Letters 02.26.12

God’s Love Known

Pertinent to “Understanding the Incarnation” (In Depth, Jan. 15):

A lifetime is clearly not enough to show appreciation for the extent of God’s love manifested in the Incarnation. As often as I think of my God assuming human flesh, I break into unprompted gratitude. Part of it must have to do with aging.

Something rather humbling is registering ever more loudly in my mind: My rapport with Jesus, my Savior and Redeemer, keeps shedding the pride of having done some good, now and then, to rely more heavily and more frequently on his infinite mercy.

Years ago, I would have found it hard to believe that St. Augustine had to face, even as a bishop, the presence of those sinful inclinations that had ruled his youth.

Since I cannot pride in anything good, for without Jesus I can do absolutely nothing (John 15:5), mine is the gratitude so impulsive, ages ago, already in St. Paul: “Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:24-25).

It is ever clearer to me that the weakness of my humanity has to be inspired always by the bare humanity of Christ. The path to sharing in Christ’s divinity is to be trod with the firm conviction that in spite of my weakness I can have the strength for everything through him who empowers me (Philippians 4:13).

I do not need “a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). The cry of “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” needs to be as irrepressible and as raw as it would be if it were coming from me in circumstances much, much less frightening.

Presently, it is the bare humanity of Christ that inspires and comforts me very much.

Father Dino Vanin

Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions

Detroit, Michigan

Communion Confusion

Regarding the letter “To Kneel or to Stand?” by Father Dino Vanin (Jan. 1):

Contrary to Father, the normal way to receive holy Communion is kneeling and on the tongue.

This is the Pope’s own practice. Receiving Communion standing and in the hand is no more than a permission.

The fact the only “a mere fraction of 1% of the faithful” and clergy follow the Church norm on this and other matters indicates the extent of the crisis of faith in the Church — or, as Father Vanin suggests, the extent of Satan’s power.

To further suggest that it is a sign of pride to kneel for Communion — when 100% of the faithful knelt for Communion prior to Vatican II — is in itself a testament to one’s human pride.

The correct way to demonstrate that “we are God’s pilgrim people” is not by standing, but by kneeling. St. Paul tells us that “we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling” not unlike the publican, who, when he entered the Temple, would not even dare to lift his eyes to heaven.

I completely agree with Father Vanin and “most pastors” that “personal preferences” should be eliminated from the Mass. But this raises the question as to why the Latin Mass was ever banned in favor of the Novus Ordo.

Were the bishops at Vatican II hypocritically seeking plurality only to later impose their own uniformity? And this raises the further question: Can we really call the new changes based on hypocrisy in keeping with Jesus’ teachings and his way of doing things?

Pope Benedict XVI tells us that kneeling is “an expression of Christian culture, which transforms the existing culture through a new and deeper knowledge and experience of God.”

In his book The Spirit of the Liturgy, he speaks of a “story that comes from the sayings of the Desert Fathers, according to which the devil was compelled by God to show himself to a certain Abba Apollo. He looked black and ugly, with frightening thin limbs, but, most strikingly, he had no knees. The inability to kneel is seen as the very essence of the diabolical.”

From an authentically Catholic standpoint, the altar rail should return for the greater salvation of souls.

Paul Kokoski

Toronto, Ontario

The Frog and the Scorpion

Regarding “U.S. Bishops to White House: ‘Rescission of Mandate Only Solution’” (NCRegister.com, Feb. 10 and page one of this issue):

President Barack Obama’s closed-door assurances that he would not infringe upon religious freedom is simply a rewrite of Aesop’s fable of the frog who allowed the scorpion to ride his back across the river after assurances he would not be stung.

Both the frog and the scorpion drown as a result of the scorpion’s mid-river sting.

Many Catholics supported Obamacare under the belief that increasing government services is a way to increase human dignity. Sadly, the opposite is true. Catholic social teaching challenges us to view bigger government as a real and serious threat to human dignity.

President Obama’s decision to require religious employers’ health plans to cover contraceptives, abortion-producing drugs and sterilization is indeed a “literally unconscionable” attack on religious freedom, as Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was quoted in the Jan. 25 Wall Street Journal op-ed “Catholics Blast Rule on Contraception.”

Sadly, we Catholics have only ourselves to blame.

We Catholics have a deep tradition of Catholic social teaching, which warns us that running to government to answer problems we have the capability of addressing more locally leads to the loss of personal freedoms that undermines the dignity of every person.

Catholics are receiving a clarion call: Return to serving our poor in health, education, economy, morality and other poverties.

We Catholics, and indeed all faiths, need to stop fighting to make government bigger and instead get about the work of building God’s Kingdom by reclaiming our rightful role as the servants of our poor, outcast, sick, uneducated and downtrodden.

Please discover our rich history, starting in the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, of personally reaching sideways to help our neighbor rather than preaching that government should do so for us.

We and our faiths and our nation will be stronger for personally serving our poor rather than advocating for government to do it for us and losing our religious liberty in the bargain.

Deacon Patrick Jones

Colorado Springs, Colorado