Saint John Paul II in His Own Words - A Collection of His Quotes

The following quotes from our late Holy Father, St. John Paul the Great, reflect the breadth of his knowledge, the nature of Divine Love and the incomparable dignity of human persons who are made in the image and likeness of God, "chosen from eternity and called by name."
The human being is single, unique, and unrepeatable, someone thought of and chosen from eternity, someone called and identified by name.
There is no dignity when the human dimension is eliminated from the person. In short, the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the person, but that it shows far too little.
Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.
Darkness can only be scattered by light, hatred can only be conquered by love.
Marriage is an act of will that signifies and involves a mutual gift, which unites the spouses and binds them to their eventual souls, with whom they make up a sole family - a domestic church.
Social justice cannot be attained by violence. Violence kills what it intends to create.
To maintain a joyful family requires much from both the parents and the children. Each member of the family has to become, in a special way, the servant of the others.
The cemetery of the victims of human cruelty in our century is extended to include yet another vast cemetery, that of the unborn.
As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.
Science can purify religion from error and superstition. Religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes.
An excuse is worse and more terrible than a lie, for an excuse is a lie guarded.
The future starts today, not tomorrow. 
In the designs of Providence, there are no mere coincidences.
It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.  
Artistic talent is a gift from God and whoever discovers it in himself has a certain obligation: to know that he cannot waste this talent, but must develop it. 
Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch. 
Faith and Reason are like two wings of the human spirit by which it soars to the truth.
I plead with you--never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid.  
True freedom is not advanced in the permissive society, which confuses freedom with license to do anything whatever and which in the name of freedom proclaims a kind of general amorality. It is a caricature of freedom to claim that people are free to organize their lives with no reference to moral values, and to say that society does not have to ensure the protection and advancement of ethical values. Such an attitude is destructive of freedom and peace. 
The worst prison would be a closed heart. 
Do not be afraid to take a chance on peace, to teach peace, to live peace...Peace will be the last word of history. 
A person's rightful due is to be treated as an object of love, not as an object for use. 
Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence. 
Love between man and woman cannot be built without sacrifices and self-denial. 
Limitation of one's freedom might seem to be something negative and unpleasant, but love makes it a positive, joyful and creative thing. Freedom exists for the sake of love
St. John Paul II, Pray for us!

Pentecost Reflection - Order Out of Confusion


Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.

Remember learning about mixed metaphors, where two or more incompatible images are used to describe one thing? Years ago I saw a cartoon from the New Yorker magazine, where an executive speaking to his staff says, “Gentlemen, I smell a rat. I can feel it in the air. And I will nip it in the bud!”

We seem to have a similar confusion about the Holy Spirit, presented in the New Testament as a dove, wind, fire, and called “Paraclete,” which in turn is translated sometimes as Comforter and sometimes as Advocate. The hymn “Veni Sancte Spiritus” calls on the Spirit to “melt the frozen, warm the chill,” just after describing the Spirit as “Grateful coolness in the heat.”

But all this isn’t so strange as it might at first appear. The key lies in John 3:8, “The wind blows where it wills… but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.” (See 1 Corinthians 12Galatians 5:22-23 for just a few examples.) The Spirit is “spontaneous,” unpredictable, bestowing extraordinary gifts, often on unsuspecting, unlikely persons, precisely to meet a particular need in the Church or the world.

It’s no wonder that Pentecost is such an exciting feast!

In Honor of the 95th Anniversary of Saint John Paul the Great's Birth - a Retrospective

Saint Pope John Paul the Great
Karol Józef Wojtyła was born 95 years ago, on May 20, 1920, in Wadowice, Poland, the youngest of three children, to Karol Wojtyla and Emilia Wojtyla, (née Kaczorowska). The future pope's father was a non-commissioned officer of the Imperial Royal Army and a Polish Army captain. His mother had a premonition about her youngest child saying, "Karol is destined to be a great man." 

Young Wojtyla, c 1929 
Date of birth: May 18, 1920

Date of death: April 2, 2005

Birth place: Wadowice, Poland

Education: Doctorate in Philosophy, Doctorate in Sacred Theology, Jagiellonian University

Feast Day: October 22 (date of papal inauguration)

Apostolic Motto: Totus Tuus (Totally yours)

Notes of Interest:

Upon his election in 1978, John Paul II was the first non-Italian Pope in 455 years. At 58, he was the youngest pope since the election of Pope Pius IX (age 54), in 1846. During his pontificate, he visited 129 countries, travelling over 680,000 miles. He beatified 1,340 individuals and canonized 483 saints. While Bishop of Rome, he survived two attempts on his life. John Paul II is the third longest serving pontiff in history, behind St. Peter (32 years) and Pope Pius IX (31 years 7 months). He authored 14 encyclicals, 7 plays, 3 compilations of poetry and 16 books. He learned as many as twelve languages and spoke nine fluently as Pope: Polish, Latin, Ancient Greek, Italian, French, German, English, Spanish and Portuguese.

