of prayer. 

Old folks, like myself, remember the great relief which came subsequent to the signing by Pope St. John Paul II, on 11 October 1992, of the Apostolic Constitution „Fidei Depositum“ with which the Catechism was promulgated. Our respite from confusion seems to be foundering in a little less than a generation.

Granted, we could be talking about hysteria or an overreaction in part to all sorts of stuff floated out there in the social media, but to the extent that I can no longer appeal to the Catechism (seemingly at least), I understand the sick feeling in the gut of more than one parish priest, who simply wants to help the people entrusted to his care by reassuring them through his teaching of what the Church always and everywhere believes and teaches.

My response to this malaise would be that we have not to abandon the Catechism as somehow discounted, compromised or spoiled, but rather buttress its authority by appealing to the approved authors, not only of the past, but also of our day and time. Hence, my lighting upon these two new books, which cover similar ground in terms of our present crisis of faith in the Church. They are book interviews with two great men, of impeccable reputation, and whom I know personally and profoundly respect, Cardinal Robert Sarah and Bishop Athanasius Schneider.

After reading them both, I would just encourage troubled lay people and priests to turn to them not only for reassurance concerning the Catechism and its enduring value and authority, in the older edition which you have in your personal library, but also for guidance on matters where these prelates teach, serenely and masterfully.

Each of them is unique. Both stress continuity in teaching and strike a constructive and Catholic, non polemical, tone. Cardinal Sarah quotes heavily in his book from the writings and teaching of all the recent popes, starting with Paul VI. You might say that he stands behind the magisterium of the popes of the contemporary era.

Truth to be told, I personally found reading Bishop Schneider's book more rewarding for me. Through the witness of his own family he offers an eminent blueprint for Catholics, both priests and laity, to remain faithful in the face of present day persecution, which I would rate even more lethal than Stalin's gulag.

Saturday, I took part in a podium discussion here in Switzerland, which was rather wide ranging. One lady asked me my single greatest concern for the life of the Church. Rather spontaneously I said that it is the same as St. Justin Martyr confessed before his pagan judge: without Sunday (which means the celebration of the Holy Eucharist) we cannot live. Money enough is here to repair the roofs of all sorts of churches which the people have practically abandoned. Church leadership must creatively find ways to get people to move on a Sunday to where they can find a priest to hear their confession and celebrate Holy Mass for them. If not, then it will be up to the Schneider families of our day and time to carry an endangered and wandering clergy, hosting them in our homes when we have the honor of their passing from one outlying Catholic community to another.

It would seem that a recovery is not yet in sight for traditional marriage and family, still very much under siege. As young people rediscover prayer, the power and presence of God in their lives, I have no doubt that the tide will turn. Prayer, the family as a school of prayer, learning the basics of the catechism at home, will be the building blocks of that bulwark against the tempest of nihilism.


Always in God's Hands - May He Rest in Peace!

Wisdom 4: 7-15

The just man, though he die early, shall be at rest. For the age that is honorable comes not with the passing of time, nor can it be measured in terms of years. Rather, understanding is the hoary crown of men, and an unsullied life, the attainment of old age. He who pleased God was loved; he who lived among sinners was transported – Snatched away, lest wickedness pervert his mind or deceit beguile his soul; For the witchery of paltry things obscures what is right and the whirl of desire transforms the innocent mind. Having become perfect in a short while, he reached the fullness of a long career; for his soul was pleasing to the Lord, therefore he sped him out of the midst of wickedness. But the people saw and did not understand, nor did they take this into account.

Luke 9: 23-26

Jesus said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself? Whoever is shamed of me and of my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

Funeral Homily
Robert Louis Gullickson

Wisdom 4: 7-15
Luke 9: 23-26

Praised be Jesus Christ!

        I am very proud of my brother, Robert. We spoke on Skype maybe a week before he died. Of course, we spoke about his awareness that with all the medical help in the world he was not going to beat the infection that had taken hold of his body. We spoke of his hope for heaven and seeing our parents and David, who had preceded him in death. We spoke about his sufferings and hopes not to have too hard of a time dying. Most of all, though, for me, he told me about his clear understanding and conviction that satisfaction from accomplishment or achievement in this life is not to be had.

Bob’s insight was much more than saying that human accomplishment is not what life is about. As an example of constructive and almost impressive achievement, I am thinking, just by way of example, of that Japanese guy with the long white hair and beard, the multi-millionaire on the internet, you know: the one over 70 with a young athlete’s body and energy, who invented that samurai pillow which is giving everyone a great night’s sleep? Anyway! Robert was saying much more to me than that measurable success and material flourishing is not to be envied or sought after.

