Sacramental Confession, like the Eucharist and Holy Orders, does not exist outside the One True Church…..

Church of England Warns Members It Will Report Their Sex Abuse Confessions to Police

The intention, he added, is “to advise the penitent not to divulge in confession something which would legally compromise the position of the priest.”
— Read on www.christianpost.com/news/church-of-england-warns-members-it-will-report-their-sex-abuse-confessions-police-224526/

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Jerusalem’s Old City: Food and Drink

Seemingly an eternity ago, but in actuality only this past February, I went on pilgrimage/retreat by myself to Jerusalem. I try to take pictures of everything I see, including what I had to eat and drink.

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Typical Breakfast at the Retreat House

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Hummus, bread

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Grilled chicken, roasted potatoes, a “tomato sauce”

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A bread vendor near the Church of the Dormition

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At a restaurant near the Mount of Olives

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Old City

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Produce in the Old City

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In the Muslim Quarter, a number of shops sell this “famous” dessert, which is a bit like a sweet “deep dish pizza”; a sweet crust likely made with some corn meal, cheese, flavored with rose water, and dusted with crushed pistachios

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Closer inspection

 

 

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A falafel stand

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These looped breads covered in sesame seeds are seen everywhere in the Old City

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Peeking inside an ancient bakery

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A local beer I had never tried before

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At the Pontifical Institute of the Notre Dame Center just outside the Old City walls 

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A little cloying, over the top, and disjointed at the “Vatican in Jerusalem”

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A sweets vendor

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Halal meat

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The Old City has a sizable Armenian community; local ingredients are combined with techniques from home

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A second Armenian restaurant

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I was encouraged to try the “Armenian cognac”, to which I, the pedant, told the waiter was good but should not be called “cognac”

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More cookies and sweets

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At the Austrian Hospice, around the time a call to prayer was emanating at a most uncomfortable volume from a nearby minaret

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Fresh squeezed orange and pomegranate juices are found everywhere in the Old City

 

 

Easter

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“They were still puzzling over this, when two men came and stood by them, in shining garments. These said to them, as they bowed their faces to the earth in fear, Why are you seeking one who is alive, here among the dead? He is not here, he has risen again; remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, The Son of Man is to be given up into the hands of sinners, and to be crucified, and to rise again the third day. Then they remembered what he had said, and returned from the tomb bringing news of all this to the eleven apostles and to all the rest.” (Luke 24:4-9 [Knox]).

Holy Saturday

Limbo

The ancient greyness shiftedIMG_0601
Suddenly and thinned
Like mist upon the moors
Before a wind.
An old, old prophet lifted
A shining face and said:
“He will be coming soon.
The Son of God is dead;
He died this afternoon.”

A murmurous excitement stirred all souls.
they wondered if they dreamed-
Save one old man who seemed
Not even to have heard.

And Moses standing,
Hushed them all to ask
If any had a welcome song prepared.
If not, would David take the task?
And if they cared
Could not the three young children sing
The Benedicite, the canticle of praise
They made when God kept them from perishing
In the fiery blaze?

A breath of spring surprised them,
Stilling Moses’ words.
No one could speak, remembering
The first fresh flowers,
The little singing birds.
Still others thought of fields new ploughed

Or apple trees
All blossom-boughed.
Or some, the way a dried bed fills
With water
Laughing down green hills.
The fisherfolk dreamed of the foam
On bright blue seas.
The one old man who had not stirred
Remembered home.

And there He was
Splendid as the morning sun and fair
As only God is fair.
And they, confused with joy,
Knelt to adore
Seeing that He wore
Five crimson stars
He never had before.

No canticle at all was sung.
None toned a psalm, or raising a greeting song,
A silent man alone
Of all that throng
Found tongue-
Not any other.
Close to His heart
When embrace was done,
Old Joseph said,
“How is your Mother,
How is your Mother, Son?”