First pope to visit the White House.
 As a university student,
c 1938-39

First modern pope to visit a synagogue.

First pope to visit Cuba.

Most widely traveled pope. (It has been suggested that John Paul II was seen in person by more people than any other figure in history.) 

Canonized more saints than any other pontiff.

Created 232 cardinals.

Re-established diplomatic relations with Great Britain 

Re-established diplomatic relations with the United States

Timeline:

May 18, 1920 - Karol Jozef Wojtyla is born in Wadowice, Poland, at 7 Koscielna Street. Nicknamed Lolek, he is the third and last child of Karol and Emilia. His brother Edmund was born in 1906 and a sister, Olga, died in infancy in 1914.

1938 - Karol graduates from high school. His family moves to Krakow. Karol attends Jagiellonian University until World War II begins in September 1939.

1941 - Wojtyla helps form an underground theater, called the Rhapsodic Theater. It presented works in Polish in defiance of the Nazis. During the day, Wojtyla labors in quarries and chemical factories.

1942 - Wojtyla studies at underground seminary run by Archbishop Sapieha.

Father Wojtyla, c 1947
1946 - Wojtyla is ordained a priest by Cardinal Sapieha.

1946-1948 - Wojtyla studies in Rome, earning a doctorate in philosophy. Later, he earns a doctorate in Sacred Theology from Jagellonian University.

1958 - Wojtyla is consecrated a bishop.

1962-1965 - Wojtyla participates in Vatican II. 

March 8, 1964 - Wojtyla is ordained Archbishop of Krakow.

June 26, 1967 - In a secret consistory, Wojtyla is elevated to cardinal. 
John Paul II upon his
election as pontiff.

October 16, 1978 - Cardinal Karol Wojtyla is elected the 264th pope.

October 2, 1979 - Addresses the General Assembly of the United Nations.

May 13, 1981 - Pope John Paul II is shot by Mehmet Ali Agca in Saint Peter's Square. He is seriously wounded in the abdomen, arm and hand. 

January 27, 1983 - He meets with Ali Agca at Rebibbia Prison.

December 26, 1994 - Time Magazine names him Man of the Year.

April 2, 2005 - Dies at 9:37 p.m. in his apartment in the Vatican.

April 8, 2005 - His funeral takes place in Saint Peter's Square. He is buried in a crypt under Saint Peter's Basilica.

May 2005 - Pope Benedict XVI waives the five year wait period for canonization.

May 1, 2011 - Is beatified by Pope Benedict XVI. 

April 27, 2014 - Is canonized a saint.

Pope John Paul II on Love - Chicago 1979:



Habemus Papam! Pope John Paul II presented to the world upon his election as Supreme Pontiff:



Prayer for the Intercession of Saint John Paul II 


O Blessed Trinity,
we thank You for having graced the Church
with Saint John Paul II and for allowing
the tenderness of Your Fatherly care,
the glory of the cross of Christ,
and the splendor of the Holy Spirit,
to Shine through him.

Trusting fully in Your infinite mercy
and in the maternal intercession of Mary,
he has given us a living image of Jesus
the Good Shepherd, and has shown us that
holiness is the necessary measure of ordinary
Christian life and is the way of achieving
eternal communion with You.

Grant us, by his intercession,
and according to Your will,
the graces we implore...
We ask this through Jesus Christ Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
and the Holy Spirit, one God, 
forever and ever. Amen.

Homily for the Seventh Sunday of Easter, May 17, 2015, Year B

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Director, La Salette Shrine
Enfield, NH

Matthias is chosen. 

NOTE: In New Hampshire, this is the Seventh Sunday of Easter. For the Solemnity of the Ascension, celebrated this day in many other dioceses, see Matthew Coffin’s excellent reflection "Why Satan Hates the Ascension of Christ".)

And Matthias was never heard from again.

Well, as far as that goes, he was never heard from before, either. This story of his “election” as an Apostle is the only time he is mentioned by name in the whole New Testament. We know, from the criterion established by Peter, that both he and Barsabbas were among the first disciples of Jesus. Replacing Judas was apparently a big deal for the author of the Acts of the Apostles, the evangelist St. Luke. Everything inclines the reader to expect great things of Matthias.

And then, nothing. What happened? Did he fail? Did Peter and the assembled community make a mistake? Did Luke just get distracted, or lose interest in him? There are, of course, various traditions about where he ministered—Jerusalem, or the modern-day country of Georgia, or Ethiopia—and about how he died, either by being stoned to death and beheaded, or dying of old age in his bed.

Who knows? More importantly, who cares?

We could ask similar questions about the other readings. Who were the “Beloved” to whom St. John was writing? Where did they live?