        You see, the best among us (we will call them God’s own, His children) do not really have to care about wealth or fame. Truly good people think and act otherwise than do people of this world; the great ones in the Kingdom just keep hoping they can be of service to others. They seek to bring light and joy to the lives of others and to cherish that kind of mutual love, which is born not just of respect, but rather of a genuine, reverential fear standing or kneeling there before the dignity of that other woman, man or child born and living in the image and likeness of God.

        We firmly believe in the life of the world to come.

“For the witchery of paltry things obscures what is right and the whirl of desire transforms the innocent mind. Having become perfect in a short while, he reached the fullness of a long career; for his soul was pleasing to the Lord, therefore he sped him out of the midst of wickedness.”

        Robert told me that he understood that it was folly to think we are the achievers even in terms of doing good. He thought that maybe he had been too anxious about wanting to do right by the good people here at Catholic Care, to contribute somehow to the life of this house. He confessed to me his firm conviction that it is indeed the Lord Jesus, Who is in charge and from end to end.

“The just man, though he die early, shall be at rest. For the age that is honorable comes not with the passing of time, nor can it be measured in terms of years.”

        If you think about life that way, it is easier to embrace the Catholic teaching about Purgatory. Maybe then, we can better understand what kind of people we must not be in order to enter into God, in order to rest with Lazarus on Abraham’s bosom, as Jesus in the Gospel parable tells us. St. John Climacus (born: 579 AD in Syria and died: 649 AD in Jabal Mousa, Egypt) in his book, “The Ladder of Divine Ascent”, gives a wrenching description of a monastic prison, where sinner monks placed themselves freely in hopes of that purification through penance which could speed them on their way to heaven. Frankly, I had a very hard time with John Climacus, just as some people seem to have difficulty with the Church’s teaching on Purgatory. But our lack of insight, our shortcomings do not make the truth anything less than what it is.

        What is secularization, what is the crisis of culture in our world, if not the failure or inability to see ourselves already in God or going into Him? What is that crisis of faith that has many people skeptical or doubting the Lordship of Jesus? Is it not the inability to live the truth, maybe for lack of a faithful upbringing, for some trauma from outside ourselves or because of a crisis brought on by our own sin?

        None of us knows any better than did Robert as he prepared for death just where we stand with God. We need to focus more decidedly on Him Who is the be-all and the end-all. As Jesus in the Gospel today exhorts: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

        Nine hundred years after St. John Climacus, Saint Catherine of Genoa, in her Treatise on Purgatory, speaks of her boundless hope and joy at the prospect of coming to see the Lord face to face at the end of her unspeakable sufferings in Purgatory. Please, I beg you, pray for the repose of Robert’s soul. May he rest with Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham, in expectation of that great day when the Terrible Judge will call him along with all who have been found worthy: “Come, ye blessed of my Father, into the Kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world!”

“Having become perfect in a short while, he reached the fullness of a long career; for his soul was pleasing to the Lord, therefore he sped him out of the midst of wickedness.”

 Praised be Jesus Christ!


Friday, November 15, 2019

Confirmation and Our Mission for the End Times

33ª Domenica in Tempo Ordinario
S. Messa con la Cresima
Chiuro - 16 novembre 2019

Mal 3:19-20a
2 Tess 3:7-12
Lc 21:5-19

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

        Trovo interessante e forse anche in un certo senso una non piccola sfida parlare della Confirmazione nel contesto di questa, la penultima domenica dell’anno liturgico. Domenica fra una settimana è già Cristo Re e poi il 1° dicembre sarà la prima domenica di Avvento e l’inizio di un altro anno nel Signore!

Oggi nella Chiesa Universale ci tocca di riflettere sulle prove che dobbiamo per forza affrontare nella vita. È un tema non facile anche nel contesto normale della parrocchia. E qui mi trovo quasi costretto di parlare della Cresima in questi termini, cioè di riflettere un poco con voi su questo sacramento come un appello di non fare marcia indietro, di non sottrarsi dalle prove della vita cristiana. La celebrazione del Sacramento della Confirmazione ci sia per tutti noi, come battezzati, un invito di dare testimonianza nella nostra vita quotidiana a Gesù, nostro Salvatore e nostra unica Speranza.

“Ecco infatti sta per venire il giorno rovente come un forno. Allora tutti i superbi e tutti coloro che commettono ingiustizia saranno come paglia;”

        La nostra vita in questo mondo, come persone battezzate in Cristo e nella Sua Croce, è una vita tutt’altra che pacifica. A fianco di Gesù dobbiamo lottare contro il male e per la nostra vita in Dio. Abbiamo bisogno di sostegno davanti alle prove che ci vengono addosso; abbiamo tanto bisogno della grazia di Dio!

