Monday, March 30, 2015

Pray for the 2015 Ordinary Synod on the Family

An actual photo of the 70,000 witnesses of the Miracle of the Sun in Fatima Portugal
October 13, 1917

On the 13th day, of May through October of 1917, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children in Fatima Portugal. Visions of the future were given to them, along with dire warnings, instructions and a promise. The warnings centred around the trials of the 20th century, an upcoming Second World War,
Painting of Our Lady of Fatima
Artist Unknown
the rise of communist Russia, the persecution of Christians, the loss of Christian faith in the industrialised world, suffering for the pope, and a form of sexual 'liberation' that would send many souls to hell. It is one of the few Marian apparitions that the Vatican itself has confirmed as authentic, and it has been acknowledged by every pope in recent memory.

There is a strong connection between the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal and Our Lady of Lourdes in France fifty-nine years earlier. The connection centres around the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. In Lourdes the dogma was revealed by Mary to a peasant girl. In Fatima, Mary promised the three shepherd children, that in the end, her Immaculate Heart (i.e. her Immaculate Conception) will prevail. I cannot help but see a strong connection here, but what it means I cannot say. I live in a country dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. Is there an American connection to all of this? Again, I don't know, so I cannot say.

On October 13, 2014, ninety-seven years to the day, after the miracle of the sun at Fatima, witnessed by some 70,000 people, something remarkable happened at the Vatican in Rome. A controversial but non-binding document was issued by the coordinators of the 2014 Extraordinary Synod on the Family, in which traditional Church discipline (and to a lesser extent, doctrine itself) was questioned regarding the sacrament of marriage, and human sexuality in general. I will not comment on the final document here, but rather simply quote the most controversial statements. From Synod 14: Relatio post disceptationem...
 46.        Likewise, those who are divorced and remarried require careful discernment and an accompaniment of great respect, while avoiding any language or behavior which might be construed as discrimination. Caring for such persons by the Christian community is not a weakening of its faith and its witness to the indissolubility of marriage, but, in this manner, the community precisely expresses its charity.
 47.        As to the possibility of partaking of the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, some synod fathers argued in favour of the present regulations because of their theological foundation, while others were in favour of a broader outlook with well-defined conditions, when dealing with situations that cannot be resolved without creating new injustices and suffering. For some, access to the sacraments might take place if preceded by a penitential practice — determined by the diocesan bishop —  and  a clear commitment in favour of the children. This would not be a possibility applied to all, but the fruit of a discernment [...] on a case-by-case basis, according to the law of gradualness, which takes into consideration the distinction between a state of sin, the state of grace and [...] extenuating circumstances.
 48.        The suggestion of limiting these persons to the practice of “spiritual communion” was questioned by many synod fathers. If spiritual communion is possible, why not allow them to partake in the Sacrament? Consequently, greater theological study was requested, beginning with the links between the Sacrament of Marriage and the Eucharist in relation to [...] Church-Sacrament. Likewise, the moral aspect of the problem requires further consideration, listening to and illuminating the consciences of these persons.
50.        Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community. Are we capable of providing for these people, guaranteeing [...] them [...] a place of fellowship in our communities? Oftentimes, they want to encounter a Church which offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of this, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?
source  
I will not comment on the above paragraphs here, because there is no point. The document is non-binding and simply outlines the matters to be discussed in the upcoming Ordinary Synod on the Family in October of 2015. All I will say about the document is this. It caused a lot of controversy and confusion. There were
Painting of Our Lady of Lourdes
Artist Unknown
some scandals surrounding the original version of it (not shown here) in which a pre-manufactured version was translated, printed and distributed to the press long before the bishops participating in the synod themselves received a copy of it. The mainstream press inaccurately reported on it (as usual) giving people the false impression that Rome is about to make major doctrinal changes. (There is no evidence of this by the way.) The initial document was revised and the final document is merely a work in progress that is going to be taken up in the next synod. As I said, it's a work in progress. It is NOT binding on any Catholic in the entire worldwide Catholic Church.

This historical fact that the original document, that caused so much confusion, was released to the press on October 13, 2014 is no coincidence in my book. As the rabbis say, 'Coincidence is not a kosher word'. I see a direct spiritual connection between what happened in Rome on October 13, 2014 and what happened in Fatima on October 13, 1917.