-Sister Mary Ada
The Reign Of Mary -Vol. XXV, No 76

Good Friday

IMG_0883Golgotha. Rock, or Place, of the Skull.

Skull because it might have been a site of public execution, thus, skulls and bones strewn about the area.

Skull because a cemetery may have stood nearby. We know that they took Him to the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, only a short distance away.

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There may have been other tombs in proximity.

Skull because the contours of the rocky hill itself may have resembled a skull.

Skull because Jews of the time held to a tradition that it was the ultimate burial place of the skull of Adam.

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In all cases, the evocation is death. Not, the immediate gore and blood of the moment of the death, the final gasp or last struggle. But rather, what remains to posterity once the vultures have cleaned all the carrion, and the sun has dried away all else that remains, leaving nothing but dusty rocks studded with bones, soon to dust themselves.

Death, the eternal moment. The forever, a sun-baked, air-soaked dust cloud of nothing.

At least, until this Man named Jesus.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre: is 300+ Years a Problem?

While taking a rest (and a beer) in the garden of the Austrian Hospice in the Old City of Jerusalem, I overheard a conversation between an older gentleman from Haifa who was guiding a small group of Chinese pilgrims. One of the pilgrims asked a question about the veracity of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as the actual place where Jesus was crucified and buried.

His response, while not exactly a “no”, began by referring to St. Helena, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, and her “discovery” of the place in the 4th Century AD. I resisted the temptation to interrupt, but thought the better of it. Nonetheless, St. Helena is not the beginning of this story.

I will not delve deeply into St. Helena’s story here, except to say that she preceded her son in becoming Christian, and once Constantine embraced the faith, he sent her to the holy land to bring back its relics to Rome. In Jerusalem, around 327 AD, she found the True Cross by a miracle, near the complex which Emperor Hadrian had erected a pagan temple (around 135 AD), and now sits as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which among its marvels, houses the rock (Golgotha) where Jesus was crucified and the tomb of Joseph of Aramithea, where He was buried and resurrected.

By the logic of some, including the tour guide from Haifa, the fact that the place of Jesus’ Crucifixion and burial was not found and no cult venerating the site existed before St. Helena provides the skeptic some reasonable doubt when it comes to whether the site is legitimate or not.

It, like so many other matters of miracle surrounding Jesus can be reduced to inspiration — it doesn’t really matter that it was here, exactly, so long as we have seen something that grounds us to Jesus, not unlike the way a storybook presents a tableau for the young child.

But the problem with this thinking is that when we hold that it may be the place, we can and must allow that it may not, which really undermines a lot of what we see and hear, and provides the critic with the basis to cry superstition is at work. We Christians are reduced to lemmings caught in a web of confusion, unthinking, relying upon surmise.

As with so much incredulity directed at the One True Faith, all of this omits a critical piece of evidence, which was discovered in 1971. Beneath the St. Helena Chapel (the level of which is already well below the main floor of the church), excavations uncovered a chamber which has since been dedicated as a chapel to St. Vartan, with stone foundation walls that can be dated to Hadrian’s pagan temple from around 135 AD.

Upon one of those foundational walls of the pagan temple, one finds a Roman ship with a broken mast in the style and shape of the second century AD, with an inscription beneath which reads “DOMINE IVIMVS” or “Lord, we have come / will go”. This inscription alludes to Psalm 121, which is a song of ascent and protection for the anxious pilgrim.

Thus, the connection of Christians to this place of Crucifixion and burial of Our Lord can be traced to the early second century, approximately 100 years from Jesus’ death, rather than 300 years.

And in such a case, St. Helena was doing nothing more than expanding upon an existing tradition that had already run the course of centuries, rather than inventing a new, albeit miraculous one, not unlike the way that pilgrims to Rome venerated Vatican Hill as the resting place of St. Peter, which was a matter of superstitious tradition for millennia, until, in the midst of World War II, archaeologists found bones and graffiti directly beneath the main altar of the basilica attributable to the fisherman from Galilee, and definitive confirmation of faithful religious devotion.

