Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Terri Schiavo's right to life

Happy Easter!!

Christ is Risen!!

He is risen indeed!!
As almost every knowledgable American knows by now, a woman named Terri Schiavo is dying because her feeding tube has been removed in a Florida hospice care. It is a complex case which is being hotly debated for many reasons.

I want to address the ethical issue of removing the feeding tube, and welcome all of your comments and questions. Terri has as much of a right to life as you and I have. She is a human being who has inherent dignity just like you and me. Those who are pro-euthanasia seem to neglect that point.

Is removing the feeding tube euthanasia? Yes, euthanasia by omission. As an excerpt from what the Pope wrote last year about a situation such as hers explains below, removing nutrition and hydration (food and water) will result in the death of the person. This, if done knowingly and willingly, is morally unacceptable because it is the killing of an innocent human person.

When a person is in a physical condition where she is only kept alive by extraordinary means (special medication or machines, e.g.), then there is not a moral obligation to continue using these extraordinary means. But, when the person is being kept alive by ordinary means (food and water, e.g.), then there is a moral obligation to continue using these ordinary means. For Terri Schiavo, her feeding tube represents ordinary means for living because it provides her normal nourishment of food and water.

The Church argues for nutrition and hydration to be provided for someone like Terri because it is necessary to sustain and promote human life. Removing her tube only promotes her death. Those who see her as a human being will fight for keeping her tube; those who see her as less than human (a 'vegetable', i.e.) will argue for removing it.

What are your thoughts??
"I should like particularly to underline how the administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act...

Death by starvation or dehydration is, in fact, the only possible outcome as a result of their (nutrition and hydration) withdrawal. In this sense it ends up becoming, if done knowingly and willingly, true and proper euthanasia by omission.

In this regard, I recall what I wrote in the Encyclical Evangelium Vitae, making it clear that 'by euthanasia in the true and proper sense must be understood an action or omission which by its very nature and intention brings about death, with the purpose of eliminating all pain'; such an act is always 'a serious violation of the law of God, since it is the deliberate and morally unacceptable killing of a human person' (n. 65)".

-Pope John Paul II, address to participants in the International Congress, March, 2004

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Seven Last Words of Christ

"There was never a preacher like the dying Christ. There was never a congregation like that which gathered about the pulpit of the Cross. There was never a sermon like the Seven Last Words."
- Arch. Fulton Sheen, The Seven Last Words (the following is taken from Sheen's book)

Please leave any comments or questions.

The Seven Last Words of Christ
1. "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do"

His executioners expected Him to cry and curse like all those who had been crucified before Him. Instead, He cried out for the Father to forgive those who were executing and mocking Him (soldiers, Pilate, Herod, etc.).

Do I forgive 'those who trespass against' me?

2. "This day you shall be with me in Paradise"

"No one before (the thief on the right of Christ) was ever the object of such a promise, not even Moses, nor John, not even Magdelen nor Mary!"

Like the thief, do I give my sins to Christ who will then promise me Paradise?

3. "Woman, behold thy son"

'Thy son' is John, who represents us (the Church). "Woman!" is the 2nd Annunciation; "behold thy son" is the 2nd Nativity. We are born of Mary in the 2nd Nativity of the spirit; Christ is born in the 1st Nativity of the flesh.

It has been said that Jesus never denies His Mother anything. Do I ask my Mother to intercede to her Son for me, my friends and family?

4. "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"

While He is still in union with the Father, Christ brings atonement to all those who have abandoned God, doubt God's presence in their lives, or are indifferent towards God.

Christ knows what I'm experiencing whenever I've been abandoned, rejected, lonely, hurt or isolated.

5. "I thirst"

Not said to anyone there at Calvary, or even to God. He says to all mankind, "I thirst...for love!"

Christ thirsts for my love; do I thirst for His?

