Articles by Fr. Alfonse

Fatherly Advice

Lk 21:12-19 Compromising With Evil

Lk 21:12-19 Compromising With Evil
By Benedict Augustine
You will even be handed over by parents,
brothers, relatives, and friends,
and they will put some of you to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.
By your perseverance you will secure your lives.
Perhaps the second most moving and tragic movie after The Passion of the Christ is The Mission, starring Jeremy Irons and Robert De NiroBased on a true story, it takes place in 1750 in the jungles South America, where the Jesuits heroically convert natives to the gospel and spare them indignity of the still widespread slave trade. This earns them the condemnation of both Spanish and Portuguese colonists who see their missions and successful attempts at evangelization as an obstacle to their business. As a response, the colonists threaten to remove by force the Jesuits in South America as well as those in Europeas some other countries had done.  
The film centers on the testimony of a papal legate who is sent to review the situation in the New World, and subsequently inform the Jesuits to discontinue their missionary work. While at first this task does not seem to bother him too much, it become progressively more onerous when he realizes that this decision will effectively condemn whole populations of converted Catholics to slavery or death and enrich horrible godless men who commit crimes against humanity. 
The protagonist, a Jesuit who had successfully won over a recalcitrant tribe in the jungle, the Guarani, must deal with an impossible order: disband the mission and tell the natives to return to the jungles from which they came. The courage and resolution that this character shows in the face of such injustice and hypocrisy is nothing short of Christ-like. Never before had I felt such an urge to join an order and preach to the poor, such was the power of this character.
The drama of the Roman persecution at the time of Christ and the first apostles, the drama of Jews suffering under the Babylonians at the time of Daniel, the drama of the American martyrs during the time of colonization, continue to happen. The cruel and powerful subject the faithful to all sorts of abuse and injustice. They may do it in very obvious ways as in Africa or the Middle East, or they may do it much more subtle ways as in the West. 
In the past, many ostensibly good people sought to compromise with evil for the sake of self-preservation. Unlike the stalwart prophet Daniel and his friends, many of the Israelites mixed in with Babylonian population and forgot that they lived in exile. Unlike Jesus’ disciples, many Christians in the early Church compromised with the enemy, either forming more palatable but less true versions of Christianity (i.e. heresies) or apostatizing altogether. The Catholic Church made many deals with European monarchs to hedge in their missionary efforts, turn a blind eye to political corruption, and abandon their faithful at critical moments. Before Protestants take this as sufficient proof of their superiority, they should keep in mind that Luther’s break from the Church unleashed religious wars that would tear apart Christendom and quickly set the stage for the complete secularization of politics and community life. 
In current times, many people inside and outside the Church hope to continue this tradition of compromise. They discourage rules that might conflict with the hedonistic and selfish lifestyle pursued by so many today. They choose to vaunt the spoiled and perverse as victims of fabricated crimes, instead of the innocent who suffer actual crimes and die violent deaths by the thousands. They ask the more zealous to lay down their faith, vacate the premise, and simply live and let live, and then proceed to invite the lukewarm to take their place and take pride in their lack of conviction
Like the legate in The Mission, many well-meaning people will tell persecuted Catholics abroad to disperse and find refuge somewhere else—as though that were somehow possible. From the safety and comfort of their homes, they will urge nonviolence and continue enabling horrible men to wreak havoc. Hoping not to ruffle any feathers, both political and religious leaders say little and try to change the subject.
Fortunately for these neglected populations, God does not compromise or seek to change the subject. He notes the compromises, the selfishness, the sacrilege; and He will let these societies and individuals fall under their own weight. Like Babylon, like Rome, like the kingdoms of Spain and Portugal, the powers today will come to an end. Despite the optimistic projections of the news, one can observe the social decline already taking place. The faithful have a choice now to repent and take care to help others; the faithless have already forfeited repentance and will convince themselvesthat decline is somehow progress
The situation is not hopeless, but it does require conscious action on the part of Catholics. They may falter now, or they may persevere. If they can do the latter, then as Christ says, they will secure their lives while the powers around them fall away.
Fatherly Advice

