Saturday, February 17, 2018

Lentblogging Day 5 & 6 - Religion as a Near Occasion of Sin UPDATE

The Bear's Article on Religion as a Near Occasion of Sin Was Prescient

Today, no holy water. Its absence represents the
spiritual and intellectual desert in which
poor Bear must live, he supposes.
UPDATE: Before Mass Sunday, the priest read a letter from the bishop urging stronger gun control. Then gun control was presented as a "prayer intention." (As the Pope Videos prove, "intentions" are a great way to present left-wing agitprop in religious garb.) Also, there was no holy water in the stoup. At least there was not sand or sticks.

The Bear watched every single person dipping their fingers into the dry bowl as they entered the church. It was like some Catholic Candid Camera setup.

Well, well. Here the Bear finds himself obligated by his own integrity to discuss the very sort of thing he so blithely dismissed before. It's one thing to preach in the abstract, and something else to have the very problem crammed down your throat. How can he ignore this sort of thing, even during Lent, when it is a practical challenge?

So, here are a couple of articles you might find interesting. One is a detailed article on the Church and gun control, and the other discloses the astonishing roster of Soros-connected lefties that produced the USCCB's gun-grab position.

Finally, there is an article on the forgotten Bath Township school massacre which remains the deadliest in the U.S. to date with a final death toll of 44. Forgotten, perhaps, because the killer did not use guns. See Before They Blamed Guns, They Blamed Catholics.

The homosexual child abuse scandal has reared its scaly head, again, in the background, as it seems that clients of Pope Francis were protected and promoted despite apparently credible allegations.

The implications of his encyclical Amoris Laetitia are being worked out on an ad hoc basis around the world when it comes to the propriety of divorced and remarried Catholics in the communion line.

The Bear does not know who said it, but the Catholic Church in America truly is the Democrat party at prayer. This is not the place to launch into a defense of the second amendment, which the Supreme Court has recognized as a personal right. At a minimum, however, it is one of several political issues that have polarized Americans. Perhaps, Church leaders might at least have the prudence to recognize that and not see worshippers as a captive audience for their debatable political positions.

They just can't help themselves from taking advantage of an opportunity like this, though.

Aside from politics, one can only marvel at the wrong-headedness of depriving people of an important sacramental like holy water during Lent.

So, yes, indeed, it was a prescient article for the Bear. Since this is a very practical series of articles on succeeding in Lent, the Bear thinks he ought to share good strategies for dealing with the kind of thing he experienced Sunday. His catch phrase for Catholics has always been, "Nail your foot to the floor in front of your favorite pew and die there."

What do you think? Is that good enough? Or are there no significant problems in the Catholic Church today?

Sunday before last a woman dressed up in some sort of priestess outfit conducted the service (not a Mass) because there was no priest available. Think about that for a moment.

When we are trying to attract people to the Catholic Church, as one commenter suggested, what is the best thing to tell them? Shrug and say the Church just has always had some flawed human beings in it, but is still unique in teaching the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the unchanging truth? Or just say nothing and hope they don't notice anything before we have them in the boat?

Of course, there is a good answer.

Pope Francis has suggested over and over the dismay that has divided Catholics and scandalized a large segment of the faithful who blog about the Church is simply the result of ignorance but mostly ill will. How does that answer sit with you?

Maybe the absence of holy water during Lent - where there is no tradition or rule allowing it - should just make us think about the desert in which Jesus fasted. If that line of reasoning is correct, perhaps we should go further and remove all sacramentals from our homes, too. We should not make the sign of the cross, or say the rosary, or display crucifixes during Lent. How far could you imagine such "symbolism" could go, if carried to its logical conclusion? Is there a problem with seeing holy water as a nothing more than a symbol to be manipulated at the whim of parish priests?

And, with the sole exception of abortion, it seems one must be a member of a certain political party in order to be a good American Catholic.

It would be the easiest thing in the world for the Bear to sweep his concerns under the rug during a series on Lent. That was his earlier idea. However, he suspects he is not the only person who is scandalized by their religion and whose Lenten peace and growth is challenged by the very institution to which he looks for assistance. The Bear would not feel like he was being honest if he ignored all this in a series about practical strategies for Lent.

The Bear cannot tell you what you should do when religion becomes a near occasion of sin, unless it is to convince yourself that you are the problem and be assimilated.

Or, if that does not ring true to you, perhaps the answer is just to do your best to ignore it. That might be easy for humans. It is not so easy for Bears.


Many times, going to church has been a near occasion of sin for the Bear. Sometimes it's all he can do to remain quiet in his pew without rising up on his hind legs and roaring in indignation.

Many Catholics  have grown increasingly confused and worried over the past few years. However, many Protestants have also found the Evangelical movement wanting and waning. It would serve no purpose to prepare charges and specifications against any religion. If you are satisfied where you are, the Bear is very happy for you. If you are not, he does not need to give you the reasons.

Wisdom from Pope Benedict XVI

But, whether it is a strange gospel of social and material equality without Christ - of "issues" - or a feel-good faith that builds self-esteem, many are turning away from such ideas and looking for the truth.