6. "It is finished"

Christ triumphantly says this, like an artist who puts the finishing touches on a masterpiece. His work of Redemption is finished, but not complete (see Col 1:24). As the Mystical Body of Christ, we complete Christ's work of Redemption (by taking up our own Cross).

Do I accept crosses in my life with faith?

7. "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit"

Like the Prodigal Son who returns to his father's house, Christ is on the road back to His Father's House after spending His divine riches of power and wisdom on all humanity for 33 years.

Do I entrust my life to my Father in Heaven?

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Please join us for the following upcoming events at St. Stephen's:

1. Bible Study - Sunday, 3/20, 2 pm, parlor of rectory

2. Discussion, "The last seven words of Christ" - Sunday, 3/20, 6:30 & 8:30 pm, Parish Hall.

3. "Passion of the Christ" - Wednesday, 8 pm, Parish Hall; Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the Church immediately after the movie

4. "Christ in the Garden" - 12-2 am, Good Friday morning, Parish Hall. Jesus asks the apostles, "could you not spend an hour with me?" in the garden the night before He died. We'll have an image of Christ, quiet meditation, maybe some background Gregorian chant.
Please leave any comments or questions, and be generous in sharing this with others. I've run into many people who don't know much about Purgatory, and were extremely grateful to learn the following:

-the term is not used in Scripture; comes from the Latin word, “purgatorium” (place of purging fire or purification)

a. Does it exist?

Jesus – refers to situations where a punishment / purification must occur:

Mt 18: 34-35 – the unforgiving debtor
the master handed him over to the torturers till he should pay all this debt, and that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart.”

Lk 12:59 – being in prison
I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny”

Jn 16:20 – “you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy”

Mt 12:32 – “Let anyone speak against the Holy Spirit and he will not be forgiven either in this world or in the next” (implies that some sins can be forgiven in the next life)

2 Macc 12:46 - the valiant Judas “had this expiatory sacrifice offered for the dead, so that they might be released from their sins”
- shows that the Jewish custom was to pray for the dead; must be for souls in a state other than Heaven or Hell - don't need to pray for the souls in Heaven, and it does no good to pray for the souls in Hell
- custom continues whenever someone prays for all the souls in Purgatory

1 Cor 3:14-15 (salvation through a purifying fire)
The Day which dawns in fire will make it clear and the fire itself will test the quality of each person’s work. The one whose work stands up to it will be given his wages; the one whose work is burnt down will suffer the loss of it, though he himself will be saved; he will be saved as someone expects to be saved from a fire”

1 Peter 1:7 - “your faith, more valuable than gold and which is perishable even if it has been tested by fire, may be proved”

Magisterium: “a cleansing fire, a purifying fire” (pain suffered is comparable to the pain of fire on earth)

b. What is it like?

Scripture (see above)

St Augustine: “this fire of Purgatory will be more severe than any pain that can be felt, seen or conceived in this world”

St Thomas Aquinas: “In Purgatory there will be a twofold loss, namely the delay of the divine vision, and the pain of sense, namely the punishment by bodily fire. With regard to both, the least pain of Purgatory surpasses the greatest pain in this life”

St Francis de Sales: “The greater part of those who dread Purgatory so much think more of their own interests than of the interests of God’s glory; this proceeds from the fact that they think only of the sufferings without considering the peace and happiness which are enjoyed by the holy souls”

*Rev. T.G. Morrow: “there will be tremendous suffering accompanied by a tremendous sense of peace and joy knowing that the soul will be united with God”

- after death, the soul sees that it is not yet spotless, and “would cast itself into a thousand hells rather than find itself in the presence of the Divine Majesty with that stain on it” (St Catherine of Genoa)

she would be glorious, with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, holy and faultless” (Eph 5:27)

c. How long does it last?

see Mt 25:34-41 : general judgement will only have 2 states, Heaven and Hell, so Purgatory will not continue after the general judgement

Council of Trent (1551): Purgatory is a state of purification which frees one from what is called the “temporal punishment” of sin (Hell is eternal punishment)