1 Mc 6:1-13 Solidarity Through Our Blessed Mother

Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
So he called in all his Friends and said to them: “Sleep has departed from my eyes, for my heart is sinking with anxiety. I said to myself: ‘Into what tribulation have I come, and in what floods of sorrow am I now! Yet I was kindly and beloved in my rule.’ But I now recall the evils I did in Jerusalem, when I carried away all the vessels of gold and silver that were in it, and for no cause gave orders that the inhabitants of Judah be destroyed. I know that this is why these evils have overtaken me; and now I am dying, in bitter grief, in a foreign land.”
The Seasonal Blues    My body whines in discomfort as my mind oozes with sadness and anxiety.  This time of the year begins three long months of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).  The lack of sunlight, colder days and seasonal allergy symptoms leave me tired and irritable.  I feel like Scrooge with “Blah Humbug” as my middle name.  I ask Our Lord the same three letter word every year  – WHY?  Why do I feel so dreadful?  Why do I have difficulty getting into the holiday spirits?  Why do I dwell on all the wrong in my life instead of  the good?  Why is prayer and meditation such a greater challenge?   Sometimes I wonder if life as a bear would be better.  Then I can hibernate during the dreary months of  November thru February…   
One thing for certain is I always turn to Our Blessed Mother during these tough months.  She gives me encouragement when I rather mope around, depressed and isolated from others.
The Presentation of Our Blessed Mother  Today, the church celebrates the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Although not mentioned in the New Testament, the story is found in the apocryphal book Protoevangelium of James.  Grateful for a child after years of infertility, Anne and Joachim wished to consecrate Mary to God. Tradition states that at the age of 3 years Anne and Joachim presented Mary at the Jerusalem temple where she remained with other young girls, educated in the Jewish faith.  
In Solidarity   When I feel depressed, the last thing I want to see or hear is bad news from the media.  So, when terrorists attacked Paris, killing 129 people including an American, I mourned like the rest of the world.  I imagined Our Blessed Mother wrapping the entire country of France in her arms with tears streaming down her cheeks.  When her children hurt, she hurts.  When violence strikes, Our Blessed Mother protects.  When life is full of despair and sadness, Mary comforts us in special way only a loving mother knows. 

“Oh Mother of God, some may rejoice in their innocence, others may be glad of their plentiful merits, let others exult in God’s mercy shown to them without intermediaries; but you, my Mother, you are the only hope and solace of my life.  When I completely despair of God and of myself, thinking of you, recalling you, my spirit comes alive again, as if out of the deepest darkness.  You are my glorying, my well-being, my honor, and my life.”  – Blessed Henry Suso

This meditation was written by Jennifer Burgin.  Please follow her blog:  Jennifer’s Spectrum of Spirituality
Fatherly Advice