Immediately following the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, I published two essays on this blog which became very controversial in themselves. They can be read here and here. After listening to many of my Catholic friends (both traditional and non-traditional) float the idea that this pope may be an antipope, I politely rebuked such assertions here. Any bishop or ordinary reading this should be advised that despite the controversial nature of my blog essays on this matter, they were in response (and in educational rebuke) of significantly more controversial statements made by people under their pastoral care. These statements have been ongoing since the Extraordinary Synod. I could not stand idle and let others refer to the Holy Father as an antipope. I had to speak out. That being said, even though some priests liked my essays and thought they were timely and appropriate, I have been politely asked by multiple priests now to refrain from such controversial essays in the future. In response to them, I have this to say...
Thank you for your advice and concern. I think I've said pretty much everything that needs to be said, and I have no intention of going any further. I tried to help. If people under your pastoral care want to believe that our Holy Father is an antipope, I'll leave it up to you to correct. Please know it may be going on right underneath your nose, and please know that they probably won't come to you with it. They are more likely to let this error fester and then finally just disappear from mass someday, only to turn up in some kind of schismatic group. You also might be surprised to find that some of these people are not what you would consider 'traditionalists' but are actually regular Catholics who attend the regular Novus Ordo mass. So being proactive on this matter might be prudent. It has been my experience that when such errors are left unattended, they tend to spread like a virus and infect more people. If you are so inclined, you are welcome to use any of my previous writings (especially this one) as material to help you correct this egregious and uncharitable error. I wish you the best of luck and my prayers are with you.
Now as we approach the upcoming 2015 Ordinary Synod on the Family, the rumour mills are going into overdrive. The blogs are becoming more active. Catholic media is publishing all kinds of controversial articles. Bishops are speaking out against bishops, and cardinals are speaking out against cardinals. The entire bishops conference in Poland has pledged to resist the entire bishops conference in Germany. The African bishops have pledged to resist anyone who presents unorthodox doctrine or practice. Over 500 priests in England have just sent an open letter to the participants in the upcoming synod, requesting that they maintain traditional orthodoxy and practice. The 'chatter' is picking up, and despite pleas from the Holy Father and various bishops, this is not going to stop. There is nothing I can do or say here that will change this. It is what it is, and it's only going to get worse in the days ahead. By the time we reach October of 2015, I expect the atmosphere to be so tense that one could 'palpate' the general feeling of unease and anxiety. Some have speculated that we may be witnessing the beginning of the next German schism -- a second 'Reformation' event. There is no way to know this will happen, but one thing is certain. The German bishops appear to be the primary force driving controversial change in the Church, and have openly said, they will go ahead with it anyway, in spite of what is decided at the synod.

Honestly, I really don't know what is about to happen. I only know one thing. At this point, I am powerless to do anything about it. Following the last synod, I've already said everything that needs to be said. I have nothing more to add. You can read those articles I linked to above. From now on, this blog will maintain a proverbial 'radio silence' on all issues related to the 2015 Ordinary Synod on the Family. From now on, for the next six months leading up to the synod, this blogger will follow the instructions and requests of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome. This blogger will pray, and this blogger will request the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, under the titles of Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Lourdes, and the Immaculate Conception, asking for the Holy Spirit to guide the bishops at the October 2015 Ordinary Synod on the Family. This blogger will maintain 'radio silence' during the synod and after, until some time after Easter of 2016. By this time the Ordinary Synod on the Family will no longer be a 'current event' but rather a matter of history, and this blogger does better commenting on historical events, long after emotions concerning such events have had time to cool off.

I invite all of my readers to do the same. Please join me in praying to the Blessed Virgin Mary, under the titles of Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Lourdes and the Immaculate Conception. Let us ask her to intercede for us, and request the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit of God into the 2015 Synod on the Family. Likewise, let us also request of her to ask for the Holy Spirit of God to guide our pope during the synod and in the days to follow. He has a very difficult job and he can use all the divine intervention he can get.

END.

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Shane Schaetzel is a published author and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'FullyChristian.Com -- The random musings of a Catholic in the Ozarks.'

BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR...
Catholicism for Protestants

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Common Good, Common Ground, and Common Sense

Vintage Campaign Posters from Christian Democratic Parties in Various Countries

I have pledged not to get my 'Fully Christian' blog and Facebook page too deeply into politics, because that is not what my online lay ministry is about. I will not endorse any political candidates here, and I'll try to stay clear of the upcoming election. However, I do want to make a general statement when it comes to politics.

I am a Catholic Christian, and my only political loyalty is to the principles of Catholic Christianity. I am also an American citizen, and my loyalty to America is defined by its Christian character. I think a lot of Christians would agree with me on this. I also think a lot of politicians know this, and that is why they are able to divide Christians, political speaking, by forcing them to choose between one Christian principle over another. Democrats pull on a Christian's compassion for the poor and middle class. Republicans pull on a Christian's compassion for the unborn and the traditional family. Both parties are dividing us and using us for their own petty self-interest. I have chosen not to fall for it any more. Many Christians in other countries have learnt this lesson too, and they have responded by forming Christian Democratic parties, designed to stop the advance of communism, and simultaneously advance Christian principles of social justice on both sides of the political spectrum, both in morality and economics. There is only one active Christian Democratic party in the United States and it's called the American Solidarity Party. Its party platform is based heavily on the social teachings from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (read more here), with a heavy emphasis on distributist economic principles or distributism (read more here), and a rock-solid pro-life plank that is based on the dignity of the human person.

The pelican is the official
mascot of the
American Solidarity Party.
Their official website can be found here:
https://sites.google.com/site/americansolidarityparty/

Their official Facebook page can be found here:
https://www.facebook.com/AmericanSolidarityParty

I strongly suggest all of my Christian brethren take a look at this website and Facebook page. If you're looking for a political party that actually supports Christian teaching across the board, without division, than this is a pretty good contender. I don't know about you, but I'm tired of being manipulated by big political parties over social issues. The gospels are pretty clear about how a Christian should approach the world in general. While they were of course written long before common people had the right to vote, their principles can be applied in the political arena today. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is even more clear, and it was written recently. One of the reasons why Marxism, communism, fascism and socialism flourished during the first half of the 20th century, is because atheists successfully stole major principles of Christianity, especially in dealing with the poor, and applied them to their godless political systems. People fell for it, and the result was the most violent century in world history. In Western Europe, during the Cold War, Christians learnt that the only way to defeat the advance of communism was to return politically to the principles of Christianity on economic matters. It worked! Sadly however, in recent decades, some of these European and Latin American parties lost sight of their original vision and will have to return to it in the years ahead. As for the American Solidarity Party, the U.S. manifestation of Christian democracy, the platform has a fairly hefty dose of Catholic social teaching, which is something many other Christian Democratic parties have lacked. The party is also made up primarily of Catholics, in a demographic distribution that is similar to the make-up of Christianity in the United States. Christian democracy was instrumental in keeping communism out of Western Europe. It can do the same for America too, and may even turn the tide against the pro-abortion 'culture of death' that is so pervasive here.

Now, for the first time, Christian economic and moral virtues can all be found under one political roof. It's a small party for now, that is just getting started, but I've officially joined it, and I contribute to it every year, putting my money where my mouth is. I hope some of you will consider joining me.

This short little essay represents the full extent of my political activities on the Internet. As the next election cycle approaches, I may discuss issues here and there, but as for parties and candidates, you know where I stand. I'm with Solidarity.

END.

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Shane Schaetzel is a published author and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'FullyChristian.Com -- The random musings of a Catholic in the Ozarks.'

BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR...
Catholicism for Protestants

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Pope Francis and the Blood of Saint Januarius

Martyrdom of Saint Januarius
painted by Girolamo Pesce
in circa 1726
Saint Januarius was a Catholic bishop of Naples (in Italy) who was martyred for being a Christian under the reign of Caesar Diocletian in about AD 305. He was beheaded at the Solfatara crater near Pozzuoli. His martyrdom is honoured in both the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox churches. There is a cathedral in Naples which stands as a shrine in his memory, housing the relic of a small vial filled with some of his blood. According to legend, the blood was saved by a woman named Eusebia just after the saint's death. The blood, being some 1,700 years old now, has long since hardened. However, three times a year, a phenomenon occurs, in which the clotted and decayed blood returns to its liquid state.  This happens on September 19 (Saint Januarius day, to commemorate his martyrdom), on December 16 (to celebrate his patronage of both Naples and of the archdiocese), and on the Saturday before the first Sunday of May (to commemorate the reunification of his relics). Religious pilgrims often visit the shrine on these dates to witness the phenomenon.

