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In Defense Of Pope Francis


 

It’s time. I’ve put off writing this for a while, but the time has come. In the past few months, I’ve noticed an increase in the number of attacks on our current Holy Father, Pope Francis. No big deal, right? After all, our culture isn’t exactly supportive of Catholic teaching. We live in a world where the pursuit of pleasure is generally regarded as a one of life’s priorities. What the Church considers good is often viewed by the world as evil. Is it any surprise that the world is going to reject and vilify the Holy Father, who is the visible head of the Church on earth? Of course not, but that’s not the reason why I’m writing this article. Sadly, the majority of the attacks that I’m seeing are coming from those within the Church. Oh, it’s those “Cafeteria Catholics” again, right? Not this time. The vast majority of attacks are coming from individuals who love Christ and His Church. What’s unusual is that their love is being expressed in anger, disrespect and language that is dangerously close to heresy.

Before the attacks start coming, let’s set the record straight. I love Christ and I love His Church. Please don’t call me a “modernist”, “liberal”, or “conservative”. I am a Catholic…period. I am also not smarter than Jesus, who founded a Church on the leadership of the Holy Father (Matthew 16:18-19). As a Catholic, I not only love Christ and His Church, but I love the Holy Father. Therefore, it only follows that I love and respect our current Holy Father, Pope Francis. In fact, that love is so real that it hurts me to see him treated with such disrespect (Catholics condescendingly calling him “Jorge”, “Bergoglio” or even “a heretic”). It hurts because these words are directed at my “Papa”, the individual that Christ placed in charge to help me get to Heaven. On a personal level, I can’t express enough gratitude to Jesus for leaving me a series of “Papas”, all with unique and different charisms. Each of them has drawn me closer to Jesus, by helping me to concentrate on different aspects of my spiritual life. Is Pope Francis’ style different than Pope Benedict’s? You bet. Was Pope Benedict’s style different than Blessed Pope John Paul II’s? Absolutely, and that diversity can be extremely beneficial. I have learned a great deal from each of them and I’m grateful for the opportunity to be stretched spiritually.

So, why do I feel the need to write this? Do I feel that any minds will be changed? Honestly, I don’t know. While I hope that it has a positive effect, I can’t control how other people think or behave. Whether it has an effect or not, I do feel that I need to try. In addition to being hurt by the disrespect shown to Pope Francis, I am also concerned for those Catholics who feel justified in propagating such attacks. In an attempt to promote reverence for Our Lord and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (which is a very commendable undertaking), some of these individuals are skating on some thin spiritual ice. The Vatican II Document, Lumen Gentium, is clear about the loyalty due to our Holy Father:

This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking. (Lumen Gentium no. 25)

I am grateful for the Lord’s gift of the papacy. When the Holy Father speaks, I listen attentively. When Pope Francis tells me that I need to pay greater attention to the poor and be more charitable to others, I obey him. Why?

Because I love Jesus and that’s what He wants me to do.

Habemus “Negativity”…Be Careful!


 

Habemus Papam!

Those of us who love the Church are very excited that the Holy Spirit has provided us with another Vicar of Christ. Once again, the flock has a shepherd. Since we’re still in Lent, I’ll suppress my desire to say “Alleluia” and instead say “Rejoice”! I’m personally very excited for two reasons. First, I didn’t see this one coming. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was not one of the men on my “Pope radar” and I like that. This is a reminder that God often chooses people who we would NOT choose to do His work. With all of the prayers said for the Cardinals recently, I’m confident that the Holy Spirit was guiding them as they made their decision.

Secondly, I like the fact that Pope Francis is the first Jesuit Pope. After leading the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola last year on my radio show, I’ve grown to love St. Ignatius and his spirituality. Honestly, what’s not to love about someone who coined the motto “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam” (For The Greater Glory Of God)? St. Ignatius was very aware that we often have inordinate attachments that hold us back from loving God fully. The Jesuit motto reminds us that everything we do should be for God’s greater glory, even if it’s not pleasing to us.

