Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Back to the Future?

Father John J. Lombardi

We Americans, priding ourselves to be "modern," are sometimes modernists. In trying to be avant garde or creative we may frequently "throw the baby out with the bath water." Whether updating or recycling an idea, a product or institution, we may sometimes cut traditional links and needed principles to the past, suspecting these precisely because they are "old". This occurs in religious, political, athletic and social situations; "progressivists" are popular and powerful, affecting much of today' society. A recent book with catchy title captures this American thirst and obsession-"The New New Thing ". But, don't we sometimes need to go back to past traditions in order to proceed into the future-this is often the most authentic way of life.

Marriage and the Family

The New York Times recently published an editorial , "It Takes a Wedding," by Alex Kotolowitz, who wrote the widely touted book (in liberalist circles), "There Are No Children Here." Now, it seems, in a way, Kotolowitz has "converted" to a form of tradition (the Latin word means "to pass on,"-as in, St Paul's counsel: "be faithful to the traditions that you were taught by us"-2 Th 2:15); Kotolowitz recognizes the importance of family and married life, especially in blighted cities.

After recent elections he stated Republican proposals for promoting marriage among the poor are now viable, and that what he once considered "nuts" is currently a valid idea: "But there is now growing consensus among social scientists that, all things being equal, two parents are best for children. It would seem to follow that two-parent families are also best for a community. It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes families to build a village. …" He adds: "Even if conservatives don't know how to get there (remedies for he poor), at least they recognize that marriage…has very public consequences. Liberals…need to enter that conversation."

Christians need to defend the family and marriage in today's world; as Catholics believe, the family is the domestic church. This means God uses each family to begin the elements of sanctity and society, the building up of public life and a civilization of love. Without the family-and married life-culture and civilization will be destroyed. In the document Familiaris Consortio, issued on the Solemnity of Christ the King in 1981, Pope John Paul encourages "greater attention to the quality of interdependent relationships in marriage, to its promoting the dignity of women, to responsible procreation, to the education of children.

There is also an awareness of the need for….the ecclesial mission proper to the family and its responsibility for the building of a more just society" (#6)…Notice: contraception, social-welfare programs and money are not the answer-families are! For years many have either neglected or rejected marriage and the family as "old fashioned" or outdated; we're now paying for the consequences of this tragedy. There's a saying: as goes the family, so goes the nation, and so goes the world… "Love the family of believers." -I Pt.2:17.

Meditation: How can I contribute more sacrificially to my family and marital life, and overcome any obstacles?

Dissent and Re-Discovery in the Church

My Dad also showed me this recent story and headline (NYT: 11/16): "Catholic Leadership is Looking to Past, not to Change, as Response to scandal": " 'The revelations of sexual abuse, which are obviously so much against our call to be holy wholesome men, stimulate us to call for all the faithful to consider what it means to lead a holy wholesome life,' said Archbishop James P. Kelleher, of Kansas City, Mo…The vision is for a grand gathering of bishops, theologians, religious women and men and laypeople, as well as Vatican representatives. The meeting, Bishop Vigneron said, would 'reinforce the identity of the priesthood,' emphasizing the commitment to celibacy and chastity and the importance of daily Mass, regular confession, asceticism and simplicity of life.' "

Thankfully and thoughtfully some clerics and laypersons have organized and demonstrate that substantial responses to the current "purification" will deal more with its origins. These include: abuse of moral theology and dissent in spiritual and doctrinal fields; denigration of teachings on human sexuality and homosexuality; loss of the sense of sin and its powerful affects, and the converse need of training all souls for holistic holiness-including teachings on virtues and vices; asceticism and grace; human falleness and dignity, etc. "You should put away your old self corrupted through deceitful desires and be renewed…, and put on the new self, created in God's way of righteousness" (Eph. 4:22).

