Tuesday, November 22, 2016

'Know thyself,..'

This title, I am reminded of a scene from an ‘Incredible Hulk’ comic book, where Hulk stares into a statue of Socrates before being reverted to Bruce Banner.  Who am I?  Where did I come from? Where am I going?  How can I be happy?  These were the questions of the pre-Socratics, trying to figure out Truth.  Voila, these are million dollar questions that I now find myself asking.  Its truly been both a grace and a burden, that during this time away from seminary, I get to continuously dig deeper into myself.

First off, I am a sinner.  A fallen human being with a disordered will trying to follow a proper intellect.  That said, I guess I belong to the human race.  Still there are soo many questions that I have.  The world has undergone a change in the last few months since I last wrote, and I will address certain issues.  Where to begin?  The blocking of the pit-bull ban?   The election of Trump? My own relationship to the world?

About nine months ago, I was granted a ‘time of reflection’ to figure out where do I fit in this crazy world.  The Church, a microcosm of society if you will seemed to me as confusing as the world.  ‘Go and make a mess!’ ,.. Said our Holy Father,… Well, the mess begins with trying to figure out where in the blue hell I fit.  Daily I feel our Lord’s presence.  In silence He speaks to the heart, and His message is to trust… My fallen nature though, sometimes is deaf to the message. 

Being thrust into the world, the first time in 5yrs or so, I found myself Christian, practicing, seeking holiness, wanting to fight, and completely bamboozeled.  Through contacts in social media, I have had the pleasure of connecting with old friends from university and high school, and especially with women.  Women who are hurt, confused and angry,.. The reason, in my opinion?  That men forgot to be men, and have turned into some quasi narcissistic creature complete with an overdeveloped sensitivity.  I too have turned that way.

My admiration for superheroes, Optimus Prime, and WWE, aside,.. I must find a way back to reality.  Sure, there is some ‘good’ is seeking to emulate what or who is noble, but my focus during seminary was not necessarily Jesus.  Oh sure, He was an ideal,.. But to create the ultimate ‘Marco’ strong, courageous and willing to fight the ‘good fight’ was the priority.  The solution, is to make a resolution and let Jesus be in charge, totally.  A tall task, and damn near impossible, but with proper guidance, perhaps an attainable goal from a ‘human perspective?’

Our Lord has shown me that my ‘strengths’ can also be my ‘weaknesses’ and the enemy is constantly on the prowl trying to destroy me.  As a man, I was described as a twisted combination of Conan the Barbarian meeting Thomas Aquinas?  Hmmm,.. Sounds about right, I guess.  While the strength and courage and pseudo-intelligence on the surface may seem noble,.. On the inside, like Conan, I’m emotively unstable, irrational and prone to at times ‘Not thinking before I act.’  My brain has always been hardwired for Truth, but it can become a weakness and cause for scandal, when I wish to dominate and crush another, whom I don’t see as intellectually respectable.  Still like Thomas, in silence and alone, I sometimes wish to burn everything, unsure of my own capacities. 

As a man, I don’t really fear anyone, my aggression rejoices in confrontation and trying to be a savior.  Still, Our Lord will crush my ego at times, reminding me that it is He who Saves, and I am but a speck in the cosmos.  To discern God’s Will for your life, is to allow Jesus to hold up a giant mirror in front of you.  One that you cannot escape from.  God willing, this purification will not be too painful,.. because He is revealing every fault, hypocrisy and failure in me.  God has inserted Himself into all facets of my life, drawing me a picture.

-In the gym, I’m not as strong,.. I’m pushing 39, and feeling it.

-At Jiu Jitsu, despite being a so-called ‘high level’ purple, I’m tapping to guys younger, faster, stronger and who started after me.

 -In academics, I find myself butting heads with teachers, who I judge not sufficiently ‘orthodox’ enough, forgetting that I may learn something.

-At work, being a ‘rockstar’ pastoral minister while burying old people who have lived a full life,.. God will give me the test to bury a child, as I stumble upon words treading carefully…

-In the Church, I am considered a ‘modernist’ by the ‘Trad’ crowd, and a ‘Trad’ by the ‘modernist’ crowd.  I just want to follow Jesus period.

-In the world, I feel like an alien, a regular guy, who is now the fringe.  I don’t wear ‘skinny’ jeans or drink coffees with names I can’t pronounce…

Discernment is tough... Just sayin'...