In Pope Benedict XVI's book Co-Workers of the Truth, the reading for February 17th says something we don't often hear these days:

It is a thoroughly Christian impulse to combat suffering and injustice in the world. But to imagine that men can construct a world without them by means of social reform, and the desire to do so here and now, is an error, a deep misunderstanding of human nature. For suffering does not come into the world solely because of the inequality of possessions and power. 

From: Die Situation der Kirche heute, pp. 37–38

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 64). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.


Blaise Pascal
It seems to Bear that disaffected Christians crave intellectual certainty. In other words, they want the truth, which seems reasonable enough. Some believe they may find it in looking to the past, or to the East, or, increasingly, to the stark security of TULIP Calvinism. (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace and Perseverance.)

The Bear doesn't really have much to say about that. He understands. May the Holy Spirit guide you, but may you accept that you may very well go to your grave as a sheep poorly fed, if fed at all.

This Lent might be a good time to look beyond our doubts and even our disgust and accept that the kind of security we crave might never be found in having all our doctrinal ducks in a row. No, it isn't fair, and, yes, you should expect better than you are often getting from your shepherds.

Friends, the Bear respectfully invites you to wonder if your religion is getting between you and God, and what you might try to do about that. Obsessing over the latest scandal cannot be spiritually healthy, especially during Lent. 

There are ways, the Bear believes, that one may be right, but wrong.

One possible response is to turn directly to God more often through reading Scripture, through prayer, and through alms-giving and service. We cannot go far wrong in our religion if we take more responsibility for loving and serving God, and practicing charity toward our neighbor.

Another spiritual discipline for this Lent might be to just tune out. Avoid the constant grumbling, even if it is justified. Many of us must simply accept that we are unlikely to ever find rest for our souls in our religions.

This seems like a shame, but even the Bear has not changed things to his liking, no matter how clever his agitprop.

However, who knows if we might find a different kind of certitude? The brilliant mathematician Blaise Pascal recorded a mystical experience that gave him just that.

Pascal's Memorial

Monday, 23 November, feast of St. Clement, pope and martyr, and others in the martyrology. Vigil of St. Chrysogonus, martyr, and others.

From about half past ten at night until about half past midnight, 


GOD of Abraham, GOD of Isaac, GOD of Jacob
not of the philosophers and of the learned.
Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace.
GOD of Jesus Christ.
My God and your God.
Your GOD will be my God.
Forgetfulness of the world and of everything, except GOD.
He is only found by the ways taught in the Gospel.
Grandeur of the human soul.
Righteous Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you.
Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.
I have departed from him:
They have forsaken me, the fount of living water.
My God, will you leave me?
Let me not be separated from him forever.
This is eternal life, that they know you, the one true God, and the one that you sent, Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ.
I left him; I fled him, renounced, crucified.
Let me never be separated from him.
He is only kept securely by the ways taught in the Gospel:
Renunciation, total and sweet.
Complete submission to Jesus Christ and to my director.
Eternally in joy for a day's exercise on the earth.
May I not forget your words. Amen.

And the Bear said Amen.


  1. Thanks Bear. Good meditation. Yes, paradoxically, our religion itself is our Lenten penance. It is a source of confusion, anxiety and a temptation to despair especially with the infamous PF in the driver's seat. Well, PF is not in the drivers seat, God is. Let us seek the interior chapel of our soul to worship Him and ask Him to exorcise the devils in His Church.

    1. Yes. We must always try to remember that God is sovereign, and through His providence He uses misfortune for good. It is a mystery a Bear cannot explain. But, "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him," -- but must remember the rest of it, which is sometimes forgotten -- "who are called according to his purpose."

  2. "If you are satisfied where you are, the Bear is very happy for you. If you are not, he does not need to give you the reasons".

    Are you saying that if you are satisfied in your religion and are not a Catholic that you are happy for that person? How can a Catholic be happy with anybody being outside the Catholic Faith. Aren't we supposed to make the supreme effort to attract all non Catholics to our Faith by our words and deeds? Isn't that the teaching of Jesus? Or did He say..all religions are OK? Forgive me if I am a bit sensitive to the "New Advent" church of Vat. II and their idea of ecumenism...your god is as good as my God and we have to stop trying to convince the people of the world, including the Jews, Muslims, Protestants, voodoo 'priests' and other pagans, that the Catholic Church is the only Church that Christ founded and the only Church that has the whole Truth of what Christ taught us.

    1. Great question, Jim.

      That is mainly a common rhetorical device. Bear expects the honest answer for most Christians is, "no, I'm not entirely happy with my religion."

      However, it is true that Bear is pursuing a broader agenda during this Lent.

      It is also true that the Bear and Red Death are Benedictine oblates. That is pretty much Bear's spiritual "style." Since any Christian willing to undertake the faithful observance of the oblate Rule is welcome as an oblate - even Christian non-Catholics - the Bear does not substitute his judgment for the Order of Saint Benedict.

      Besides, who can say that a broad appeal on common ground might not attract people to the Catholic faith, especially if they see Catholics frankly and intelligently struggling with various things going on in the Church (many things beginning long before Jorge Bergoglio).

      The Bear thinks the approach he has chosen is better than direct proselytizing.

