Wednesday, March 30, 2016

"I am so tired of you liberal church in America"

Thank you, Mother Angelica!

"For thirty, forty, fifty years I have resisted to the best of my powers the spirit of liberalism in religion." 
(Blessed John Henry Newman, "Biglietto Speech," 1879) 

Twenty five years ago, the Lord Jesus changed my life, when He revealed Himself to me on Good Friday.

I started going to Mass every Sunday after that. I longed for the Eucharist. I remember trying to explain the Eucharist (and failing miserably) to my father, when he asked me why I needed to become Christian, "to join their club," when I could so easily just follow Jesus' teachings, and worship Him, as a Hindu.

A few weeks after that Good Friday, I knocked on the doors of the parish offices, and was ushered in to see the parish priest. He seemed rather flummoxed that a high-caste, upper class, Gujarati Hindu boy would want to become Christian. As reading, he handed me the first volume of "Sacramentum Mundi," a theological anthology by Karl Rahner! (Thankfully, I couldn't make head or tail of it.)

As I expressed my desire to become Christian, I was told that baptism was not necessary. That some lived as "Hindu Catholics." That evangelization meant that the Church wanted everyone to be better in their own religion, not that they become Catholic.

In a parish Scripture study class which I attended during what was (effectively. It didn't exist in actuality as an organized process) my catechumenate year, the Jesuit transitional deacon taught from the texts of the Jesus Seminar, demythologizing and deconstructing left, right and center. I saw the scandal on the face of the old ladies who attended. I remember thinking quite explicitly, "If this sh*t is true, why bother with the Scriptures? Why bother with the Church? With anything?"

Monday, March 28, 2016

On naming the evil we face

As a follow up to the post below, I also want to put on here what I wrote on Facebook the evening that Islamic terror made its presence felt in Brussels. Of course, since then, we've seen the suicide bombing at a soccer match in Iraq, and the gruesome, cruel, godless act of a suicide bomb at a park full of children on Easter Sunday in Lahore.

We cannot discount the religious nature of the threat facing us. Part of it, in the West (and as I've seen on the editorial and op-ed pages of the Indian Express all week, also in that stratum of Indian society most influenced by Western liberalism), is really a distaste for Christianity by the reigning secularist ideology (written after the Charlie Hebdo attacks -- was it just last January?)

It's late here -- I still have to pray my Rosary (which will be for a defeat of Islamic terrorism, and the conversion of the world to Christ) and my thoughts have been with my brother priests in Atlanta (see post below, on the Chrism Mass). I have a bunch of thoughts churning in my head as the horror of Brussels rippled through the world, that will have to wait till another day. However, this much I do want to say:

What we face in the world today is yes, a political ideology that is hate filled. But to assert, as so many do, that this has NOTHING to do with religion is at best naive. It is blind. It is stupid. It may even be culpably, sinful to keep saying that.

Whether this is the "real" Islam or not, this ideology is extremely powerful, vocal, potent, attractive and widely popular in the Islamic world.

No "Muslims" as a category aren't "The Enemy." They are human beings, loved infinitely by God. Christ died for them as much as He did for anyone else. I love Muslims, and I will continue to defend their civil liberties as citizens of our democracies.

However, Islam is not the same as Muslims. Yes, reality is complex. However making FACILE comparisons with other world religions, or asserting that all religious fanaticism is the same, or that, all religions are the same, or that because there are those who kill abortionists, therefore one cannot criticize Islamic terrorism as ISLAMIC, is both false and blind. Dangerously so.

Criticism of Islam is not the same as hatred or bigotry towards Muslims or anyone else. [You won't find me, or any serious Catholic asserting that criticism of Christianity is hatred of Catholics or Christians. It can be, but it isn't always.This distinction is vital. Or, it is not the same thing, to criticize, say the policies of the State of Israel, and be anti-Semitic.]

The sooner we realize this, the sooner we'll be able to actually see what faces our societies and our world. Responding to reality means acknowledging it first, in all its complexity, but without blinders.

Pray for Brussels. Pray for the millions of victims of Islamic terror around the world.

Our Lady of Peace, pray for us!

Tremble hell!

The week before Holy Week, I came across the report of the eyewitness account of Sr. M. Sally, the one Missionary of Charity who escaped the brutal attack in Aden, Yemen, by goons from the so-called Islamic State, on March 4.

Around the same time, we learned of Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil SDB, an Indian Salesian priest who had been abducted in the same attack. Rumors of his supposed crucifixion on Good Friday are circulating, but with no confirmation so far, and little reliable information. On Tuesday of Holy Week came the horrific bombings in Brussels. On Easter Sunday, terrorists bombed a park in Lahore, Pakistan, killing at least 69, mainly children (!), injuring hundreds. 

It seems appropriate to publish here, what I wrote on Facebook after reading Sister M. Sally's account of the martyrdom of heroic nuns in Aden. 