2 Mc 7:1, 20-31 Nothing Is More Offensive Than Truth

It is difficult to contain one’s admiration for the martyrs in Maccabees. They must endure the destruction of their religion and customs by the “culturally superior” Hellenistic Greeks. In a move of brilliant propaganda—an art form that the Greeks perfected along with many others—these occupiersinstalled gymnasiums to lure the respectable Jews away from their Hebrew way of life. These school/athletic centers replaced the temple and synagogues as the community center, and in a close-knit community like those of the Jews, this had huge implications. Instead of prayer, fasting, and reading the Torah to build up their souls, the HellenizedJews would build up their bodies and connections with influential people. 
This is the way cultural upheaval starts. Then comes the persecution.
Of course, one might wonder why a culture that has obviously won the war of ideas would resort to torturing the few kooks left behind. Shouldn’t the acceptance of every class, from rich to poor, of every major ethnic group, from Greek to Scythian, suffice as proof that the better customs, values, and religion prevailed? What does it matter that a few Jews refused to eat pork?
Consider what Antiochus did the first six brothers as punishment for not eating pork and what he offered the seventh as a reward for eating pork. This obviously bothered him deeply. And if the youngest son accepted? Would this make any difference for this King? Hardly, he would just seek other easy victims to torture and kill. But why?
Because those who without the truth are deeply insecure. They believe what they believe not because something is true, but because it is easy. This creates huge doubts about truth and meaningaltogether. Catholics take this for granted, but they shouldn’t because this problem plagues the majority of people today. The propaganda that comes from this situation might work to subdue newly conquered peoples, but it also works to reassure the occupiers that their falsehoods are true. 
Except that it isn’t true. The existence of saints willing to die for the truth only reinforces this nasty fact of life. The Maccabees enjoyed something Antiochus and countless other Greeks could never enjoy. That had a real religion based on a real God who did real things. They had a hope in something eternal and wonderful. Antiochus, for all his riches and political power, had only lies. 
Although he doesn’t intend it, the man who possesses the truth makes the person who possesses a lie extremely angry. His very life shines light on the nothingness of the other person. The true man may not even notice that he has disturbed the false man to the core of his being, and this makes things all the worse. His presence completely ruins the false man’s narrative that there is no truth and nothing worth living or dying for. The true man simply asserts that God is, and those who have turned their backs have failed miserably. 
And this insecurity, this resentment, this obsessive rage will recur again and again. It led to the Romans persecuting harmless Christians for centuries, many of whom served in important positions and paid taxes. It led King Henry VIII to kill his most trusted and competent minister Thomas More for not consenting to his wedding. It led to the French Revolutionaries killing innocent priests and religious who served the poor that they were supposedly trying to liberate. Did the Romans, King Henry, or the French have bigger enemies? Yes, much more threatening ones, yet they felt scared by the ones who lived in peace. 
It is the same with militant atheists, fanatical Muslims, and obsessive modernists today. These groups can stand anything but the truth. They can explain away every evil, and indeed brag about their tolerance, but they have nothing with which to overcome the good man or woman with faith in the true God. Sharia law can be declared, churches completely vacated and turned into tourist shops, and all the families be utterly dissolved—all this would mean little, if one little yokel in Nebraska attended a Latin Mass. Antiochus could host the greatest barbeque in the kingdom serving every pork product, feeding millions of hungry people, and making a name for himself as the best leader in the ancient world—but a family of pious Jews would ruin this by simply staying home.
The persecution will come even after the “culture wars” end, because falsehood will never make a person secure. Those still holding hope in God should continue to do so. No matter how crazy or “extreme” they may be, they have something infinitely greater than the masses, and deep in their heart of hearts, their enemies know it.
Fatherly Advice

Lk 18:1-8 Render Justice

Saturday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. He said, “There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being. And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, ‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’ For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, ‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.’”
Monday’s Nocturnal Distress    Peacefully asleep in my bed, I suddenly woke up feeling lightheaded and clammy all over.  I recognized the signs of an approaching fainting spell, so I began deep yoga breathing as I removed my bed covers and nightshirt.  I reached over for a glass of water, placed on the nightstand, but found it empty.  Soon I passed out…..
I found myself lying on the carpet unable to open my eyes or move my hands and legs.  Ringing filled my ears. I do not know how long I was unconscious.  Maybe only a few minutes or as much as an hour. The inside of my mouth was filled with ulcers.  My nose bled non-stop and the right side of my head screamed in pain.  I noticed a scrape on my left knee, the result of a carpet burn.
What caused me to faint?  How did I fall off the bed like this? Then I remembered the new medication I took earlier in the evening. I succumbed to its serious side effects…
The next day I stayed home from work while I nursed bruises around my eye, nose, and chin.  I searched Google for info on the malicious Rx.  Turns out the drug dangerously lowers the body’s sodium levels which causes lower blood pressure, fainting and a laundry list of other adverse effects.  Evidently, the drug company was sued by the FDA five years ago for improperly marketing the drug.  The drug company had to pay millions in fines.
When I filled the prescription, the pharmacist seemed to be especially concerned about making sure I was aware of the potential side effects. I blew him off thinking I’d be okay.  Boy, I should have heed the warning!
I felt like I came close to death experiencing this nocturnal distress.
Domestic Distress   Thank the Lord I did not seriously injure myself from the fainting spell. However, many women and children who are regularly abused are not so fortunate.  They live in daily fear not knowing when the next yell, slap, or punch will strike next. Their physical distress is endless.  A battered wife may think to herself:

What is wrong with me?  Why does he punch when he gets liquored up?  Why does he slap me around when he’s mad at someone else?  I do not know where to go or where to turn to!  The  make-up may cover up the bruises on the outside but I’m bleeding on the inside –so much pain and hopelessness. Will I ever get away from the violence?  What about the safety of my children?  Dear God, please help me!

Like the battered wife, the widow in today’s gospel reading felt the sting of the adversary’s abuse. We are not sure what her problem was.  Did a land owner treat her unfairly?  Was she being forced into slavery of some sort?  Did some how she get cheated out of her property?  All we know is that she was fed up with the judge’s inaction. She demanded justice, a resolution of some sort.  Her hounding and pleading bothered the judge so much that he gave in and granted her request.  How come he was so scared that she would strike him?  I can’t help but think of the judge as a cranky old wimp too unmanly to deal with a strong, resilient woman.  The widow had enough of the injustice!  She remained persistent and eventually got what she asked for.

Render Justice   Remember these words:  Pray always without becoming weary!  When bad things happen to us, lift them up to the Lord.  Seek help when things seem hopeless.  Get away from a dangerous situation however difficult it may be.  Be resilient and strong when life whips us around in the most unexpected ways.  Remember that God does not wish for any of his children to be abused and neglected.  Do not give up on justice!  Sometimes we think those who hurt us will never get punished.  However, God has an amazing way of handling people and situations.  We just need to remain faithful and trust in his Holy Will.
“Peace is not the product of terror or fear. Peace is not the silence of cemeteries. Peace is not the silent result of violent repression. Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all. Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity. It is right and it is duty.”

-Blessed Oscar Romero
This meditation was written by Jennifer Burgin.  Please visit her blog:  Jennifer’s Spectrum of Spirituality
Fatherly Advice