Who exactly was Jesus praying for in today’s Gospel, just those present with him at the time, or for all his disciples, or for all the disciples there would ever be, including us?

All those questions we happily leave to the scholars. Let them debate to their heart’s content. Ultimately these things, interesting though they may be, are non-essential.

The really important thing about Matthias is the fact that God chose him, which is not the same as saying he was better than Barsabbas. Barsabbas was not chosen, which is not the same as saying he was rejected. The assembled disciples recognized clearly that God’s will is supreme, and so they prayed and left the final choice to God.

That was a bold and brave approach. But it also demonstrated a depth of faith that has not often been equaled in decision making. It might work if we could be genuinely indifferent about the final choice. If you really just couldn’t make up your mind between two or more careers, maybe you could ask God to decide, and then roll the dice. How many people do you know who might actually do that? (“Odds, I’ll go through door A; evens, door B; doubles, door C.”)

John was no less brave or bold or faith-filled, however, when he wrote, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another.”

We, too, can be brave and bold and faith-filled. That’s what Jesus prayed to his Father for. “I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one.” (Do you hear the echo here of the Lord’s prayer?) “They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world... I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.”

The common thread is obvious. What matters is that Christians witness to Christ. As Matthias was chosen to “become a witness” to the resurrection of Jesus, so too with us. It has never been and never will be easy, but Jesus promised us his help and protection. 

Jesus prayed also, “Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one.” If only we Christians could truly be one, and could truly love one another, always and everywhere; if only we could truly all “remain in love,” our witness to the Lord could be even more convincing. It’s all about Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, seated at the right hand of the Father, who will come again in glory.

Matthias was never heard from again. No matter. It was never about him (or us) in the first place.

Why Satan Hates the Ascension of Christ

Ascension, Copley, 1775
Matthew Coffin

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. It is a holy day of obligation. Forty days after his Resurrection, Christ ascended into heaven. His Ascension marked the end of his earthly ministry. Having conquered sin and death, Jesus ascended to receive the glory due him (Philippians 2:8-11), mediate on our behalf (Hebrews 9:24), send the Holy Spirit promised at the Last Supper (John 16:7), and prepare a place for us in eternity (John 14:2).

Since his Ascension, Christ’s glorified body has sat at the right hand of the Father. The divinization of Christ and his incarnate body has profound implications for us. Jesus is the Exemplar, par excellence, of how we should live and what we ought to do. He also reveals our destiny, if we persevere in love.

Satan’s lie in the garden condemned humanity to lives of sin, drudgery and inexorable physical death. Prior to the Fall, the created world and everything in it functioned precisely as God intended. It was in short, Paradise.

We don't often think of it this way, but before the first sin, the entire world was a temple in which human beings worshiped the one true God. Man fully possessed original goodness and original justice. With Adam’s sin, the world at large stopped being a temple. It became necessary to build a temple where God could be worshiped. Furthermore, man had to sanctify or purify himself before entering this sacred space. Everything in the created world was profaned including human nature, our relationship to beauty, truth, and goodness, our relationship with the natural world, our relationships with each other, and our relationship with God. Paradise was lost.

The Threefold Effect of Christ's Ascension 

“Christ was made man that we might be made God.” 
                      ― Athanasius of Alexandria

Satan hates Christ’s Ascension because, by virtue of it: 1.) the effects of Satan’s lie were undone. Additionally, 2.) in eternity, the one thing Satan sought to hurt most, namely, human beings, will be elevated to a dignity and intimacy with their Creator far greater than that experienced by our first parents in Eden, and 3.) Christ’s Ascension promises that the souls of the just will be reunited with their glorified bodies. In his divinization, Jesus incarnate makes possible and prefigures our ultimate Summum bonum. Following the Last Judgment, the good will enjoy the Beatific Vision, see God face to face, and experience perfect happiness. Salvation history will cease, having achieved its ultimate purpose, love will triumph over evil, and darkness will be no more. Christ's Ascension sounds the death knell for sin, reminds Satan his days are numbered, and gives us infinite hope. 

May's Catholic Blog of Note: Catholic Crossing


The World Wide Web boasts thousands of Catholic sites. “Blogs of Note,” is a new monthly series featuring blogs and blog authors who are faithful to the Magisterium and worthy of your time. I am pleased to highlight a new addition to the Catholic blogosphere. Catholic Crossing is an online clearinghouse of information, bringing you the best in Catholic Media. If you are looking for faithful, thoughtful articles of interest to orthodox Catholics, with a focus on theology, the complementarity of faith and reason, and other issues relevant to the life of the Church – Catholic Crossing is required reading. 

To view Catholic Crossing's twitter feed go here.