There are signs of a "spiritually enlightened return to the future," what many theologians in line with Pope John Paul call "retrieval". This means taking the most holy practices from the Church's past, and dynamically updating them to confront present and future challenges. We can see this already occurring thru: an enthusiastic study of the early Fathers of the Church (like St Augustine) in biblical and spiritual fields (converts like Scott Hahn were wowed over by them-so follow suit); by popularization of the fourth-century Egyptian Desert Fathers, and their sagely advice regarding the psyche and self in an anxious, complex world (their "Desert Sayings" are beautifully inspiring); cultivation of devotions like Eucharistic adoration (check nearby churches); spiritual customs like the Rosary (five new mysteries!), and devotion to the saints (like St Therese's relics attracting millions while recently "touring" the world), and the elevation of saintly lay and married persons by the Pope. Sacred tradition is attractive and for everyone.

A return to the spiritual past, however, does not mean: stuffiness, stale and sanguine faces and merely repeating the past. It does mean spiritual enlivenment and great love of our Church and Faith! We obviously see this in contemporary saintly people like Pope John Paul, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and Dorothy Day (of New York-a convert from communism and an abortion to valiant friend of the poor). The splendor of their orthodoxy anchored them, and then propelled them, to serve others in saintly ways. Who would want to reject their "return to the future"?

Briefly Noted

Anger management?

"The popular notion is that rage is an undesirable but completely controllable emotion. As with drug abuse, the theory goes, one can just say no to it; take an anger management course and get a grip. But what many people don't realize is that the human brain comes hard-wired for anger and rage. But just because our brains may be hard-wired for basic emotions like rage, does this mean that we have little or no control over them? In a word, no…(we) can be expected to weather the storm of our emotions without acting on them." (NYT: 11/6). Mother Teresa says It is easier to conquer a nation than to tame the human heart. Begin working now.

Latin Saying of the Week: Exemplum Adsit Ipse Homo: Let the example present the man himself. I.e., your actions-good or bad--really tell just who you are

On Suffering: "I have never been anywhere but sick. In a sense sickness is a pace more instructive than a long trip to Europe, and it's always a place where there's no company, where no body follows. Sickness before death is a very appropriate thing and I think those who don't have it miss one of God's mercies." --- -Flannery O'Connor, writer.

Medjugorje Question: Two pilgrims recently asked, in essence, Are reported apparitions of Medjugorje approved by the Church? A.: No. The Church advises that no one make an "official" (or advertised) pilgrimage there. However, one may make a "private pilgrimage". There have been, over the decades, concerns regarding this alleged apparition. As with all reported private revelations not approved by the Church, prudence is highly encouraged. Fr Benedict Groeschel counsels : "Rule #2: No private revelation comes directly from God and therefore none can be assumed to be inherently true." Think with the Church.

Spiritual Story: I walked in our beautiful Corpus Christi chapel for some silence during Thursday adoration day, with Jesus manifested in the Sacred Host on the altar. Inside was a little boy with a drawing pad, and his Mom, nearby, praying. I admired the sight of holiness and tranquility immediately, and greeted the Lord Jesus for a minute, and then walked out to continue work. The little boy later came running up to me with his pad and showed me his "spiritual results".

The artwork depicted Jesus upon the altar, in the Holy Bread, some nearby candles and other designs. He said, "I did this for you-I'll give it to you when it's done." He then ran back to the chapel to spiritually record and re-embrace the Presence within …Our Faith teaches we can prepare for Heaven now-by being with, and looking at, Jesus in the Eucharist, and training our senses, soul and sensuality to receive and hold Him within.

Our minds intellectually desire fulfillment in the "spiritual food" of holy thoughts and sights. This little boy was manifesting and fulfilling this human and supernatural phenomenon precisely because of his parents' example and Faith. Remember: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…and we have seen His glory," and, "Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world…"(Jn. 1:16, 1:29). Behold Him: teach and witness to your children spiritual en-visioning, and they can become saintly.

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi