Saturday, February 21, 2009

Please participate: Weekly Holy Hour for US Catholic Bishops

I realize this post is long, but please bear with me as I ask you to consider making a holy hour each week for our US Catholic bishops.

A thought came to me today after morning Mass and I thought I would pass it along here. It is my hope that other bloggers will also promote this idea with a link to this post.

I am speaking here, as a secular Carmelite - one who believes that prayer is primary.

Bishop Robert Baker of Birmingham, Alabama, in an interview with Raymond Arroyo on World Over Live this past Friday, urged, if not pleaded, for people to pray for the conversion of elected officials. That is, for those especially caught up in the culture of death mindset. Bishop Baker has provided a prayer to people in his diocese and Raymond has a copy of that prayer in this blogpost at the bottom.

Softening the Target

In battle, ground troops are rarely sent in to an area before the target is "softened". This usually means that heavy bombing from air, land, and sea takes place to take out supplies, infrastructure, and more. Fewer ground troops fall because they are less vulnerable as the enemy is weakened.

When we want people to change for the better spiritually, it is wise to pray for them first and foremost. This kind of prayer is a form of "softening of the target". Without it, we will make little headway. Included here are sacrifices made for such people and offered humbly to God, from an illness suffered, to putting up with others, and even giving up a favorite desert or a much loved television show in favor of spiritual reading.

Spiritual Warfare

For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. (Ephesians 6:12)
We are not simply fighting human reasoning (or lack there of), when it comes to those who support and advance the culture of death. As Catholics we not only believe that there is a heaven and a hell, but good angels, and bad. The latter are having a field day as our Catholic faith is perverted beyond belief in very public ways, causing many people to be led into scandal.

We cannot fight Satan with reason. Rather, he and his legion must be fought with faith, prayer, fasting, and other forms of sacrifice.

Jesus, on seeing a crowd rapidly gathering, rebuked the unclean spirit and said to it, "Mute and deaf spirit, I command you: come out of him and never enter him again!" Shouting and throwing the boy into convulsions, it came out. He became like a corpse, which caused many to say, "He is dead!" But Jesus took him by the hand, raised him, and he stood up. When he entered the house, his disciples asked him in private, "Why could we not drive it out?" He said to them, "This kind can only come out through prayer." (Mark 9:25-29)

Prayer for people who are in positions of power, especially politicians, is good, as Bishop Baker and others are suggesting. What is even better is if we pray for our bishops as well, that God grace them with a level of holy boldness similar to that exhibited by bishops in the early Church.

The Angel of Darkness and the Mark of the Priesthood

Bishops are human and sinful creatures like the rest of us. They too suffer from the effects of Original Sin. While they are given graces by virtue of their office to assist them, they also have a target on their backs like all priests, but even bigger. The Angel of Darkness has the mark of the priesthood in his cross hairs. If he can get one pastor to dissent, he gets a number of people in the parish to dissent. If he gets a bishop to fall into lukewarmness, then a significant segment of his diocese will suffer likewise.

False charity has also been a problem. It has permeated not only our families and culture, but has affected many priests and bishops. False charity paralyzes a shepherd from acting because he is afraid that by doing so will cause a stir, and that this is somehow uncharitable. In reality, the opposite is true. By not confronting the matter, the opportunity to exercise great charity is lost and others are scandalized by what they witness. Archbishop Raymond L. Burke received back into the Church several members of a troubled parish whom he had earlier excommunicated. He did not excommunicate them out of anger or for punishment. Rather, it was a last ditch effort to get them to understand the seriousness of their actions.

A lamb who is caught in thickets sometimes needs to have the thickets pruned from around him. Doing so may inflict a little pain as the thorns shift during pruning, but the good shepherd knows that the lamb will die if he does not trim away the bush in an effort to release him.

We have to pray that our clergy will be more concerned with our salvation than our feelings. This doesn't mean they ought to check charity at the door. Rather, error needs to be dealt with in ways that are not condescending. Despite the best attempts to correct things pastorally and charitably, some will walk away sad or angry. They did when before Our Lord Himself, and he did not go chasing after them to force the issue. Some have illness that runs so deep they are a danger to everyone with whom they come into contact. These must be isolated unless they show signs of returning to good health, where they will strengthen the Mystical Body, rather than weaken it.

Pre-election Display of Solidarity Among US Bishops

Catholics around the world witnessed an almost shocking display of solidarity amongst many US bishops when they reacted to Nancy Pelosi's distorted misrepresentation of the faith on national television just before the presidential election. Their messages were clear and firm. It was also unifying among those who are loyal to the Church, causing eyebrows to raise, as well as hope. It lifted people who have been on the front lines of the pro-life movement and energized Catholics in the Walk for Life, even after presidential defeat. Many more bishops who did not write personal statements made the USCCB statement, penned by Cardinal Rigali and Bishop Lori, readily visible on their diocesan sites also as a show of solidarity. It all started with one or two bishops, then it just took on a life of it's own.

Years ago it was not uncommon to regularly see two names standing out in such ways: Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz and Bishop Raymond L. Burke. Unfortunately, in Catholic circles, these two bishops were seen as some kind of rebels. Should it be of any surprise that a bishop who acts like a bishop will be persecuted, even from within? Today, Archbishop Burke heads the Apostolic Signatura - the highest court in the Holy See.

The US Bishops are Emboldening One Another

Each bishop is graced with certain talents. Some are very good in explaining the faith to the media, such as Archbishop Charles Chaput. Others, like Bishop Robert J. Hermann keep the faithful focused on Christ in their pro-life work.

Each bishop is gifted in some way that not only serves his immediate diocese, but the larger Church. For some, it is in administrative or legal areas, in others more pastoral. We must pray that they use their talents to the fullest extent possible for the good of Holy Mother Church.

I believe we are in the midst of witnessing a great renewal in the Church. Our bishops are learning by the actions of the Holy Spirit, from each other, and it is generating the kind of holy boldness called for by Bishop Robert Vasa of Baker, Oregon.

They will need this holy boldness because I believe we are headed into an era of persecution the likes of which we in this country have not experienced. It may come to pass that our priests and bishops will be jailed for preaching the fullness of the faith, as is being advanced in other countries.

Pray for Our Bishops

Not all bishops are blessed with the same level of strength to deal with disciplinary issues. While the bulk of problems we face today may very well be the result of reticence on the part of bishops who didn't address them, I believe a piece of it comes back to all of us. As a whole, we as Catholics have lost the art of prayer and sacrifice. Since we are fighting forces unseen, at many levels, we have to recover those arts. Lent is a good time to start. If you truly love the Church, you will give serious time to praying for the successors to the apostles.

Behind the scenes there is likely a flurry of communication going on between bishops, and between the Holy See and our bishops, over dissenting Catholic politicians who continue to scandalize others by their words and actions. The Holy Father will not step in and take action where protocol dictates that the bishop must handle the matter. Join him in his prayers for bishops to do what they must to correct the problem and mitigate the damage.

We must pray more fervently than we have before for our bishops. Make one Holy Hour per week for them, and include prayers for the conversion of politicians at the same time.

If you don't have access to an adoration chapel, then see if you can get to Church an hour earlier to sit in quiet meditation. If it is too noisy, then have a Holy Hour in your home, turning your heart to the Tabernacle closest to you. At the same time, entrust the bishops to Our Lady. She can influence them in ways all the blogposts in the world cannot, if we have faith in her.

A final note

One of my prayers is that more bishops will look at a fine pastoral letter by Bishop Robert Vasa of Baker, Oregon. It is unambiguous and not condescending. We could use something similar in every diocese of the world.

And now, an example of the ultimate in holy boldness....

Holy Boldness: Blessed Noel Pinot going to his death fully vested in 1794 after refusing to take the oath of allegiance to the "Civil Constitution of the Clergy". Fr. Tim Finigan explains that it was a law passed by the Constituent Assembly of the Revolution which subjected the Church to the civil government.

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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church; it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!