  3. St.Corbinian taught you well Bear. This is wisdom.

  4. I left my local Novus Ordo "FrancisCatholic" parish in September after the local bishop "celebrated" Martin Luther and the Protestant revolt and his vicar gave [another] long-winded homily about how every good Catholic should support DACA amnesty. Not a problem. I found an [actually] Catholic Traditional Latin Mass community not too far from home, where I go to mass every Sunday and holy day now. And I have never been back to my local "Democrat party at prayer" parish [great line, Bear].

    1. Lucky. Many of us do not have a close by parish that does the Latin Mass, either OF or EF. Owl is glad that the Good God has blessed you with such availability.

  5. I left my local Novus Ordo "FrancisCatholic" parish in September after the local bishop "celebrated" Martin Luther and the Protestant revolt and his vicar gave [another] long-winded homily about how every good Catholic should support DACA amnesty. Not a problem. I found an [actually] Catholic Traditional Latin Mass community not too far from home, where I go to mass every Sunday and holy day now. And I have never been back to my local "Democrat party at prayer" parish [great line, Bear].

  6. How about next Mass you bring along a cup and refill those empty bowls, as obviously Lent has made the priest and the gaggle of parish staff too busy and forgetful? There is a large container for parish members to take holy water home / the parish to refill those bowls with somewhere handy around there.

    Or, if there is a kerfuffle, Great Bear can stand there next to the empty parish bowl with his own bowl of Holy Water for those that wish.

    As for the letter from the bishop -- the priest HAS to read that, though there are creative ways for a priest for dealing with garbage from a bishop.

    Owl's tactic for dealing with non-sense before, during, after Mass: None of this requires Owl to deviate from the rubrics and the goal of "active participation". Owl simply remains kneeling and at prayer until the Mass starts. During the Mass if Fr. or whomever is holing the mic gets distracted from the Mass wanting to interject something, Owl remains at the liturgical posture of that present moment. At the end of Mass, Owl shifts to praying, immediately, Owl's after Mass prayers. The goal is "active participation" right?

    Owl's current parish is ok -- it is not as good as the one that Owl travel's a great distance for, and is a great deal better than Owl's old parish.

    Owl finds it a great shame that many priests, in ALL colours of robes, are more interested in preaching political messages than in preaching Christ Crucified.

  7. Happy in one's religion?

    Owl's solution is to find that Owl doesn't have a religion, rather a religion has Owl. Further it is Owl's own fault because Owl's own sinful nature and attitudes contribute to the mire. What is wrong is that Owl is not as faithful, obedient, and charitable as Owl should be.

    Owl suspects that many others, including those that have collars, have similar issues.

    None of this precludes Owl from noticing and vocalizing where people in God's Church are making a mess of things.

  8. Someday we're going to read about a bear mauling of a parish priest somewhere in southern Illinois. All I can say is:

    1. One of the rules from Illinois Fish, Game and Wildlife Department of Large Talking Predators the Bear must put up with is having one of their agents follow him everything with a tranquilizer dart gun. Poor Bear has already been darted three times in church. It was close Sunday when the Bear actually removed the empty bowl portion of the stoup and made some agitprop street theater out of turning it upside down with a puzzled look.

  9. I took to attending a local SSPX chapel. I spent a few years meditating and praying on whether that was okay for me. We all have the stories of actual or near heresy preached. The constant social justice ethos. The plain cruddy music (one week we had "Colors of the wind" for liturgical music after Father returned from a trip to Disney land). The NO had become a place for near occasion of sin and all the literal and figurative eye closing and prayer could not overcome. Without the SSPX I am not sure I'd still be living a sacramental life. oh, i'd still be Catholic but would not be attending Mass -- just like my Dad in ~70.

    1. It is easy to find reasons to fail in our religious obligations these days. In 1300 years, the Bear has never seen such a perfect storm of Catholic FAIL. The Bear views Mass as a box to check off. He joins a bunch of old, sour-pussed humans for awful music and left-wing politics once a week (on a good week). It's not even an hour, and he is trying to learn patience. The sacraments seem to him to be a shadow of what they once were, and Bear is often perplexed and even angered.

      He tries to tell himself that if Jesus can come to a lousy worship experience, then Bear can manage once a week. But most of the real Christian nourishment he receives is outside the four walls of his parish church.

  10. “Pope Francis has suggested over and over the dismay that has divided Catholics and scandalized a large segment of the faithful who blog about the Church is simply the result of ignorance but mostly ill will. How does that answer sit with you?”

    In fact it is ill will — ill will on the part of those who create the scandal and foment the divisions, not on the part of those who call them out. At this stage, there is too much of a pattern and a consistency to the scandalous behavior to excuse it on the grounds of ignorance.

    In re holy water: thankfully it’s been a long time since I have seen that done around here. But back in the days when that was going on, I just carried a jug of holy water in the car, and then whenever I found an empty font, I’d fill it up. If I found a font filled with sand, I’d dump the sand and fill it with holy water. I don’t see a need to just take that crap.

    And keep a supply of holy water blessed according to the old Rituale Romanum, with blessed salt (of which I also keep a supply).


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