Mother's Day 2015

The Virgin of the LiliesBouguereau, 1899

Today is Mother's Day. This post is dedicated to my Mother and to mothers everywhere. Icons represent and make present spiritual realities beyond us. Motherhood is a special icon of God's love. I was home-schooled by my Mom, who taught, nurtured and inspired us. Her maternal presence and selfless love has sustained our family. To this day she makes sure my Father (and a ridiculously pampered cat), looks presentable and is cared for. She is a woman after Mary's own heart. Because of her, it is easy to believe in an all good, all loving God.

Happy Mother's Day to all mothers.

Homily for the Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 10, 2015, Year B

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Director, La Salette Shrine
Enfield, NH

"Love one another." (John 15:17)
Image from Duccio‘s Maestà alterpiece, 1308-11
(Click here for today’s readings)

Many years ago when I was in college, I remember being involved in a pseudo-intellectual debate on whether charity was an obligation. On one side the argument was that charity, by definition, implies something done freely, from the heart. On the other side the claim was that being a Christian, by definition, implies a way of life that must include charity.

The last words of today’s Gospel could lend themselves to a similar discussion. “This I command you: love one another.”

On the one hand love, as we understand it, like Shakespeare’s “quality of mercy,” cannot be “strained,” i.e., constrained, forced. Imagine trying to bully someone into loving you! Part of the mystery of love is precisely that we are not able to make it happen. And when it does take hold of us we can scarcely explain it.

That said, we are confronted over and over in the New Testament by the duty of love. Count how many times “love” occurs in today’s readings alone.

St. Peter faced a similar dilemma, in reverse. The Holy Spirit told him to do something he was not allowed to do. The reading about Cornelius takes up all of Chapter 10 of the Acts of the Apostles, but the version presented in the Lectionary is severely truncated, giving only nine out of forty-eight verses. Cornelius was apparently a good man, “devout and God-fearing,” but as a Roman soldier he was the enemy, and as a pagan he was to be shunned. And yet, the Spirit told Peter to go to Caesarea, a Roman city filled with idols, and actually enter the man’s house! This was unthinkable for a “practicing” Jew, Christian or not. In fact, in the next chapter, Peter will have to defend himself from the charge: “You entered the house of uncircumcised people and ate with them.”

Before going to meet Cornelius, Peter had a vision in which he was told to eat forbidden foods, and when he refused in disgust, the voice told him, “What God has made clean, you are not to call profane.”

Here, I think, we find a clue to the “duty” of love. It isn’t about how we feel. It’s about how we behave. And behavior can be commanded. That is the point, for example, of the words of Jesus at the end of the Parable of the Good Samaritan: “Go and do likewise.” Concretely, the command is to treat everyone in a loving way.

I think I may safely assume that we all know how difficult that can be, even with people we really do love. And when it comes to people we don’t like at all, we are commanded to set aside our dislikes, resentments, prejudices—what? as if those things don’t matter? Correct.

Jesus makes keeping his commandments a condition for remaining in his love. He applies the same rule to himself in relation to the Father. St. John, in his First Letter, places the commandment ultimately not on the lips of Jesus or of the Father, but in God’s very being: “God is love.” That is why John can write, shortly before, that “Love is of God,” and make the stark, bold claim: “Whoever is without love does not know God.”

So maybe the command to love is not so much about behavior, after all, but about what underlies our behavior as disciples of Jesus Christ. “Remain in my love,” he says.

As we approach the end of the Easter Season, here is an appropriate quotation from St. Augustine. “Now therefore, brethren, we urge you to praise God. That is what we are all telling each other when we say Alleluia. You say to your neighbor, “Praise the Lord!” and he says the same to you. We are all urging one another to praise the Lord... But see that your praise comes from your whole being; in other words, see that you praise God not with your lips and voices alone, but with your minds, your lives and all your actions.”

In other words, do what you are and be what you do. There should be no difference. A nineteenth century poet, a Jesuit priest named Gerard Manley Hopkins, claimed that everything in the universe cries out: “What I do is me: for that I came.” How perfectly that applies to Jesus! And if we remain in his love, we are Christians, called to do what we are and be what we do.

With all the references to love in the readings, one could hardly forget that today is Mother’s Day. What does a mother do? She does what she is: she mothers.

God is love. He is what he does, he does what he is.

Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 3, 2015, Year B

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Director, La Salette Shrine
Enfield, NH

Apse mosaic, Basilica of San Clemente,
Rome, c 1200
(Click here for today’s readings)

A couple of weeks ago we used the image of witnesses and concluded that we need to become “expert,” i.e. experienced, witnesses whose credibility is based on a genuine relationship with the Risen Lord.

In today’s first reading we have Saul, recently returned to Jerusalem from his conversion experience on the road to Damascus, ready and eager to get out there and witness, to “speak out boldly.” And he does so, after finally gaining the trust of the other Jerusalem Christians. Then the former persecutor becomes the one persecuted, and the Christians spirit him away to his home town of Tarsus.

