Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Theological Thoughts on ...

Father John J. Lombardi

While talking the other day with some seminarians from Philadelphia, I asked them, somewhat jokingly, Which of the two Super Bowl teams can we Catholics pray for--the Buccaneers or the Raiders?-both teams named for marauders and neither are angels! After a brief theological silence, I suggested we pray for "the lesser of two evils" (whichever team that was; I learned this moral theology in seminary--the training paid off). By their looks and laugh, I believe they thought my theology was malformed, and, seemingly taking the heat off me, one of the guys rapidly responded, "We should pray for their conversion". We all laughed.

This Sunday approximately 130 million people will watch the Super Bowl. I'm a football fan since way long ago, inspired from times like when our community football team was invited to watch game highlights at the then-head coach of the Baltimore Colt's, Don Shula's house. All us boys had a great time: out for a night of fun in a seeming "football heaven," there was only boyish joy, dramatic stories from "the coach," food and drink, and nothing to worry about. This tribe of lads was blessed with some appropriate "guy-maturing innocence".

Today , however, when watching football, you do have to worry. Last week while watching the playoffs with some seminarians , I was shocked by the lewd depiction of women, particularly in the beer commercials. They actually seemed semi-pornographic (ditto for many other non-beer commercials): women paid to bare their bodies as if they were sexual magnets to allure men to an entrapping hedonism which the product promised. Were they selling beer or flesh? (Read Daniel ch. 13 on lust: "But those wicked men (trying to rape Susanna) ordered her to uncover her face so as to sate themselves with her beauty."-v.32.-Are we no different today?).

In response to these offenses, one seminarian said: "It's hard to be celibate."…today, can't we just watch a football game and have a legitimate, good time-like when we were kids? The next day while talking to another guy familiar with this terrifying terrain, he said the beer companies and many advertisers are saying to men, basically, "Be an animal." They do this by appealing to our base instincts, our lower appetites. Animals have no free will and live only according to, and manipulated by, their passions, while man has reason and discipline-most of the time. But, in a fallen world, when people sexually toxify the passions, some people can go "sensually ballistic". Let's face it: in the last few decades there has been an incremental and incendiary decadence promoted in our media and world, affecting our culture and our very souls --and many have grown to accept it. And when this seductive lifestyle of sensuality is accepted, darkness extends: "So flesh and blood desire evil" (Sir. 17:31).

In today's so-called modern America we need prophets to allure us to the truth of God's beauty and the dignity of all mankind, and to alarmingly state that this modern sensualism is destructive and denigrating, not only to us, but to an entire world now railing against our carnally-exported exploits. Isn't it ironic?: since the 1960's with so-called "liberation" and "feminism," and with the "information-explosion," women should be more "freed" and "liberated," but instead, they seem as much denigrated by more commercials skewering their integrity, and more channels, more web sites offering pornography, and more cable companies de-effeminizing them into lustful objects. How sad. The Bible says (and prophesies): "Beauty has seduced you, lust has subverted your conscience" (Dn.13:56). Like a sensual drug offered to a potential, and actual, addict, sensualism is a new weapon of Savage Capitalism (the Pope uses this phrase). The devastation continues and, with the Super Bowl, it is going prime time; no one is exempt.


Don't be a victim. I just met a businesswoman who has four children and no TV, and all the neighborhood kids gather at their house because of the creativity and imagination engendered in the non-toxic environment…If and when you watch TV--Watch out what you watch. Some friends have trained their kids, when to avoid something when watching TV, saying "Eyes closed," and all the kids immediately obey, knowing the bad images won't lock within their souls as when light imprints upon the film in a camera: so should you.

Watch less TV; spend less time browsing on the computer.; be more selective in your viewing habits; guide your children amidst these media; place holy cards near them to remind you of true beauty and Heaven; read and converse more. You don't have to buy those products which manipulate women, or which are offensive. or, better yet, write the owners of the offensive companies; they've gotten out of hand…"Chastity means the integration of sexuality within the person. It includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery." (Catechism: # 2395.) And remember: "Be not conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewal of your spirit" (Rm. 12:2).

Briefly Noted


Think about the following thoughts, pray over them. St Augustine said: "God is closer to me than I am to myself."…and, "The eyes with which I see God is the same eye with which He sees me."(Anonymous)…Our Lord said: "Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God" (Mt. 5:8)…Be clean and pure-within.

Wake up!

There's a little-known book called, "The War Against Sleep," by the Russian philosopher G. I Gurdjief .The title is precious-and prescient (which means knowing things before they occur; from- pre-before; scient = knowledge) . We may apply Gurjieff's aptly titled book to today's culture and world. Why? Because some people are trying to clone human beings while others are trying to kill them, and six new candidates for the presidency are applauded at an abortion rights dinner.

Our Church and priesthood is in need of reform and it seems few can talk about the roots of the problems…Youngsters are murdering innocent persons over drugs , as when the seven-member Dawson Family, including five children, of Baltimore, were murdered by firebomb in late 2002, by a drug dealer…Others want to take the phrase "one nation under God" out of our Pledge and banish religious activities from public life. And sometimes, it seems, no one cares. Call it compassion fatigue? We need inspired and instigating psalmists to guide us: "Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior" (Ps. 25:5)

Pope John Paul said recently we are engendering a kind of "anesthetization of conscience." Translation (I think): we are numbing ourselves into couch potato oblivion by "looking the other way" in some moral and metaphysical issues, while others attempt to gain on this blaséness by de-sacralizing our country and even our Church. And relativism (which says there are no absolutes) coerces many to consider pre-marital sex, cohabitation, as if they are natural and God-given rights. And many have come to accept it.