L’altro giorno, stavo leggendo un piccolo libretto che spiegava tra l’altro l’importanza di chiedere la Confirmazione per bambini e giovani in pericolo di morte. Si trattano, sì, di casi limite, cioè del dovere di confirmare sacramentalmente persone in pericolo di morte che non sono ancora cresimati. Il motivo per amministrare il sacramento in questi casi non è solo per completare la loro iniziazione cristiana. Il sacramento della Cresima va chiesto per loro, quale sostegno nella prova di malattia o per il caso di un grave incidente che lascia il piccino in fin di vita. Questo caso limite getta luce sul senso del Sacramento quando regolarmente conferito dal vescovo, cioè, anche parlando della Confirmazione per i nostri cresimandi qui in chiesa oggi. Ci spiega perché noi, pochi o molti anni fa, siamo stati confermati per l’imposizione delle mani del vescovo con preghiera, ricevendo il sacro Crisma sulla nostra fronte con le parole: “Ricevi il sigillo dello Spirito Santo che ti è dato in dono.”  Sigillati per che cosa? Proprio per la battaglia, perché in questa vita, in questa valle delle lacrime, ci troviamo in pericolo mortale!

        “Mettetevi bene in mente di non preparare prima la vostra difesa; io vi darò lingua e sapienza, a cui tutti i vostri avversari non potranno resistere, né controbattere.”  

        Devo concedere che non sembra giusto pensare alla vita nostra come Cattolici come se fosse una cosa per forza contrastata o conflittuale. Se godiamo la benedizione di Dio in questa vita, perché non pretendere invece un poco di pace e magari anche di prosperità materiale, un poco di soddisfazione professionale e senz’altro interpersonale nei nostri rapporti familiari e sociali? Non sarebbe meglio poter pensare alla Cresima semplicemente come una specie di benedizione, senza riferimento a delle prove, cioè semplicemente come un passo avanti verso il cielo sulle vie di questa vita?

        Sorry! No! Gesù nella Sua Chiesa ci ha dato il sacramento del dono dello Spirito Santo per rafforzarci per la battaglia contro il male e insieme con Dio in Cristo di sforzarci verso la gloria del mondo che verrà. Purtroppo, non sono pochi i Cattolici che non capiscono così la vita cristiana. Per via di esempio: La mia esperienza come ministro ordinario della Cresima in questi ultimi anni in Svizzera, dopo la Messa al rinfresco o davanti alla chiesa, mi ha confrontato a volte con l’una o con l’altra nonnina che protestava contro l’idea che la bella vita della sua nipotina o del suo nipotino doveva essere contrassegnata dalla lotta accanto a Cristo contro il maligno. Stranamente, anche persone credenti possono illudersi circa la vera natura della nostra vocazione battesimale.

“Sarete traditi perfino dai genitori, dai fratelli, dai parenti e dagli amici, e metteranno a morte alcuni di voi; sarete odiati da tutti per causa del mio nome. Ma nemmeno un capello del vostro capo perirà. Con la vostra perseveranza salverete le vostre anime.”

        Cari cresimandi! Voglio per voi nella vita solo la gioia: la vera e duratura gioia in Cristo per voi, per le vostre famiglie, per questa famiglia parrocchiale. Ma il godimento della vera gioia non si guadagna senza qualche sacrificio nella vita.

        Spesso si parla del Sacramento della Confirmazione come prerequisito per i Sacramenti di Vocazione, cioè per il Sacramento dell’Ordine (diacono, sacerdote o vescovo) e ancora più sovente come prerequisito per il Matrimonio in chiesa. Normalmente Cattolici capiscono che la vita ben vissuta del sacerdote implica per lui dei sacrifici, ma le stesse persone pretendono qualcos’altra dal matrimonio. Purtroppo si tende a mettere in rilievo il matrimonio come partenariato, negando il suo valore come testimonianza cristiana. Va capito il senso della Cresima come rafforzamento per la nostra vocazione come testimoni al Vangelo, non importa se sacerdotale o matrimoniale. Importante è di capire che la vita nostra in primo luogo non è un’allegra passeggiata attraverso i campi di fiori, ma un camino verso alto vissuto sotto il segno della Croce.

        Se passi tempo con i mezzi di comunicazione sociali, come Facebook per noi vecchi o magari con Twitter, Instagram o SnapChat per quelli più giovani, si incontra un certo pessimismo o ansia davanti alla vita. Però, l’ansia o la malinconia non sono malattie solo dei nostri giorni; una certa tristezza o diffidenza di fronte alle sfide di ogni giorno esiste quasi da sempre nella storia. In Internet vi sono tanti che giudicano i nostri tempi come i peggiori di tutti i tempi. Ma non sono. Si può domandare lo stesso: Siamo davvero più vicini alle grandi prove o alla fine del mondo? Direi di no! Forse la vita sia percepita così in senso negativo perché viviamo più secolarizzati, senza preghiera, senza riferimento a Dio in Cristo come centro della nostra vita.