Wis 6:1-11 Politics and Religion

Wis 6:1-11 Politics and Religion
By Benedict Augustine
To you, therefore, O princes, are my words addressed
that you may learn wisdom and that you may not sin.
For those who keep the holy precepts hallowed shall be found holy,
and those learned in them will have ready a response.
Desire therefore my words;
long for them and you shall be instructed.
For generations, conventional wisdom has dictated clearly and persuasively that one should steer clear of any conversation about politics and religion. Ironically, this is because people take their politics and religion more seriously than they do themselves. People will grow intensely uncomfortable when interrogated by a skeptic who has likely judged them as superstitious bigots, but they will feel perfectly at ease discussing their bowel movements and exercise routines. A Conservative will grit his teeth when he hears the idealistic plans of a Liberal who sees nothing wrong with expanding government, but he will happily hear complaints and gossip about close friends and colleagues. 
Perhaps following this advice has avoided some serious confrontations and preserved a few friendships, but one thing is much more certain: the less people talk about politics and religion, the less they think about it. All factions, both political and religious, like to think that they gain more converts with every new generation and every new cultural development, but the polls and surveys reveal something far more apparent. Rather than leaning one way or another, more and more people simply choose to not to lean at all.
As the world becomes less religious, it also becomes less political. Adults like to think that today’s children represent the future leaders of tomorrow while their children already assume they are the future’s followers. They hardly bother thinking about leadership: they don’t care to be inventors, entrepreneurs, elected officials, or great artists; they want to be high-paid employees in a respectable profession, presumably after a decade-long stint in higher education. They do not think about creating a new world, but simply doing okay in the old one.
As for the fate of politics and religion, young people leave that to older people, and most older people then leave that to the experts and enthusiasts. What results is a political and religious scene that looks increasingly polarized, but is in fact a scene of religious and political indifference. While devout Catholics wring their hands about the latest Synod and pray the rosary at Adoration, the vast majority of tepid Catholics can hardly bother themselves with understanding the argument. While political junkies fervidly debate the merits and drawbacks of a potential government shutdown, the vast majority of Americans will struggle to know what exactly the government does.
Obviously, this has serious implications for the fate of the country and the Church. A growing number of people fail to see the relevance of the two biggest institutions that affect their very wellbeing. A great country and an even greater church will decline at the very time people need them most. The West is plagued with vicious spiritual dangers, and the East is plagued with physical dangers. All the while, people tune it out and play on their iPhones avoiding confrontation (or even simple contact) as best they can—as though forgetting a problem will make it go away.
Less obviously, but far more importantly, increased disengagement from politics and religion carry severe consequences for people’s personal freedom and responsibility. A person who shuts his mind off from important things leaves only his emotions to guide him, and when emotions take over, personal autonomy quickly dissipates. They will suffer from addictions, debauchery, ignorance, poverty, and every other evil. An indifference to outer structures of authority will translate to an indifference to the inner structures of authority as well. 
When the writer of Wisdom gives his advice to princes, he means all the faithful, for God has made all His children into royalty. Their bodies are temples; their souls are kingdoms. When they ignore religion for the sake of propriety, they ignore the leadership they must exercise over their hearts, and when they ignore politics for the sake courtesy, they ignore the leadership that they must execute over their minds and appetites. 
As Socrates explains—though people continually ignore this—in the Republic, government presents a useful analogy to understand the individual. And as many books in the Bible will attest, the Church too presents a useful analogy—that again, people ignore—of the whole spiritual and physical cosmos. Politics and religion are not the evils that people make them out to be; they are the goods that help people understand the world and themselves
Fatherly Advice

Lk 16:9-15 An Arrow Through the Heart

Saturday of the Thirty-First Week in Ordinary Time

(Click Here for Readings)

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all these things and sneered at him. And he said to them, “You justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts; for what is of human esteem is an abomination in the sight of God.”

My freshman year of college I registered for an Intro to Archery class.  I thought:  What a cool opportunity to learn one of the oldest methods of hunting and defense.  Maybe I can “Wow” a Handsome “Bo” with my bow and arrow skills! 

Unfortunately, my inner romanticism clouded my judgment. I believed the archery class would be easy “A”, but it turned out painfully difficult.  Each class left me with bruised arms, callused hands, and sore shoulders. I hit areas of my body more than the target itself!  Mid-point through the semester the instructor noticed my struggles.  She began working with me one-on-one and determined that I am left-eye dominant. Simply wearing an eye patch helped better aim the  arrows toward the bullseye.  Eventually I hit the target consistently and stopped bruising my arms.  I felt like Miss One-Eyed Robin Hood but without Little John or Friar Tuck.

I never picked up a bow and arrow ever again after I barely passed that archery class….

God knows our hearts.  He knows what we think, how we feel, and why we do what we do. We may think he doesn’t notice our struggles.  We may curse him when we believe our lives are going nowhere.  The bow is broken and the arrows are used up.  We’ve shot an arrow here, there and everywhere  but out of reach of a target.  Do we even realize God’s love is the target of choice? Why do we shoot off  arrows of fear, insecurity, rage and jealousy in all directions possibly wounding ourselves and others? 

We shoot an arrow into a pot of fool’s gold only to discover riches do not buy happiness.  We knock over a whiskey or prescription pill bottle with arrows thinking we can drink away the pain.  We waste arrows promoting sexual indecency all in the name of personal freedom.

Why use the bow and arrow in sinful ways?  Hand the archery equipment over to God and trust in him.  He will not let us down.  In fact, through our faith he will pierce our own hearts with  arrows of unconditional love.   To God, we are his precious targets.  He hunts us down not to destroy us but  bring us the comfort, support, and wisdom that we all so desperately need! Our ultimate target is to get to heaven someday.  Why not let Our Lord, the perfect marksman, lead us on the right path?!