I call it a phenomenon, as opposed to a miracle, because the Vatican has never officially ruled it a miracle, though it does pay respect to the phenomenon and the devotion that has developed because of it.

In addition to these annual dates, the blood has also turned to liquid in the presence of three popes. The last time this occurred was in 1848 with Pius IX. It hasn't happened since, when other popes visited the shrine, until now. Pope Francis visited the cathedral on March 21, 2015. The following video tells of the encounter and the phenomenon...


Now, before we go on, let's be perfectly clear about some things. First, Pope Francis did not perform any miracle. He had no intention of turning the clotted blood back into liquid. He simply venerated the relic by kissing it, a sign of deep devotion and respect. Second, if indeed the phenomenon is miraculous, then it was God who performed the miracle, by the intercession of Saint Januarius. Again, Pope Francis did not do it. Third, whether it is a miracle or a phenomenon, God can use either to send us a message.

A photograph of Pope Pius IX
To try to find meaning in this, we should look back to when this happened with the last pope. Remember, popes have visited this shrine since then, and the blood has not liquefied for any of them. It did however liquefy for Pope Francis. This hasn't happened in 167 years. The last time this happened with a pope was in 1848 with Pope Pius IX, who was the longest reigning pope in Church history. Pius IX however, is also one of the most interesting popes in modern times. Following his visit to Naples in 1848, after the clotted blood of Saint Januarius had liquefied, that very same year Pope Pius IX was forced into exile from the Vatican. The exile was the result of political disputes and social unrest in Italy at the time. He returned to the Vatican two years later and from thence forth practically became a prisoner therein. Relations between the papacy and the Italian government where at an all time low, and the era was marked by riots in the streets and marauding gangs in the countryside. It was an especially dark time for the papacy, but Pius IX found himself purified in this crucible of fire.  He proclaimed the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception infallibly, which is something Catholics had always believed, but hadn't been settled as an indisputable matter of faith until his proclamation. He approved a petition to name Mary, as the Immaculate Conception, the official patroness of the United States of America. He penned 38 papal encyclicals, and convened the First Vatican Council. He wrote the now famous 'Syllabus of Errors', which condemned the errors of Modernism, errors that have since led humanity into two world wars, and a global confrontation with communism, as well as the rapid deterioration of Western civilisation. During this time, Pope Pius IX was well known for a personal lifestyle of simplicity and poverty, which has since led the papacy to increasingly become a more spiritual office, and less of a temporal one. Pius IX's papacy is regarded by historians as the birth of the modern papacy, restoring the office to something closer to what it once was at the time of the apostles and the early centuries of the Church. Politically, Pius IX started out as a liberal, but later became much more conservative, after his initial exile from the Vatican. He became a reformer of the papacy and the Vatican. The spiritual aspects of Catholicism flourished under his reign, but the political relations between the papacy and the state suffered terribly. Pius IX was not well liked by the political rulers of his day; Italy, France, Germany, Russia and the United States of America. (Yes, even President Abraham Lincoln did not care for him, nor did his successor President Andrew Johnson.) Yet he was loved by Catholic clergy and laymen around the world.

Does this in any way sound like Pope Francis? I can see some similarities between Francis and the early years of Pius IX, during the liberal years of his papacy. Like Pius IX, Francis considers himself a reformer of the Vatican and seeks to reignite zeal among the Catholic faithful. The liquefaction of the blood of Saint Januarius for Pope Pius IX was immediately followed by unprecedented political trials for the Holy Father. This was accompanied by changes in his papacy, and the result was an incredibly holy man who changed the papacy for the better, and reignited the faith of millions of Catholics around the world. Does God have something similar planned for Pope Francis? Is the liquefaction of the blood of Saint Januarius at the kiss of Pope Francis a sign of this? There is no way we can know at this time. What we do know is that the liquefaction of the blood for the last pope turned out to be both a harbinger of evil and a herald of greatness at the same time. Does God use phenomenon like this to tell us something? Sure he does. We see the Bible littered with such things. The only problem is, we don't know exactly what it means until after it happens. For now, we can view the phenomenon of the liquefaction of Saint Janaurius' blood for Pope Francis as a possible sign from heaven, and that's all we can do. As for what it means, if anything, we'll just have to wait and see.

END.

------------------------------------------------

Shane Schaetzel is a published author and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'FullyChristian.Com -- The random musings of a Catholic in the Ozarks.'

BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR...
Catholicism for Protestants


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