St Ignatius,  ora pro nobis

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Don't Be a Hater'

My fascination with Traditionalist Catholics seems at a paramount along with Transformers, Bigfoot, and Jiu Jitsu.  They seem to fall into three categories.  Most are well-meaning in their devotions, pious and loyal to the Magisterium.  They may have certain questions or concerns, but never outside of a respectful tone, looking to the Holy Father as just that, a father.  While we owe our respect and obedience to the Pope, we must never forget that he is not infallible in all his pronouncements, but only when exercising a ministry regarding Faith and morals from the chair, ie Ex Cathedra.  The Pope cannot change a doctrine, he could deepen it, but never change it, and for that to happen(deepen), he would write an ‘Encyclical’ not an Apostolic Exhortation.  I consider myself in this line.  The other types are the extreme ‘I know better than the Pope crowd,’ and finally the complete whackadoodle crowd, either sedevacantists (waiting for a spaceship) or the ‘conclavists’(My favorite is Pope Michael).

The latest controversy has once again the extremists frothing at the mouth.  That in certain cases, some divorced and re-married may be admitted to Holy Communion.  First off, although issues are black and white, people are not.  Again, most recently, a leaked letter to the Bishops of South America was discovered, whereby the Pope ‘congratulated’ these Bishops for allowing the divorced and remarried access to the Sacraments.  What is not mentioned is the cultural circumstances surrounding this issue.  Namely, the rate of poverty, and pregnancy, steeped in a traditional setting, whereby ‘shotgun’ weddings are performed.  Whether this is an issue or not, is for the canonists to debate, us as the faithful need to remember that Jesus heads our Church, and the Holy Spirit will never leave us.  This brings us to our current debate, one between Justice and Mercy.  Essentially the two are not exclusive, despite certain ideological camps claiming so. 

Our culture ceased to be a Christian one some time ago, and again, in my opinion, I believe this is essentially what the Holy Father is trying to get at.  Our starting point is once again ‘Ground Zero.’  I believe, that to paraphrase Aquinas, the ‘act’ remains in the intentionality of the Pope.  It must be addressed however that for certain people clinging to ideological bents, there arises a danger. 

Certain members of the Faithful are troubled and confused, and instead of using this as a means to Grace, they lash out.  As traditional Catholics, we need to be careful, so as not to cause scandal but instead to draw ourselves more deeply into Christ’s mystery.  We cannot hide behind the ‘law’ and use every opportunity to embarrass people who do not share our views.  I too, wish that the Pope could be a little clearer, but I refuse to engage in a senseless and downright nasty political campaign trying to humiliate him.  We know the Catechism, Scripture and Canon Law,.. We don’t need to freak out over everything that comes out.  Instead we need to take this time to grow in Holiness.  Sadly there are people, describing themselves as Traditional, and engaging in Spiritual pornography, scouring the internet and criticizing the way the Pope ties his shoelaces.  Even when some good news comes out, they try to spin it into a critique.   Again, not just any kind of critique, but a violent hate driven propaganda spiel.  The devil is shrewd, and can easily play a game of not only spiritual narcissism, but can also sow seeds of hatred for our fellow Catholics.  The ‘left’ does not have a monopoly on God’s mercy, and I dare to say that both extremes are dangerous.   To be pastoral can mean clarity, in charity, respecting God’s justice recognizing that we are sinners while at the same time trusting in God’s mercy.

Guys, I too am Traditional, but we need to take this time to pray and get ourselves right with God.  Screaming about stuff will turn people away, instead we can ask questions in a respectful sense, articulate and intellectual way. I am not making excuses, I am trying to provide a way for us to sanctify ourselves, ultimately realizing that Jesus remains in control.

I will speak as a ‘coach.’  It is a slippery slope to criticize the Pope.  We can question, voice concerns and even write a letter, but screaming does no good. (Imagine screaming at your father?)  God is ultimately in control, He willed the Pope, and He lets the Pope govern.  Whether or not it is for our sanctification is ultimately God’s call, not ours.  Many priests and seminarians years ago criticized Popes John Paul II, and later Benedict XVI, and in not so respectful ways,.. let us not mirror this reality.  Every saint was sanctified through the virtue of ‘obediance.’  This Papacy is not a political election and we need to realize that.  When something disturbs your soul, pray about it.  Speak to your priest, go hit the gym,.. but we need to reign in the dirty laundry because this is not from God.  I know in saying these things I will alienate (again) many people who are Traditional, but as one of you, I felt the need to speak from my heart.

God bless.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Mastro Manifesto 2016

Well, I'm six months into my reflection year, and thus far one thing is certain.  I am a sinner yet I  desire to follow Truth, anchored in Love.  In doing so, and with God's Grace, I seek to follow the Universal Call to Holiness put forth by the Second Vatican Council.  I had tweeted and facebooked this week that this blog would be touchy.  Well, it is also going to be personal.  While my vocational discernment remains to follow God's Call in my life, Priesthood, I remain at His Mercy and being purified daily.

Formation is hard.  Obedience to authorities who at times seem like they don't grasp the weight of the world, or the seriousness of what is happening around us can be a huge challenge.  Still, through obedience we are forged as Saints, while authority divested from Truth ultimately becomes Tyranny.  For ourselves, (in this case myself) its important to be honest.