- so, we understand Purgatory to be temporal, “in time”; while it may not be in 24-hour days as on Earth, we do associate a soul’s stay in Purgatory with a number of days

- the amount of “time” a soul stays in Purgatory is based on the amount of purification needed

- we stay in Purgatory until we “love as God loves” (Msgr. Hill, SSM pastor)

- we can do works (of mercy, penance, prayer, almsgiving, gain indulgences, etc.) on Earth to remove days from our temporal punishment in Purgatory for ourselves or for others; but, once in Purgatory we can’t lessen our own punishment

d. Who goes there?

Scripture (see above)

Catechism (CCC) - “all who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified; (they) are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of Heaven” (# 1030).

Council of Florence (1439): “souls who die with true repentance and in God’s love before having rendered satisfaction for their sins of omission and commission by the worthy fruits of penance”

- what about the person who dies just after having gone to Confession and completed the penance? He / she would go to Purgatory to satisfy the temporal punishment due to his / her sins (kind of like a criminal who still has to serve his prison sentence, for the sake of justice, even if he is truly sorry for the crime he has committed)

- serious reparation is needed for serious sins, especially

- can repair those sins in this life through a penitential life (like the saints), acts of faith, hope, and love, corporal and spiritual works of mercy, etc.

- Mt 19:21 – “If you wish to be perfect, go and sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven; then, come follow me”

- Mt 5:48 - “ Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect

* A special note of thanks to Rev T.G. Morrow, who contributed greatly to my presentation with his booklet: Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory (Catholic Faith Alive!), as well as St Joseph Communications which donated their video, “What Every Catholic Should Know About Hell”

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Hell: who goes there?

Following are my notes from the talk, "Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory", a few weeks ago. Just like the outline for Heaven, this is only a fraction of the evidence from Scripture and the Church about Hell. Some theologians say that Christ talked about Hell more than Heaven "in order to get our attention".

We should have a holy fear of Hell so that we will choose Heaven. If we remain in the state of Christ's Grace until we die, we will ultimately go to Heaven. Please post any comments or questions, and pass this "wake-up call" on to all those close to you!


a. Does it exist?

- refers to Hell 28 times and eternal punishment about 90 times in the Gospels
- uses the terms Hades, Gehenna, Eternal Fire, Field of blood
- Mk 9:43-48, e.g.
- Mt 10:28-“fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell
- Mt 25:46- those who don’t care for the least of Christ’s brothers and sisters “will go away to eternal punishment

-“wailing and grinding of teeth
- the good-for-nothing servant (Mt 25:30)
- children of the kingdom (of darkness) – Mt 8:12
- the man not dresses for the wedding feast – Mt 22:13

Paul-(2 Thess 1:9) for those who “refuse to accept the gospel of our Lord Jesus…their punishment is to be lost eternally, excluded from the presence of the Lord

Peter- (2 Pet 2:4) “when angels sinned, God did not spare them: he sent them down into the underworld and consigned them to the dark abyss to be held there until the Judgement

Rev (14:10): “all those who worship the (devil) …will be tortured…forever

early Church Fathers described Hell as “eternal punishment” ; affirmed by early Church councils and Pope Benedict XII (1336)

- St Teresa of Avila: "I was at prayer one day when suddenly, without knowing how, I found myself...plunged into Hell...I felt a fire within my soul the nature of which I am incapable of describing. My bodily sufferings were so intolerable...and these are nothing by comparison with the agony of my soul, an oppression, a suffocation and an affliction so deeply felt"

- Fatima* – vision of Hell by children: sea of fire; demons and souls with burning embers, black and transparent; terrifying looking animals; children cried out for all to hear

b. What is it like? (we only know what’s been revealed to us)

Scripture (described above)

- “hell is a state to which the wicked are condemned and in which they are deprived of the sight of God and are in dreadful torments for all eternity” (Baltimore Catechism)