        Preghiamo oggi per i nostri cresimandi e per noi stessi che il sigillo, il dono dello Spirito Santo conferito nel Sacramento della Cresima, potrà ripetere nei nostri cuori, nelle nostre famiglie e nelle nostre comunità il miracolo di Pentecoste! Che possiamo per la grazia dello Spirito Santo portare la luce al mondo attorno che ha tanto bisogno.  

        “Per voi invece, cultori del mio nome, sorgerà il sole di giustizia con raggi benefici.”

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!


Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Fr. Tonne's Masterpiece on the Feasts of Mary

Louis Tofari recently asked me to review and recommend the 2019 reprint by Romanitas Press of a classic:

Feasts of Our Lady 
Talks on Fifty Feasts of Mary Throughout the Year 
With Two Talks For Mother’s Day
by Fr. Arthur Tonne, O.F.M. Missionary and Retreat Master.
I am so glad he did!

Romanitas Press made me a marvelous gift in sending me the pdf of the book and inviting me to give it a read. Despite family connections to the State of Kansas, I had never heard of Father, nor had I seen the original printing from 1951. All I can say is that Romanitas Press has done the world an inestimable service in bringing this little book to print again. 

Father Tonne is eloquent in a most modern and reserved kind of way. His prose style is well ordered, yet both light and profound. This book is a joy to read. My guess is that I will never tire of Father Tonne nor cease to gain from his insights into the Mother of God and her feasts and apparitions (such as at Lourdes and Fatima and their consequences for the faith life of God's people).

This is one of those books that belongs on that table by your easy chair or on your nightstand, to be read by the calendar most surely, but also topically by themes or specific mysteries from the life of the Blessed Mother. Father has left for all times a book enriched  with accounts of other great saints and personalities who can smooth our path to deeper appreciation of Mary's true greatness from her childhood to womanhood and her motherhood of the Son of God.

All I will say is take and read! You will be doing yourself a favor, especially in times of uncertainty or confusion. Father Tonne has done greatly. He has presented the Mother of God, yes, with tenderness, but I would like to say above all with a life-giving clarity, capable of carrying us in dark days certainly, but of generally buoying us up and urging us on!
God bless Romanitas Press!

Sunday, November 10, 2019

God's House and Heaven's Gate

Hochfest des Kloster- und Kirchenpatrons
Martin von Tours
Altarweihe der neu restaurierten Klosterkirche
11. November 2019 - Disentis

Genesis 28, 11-18
Johannes 4, 19-24

Gelobt sei Jesus Christus!
Heiliger Martin! Bitte für uns!

„Aber die Stunde kommt und sie ist schon da, zu der die wahren Beter den Vater anbeten werden im Geist und in der Wahrheit; denn so will der Vater angebetet werden. Gott ist Geist und alle, die ihn anbeten, müssen im Geist und in der Wahrheit anbeten.“

Das heutige Evangelium, ein Ausschnitt aus dem Gespräch zwischen Jesus und der samaritanischen Frau am Jakobsbrunnen ist ganz passend ausgewählt für die Weihe des neuen Altares dieser Abteikirche. Vielleicht ist es für den einen oder anderen eine gewisse Herausforderung:

        Gott ist Geist und alle, die ihn anbeten, müssen im Geist und in der Wahrheit anbeten.“

Was bedeutet es, zu beten, oder besser Gott anzubeten in Geist und Wahrheit? Einige sind der Ansicht, dass ein solches Konzept der Gottesverehrung die Bedeutung des Tempels relativiere, also des aus Steinen gebauten Gebäudes zur Verrichtung des Kultes. Das erinnert mich ein wenig an die Unterscheidung, welche Menschen machen, die sagen, sie seien gläubig, aber nicht religiös. Besonders hier in der Schweiz habe ich schon öfter die Erfahrung gemacht, dass sich mir z.B. auf den Strassen von Bern eine unbekannte Person vorstellt und sagt: “Ich bin ein gläubiger Mensch”. Normalerweise bin ich ein wenig misstrauisch, wenn ich so etwas höre. Wenn jemand so redet, dann ist es meistens jemand, der „konfessionslos“ ist, der sich also nicht mit einer bestehenden kirchlichen Gemeinschaft identifiziert, oder wenigstens nicht mit der katholischen Kirche. Vielleicht oder sogar sehr wahrscheinlich geht diese Person nicht regelmässig oder sogar gar nie in die Kirche oder sie führt kein sakramentales Leben, also keine Hl. Messe und keine Beichte. „Ich bin ein gläubiger Mensch.“