Here goes;

1.  I am a practicing Roman Catholic male.  I believe Her(The Church) to be the One True Church established by Jesus Christ for the Salvation of souls.  All other earthly endeavors (biotethical, social justice or otherwise) must flow from that reality.  The Church exists to make present the one Sacrifice of Christ in atonement for our sins. I believe in the fullness of the Truth as revealed in the Creed.  I believe in all the precepts of the Church, and should I not fully understand something, I will attempt to submit my intelligence and will to Holy Mother Church. 

2.  Stemming from the above point, I believe objective Truth exists and before entering into any 'Theological' training, a proper anthropology and proper metaphysics (Thomism) must be learned.  We need to relearn how the human mind 'thinks' and essentially why things are the way they are.  False philosophy contributes to false anthropology ultimately leading to false Theology.  Today's Theological landscape ranges from modernistic inspired pseudo liberalism, all the way to false emotionally driven fundamentalism. 

3.  I believe in the authority of the Magisterium.  While certain documents contain differing degrees of interpretation, I believe in is paramount to read everything within the context of the fullness of Tradition(or 'tradition.)   I promise never to break union with the Pope and Bishops in union with him.  I have read 'Laudato Si' and found it good.  I have also read 'Summorum Pontificum' and found it good.  I accept Vatican II, not the 'spirit of,'  'Commentary about, school of Bologna this,.. Vatican II is a pastoral Council, while Trent remains a doctrinal one.  Both these Councils contain or reaffirm doctrine and pastoral applications.   We must remember that doctrines are black and white issues, but people are not.  It is us who are ultimate shades of grey.  (This is made manifest in both degrees and hierarchy of Truth as well as degrees of sins.  (Gospel where Jesus encounters the Samaritain women comes to mind.)

4.  I refuse to be labeled any kind of 'ist.'  'Traditionalist' or 'progressivist,' ultimately lumps us into an ideological camp.  If I were to define myself, then I would say 'Traditional.'  I do not identify with 'hate mongers' or the extreme right, nor hippie whackadoos on the extreme left.  I love the Extraordinary Form of Mass and the Ordinary Form.  When both are celebrated properly, they can both elevate our senses to Heaven.  When both are celebrated mediocre, (An EF low Mass can seem like a 'drive-by' Eucharist, while an OF can seem like an attempt at cheesy religious entertainment) they both detract us from God and true worship.  We need to put Jesus first, and ideological banners in a secondary role.

5.  I am a man.  I was raised to be a man.  I am 'straight' (heterosexual).  I have never discriminated or been mean to a person with same sex attraction.  Sadly it is I who experienced a bullying from that crowd. I do follow the teachings of the Church on morals and if or when I fail with regards to chastity, I will make recourse to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  I believe the same should be true for those individuals.  I can draw a distinction between 'meekness' as opposed to weakness.  My Spirituality stems from and is expressed in this reality.  (Which is ultimately why, for the time being, I am drawn to the EF Mass.)  I played sports growing up and continue to avidly train in the Martial Arts and weights.  I have no interest in opera, theatre, frappacinos or ballet.  I enjoy hunting, fishing and pick-up trucks.  I fellowship with other men who desire to follow Christ and have also sought refuge in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

To conclude this five point manifesto, is that to a certain extent, Our Lord desires to transform our hearts, but not replace our personalities.  I continue along this journey, and will ultimately, hopefully let Jesus work through me.

Ad Maeoriam Dei Gloriam!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Discernment, Bigfoots, Aquariums and Sausage making!

The beauty of this post is that essentially the title should read in the same light as John Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men.'  Perhaps a little levity and an update to where I'm at in life.  My formation continues but solely on an intellectual level for the moment.  I'm still on my year of 'reflection' with every intention of becoming a priest becoming more apparent.  My stress level is diminishing and all because my prayerlife and my human formation are becoming one and integrated! 

For those of you that have followed or read me, you will know that for certain people, I would not be considered a seminarian type o'guy!  I've lived, worked and had girlfriends, even discerning marriage, but at the same time I've always had a child's curiosity and imagination.  The original name of this blog, 'Confessions of a Thirty-Something Cybertronian' was a wink to my interest in Transformers.  My ability to interact with Parishioners came from two things.  The first was a Holy Hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament, which culminated in this prayer,. 'Lord love these people through me!' The second, was to be real and authentic, and young men, especially the teenagers,.. Well they can smell bullsh%$ a mile away.  In my case I believe they knew I was a father figure to them and wouldn't judge.  My love of wrestling and Transformers, Sasquatches and whatever nonsense assured that!  Our Lord has a sense of humor, and all those things were put to good use by Him!  At the same time, what I learned from the community was triple fold!  Discerning a call to priesthood means you are there for every important moment of a person's life and what you say may impact them potentially spiritually, meaning Heaven or Hell at the point of death, theirs as well as yours!  My point is that God has given me a clear vision with regards to a capacity for coaching and forming.  It makes sense since I'm an ex-personal trainer. 