Now for the bad news. As many of you already realize, we’ve started to hear and will continue to hear an endless stream of commentary about the new Holy Father:

He’s too liberal.
He’s too conservative.
He’s going to make massive changes.
He’s not going to change enough.
I hope he comes down hard on “Cafeteria Catholics”
I hope he supports the ordination of women
etc, etc…

You get the idea. While the mainstream secular media will be responsible for much of this speculation, you’ll notice that a lot of it will be coming from folks like us. Bloggers and social media types will be giving us reasons why the Holy Spirit erred in selecting the current pontiff. We’ll be tempted to become negative and cynical. I would urge you to resist that temptation and instead thank God for our new Holy Father, keep him in your prayers and to trust in the words of Jesus:

“And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mt 16:18-19)

Pope Benedict’s Resignation…Be Not Afraid!


 

Whenever I give a talk on anxiety, I ask the audience if they know what phrase Blessed Pope John Paul II used three times in his first speech as Holy Father. Invariably, several people cry out…

“Be not afraid!”

Echoing a familiar Biblical theme, used several times by Jesus, the late Holy Father reminds us that God is in control. No matter what happens in our life, the Lord is right there beside us. While it can be a very comforting reminder, it is also really easy to forget…especially when change or suffering arises in our lives.

Today, many of us woke up to some shocking news. Our beloved Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI will resign on February 28. While this is certainly sad news for those of us who love and respect the Holy Father, it is also a time to put our trust in the words of Jesus to St. Peter, the first pope:

And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. (Mt 16:18)

In other words, we can relax because the Church isn’t going anywhere. We will get through this, just as we survived the death of Blessed John Paul II and every other pope before him. Now, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be sad. I have a deep love and respect for Pope Benedict and the Church has been blessed to have him as a leader. However, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit (Jn 16:13) who guides us to the truth.

I’m starting to see a lot of traffic on social media outlets, expressing unhappiness about what is sure to come in the mass media: mainly speculation on whether the new Holy Father will be “liberal” or “conservative”. The individuals who can be classified as “conservative” are hoping that the new pope will “straighten out the Church”. Those who consider themselves “liberal”, on the other hand, are praying for someone who will eliminate priestly celibacy and permit the ordination of women. Unfortunately, my friends, when we spend time dwelling on either of those positions, we can easily lose sight of a very important fact.

In two days, we enter into the holy season of Lent. This is a time given to us by the Church, to allow us to reflect our shortcomings and inordinate attachments and focus on moving closer to the Lord. There is not a day that goes by when I don’t sin in one way or another. Whether it’s by commission (doing things I shouldn’t do) or omission (not doing things I should do), I fall into this trap every single day. And, like it or not, I’m going to be judged for these sins one day. Even worse, I’m going to stand face to face with the Lord and try to explain why I let Him down so many times. Fortunately, Lent allows me to address some of my shortcomings and express remorse for them. It gives me a chance, with God’s grace, to become a better person. Right now, that has to be my main focus. None of us know if we will ever get to experience another Lent. It would be a shame to waste the opportunity!

Considering today’s news, it’s normal to feel sad and be concerned about the future of the Church, but don’t get carried away. My family and I pray for the Holy Father every day. This morning, my wife reminded our children that our prayers (and the prayers of all who pray for him daily) helped Pope Benedict to make this decision. He is a prayerful man and he is guided by the Holy Spirit. Continue to pray for him and for the Church and don’t forget to invoke the intercession of Our Lady, who was instrumental in praying for the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Church (Acts 1:14). In the meantime, let’s get ready to enter into Lent, mindful of the fact that it is a great opportunity for purification. If you’d like some company along the way, don’t forget that the Following The Truth Lenten Radio Retreat begins on Ash Wednesday. I’d love to have you join us!

The Year Of Faith – 10 Things You Should Know


 

In his Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei (The Door of Faith), Pope Benedict XVI explained his reasoning behind declaring the Year of Faith (Oct 11, 2012 – November 24, 2013). While I recommend that you read the full document, here are 10 highlights that every Catholic should know.

1. The Door of Faith Is Always Open – Although we may choose to resist, the Lord’s door is always open and He waits patiently for us to enter.

2. The Journey of Faith Lasts A Lifetime – We start on this journey at baptism and complete it at our death. Faith is not a destination, but a journey – one which lasts a lifetime!

3. Lukewarmness is Not an Option! – The Holy Father states that we “cannot accept that salt should become tasteless or the light be kept hidden”. We are called to live and share our Catholic Faith and can’t get complacent.

4. Belief In Jesus Is the Way to Salvation – Want to know the way to “arrive definitively at salvation”? Believe in Jesus Christ and follow the teachings of His Church.