What is wrong with this picture? Isn’t the witness supposed to stay and die for the faith? Running away doesn’t seem to fit.

Actually it does. It’s called “witness protection.” Even before this, Saul had to escape from Damascus by being let down in a basket through a window in the city walls!

This shouldn’t have to be, of course. We see the ideal situation described at the very end of the same first reading: “The church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace. It was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord, and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit it grew in numbers.” But that lasted only for a while. When persecutions came, most Christians fled, bringing the Gospel with them and witnessing in other places.

In more recent times, this happened with many religious orders. In the late 1800’s, for example, both Prussia and France enacted laws making it impossible for religious to carry on their work. Many religious left their homeland in voluntary exile, and soon found their religious orders growing by leaps and bounds in other countries.

Ultimately what matters most is being united with the Lord, or as the Gospel of John puts it several times, “remaining” in him, being joined to him as intimately as branches are joined to the vine. A nice comforting image, offering the “reassurance” and “confidence” mentioned in the second reading. But then comes the pruning.

Because it involves cutting away, we naturally interpret pruning in terms of loss, a taking away of something, whether viewed as superficial or considered essential to our well-being. Hopes dashed. Dreams shattered. Health lost. Broken relationships. All this might make us think again of the challenges and dangers involved in witnessing to Christ. Thus Saul’s being sent to Tarsus could be a kind of pruning away of whatever early ambition he might have had, allowing him time to mature in his faith and produce the abundant fruit we find in his many Letters.

A branch on an actual grapevine says nothing when it is pruned. But when we, as branches on the vine of Christ, are pruned, we say, “Ouch!” We might disagree with the vine grower, questioning his expertise. In the long run, however, is in the branch’s best interest to bear all the fruit it can.

In the Basilica of St. Clement in Rome there is a fascinating mosaic of a vine growing from the base of the Cross of the crucified Christ. There are fifty branches, each bearing fruit; the fruit is not the same in every case, but is richly varied. This reminds us that each of us is called to produce fruit in a unique manner, according to our own skills and interests. But remember that, as in Saul’s case, and in the case of all the faithful witnesses over the ages, the fruit isn’t meant for us alone; it is for the Church, the community of believers, and might even spill over to the rest of the world.

Sign the Pledge in Solidarity to Defend Marriage


As the Supreme Court of the United States considers same-sex marriage prominent Christians from numerous denominations have signed the following pledge in defense of natural marriage as a life-long, exclusive, indissoluble union of one man and one woman. The signees are a who’s who of religious leaders including former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, National Religious Broadcasters president Jerry Johnson, Pastor John Hagee, and Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse. To read about the pledge and sign it go here.


PLEDGE IN SOLIDARITY TO DEFEND MARRIAGE


We stand together in defense of marriage and the family and society founded upon them. While we come from a variety of communities and hold differing faith perspectives, we are united in our common affirmation of marriage.

On the matter of marriage, we stand in solidarity. We affirm that marriage and family have been inscribed by the Divine Architect into the order of Creation. Marriage is ontologically between one man and one woman, ordered toward the union of the spouses, open to children and formative of family. Family is the first vital cell of society, the first government, and the first mediating institution of our social order. The future of a free and healthy society passes through marriage and the family.

Marriage as existing solely between one man and one woman precedes civil government. Though affirmed, fulfilled, and elevated by faith, the truth that marriage can exist only between one man and one woman is not based on religion or revelation alone, but on the Natural Law, written on the human heart and discernible through the exercise of reason. It is part of the natural created order. The Natural Law is what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., referred to as a higher law or a just law in his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail.

Marriage is the preeminent and the most fundamental of all human social institutions. Civil institutions do not create marriage nor can they manufacture a right to marry for those who are incapable of marriage. Society begins with marriage and the family.

We pledge to stand together to defend  marriage for what it is, a bond between one man and one woman, intended for life, and open to the gift of children.

The institutions of civil government should defend marriage and not seek to undermine it. Government has long regulated marriage for the true common good. Examples, such as the age of consent, demonstrate such a proper regulation to ensure the free and voluntary basis of the marriage bond. Redefining the very institution of marriage is improper and outside the authority of the State. No civil institution, including the United States Supreme Court or any court, has authority to redefine marriage.

As citizens united together, we will not stand by while the destruction of the institution of marriage unfolds in this nation we love. The effort to redefine marriage threatens the essential foundation of the family.

Experience and history have shown us that if the government redefines marriage to grant a legal equivalency to same-sex couples, that same government will then enforce such an action with the police power of the State. This will bring about an inevitable collision with religious freedom and conscience rights. The precedent established will leave no room for any limitation on what can constitute such a redefined notion of marriage or human sexuality. We cannot and will not allow this to occur on our watch. Religious freedom is the first freedom in the American experiment for good reason.