Es tut mir Leid, aber das ist sicher nicht der Sinn der Worte, die Jesus der Samariterin sagt bezüglich der echten Anbetung Gottes in Geist und Wahrheit. Nein, das was wir hier heute machen entspricht den Worten Jesu im Evangelium: Die Kirche des Hl. Martin wiederum für den Gottesdienst freigeben und den neuen Altar weihen. Ja, das ist Teil der echten, von Gott gewollten Gottesverehrung. Mit dieser Handlung wird das Gebet in Geist und Wahrheit konkret in Raum und Zeit verankert. Dieses altehrwürdige Benediktinerkloster, Ort des Lebens, der Arbeit und des Gebetes nach der Regel des Heiligen Benedikt ist in besonderer Weise ein Ort der echten Anbetung Gottes in Geist und Wahrheit. Diese Abteikirche ist für uns der Schemel, auf den der allmächtige Gott inmitten seines Volkes seine Füsse stellen kann. Wir hoffen, dass auch hier die Engel eine Leiter finden, auf der sie zum Himmel auf und niedersteigen können um ihren Dienst für die Menschen im Graubünden zu verrichten.

Die Erfahrung, die Jakob im Traum gemacht hat und von der wir in der ersten Lesung gehört haben und auch die Gottesverehrung, zu der der Patriarch Jakob an diesem Ort an dem er fern der Heimat geschlafen hat, könnte uns helfen oder inspirieren, die Worte des Herrn über die Anbetung in Geist und Wahrheit besser zu verstehen. Auf der Flucht hat Jakob diesen Ort erkannt als Ausgangspunkt sowohl für die Leiter, die in den Himmel führt als auch als Ausgangspunkt für die zukünftigen Verheissungen Gottes, welche er durch den Segen seines Vaters Isaak erhalten hatte.

Wie Ehrfurcht gebietend ist doch dieser Ort! Er ist nichts anderes als das Haus Gottes und das Tor des Himmels. Jakob stand früh am Morgen auf, nahm den Stein, den er unter seinen Kopf gelegt hatte, stellte ihn als Steinmal auf und goss Öl darauf.“ Mit der Salbung dieses Steinmals, hat der Patriarch Zeugnis dafür abgelegt, dass er, ein Geschöpf aus Fleisch und Blut, die Erfahrung der Liebe Gottes gemacht hat. Der Gott des Universums hat ihm zugesichert, dass er ihn nie verlassen wird.

Unser Gebet heute ist tatsächlich nicht weniger wahr und weniger geistlich und wird so verankert in diesen Steinen, teils alt und reich an Geschichte, teils neu. Wir hoffen, dass dieses altehrwürdige Gotteshaus in unserer Zeit ein Steinmal sein kann, bestimmt für diese Region und diese Zeit.Wie Ehrfurcht gebietend ist doch dieser Ort! Er ist nichts anderes als das Haus Gottes und das Tor des Himmels.“

Wenn wir mit diesen Begriffen sprechen, sind unsere Worte für viele Menschen unserer Zeit kaum zu verstehen. Das ist leider teilweise auch die Schuld unserer eigenen Geschichte. So haben manchmal Menschen, die nur wenig älter als wir selber sind, in teilweise verbrecherischer Art und Weise unsere Gotteshäuser entleert und ihrer Symbole beraubt. Manchmal sogar mit Gewalt haben diese Leute alles was damals symbolträchtig war, von dem Haus Gottes entfernt. Ich denke da z.B. daran, wie in den 60er und 70er Jahren einige altehrwürdige Kirchen haben einen einfachen Tisch rasch eingetragen bekommen, auf dem die Eucharistie gefeiert sollte. Kürzlich hat mir ein befreundeter Priester aus dem Wallis erzählt, wie er alle Mühe damit hatte, seinen Pfarreiangehörigen zu erklären, dass man den Altar nicht einfach wie ein Möbelstück verschieben könne. In der Tat, war der Altar aus Holz und hätte so praktisch durchaus verschoben werden können, aber es war ein geweihter Altar. Der Pfarrer widersetzte sich dem Ansinnen, diesen zu verschieben, da mit der Altarraum als Bühne für ein vorweihnachtliches Konzert hätte dienen können. Steinmal! Ein Stein der Erinnerung, der Altar welche dem Haus seine Bedeutung “…als das Haus Gottes und das Tor des Himmels“ gibt.

