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Veritatis Splendor

"Keep your eyes fixed upon Jesus, who inspires and perfects our faith" --Hebrews 12:2

Pope Benedict XVI before our Lord

And only where God is seen does life truly begin. Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is. We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution.
Each of us is the result of a thought of God.
Each of us is willed,
each of us is loved,
each of us is necessary.
There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him.
~Pope Benedict XVI, Homily April 24th, 2005

Saturday, January 05, 2008

A supreme virtue: Obedience

Do you ever wonder why God values obedience more than sacrifice? ... Because obedience is someone else’s idea of what you should sacrifice.
~David Manuel (H/T to the Happy Catholic's quote book)

It's very interesting that the two issues where I often diverge from the average committed and orthodox Catholic today have always been LifeTeen and Medjugorje. In both cases, later examination has shown me a red flag in the "discernment of spirits" that is present in their central figures and proponents - disobedience.

Medj has for years been a source of controversy, but this rampant disobedience by the so-called shrine's leaders is usually overlooked or ignored by many good, solid Catholics. LifeTeen's charismatic founder is now proven to have similar obedience problems, which must now be taken into account in any discussion of the program he created and marketed:

The Diocese of Phoenix is urging Catholics not to attend a suspended priest's non-denominational services, but Dale Fushek's magnetism keeps filling the Mesa Convention Center while he awaits trial on misdemeanor sex charges.

The former longtime pastor of St. Timothy's Catholic Church in Mesa, Fushek's latest service at the Praise and Worship Center is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Sunday at the Mesa Convention Center. His last service on Dec. 23 drew an estimated 700 people and his first service on Thanksgiving drew about 500.

“We're actually encouraging Catholics to refrain from attending. We would hope that they don't,'' said Jim Dwyer, a spokesman for the diocese. “I think most leaders in the church would say your devotion should be to Christ, not an individual leader.”

In my experience, orthodox Catholics who are very attached to either Medj or LifeTeen have a very knee-jerk reaction of defensiveness at the slightest questioning about them. Often by saying that such things don't matter, as they have had a great personal conversion there, or their friends have, or their family has, or their co-worker's neighbor's nephew's cousin has. "By their fruits you shall know them" they quote at you, quick as a whip. True. But simply because there is conversion that is taking place doesn't mean that the origin and existence of Medj, or of LifeTeen, is authentic. In logic the rule goes something like this - "if P, then Q. P, therefore Q." It doesn't work the other way around - you can't say that "if P, then Q. Q, therefore P." It's possible that if there is Q there might also be P, but the fact of Q being present does not mean that P must also be present. This is why we've been given the Church by God, to give us a living interpreter of the signs - and the number one clue the Church uses is obedience, to God and to His Church. And our Lord has already told us that He prizes obedience even beyond sacrifice - in that sense, even Christ's sacrifice on the Cross was only worthy of our redemption because of His obedience to the Father first.

Look, conversion takes place anywhere that there is a strong witness of people who are going to Mass, going to Confession, telling others about their faith and the wonders of God, praying the Rosary -- that's the power of prayer and sociologically the way that seekers often become open to having a relationship with Christ. Individual parishes, whether they use LifeTeen or not, are places where God wants to work conversion. I'm not talking here against any individual conversion experiences - God works where He wills. I'm not talking against you or your Aunt who went to Medj and had an amazing experience and now go to daily Mass, etc. I'm not talking against your parish's particular program which uses elements of LifeTeen and has been a source for revival and vocations across the diocese.

What I'm talking about is the central foundation and motivations from which the phenomena of LifeTeen and Medj and other things like them flow. If the foundation is on sand, it is still a problem, even if other builders come and build the house itself out of rock.

Obedience can be possible without love, but love cannot exist without obedience. Obedience is the foundation from which all other virtues are built."
~ Br. Ignatius Mary

In any case, it seems that in every instance where God's faithful have obeyed their bishop and Pope, to the point of allowing their devotions, ministries, or apostolates to be suppressed or suspended, great fruit has been later seen, at a time that the Lord wills. Look to the story of St. Faustina and the devotion to the Divine Mercy for one stunning example of this.

The minute you disobey, you are saying that you don't trust God, and that you don't trust that what you are doing is really His work and His will. And if that's the case, then what is it that you are really doing? What was it's true inspiration? What (or who) are you really serving? In too many of the "LifeTeen" parishes I've experienced, things like this story make me wonder how much of this fruit is really going to stay on the Tree long enough to be added to the Picker's bushel basket. And who's really going to be happy about that?


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