November 17, 2019

Message To A Preacher

Dear Father: I just wanted to say thank you for the marvelous homily you delivered for Gaudete Sunday. When you shared your experience as a prison chaplain and how the prisoners would ask for and receive bibles and rosaries, I was touched immediately. But it was when you pointed out the absurdity of your chaplaincy experience juxtaposed to our progressive-secular (God-less) obsessed society where prayer, crucifixes, crosses, bibles, and rosaries are forbidden in the classroom that your message really hit me.

When you emphasized the point that prisoners were effectively encouraged to have a relationship with God (a policy certainly driven by the reality that the “believers” are less likely to cause trouble (i.e., follow regulations), while students (young people) are absolutely denied this connection, I could feel the congregation’s reaction. It was immediate and profound. There was a sudden realization of an institutional and deliberately driven hypocrisy that has been foisted upon society.

Until that point, the congregation was following and enjoying your linkage between prayer, family and the extended family via the parish and Mother Church, but I was sensing that they were not entirely buying into it on a deeper, more profound and spiritual level. The Gospel reading on St. John the Baptist, with his encouragement to those functioning in the secular world not to overstep their “worldly” authority, dove-tailed very nicely with your homily.

It wasn’t until you highlighted the reality of the government encouraging prisoners to have a spiritual existence, while absolutely denying our youth the same opportunity, that your words cut right to the heart.

Taking it a step further, when you tied this all into the tragedy in Connecticut on Friday, you amplified and illustrated the point that the real problem with the secular agenda, namely that denying children a relationship with God, results in a society where these tragedies occur with increased frequency and are becoming commonplace.  It’s not to say that man’s inhumanity to man has not occurred in the past, witness the historically higher murder rates, world wars, genocide, etc., but there’s almost a sense that we as a society have forgotten that the acts themselves are shameful.  Rather than cast an eye to our underlying inability to properly identify that an increasingly Godless world, a world without a moral compass, is the root of the problem, we seek any number of straw men to blame. It doesn’t matter who or what is at fault as long as secularism is not the focus of the blame.

We’ve allowed our society to become a place where shame is nonexistent, a place where immoral acts are sensationalized, politicized, and rationalized, rather than being scrutinized in a deep and thorough manner in line with Christian values (Catholic Magisterium).  As John the Baptist points out (and Jesus in his ”render unto Caesar” directive in Matthew; Chapter 22; verses 15- 22) that while we live in secular world, we should only pay heed to that which is necessary to sustain ourselves and no more; beyond that, we must turn to God. I am sure there are several other references to the secular world, but St. Paul (I Cor 1:18-25) is particularly straightforward:

20 – Where is the wise one? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish?

The entire passage on the paradox of the Cross resonates with me, and I believe is it clearly applicable today.

In the wake of the tragedy in Connecticut, I heard from a young man who told me that the online social media (Facebook) was buzzing with demands for gun control and the complete banning of certain weapons.  The individual was clearly upset by the slaughter of the innocents but was further disturbed by the sensationalizing/ politicizing nature of the responses to the heinous act.  I purposely avoided devoting too much time to the story.  I knew the facts and listened to a bit of the reporting on the radio, but it was an all-too-familiar story that left me devastated but unwilling to listen to the subsequent rhetoric.  It was clear that this young person felt the same, so I shared one thought on the subject. The senseless and shameful act was unconscionable, especially with the killing of the very, very young. Further, I noted that the one thing that came to my mind was the senseless and shameful aborting of countless unborn babies.  This comment had the immediate effect of clarifying for the young man the nature of the utter shame associated with both acts and the magnitude of the latter.

Your homily on reflecting upon Christ on the cross (as part of our prayer) helped me realize how important it is to view all worldly tragedies and all evil in the context of Christ’s suffering for our transgressions.  As a friend once told me, perhaps the measure of Christ’s suffering can be found in the gravity of the sins waged by His people.

It is so important to understand God’s love from an early age.  Without His constant presence, or at least the availability to that connection in our lives from birth to death, the world becomes a barren and truly depressing place where people are less than human, and life is merely a date on a calendar or seconds ticking off the clock.

Thank you for your dedication and faith, Father. I again want you to you know that your hard work, as evidenced by your thoughtful homilies, has not fallen on deaf ears.

God bless you and keep you!

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