Darüber hinaus gilt es zu bedenken, dass der Altar für Christus steht, Christus inmitten der Gemeinschaft der Gläubigen. Deswegen ja auch die dem Altar gewidmeten Verneigungen und Küsse, welche Christus gelten. Bei Bischofs- Priester- und Diakonats-Weihe stellt man den Sitz des weihenden Bischofs vor den Altar um so die Verbindung zum Ausdruck zu bringen zwischen dem Bischof und Christus bezüglich dem Dienst, den der Neugeweihte übernimmt im Namen Jesu Christi. Bei der Eucharistiefeier dann handeln Priester und Bischof, ja,“in persona Christi”.

Der Tempel im Alten Testament wie auch das Zelt, welche die Bundeslade verhüllte, wurde als Abbild des himmlischen Hofes gestalten, so wie Gott am Berg Sinai es Mose angeordnet hatte. In der geheimen Offenbarung des Johannes erzählt das Neue Testament von der himmlischen Liturgie und von den Seelen der Märtyrer unterhalb des Altares: „Als das Lamm das fünfte Siegel öffnete, sah ich unter dem Altar die Seelen aller, die hingeschlachtet worden waren wegen des Wortes Gottes und wegen des Zeugnisses, das sie abgelegt hatten. Sie riefen mit lauter Stimme und sagten: Wie lange zögerst du noch, Herr, du Heiliger und Wahrhaftiger, Gericht zu halten und unser Blut an den Bewohnern der Erde zu rächen?“ (Offb 6,9-10). In Erinnerung an das himmlische Jerusalem befinden sich im Altar Reliquien von Heiligen wie es sich für einen heiligen Ort geziemt: “…als das Haus Gottes und das Tor des Himmels.“.

Das heutige Fest ist Grund zu grosser Freude und nicht geringer Befriedigung für alle, welche in den vergangenen Jahren hier gearbeitet haben, besonders natürlich für die Mönchsgemeinschaft mit Abt Vigeli. Ich hoffe aber, dass alle verstehen und werden es mir zugestehen, dass ich mich ausserordentlich freue, die Ehre zu haben, diesen neuen Altar weihen zu dürfen, dieses neue „Steinmal“ und, warum nicht, mit dem Patriarchen Jakob rufen kann:

        “Wie Ehrfurcht gebietend ist doch dieser Ort! Er ist nichts anderes als das Haus Gottes und das Tor des Himmels.“

Gelobt sei Jesus Christus!               
Heiliger Martin! Bitte für uns!


Armistice, Polish Independence and the Fear of the Lord

On the occasion of the 101st anniversary of the Armistice and independence of Poland
10 November 2019, Bruder Klaus

2 Makkabäer 7, 1-2. 7a. 9-14
2 Thessalonicher 2, 16-17. 3, 1-5
Lukas 20, 27-38

Laudetur Jesus Christus!
Praised be Jesus Christ!
Gelobt sei Jesus Christus!

Im 2. Thessalonicher Brief von heute steht:

„Betet auch darum, dass wir vor den bösen und schlechten Menschen gerettet werden; denn nicht alle nehmen den Glauben an.“
        It is a great pleasure for me to be here today to celebrate Holy Mass with the Polish Community on the 101st anniversary of the Armistice and independence of Poland. There was some question as to what language would be appropriate. Father Wojtiech and I decided to overrule Ambassador Jakub Kumoch and, despite the presence of members of the Diplomatic Corps, instead of English to have me preach in German. This was a second best option after Polish, which is beyond my linguistic capabilities. Apologies all around! I hope that with German many, if not most, will be able to understand and benefit from my words.
       Unsere erste Lesung aus dem 2. Buch der Makkabäer fängt so an:

 „In jenen Tagen geschah es, dass man sieben Brüder mit ihrer Mutter festnahm.“

Im Lukas Evangelium heute hören wir auch von sieben Brüder und einer Frau:

„Nun lebten einmal sieben Brüder. Der erste nahm sich eine Frau, starb aber kinderlos. Da nahm sie der zweite, danach der dritte und ebenso die anderen bis zum siebten; sie alle hinterließen keine Kinder, als sie starben. Schließlich starb auch die Frau.“

Was die zwei Lesungen miteinander verbindet, ist aber nicht so sehr die Erwähnung von der sieben Brüder oder der einen Frau sondern das Bekenntnis zur Auferstehung der Toten am letzten Tag.