- pain of loss
- being separated by God, rejected by Christ (“I know you not”-Mt 25:12)
- shame, regret, despair

- pain of sense (torments)
-“fire” (of Gehenna) – “the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out” (Mt 3:12)
- principal means of torments that will be different than earthly fire because it will affect both body and soul

- the pain of the sense will be as nothing compared to the pain of loss

- “We must not ask where hell is, but how we are to avoid it” (St. John Chrysostom)

- Hell is eternal separation from God (Catechism of the Catholic Church)

- “hell is not a punishment imposed by God…it is the natural consequence of an unrepentant sinner’s choice against God” (Pope John Paul II)

- basically, when the person dies, he sees the face of God and he realizes at that moment that he is not worthy to be with God for all eternity; he realizes that he chose hell during his life (GWS)

c. How long does it last?
- “eternal fire, eternal punishment, eternal separation”

- Lk 16:19-31 The rich man and Lazarus
- “a great gulf has been fixed, to prevent those who want to cross from our side to yours or from your side to ours

d. Who goes there? (we know there are souls in Hell, but can’t know specifically whom)

- Jesus : see above +
-“all evil doers” (Mt 13:41)
- “many take the road that leads to destruction” (Mt 7:13)
- “the elect are few” (Mt 22:14)
- “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for someone rich to enter the kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 19:24) - referring to someone whose god is money

- is Judas in Hell? can't say for sure, but Jesus says it is “better for that man (by whom the Son of Man is betrayed) if he had never been born!” (Mt 26:24)

-“anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a branch-and withers; these branches are collected and thrown on the fire and burnt” (Jn 15:6)

Paul: Gal 5: 18-21 (cf. 1 Cor 6:10)
-"those who behave in these ways (sexual vice, impurity and sensuality, the worship of false gods and sorcery, antagonisms and rivalry, jealousy, bad temper and quarrels, disagreements, factions and malice, drunkenness, orgies and such things) will not inherit the kingdom of God"

John: “sin that leads to death” (1 Jn 5:16)
-i.e., mortal sin

- “those who die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love” (CCC, # 1033)

- mortal sin:
1. grave offense (it's wrong) -mainly, direct offenses against the Ten Commandments
2. full knowledge (I know it's wrong)
3. full consent (I freely choose to do it)

- CCC: #1861
- "mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace.
- "if it is not redeemed by repentance and God's forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ's kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back.
- "However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God" (in other words, we can judge an action as a grave offense, but only God can judge what's in a person's heart; that's why we can never say that "so and so" is in Hell; also, we don't know if at the moment of death that he/she showed some sign of repentance-'Lord, have mercy' - that God would take into account in his infinite Mercy)

- 4 distinctions of Hell:
a) damned - eternal punishment
b) limbo (Abraham’s bosom) - holy souls (from OT) there until Christ freed them
c) limbo (infants) - "Holy Innocents"
d) purgatory - temporal punishment

-“God predestines no one to go to Hell" (CCC, #1037)

- Hell is the result of free will, and ultimately, God's Love
- God loves us so much that He has given us free will in order that we will choose to be with Him in Heaven
- He respects our free will so much that He allows us to choose to reject Him; He helps us so much in our lives (with His grace) to choose Him, but won't ever force us to love Him
- our free will is REAL (the "power to make choices for ever, with no turning back")
- God wills each of us to choose Heaven, but allows us to choose Hell

*Fatima prayer: "O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell. Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of thy mercy."

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

What is Heaven like?

There was a church that had problems with outsiders parking in its parking lots, so they put up a sign:
" Trespassers will be baptized!"
Here is the outline from my talk last weekend on Heaven (Hell & Purgatory notes to follow in the coming weeks). I ask 4 of the most popular questions, and use (a fraction of) Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the writings of the saints to begin to answer them. Please post any comments or questions! Pass this on to someone you know !