Tremble, Hell! Tremble, enemy of the human race! Your vile machinations may end the life of the body, but you will never win. You rage for all eternity, because you FORSAKE Him who created you! You have lost! Your kingdom has been DESTROYED. Your rule is over! Your reign is embittered, abolished, mocked, purged, bound in chains, for Jesus Christ the Lord has won the victory!*
You may crush the heads of the Lord's servants, but it is your head which is crushed (Gen 3:15)! It is your kingdom which is crushed! You have lost!

Your minions who scurry about killing and sowing fear, thinking they are following God's prophet -- they are following only you who is the deceiver, the father of lies and murderer from the beginning! And they who think paradise awaits them for their savagery, will only find ruin, will only find your fearsome and dark embrace.

You followers of Daesh, repent while you still have time! Turn to Him who is Mercy, whose Face is Mercy! Turn to Him, whom your own writings call Isa Masih and acknowledge Him as your Rabb, your Lord, your God, and beg forgiveness! Acknowledge Jesus, Isa, ibn-allah, the Son of God, for there is no other name given under heaven by which men can be saved! (Acts 4:12) Even you, with your sins like scarlet, can find forgiveness! Even you, mired in the horrific filth of your diabolical violence, we, the People of the Cross, qawm-al-salibi, we pray for you, and we beg the Lord to reveal Himself to you. Submit to Him, and find, lo, not slavery, but freedom, not a terrible master but the face of the loving Father! Repent, turn away, seek baptism, rise to new life!

If the Victorious Lord permitted this horrific cruelty to those called to follow Him in virginal chastity, evangelical poverty and holy obedience, those who live to love the poorest of the poor, it is because in His Providence, He will bring an even greater good out of it, so that, through the courage of those who stand firm, and wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 7:14), many more may turn from their torpor and sins, and find life and forgiveness!

Oh foolish people, who seek to destroy the Bride, whom He died for ... how many have raged against Her down the ages! The blood of the martyrs brings life, because it is His life, His sacrifice, His victory, in them!

O holy martyrs of Yemen, pray for us, the Church militant! May your glorious martyrdom bear abundant fruit!

Please continue to pray for peace in the world, for the defeat of this hideous evil ideology that is Islamism, which underpins global terrorism today, for the conversion of terrorists, the release of Fr. Tom, and the continued spread of the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

I also want to add, as a disclaimer of sorts, what I had also put on my FB page as a comment: "
Ok. I got really impassioned! It is easy to write this on social media. Pray that I -- that any of us -- if we were to face these horrible murderers -- or any such test of faith -- will persevere, and in His mercy and by His grace, be able to give the final witness." 

The litany of verbs in this line is taken from St. John Chrysostom's epic Paschal Homily

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

My evil and His mercy: the annual renewal of priestly commitment at the Chrism Mass

Image courtesy Archdiocese of Atlanta (link to video of last year's Chrism Mass)
In a few hours, the priests of the Archdiocese of Atlanta will gather around their Archbishop and Auxiliary Bishops, and concelebrate the Chrism Mass. Ordinarily celebrated on Holy Thursday, the Mass is quite often held earlier in the week, or even during the previous week, given the geographical size of dioceses, and the need for priests to be at their parishes to prepare for the Sacred Triduum on Holy Thursday itself. At the Mass, the Holy Oils are blessed by the Bishop -- the Oil of Catechumens, the Oil of the Infirm and Sacred Chrism -- which will be used by the priests (and deacons) in their sacramental ministry throughout the coming year. The other central part of the Chrism Mass is the renewal of priestly commitment. The presbyterate of the particular gathers around their Ordinary, and recommits itself to priestly service.

My first Chrism Mass as a priest was on Tuesday of Holy Week in 2014, and it was a very moving and powerful experience. This year, I was cognizant of the fact that I would be away from the Archdiocese. Last week, I had originally scheduled my travel to arrive in Mumbai on Thursday morning, so I could attend the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of Bombay that evening -- most Chrism Masses in India, it seems, are held a week before Holy Thursday.  However, the funeral of Fr. Joseph Michael Peek intervened, and I extended my stay; so I am missing participating in a Chrism Mass this Holy Week.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Consummatum est: Fr. Joseph Peek's funeral Mass

Image courtesy All Saints Catholic Church
Fr. Joseph Peek, priest of Jesus Christ, presbyter of the Church of Atlanta, was laid to rest today in an amazing funeral Mass at All Saints Catholic Church in Dunwoody (where he had resided for the past few years, as his illness progressed).