So lesen wir im 2. Buch der Makkabäer: „Gott hat uns die Hoffnung gegeben, dass er uns auferstehen lässt. Darauf warten wir gern, wenn wir von Menschenhand sterben.“

Und im Lukas Evangelium antwortet Jesus auf die Sadduzäer:
„Die Kinder dieser Welt heiraten und lassen sich heiraten. Die aber, die gewürdigt werden, an jener Welt und an der Auferstehung von den Toten teilzuhaben, heiraten nicht, noch lassen sie sich heiraten. Denn sie können auch nicht mehr sterben, weil sie den Engeln gleich und als Kinder der Auferstehung zu Kindern Gottes geworden sind.“

Für gläubige Menschen, für Christen und besonders für uns Katholiken ist es selbstverständlich, dass wir anlässlich des 101. Jahrestages des Waffenstillstandes, welcher den 1. Weltkrieg 1918 beendet hat, vor allem Gott danken für das Geschenk des Friedens. Die Menschen wären alleine nie in der Lage gewesen, diesen Krieg zu beenden. Wenn wir die Geschichte besonders des 1. Weltkrieges genauer betrachten, so sehen wir, dass der Friede gekommen ist trotz aller Bösartigkeit der beteiligten Parteien. Wir sind der festen Überzeugung, dass wir ohne die Gnade Gottes vor hundert Jahren nicht die Unabhängigkeit Polens hätten feiern können. Der ewige Vater hat die Herzen berührt. Ja, die Menschen haben wirklich edle Dinge gemacht, um die verwundete Welt zu heilen, aber nicht ohne vom Höchsten erleuchtet zu werden.

Aber unsere sieben Brüder in den Lesungen von heute, oder besser gesagt die Lehre von der Auferstehung der Toten am Jüngsten Tag, was bedeuten sie für den Frieden, das Ende des Krieges, die Selbstbestimmung eines Volkes? Was ändert sich, wenn wir an eine Gerechtigkeit am Ende der Zeiten glauben, welche das Böse endgültig besiegt? Was bedeutet es, in Ewigkeit dafür belohnt zu werden, dass wir Gott unserem Schöpfer und Erlöser gegenüber treu geblieben sind? Was bedeutet es, alles, was wir sind und haben Christus, dem König der ewigen Herrlichkeit zu unterwerfen? Es ändert ja ALLES! Es ändert sich alles besonders in der Zeit, in der wir heute leben, in der man den katholischen Glauben selbst bei Politikern, die sich formell zur Kirche bekennen, nur noch vermuten kann.

Als ich jung war, hat man ganz natürlich von der Tugend der Gottesfurcht oder auf Latein ‚timor Dei‘ gesprochen. Es war ein positives Urteil, ein Kompliment, wenn man von jemandem gesagt hat, dass er oder sie ein gottesfürchtiger Mann oder eine gottesfürchtige Frau sei. Ich erinnere mich noch gut daran, wie ich als heranwachsender langsam verstanden habe, dass die echte Liebe nicht primär durch Gefühl oder Gerechtigkeitssinn bestimmt ist, sondern in der Furcht davor, dem Geleibten etwas Böses anzutun, etwas was ihm Schmerzen bereitet. Ich erinnere mich besonders auch an die Ehrfurcht, die mein Vater meiner Mutter gegenüber hatte. Das war weit mehr als einfach nur „Respekt“. Gottesfurcht und Ehrfurcht bezeichnen das, was wir meinen, wenn wir von selbstloser Liebe sprechen.

Auf diesem Hintergrund lässt sich die Bereitschaft zum Leiden und Sterben der sieben Brüder im Makkabäerbuch leichter verstehen. Aus echter Liebe und Gottesfurcht waren sie bereit, ein langsames und schreckliches Martyrium zu erleiden und auch ihre Mutter war bereit, ihre Kinder aus Furcht vor dem Gesetz Gottes preiszugeben.

Die edlen Gefühle sind Teil von dem, was wir meinen, wenn wir von „echtem Glauben“ sprechen. Es ist tatsächlich so: Wir leben voller Hoffnung aber auch voll Furcht und Zittern vor der Ankunft des Herrn, wenn er am Ende der Zeiten als Richter wiederkommt.

 „Dass aber die Toten auferstehen, hat schon Mose in der Geschichte vom Dornbusch angedeutet, in der er den Herrn den Gott Abrahams, den Gott Ísaaks und den Gott Jakobs nennt. Er ist doch kein Gott von Toten, sondern von Lebenden; denn für ihn leben sie alle.“

Indem wir Gott für das danken, was seine Hände vor hundert Jahren bei der Unabhängigkeit Polens gemacht haben, erneuern wir auch unsern Glauben an unsern Herrn Jesus Christus, der auch heute noch lebendig aktiv ist in der Geschichte. Er liebt uns und am Tag unseres Todes wird er uns die Himmelstüre öffnen, wenn wir ihm treu bleiben. Mit einem leisen Zittern hoffen wir, dass unser Einsatz in dieser Welt von dieser Gottesfurcht getragen sei, die uns vor ihn tragen wird als Freunde Gottes und der Menschen.

 „Betet auch darum, dass wir vor den bösen und schlechten Menschen gerettet werden; denn nicht alle nehmen den Glauben an.“

Praised be Jesus Christ!
Gelobt sei Jesus Christus!
Laudetur Jesus Christus!