Conferring a moral and legal equivalency to any relationship other than marriage between a man and a woman, by legislative or judicial fiat, sends the message that children do not need a mother and a father. As a policy matter, such unions convey the message that moms and dads are completely irrelevant to the well-being of children. Such a policy statement is unconscionable and destructive. Authorizing the legal equivalency of marriage to same-sex couples undermines the fundamental rights of children and threatens their security, stability, and future.

Neither the United States Supreme Court nor any court has authority to redefine marriage and thereby weaken both the family and society. Unlike the Legislative Branch that has the power of the purse and the Executive Branch which has the figurative power of the sword, the Judicial Branch has neither. It must depend upon the Executive Branch for the enforcement of its decisions.

As the Supreme Court acknowledged in the 1992 decision of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, its power rests solely upon the legitimacy of its decisions in the eyes of the people. If the decisions of the Court are not based on the Constitution and reason, and especially if they are contrary to the natural created order, then the people will lose confidence in the Court as an objective arbiter of the law. If the people lose respect for the Court, the Court’s authority will be diminished.

The Supreme Court was wrong when it denied Dred Scott his rights and said, “blacks are inferior human beings.” And the Court was wrong when Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in Buck v. Bell, “three generations of imbeciles are enough,” thus upholding Virginia’s eugenics law that permitted forced sterilization. Shamefully, that decision was cited during the Nuremburg trials to support the Nazi eugenic holocaust.

In these earlier cases, the definition of “human” was at issue. Now the definition of “marriage” is at issue. The Constitution does not grant a right to redefine marriage — which is nonsensical since marriage intrinsically involves a man and a woman. Nor does the Constitution prohibit states from affirming the natural created order of male and female joined together in marriage.

We will view any decision by the Supreme Court or any court the same way history views the Dred Scott and Buck v. Bell decisions. Our highest respect for the rule of law requires that we not respect an unjust law that directly conflicts with higher law. A decision purporting to redefine marriage flies in the face of the Constitution and is contrary to the natural created order. As people of faith we pledge obedience to our Creator when the State directly conflicts with higher law. We respectfully warn the Supreme Court not to cross this line.

We stand united together in defense of marriage. Make no mistake about our resolve. While there are many things we can endure, redefining marriage is so fundamental to the natural order and the common good that this is the line we must draw and one we cannot and will not cross.

Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, April 26, 2015, Year B

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Director, La Salette Shrine
Enfield, NH


"I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd
lays down his life for the sheep." (John 10:11) 
(Click here for today's readings)

Can you imagine rival politicians each making the claim that Jesus makes in today’s Gospel, “I am the good shepherd”? They would be laughed out of their party.

What about a doctor? a scientist? a journalist? a police officer? a teacher? an actor? Ridiculous in every case. And even though the clergy are called to imitate Jesus as best they can in their “pastoral” or “shepherding” ministry, not one would dare to declare, “I am the good shepherd.”

Why is this so? Think about it. Why would you react negatively in such a case?

I think part of the answer lies in the implication of absolute trust. We are not prepared to bestow that on just anyone.

It may go even deeper. How many teen-agers or adults do you know who actually want to be led by someone else?

We don’t want to be sheep. I found a definition of “sheepish” which reads: “resembling a sheep in meekness, stupidity, or timidity.” Yes, sheep are proverbially submissive, stupid and skittish. We don’t see ourselves that way, and very likely we are not that way, so why would we need a shepherd?

But the only thing Jesus says about his sheep is this: “I know mine and mine know me.” Everything else he says in this passage is about himself, or about the cowardly hireling shepherd. His point is one thing and one thing only, namely that we are in fact perfectly justified in placing our unfaltering trust in him, because he is ready to die for his sheep.

In the first two readings there are other expressions likewise calculated to inspire trust. St. Peter says, after healing a lame man, “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, in his name this man stands before you healed... There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.” And St. John writes, “We are God’s children now.”

Most people, at one time or another, have had the unpleasant experience of having their trust betrayed. The deeper the betrayal, the harder it is to trust again.

Jesus gets it. That’s why he talks about hireling shepherds who abandon their sheep to the wolves. Why would the sheep trust any shepherd again after that? The prophet Ezekiel has a ferocious passage in which God condemns the shepherds, i.e., the religious and political leaders, of his people for exploiting the people rather than caring for them. (Ez. 34:1-10). God concludes: “I myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest.”

The Good Shepherd offers us ultimate “security,” not in the sense that we will never suffer, or be frightened, or be afflicted by the evil that surrounds us. After all, this is the same Jesus who elsewhere tells us to take up our cross and follow him. But in the midst of it all, we “know” him and he “knows” us.