Its tough when you are not understood.  Maybe you are, but are are among those who can't get you?  My weakness is definitely pride, ego, emotional instability and narcissism.  Jiu-Jitsu is helping especially in the pride humility department!  (IT SHOULD BE MANDATORY FOR ANYONE DISCERNING A VOCATION!)  You learn to tap and tap fast, especially to the 10yrs younger than you dude, who you used to 'dominate' 10 months ago!  Working at the cemetery has always been and continues to be an incredible source of Grace.  Crawling into people's lives with one mission,.. To remind them that God loves them! 

For now, I continue my studies.  I continue with a Spiritual Director, and I continue being me.  I've signed up for a Sasquatch expedition, and am now learning how to make sausages!  I haven't begun, but rest assured that I will post them on my youtube channel and make some fun crazy recipes!  Think of Kramer and Newman from Seinfeld!  At times though, it has been tough, but I am confident that Jesus is purifying me while not robbing me of my identity.  Be serious when it is time and laugh always like a big kid!  As I write this, I will be shopping for an aquarium for my Godson,..  I will also choose his fish!!!!  Managueses, Flowerhorns and Cichlids Oh my!  Piranhas and arowanas,.. All kinds of 'fun' fish!!!!!

St Giovanni Bosco (Don Bosco),..   ora pro nobis!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Questions to be Asked?,..

A recent homily given by a young priest hit a nerve among many of the Faithful and perhaps caused us to pause and to think.  Father Jacques Hemel, the martyred 86yr old french priest who went willingly to his death caused by two young ideologically bent followers of radical Islam.  The content of the homily was simple,.. 'Where were the men in the Parish to rush and protect this priest?'  We heard about the women and the nuns who assisted at the Mass,.. So where were the 'dudes' so to speak?

It goes without saying that the Church as well as society in the last 45-50 yrs has suffered a crisis in what it means to be a man.  The Church has often attempted to present a 'user-friendly' childish or feminine Liturgy whereby the work of God is put to the side in favor of a 'feelgood' community celebration.  As with any shift, whether cultural or social, we as human beings tend to go from one extreme to the other.   Gone is the Fulton Sheen, or Bing Crosby model of priesthood, and in its place, a recycled Mr Rogers has taken over along the buzzwords 'pastoral' and 'culturally sensitive.'  The results have been disastrous.

The Church has little to no men involved in Parish activity.  Most parishes have become so feminized that the homily feels like a tickle fest of cotton candy goodness!  This is a sad reality but one that must be addressed.  Yet the Church is a microcosm of what is going on throughout the Western hemisphere.  A total crisis in manhood, and those who suffer are the women.  Countless times I have been emailed by female friends asking why dating has become a near impossibility.  It seems that with the emasculating of the Church, came an emasculating of society and thus men have forgotten virtue, sacrifice, hard work and nobility.  In its place we have men who carry satchels (purses?) are encouraged to 'cry' and have a complete lack of any sense of responsibility.

Growing up this was not my reality, and perhaps one of the reasons why I'm considered 'archaic,' 'medieval,' and downright 'misogynistic.'  My father is an Alpha male and is gifted with street smarts.  He grew up in a verrrrrry working class neighborhood in Montreal, mixed Italian and French, learned to fight, to have respect, to be respected and to walk upright.  He raised me the same way.  I have always stood up for myself and been able to call out nonsense.  I was taught to value and protect women and those weaker than me, to stand when a woman walks into a room, and to give her my seat should she have none.  To help old ladies cross the street, and to always hold a door open.  If I were to come home and complain that I got bullied, my dad would reassure me and tell me to defend myself.  I was taught to be a 'man' and/or man up!  Better to scrap it out, maybe take a beating but gain the bigger kid's respect than to hide.  These lessons never left me and still continue to be part of me.  Thus since the age of eight, I have always trained in Martial Arts.  Jesus it seems, according to Scripture is no different!  In the second chapter of St John's Gospel, He makes a whip out of His belt and kicks some ass!!!  Yet why in society and in the Church do we get this fluffball Jesus???  Soooo my question is; what the hell is happening?

In society as a whole, extreme feminism, the so-called sexual revolution along the plague of pornography have turned men into selfish little monsters.  In the Church, perhaps too many 'delicate' men joined the priesthood to hide from the world?  The men who weren't in the Church during the murder of Father Hemel are the men who weren't in the real world and instead not really knowing what it means to sacrifice.  When we clean up our own selves and start acting according to our own nature, perhaps we will reclaim our position as leader, provider and protector.  Until then, I wish to apologize to all women who seem to be at a loss in finding a suitable husband.

St Joseph,   ora pro nobis