Saturday, November 2, 2019

November and Prayer for the Poor Souls

3 November 2019, Bruder Klaus
Wis 11:22—12:2
2 Thes 1:11—2:2
Lk 19:1-10

Praised be Jesus Christ!

        We have just celebrated All Souls Day yesterday and are at the beginning of this month of November in which traditionally we spend extra time, both at home and in church and when possible in a cemetery near us, to pray for those who have gone before us in death. We pray that the Lord show them mercy and purify them of their faults and failings, that He free them of the punishment due for the sins, which they committed in this life. We make this effort for them and for us, that they might know the fullness of joy with Christ in Heaven and that our entrance into God’s Kingdom be not delayed or hampered when our time comes. With that in mind, I think it important to remind ourselves of what the Church teaches concerning death and what comes thereafter. We must be mindful of what we believe as Catholics about our eternal reward or punishment. We need to be mindful of what awaits us at our death, in what the Catechism refers to as the particular judgment.

        If you have a missal of your own or a Magnificat, take time this Sunday to reread that first reading from the Book of Wisdom. It is really very upbeat and should fill us with hope and confidence concerning the love of God for each and every one of us His children.

        “But you spare all things, because they are yours, O Lord and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things! Therefore you rebuke offenders little by little, warn them and remind them of the sins they are committing, that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in you, O Lord!”

        That is our faith in God Who loves us despite our sins and failings and would lead us home forever to Himself.

        Even Luke’s Gospel account of the repentance of the tax collector Zacchaeus should fill us with hope of God’s forgiveness for our many and maybe, yes, grave sins.

        “And Jesus said to him (to Zacchaeus, the man guilty of extorting money from others and abusing his trust as a tax collector), “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”

        What makes that miserable little man from the Gospel, Zacchaeus the tax collector, great? How does he find himself saved before God in Jesus Christ? By openly confessing his sins and making restitution. Zacchaeus resolves to do good with the wealth he has accumulated in office while stealing from others. He promises to give half of all he has to the poor and intends to make amends by paying back four times what he has stolen. 

        Therefore you rebuke offenders little by little, warn them and remind them of the sins they are committing, that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in you, O Lord!”

        In a sense, Jesus did not have to rebuke Zacchaeus. As a son of Abraham, the law of God already condemned him for abuse of office. Jesus did no more than to call him down from the tree and tell Zacchaeus he wanted to spend time at his house that day. I cannot imagine a better illustration of what our passage from the Book of Wisdom is talking about. Jesus-God gave Zacchaeus that little nudge he needed to believe, to abandon his wickedness and to seek reconciliation. That is the way God is with us: no thunderbolts or earthquakes, but a radically respectful little by little to call us to order.

        We need to do the same as Zacchaeus in our lives. We need to repent for our own sake. We, like Christ, need to do as much for others by gently calling them to repentance. Moreover, as the Church teaches, we need to pray and sacrifice for those who can no longer help themselves, who came up somehow short of perfection, for those who have died and gone before us. The month of November is about praying for all of those, who are now part of the Church suffering in Purgatory. We need to intercede on their behalf and to help them make up for what they failed to repair before their passing from this life.

        God does not whitewash, He does not throw a blanket over our imperfection. He calls us to account and calls others to account for us; He purifies us so that in freedom and light we might stand before Him in all His Glory, that on the last day we might see Him face to face and not falter.

Most of us understand that when we have failed others or harmed them, we need to make things good again. On the one hand, I owe this much to the ones whom I have harmed. On the other hand, even for me, just getting off the hook is not enough. I am scarred by my sins, be they great or small. Living in a state of something less than heroic love and radical respect for God and neighbor has consequences that cry out for atonement. This is the sense of the penance the priest gives us in Confession. The priest grants us absolution, he forgives our sins, but there is still temporal punishment due for our sins. My greater or lesser wickedness needs the equivalent of a gesture or act like that undertaken by Zacchaeus to make things truly better again.

Reparation in great part is what penance is all about. This explains the Church’s penitential seasons, especially the season of Lent, marked as it is and should be by fasting and abstinence. This explains the traditional practice of not eating meat on Fridays. This is what almsgiving is all about. This is what praying for the poor souls in Purgatory, especially in the month of November is all about, as well.

Be as generous in your prayers and sacrifices for those who have died as you would have God merciful with you and as you would hope that at your death others would pray and sacrifice, do penance on your behalf. That all might quickly come into the Lord’s Kingdom, O Lord we pray!

Therefore you rebuke offenders little by little, warn them and remind them of the sins they are committing, that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in you, O Lord!”

 Praised be Jesus Christ!