Remember the book entitled; "The Death of Outrage" (by William Bennet)? The prophet Jeremiah chastises the lukewarm Israelites, who say, "'Peace, peace,' when there is no peace" (6:14). Peace means the right and just ordering of parts according to God and His plan. (The Hebrew word Shahlom means wholeness). How can we have peace when the Lord God and His ways are mocked?

Response: Recently I saw Deacon Jamie, from Mt. St. Mary's Seminary (who survived a death squad "visit" upon his home in Central America, while praying the Rosary), and he said after the Pro-Life march that he encouraged others not to become indifferent to God's Way by growing falsely comfortable in this country-especially to abortion and unborn life. The prophets of Israel did the same. God gave to Ezekiel this message of hope: "The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal, sheepherding them rightly" (34:16)..

Spiritual Truth:

Benedictines are masters at meditation. Progress in devotion by practicing this spiritual discipline with the quote below, by: 1) Reading-the text prayerfully, slowly; 2)Reflecting on it within your heart and soul; 3)Responding: changing your thoughts, words, deeds from the benefits gained. Selection from "The Book of Supreme Truth," by Blessed Jan van Ruysbroeck: "There, their bare understanding is drenched through by the Eternal Brightness, even as the air is drenched through by sunshine. And the bare, uplifted will is transformed and drenched through by abysmal love, even as iron is by fire. And the bare, uplifted memory feels itself enwrapped and established in an abysmal Absence of Image. And thereby the created image is united above reason in a threefold way with its Eternal Image, which is the origin of its being and its life; and this origin is preserved and possessed essentially and eternally, through a simple seeing in the imageless void; and so a man is lifted up above reason in a threefold manner into the Unity, and in a one fold manner into the Trinity.

Yet the creature does not become God, for the union takes place in God and through grace and our homeward turning love; and therefore the creature in its inward contemplation feels a distinction and otherness between itself and God… There (in this union) all is full and overflowing, for the spirit feels itself to be one truth and one richness and one unity with God. Yet even here there is an essential tending forward, and therein is an essential distinction between the being of the soul and the Being of God; and this is the highest and finest distinction which we are able to feel."

Response: When will I spend more time in silent adoration with God? How shall I persevere thru distractions to be united to God?....Rest in Him,alone.

Mass and Holy Communion:

A priest recently told me of how he witnessed another Catholic priest, at an Episcopal wedding service, concelebrating at the altar (vested and saying prayers) with the Anglican minister. My priest- friend, though upset at this public error, was also charitable: he spoke the truth in love (Eph. 4:15) But-, Why is this practice not allowed? Because the Catholic Church, respectfully put, does not recognize the validity of Episcopal ordinations; and the Catholic priest allegedly "concelebrating" in an altar outside the Catholic Unity may confuse people-both Episcopalians and Catholics-- into falsely implying that we are similar religions, and that we can receive each other's Eucharist. (Full disclosure: I once believed and practiced, these false things: however, God is merciful and enlightening!)

A Catholic should not receive at an Episcopal service and vica versa. To receive the Holy Eucharist, a person must believe in all the Catholic Church teaches and also in the Real (not merely symbolic) Presence of Jesus, substantially in the sacred Host. The Church, since ancient times, has always believed in these ways of identifying with Jesus and His Catholic Church, and she encourages all men and women to these truths, and also to the profound invitation of the Lord Jesus Himself "He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood will abide in Me and I in him" (Jn. 6:56).

So, Catholics: receive in a state of grace-make a trusting confession to Jesus and His church so you can be "spiritually fresh" to welcome Him within; do not leave any small or large sin unconfessed-"be perfect" (Mt. 5:48). And Protestants: you are invited to the Eucharist thru study, preparation and initiation into the Catholic Faith. Scott Hahn was a Protestant minister who strongly disliked Catholic biblical interpretations, and now , after years of study and inspiration, and his confirmation into the Church, he loves it and the Eucharist. Non-Catholic persons are invited to Masses, for sure, and even to receive a blessing by the priest when others receive Holy Communion-keep coming back, and then come to the fullness of Eucharist!

"Conversation with God"-- by the new age-ish author Neil Walsh (they have previously been on the New York Times Bestseller list for months). should be carefully approached. These books show two things: 1) that our country has a spiritual appetite big time (sometimes blind and naïve); and 2) how neo-packaged books can attract millions even while promoting or protecting (as in the present case) homosexualism, cohabitation and denial of sin and forgiveness. Caveat emptor: (Spiritual) buyer, beware.

Also be aware/wary of "A Course In Miracles." Fr Benedict Groeschel knew the "authors" of this enormously popular, new-age book, when it was allegedly "channeled." After personally seeing many flaws in "The Course," and in the authors and the "spirituality," (esp. since it denies Jesus' uniqueness, divinity, and atonement), he writes: "I pray that he (a friend) and other followers of the Course will listen to the word of God and to the Church which Christ has given to us to be our objective guide in this confusing world." (Emphasis mine; from: "A Still Small Voice"). Be prudent and spiritually informed regarding these books and alleged private revelations. Fr. Groeschel's book is immensely helpful and recommended.

Think about it! The Catholic priesthood may not be so bad!A recent letter to an editor, in response to a priest's suggestion that the current clerical crisis is a result of outdated male, celibate authority, rebutted, in effect: Hey, wait a minute! This same structure helped save poor, sick and dying persons-in Europe, the New World, in ghettoes and other places for two-thousand years…Amen!).

University of Mysticism? The Order of Discalced Carmelites is planning to open a university for the study of mysticism in Avila, Spain, town of Saints Teresa and John of the Cross. We need this: our Catholic heritage, based upon the bible and Sacred Tradition is a beautifully rich, deep and diverse collection of spiritual liberation and helps. it's right under your spiritual nose.

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi