The Great Responsibility of Religious Leaders
IT IS NOT EASY TO BE GOOD LEADERS, especially in the spiritual realm, in the Church. Today it is even more difficult because there are less people who pray and there are a great number of people who have fallen into the most devastating trap of Satan, relativism. Relativism, according to Pope Benedict XVI, is “the most profound difficulty of our time.” (http://popebenedictxviblog.blogspot.it/2005_05_01_archive.html); and thus there are less people who seek sincerely to live the Ten Commandments and the Gospel according to the true divine revelation, explained by the Church that Jesus left us here on earth, instead of according to a comfortable criteria fabricated by each individual. It is obvious that Satan chooses as his first targets these leaders that God has given the vocation to guide and lead many souls. But God gives the grace for each particular vocation even in these very difficult times. THE TEMPTATION TO BECOME ATTACHED TO THE POSITION, TO PRESTIGE AND TO HONOR, as one sees in many Pharisees in the Gospels, is very strong for bishops and priests and lay leaders, because they must stand before the people, and thus it is even more important to fight against this fundamental temptation, pride which is always accompanied by spiritual blindness. In a certain sense there is less exterior help to maintain humility for religious leaders than for lay men and women not called to be before the others. One finds in the four Gospels that Jesus fought against this sin of the Pharisees, scribes and doctors of the law precisely because they destroy themselves and bring with them many souls. The great majority of the people 2000 years ago respected the religious leaders and thus very few people 2000 years ago realized the destructive deception offered by these leaders. Human nature has not changed in the last 2000 years. Rather, precisely because we have received much more with the coming of Jesus, the choice to be with Jesus or against Jesus is more radical and at the same time more hidden (“angel of light!; 2Cor 11:114) and deceptive. “I came to cast fire upon the earth” (Lk 12:49); “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? (Lk 12:51); “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many…” (Lk 2:34).
THOSE WHO HAVE RECEIVE A MORE IMPORTANT VOCATION with more responsibility will do more good or more evil according to their fundamental choice, to take advantage of these “fruits” for the glory of God of for their own personal glory! When religious leaders act for the glory of themselves, deceiving not only the people confided to them by God, by deceiving themselves in spiritual blindness, they end up suffocating a great amount of spiritual life in others but unseen or undetected; they end up creating a wall between the people entrusted to them and Jesus! I believe that this was the motive for so many arguments in the Gospels between Jesus and the religious leaders. “It would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea…” (Mt 18:6). It is also very interesting how often we find this conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees and other religious leaders, and at the same time the general esteem given to these hypocrites by the common people.
As for many who are struggling today in a very confusion world, MY LIFE HAS BEEN A SEARCH FOR THE TRUTH in our deceptive modern environment. The more I sought the truth and suffered in my walk of life, the more I understood that the Truth is Jesus (Jn 14:6). We must persevere always in fighting for the Truth even though there are many wolves in the Church as Saint Augustine said many years ago. The Church on earth, the “Church Militant”, is made up of saints and sinners and everything else in between (Mt 13:36-40, 47-50). IN THE EARLY CHURCH THE HERETICAL CULT, THE DONATISTS, explained these two parables of the fish and of the weeds in a RATHER SIMPLISTIC way: the Church was made up of only the good people and the world was made up of all the evil people without hope of salvation. The Church would be in the world as a “closed garden” or better, the Ark of Noah in which only for the very few there is salvation from the general flood. St. Augustine’s thought won out which was that of the universal Church. The Church herself is a field in which grow weeds and good seed, bad and good together . St. Augustine even exclaimed: “How many sheep there are outside the Church and how many wolves are inside!” The world is not divided into children of darkness and children of light; but rather we are all children of darkness, we are all weeds, but destined, if we desire it, to become children of the light and good grain, receiving the Kingdom and converting ourselves. Nothing is fixed or fatal, no castes of the elect or of the damned. The field is, yes, the world, but it is also the Church: the place in which there is room to grow, to convert oneself and above all to imitate the patience of God. “The bad exist in this world either so that they might convert themselves, or that by way of them the good exercise patience” (St. Augustine).
I REMEMBER ONE TIME MY FATHER COMMENTED TO ME THAT I WAS ALWAYS SEEKING TO PROVIDE FOR A GOOD FUTURE even if I had to sacrifice something in order to obtain the good results for tomorrow. While I was seeking the truth in my personal walk of life, I would express what I had discovered to other people to share with them as a gift, like a liberation from the slavery of the traps in which I had fallen into, so that other people could avoid these traps. Some of the people were happy to hear these things while others were not happy. In particular, some of my superiors were not happy to hear these personal observations, in particular when it involved their behavior and their decisions, even though I had no intentions of offending them. I began public school almost one year late (1957) because my family left Iowa to go to California, and thus, I finished high school as the valedictorian out of 300 students. After having finished my BA in mathematics (1974) from UCLA, I felt my vocation which led me to Necedah, Wisconsin, following the advice of my parents, where I wrote a book to help many people to leave the cult which was tied up with a false Marian apparition (http://necedah-cult.blogspot.com). I realize now that it was a special grace to be able to come out of the sectarian mentality of the cult while there surrounded by the brainwashing of this group which made me fell special and better than others for having arrived at the placed blessed by God and that outside of that environment there was only the evil world. In this book I also uncovered at least one of the principle motives of many people in this cult at Necedah, pride, which provoked my parents to basically excommunicate me from the family after having been the favored child in the family. I entered the religious congregation, the Oblates of the Virgin Mary (1983) in Italy, with much satisfaction for me as well as my superiors in Italy. Afterwards there was a great crisis in the congregation (June 1988) caused in particular by a charismatic, but false, Fr. Luigi (Gino) Burresi, OMV (born: 07-06-1932). With a lot of experience at the age of 37, my young superiors in the States (Boston, MA), who knew me very little, did not find themselves at ease with me, and they did not admit me to final vows even though my superiors in Italy for 6 years were very happy with me. Returning in Italy I had a similar experience with a parish pastor who was used to forming young seminarians and priests but not one like me (45 years), and thus another painful separation (2001) from my parish where I had found at least a little relief from the love of a few parishioners. After persevering with a lot of daily prayer, I see well the providential hand of God in all of these trials and sufferings and separations from people and from communities (“The Father prunes, that if may bear more fruit” Jn 15:2).
MY PRINCIPLE MOTIVE FOR WRITING THIS ARTICLE is to offer, for those who are interested, some reflections and study on how certain behaviors and attitudes, in particular among superiors in the Church who have a very great responsibility and influence in the Church and in the world (even though the world is not aware of this!), can suffocate a great deal of life in the Church, in an unseen and unrealized way, and do great damage to many souls of good will under the guidance and formation of these superiors who are not very mature. After many years of prayer, if one is of good will and honest with himself with a little true humility, one begins to do that “metanoia”, that conversion, to see things more from the point of view of God instead of my own egotistical, closed point of view. What gives pleasure to God? How can I respond to the immense love that I have received from God? How can I console the Sacred Heart of Jesus? From this point of view, one understands better that God loves each and every person, not just me. And thus, how can I help the people who have treated me very badly and who caused me to suffer more in order to arrive to God, to true sanctity, in order to offer much delight to God? (Mt 5:44).
For similar motives, Mother Angelica, the founder of EWTN, invited Ann Carey, Catholic columnist and author, to talk about religious sisters in crisis (1998) on EWTN; later she was invited on the World Over (EWTN) to talk about the Vatican investigation of womens’ religious orders (October 2009).
“If I say to the wicked, O wicked man, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. 9 But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way; he shall die in his iniquity, but you will have saved your life” (Ezek 33:8-9).
When a superior does not like the behaviour or the words of someone under him which seem to indicate that the one under him is not doing well his given task and things are going in the wrong direction, SUPERIORS LACKING IN MATURITY OFTEN MAKE THOSE UNDER THEM FEEL GUILTY WITH SCOLDINGS OR THREATS USING EVEN PSYCHOLOGICAL COERCION without open and transparent dialogue together. How many times in my life in the Church I tried to make some kind of an examination of conscience or a personal inquiry to discover if all of my reasoning were mistaken and not based on the truth or my superiors had mistaken. Sometimes the suffering under such psychological crushing or to be sent away or excommunicated from my family or from the community was excruciating. When I was younger, I did not have the experience or the learning that I have now to be able to understand what was really going on which added to the pain and confusion inside of myself.
Just as the heaviest cross of Jesus for the husband or for the wife (as well as the consolation and joy and above all the opportunity to progress spiritually and to overcome egoism!) is normally the wife or the husband, SO TOO THE PEOPLE IN THE CHURCH HAVE BEEN MY HEAVIEST CROSSES (as well as the consolation and joy and above all the opportunity to progress spiritually and to overcome egoism!); twice I fell into a strong depression for several years after such experiences with a few superiors in the Church (1990 and 2001); visit: http://spir-food.blogspot.com/2008/05/let-us-love-our-spouse.html). With perseverance in prayer everyday before Jesus in the Tabernacle for at least an hour above and beyond the Holy Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours, slowly I succeeded in recognizing Jesus crucified personally in my life and in the sorrows as one of the greatest gifts that God gave to me, as the saints indicate to us (Read the second letter in the breviary of Saint John of the Cross (December 14), and Saint Rose of Lima (August 23)). But the saints also tell us, out of prudence, to not seek sorrows in our life; Jesus crucified will find us on His Own. “Let us beware of adding to the suffering of others, because that is displeasing to the Lord” (Diary of St. Faustina; no. 117).
IT IS RATHER EASY FOR A LEADER IN THE CHURCH, PRIEST OR LAYMAN, TO FORGET OR NEGLECT THE DIGNITY OF OTHER PEOPLE AND TO NOT RESPECT THE FREE WILL OF THE PERSON. God always respects our freedom; we human beings are the ones who very often do no love as God loves which includes above all this fundamental respect.
IF THE PROGRAM OR THE PROJECT FOR A RELIGIOUS LEADER IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE PERSON BEFORE HIM in the present moment, it is a big indication that this leader trusts more in himself with his own discernment and his great projects and programs than in Jesus Who hides Himself in the neighbor before him in each present moment. If the leader loves Jesus in the neighbor in each present moment, ready to die for Jesus in that neighbor, Jesus Himself will take care of bring forth the program or the project; otherwise, the weight of bring forth the program falls on the shoulders of the leader and in the end he could end up in pieces or crushed, even though it seemed to be a good project. A great number of leaders in the Church have not learned to loose their “great program” before Jesus in the neighbor in the present moment, especially before the person or before the priest with whom he lives and works together. When religious leaders do not respect the dignity and the freedom of others, they end up manipulating instead of attracting others to what the leaders feel is important.
Our Lady communicated to Saint Faustina:
“Do not go out from your inmost being. My daughter, I shall obtain for you the grace of an interior life which will be such that, without ever leaving that interior life, you will be able to carry out all your external duties with even greater care. Dwell with Him continuously in you own heart. He will be your strength” (Diary, 785).
Sister Mary Gabriel in purgatory told Sister Mary of the Cross on October 16, 1880: “It is useless for you to worry about the souls entrusted to you, to reprove them or to try to make them a little more spiritually inclined. YOU WILL ONLY SUCCEED IN AS FAR AS YOU YOURSELF ARE SPIRITUAL. It is only through the overflow of your own piety that you can put it into their hearts. If you yourself are not what you ought to be, if you are not closely united with Jesus, your words will reach their ears but will not enter into their hearts, and so your effort will not be fruitful. Do you see how good it is to be united to Jesus? That is the only true happiness on earth.” (http://purgatory-manu.blogspot.com).
THE SAINTS WHO WERE INSTRUMENTS OF GOD, NOT OF THEMSELVES, in order to bring to the earth the great charisms, had great humility and thus were instruments of God and respected the freedom of others (as God always does). Many followers of these holy founders, instead, did not respect the freedom of those under them but manipulated, coerced or force them to do their “great program or project”.
“FOR IF I SPEAK MY OWN OPINIONS, I SHALL BE A SHEPHERD FEEDING MYSELF not my sheep; but if what I say is his, it is he who feeds you, no matter who is speaking. ‘Thus says the Lord God, Ho, shepherds of Israel, who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds freed the sheep?’ (Ezek 34:2). That is, shepherds feed not themselves but their sheep.” (St. Augustine; Office of Readings; Week 24, Sunday).
Many times we priests speak of communion, family, do things together, when we were in the seminary or among ourselves, but when we become the heads of a parish or some other responsibility, the great majority of priests (also the religious leaders in ecclesial movements) EMPLOY A MODEL IN WHICH THE SON AND THE HOLY SPIRIT LIVE THE “KENOSIS” BUT NOT THE FATHER. But if the Father does not live the kenosis in the most holy Trinity, it is no longer the Trinity, it is something else. Without the kenosis, true and genuine humility, there is not the basis of true love, it is something else, but not Christian love. When there is not this true humility according to the Trinitarian model among two or three persons, there is not true love and thus there is not the efficacious presence of Jesus in the midst “where two or three are gather in my name” (Mt 18:20). There is a human being in the midst, but not Jesus.
THE FRUITS THAT ONE SEES IN THE PARISHES ARE PAID FOR BY THE PEOPLE WHO TRULY LIVE THE KENOSIS, even though the leaders of the groups or us pastors believe that the merit of the fruits that one sees are mostly our fruits.
When we more or less trust ourselves as the leaders, the weight of the responsibility falls on our shoulders and we do not say habitually to our closest collaborators: “WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THIS IDEA OR PROPOSAL?”, because we believe that “there is not time to waste”; in essence thought, I think that we do not want to risk to loose our great program. So many times we end up manipulating, coercing and forcing other people to do our will in the name of the great goal or to finish off things more efficiently according to our point of view and criteria. But the saying tells us: “It is better to do things in a less perfect way together that alone perfectly.” Today it is very easy for us priests, with the lack of priests, TO FALL INTO ACTIVISM AND TO PAY LESS trusting more in ourselves and less in God on our knees before the Blessed Sacrament. The Servant of God, Archbishop Fulton Sheen, said that if we want to give divine sparks to others, we must spend more time before the Divine Fire, Jesus in the Eucharist! If we want to get a divine tan, we spend more time before the divine Sun! The Archbishop always recommended to the bishops and to the priests during the spiritual retreats in the United States to make a holy hour every day before Jesus in the Eucharist. Saint Faustina wrote: “This has been my personal experience because, when I did not pray at the time assigned for prayer, later on I could not do it because of my duties; or if I did manage to do so, this was only with great difficulty, because my thought kept wandering off to my duties…” (Diary, 147).
“I WILL NOT ALLOW MYSELF TO BE SO ABSORBED IN THE WHIRLWIND OF WORK as to forget about God. I will spend all my free moments at the feet of the Master hidden in the Blessed Sacrament. He has been tutoring me from my most tender years” (Diary, 82).
Saint John Bosco indicated to us the importance of REMAINING NEAR JESUS IN THE EUCHARIST WITH MARY in “THE DREAM OF ST. JOHN BOSCO, with a ship (the Church) in the middle of a great storm, with the Pope at the helm, being attacked by many small ships from all sides, being guided between the two pillars with the Eucharist and Mary at the top of the two pillars. (http://thereedofgod.blogspot.com/2010/04/don-boscos-prophecy-of-two-columns.html).
I am convinced that IF THE PASTOR WOULD HABITUALLY SPEND (“WASTE”) TIME WITH THE PEOPLE, above all with those most committed in the parish, habitually asking them for their opinion and suggestions in order to decide things together, there would be more committed people in the parishes who would have learned from the mature pastor the same way of living and collaborating together. In this way one feels or senses that Jesus is in the midst directs the parish and not a human being. In this way there would be much more good fruits. Some people, due to their character, succeed in collaborating with a pastor who habitually decides everything by himself. But many people do not remain in that way, especially those more intelligent with the desire to improve things. Often we pastors do not realize, ore we do not even want to know, how many went away due to our way of doing thins! Many leaders surround themselves only with those who always say yes.
It is easy for the pastor to say to a priest with whom he lives “VITA COMMUNIS, MAXIMA PAENITENTIA”, insinuating that the priest under the pastor is not virtuous and does not want to be with this pastor who habitually does not see things together nor does he try to put himself in the shoes of the other person with whom he is trying to collaborate with. I really wonder is such a pastor realizes (or is able to realize!) that he would not at all be happy to be treated as he habitually treats the others??? A BULLDOZER DOES NOT REALIZE THE HE IS A BULLDOZER, BUT THOSE AROUND HIM WHO MUST WORK WITH HIM REALIZE THIS, AND HOW! If it were not for the obligatory structure of the organization, I wonder who would ever freely follow the ideas or programs of such a leader in the Church? Unfortunately most of the time the people more humble and sensitive do not seek to become the leaders while those who have a hidden motive to satisfy their desires who often have a more domineering character seek the positions of authority.
THE PERSONALISM OF BLESSED POPE JOHN PAUL II
Considering the great temptation for leaders to put the program or the project before the person, I think it could help a great deal to study and to reflect the many writings of Pope John Paul II which reveal the philosophy of the principle or of the norm of his famous personalism. I believe that these inspired writings of Blessed Pope John Paul II can help us much to penetrate this mystery in order to be able to offer to us a light and a guide in our behaviour with other, especially in the relationships between leaders and those under the leaders.
1. EACH PERSON IS HIS OWN END AND NO MERE MEANS.
A person is never rightly treated as a mere means, as only a tool for producing some result, but has rather always to be affirmed for his own sake, affirmed as a being existing in his own right.
This principle is not hard to understand, and many agree with it. But we must ask, as John Paul himself asks, WHAT IS THE BASIS OF THIS PERSONALIST NORM? What is the make up of human persons such that they have to be treated according to the personalist norm? Let us now move from THE ETHICAL PRINCIPLES TO A REFLECTION on what we can call the self-hood of the human person.
JOHN PAUL TELLS US THAT EACH PERSON IS HIS OWN END, that is a person is not just an instrumental means for producing some end. Each person is his own end, a being of his own, existing in a sense for his own sake. JP likes to express this, that each person belongs to himself, possesses himself. and this is why using persons is wrong. Persons, as beings of their own, are not available to instrumental use but rather to be acknowledged and affirmed for their own sakes.
“The Church sees in Mary the highest expression of the “feminine genius” and she finds in her a source of constant inspiration. Mary called herself the “handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 1:38). Through obedience to the Word of God she accepted her lofty yet not easy vocation as wife and mother in the family of Nazareth. Putting herself at God’s service, she also put herself at the service of others: a service of love. Precisely through this service Mary was able to experience in her life a mysterious, but authentic “reign”. It is not by chance that she is invoked as “Queen of heaven and earth”. The entire community of believers thus invokes her; many nations and peoples call upon her as their “Queen”. For her, “to reign” is to serve! Her service is “to reign”!”
“THIS IS THE WAY IN WHICH AUTHORITY NEEDS TO BE UNDERSTOOD, both in the family and in society and the Church. Each person’s fundamental vocation is revealed in this “reigning”, for each person has been created in the “image” of the One who is Lord of heaven and earth and called to be his adopted son or daughter in Christ. MAN IS THE ONLY CREATURE ON EARTH “WHICH GOD WILLED FOR ITS OWN SAKE”, as the Second Vatican Council teaches; it significantly adds that MAN “CANNOT FULLY FIND HIMSELF EXCEPT THROUGH A SINCERE GIFT OF SELF”.” (Gaudium et Spes, 24; http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/letters/documents/hf_jp-ii_let_29061995_women_en.html).
The personalist affirmation is that man is “the only creature on earth that God has wanted for its own sake.” God does not will the plants and animals for their own sakes. He rather wills them for the sake of human persons. But human persons He wills for no one else’s sake: He wills them for their own sake, which means that they must exist as their own ends.
YOU MAY POSE AN OBJECTION or ask does not God use us or do not religious people, want to be used by God? Does not Saint Francis in his famous prayers say make me an instrument of your peace? It seems that if we belong to God, although we sometimes belong to ourselves as persons, we also belong to God and are not absolutely our own, but He has every right to use us. Thus we might wonder whether this personalist principle really holds across the board.
In reply to this objection: “This principle, (the personalist principle), has a universal validity. NOBODY CAN USE A PERSON AS A MEANS TOWARDS AN END, NO HUMAN BEING, NOT EVEN GOD THE CREATOR. On the part of God, indeed it is totally out of the question since by giving man an intelligence and free nature He has thereby ordained that each man alone will decide for himself the ends of his activities and not be a blind tool of someone else’s end . Therefore if God intends to direct man toward certain goals, he allows him to begin with to know those goals so that he may make them his own and strive toward them independently.” (“Love and Responsibility”, by Karol Wojtyla ; p. 27).
God, far from instrumentally using us as means, is the last one who would use his created persons, according to John Paul.
(See also: Karol Wojtyla’s “Love and Responsibility” (1. Analysis of the Verb “to Use”): a summary; http://www.christendom-awake.org/pages/may/summaryofl&r.htm).
This important point was made a few years after John Paul wrote this by VCII in the pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world, which John Paul helped to draft. There is a line which John Paul has quoted literally 1000’s of times as Pope. “MAN IS THE ONLY CREATURE ON EARTH WHICH GOD WILLED FOR ITS OWN SAKE.” (GS 24; http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html).
OFTEN THIS IDEA IS EXPLAINED LIKE THIS WAY:
God wills the plants and animals not simply for their own sakes but for the good and use of man. But God does not will man as person for the good and use of anyone else, not even for the good and use of Himself. But in some important sense wills man for his own sake.
So John Paul says that WHEN YOU AND I RESPECT EACH OTHER as persons, treating each other in accordance with the personalist principle, WE SHARE IN THE VISION THAT GOD HAS OF US. Because God is the one who first of all respects us as each his own end and abstains from all instrumental using. When we show that respect for each other, we are sharing in the vision that God has of his own created persons.
ANOTHER KIND OF OBJECTION that some people feel committed to a kind of altruism according to which I should always be willing to be a means for the good of others. I respect others as an end to themselves, but I being generous and selfless and altruistic am glad to be a mere means for their good. This kind of altruism where you freely make of yourself a mere instrument for the good of others is completely out of order; it is in complete opposition to the personalism of John Paul. EACH PERSON HAS TO RESPECT THE FACT THAT HE OR SHE IS HIS OR HER OWN END AND NEVER A MERE INSTRUMENTAL MEANS. It is pseudo generosity, pseudo selflessness, to will to be a mere means for the good of others; that is abolishing myself as person. This would be to fall away from that vision of all persons, myself included, that God has. He does not treat me as a mere means and therefore I have no right in the service of others to degrade myself to the status of a mere means.
If a person must not treat himself or herself as a mere means, THEN EVEN MORE A SUPERIOR MUST NOT DO THE SAME above all when there is a temptation to direct a person, who in is crisis, without having the patience to gently persuade the person calmly in the right direction waiting for the person in crisis to understand, digest and accept in his or her name the truth that the superior believes will result in the true good.
EACH PERSON HAS A GREAT DESIGN FROM GOD; parents, priests and bishops must, with much reverence before the mystery of each person, help them to discern together in order to discover that design that God has planted in the heart of each person. It is so easy for us leaders to fall into the easier habit and the quicker way to set the others straight according to our criteria, or according to our project of program, instead of listening in order to facilitate the people to slowly perceive and discover the beautiful design of love from God for each person.
THE TENDENCIES TOWARD TRIUMPHALISM AND TO ABSOLUTIZE ONES OWN MOVEMENT or group easily leads the leaders to push forward their program of their movement without dialoguing and discerning together with much patience and delicacy. In this year of faith, the Pope calls us to deepen the Second Vatican Council which called all Christians to follow Jesus Who came to serve and not to be served.
Often there is a tendency among leaders in the Church and in the ecclesial movements that when you do not do as the leader wants, YOU HAVE A PROBLEM and there is not the invitation or the atmosphere of dialogue do discover the truth together of the discern together. There is the attitude of the leaders to put you in line! OFTEN ONE DOES NOT DISTINGUISH BETWEEN DIALOGUE AND MONOLOGUE; one confuses imposing with proposing, suggesting with commanding. Often there is the attitude and habit among leaders to straighten out the others. God never does it this way because God knows how to love! This way of doing things is a way of compelling psychologically instead of leading and drawing others toward Christ freely above all with a good example of the Christian life. It is difficult for the leaders to get out of this attitude because there is little listening or dialogue, but only monologue with those under as is done in the military but not in a healthy family; there is dialogue only with the other leaders who are in agreement with themselves. Normally there are good intentions on the part of the leaders. This is similar to the difficulty of parents to transfer the responsibility of decision making to each child at the proper moment when the child is ready for a certain step. One gets used to being a teacher and many times one looses the most important thing: that is to listen in order to help the student to discern and to discover the truth of the good that can be received, and to embrace the truth in his own name. “Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak” (Jms 1:19).
How many today want people to listen to them, to obey them, but they are not willing to listen to or read the documents presented by those not in agreement with themselves, as if they have all truth and everyone else must listen to them, while they criticize, judge and condemn those who do not acquiesce to their infallible decrees and judgments. How much spiritual life is suffocated in the Church due to religious leaders who act this way without seeing the invisible bad fruits?!? Pope John Paul II repeated many times the importance of dialogue, not monologue! The Pontiff was telling us to have the humility to seek the truth together without falling into the primary temptation of Satan (Gen 3:5), offering to each other the documents and information that we have found along with our own thoughts and ideas in this process of discerning together and seeking the truth outside of our own heads.
2. EACH PERSON IS HIS OWN WHOLE AND NO MERE PART.
Another aspect of the personalist principle of John Paul is that each human person is his own whole and never a mere part of any whole. That means that each person never exists simply to build up some whole, like build up society, as if his whole reason for being were simply to build up the community in which he lives in. No. As a person he is not a mere part in any whole, but is in a sense his own whole. Just as each is his own end so each, in a sense, is his own whole.
OVER THE CENTURIES PEOPLE HAVE LOST A SENSE OF THEIR PERSON-HOOD BY BEING ABSORBED INTO THEIR SOCIAL GROUP, as a kind of tribal mentality where you are completely immersed in the group; you feel almost as if you do not make any sense outside of that group. You experience yourself as a mere part of the social whole. And with that you loose a grip on yourself as person. To awaken as person is to discover, however tightly I may be integrated in some community, I am as person my own whole.
THIS LOSE AS A PERSON HAPPENS OFTEN IN THE CULTS BUT ALSO IN GOOD COMMUNITIES where there is often the tendency of the leaders to not respect this great dignity and individuality and mystery of each person. If a leader does not struggle each day to remember these fundamental truths, praying to God each day for true humility and true love, very easily one aggregates to oneself also the roles and the callings of the others, seeking to help or put straight the others, with good intentions and motives, but without that delicacy and mutual discernment respecting the free will of the other; and when a person does not do as the leader thinks, it happens that the leader insinuates that this person has some kind of a problem according to the experience of this leader who believes that he must form everyone according to his head without the attitude that perhaps he does not understand the whole mystery of the person before him.
THIS OFTEN HAPPENS ALSO IN THE ECCLESIAL MOVEMENTS, in particular in the first phase of the movement, in which there are many people who entered the movement after a strong personal crisis, and thus the are weak seeking a lifebuoy outside of themselves in order to not drown in our very secularized culture of today; one can feel he is loosing his soul without the help of an ecclesial movement.
In this situation of cultural and personal crisis often the leaders of the movements are used to neglecting the obligation to discern together and not to compel or manipulate (psychologically, etc.) the people under them to do something not well explained in a transparent way, digested and accepted. Many leaders do not want to explain the truth of the “good” in order to offer the possibility of the person to enter into dialogue in order to be able to embrace the good in his own name. MANY LEADERS HAVE NOT DEVELOPED THIS ABILITY IN THEMSELVES TO GENTLY PERSUADE TOWARD THE TRUTH which leads to the good according to the leader; thus habitually one uses coercion in many ways, while the person under is not offered the possibility to enter into dialogue about the decision that involves this person. Naturally these leaders believe that they are not absolutizing the own movement as the Popes advise us.
In these times of crisis one naturally seeks capable and strong leaders to lead well the people. But according to the Gospel, the strong must help the weak and not act like a bulldozer taking a position of command as a captain in a war. Jesus came to serve not to command as Jesus counsels the apostles (Mt 20:24-28). The strong have a tendency to see the humble as weak who need their help, and often are blind of the beauty of the virtue of humility and meekness, AND DO NOT APPRECIATE VERY MUCH THESE VIRTUES SO PRECIOUS IN THE EYES OF GOD. To love ones neighbor as oneself is the second commandment. In moments of crisis and weakness, who do we want to be treated by others? Do we not want to be treated with patience until we are able to understand well the proposals for solutions and to be able to decide with all our awareness? Blessed are those who have leaders like Jesus meek and humble of heart (Mt 11:29.
One time a priest who assisted in a house of formation for priests in a particular ecclesial movement said to me: “I do not know how a priest can save himself without the help of the spirituality of this movement”! In this same ecclesial movement one can choose to take vows or not. Many leaders in this movement do not know what to do with one who is not totally tied with the vow of obedience because THEY HAVE NOT LEARNED THE TECHNIQUE OF PERSUASION BUT OF COMMAND WITHOUT DISCUSSION; These leaders remained insecure and thus do not help very much others or the group or the community, to arrive to an authentic security based on true humility and thus true love.
At the present time in this same ecclesial movement, after the death of the founder, THERE ARE VERY FEW NEW VOCATIONS, except in a few countries in the third world such as in Brazil and in the Philippines; it seems to me that there is lacking precisely this base of humility without which there is no virtue even though one speaks of love and great ideals. After only 5 years after the death of the founder, many internal members of this ecclesial movement are leaving the movement, even many in perpetual vows, so much so that it is being considered to offer only one zone for all of Italy which now has at least 6-8 zones. Professor Remi Hoechman, O.P., at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum), who wrote the document for the Vatican on the new religious movements (1986), explained to us in his course on the new religious movements (1988, Angelicum) that the new movements generally pass through 5 stages or phases, the first stage is when the founder is still alive. It is difficult for the people in the movement in the first stage to understand and to put into practice the words of the Popes who tells us to not to ABSOLUTIZE “ones own movement, which ends up identifying itself with the Church herself, to understand itself as the way for all while in fact this one way can be made known in different ways.” (http://www.rns-italia.it/vademecum/Vademecum.htm).
“My sons, how often in my long career has this great truth come home to me! IT IS SO MUCH EASIER TO GET ANGRY THAN TO BE PATIENT, TO THREATEN A BOY RATHER THAN PERSUADE HIM. I would even say that usually it is so much more convenient for our own impatience and pride to punish them than to correct them patiently with firmness and gentleness… Let us look on those over whom we have a certain authority, as sons. Let us be determined to be at their service, even as jesus came to obey and not to command. We should be ashamed to give the least impression of domineering. We should only exercise authority in order the better to serve the boys. That was how Jesus treated his apostles. He put up with their ignorance and dullness and their lack of faith. His attitude towards sinners was full of kindness and loving friendship. This astonished some and scandalized others, but to others it gave enough hope to ask forgiveness from God. He thus tells us to learn from Him to be meek and humble of heart (Mt 11:29)” (Saint John Bosco, The Divine Office, January 31).
“AND ABOVE ALL, BE CAREFUL NOT TO USE FORCE, BECAUSE GOD HAS GIVEN FREE WILL TO EVERYBODY AND WANTS TO FORCE NOBODY, BUT ONLY POINTS OUT, INVITES AND COUNSELS. I do not mean, however, that at times one must not make use of some restraint, even of severity in some cases, depending on the importance of the circumstance and the need of the individuals. But even then, we must be moved solely by charity and zeal for souls” (Saint Angela Merci, The Divine Office, January 27).
To progress toward human and spiritual maturity as leaders THERE IS NEEDED MUCH TRUE HUMILITY! Often there is lacking this reverence before the mystery of each unrepeatable person! EACH PERSON PROGRESSES ACCORDING TO HIS OWN BUILT-IN TIME, with the grace of God, with the personal call of God, with the generosity to correspond with the graces of God, etc, and thus there is needed much patience to not push or coerce the people at the speed or in the way of the leader, but at the speed and in the way of each person with the grace of God.
SOMETIMES THE LEADERS DO NOT FEEL FULFILLED IF THEY DO SET STRAIGHT THE OTHERS. One justifies imposing instead of proposing, of dispatching instead of waiting for the proper time for each person. Many believe that love means to straighten out the other instead of praying, making sacrifices and freely offering council and persuasion. One can fall into the habit of seeking to see the defects in the others in order to justify setting straight the others according to ones own criteria. If one say to a leader not very mature “thank you for your suggestion (or council) brother”, the leader is not very happy because he wants that you do his will. It is really not a suggestion or advice on the part of this leader but it is a command.
Spiritual theology, as well as, for example, the Diary of Saint Faustina in a simple way, explains to us that THE CONFESSOR, THE SPIRITUAL DIRECTOR AND THE SUPERIOR HAVE DIFFERENT ROLES and one must confide in each of these guides according to their vocations from God, without mixing or confusing the roles of each. Structures are needed. The variety of charisms and leaders are ordained by God. But many times in the ecclesial structures one slides toward an attitude as if the graces or the specific spirituality of the Church or of the ecclesial movement is given only to the people higher in the structures and thus there is less motivation for dialogue and to discern together with those lower in the ecclesial structures.
AFTER HAVING MET POPE JOHN PAUL II FIVE TIMES, I was very struck when we exchanged a few words in our second meeting, that it seemed to me that I was the only person in the world for him in that moment, even though he had all of the responsibility of the whole Church on his shoulders! The wisdom of the saints to see Jesus in the neighbor in the present moment; they trust in God and not in themselves! The saints understand the dignity and the mystery in each person and that God works in the present moment not according to our agenda (“A Life’s Adventure”: http://josephdwight.blogspot.com). The saints developed the delicacy and humility to perceive the subtle breath of the Holy Spirit in every occasion.
ONE COULD ASK HOW DO YOU RESPECT THE FREEDOM OF CHILDREN AS YOU EDUCATE THEM? We could bring out the very important distinction that flows right out of John Paul’s personalism between coercion and persuasion, forcing another whether they see it or not. Persuasion involves giving the child reasons, if the child will hopefully understand so that the child will want the thing that you want for it all in the child’s own name. You somehow take the child very seriously as person by going as far as you can in his way of persuasion, that is giving reasons disclosing truth, disclosing the truth about good. If the child gets just a glimpse of that and comes to see for himself that this is good then he will obey. You really have appealed to the child as person, you have influenced the child as person. And now the child has the same independent reasons for wanting the good thing that you have. As parents there is no avoiding a certain amount of coercion, as for an unruly child, but the older they get the more available they become to reason, to persuasion, the more sensitive they become because there is truth about good. The great task, the great art, of the educator is to tap that potential of the child and let it grow in understanding about the truth about good. Because then you influence and form the child but without this depersonalizing aspect of coercion, but you sort of awaken the child to a new personal life by the persuasion which is giving reasons for accepting something in his own name
“No, you are not too indulgent. In some cases it is far better to yield than to keep the upper hand. Here is a point in a question that Jesus wants you to follow. BEFORE GIVING ADVICE or a well merited proof to a pupil or anyone else, recollect yourself for a moment, then you put yourself in the other person’s place and act toward her as you would want her to act toward you in a similar situation. Then Jesus would be pleased.” (“A Manuscript On Purgatory”; http://purgatory-manu.blogspot.com).
WITH RELIGIOUS OBEDIENCE it looks like I am just yielding to the religious superior and sort of putting myself out of commission as an acting person. A religious superior will often give many things to do that you would not have chosen yourself. Nevertheless it is in any case possible for you to fully understand why it is good to have a superior, why it is good to obey God. IN THE CASE OF ABRAHAM who obeys God and is ready to sacrifice his son Isaac, that obedience, blind obedience, was still worthy of Abrahams person because he deeply understood that God is worthy of obedience, which he knew and understood. So his obedience was not completely blind. If the obedience of Abraham was completely blind, if he did not know why Isaac had to be sacrificed, if he did not know who God was or why God ought to be obeyed, then the obedience would not really be a free act, because there would be no truth that he was understanding. But he does understand that God is worthy of obedience and He will not deceive him. And therefore that hard heroic obedience of Abraham was still an act of his person, not an abnegation, but a free act, acting through himself, responding to faithfulness
Thus we know that religious obedience is a great virtue. BUT IN THE PAST IT WAS RARELY DISCUSSED ABOUT THE GREAT DAMAGE THAT CAN BE CAUSED BY SUPERIORS WITH VERY LITTLE MATURITY IN A RATHER CLOSED ENVIRONMENT. Often in the past one would say God would provide for this situation but without addressing this problem.
Dr. Edward Sri quotes Pope John Paul II (Love and Responsibility) in his book: “Men, Women and the Mystery of Love”:
“The strength of such love emerges when our beloved stumbles, when his or her weaknesses or even sins come out in the open. One who truly love does not then withdraw his love but loves all the more, loves in full consciousness of the others shortcomings and faults, and without in the least approving of them. For THE PERSON AS SUCH NEVER LOSES ITS ESSENTIAL VALUE; the emotion which attaches itself to the value of the person remains loyal to the human being.”
Dr. Sri points out that we do not approve of the other persons faults; we may not approve in the way they are treating us. SOME PEOPLE HAVE A SKEWED DYSFUNCTIONAL VIEW OF LOVE. They might even Christianize bad things happening in a relationship. John Paul II is telling us that we are not just to be a doormat where we are to be walked over all the time.
A WOMAN TOLD DR. SRI: “My spouse treats me like this in these areas and I know I am supposed to be like Jesus and just love and forgive.” Dr. Sri asked her if she ever brings this up with her husband and the way he is treating her, how this is hurting her and how it is hurting the children? She replied: “Well no, I am just supposed to love.”
DR. SRI EXPLAINS THAT IS NOT LOVE. The definition of love from Aquinas is: to will the good of the other person (as we say in Italian: “Ti voglio bene.”). This is true love. So if I really love this person, such as my spouse (or superior) and that my spouse is doing something wrong that is hurting me and hurting our marriage (or the religious community), if I love him, do I just sit back and do not say anything? No! If I really love him I want what is best for him. It is not good for him to act un-virtuously toward you. REAL LOVE WOULD MEAN THAT YOU ACTUALLY CALL HIM ON THIS. You bring this up with him, gently but firmly. With great mercy, you may not judge him, you may not be angry with him. But you should bring this issue up with them.
This is another illustration of the FALSE KIND OF ALTRUISM mentioned above in which the person feels he should always be willing to be a means for the good of others, but which is in complete opposition to the personalism of John Paul.
BUT INSECURE SUPERIORS DO NOT LIKE TO BE CONFRONTED, and often create a type of atmosphere or psychological or group barrier, even in a smooth seemingly virtuous way, so that those under them feel very uneasy even considering the possibility of confronting a superior.
Jesus said to the high priest: “I have said nothing secretly. Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said. When he had said this one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand saying “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken wrongly, bear witness to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly why do you strike me?” (Jn 18:20-23). Jesus took the risk of being struck again by the officer by “actually calling him on this”! JESUS WAS NOT A DOORMAT! Jesus did not remain silent in this situation even though silence would probably have been the easiest way as so many others do before superiors so as to get along without making any waves, without causing any negative reactions. Also Jesus was not venting His anger either as would be our normal human tendency, but He expressed the truth, not in revenge, even though He knew that soon afterwards He would be crucified so as to do His Father’s will for the redemption of mankind. Mother Angelica of EWTN on her broadcast “Mother Angelica Live – Temple of the Holy Spirit – 4-17-12” offered her council about what to do about bullies: “speak up, stand up, because they are cowards”!
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CHIARA LUBICH, THE FOUNDRESS OF THE FOCOLARE MOVEMENT, with small groups of 4 or 5 or 6 consecrated men or women who live together as lay people, in the “Answers of Chiara on Renewal” (Christmas 1997) responded to many questions. In the section on “Unity and authority”, she responded thus:
Question: “How can authoritarisnism be avoided? In one of your talks to the focolarine (consecrated women) December 1962, you affirmed: “The Work (of Mary, the Movement) is not a democracy, it is not a monarchy, it is not an oligarch…” and we could perhaps continue saying that it is not a dictatorship nor an anarchy. What is it then? You said one time to the focolarine to “loose obedience and the command, but only love”. Can you explain this better to us?
“In the Work (of Mary, the Movement) there cannot be neither authoritarisnism nor paternalism.
Answer: “In the Work it is not in force neither a democracy (which would be the government of the majority); nor a monarchy (where a leader commands); nor anarchy (where no one commands); nor a dictatorship (where the leader makes himself even the owner or boss of the people); nor an oligarch (where it is the group that commands). In the Work there must be in force only – if one can say it this way – the Trinitarian system.
“How the relationships among the Persons of the Trinity “function”, so that we can have Them as an example, I will say afterwards.
“For now it is enough this affirmation: in order to live the way of the Most Blessed Trinity it is necessary to love. Truly, with Augustine: “Love and do as you will”. It is enough to put love as the base of everything (“Ante omnia”). Also before commanding, also before obeying, also at the base of every relationship… Always love. Because of this I said that it is necessary to loose virtue, that is to not have virtues without charity. If you have patience but you do not have charity, because you are mumbling inside of yourself while outside you seem patient, you do not even have patience… It is necessare to loose virtue che might not be motivated by love, that might not be lived out of love, in lore, with love. Do not think so much about obeying, nor of commanding, but to always love.
“The one in charge, before a focolarino (a consecrated person) or before focolarini (consecrated lay people), he must know above all how to occupy himself in doing one thing: to love them. In order to do this he will live the four ways of loving: he will take the first step in loving, making himself one with the others, loving all of them and seeing Jesus in them. When he is sure to have loved them and, by consequence, to be loved by them, he will be able to say what each one would have to do; but always continuing to love, listening thus to their eventual objections.
“On the part of the focolarino (consecrated person) before the one in charge, he must not think about obeying, but about loving, he too with the four points. He will then explain, as a gift, that which could be his thought also different or something that confirms what was said by the one in charge, because that creates unity.
“The consequence will be that he will realize to be obeying not so much the one in charge, but rather Jesus. And in fact he obeys Jesus in the midst. Jesus in the midst must be the true Head of the focolare. From here is the perceived freedom from one and from the other.
“The one in charge must love, love always. The relationship between the leader and the focolarino must be in the way that exists in the Most Blessed Trinity between the Father and the Son. The Father always generates, because He si Love, the Son. If for one moment (admitting that there might be time beyond our world), he might cease to love, He would no longer be Father. A personality said: “I love, thus I am”. It is like this.
“To love continually means to take care of the consecrated persons, always: to nurish them, to update them, to help them, to communicate to them their own experiences. To listen to them, to listen to them and again to listen to them. To be their best friend, their best brother, their best father.
“It could be that due to various circumstances, the leader stops at a certain point to love the consecrated people. This does not justify the rebellion on the part of the consecrated people… It could be in fact that that poor leader might be tired, worn out, and thus in that moment he does not love: this, though, does not justify rebellion. The consecrated person chose Jesus Forsaken also in this case.
“But this forsakedness cannot go on. For the love of the focolare (the group together), and only for this, it is necessary to bring this up.
Question: “We are called to establish our relationships on the Trinitarian model. The focolare heads often carry out the task in the “way of the Father”. How does one preserve the beauty enclosed in the phrase: “As in the Trinity, so in the focolare”?
Answer: “Perhaps instead of the “way of the Father” I am afraid that the ones in charge live often the way of themselves… How can one live instead the “way of the Trinity”? It is necessary that the one in charge truly lives in<<q the way of the Father and that we live in the “way of the Son”. Now, the Son is not a person dominated by the Father. The Son loves the Father in His turn, as the Father loves Him.
“Thus also we must put in love. If you love the head of the focolare and if he loves you, then the Trinitarian relationship between you is established, and everything functions. Because Jesus in the midst is realized because Jesus is also in both of you. It will be Him that Who will say to your leader what he must do, while you will say if you are capable of doing it and if you can do it. And so forth. There will be this conversation, which has as a model the “conversation” which exists in the Most Blessed Trinity.
“Moreover we inherit something from the religious orders, for example the vows, among with that of obedience. Thus, basically, it is necessary to keep in mind that this superior also has a few “small graces” besides.
“But, from my experience, it is very rare the case in which in my focolare I must say to the consecrated women to obey me because “I have a grace”, because I am president, because they are in vows… Almost never. We love each other reciprocally, we help each other out reciprocally and everything functions, unity is stable.”
They ask me often: “How do you manage, Chiara, to work so much, how do you succeed in doing so many things?” The fact is that almost never do I have to resolve a problem with someone. I get up in the morning and everyone already go forward at a quick pace. I see the Coordination Center, or a department, and I observe that there is already unity. It is not necessary to do anything… And so…
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It is interesting this last paragraph, and the others, of Chiara Lubich. How many religious leaders maintain the structure and strong esteem before their subjects in order to maintain obedience like in a military army, as if that if a superior imitates Jesus meek and humble of heart, no one obeys and there would not be order? The law of the jungle, might makes right, instead of the law of the Gospel! Chiara Lubich, as Jesus Christ, lead the others by example while respecting the free will of their subjects.
It is interesting that immediately after these “Answers of Chiara on Renewal” (Christmas 1997) there were reverberations of enthusiasm, such as “a second foundation of the Work of Mary”. But very quickly afterwards, one no longer heard anything about this “Renewal”. Basically, Chiara, delicately, indicated that there was lacking maturity, humility, especially among the leaders of the Focolare Movement.
“GOD NEVER VIOLATES OUR FREE WILL. It is up to us whether we want to receive God’s grace or not. It is up to us whether we will cooperate with it or waste it” (Diary of Saint Faustina, no. 1107).
“I never cringe before anyone. I can’t bear flattery, for humility is nothing but the truth. There is no cringing in true humility. ALTHOUGH I CONSIDER MYSELF THE LEAST IN THE WHOLE CONVENT, ON THE OTHER HAND, I ENJOY THE HONOR OF BEING THE BRIDE OF CHRIST. Little matter that often I hear people say that I am proud, for I know that human judgment does not discern the motives for our actions” (Diary, 1502).
“When, at the beginning of my religious life, following the novitiate, I began to exercise myself particularly in humility, the humiliations that God sent me were not enough for me. And so, in my excessive zeal, I looked for more of them on my own, and I often represented myself to my superiors other than I was in reality and spoke of miseries of which I had no notion. But a short time later, JESUS GAVE ME TO KNOW THAT HUMILITY IS ONLY THE TRUTH. From that time on, I changed my ideas, faithfully following the light of Jesus. I learned that if a soul is with Jesus, He will not permit it to err” (Diary, 1503).
The most fundamental giff that God gave to each of us, created in His image, the only thing that belongs totally to each of us is our free will, which God respects totally. God, Who is the absolute Truth, does not force anyone to be with Him for all eternity. The theologians explain to us that the most fundamental tendency of Original Sin, of our human nature, is to not want to respect the free will of our neighbor.
Several times in my life WHEN I SPOKE UP BEFORE SUPERIORS ABOUT SERIOUS PROBLEMS WHICH INVOLVED THE SUPERIORS, their reaction was very negative to the point that I was abandoned and stripped of my assignment in my diocese or even denied final vows in a religious congregation even though all my previous superiors for six years were very happy with me as this same religious in temporary vows. In each of these cases I suffered a great deal, even depression with medical treatment for several years, but afterwards I thanked God that He had removed me from those groups, with such superiors, which were not progressing toward greater Christian maturity, while discouraging dialogue on important issues.
I must add that I ENTERED THIS CONGREGATION AT THE AGE OF 31 with already a good number of experiences as well as a sharp intelligence. I came to realize after I was sent away that one of the major factors for my dismissal, after more than 4 years in temporary vows, was precisely these experiences which these young superiors did not take the time to discover my sincere seeking of the truth and growing in the truth precisely in these experiences (http://necedah-cult.blogspot.com), indicating that these experiences were not compatible with the charism of the religious congregation. Superiors easily get used to forming seminarians who have very few life experiences and they get used to not dialoguing together with the ones in formation to seek the truth together with a true attitude of learning from the younger ones. I think this is why ALL THE RECENT POPES ENCOURAGED SEMINARIES AND RELIGIOUS CONGREGATIONS TO ACCEPT OLDER VOCATIONS not only to cultivate the needed vocations for the Church but also to help superiors to not slack off in maintaining true humility and docility to the workings of the Holy Spirit, without which a tremendous amount of possible fruits in the Church are greatly hindered. It requires real perseverance to live continually the present moment, seeing in each person with the eyes of faith and humility so as to seek to enter into the great mystery in each person and to help each person to discern, discover and live the great God-given design for each person before us. How many dioceses or religious congregations would have had much more good fruits in the vineyard of the Lord if superiors were more mature with true humility and thus less insecure and more openness to the workings of the Holy Spirit in each individual person in formation. St. Bonaventure, as well as many saints, tells us that without humility there is no virtue!
AT THIS POINT WE COULD SPEAK ABOUT THE CONCEPT OF THE CONSCIENCE. Pope John Paul says a great deal about conscience that when the person encounters the good and the truth about good and perceives the obligation to do something or to avoid something. It is above all in conscience that we bring this truth about good in relation to ourselves and discover what we ought to do, the right thing. But that ought is not burdensome if we understand it in conscience. That element of understanding is all important for John Paul.
OSCAR WILDE said that when I lived only for what was agreeable to me, I ceased to be captain of my soul, I lost my freedom, as person. I was no longer able to act through myself. I was so dominated by the pleasurable drives and instincts that I was somehow dethroned as person.
EVEN IN RELATION TO HIGHER GOODS that are more than just the merely pleasurable, IT CAN HAPPEN THAT OUR FREEDOM CAN BE LOST. There is a very profound passage on this from John Paul:
“TRUTH IS A CONDITION OF FREEDOM. For if a man can preserve his freedom in relation to the objects which thrust themselves on him in the course of his activities, as good and desirable, it is only because he is capable of viewing these goods in the light of truth and so adopting new dependent attitudes to them. Without this faculty man would inevitably be determined by them. These goods would take possession of him and determine totally, the character of his actions and the whole direction of his activities. His ability to discover the truth gives man the possibility of self determination of deciding for himself the character and direction of his own actions. And that is what freedom means.” (“Love and Responsibility”; pg. 115, by Karol Wojtyla).
“The Church knows that this Gospel of life, which she has received from her Lord, has a profound and persuasive echo in the heart of every person-believer and non-believer alike-because it marvelously fulfills all the heart’s expectations while infinitely surpassing them. Even in the midst of difficulties and uncertainties, every person sincerely open to truth and goodness can, by the light of reason and the hidden action of grace, come to recognize in the natural law written in the heart (cf. Rom 2:14-15) the sacred value of human life from its very beginning until its end, and can affirm the right of every human being to have this primary good respected to the highest degree. Upon the recognition of this right, every human community and the political community itself are founded. In a special way, believers in Christ must defend and promote this right, aware as they are of the wonderful truth recalled by the Second Vatican Council: “By his incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every human being”.2 This saving event reveals to humanity not only the boundless love of God who “so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (Jn 3:16), BUT ALSO THE INCOMPARABLE VALUE OF EVERY HUMAN PERSON.” (Evangelium Vitae, no. 2; http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25031995_evangelium-vitae_en.html).
ANOTHER OBJECTION is that we as persons belong to communities, do not we all perform definite functions, partial functions that complete each other. Are we not saying that John Paul’s personalism condemns that kind of membership in communities? By no means. When you or I play some very partial role in a larger community we have to remember that that is not the whole person we are. We wear a kind of mask living in society performing some very limited function; we complete the function that others perform. But we must never identify ourselves with that partial function, or we depersonalize ourselves. We have to remember that as person I am always vastly more than one who performs some partial function in a community.
The French Philosopher JACQUES MARITAN, who had some influence on the young Karol Wojtyla, puts it very nicely like this: He says that “A COMMUNITY COMPOSED OF PERSONS SHOULD BE THOUGHT OF AS A WHOLE COMPOSED OF WHOLES.” That is, any kind of unity where you do not have mere parts of persons being members and building up the social whole.
Many people feel often that the WESTERN SOCIETIES ARE VERY FUNCTIONAL AND PEOPLE ARE LIKE AN ELEMENT OF A BIG MACHINE and you do not often hear them speaking about their feelings or their personal life. Sometimes they forget what they are inside.
John Paul produced three great social encyclicals. He constantly falls back on his personalism and the self-hood of the person in order to explain the right ordering of the society. So for instance he will often say that the ECONOMIC SOCIETY IS NOT JUST LIKE A MACHINE WITH PARTS AND COGS, but it is an organization of persons. And therefore we cannot treat those persons like parts in a machine. There are powerful tendencies to depersonalize, especially in the economic sphere and to reduce a person to a mere partial function.
In John Paul’s Encyclical Letter, “, “LABOREM EXERCENS” one reads the “Personalist” argument:
“Thus, the principle of the priority of labour over capital is a postulate of the order of social morality. It has key importance both in the system built on the principle of private ownership of the means of production and also in the system in which private ownership of these means has been limited even in a radical way. Labour is in a sense inseparable from capital; in no way does it accept the antinomy, that is to say, the separation and opposition with regard to the means of production that has weighed upon human life in recent centuries as a result of merely economic premises. When man works, using all the means of production, he also wishes the fruit of this work to be used by himself and others, and he wishes to be able to take part in the very work process as a sharer in responsibility and creativity at the workbench to which he applies himself.”
“From this spring certain specific rights of workers, corresponding to the obligation of work. They will be discussed later. But here it must be emphasized, in general terms, that the person who works desires not only due remuneration for his work; he also wishes that, within the production process, provision be made for him to be able to know that in his work, even on something that is owned in common, he is working “for himself”. THIS AWARENESS IS EXTINGUISHED WITHIN HIM IN A SYSTEM OF EXCESSIVE BUREAUCRATIC CENTRALIZATION, WHICH MAKES THE WORKER FEEL THAT HE IS JUST A COG IN A HUGE MACHINE MOVED FROM ABOVE, THAT HE IS FOR MORE REASONS THAN ONE A MERE PRODUCTION INSTRUMENT RATHER THAN A TRUE SUBJECT OF WORK WITH AN INITIATIVE OF HIS OWN. The Church’s teaching has always expressed the strong and deep convinction that man’s work concerns not only the economy but also, and especially, personal values. The economic system itself and the production process benefit precisely when these personal values are fully respected. In the mind of Saint Thomas Aquinas, this is the principal reason in favor of private ownership of the means of production. While we accept that for certain well founded reasons exceptions can be made to the principle of private ownership-in our own time we even see that the system of “socialized ownership” has been introduced-nevertheless the personalist argument still holds good both on the level of principles and on the practical level. If it is to be rational and fruitful, any socialization of the means of production must take this argument into consideration. Every effort must be made to ensure that in this kind of system also the human person can preserve his awareness of working “for himself”. If this is not done, incalculable damage is inevitably done throughout the economic process, not only economic damage but first and foremost damage to man.” (Laborem Exercens, no. 15; http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_14091981_laborem-exercens_en.html).
IN OTHER SOCIETIES, SUCH AS AFRICA, THERE IS MORE SPACE FOR THE PERSON. There is a profound sense of solidarity in some of those more traditional societies. That is a very positive thing. BUT SOMETIMES THAT SENSE OF SOLIDARITY IS SO STRONG THAT AGAIN YOU HAVE PARTS OF A WHOLE. If a person feels like outside of his tribe, he does not make any sense at all, like a bodily organ taken out of the body which does not make sense except as it functions in the body. Then that social solidarity interferes with his person-hood. In the west with this kind of collectivistic, socialistic organizations of economic life; we become like economic parts. But in the older traditional societies, in the tribal mentality, can absorb you almost as part of the whole. In each case part of the remedy is reviving the sense of the person-hood of these. The fact that as person I am never a mere part in any whole.
John Paul tells us that THE BEGINNING OF A CULTURE OF PERSONS IS UNDERSTANDING THESE BASIC TRUTHS. He would say lets begin with this personalism and understand it more deeply, a greater understanding of oneself, and respect for oneself and others as persons.
IS IT NOT TRUE THAT WE UNAVOIDABLY USE PEOPLE IN SOCIETY? An employer who is looking for a secretary and writes up a job description; he is going to hire the most efficient one and that seems to be using the person as a means. You could say that every time you call the telephone operator for a number you are using that person as a means. Are we constantly violating the personalist principle of John Paul? Is it inevitable that morning noon and night we trample on this principle? There must be something wrong with the principle if nobody can get to the end of the day without violating it. All of these human transactions that look like one person is using another can after all be personalized. TAKE THE EMPLOYER. Already the fact that a worker is not coerced but freely chooses to work for an employer is a certain respect for the person. The employer can take a human interest in the wellbeing of the worker at the workplace and does not have to make the worker a mere instrumental means for increasing profits. WHEN YOU CALL THE TELEPHONE OPERATOR, there are ways of greeting and giving signs of respect whereby you acknowledge the person. All of these transactions that you are referring to of everyday life that have an element of using can be personalized so that we respect the personalist principle. All too often however it happens that we merely use the telephone operator; that we merely use the people whom we hire for a job. In particular, we men should let ourselves be challenged by this personalist principle of John Paul. If I really want to get to know a person deeply I have to completely step out of these relations like employer to employee; that element of using at least limits my ability to really encounter the other as person. MORE DEEP ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF THE PERSON-HOOD AND EXPRESSIONS OF RESPECT REQUIRE ME FROM TIME TO TIME TO STEP COMPLETELY OUT OF THOSE USING RELATIONS.
IT TAKES A HUGE AMOUNT OF COURAGE TO STEP OUT OF THE NORMS, the formalities. There is a huge mass pressure on individuals to maintain this depersonalizing way. One has to have a certain boldness to practice this personalism. It is so easy to just comply, to be a willing part in the whole, or to be a willing means to someone’s end. It often takes a certain audacity and a certain reflectiveness to break out of those depersonalizing structures It takes courage to express our ideas that we believe to be true above all when we know it is not in harmony with the leader or of the society. “It is not politically correct!” We can ask ourselves if I am doing something because I want it or because I am told that I want it? Am I really doing it right now out of myself or is the society making me do it? Am I really acknowledging this other person as person, do I show signs of respect? Is the relationship just one of using one as a means to an end. That of course is condemned by the personalist principle of John Paul.
Today more than ever, a true Christian feels very uneasy to express his Christian principles in the public square. The secularists are making the laws to coerce the true Christians into the closet, in private, and out of the public square! It is very interesting that THE SECULARISTS AND HOMOSEXUALS ACTIVISTS ACCUSE THE CHURCH OF IMPOSING MORALITY AND THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, and yet after the vast majority of states and groups of people voted to maintain marriage as between one woman and one man as God intended, these culture destroyers continue to come back against the will of the vast majority of people to subtly and deviously coerce, manipulate and force their agenda down our throats against our expressed desires; even using the most advanced methods of brainwashing the people without their permission! True Christians love the sinners but hate the sin. The puppets of Satan hate everyone and thus, in truth, hate themselves!
In the “Land of the Free”, the United States, it is not longer protected the right of conscience of people. The truth is that it is now worse in the United States than in the countries from which our founding Fathers of the United States fled from centuries ago to be able to have “freedom of religion”, not just “freedom of worship”, which means only privately without being able to offer the values of Christianity in the public square, as our Savior, Jesus Christ, commanded us to do (Mt 28:19; Lk 24:47; Acts 1:8)!
Visit: “37. The Astounding Impact of the Ruthless Manipulation of Militant Gay Activists!”; “Catholic Prophecy Today”; http://markbeast.blogspot.com).
POPE JOHN PAUL II IN RETHINKING AND DEVELOPING THE SOCIAL TEACHING OF THE CHURCH FALLS BACK ON THE SELF-HOOD OF THE PERSON. The idea of the person disappearing as a mere functional part in the social economic whole is the great error of socialism. The self-hood of each person is ignored and trampled upon in socialism; it disappears and gives rise to a depersonalized organization of social life. Socialism does not make reference to the free will of man; it reduces man to a mere series of social relationships. In socialism man disappears!
“Continuing our reflections, and referring also to what has been said in the Encyclicals Laborem exercens and Sollicitudo rei socialis, we have to add that the fundamental error of socialism is anthropological in nature. SOCIALISM CONSIDERS THE INDIVIDUAL PERSON SIMPLY AS AN ELEMENT, A MOLECULE WITHIN THE SOCIAL ORGANISM, so that the good of the individual is completely subordinated to the functioning of the socio-economic mechanism. Socialism likewise maintains that the good of the individual can be realized without reference to his free choice, to the unique and exclusive responsibility which he exercises in the face of good or evil. Man is thus reduced to a series of social relationships, and the concept of the person as the autonomous subject of moral decision disappears, the very subject whose decisions build the social order. From this mistaken conception of the person there arise both a distortion of law, which defines the sphere of the exercise of freedom, and an opposition to private property. A person who is deprived of something he can call “his own”, and of the possibility of earning a living through his own initiative, comes to depend on the social machine and on those who control it. This makes it much more difficult for him to recognize his dignity as a person, and hinders progress towards the building up of an authentic human community.”
“IN CONTRAST, FROM THE CHRISTIAN VISION OF THE HUMAN PERSON THERE NECESSARILY FOLLOWS A CORRECT PICTURE OF SOCIETY. According to Rerum novarum and the whole social doctrine of the Church, the social nature of man is not completely fulfilled in the State, but is realized in various intermediary groups, beginning with the family and including economic, social, political and cultural groups which stem from human nature itself and have their own autonomy, always with a view to the common good. This is what I have called the “subjectivity” of society which, together with the subjectivity of the individual, was cancelled out by “Real Socialism”. (Centesimus Annus, no. 13).
John Paul asks: Why is the person overlooked in socialism? How is it that this self-hood of the person goes unnoticed so that the person is degraded to a mere part of the economic whole. He gives a very profound response worth of reflection on our part. He says:
“If we then inquire as to the source of this mistaken concept of the nature of the person and the “subjectivity” of society, we must reply that its first cause is atheism. IT IS BY RESPONDING TO THE CALL OF GOD CONTAINED IN THE BEING OF THINGS THAT MAN BECOMES AWARE OF HIS TRANSCENDENT DIGNITY. Every individual must give this response, which constitutes the apex of his humanity, and no social mechanism or collective subject can substitute for it. The denial of God deprives the person of his foundation, and consequently leads to a reorganization of the social order without reference to the person’s dignity and responsibility.”
“The atheism of which we are speaking is also closely connected with the rationalism of the Enlightenment, which views human and social reality in a mechanistic way. Thus there is a denial of the supreme insight concerning man’s true greatness, his transcendence in respect to earthly realities, the contradiction in his heart between the desire for the fullness of what is good and his own inability to attain it and, above all, the need for salvation which results from this situation. (Centesimus Annus, no. 13; http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_01051991_centesimus-annus_en.html)
“This heightened sense of the dignity of the human person and of his or her uniqueness, and of the respect due to the journey of conscience, certainly represents one of the positive achievements of modern culture. This perception, authentic as it is, has been expressed in a number of more or less adequate ways, some of which however diverge from the truth about man as a creature and the image of God, and THUS NEED TO BE CORRECTED AND PURIFIED IN THE LIGHT OF FAITH.” (Veritatis Splendor, no. 31; http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_06081993_veritatis-splendor_en.html).
WHY IT IS THAT WE DISCOVER OURSELVES AS PERSONS ONLY BEFORE GOD and therefore loose the sense of our person-hood, willing to be mere parts, when we break away from God. This is perhaps the reason why the great Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle, never really discovered that each human being is a person, because they lacked that encounter with the living God which reveals each human being as a person.
3. EACH PERSON IS UNREPEATABLY HIMSELF AND NO MERE INSTANCE OR SPECIMEN OF ANY KIND.
Another aspect of self-hood is that each human person is unrepeatable; it is a mysterious aspect of person-hood, deep and particularly fascinating. Pope John Paul II does not use the term unrepeatable, but he has the idea. He writes (“Love and Responsibility”, by Karol Wojtyla; p. 21):
“We speak of individual animals looking upon them simply as single specimens of a particular animal species and this definition suffices. BUT IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO DEFINE A MAN and an individual of the species homosapiens. The term person has been coined to signify that a man cannot be wholly contained within the concept individual member of the species, but that there is something more to man, a particular richness and perfection in the manner of his being which can only be expressed with the use of the word person”
This is a very rich and deep passage. HE IS SAYING THAT YOU AND I AS PERSONS ARE NOT JUST INSTANCES OR SPECIMENS OF THE HUMANKIND. There is always more to us than just an instance or specimen of the human species. Even if you think of other things like a certain human being is a woman, an Austrian, a doctor… In every case, she is more than just an instance of a woman; more than just a specimen of an Austrian or a doctor. So whatever type we take, JP wants to say that man as person is more than just an instance of that type. That is why the use of stereotypes is so depersonalizing, the typical woman, the typical man, because it make us think that there is nothing more to the human being than what happens to fulfill the stereotype. This hides from us that abundance of being in each person which always goes beyond all of our types and stereotypes.
In this passage, John Paul is here referring to the unrepeatability of each person. Because if I was repeatable as if there was a complete copy or a duplicate of me, then I and the other person would both be instances of the same type. But the fact that we are not mere instances of any kind, that expresses the unrepeatability, the fact that each person is something that happens only in that one person, something ordered as it were by God, and possible only in that one person. A DUPLICATE OF THAT PERSON, TO HAVE TWO COPIES OF THE SAME PERSON IS IMPOSSIBLE, ABSURD. God would not do such an absurd thing. The persons He creates are absolutely unrepeatable.
Nowhere do we go so deeply into the mystery of person-hood as when if we think that if a human person were to be destroyed forever, there would remain a kind of hole, a gap in the world, a wound in the world. I could never be fulfilled by any subsequent person. Because persons contain something that can exist only in themselves, and that it is never repeated in any other person.
HOW CAN WE RECOGNIZE PEOPLE AS UNREPEATABLE?
Often when we look at people we seem to see this quality and that quality and the other quality, which we see in other people as well. So how do we find this mysterious center of unrepeatable person-hood. How do we come to know it? One of the deepest answers that has been given to that question was given by the GERMAN PHILOSOPHER MAX SCHELER who had a profound influence on John Paul when he studied philosophy at Kracov. (http://www.crvp.org/book/Series01/I-35/ch3.htm). Max says that WE CAN ONLY UNDERSTAND THE UNREPEATABILITY OF A PERSON BY LOVING THAT PERSON. So only approaching a person with the eyes of love do we see more than just a bundle of qualities, an instance of different types and kinds. The unrepeatable mystery of each person really reveals itself in the eyes of love. If you approach a person in an analytic way, lovelessly, you will not see that unrepeatability. You will think that we just have a specimen of this, that and the other thing and that is the whole story. That interiority of the person, that contains it’s mystery that happens only one time in this person, cannot be duplicated in any possible other person, which shows itself only through the eyes of love.
THERE IS A VERY CLOSE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE UNREPEATABILITY OF PERSONS AND THE DIGNITY OF PERSONS. John Paul spoke more about the dignity of persons than their unrepeatability. There is and intimate relationship between these two aspects of the person. You and I have dignity not just because we have human nature. Every other human being has that too. We also have dignity because I am this unique person and you are that unique person. But that brings with it a tremendous personal dignity. If we were just replaceable specimens of human nature then there would be a much weaker dignity. Then you could eliminate me and produce a better specimen in some other person, as is done in selective abortions. And everything you destroyed in me would exist in a better specimen. So the dignity of each individual person is really tied very closely to the fact that each is unrepeatable himself. When John Paul announces the gospel of the dignity of persons he is thinking very much of this uniqueness or unrepeatability of each person as the basis for it.
ONE COULD ASK THE QUESTION IF ONLY BELIEVERS IN GOD ARE ABLE TO RECOGNIZE MAN AS A PERSON? It seems like there are plenty of unbelievers who do recognize the dignity of the persons. For instance there is this very interesting person of the Czech Republic; Havel, who says he is not a believer and yet he has very profound things to say about the dignity of the person (http://www.uffl.org/vol%209/crosby9.pdf). But scholars tell us that only in relationship with God do we discover our dignity. How then does Havel understand the dignity of persons without being a believer?
FIRST OF ALL, CERTAINLY THE BELIEVER IN GOD UNDERSTANDS THE DIGNITY OF PERSONS BEST. Only the person who feels himself as it were called by name by God and addressed personally by God really awakens this sense of being unique and an unrepeatable person. So we believers, you might say, have a tremendous advantage by being believers in discovering the dignity of persons. On the other hand, somebody like Havel, would be a kind of beneficiary of Christianity. Christianity points out a lot of true things and we discover them for the first time thanks to Christian revelation. And yet once they are pointed out to us they can, to some extent, be understood on their own terms. So once the fact that persons are not just specimens but unrepeatable is pointed out, people can, to some extent, understand this just with reference to the person without bringing God in. But I still say that we who think of the person in reference to God will always understand more deeply that unrepeatability. A complete atheist who absolutely rejects God will probably have very little ability to understand this unrepeatability of the person.
WHEN POPE JOHN PAUL WENT TO THE UNITED NATIONS, he talked about the dignity of persons and he expected that people would understand him. Christianity has done a kind of great service in that it introduced new ideas, like man as person; these ideas can hold their ground to some extent even without the Christian support. Actually in the encyclical on Faith and Reason (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_15101998_fides-et-ratio_it.html), John Paul points out that contemporary philosophy gets almost all of its great questions and issues from Christianity. And so with man as person is first revealed when man encounters the living God and is called by name. But then with that something is awakened in man that people who do not share our faith, to some extent, can understand; they can learn from our esteem for the dignity of persons, and to some extent understand what it is that we teach about.
WHEN WE SUCCEED IN PENETRATING AND UNDERSTANDING EVER MORE DEEPLY THIS THEME, IT BECOMES MORE SPONTANEOUS TO RESPECT THE PERSON IN FRONT OF US WITH A GREAT DIGNITY. This understanding helps us to live better the fundamental commandment to love our neighbor as our self, which includes also includes those people who we consider below us, or handicapped, or unwanted babies, or unwanted senior citizens.
POPE JOHN PAUL II WAS OFTEN BEEN CRITICIZED FOR USING THE LANGUAGE OF RIGHTS. He spoke about the rights people have, and any violation of their rights. And even some Catholic critics have said why talk so much about rights. St. Thomas Aquinas did not talk about rights people have. Why is the Pope using this modern terminology? The pope spoke this language of rights simply because it is a very understandable way referring to the self-hood of the person. So that when John Paul said that socialism violates the self-hood of the person, he was saying the same thing that it violates the basic rights of the person. John Paul used this so common language of rights to give expression to the self-hood of persons. What is respect is required by that self-hood. So for that reason, you might say his talk about rights flows right out of his personalism, and ought to be understood in that way.
HOW DOES POPE JOHN PAUL II RECONCILE FREEDOM AND TRUTH? If people could only led to understand this truth about good then it will cease to be a burden, it will cease to be oppressive. It is all important that the moral law not just be there like a big battery of do’s and don’ts, mainly don’t’s. That we might be able to understand the human rhyme and reason for the right of this and the wrong of that. So the truth about good has to be understood. Then we can take it into ourselves and make it the inner law of our own actions … then ceases to be a burden
THE PERSON IS REVEALED AS PERSON THROUGH HIS ACTING. When a person is coerced or manipulated, the that person becomes the extension of someone else’s acting. We regret it of course if the person embraces an erroneous religion, but he must be free of coercion. Many people who want to return to before the Second Vatican Council do not want to understand or accept this fundamental principle of true love.
“This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that NO ONE IS TO BE FORCED TO ACT IN A MANNER CONTRARY TO HIS OWN BELIEFS, WHETHER PRIVATELY OR PUBLICLY, WHETHER ALONE OR IN ASSOCIATION WITH OTHERS, WITHIN DUE LIMITS. The council further declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person as this dignity is known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself.(2) This right of the human person to religious freedom is to be recognized in the constitutional law whereby society is governed and thus it is to become a civil right.” (Dignitatis Humanae, no. 2; http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651207_dignitatis-humanae_en.html).
“MAN’S GENUINE MORAL AUTONOMY in no way means the rejection but rather the acceptance of the moral law, of God’s command: “The Lord God gave this command to the man…” (Gen 2:16). HUMAN FREEDOM AND GOD’S LAW MEET AND ARE CALLED TO INTERSECT, in the sense of man’s free obedience to God and of God’s completely gratuitous benevolence towards man. Hence obedience to God is not, as some would believe, a heteronomy, as if the moral life were subject to the will of something all-powerful, absolute, ex- traneous to man and intolerant of his freedom. If in fact a heteronomy of morality were to mean a denial of man’s self-determination or the imposition of norms unrelated to his good, this would be in contradiction to the Revelation of the Covenant and of the redemptive Incarnation. Such a heteronomy would be nothing but a form of alienation, contrary to divine wisdom and to the dignity of the human person.” (Veritatis Splendor, no. 41; http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_06081993_veritatis-splendor_en.html).
“The attempt to set freedom in opposition to truth, and indeed to separate them radically, is the consequence, manifestation and consummation of another more serious and destructive dichotomy, that which separates faith from morality.” (Veritatis Splendor, no. 88; see also: no. 17, 31, 34).
THIS DISCUSSION IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN WE REALIZE. We do not realize how many seminarians, priests, and parochial collaborators and others in the Church left due to leaders who were not very mature who did not know how to live the “kenosis” of the Father in the Trinity and thus there was not the base to be able to love in the Christian way. Many do not seek to live the consequences of the personalism of Pope John Paul II.
FATHER THOMAS DUBAY, AND EXPERT ON THE SPIRITUAL LIFE IN THE UNITED STATES, indicated in his lecture series “Freedom And Authority” (epidode 8) that before the Second Vatican Council there was a strong tendency of superiors to be authoritarian which contributed greatly to the exodus of many religious and priests after the Council. Dubay explains that the authoritarian superiors often cause an excessive reaction. Dubay citing Richard McCormick, explains that a good leader offers a good influence for others rarely using commands (episode 10). Some superiors tried to maintain this authoritarian way after the Council, but many superiors after the Council went to the other extreme of permissiveness which also causes much harm. (“Freedom And Authority”; Fr.Thomas Dubay EWTN; http://www.ewtn.com/series/2006/Freedom.htm).
THERE ARE MANY SEMINARIANS AND YOUNG PRIESTS AND ALSO LAY PEOPLE WHO LEARN THIS WAY OF CLERICALISM FROM THE OLDER PRIESTS and they too want to arrive to these positions of honor and privileges and titles; there is a certain personal appeal toward clericalism. They want to maintain the clericalism all too common before the Council, while they learn to cover up even better the real underlying motives. Some boast about not being attached to these prideful things, in order to appear well before others, but they do not succeed in overcoming the temptation of dominating others as Jesus told the apostles not to do (Mt 20:25-28). One finds reference to the phenomenon in the Document: “Sects or New Religious Movements: Pastoral Challenge”, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Città del Vaticano, 1986.
Young priests and religious formed by such superiors who offer a facade of “holiness” without true humility BECOME IMBUED BY THE SAME HIDDEN SPIRIT OF LACK OF THE PURE MOTIVE FOR THE GLORY OF GOD, WITHOUT REALIZING IT, and they too feel more and more important the more they climb the ladder of importance in the ecclesial structures; this hidden pride is attractive to our fallen human nature. This is why such an article as this can help those is such situations and environments to not slide, unconsciously, in the wrong direction.
“Indeed, it is better to keep quiet and be (a Christian), than to make fluent professions and not be. … But let us have no misunderstanding about this, my brothers. No man who is responsible for defiling a household can expect any share in the kingdom of God. … Such a wretch in his uncleanness is bound for the unquenchable fire, and so is anyone else who gives him a hearing” (ST. IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH; Monday OT, Week 2).
“Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. the person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor’s tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense” (CCC 2284).
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea” (Mk 9:42).
Was the Mother of God perhaps not prudent in sending Saint Michael the Archangel at Garabandal (Spain, 1965) to reveal: “Many Cardinal, many Bishops and many Priests are on the road to perdition and with them they are bring many souls”!
The document on New Religious Movements points out: “Before the Second Vatican Council there seemed to be more vocations perhaps in part due to the greater social and prestigious advantages which thus attracted a certain percentage of young vocations due to certain non virtuous premises or at least immature motives. Thirty to forty years ago, to become a priest meant for many the opportunity to rise out of anonymity and become part of the elite. Now it seems that MANY GROUPS WHO HAVE ATTEMPTED TO KEEP OR REVIVE THIS TRIUMPHALISTIC OR ELITIST ATTITUDE have often attracted more vocations. Some of these groups became more hardened in this seeming subtle form of pride and end up outside the Church as Lefebvre’s group and numerous other smaller groups have done. But others have become more ecclesial and properly ecumenically minded in the true spirit of the council.” (See also: http://trueevangelization.blogspot.com).
In the 70’s the pastor of a small parish, where my parents lived, expressed several times to my parents HIS SCRUPLES FOR HAVING SENT AWAY MANY SEMINARIANS from a religious congregation in Spain; he indicated that he did not consider very much how these seminarians might have served the Church as their personal vocation but rather how they pleased himself.
WHAT TYPE OF PERSONAL SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT IS THERE when a superior sends away a seminarian already in the congregation six years and in temporary vows more than three years with very little dialogue or time spent together with this seminarian, and even less dialogue with the superiors of this seminarian, of the previous six years, who were very happy with this seminarian? If this seminarian does not enter into the schema or the ideas in the head of this superior, the seminarian is sent away after having given 6 years of his life in this religious family, in this community! How much spiritual life is suffocated by immature superiors who have learned so little from Jesus meek and humble of heart (Mt 11:29)? Afterwards one discovers the negative results! Often these superiors justify themselves thinking that they did some kind of spiritual discernment inside their own heads, or spoke with those in there very restricted group around them who are totally in agreement among themselves. What type of spiritual discernment is this? Is this the type of discernment that the saints and Blessed John Paul II indicate to us?
HOW MANY PRIESTS AND BISHOPS HAVE SUFFOCATED THE GUIDANCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT in this period of the Church? It is true that people in the ecclesial movements are on their “way” or in spiritual formation and have much ahead of them in their spiritual journey, but to put a spoke in their wheels (to put an obstacle in their way) because they are not yet “mature” as we priests and bishops believe to be!?!
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said on May 27 1998: “… THERE IS MANIFESTED MANY DANGERS, as well as the ways of overcoming, in the (ecclesial) Movement. THERE IS THE THREAT OF UNILATERALITY which leads to exaggerating the specific mandate which has its origin in a given period or in strength of a particular charism … is a fact THAT CAN LEAD TO ABSOLUTIZING ones own movement, which ends up identifying itself with the Church herself, to understand itself as the way for all while in fact this one way can be made known in different ways.” (http://www.rns-italia.it/vademecum/Vademecum.htm).
THERE IS A STRONG TENDENCY FOR THE PEOPLE IN THE ECCLESIAL MOVEMENTS TO “ABSOLUTIZING ONES OWN MOVEMENT” especially today when we find ourselves more than ever in a social, cultural and spiritual crisis at all levels. But we priests must seek that maturity to not run from this lack of maturity which suffocates the life which is there, but to stand with Mary at the foot of the cross waiting with patience and with our example their Christian maturity. One makes a journey of faith and maturity together, each respecting the role and vocation of the other. (see also: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_jp-ii_exh_30121988_christifideles-laici_en.html).
Cardinal Ratzinger exhorted also the Bishops! The world Congress of ecclesial movements, in Rome 1998, was initiated with an important report of the then cardinal Ratzinger. In that report Ratzinger, AFTER HAVING EXHORTED THE MOVEMENTS to avoid unilaterality and absolutization, HE TURNED ALSO TO THE BISHOPS, reminding them “that it is not permitted to comply to pretensions of absolute uniformity in the organization and in the pastoral programming. THEY CANNOT BUILD THEIR ROCK HARD PASTORAL PROJECTS in which the Holy Spirit is allowed to work: before mere human planning it can happen that the Church renders herself impenetrable to the Spirit of God, to the strength of which the planning lives. It is not licit to pretend that all must insert themselves into a determined organization of unity: BETTER LESS ORGANIZATION AND MORE HOLY SPIRIT!”
POPE BENEDICT SAID TO THE NEW BISHOPS SEPTEMBER 12, 2009:
“Jesus summed up all these multiple aspects of his Priesthood in a single sentence: “The Son of Man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10: 45). Serving, and in so doing giving oneself; existing not for oneself but for others, on behalf of God and in view of God: this is the innermost core of Jesus Christ’s mission and at the same time the true essence of his Priesthood. Thus he made the term “servant” his highest title of honour. He brought about with it an overturning of values, he gave us a new image of God and of man. Jesus does not come in the guise of a master of this world but the One who is the true Master comes as a servant. HIS PRIESTHOOD IS NOT DOMINION BUT SERVICE: THIS IS THE NEW PRIESTHOOD OF JESUS CHRIST, IN KEEPING WITH MELCHIZEDEK. … We do not bind people to us; we do not seek power, prestige or esteem for ourselves. We lead men and women toward Jesus Christ, hence toward the living God.” (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/homilies/2009/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20090912_ord-episcopale_en.html).
These admonitions of the Pope, from our mother Church, are meant to help us to not let our vices, pride and the devil to diminish these gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Many have not learned THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PROPOSING AND IMPOSING, BETWEEN SUGGESTING AND COMMANDING, even though Jesus tells us that it is necessary to love our neighbor as ourselves.
“Whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Mk 10:43).
“Jesus called them to him and said, “YOU KNOW THAT THE RULERS OF THE GENTILES LORD IT OVER THEM, AND THEIR GREAT MEN EXERCISE AUTHORITY OVER THEM. It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt 20:25-28; Mc 10:35-45).
Even FROM THE BEGINNING, in the Church, these words of Jesus were applied to the leaders of the community: the TEMPTATION to command and to dominate is in fact easy for the ones in the position of authority. ALSO IN THE CHURCH UNFORTUNATELY!
In September 2012 I said to A PRIEST LEADER IN AN ECCLESIAL MOVEMENT of which I am a part: “We say in the prayer ‘Act of Contrition’, “I promise with the help of thy grace to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin.” Then why are there some leaders in our movement in the zone who are in favor of “living together” (before marriage)? This leader exploded and became very angered toward me. He accused me of calumny, and then he asked me for what motive would they have done this. I answered him: “in order to love the couples”! Now even more angered, he got up and accused me of something, and I said to him: “According to who? According to God? According to who?” In fact, some of the leaders of this movement tried to obstruct in every way the “Family Day” (2007) in Italy. The principle goal of “Family Day” in Italy was to help sustain families and to block the proposed law “DICO” in favor of factual couples (“coppie di fatto”). After more than 25 years in this movement I was surprised how many leaders feel they are above the others and everyone else must receive this charism only by way of them. They feel they are important because they are children of an important founder for our times. If one even considers the possibility that one of the leaders in this movement made a mistake, this person is looked upon as having made a grave error, a “grave sin” even without dialogging to investigate if the accusation is true! “For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham” (Mt 3:9). There are many leaders in this movement, as in just about all groups in the Church and outside of the Church, who are very very worried about what people or the public might think about them, indicating that this priority of human respect is more important than the truth or how others might be treated in order to maintain this “holy and pure” public image! Jesus died totally humiliated on the cross even though He too was seeking followers! But Jesus was seeking followers in the Truth which truly sets us free (Jn 8:32)!
Today the priests who preach the whole gospel and all of the teachings of the magisterium of the church are LABELED RIDGED AND OLD-FASHIONED, INSENSITIVE, lacking in compassion, divisive, judgmental, moralists. While at the same time the ones who maintain a culpable silence, the ones who tell their people what they think they want to hear are seen as understanding, sympathetic, pastorally sensitive and merciful. But this way of doing things is not true mercy, but rather misguided compassion! What is most important, this short life or eternity?
IT IS TRULY DIFFICULT TODAY TO FOLLOW JESUS IN THE SOCIETIES TOTALLY SECULARIZED. Even the disciples of Jesus “were greatly astonished, saying, Who then can be saved? (Mt 19:25). Jesus did not change his teaching to accommodate the disciple or to not loose his disciples (Jn 6) like so many religious leaders do today, let along politicians. But Jesus “looked at them and said to them, With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Mt 19:26). The true courageous pastors the couple to seek help in the sacraments and to pray the Rosary in order to live the prophetical encyclical Humanae Vitae and all of the teachings of the Magisterium of the Church. Those who bow to the god of human respect give a “loving kiss” (of death!) as they lead couples gently to succumb to the mentality and strong currents of our modern world today which leads to their destruction? The objective reality of the world and the universe and of human existence was created by God, not by you or me! Thus the rules of the game of life are determined by Him, not by the very numerous relativistic gods on the earth today (Gen 3:4-5)! God’s instruction manual, found and explained in Sacred Tradition, the Magisterium of the Church and Sacred Scripture, offers “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (Jn 14:6) which shows us how to avoid disasters and to find true freedom and happiness not only in heaven but also here on earth. They say that God forgives all the time, and that man forgives sometimes, but NATURE NEVER FORGIVES.
What was the reaction of King David in the Old Testament when the prophet Nathan (2 Sam 12:1-13) pointed out the truth to David? Did David say to Nathan that your words are “very offensive” and thus refused to communicate with Nathan from then on? DAVID HAD HUMILITY EVEN THOUGH HE WAS THE KING OF ALL OF ISRAEL.
“O MY JESUS, NOTHING IS BETTER FOR THE SOUL THAN HUMILIATIONS. In contempt is the secret of happiness, when the soul recognizes that, of itself, it is only wretchedness and nothingness, and that whatever it possesses of good is a gift of God. When the soul sees that everything is given it freely and that the only thing it has of itself is its own misery, this is what sustains it in a continual act of humble prostration before the majesty of God. And God, seeing the soul in such a disposition, pursues it with His graces. As the soul continues to immerse itself more deeply into the abyss of its nothingness and need, God uses His omnipotence to exalt it. If there is a truly happy soul upon earth, it can only be a truly humble soul. At first, one’s self-love suffers greatly on this account, but after a soul has struggled courageously, God grants it much light by which it sees how wretched and full of deception everything is. God alone is in its heart. A humble soul does not trust itself, but places all its confidence in God. God defends the humble soul and lets Himself into its secrets, and the soul abides in unsurpassable happiness which no one can comprehend.” (Diary of Saint Faustina, no. 593).
Jesus said: “Woe to you, when all men speak well of you” (Lk 6:26). “For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (Jn 12:43). “How can you believe, WHO RECEIVE GLORY FROM ONE ANOTHER and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? (Jn 5:44) (Mt 6:1-18).
I HAVE BEEN IN THE CHURCH ALL MY LIFE AND THUS NEEDLESS TO SAY I HAVE SUFFERED THE MOST FROM MY SPOUSE, THE CHURCH. I have been betrayed and abandoned by priests loosing my community or parish or friends; twice I suffered a difficult depression after such experiences. After one of these experiences, I was just about destroyed mentally, I went into depression and I also took medication. But what saved me was that I persevered in praying everyday before the Blessed Sacrament at least an hour each day even though thoughts of anger and self justification and judgment continued to come into my head. But slowly I began to realize how much Christ suffered for me and that my debt to Jesus was “ten thousand talents” and that the priest who caused me to go into depression owed me only “a hundred denarii” (Mt 18:23-35). To read the rest of this experience, visit: “Let Us Love Our Spouse” (http://spir-food.blogspot.com/2008/05/let-us-love-our-spouse.html). Afterwards I thanked God that I was not tied to these types of people with perpetual vows!
This same priest who treated me in this way and gathered negative testimony against me, behind my back without saying a word to me, in order to present this information to the bishop to send me away from my parish, ended up loosing me in his ecclesial movement in the diocese. Now more than 12 years later, his movement is dying and almost non existent. It is also interesting that THIS COMMANDING PRIEST SOUGHT TO COERCE THE YOUNG PRIEST WHO TOOK MY PLACE. This young priest went to the bishop to explain the situation and so the bishop made him pastor of my former parish so he was under no canonical law to obey this domineering priest; this young priest ended up overreacting to this ill-treatment by dismissing those helping in the parish who had any affiliation with any ecclesial movement. These type of insecure priests only know how to operate in a tightly, well-defined structure, but do not know how to freely attract others to the proposals which they feel are so important.
Two years ago the new bishop of my diocese asked me if I wanted a large parish. I hesitate about 5 seconds, and then I responded that I do not yet have Italian citizenship. My bishop asked me how long I was in Italy and I responded 25 years. A year later I received the Italian citizenship, but I did not communicate this information to my bishop because I am convinced that I am serving the Church much better offering help with the confessions and Masses for the numerous Neocatechumen communities in my diocese, as well as helping other ecclesial movements and parishes where there is a lack of priests. Also it takes a considerable amount of time to evangelize on the Internet. I am discovering more and more from first hand personal experience that the great majority of those who still frequent the parishes in Italy have slowly slid into a mediocre religion of convenience in which the religion no longer exists to help each one to “know, love and serve God” as we learned as children in the catechism, but to serve ourselves. For the vast majority of these lukewarm Christians, it would take at least a minor miracle to change the direction of their lives and fundamental egoistical attitudes. Thus I offer help to the ecclesial movements approved by the Church, even though the parishes must always be maintained. It is a growing process of this collaboration between the two basic aspects of the Church: “The institutional and charismatic aspects are co-essential as it were to the Church’s constitution.” (http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/laity/documents/rc_pc_laity_doc_27051998_movements-speech-hf_en.html).
MANY PRIESTS AND BISHOPS FEEL THREATENED OR AT LEAST UNEASY WITH THE NEW ECCLESIAL MOVEMENTS and thus do not assist in the growth in the maturing process of those in these movements, and even discourage and obstruct their growth. This is similar to the growing respect and maturity in the natural tension (intended by God) between husband and wife with two different roles even though they are equal in dignity. My bishop, who is also Vice President of the Italian Episcopal Conference, and now a Cardinal, recounted one time in a parish meeting where I help out the importance of maintaining the parishes and of this collaboration citing what the French bishops said to the Italian bishops to not make the mistake that the French bishops did by giving the primary priority to the base communities while neglecting the parishes. Now there is just about no point of reference or structure to maintain the vital direction of the hierarchy for the Church in France.
The other day when I was at table for lunch with a dozen priests, the priest who abandoned me in my former parish discovered that I finally received the Italian citizenship. He indicated that he was going to communicate this information to the bishop so that I could receive the title of pastor. I said to him: “OF WHAT USE IS THIS?” He was caught off guard and did not know how to respond to me. Later when he expressed his approval of socialism, I asked him what about the writings of the Popes on this issue (mentioning Rerum Novarum, Centesimus Annus, etc.) which indicate to us the great danger of socialism. He just smiled at me as if I was not very enlightened.
A pastor of a large parish, who succeeding in building a new large church and parish halls in the parish, was offered by the Vicar General of the diocese the title of monsignor. This pastor refused the title even though the Vicar General did all he could to convince him to accept this title. This pastor recounted this offer of the Vicar General to a few of us priest one day during lunch at our monthly diocesan retreats boasting of his virtue by telling us that he said to the Vicar General: “You offer to me this title of monsignor because I am a brick layer?” This same pastor at the 40-year celebration of this new parish during a supper with about 15 priests offered a special picture to the invited priests. I was standing there and at a certain point he said to me: “You are not a pastor”, because I did not yet have the Italian citizenship. After distributing this picture to all the priests, one picture was left, so he gave it to me. IT IS AMAZING HOW ATTACHED WE CAN BECOME TO TITLES, HONORS AND PRIVILEGES EVEN AS WE TRY TO MAINTAIN AN IMAGE OF VIRTUE BEFORE OTHERS. Do these titles, honors and privileges count for something before Jesus and for all eternity?
About a year later when I came to help out with the confessions in the parish of this same priest, I offered some of the penitents, as a help to make an examination on the virtue of humility, an article that I wrote, “The Infinite God Among Us” (“IL DIO INFINITO FRA NOI”; http://cibo-spir.blogspot.it/2014/01/il-dio-infinito-fra-noi.html). When this priest read this article immediately after this celebration, he accused me of many things and then began to walk away without giving me the opportunity to respond which is how he normally treats others who he feels he must put straight according to his way of thinking. But I immediately responded in an intelligent way without letting him run away, which he is not used to. He then said to me in his typical authoritative way that what I wrote was all wrong. I thanked him for his suggestions even though the way he said this to me was as if it were a command. He accused me of not having permission to write or offer such an article to others. I asked him if he asks the bishop permission to write and print anything in his parish. He told me that I had no right to offer such an article to penitents. I told him that I was ordained a priest for the universal Church, and thus in Confession and in the Mass, I must do what I must do as if before the Lord; I was not ordained for just one particular parish, and I will be judged by God alone. He threatened to take my article to the bishop. I responded: If you believe this is the will of God Reverent Father, do it!
When I first published this article, “THE GREAT RESPONSIBILITY OF RELIGIOUS LEADERS” (http://trueevangelization.blogspot.it/2013/05/great-responsibility.html) in June 2013, over 15 people in the USA on my email list who received my monthly “Spiritual Food”, who are rather important figures in the Catholic Church in the USA, some even appearing often on EWTN, put in a filter to send back my monthly spiritual email, “Spiritual Food”, for July, 2013.
IT SEEMS THAT THESE PEOPLE OF THIS ELITE CATHOLIC GROUP IN THE USA communicate rather quickly among each other! It is also interesting, but sad, that the same lack of willingness to take the risk of dialogging with a person considered under a superior, or former superior, continues. Is this an example of Christian maturity to be imitated as a model of life?!?
I THINK THAT IF THESE SUPERIORS HAD ANY IDEA THAT 10 YEARS LATER, after having sent away religious in temporary vows for four years with no just cause or without discernment by way of sincere dialogue and openness to seek the will of God and not just the will of these few superiors who convince themselves and others that they are infallible since they do some type of spiritual discernment inside of their own heads, that this information would become public on the Web, they would had thought twice before sending these religious away in this way, not due to the motive of truly seeking God’s will in fairness and justice but due to the possibility of this behavior of not so mature superiors becoming public!
At the same time I received the following notice from Google:
Suspicious activity in your account. We detected activity on your Google Account from a location you don’t usually sign in from. Review the information below and tell us whether you recognize this activity.
Browser sign-in attempt: Jul 2, 2013; 9:38:36 PM; Prevented; United States; atlanticbb.net, IP Address: 184.108.40.206.
Browser sign-in attempt; Jul 2, 2013; 9:38:36 PM; Prevented; United States; polarcomm.net, IP Address: 220.127.116.11; Do you recognize all of the above activity?
By email, Google sent the following on July 2, 2013:
Hi Joseph, Someone recently used your password to try to sign in to your Google Account – firstname.lastname@example.org. We prevented the sign-in attempt in case this was a hijacker trying to access your account. Please review the details of the sign-in attempt: Tuesday, July 2, 2013; 7:38:36 PM UTC; IP Address: 18.104.22.168 (207-255-45-114-dhcp.jst.pa.atlanticbb.net.); Location: Johnstown, PA, USA. If you do not recognize this sign-in attempt, someone else might be trying to access your account. You should sign in to your account and reset your password immediately,
Sincerely, The Google Accounts team.
Just as in the past, THERE WAS NO ATTEMPT TO OPEN UP A DIALOGUE, since these superiors feel they are above dialogue. Thus when things do not go as they wish, they can only resort to manipulating and forcing their will on others. Jesus always respects the free will of each person; Jesus draws people to His holy will freely with His graces and His authentic example of life! Mature adults, who are truly seeking God’s will and not other motives, seek to dialogue to seek to discern together while offering each other also documents from the Church or writings of the saints and popes. Children who have not matured tend to monologue or ask questions as a snare to trap the other person but not to sincerely seek what Jesus among us would want in a given situation.
IT IS SUCH A GREAT TEMPTATION TO BECOME ATTACHED TO THE ESTEEM OF OTHERS. “The greater you are, the more you must humble yourself” (Sir 3:18; Phil 2:5-8; Mt 20:26-28). Instead a great number of leaders go the exact opposite direction; they change this verse and think in this way: “The greater you are, the more you are important and indispensable” before men and even before God!!! “For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham” (Mt 3:9).
I updated this article with the above information from Google on June 12 or 13 2014. A HACKER, probably the same one, identified the two computers, with the computer identification numbers, that I had used to enter my Google account and sent me a virus the next day that totally blocked me from entering the Web; my browser was totally blocked as soon as I touched the mouse! I did not expect this since this article is to help religious superiors to not suffocate spiritual life in the Church, not a personal attack. I can imagine Hitler or Obama doing such a thing, but a “!?!?!?!?!” doing such a thing in a so-called democratic society with the freedom of speech at least protected by law! The person responsible for this attack did not care if everything else I do on the Web is useful to others or not; it was not an attack to eliminate one web site that the person did not want, it was an attack which totally blocked me from entering the Web! The only thing important to this person was his own personal interests “in the name of God”, done and justified with some kind of “spiritual discernment” inside of his own head! It seems that these two attacks from a hacker a year ago and now again indicate that what is written in this article hit the nail on the head, the root of the major problem in the Church today as indicated by the Second Vatican Council (http://trueevangelization.blogspot.com).
After I succeeded in finding a solution to my browser being totally blocked, the hacker then began to harass me with many “scripts that do not respond” while I was on the Internet, which made my work on the Internet very very slow, and often my computer was totally blocked.
So many priests and bishops, as well as many laity, SEEK TO MAINTAIN THE STRUCTURES IN THE CHURCH, not so much to be able to serve the Church and the faithful, but to maintain their prestige, honor and titles. Thus they also want others to keep their titles in the structures so as to maintain this system of hidden self-gratification and blind obedience of the subordinates as in the military.
Saint Augustine tells us:
IT WAS PRIDE THAT CHANGED ANGELS INTO DEVILS; IT IS HUMILITY THAT MAKES MEN AS ANGELS. Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues. The soul in which this virtue does not exist, there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance. There is something in humility that strangely exalts the heart. This is the very perfection of man, to find out about his own imperfections. You must be emptied of that which you are full that you may be filled with that which you are empty. The greater the building is to be, the deeper you dig the foundation. For once your foundation is set, the height to which you can build has been determined. You want a tower that will pierce the clouds, lay first the foundation of humility. Humility must accompany all of our actions. For as soon as we glory in our good works, they are of no further value for our advancement in virtue.
“The care of my rank has always, for some reason I find hard to explain, worried me, I mean as to why this burden was placed on my shoulders. What is it that is frightening in the office of a bishop, unless it be that I may be attracted more by WHAT IS DANGEROUS IN MY POSITION THAN BY WHAT IS FRUITFUL IN IT FOR YOUR SALVATION? While I am frightened by what I am to you, I am also consoled by what I share with you. For you I am a bishop, with you I am a Christian. The first is the title of the office I received, the second is by grace; the first implies danger, the second salvation.” (St. Augustine; Breviary, 19 Septemper, Saint Januaius).
“I have written something to the church; but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge my authority” (3Jn 9).
When one reads the diary of Saint Faustina, one sees that while she progressed in the union with Jesus, she was EVER MORE MINDFUL OF HER MISERY, and at the same time more trustful in the mercy of God with much gratitude toward God for this inestimable gift from His Mercy. While so often, the more we go forward in an ecclesial movement or in our priestly ministry, we believe to be less misery and more worthy to be before God and man. And when a person does not do what they should do according to our criteria as heads of an ecclesial movement or a pastor in a parish, instead of seeking to understand the situation and the motives of the person, how often we treat this person badly, very badly. Is this the way to love our neighbor as oneself? What remains after death for eternity, a great work that we believe to have done or our personal virtue? San Bonaventure and so many saints tell us that without humility ther is no virtue, e there is also spiritual blindness!
THE MOST SURE SIGN THAT GAVE TO SAINT VERONICA GIULIANI THE GUARANTEE that the stigmata was of God and not a trick or art of the devil was invariably the light of her own cognition and the sorrow of her own sins which became always more deep in her after each mystical phenomena. In her diary in during the years 1699-1700 we see her repeat expressions such as this: “I never knew how to pray…”. “I find myself bare of all virtues… there is not in me a shadow of virtue… never have I practiced true charity… true suffering I have never practiced… no more love in words, but in works and facts… I want to change my life”. The light about her own defects is continuous, and pressing is the need of radical renewal. To the climb of gifts and of signs of progressive dominion of the Highest Good corresponds the process of deepening in the consciousness of her self and of the passive purification which leaves ones own ego humiliated, reduced to nothingness. In reality it is none else than a purification of all that which can still hinder the way to Union with God.
One can use the same criteria to discern if a religious leader acts per the glory of God, or for the glory of himself, in the name of the glory of God.
IN THE PAST RELIGIOUS LEADERS AND SUPERIORS who treated those under them in an un-virtuous way, who were not willing to dialogue with those under them, COULD EASILY BURY AND COVER-UP THE REAL TRUTH, although there have always existed canon laws to protect those under superiors in the Church, to be able to have recourse to higher superiors. Many young religious or young priests did not know about these canon laws and thus un-virtuous superiors used the structure of the Church and their titles of authority to continue in this way without any negative consequences. Today, with the Internet, just about everything comes to light.
How many young and immature superiors of the relatively small groups of consecrated lay men and women in the Focolare Movement CAUSED A VERY NEGATIVE REACTION (years ago and even more recently after the death of the foundress, Chiara Lubich, March 14, 2008) in many who lived in the same “focolare”, the same house (www.focolare.net). These types of websites also help those who suffered psychological damage under such superiors to work through and heal this damage. From my observations, it seems that very few superiors in the Focolare Movement heeded the “Answers of Chiara on Renewal” (Christmas 1997)!
Certainly those who bring these things to light must seek to expose these things in a constructive way, not a destructive way. HOW MUCH LIFE IN THE CHURCH IS SUFFOCATED DUE TO IMMATURE SUPERIORS (Visit: “Constructive or Destructive Criticism”; http://god-politics.blogspot.it/2012/09/constructive-or-destructive-criticism.html). How many saints in the history of the Church, for the benefit of immortal souls, exposed the hidden hypocrisy of religious leaders in the Church so as to warn the sheep, similar to Christ warning the people: “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known…” (Lk 12:1-3; Mt 16:6; Mk 8:15).
Saints John Chrysostom, John Eudes and Athanasius said that the road (or the floor of hell) to Hell is paved with the bones of priests and monks, and the skulls of bishops are the lamp posts that light the path! The responsibility of priests and bishops is very great. Often Our Lady asks us to pray for them!
Today there is more stimulating factors to be accountable, even for those things that one thought would never come to light, by way of open and sincere dialogue instead of monologue in the name of obedience or hierarchical structures of importance and titles! How many superiors did not receive a formation of Christian maturity and thus are able only to maintain a structure as in a military army instead of being able to form a family of Christians. Without humility, there is no virtue, and thus even “love” is false!
How different this attitude is from the attitude of the saints! “O my Jesus, Life of my soul, my Life, my Savior, my sweetest Bridegroom, and at the same time my Judge, You know that in this last hour of mine I DO NOT COUNT ON ANY MERITS OF MY OWN, BUT ONLY ON YOUR MERCY. Even as of today, I immerse myself totally in the abyss of Your mercy, which is always open to every soul.” (Diary, no. 1553).
Somehow as I was growing up, GOD GAVE ME THE GRACE OF PERSEVERANCE TO CONTINUE TO SEEK AND STRUGGLE TO DISCOVER THE TRUTH even when surrounded by so many subtle false truths within the Church. I realize now that I was less brainwashed studying mathematics and the sciences in the university than the liberal arts curriculums even though these curriculums are very important; now many new universities are beginning to offer the liberal arts without throwing out God and divine revelation. Very often I suffered greatly because most superiors (and parents) do not like someone under them who is seeking the truth, which will make us free (Jn 8:32) but only after many crucifixions in our own personal lives!!!
THE FIRST QUESTION WE LEARNED AS CHILDREN IN THE CATECHISM was: “Why did God make you?” We responded: “To know, to love and to serve God…”. Today a great number of people have totally reversed it. God must serve us and thus religion exists in order to serve us not in order to help us to serve God, not to help us to discover the will of God and to help us to do the will of God! Today these things are upside down! The bishops, priests and religious leaders in the parishes and in the ecclesial movements are not immune to this very strong trap of relativism and human respect.
I TELL PEOPLE THAT IF THEY WANT TO MAKE IT TO HEAVEN, THEY MUST SEEK THE TRUTH (big “T”) in a difficult and confusing world, especially listening the Vicar of Christ on earth, the Pope; then live this Truth with God’s help, so that they can spend eternity with the Truth, who is God. Most people today do not even take the first step of seeking the Truth which is inconvenient because it bothers our almost dead consciences indicating to us that we must change our lives and suffer. Most people choose the easy way of convincing themselves that there is no eternity after death and thus they freely choose to lower themselves even below the level of animals with a mortal soul, thus thinking that they have no responsibility for their great God-given dignity and great responsibility. When they die, after fleeing the Truth all of their lives, God, out of true love, will respect and confirm their choice, and they will go to the place where there is no Truth, no God for all eternity! The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 1035) as well as the saints clearly tell us that the greatest pain in hell, more than all other pains put together, is the total and absolute and eternal separation of the creature from its Creator, Who is the TRUTH!
THE BEST SPIRITUALITY IN THE WORLD DOES NOT GUARANTEE SALVATION OR HUMILITY for any particular individual or religious! Often these superiors who have suffocated so much spiritual life find some kind of consolation in doing others things and projects according to their own ideas, but they do not come to realize that God had intended something much bigger and more important if they only had the humility to be God’s instrument instead of choosing to be instruments of themselves and their own ideas and projects and programs. This takes docility to the Holy Spirit Who often speak through those below us who do not think and see things exactly the way we think and see things.
IT IS EASIER TO LEGISLATE LOVE and to proclaim great evangelical ideals of love THAN TO LIVE HUMILITY. IT IS EASIER TO HIDE PRIDE with false humility than to hide the lack of charity which can be seen in works and actions (“angel of light”; 2Cor 11:14). Pride can easily enter into spiritual discernment or even into those proclaiming to live a community life with Jesus in the midst (Mt 18:20) when the superior or anyone else in the group is attached to his or her own idea and program. All the words and documents in world cannot guarantee humility and docility to the Holy Spirit. Also in the past there were many priests who entered into seminary at the age of 10 or 12 and did not have the opportunity to mature even at the natural human level; grace builds on nature. But in the end, one “will know them by their fruits” (Mt 7:15-16). Before the Second Vatican Council there was a predominance of individualistic spiritualities. But even in the more recent collective spiritualities the presence of Jesus in their midst can easily be lost if each member in the community does not persevere in the “dour combat” (CCC 409) each day against the continual and fundamental temptation away from humility which is the truth of who we are and Who God is!
A SIMPLE DISCERNMENT, OR RATHER A DISTINCTION here would be between those leaders who are willing TO TAKE THE RISK OF DIALOGGING with those under them who do not have the same ideas, and those not willing to take this risk of being confronted with another way of seeing and doing things in a particular situation or decision. This lack of courage to take this risk and to trust more in the Holy Spirit speaking through others not in agreement with ourselves can easily happen in both individualistic and collective spiritualities and environments. Human nature is what it is stained by Original Sin! The lack of diligent constant “dour combat” against the temptation of not learning from Jesus meek and humble of heart can easily lead to greater spiritual blindness, the lose of spiritual fruits and even worse as Jesus indicated: “I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:20).
Regarding priests and religious, Sister Mary Gabriel in purgatory told Sister Mary of the Cross on December 8, 1879: “ALAS, HOW MANY LIVES SEEM TO BE FILLED WITH GOOD WORKS AND AT THE DEATH ARE FOUND EMPTY. This is because all those actions that appeared to be good, all those showy works, all that conduct that seemed irreproachable – all these were not done for Jesus alone. Some will have their eyes opened when they come here to this life (in Purgatory). On earth they wanted to be made much of, to shine, to be thought very exact in religious observances, to be esteemed as perfect religious. This is the mainspring of so many lives. If you only knew how few people work for God and act for Him alone. Alas, at death, when they are no longer blinded, what regrets they will have. If only sometimes they would think of eternity. What is life compared to that day which will have no evening for the elect, or to that night which will have no dawning for the damned? On earth, people attach themselves to everything and everyone except to Him, who alone ought to have our love and to whom we refuse it. Jesus in the Tabernacle waits for souls to love Him and He finds none. HARDLY ONE SOUL IN A THOUSAND LOVES HIM AS IT SHOULD. You love Him and make up to Him for this guilty indifference which exists all over this world.” (http://purgatory-manu.blogspot.com).
Writing about sisters and superiors in a convent: “THERE WILL BE NO DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE SISTERS, no mothers, no reverends, no venerables, but all will be equal, even though there might be great differences in their parentage. We know who Jesus was, and yet how He humbled himself and with whom He associated. Their habit will be like that worn by Jesus during His Passion, and they will not simply wear the robe [He wore]; they must also seal themselves with the marks He bore: suffering and scorn. Each one will strive for the greatest self-denial and have a love of humility, and she who will distinguish herself most in this latter virtue will be the one who is capable of leading the others.” (Diary, no. 538).
THE FIRST QUALITY THAT SAINT FAUSTINA INDICATES FOR A SUPERIOR IS HUMILITY! “The superior should be distinguished by humility and love toward each sister without exception. She must not let herself be led by likes and dislikes, but by the spirit of Christ alone. Let her be aware that God will demand of her an account for each sister. She should not moralize to the sisters, but rather set them an example of profound humility and self-denial; this will be the most efficacious lesson she can give her subjects. She should be firm, but never harsh. She should be patient when bothered with the same questions. Even if she has to give the same answer a hundred times over, she should do so with equanimity. Let her strive to anticipate the sisters’ needs rather than wait till they ask for this or that, for people vary in disposition. If the superior notices that a sister is sad or is suffering, she should try her very best to help and comfort her. She should pray much and ask for light in order to know how to deal with each sister, for each soul is a world of its own. God has various ways of communicating with souls, ways that are often beyond our comprehension and notice. Therefore the superior should be careful not to hinder God’s action in a soul. She should never reprimand a sister when irritated; rather, reprimands should always be seasoned with encouragement. The person is to be helped to recognize and acknowledge her error, but she should not be crushed. The superior should be outstanding for a love for her sisters which shows itself in actions. She should take upon herself all burdens so as to ease the burdens of the sisters. She should not demand any services from them, but should respect them as brides of Jesus and be always ready to serve them, day and night. Let her ask rather than order. Her heart should be open to the sufferings of the sisters, and she herself should look closely at, and learn from, the open book; namely, Jesus Crucified. Let her pray fervently for light, especially when she has some important dealing with a sister. She should be on her guard lest she interfere with the sisters’ consciences, for only a priest has this grace. But it may happen that a sister may feel the necessity to pour out her soul to the superior, in which case the superior may listen to this outpouring, but she is bound to secrecy, as nothing hurts a person so much as to have something she has said in confidence or in secret talked about with others. Women usually have weak heads in this respect; it is rarely that one finds a woman with a man’s mind. The superior should strive for deep union with God, and God will govern through her. The most holy Mother will be the superioress of the convent, and we shall be Her faithful daughters. (Diary, no. 568).
THIS LOSE OF HUMILITY ALSO HAPPENS OFTEN AMONG THE LAITY IN NOT TRUSTING THE VOICE OF CHRIST ON EARTH, His Church with His Vicar as the head, and thus so many slide blindly into their hidden egoisms by using religion to serve oneself instead of using religion to discover the will of God by way of the guidance of the Church and using religion to do the will of God by way of the sacraments and prayer.
WE FORGET SO EASILY THAT THE VOCATION, THE CALL, COMES FROM GOD, NOT FROM OURSELVES! Jesus came to serve, not to be served! This is not easy, but for God, all is possible. Our Lady asks us always to pray for the priests, bishops and the Pope! The first target of Satan is the priests, bishops and the Pope!
After having suffered much in these situations in my life, also with superiors who often used the tactic to make me feel guilty in a strong psychological way if one does not obey blindly without offering ones thought or idea, I began to reflect much on this topic and to write my thoughts down. I asked myself, WHY DID THESE LEADERS NOT HAVE THE HUMILITY TO DIALOGUE WITH ME or to ask my opinion calmly and with genuine openness seeking together to discern and to discover the will of God together for a particular situation? What are we afraid of?
There is a great necessity of maintaining balance and equilibrium within the spiritual realms such as between husband and wife, between parents and children, between clergymen and lay people, between the charismatic and hierarchical aspects of the Church, etc. Satan continually seeks to upset this balance; if we do not heed the teachings of the Church regarding the maintenance of the proper balance in these important areas, great harm is done to individual souls, communities and to the whole Church, and thus to the whole world. All the virtues must be governed by the virtue of prudence, otherwise all the other virtues are no longer virtues. St. Thomas Aquinas ranked prudence as the first cardinal virtue, because it is concerned with the intellect. Aristotle defined prudence as “right reason applied to practice.” It is the virtue that allows us to judge correctly what is right and what is wrong in any given situation. When we mistake the evil for the good, we are not exercising prudence—in fact, we are showing our lack of it. Because it is so easy to fall into error, prudence requires us to seek the counsel of others, particularly those we know to be sound judges of morality. Disregarding the advice or warnings of others whose judgment does not coincide with ours is a sign of imprudence. Prudence “guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure” (CCC 1806; see also: Summa Theologica II-II Q47-51).
I HAVE MET SEVERAL PRIESTS THAT IN THEIR WAY OF ACTING, CREATE A TYPE OF ATMOSPHERE AROUND THEM, an attitude, that makes the others feel that these priests are above dialogue or above receiving advice from those under them; one feels that you cannot say the word “why” in regard to their ideas or to their proposals. They have a smile of confidence and of superiority; they are unapproachable, untouchable. There is a woman, Maria, that I know and who is part of the Marian Movement of Priests who comes once a month in a small parish to pray the Rosary with a few people. Sometimes when I see her I salute her as “Saint Maria”! When she telephoned me the first few times and she asked me who she is, I replied: “Saint Maria, the sinner”, and she laughed and was happy. If one jokes with certain priests in this way, the reaction is rather negative, and one realizes that you cannot joke in that way with them!
In regard to our attitude toward the poor, Saint Vincent de Paul wrote: “We visit them then, we strive to concern ourselves with the weak and the needy, we so share their sufferings that with the apostle we fell we have “BECOME ALL THINGS TO ALL MEN” (1Cor 9:22)” (Breviary, September 27). Why can we not “become all things to all men” even among ourselves?
“No, you are not too indulgent. In some cases it is far better to yield than to keep the upper hand. Here is a point in a question that Jesus wants you to follow. Before giving advice or a well merited proof to a pupil or anyone else, recollect yourself for a moment, then you PUT YOURSELF IN THE OTHER PERSON’S PLACE and act toward her as you would want her to act toward you in a similar situation. Then Jesus would be pleased.” (“A Manuscript On Purgatory”; http://purgatory-manu.blogspot.com).
One of the most striking interventions at the beginning of the council was that of Bishop de Smedt of Bruges, who attacked the general tone of the first draft of the council. HE BOLDLY EXPRESSED CRITICISM AGAINST TRIUMPHALISM, CLERICALISM, AND JURIDICALISM WITHIN THE CHURCH. … The Church was being told by the Council to remember that it followed the Lord who came not to be served but to serve” (Mk 10:45) (http://trueevangelization.blogspot.com).
“For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:20).
BEFORE THE COUNCIL THE CHURCH WAS REPRESENTED AS A PYRAMID. Above was the Pope, the Bishops, the priests and below was the people. In a real sense the Council turned over this pyramid: at the top, in the broad base, is places the people of God which includes the members of the Church. In fact, in chapter 2 of “Lumen Gentium” is the people of God and chapter 3 is on the bishops, on the heirarchy which is at the service of the people of God. Thus it is turned upside down: there is the people of God to which is served by the clergy and the religious, thus the bishops and the Pope which calls himself: the servant of the servants of God (for which the Pope always signs: Servus Servorum Dei, Servant of the Servants of God). This is the desire of the Council, but the reality is still a little different!
LATER, POPE JOHN PAUL II PUTS US ON OUR GUARD ABOUT CLERICALISM, UNDERLINING INSTEAD THE “COMPLEMENTARITY” BETWEEN THE HIERARCHY AND THE FAITHFUL LAY PEOPLE.
Address Of John Paul II to the Bishops of the Antilles (France) On Their “Ad Limina” Visit; May 7, 2002 (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/speeches/2002/may/documents/hf_jp-ii_spe_20020507_antille-ad-limina_en.html).
“THE COMMITMENT OF THE LAITY BECOMES A FORM OF CLERICALISM WHEN THE SACRAMENTAL OR LITURGICAL ROLES WHICH ARE UP TO THE PRIEST TO DO ARE TAKEN UP BY THE LAY FAITHFUL, OR WHEN THEY BEGIN TO PERFORM TASKS THAT FALL WITHIN THE PROPER PASTORAL JURISDICTION OF THE PRIEST. In such situations, that which the Council taught regarding the essentially secular character of the lay vocation is often neglected (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 31). It is the priest, as an ordained minister, who, in the name of Christ, presides over the Christian community, the liturgical and pastoral plans. The lay faithful assist in this task in various ways. But the first exercise of the lay vocation is the world of the economic, social, political and cultural realities. It is in this world that lay people are encouraged to live their baptismal vocation, not as passive consumers but as active members of the great work that expresses the Christian character. It is the priest to preside over the Christian community to allow laymen to fulfill the Church’s missionary task and their own. In a time of insidious secularization, it may seem strange that the Church insists much on the secular vocation of the laity. It is precisely the evangelical witness of the faithful in the world to be the heart of the Church’s response to the discomfort of secularisation (cf. Ecclesia in America, n. 44).”
“THE COMMITMENT OF THE LAITY IS POLITICIZED WHEN THE LAITY IS ABSORBED BY THE EXERCISE OF “POWER” WITHIN THE CHURCH. This happens when the Church is not seen in terms of “mystery” of grace which characterizes it, but in sociological or even political terms, often based on a misunderstanding of the concept of “people of God”, a concept that has deep and rich biblical bases and is so well used by Vatican II. WHEN THIS IS NOT SERVICE BUT POWER TO MODEL EVERY FORM OF GOVERNMENT IN THE CHURCH, EITHER BY THE CLERGY OR THE LAITY, THE COMPETING INTERESTS BEGIN TO BE FELT. CLERICALISM IS FOR PRIESTS IS THAT FORM OF GOVERNMENT WHICH IS STEMS MORE FROM POWER THAN FROM SERVICE, which always creates antagonisms between the priests and the people; such clericalism is found in forms of lay leadership that does not take sufficient account of the transcendental and sacramental nature of the Church and its role in the world. BOTH ATTITUDES ARE HARMFUL. On the contrary, what the Church needs is a sense of complementarity between the vocation of the priest and the vocation of the laity that is deeper and more creative. Without it, we can not hope to be faithful to the teachings of the Council nor to overcome the habitual difficulties regarding the identity of the priest, the trust in him and the call to priesthood.”
In the famous meeting during the Vigil of Pentecost, May 30, 1998, in the meeting of the Ecclesial Movements and New Communities, Pope John Paul II declared:
THE INSTITUTIONAL AND CHARISMATIC ASPECTS ARE CO-ESSENTIAL AS IT WERE TO THE CHURCH’S CONSTITUTION. They contribute, although differently, to the life, renewal and sanctification of God’s People. It is from this providential rediscovery of the Church’s charismatic dimension that, before and after the Council, a remarkable pattern of growth has been established for ecclesial movements and new communities. (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/speeches/2002/may/documents/hf_jp-ii_spe_20020507_antille-ad-limina_en.html).
Recently, with the Council, THE CHURCH REDISCOVERED SOMETHING VERY IMPORTANT OF THE MYSTERY OF GOD, ONE GOD IN THREE EQUAL AND DISTINCT PERSONS. Before the Council, especially with the scholastics, one saw more God who created us in His image and likeness, and one viewed this image of God above all from the aspect of rationality, of the conscience, of freedom. Today, THANKS TO THE PERSONALISTIC LANGUAGE WITH WHICH POPE JOHN PAUL II SPEAKS, it is more accentuated the fact that we are created in the image of God in the sense that God is the relationship of the Father with the Son and the Son with the Father in the Holy Spirit. In this sense the Cappadocian Fathers of the fourth century – Saint Basil, Saint Gregory Nazianzen, Saint Gregory of Nyssa – develop this say that the life of God is in a certain sense a “pulsating” grace to which “from unity comes forth the trinity and from the trinity one returns to unity”.
WHEN THERE IS NOT THE FORMATION FOR THE ECCLESIAL LEADERS to lead the others with the example of true humility and charity, one ends up, inevitably, to carry forth the parishes of an ecclesial group based on the structure and the rules instead of on example as Jesus guided the apostles. Saint Francis said to preach the Gospel always and when necessary also with words!
Chiara Lubich used to say often to the Focolarini that YOU MUST LOVE THE OTHER ECCLESIAL MOVEMENTS AS YOUR OWN. How many members in the Focolare Movement have succeeded in putting into practice these words full of wisdom?
IT IS A GOOD THING TO BE CHILDREN OF CHIARA LUBICH OR OF KIKO OR OF ABRAHAM… But we must always be careful to not end up like the Pharisees and Sadducees who said that they have Abraham as their father, and then did not recognize the Son of God among them! (Mt 3:7-12). “How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God” (Mk 10:23)! One can feel rich not only with material things! If one does not loose everything, in particular our titles, privileges and honors, we are not instruments of God but of ourselves; we do not live for the glory of God but for the glory of ourselves even thought we do a good job of convincing others that our motives are pure!
IT IS NORMAL TO FEAR LOOSING OUR GOOD NAME; we think that no one will listen to us as priests or as superiors. Thus we feel we must protect our good name at all costs. But Jesus died on the cross humiliated, with the risk of no one following Him any more. We fear dialogue with those who might criticize us and so we put ourselves above others in such a way that others feel very uneasy or not allowed to dialogue with us as priests or superiors. Regarding the spiritual life, Jesus told Saint Faustina: “Do not value any external thing too highly, even if it were to seem very precious to you. … Set little store on what people say. Let everyone judge you as they like. … Allow them to take away even what is due you – respect, your good name – let your spirit rise above all that. …” (Diary, 1685).
“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a meedle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Mt 19:24). EVEN ONE WHO HAS LEFT ALL TO FOLLOW CHRIST CAN HAVE A HEART ATTACHED TO A THOUSAND THINGS. Even a poor person who blasphemes because one touches his backpack can be rich before God. The great temptation of religious and civil leaders is to be attached to prestige, honor and titles! And with these attachments always comes spiritual pride! How difficult it is to leave groups with this attractive prideful mentality.
WHATEVER OUR STATE IN LIFE, we can take advantage of that which we have and also our situation in life to serve ourselves or to serve our Creator Who gave us all that we have. As Sister Mary Gabriel in purgatory clearly indicated, a priest or religious, even if he seems holy to others, can use all that he has receive from God to serve his egoism and then suffocate much spiritual life. Saint Faustina wrote:
“OH, WHAT PAIN IT CAUSES MY HEART WHEN I SEE A NUN WHO HAS NOT THE RELIGIOUS SPIRIT! How can one be pleasing to God when one is inflated with pride and self-love under the pretense of striving for God’s glory, while in fact one is seeking one’s own glory? When I see such a thing, it gives me very great pain. How can such a soul be united closely with God? Union with the Lord is out of the question here.” (Diary, no. 1139).
“On several occasions, I have learned how SOME RELIGIOUS DEFEND THEIR OWN GLORY under the pretext of being concerned for the glory of God, whereas it is not a question of the glory of God, but of glory of self. O Jesus, how painful this has been for me! What secrets the day of Your judgment will bring to light! How can one steal God’s gifts?” (Diary, no. 1149).
“Today, the Lord said to me, I have wanted to exalt this Congregation many times, but I am unable to do so because of its pride. Know, My daughter, that I do not grant My graces to proud souls, and I even take away from them the graces I have granted.” (Diary, no. 1170).
THE SAINTS TELL US THAT WITH HUMILITY, THERE IS NO VIRTUE. The Mother Directress the novitiate said to the novices: “As waters flow from the mountains down into the valleys, so, too, do God’s graces flow only into humble souls.” (Diary no. 55).
“O HUMILITY, LOVELY FLOWER, I SEE HOW FEW SOULS POSSESS YOU. Is it because you are so beautiful and at the same time so difficult to attain? O yes, it is both the one and the other. Even God takes great pleasure in her. The floodgates of heaven are open to a humble soul, and a sea of graces flows down upon her. O how beautiful is a humble soul! From her heart, as from a censer, rises a varied and most pleasing fragrance which breaks through the skies and reaches God himself, filling His Most Sacred Heart with joy. God refuses nothing to such a soul; she is all-powerful and influences the destiny of the whole world. God raises such a soul up to His very throne, and the more she humbles herself, the more God stoops down to her, pursuing her with His graces and accompanying her at every moment with His omnipotence. Such a soul is most deeply united with God. O humility, strike deep roots in my whole being. O Virgin most pure, but also most humble, help me to attain deep humility. Now I understand why there are so few saints; it is because so few souls are deeply humble.” (Diary, no. 1306).
SAINT LOUIS DE MONTFORT WROTE: “They shall be the true apostles of the latter times, to whom the Lord of Hosts shall give the word and the might to work marvels and to carry off with glory the spoils of His enemies. They shall sleep without gold or silver, and, what is more, without care, in the midst of the other priests, ecclesiatics, and clerics (Ps. 67:14); and yet they shall have the silvered wings of the dove to go, with the pure intention of the glory of God and the salvation of souls, wheresoever the Holy Ghost shall call them. Nor shall they leave behind them, in the places where they have preached, anything but the gold of charity, which is the fulfillment of the whole law (Rom 13:10).” (True Devotion To Mary, no. 58).
“IT IS PRINCIPALLY OF THESE LAST AND CRUEL PERSECUTIONS OF THE DEVIL, which sall go on increasing daily till the reign of Antichrist, that we ought to understand that first and celebrated predicton and curse of God pronounced in the terrestrial paradise against the serpent. It is to our purpose to explain this here for the glory of the most holy Virgin, for the salvation of her children and for the confusion of the devil: “I will put enmities between thee and the woman and thy seed and her seed; she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.” (Gen 3:15). God has never mad and formed but one enmity: but it is an irreconcilable one, which shall endure and grow even to the end. It is between Mary, His worthy Mother, and the devil – BETWEEN THE CHILDREN AND THE SERVANTS OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN, AND THE CHILDREN AND TOOLS OF LUCIFER. The most terrible of all the enemies which God has set up against the devil is His holy Mother Mary.” (Trattato della Vera Devozione a Maria, da San Luigi de Montfort; no. 51-52).
FATHER STEFANO GOBBI WROTE: “The 13th of May 1917 Our Lady appeared in Fatima as the Woman clothed with the sun: “According to divine plan, she came from Heaven to earth, in search of the small ones priviledged by the Father, “a Woman clothed with the sun” (Rev 12:1). She, because small, forms the army with the smallest ones in every part of the world. … The twelve stars signify also a new reality. The Book of Revelation in fact sees her as a great sign in the heavens: Woman clothed with the sun, who will fight against the Dragon and his army of evil. (Rev 12) … BEHOLD OUR LADY GOES IN SEARCH OF THESE LITTLE ONE PRIVILEDGED BY THE FATHER. If you do not have from the Celetial Father the grace to become small: “I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will.” (Lk 10:21). If you are not these small ones to which the Celestial Father reveals himself manifesting his pleasure, you are not sought out by Our Lady, because She, small, in order to will the battle, forms her army with the smallest ones.”
LET US PRAY FOR THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS; as I wrote above, it is not easy for the religious leaders, especially today, to maintain unity in the group or community as Jesus did and not as the rulers of the world (Mt 20:25-28; Mc 10:35-45). If the children in a family see the defects of their parents, at least objectively speaking, what is the behaviour and attitude that builds up and not tear down the family? Critisize, critisize of pray and offere sacrifices for their parents? The children need their parents. Today more than ever, the great majority of the people critisize instead of praying and offering sacrifices for the leaders that do not do as they want them to do. But the children are not able to substitute for their parents, just as the the parishioners are not able to substitute for the priest. Each person has his vocation from God. Our Lady often asks in the last 150 years to pray for the Pope, the bishops and the priests who bring with them many souls to heaven or to hell! Let us act as mature and prudent children, not as the youth of 1968 who rebelled in many places around the world against authority. I am convinced that the great majority of those youth of 1968 did not receive true love of altruism according the the Gospel because MANY OF THEIR PARENTS DID NOT RESPECT O FOLLOW THE LAW OF GOD regarding the gift of sexuality. The sexual revolution; we are finally free! Thus the love between husband and wife was the love of egoism instead of altruism. As long as the children gave delight to the parents, ok; afterwards, the children understood that they were conceived not for love of the children but for other egotistical motives of the parents.
ALSO MANY CATHOLIC PARENTS YEARS AGO DID NOT MATURE TO THE POINT OF TRUSTING IN GOD and in His Church, as the best thing for themselves, or for love of Jesus. Many practices the “rhythm method”, because there was not yet “the pill”, but often this method did not work; often the children were not wanted but conceived because the parents felt forced to obey the Churh or for fear of hell. And many times the priests were not able to explain the motive of love of God and trust in God in regard to these teachings of the Church as the best way for the parents and their family, but only the necessity to obey without explanation in order to persuade e in order to offer to the parents the possibility do accept and to embrace thise saving teachings in their own name, in their own freedom of choice, this is very important according to the personalistic principle of Pope John Paul II!
BUT THERE WAS HARDLY ANYONE, OR A TRULY CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY, TO OFFER AN EXAMPLE OF TRUE LOVE, ALTRUISM, TO THESE YOUTH of 1968, and thus they knew only how to rebel and to reject and judge the false love that they had received. These youth of my generation who rebelled in 1968 are now in power in Europe and USA, and they are leading us toward a perfect world, according to them, without God, and thus without true love and altruism! When one does not pray, automatically one becomes a puppet of Satan; one does not succeed in distinguishing between nice lies and the Truth from God which makes us free (Jn 8:32), even though many of them are very intelligent. The creature perhaps most intelligent ever created, Lucifer, believe he was God as so many people do today (Gen 3:4-5)! The people who do not pray end up doing their part in the kingdom of Satan even though they know only a piece of the diabolic agenda, motivated by many nice lies and propaganda and empty and deceptive promises.
THUS, I REPEAT, IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO PRAY FOR THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS AND PARENTS, which normally the ones under their jiurisdiction are not able to substitute, as the mother does not succeed to substitute for the father of the family and vice versa. Sometimes there is needed fraternal correction. I hope this article is only for that motive, for the love of my fellow priests and for the glory of God and for the growth, not the suffocation, of the kingdom of God on earth and for the salvation of souls.
LET US HELP EACH OTHER, each in his or her own vocation, to become small and to combat up to the end the strong and subtle temptations of Satan do not learn from Our Lady and from Our Teacher and Lord. The only time that one finds the verb “learn” from the mouth of Jesus in the four Gospels was when he said: “Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29).
Father Joseph Dwight
John F. Crosby; Persons Are Unrepeatable; http://catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0366.html.