No priest can call himself the Good Shepherd. I am not the Good Shepherd. I only work for him. Time will tell if I am a spineless hireling or a faithful servant. In the meantime, please pray for vocations to the priesthood. Pray for good priests. Encourage the priests you know. Inspire them to a level of fidelity that is deserving of an equal level of trust.

Psalm 95 includes the following invitation:

Come, let us bow down and bend low,
let us kneel before the Lord who made us,
for he is our God, and we are the people he pastures,
the flock he tends.

The psalmist and those for whom he wrote were neither especially meek, or stupid, or timid. They were not “sheep” in a passive sense. But they rejoiced in the shepherd-like care the Lord had for them.

And so should we.

Requiescat in pace: Francis Cardinal George

The late Cardinal Francis George (1937-2015)
A giant of the American episcopacy, Francis Cardinal George, died Friday.  He was 78.  I was a seminarian at Mount Saint Mary’s when his predecessor, Joseph Cardinal Bernardin was called to his eternal reward in November, 1996.  The seminarians of the Chicago diocese praised Cardinal Bernardin’s stewardship and wondered who his successor might be.  Cardinal Bernardin was considered at the time, the leading intellectual among America’s cardinals.  Five months later, my fellow seminarians had their answer in Francis George.  He was in every way a worthy successor. 

Cardinal Francis George was the first Chicago native to become Archbishop of Chicago. As a young man, he joined the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a missionary congregation, after being denied admission to Quigley Seminary. Installed in May 1997, he was the ninth Archbishop of Portland, Oregon for less than a year, before being named head of Chicago’s Catholic prelature. In January, 1998, Saint Pope John Paul II announced Archbishop George's elevation to the Sacred College of Cardinals with the title of Cardinal-Priest.

Much has been written about this humble servant and disciple of Christ. I quote a priest with whom Cardinal George was extraordinarily close, Father Robert Barren, who writes:
… to understand this great man, I think we have to go back in imagination to when he was a kid from St. Pascal’s parish on the Northwest side of Chicago, who liked to ride his bike and run around with his friends and who was an accomplished pianist and painter as well. At the age of thirteen, that young man was stricken with polio, a disease which nearly killed him and left him severely disabled. Running, bike riding, painting, and piano playing were forever behind him. I’m sure he was tempted to give up and withdraw into himself, but young Francis George, despite his handicap, pushed ahead with single-minded determination. The deepest longing of his heart was to become a priest, and this led him to apply to Quigley Seminary. Convinced that this boy with crutches and a brace couldn’t make the difficult commute every day or keep up with the demands of the school, the officials at Quigley turned him away. Undeterred, he applied to join the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a missionary congregation. Recognizing his enormous promise and inner strength, they took him in. 
(To read Fr. Barron’s thoughts on Cardinal George’s life and legacy go here.)

Cardinal George published a column in which he reflected upon the Church’s role in post-modern American society and aspects of Christian discipleship.  His thoughts were often prescient.  In a column entitled “A Tale of Two Churches,” (September 2014), the Cardinal wrote:
Throughout history, when Catholics and other believers in revealed religion have been forced to choose between being taught by God or instructed by politicians, professors, editors of major newspapers and entertainers, many have opted to go along with the powers that be. This reduces a great tension in their lives, although it also brings with it the worship of a false god. It takes no moral courage to conform to government and social pressure. It takes a deep faith to “swim against the tide,” as Pope Francis recently encouraged young people to do at last summer’s World Youth Day.
In 2010, in a speech to a group of priests, Cardinal George outlined the degree to which religious freedoms in the United States and the West were endangered: "I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history."

Cardinal George died at 10:45 Friday morning (April 17), at his archdiocean residence where he had been since returning from the hospital April 3rd after courageously battling cancer.

Pope Francis, in a telegram to Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago, offered his blessing to all those who mourn Cardinal Francis E. George.

“To all who mourn the late Cardinal in the sure hope of the Resurrection, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of consolation and peace in the Lord.”

The funeral Mass for Cardinal George will take place April 23 at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago after lying in-state for two days. He will be buried in a family plot at the All Saints Cemetery in Des Plaines, Ill, next to his parents.

Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter, April 19, 2015, Year B

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Director, La Salette Shrine
Enfield, NH

He stood in their midst and said to them,
"Peace be with you." (Luke 24: 36)
(Click here for today’s readings)

Isn’t this the Easter season? Isn’t Lent over? Why, then, is there so much talk of sin and repentance in today’s readings? In Acts we are told, “Repent, and be converted.” St. John says in his Letter: “I am writing this to you so that you may not commit sin.” And Jesus mentions “repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”

The point of mentioning these things at Easter time is to show that forgiveness is possible thanks precisely to the Risen Christ. St. John calls Jesus our “Advocate” and adds, “He is expiation for our sins.” St. Peter promises that the sins even of those who crucified Jesus could be wiped away. Jesus himself speaks of forgiveness of sins being preached in his name. In other words, Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, is the source of our salvation. That is what we believe.