1. Does Heaven exist?

Gen 1:1
"In the beginning, God created heaven and earth" (Heaven is as real as earth)
Exodus 16: manna – "bread from heaven"
Mt 3: 16-17: – "And suddenly there was a voice from heaven…this is my beloved son"
Jn 1:33 – "I saw the spirit come down on him like a dove from heaven and rest on him"

Jesus refers to Heaven about 170 times in the Gospels
(Heaven, Kingdom of Heaven, Kingdom of God, Life, and Eternal Life)
-"how blessed are the poor in spirit: the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs" (Mt 5:3)
-"there will be more rejoicing in Heaven over one sinner repenting than over ninety-nine upright people who have no need of repentance" (Lk 15:7)

Throughout the NT:
St. Paul: "God…gave us a place with him in heaven, in Christ Jesus" (Eph 2:6)
Acts: "This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will come back in the same way as you have seen him go to heaven" (1:11)
Revelation: "Then, in my vision, I saw a door open in heaven" (4:1)
" Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth" (21:1)

Early Church
St Cyprian (3rd cent.) "to delight in the joy of immortality in the kingdom of heaven with the righteous and God’s friends

Magisterium of the Church
Pope Benedict XII (1336): "According to the general disposition of God, the souls of all the saints…have been, are, and will be in heaven, in the heavenly kingdom and celestial paradise with Christ" (Benedictus Deus)

2. What is Heaven like?

Jesus: kingdom of heaven is like:
- " a buried treasure"
- "a great pearl" (Mt 13:44-46)
- "a wedding feast" (Mt 22:1; Mt 25:1); "wedding feast of the Lamb" (Rev 19:7)
- "the upright will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their father" (Mt 13:43)
- whatever we sacrifice for Christ in this life, we will receive " a hundred times as much…now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life" (Mk 10:30-31)

Paul : "what no eye has seen and no ear has heard, what the mind of man cannot visualize; all that God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Cor 2:9)
St. John: "see him as he really is" (1 Jn 3:2)
Revelation: 21: 1-4

Saints / doctors of the Church
St Catherine of Siena:"The indescribable sweetness of this perfect union cannot be told by tongue, which is but a finite thing"

St John of the Cross: " Were (the soul) to have but a foreglimpse of the height and beauty of God, she would not only desire death in order to see him now forever, as she here desires, but she would very gladly undergo a thousand singularly bitter deaths to see Him only for a moment"

Magisterium of the Church
- "perfect life with the most Holy Trinity – this consummation of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1024)
- "Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness" (CCC, # 1024)

3. How long does Heaven last?

Jesus speaks of heaven many times as "everlasting life…eternal life…living forever"
Paul (1 Cor 9:25) + St Peter (1 Pet 5:4): "imperishable crown"

Church: "the enjoyment (of those in heaven) has continued and will continue without any interruption and without end until the last Judgement and from then on forever" (Pope Benedict XII, 1336)

4. Who goes to Heaven?

- Jn 3:16- "everyone who believes in (God’s only Son) may not perish but may have eternal life"

- Jn 6:54, 58 – "whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life…and will live forever"
- Mk 16:16- "whoever believes and is baptized will be saved"
- Mt 25: 35-36-whoever feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, etc.
- Lk 10: 25-28 (the lawyer) / Mt 19: 16-22 (the rich young man)- whoever keeps the Commandments

Paul- "it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God" (Eph 2:8)
St. James- "if good deeds do not go with (faith), (faith) is quite dead" (2:17)
John: "whoever does the will of God remains for ever" (Jn 2:17)
Revelation: "the people who have been through the great trial" (7:14)

-"those who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ" (CCC, #1023)

-baptized by water (#1228), by desire (#1260), or by blood (#1258)

-in union with the bride of Christ, the Church (Eph 5:25-27): Heaven is the wedding feast of Christ and his bride, the Church (Rev 19:7-8, 21:9-14, previewed in Isa 61:10-11)