As Darkness gives way to Light, so too does the Old give way to New

Whether folks were directly affected by the great tragedies of year 2017 or not, this year was unsettling. It is as if the whole world is addled by new anxieties, uncertainties, fears about the future, which continue to accelerate. Whether we know and understand all the etiologies of this phenomena or not, we might at least pause to survey and consider where we are and where we are going.

From a spiritual vantage, there was the 100th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions, the miraculous appearances of Our Lady in Portugal. We may have expected a bit more from this, perhaps even a sort of a symmetry of completion of those warnings as well as the purpose behind the Virgin’s messages. To the disappointment of some, that did not occur.

What remains is that many people seem to be suffering, losing sight of spiritual realities, occluded by the effects of sin, falling deeper into the pit. Catholicism isn’t exactly dying the way the Protestantism is, but the Church isn’t exactly at the peak of health either.

Intersecting the spiritual were the celestial occurrences: the total solar eclipse that crossed the North American continent; the succession of “blood moons” that punctuated the lunar calendar; the uptick of asteroids and solar flares. Even — I don’t know if I was the only one who noticed it — what seemed to be an increase of news items about UFOs and the like.

Then there was the natural. We heard about a quickening of the melting of polar ice. An enormous ice shelf broke off of Antarctica, the ultimate effects of which are not known. Coral reefs are declining, the reasons are far from fully understood. Honey bees and pollinators appear threatened. There were more earthquakes and hurricanes and other strange weather patterns than before.

Culturally, the West is in decline. Even the empty promises of the Enlightenment and all the strife driven by class warfare have been laid bare with catastrophic effect. No more is art meant to be edifying. No more is virtue part of the social fabric.

People are not merely titillated by sin — especially sex and violence — they are immersed in it and fascinated by it. Many are no longer frightened by Satan and the occult, rather, they are near-autonomic moths to these flames of destruction.

Geopolitics are the obverse side of the cultural coin. As the West no longer stands for much besides its own libertinism, it defends Western “values” not because they are good, but because of the gaping chasm beyond which there are other ideologies the West does not share and cannot integrate properly. That is, even as it gasps for breath the West does not want to be something else, never mind why not. 

All of this sounds terribly unhopeful, such that there is little promise for anyone to survive the upcoming year, much less to grow and flourish. But I hope you haven’t come to this point with me expecting that I might conclude that surrender is the only option…

As the prophet Isaiah says, those who were in darkness have seen a great light, and it is this wonderful light that shines on the path and guides us to Him. To be faithful in this moment is to resolve to “double down” on our reliance in the promise that has been given — that the weight of a sinful condition does not triumph in the end, that redemption is possible, that we are indeed free to experience great joy and peace which surpasses all understanding.

To know Jesus Christ is to be serene in a tumultuous world, and to be moved to share ourselves with others in the same way that Jesus shares Himself with us, so that all the world might have and know His love.

So, above all your other worthy resolutions, I encourage you to resolve to cultivate your relationship with Jesus this year. Join Him on the altar at Mass. Seek Him out behind the screen in the Sacrament of Penance. Invite Him into your home and the hearts of your family at prayer time. Visit His Mother along the rosary.

Please keep me in your prayers, and I will keep you in mine. And may you have a blessed New Year.

Guest Post by a Priest of the Diocese of Sacramento: Reflections on the Rancho Tehama Shooting

Some might not be aware that on November 13-14, five people were killed and 18 others were injured by a single shooter at eight different locations (including an elementary school) in a small unincorporated community in Northern California. This submission is by the Very Reverend Avram Brown, a priest of the Diocese of Sacramento. /QMB


FrABrown2
I went for a long drive Wednesday night.  You’ve probably been on longer drives, of six, ten or twelve hours.  I drove for just two hours, but in the pouring rain, in the darkness, it felt like a long time.  You’ve had that experience, where the wipers are swiping through the streaking drops, and the headlights reaching through the rain into the black.