5. Vatican II Meant Something – As Catholics, we should all become familiar with the documents of the Second Vatican Council. Reading them will teach us much about our Catholic Faith.

6. Read The Catechism – It’s been 20 years since the new Catechism of the Catholic Church was published. If you’re serious about living your Catholic Faith, it’s time to either get a copy, take your copy off of the bookshelf or read it online. It is a treasure and summarizes 2000 years of Church teaching!

7. Share Your Faith – According to Pope Benedict, “A Christian may never think of belief as a private act”. While that’s exactly the opposite of what the world tells us, who are you gonna believe – the pope or the world?

8. Look To The Past – By faith…Mary accepted the angel’s word and believed the message, the Apostles left everything to follow Jesus, the disciples formed the first community and the martyrs gave their lives. These men and women are our role models and show us what it means to truly believe. Imitate their lives!

9. Be Nice – Faith and charity go hand in hand. We can believe all we want, but it is meaningless without love.

10. Trust in Mary – When we begin to stumble, we should turn to the Mother of God, who was proclaimed “blessed because she believed” (Luke 1:45). She’ll help you to overcome your doubts and continue on your journey of faith.

This Year of Faith provides us with an excellent opportunity to learn, live and share our Catholic Faith. Let’s not pass up the chance. Jesus is holding the door open for us. Let’s be sure to enter in!

Be Not Afraid!

Be Not Afraid!

As we celebrate the feast of Blessed Pope John Paul II today, let’s remember the famous words repeated 3 times during his installation homily.  First spoken by Our Lord, these words are something we all need to hear on a daily basis.  They remind us that, despite problems and uncertainty, Jesus is always beside us to provide comfort.  Another source of help can be observed on JPII’s papal coat of arms.  The “M” next to the cross reminds us that our Blessed Mother Mary is always found next to the Cross.  No greater example of this can be found than her presence at the crucifixion of Jesus (John 19:25).  Jesus and Mary know every problem we are facing and will provide us with the graces needed to endure.

Blessed Pope John Paul II, pray for us!

Catholic Bloggers To Reflect On New JPII DVD Release!

To celebrate the release of a new DVD series about the life of Blessed Pope John Paul II, CCC of America has selected 10 Catholic bloggers to comment on various chapters of the series.  For the most part, the list is a “who’s who” in the Catholic blogosphere: Lisa Hendey, Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, Fr. John Bartunek, Matt Warner, Lisa Mladinich, Elizabeth Scalia, Leticia Velasquez, Steven McEvoy, Deacon Greg Kandra, and last and CERTAINLY least…

yours truly, Gary Zimak!

What an honor it is, not only to be in such good blogging company, but to be given the chance to write about our beloved Blessed Pope John Paul II’s life.  Many of you know that I have just completed St. Louis de Montfort’s Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary, a devotion that was near and dear to JPII and you’re not going to believe the topic that was chosen for me!

I’ll have more info in a few days.  Stay tuned…

How Much Do I Love Jesus?

“Every time I hear anyone speak of the Sacred Heart of Jesus or of the Blessed Sacrament I feel an indescribable joy. It is as if a wave of precious memories, sweet affections and joyful hopes swept over my poor person, making me tremble with happiness and filling my soul with tenderness. These are loving appeals from Jesus who wants me wholeheartedly there, at the source of all goodness, his Sacred Heart, throbbing mysteriously behind the Eucharistic veils… I love to repeat today ‘Sweet Heart of my Jesus, make me love You more and more.'” (Blessed Pope John XXIII, Journal of a Soul)

I ran across the above quote from the autobiography of Blessed Pope John XXIII, and I couldn’t help but ask myself a question…

“Do I feel the same way?”

While my first answer was a resounding “Yes!”, I started to think of all those occasions when I’ve daydreamed while at Mass, of the all the times I passed up stopping in at the adoration chapel to pay a visit to Jesus who gave up His life for my salvation, of those times when I sinned and caused disappointment and sadness to be felt in Our Lord’s Sacred Heart.

While I do love Jesus and try to visit and receive Him frequently, I still think that I have some work to do.  I’m going to take the late Holy Father’s recommendation and make that last line my frequent prayer. 

Sweet Heart of my Jesus, make me love You more and more.