You can read all about his beautiful life in the obituary:
On March 14, 2016, Father Joe, surrounded by the songs and prayers his parents and siblings, drew his last breath, completed his life on earth, and began his eternal life with Christ. Father Joseph Peek is survived by his parents, Mary and Joseph of Atlanta, his ten siblings, and his thirty-nine nieces and nephews.
Photo courtesy Aileen Barreca on Facebook
 I didn't know Father Joe very well. He was always very solicitous of me as a seminarian (as he was, all of us), and in his online ministry, joined in the occasionally vigorous discussions on my Facebook page. I recall a few years ago when, after an Ordination Mass at the Cathedral, he accompanied me (I think I was a Deacon), and several seminarians, to Finelli's on Peachtree. I've been scouring around for the inevitable photograph that I took, as is my wont ... but no luck. With all the best of intentions, I didn't get to say goodbye in person ... Athens was far away, and in November, I was called away rather suddenly from the Archdiocese for family reasons. I've relished hearing the stories of my brothers who went to visit him and pray with him -- of his prayerfulness, his grace, and his quiet, unassuming embrace of the Cross of his physical suffering. What graces his "yes" to Jesus has won for us over the years! We truly do not realize the benefits we reap from such spiritual giants in our midst -- those who, from a purely secular perspective we would see as a "loss." A loss? An incredible gift that the Lord gave us, and as we were reminded in the homily today, a gift that Fr. Joe offered up so much of that suffering for the sanctification of the priests of the Archdiocese.

Photo courtesy Aileen Barreca, on Facebook.
Today, I joined over a hundred of my brother priests (109, according to a post on Facebook), with our three bishops, with Archbishop Gregory presiding, to celebrate the funeral Mass at All Saints. Nearly 3000 faithful crammed into every corner of the church. It was a beautiful service -- the Holy Mass, which, as Msgr. Marren reminded us, was at the center of Fr. Joseph's life -- renewing again the eternal sacrifice of Calvary. The spirited singing, eloquent and moving homily by Fr. Joe's brother, and brother priest, Fr. Kevin Peek (I just knew he would reference Fr. Paul Scalia's amazing homily at his late father's funeral!), musical tributes, and moving words from Fr. Joe's father, and Msgr. Marren, who welcomed Fr. Joe into his residence at All Saints, and the parish that took care of him in his last journey.

One of the most moving moments for me was when we gathered around the casket outside, just before the hearse bore it away. Fr. Kevin invited all the priests present to come up one by one and bless the casket. We did. And turning to our Mother, a full-throated Salve Regina rose up to the heavens from all the priests gathered.

Thank you Father Joe. Thank you for your "yes." We will pray for you. You knew how much you needed -- and need -- our prayers. But pray for us too, soon I beg the Lord in His mercy, from your mansion in heaven, for all of us, but especially your brother priests on the Archdiocese, to whom, the Lord in such a special way, offered as a gift, a holy and living sacrifice.

Thank you Lord Jesus for your priesthood, and that priesthood lived so beautifully in the life of Fr. Joseph Michael Peek.

A couple of links:

Fr. Peek's obituary.

A blog with details of the last stages of Fr. Peek's life, as well as links to videos and photos.

Photo courtesy Aileen Barreca on Facebook

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Mission Haiti

On Saturday, I am accompanying thirteen young adults from the Athens area (all students at UGA and several, parishioners at St. Joseph parish) on a Spring Break Mission trip to the St. John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization in the Diocese of Miragoane, Haiti, run by LifeTeen.

In my experience, LifeTeen is one of the few places in the Church in the United States which provides serious formation for young adults to grow in their faith, and their commitment to Christ. I've gotten to meet and hang out with several of their full-time and part-time missionaries on my various visits to Camp Covecrest near Tiger, GA, accompanying our youth group, or being invited to hear Confessions from different parish groups from the around the Archdiocese.

The missionaries are all committed disciples, i.e. at some point Jesus Christ became a real person who mattered in their life, and they're giving of their time, of themselves, to help youth and teens encounter Christ in a new way, and follow Him in His Church. All the one I've met have a contagious, infection joy, which is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, and an inspiring generosity of spirit.

I've also had the privilege of knowing three guys in my parish whose faith has deepened tremendously by serving as LT missionaries. One is currently a full-time missionary -- if you feel moved, check out his page, and drop him a line, some prayers, and a few bucks!

Last year, one of these guys returned from a spring break trip to Haiti, on fire. He asked if I'd be open to coming along on a future trip. I agreed readily, and here we are.  [In God's mercy, my mother's health has much improved, and even though I'm on leave from active ministry to spend time with her, it's worked out for me to go to Haiti with this group!]

Check out this little bit from a blog by one of the missionaries in Haiti.
Me “When you pray, what do you ask God for?” 
Ti-Malen: “To be able to find food every day.” 
I know enough about Ti-Malen’s life to know that she doesn’t eat every day. That was what prompted me to ask the next question. 
Me: “So if God doesn’t give you food that day, does that mean He doesn’t love you?”? 
Ti-Malen: “No, He loves me a lot. He just wants me to make a sacrifice for Him.”
Wow. Read the rest!

Here's a promotional video about the apostolate in Haiti.

So, pray for us please as we journey to Haiti, and seek to be instruments of the Lord's mercy, and to experience His mercy!