Personal belief is a good thing. Is it enough? Not always. Jesus tells the disciples: “You are witnesses of these things.” Peter proclaims: “Of this (i.e. of the resurrection) we are witnesses.”

When we think of “witnesses” we usually think of a court of law. Witnesses are called to testify before a judge, or a jury, about what they know.

Eye witnesses and ear witnesses, also called “Percipient witnesses” are those who testify about what they have seen or heard or known through any of their senses. That would be the case of the Apostles and those disciples and evangelists who knew Jesus personally. In fact, St. John’s First Letter begins as follows: “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands... we proclaim now to you.” Even among such witnesses, however, as we see in the Gospels of Matthew and John, perceptions and recollections can be very different.

The next category of witnesses, not always admitted at a trial, are the “hearsay witnesses.” These would be those who heard the preaching of the first group of witnesses and committed them to writing. St. Luke begins his Gospel in this way: “Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us, I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence.” To this day, our faith is based on this “hearsay” evidence.

The only way this can be justified, however, is to think of those witnesses also as “expert witnesses.” In our world, “expert” means having specialized knowledge, usually of a scientific, medical or psychological kind. But the root word underlying the notion of expert is “experience.” And in fact, over the centuries, the best “witnesses” to Christ have been those who have truly experienced Christ and have been able to translate that experience into their way of life. Think of any of the saints of any time. Think of your favorite saints. They are saints because they witnessed to Christ, sometimes even to the point of shedding their blood. In fact, the Greek word, “martyr” originally meant “witness,” before it took on the meaning it has today.

Then there is the reluctant witness. I have a funny feeling that this is the largest category today. Maybe it always has been. We live in a multicultural society, in which any kind of proselytizing is frowned on. We all know how contentious religious issues can be. So we tend to prefer a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach.

But Christian life can sometimes issue a subpoena. The reluctant witness can be compelled to testify. We all hope that won’t happen, of course, but we need to be prepared, just in case.

The way to prepare is to become an “expert” witness, the kind mentioned above. Experience the Risen Lord in as many ways as possible: whether through prayer, or Scripture, or service — whatever best draws you to him and draws him into your life. Then, possibly without even realizing it, you just might become the ideal witness, the witness that is perfectly credible.

Vatican Exorcism Course Draws 170. Pope: The devil is real and we must learn to resist his temptations.

St. Peter's basilica
“The devil is a liar, the father of lies.”

- Pope Francis

As reported by Breitbart, "The tenth annual course on exorcism has gotten off to a bang in Rome, with a full house of 170 students eager to learn how to recognize and fight demonic possession..." While many in the West deny the devil's existence, Church officials, including Pope Francis, note the increase of demonic activity. Sponsored by the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy and organized by the Sacerdos Institute, the course titled “Exorcism and Prayer of Liberation” is taking place at the European University of Rome from April 13 to 18:
The course consists in a series of meetings aimed at giving priests, doctors, psychologists, teachers, and pastoral workers the instruments they need to recognize and deal with cases of demonic possession and distinguish them from disturbances of a psychological or medical nature. Father Pedro Barrajon, the director of the program, said that the exceptional interest in the course reflects a growing awareness of the activity of the devil in the world, and a concern on the part of bishops to have some of their men specially trained for dealing for this reality.
Three quarters of the 170 students are priests, with the other 25% being lay people.
Barrajon noted that years ago the action of Satan was downplayed so much that few bothered even to speak of demonic activity. For a while, he said, it was typical to explain away the many accounts of demonic possession in the gospel as well as the episodes of Jesus driving out demons, “attributing them to the ignorance of the age and a readiness to recur to supernatural causes to explain diseases like epilepsy or psychological disorders.”
While that may be true in certain cases, Barrajon said, “it certainly doesn’t eliminate the clear references to the activity of the devil throughout the gospels,” something that “is generally recognized now by scholars.”
“Jesus obviously believed in the devil,” he said. Pope Francis has spoken of the devil repeatedly, insisting that he is real and must be fought. This generation, the Pope said last October, “was led to believe that the devil was a myth, a picture, an idea, the idea of evil. But the devil exists, and we have to fight him.”
[...]
According to Fr. Barrajon, the most common action of Satan in the lives of human beings isn't possession, but temptation, “something we all experience,” he said.  South and Latin American Catholics have a particular awareness of, and pay special attention to, the devil and the demonic effects of evil on our fallen world.  As the first Pope from the New World, many have been struck by Francis's frequent referencing of Satan.  Last year, Pope Francis said Satan exists in our present century and we must learn from the Gospel how to fight against his temptations. Read more about the “Exorcism and Prayer of Liberation” course and the Sacerdos Institute at Breitbart.com