I was going to a place I’d never been before, so I had the small glowing light of my GPS directing me to turn left here, bank right there.  Here in the California valley the land is completely flat, so flat you can flood fields for rice seedlings, but we’re surrounded by the foothills that lead into the mountains.  My route led me into those foothills, so I went from the ruler-straight valley roads to the winding rolling country highways where the autumn oaks stretched their bare branches over the road like skeleton hands.

I arrived at my destination at a tiny community center in a tiny town, a public building like you’ve been in before, which is just walls and a roof, and this one with its “Maximum Capacity 90” sign inside.  When I arrived the space was already crowded and continued to fill so we were far exceeding the sign’s instruction.  I found there four other priests, and about that many Protestant pastors, amidst the families, adults and children: some holding the tiny candles that today are powered by batteries.

We were gathered there for the familiar purpose of Catholics in the month of November, to pray for the dead. We were also there to remember those who were hurt, who were wounded in the violence of the day before. One of the pastors had a wireless microphone, which we passed around to the different members of the gathering, so they could share their story.

What stood out the most was gratitude.  Parents described their gratitude for the teachers whose quick response had saved the lives of their children.  Teachers shared their thankfulness for the children who been so brave, and that they had lived.  We had a lot of tears, and still some fear and anger.

When I was handed the microphone, I reflected on the moment when Jesus encounters his friends Martha and Mary, and they lead him to where their brother is dead.  That’s the one place, I pondered, where we find Jesus weeping in the Gospels.

I described how close Jesus is to us when we weep for the departed, and reflecting on how the disciples saw how close Jesus was to his Father, I invited the gathering to pray the prayer that Jesus taught them.

For us who believe, we don’t know what fear, what violence, we will have to face in our lives.  But we do know the one who has conquered death, whose light shines through every darkness.

A lot of things in life can offer us happiness, comfort, or soothing.  But we have to ask each of them how they handle death.  And if they don’t have an answer like our God can give, that’s our cue to leave them behind and embrace the one whose death gives us life.

I’ll always remember the dark road I drove and the candlelit gathering I found at the end.  And I hope when I arrive at my last day, I’ll embrace the one who has the answer for every death.  And I hope I’ll find you there.

Halloween continues to get weirder and stupider…

fullsizeoutput_2076To the child, Halloween has a broad appeal; there are costumes, jack-o-lanterns to carve, and trick-or-treating (the primary mechanism by which candy is obtained).

But the New Halloween of our age isn’t for kids anymore. It isn’t children working tirelessly in the yards of quaint neighborhoods to install the many inflated pumpkins, animated zombies and frankenfreaks, chattering ravens and cackling motorized skulls, along with lights, and spider webs, and styrofoam tombstones, and a whole host of other items from the seasonal aisles of the local Target.

It isn’t children who gave the New Halloween its own embedded and inherently false mythology, a sort of hybridized sanitized amalgamated tale about ancient stone circles of gnosis and druids and dryads and how all was untamed and yet wonderful before the nasty Christians came along and deprived the natives of their true inchoate and natural celebrations, the shells of which were co-opted and perverted and now all that remains is the equinox or made up name Simhain or whatever to remind everyone of how terrible Christianity is.

It isn’t children who make it the Dan Brown of “holidays”, in which freshly concocted garbage from the imagination of ignorance is packaged each year into the flashiest of coverings and presented as an apex in New Culture.

It isn’t children engrossed in a festival of masquerade in which few limits are placed upon poor choices so that craven appetites — more drinking, more drugs, more sex, outrageously profane and objectifying costumes, more libertinism — are proposed as normative.

 

In other words, it isn’t children who have screwed up Halloween, twisted it, and made it weird and stupid. Rather, it’s adults who are to blame for the New Halloween, an Embarrassment at best and a Portal for Demons at worst.