“Father-like he tends and spares us;
Well our feeble frame he knows;
In his hand he gently bears us,
Rescues us from all our foes.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Widely yet his mercy flows.”

-Divine Office Saturday Morning Prayer Hymn

This meditation was written by Jennifer Burgin.  Please visit her blog Jennifer’s Spectrum of Spirituality

Fatherly Advice

Lk 14:25-33 Heavenly Hatred

Wednesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)


“’If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, 
wife and children, brothers and sisters,
and even his own life,
he cannot be my disciple.
Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me
cannot be my disciple.’”
In explaining the demands of discipleship, Jesus minces no words and makes no attempt to comfort his audience: the Christian disciple must live a life of total sacrifice, period. Nothing can precede service to Him, not family loyalty, not friendship, not financial success, nor even caring for oneself. In themselves, these parts of life, which happen to act as the fundamental bonds of society, mean absolutely nothing.
Few people, Christian and non-Christian alike, take the time to ponder this reality and consider the repercussions. Those who do will often deflect the real meaning of Jesus’ words and claim that Jesus simply tried to make a point by exaggerating what people would have to give up. He preached love, not hate, and He would not contradict Himself by asking his followers to show their love by hating their parents, or their fortunes, or themselves. He simply uses the word “hate” to stress how faith in Him should overarch all other priorities in life.
Although appealing to mild mannered bourgeois Christian, this interpretation utterly misrepresents Jesus’s message. Unlike the superlatively rational moralists of his day, Jesus never bothers to prescribe a good balanced life with a solid set of virtues and a proper liberal arts education. He actively deplores respectability and comfort; instead, he has a very radical message: one must not simply “order his loves,” he must love the Holy Trinity and hate everything else. 
On the surface, the logic of this seems to make little sense,particularly if one thoughtlessly demonizes the word “hate,” which most people tend to do. But hate does not have to equate to evil, nor does it even have to contradict love. Most people imagine hatred manifesting itself in some angry person shouting vitriol at another and threatening some kind of abuse and maybe inflicting it, but this is inaccurate—in fact, this is what people in love do, not people who hate one another. 
In reality, hatred implies a total absence of feeling, a cold calculated disregard for another. Robert Frost captures this in his poem “Fire and Ice” when he equates fire with desire, and ice with hatred. This kind of hatred is seen in the coldness of abortionists, human traffickers, terrorists, corrupt dictators, and the common masses who ignore them. They do not feel for the other, but completely de-spiritualize their victim (and themselves) to carry out or ignore their atrocities. 
Nevertheless, this hatred can also be seen in the early Christian who turns his back on the world. When they hated sins of the flesh and of the spirit, this means they felt nothing in regards to them. They rightly de-spiritualized these activities because these activities would de-spiritualize them. Therefore, one who hates sin does grow excited about it, but rather the opposite. Removing a vice should be done with the passionless disdain of a surgeon removing a tumor, or a judge sentencing a violent criminal to jail.
Likewise, Jesus commands his disciples to have the same attitude towards family, friends, money, and themselves. They must hate, or cease to have any attachments, to these things. This means that they must stop trying to spiritualize their affections and making them into idols. However important these things might be to securing a good life on earth, they will inevitably inhibit one’s salvation. Thus, in order to follow Jesus into Heaven, one must really hate everything and everyone besides Him.
Fortunately, God is so great that He effectively replaces all these attachments with something much greater. He replaces the earthly family with the spiritual family of the Church. He replaces the riches of the world with the riches of the spiritual life and treasure of Heaven. He replaces one’s worldly self with his infinite spiritual self. With God, it is always the case that one never loses, but always gainsbeyond one’s imagination. All the same, the tradeoff must happen; contrary to popular opinion, the two loves cannot coexist. 
So, as the ice creeps over the Christian’s old life, a fire enkindles the new one. This does not mean that discipleship is suddenly comfortable, or that it even remotely resembles the old life. The Christian life is still quite scandalous and enormously inconvenient—“comfortable Christianity” is an oxymoron. Yet, these hardships will not seem so bad for the Christian because he has turned away from the goodness of this life. He feels nothing, except the love, a true and pure love, that he has for God and His Children.
Fatherly Advice

Lk 14:1, 7-11 Gather Around the Table

Saturday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Halloween 1994 – Fall semester of my junior year at Texas A&M University.  My sorority sponsored a Trick or Treat for Canned Foods to benefit a local food pantry.   We were encouraged to dress up in costumes and knock door-to-door in neighborhoods around College Station. 
I remember wearing a bumble bee costume with a black leotard and coordinating yellow/black striped wings.   I was still trying to lose my “Freshman 15″ weight, so I felt conscientious about my figure.   Fortunately, my sorority sisters said I looked absolutely adorable:  Cute as a Honey Bee!
At first, I thought the mission of “harvesting” canned food from the neighborhood was a silly idea.  I quickly changed my mind when one home after the next donated boxes full of pantry food!  In fact, we received so many “Thank-yous” for our volunteer efforts.  Home owners looked surprised to see college students more interested in feeding the hungry than flirting with fraternity brothers at a Halloween party.  Some people even handed us Smarties, Twizzlers, Snickers, and M&Ms as we continued our route through the evening drizzle and chill.
I felt like a humble honey bee after collecting so many cans of vegetables, soups, and SpaghettiOs.  I totally underestimated the generosity of people. Even though we were no longer little girls dressed up like Cinderella or Tinker Bell,  holding our mommy or daddy’s hand, we demonstrated to strangers our commitment to those in need.  We could have decided to get drunk at The Chicken (a local country bar), shack up with a stranger at a frat party, or get involved in some kind of “criminal” mischief. Yet, we all had a common goal in mind as sorority sisters:  helping the greater community.  Nothing more rewarding than setting aside our own personal comforts and serving others!
Halloween 2015 I sit at my laptop thinking about the Halloween nights of the past. Countless hours spent watching horror movies.  Pounds of candies consumed.  Dozens of costumes worn by yours truly! Parties, dances, religious observances, and cemetery visits.  Halloween is one of those times of the year when I think about family and friends who have died.  Are their souls in heaven?  Are they at rest?  I miss them terribly and pray for them.
What if I hosted a Halloween party for some famous biblical figures?  Who would I invite?  Let’s see:  Of course, Jesus, Our Blessed Mother and Joseph.  Mary Magdalene, Martha and Lazareth.  Peter, Paul and the Disciples.  Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John.  Gosh, in my small apartment I could set up a card table next to my regular dining room table. Prepare carafes of wine, fish fillets, loafs of bread, and ripe olives. Who would dare sit himself (or herself) at the head of the table?  Would it be one of the disciples quarreling about who is the greatest?  Would it be Peter as our first Pope?  Maybe the head of the table would remain empty as guests decided to turn a seated dinner into a standing room only buffet!  Share the food and fellowship with camaraderie and respect.  Lay to rest any ideas that one person is better than another because of wealth, power, or clout.  Cast aside Mrs. Pride and Mr. Ego in exchange for Mrs. Humble and Mr. Compassion!  Who knows, we may open up my private Halloween party to the entire neighborhood! Let the trick or treating begin….

Happy Halloween!
“It’s said that All Hallows’ Eve is one of the nights when the veil between the worlds is thin – and whether you believe in such things or not, those roaming spirits probably believe in you, or at least acknowledge your existence, considering that it used to be their own. Even the air feels different on Halloween, autumn-crisp and bright.” – Erin Morgenstern
This meditation was written by Jennifer Burgin.  Please visit her blog:  Jennifer’s Spectrum of Spirituality
Fatherly Advice

Eph 2:19-2:22 Vatican Idol

Feasts of Saints Simon and Jude, Apostles
By Benedict Augustine
“You are no longer strangers and sojourners,
but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones
and members of the household of God, 
built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets,
with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone.”
Although many of my friends at church, many people in the media, and the vast well-meaning crowds around the world cheered on the election of Pope Francis, I did not share the same enthusiasm. 
I loved the last pope, Benedict, a writer, a scholar of Augustine, a humble, quiet, holy man. He was not celebrity like the new pope who seemed to impress everyone with his earthy unaffected manner and vocal commitment to the poor. He preached a return to tradition while this pope preached total renewal. He rebuked the hypocrisy and irrational violence perpetuated by so many Muslims; the other has become angry against the weapons they use—and, oddly, the ones used against them. At the end of his career, Benedict humbly sought solitude, while Francis feeds off the crowds.
Little that Pope Francis has done, or said, or written, has changed my original opinion. His remarks, regardless of what might be said by apologists, reflect an obviously liberal progressive agenda. His appointments of practically heretical bishops and his silencing and demotion of traditionalists confirms this. His banal diplomacy with oppressive dictators like those in Bolivia and Cuba and utter ignorance of the Catholic faithful who dissent is nothing short of shameful. The confusion of the last two synods on the family, at a time when the family is rapidly disintegrating, occurred at his behest. While Christians suffer martyrdom and enslavement in so many part so the world, he writes an encyclical about excessive use of air conditioning and capitalism exploiting the poor even as it continues to lift billions out of poverty. 
At first, I did not understand any of this, but I understand it now. Like all any good liberal, Pope Francis wants to relax standards with the hope of bringing more people in his organization. Like any good populist, Pope Francis directs his words at the poor, excusing their failures and blaming it on the wealthy. On a moral plane, he comforts chronic unrepentant sinners and blames the near-invisible minority of traditional Catholics for their lack of charity.
When a person selects the poor (or those who think they’re poor) and unrepentant sinners as their target audience, his mass appeal should surprise no one. The world will certainly cheer on Pope Francis, particularly the non-Catholics seeing an opportunity to recreate the Church in their own image. 
However, despite the push to put annulments on the “fast track” and essentially turn them into Catholic divorces; despite the ambiguous language of the encyclicals, public statements, and synod documents, which reduce most moral questions into a matter of personal conscience; despite the favorable press and impressive crowds; despite all this, the Catholic Church diminishes, and the Western world grows more secular, and because of birth rates and migration, more Muslim. Perhaps Pope Francis has become popular, but his Church descends further into the doldrums, and all conscientious Catholics need to know this.
Sure enough, at this realization, many rational people would find a church that agrees with their politics. Some would probably leave the church altogether. But I will do neither. Instead, I will stay.Like Peter, the first pope, I would only ask helplessly, where else would I go?
The Church is a not political party, a sports team, or a club. It is, as Paul says, a family founded on Jesus Christ, a stronger bond than even blood relations. I cannot leave my family. As the evils of the world continue to rise like a flood, I must cling to it all the more as Noah and his family clung to ark. 
The pope is not a politician, or some celebrity, or even a king. He is the father of the Catholic family, and thus my fatherI will love him like a father, respect him like a father, and pray for him like father. I will also voice my disagreements because he is my father. I should also note that I have other spiritual fathers: the bishop of my diocese and the priests of my parish. They deserve even more of this treatment in proportion to their closeness to me.
Of course, those outside the family love to speculate about the Church and her public figures. They like doing this because none of this really matters to them. They do the same with the British royal family. Therefore, faithful Catholics should not fall into this behavior. We worship the Holy Trinity, not the pope. We should show loyalty to our Church, particularly to those we see every Sunday, not become partisans to a papal political agenda. We should hope in God and His grace that allows us to serve; we should not hope in a pope who happens to be popular. We seek holy purity, not ideological purity.
If in nothing else, I think Papa Francis might agree with me on these things. After all, we are not Papists. We are Catholic.

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