Sign Up for Our Newsletter!

Sign-Up to receive updated stories from OC Catholic.

EPISODE #99
TRENDING WITH TIMMERIE: LGBTQ & Freedom

Is advocating for LGBTQ rights a human rights issue?  Fr. Tim Grumbach joins Trending with Timmerie to discuss where the Church stands for authentic freedom in the midst of issues regarding transgender.

Also discussed:  “what gamers are really after?” and why silence is needed to fashion the soul to be what it’s called to be.

 

Listen to more episodes at www.RadioTrending.com

Now booking Timmerie to speak fall 2019 and 2020 https://www.radiotrending.com/booktimmerie

 

 

Originally broadcast on 8/17/19

HUSH HOUR: SPIRITUALITY OF SILENCE IS A JOURNEY TOWARD GOD, PRIEST SAYS

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis hung a bright red sign on his home-office door two summers ago that reads, “No Complaining Allowed.”

It was a succinct reminder to guests at his residence of one of his favorite invitations: drop the “sourpuss” scowl and radiate the true joy that comes from being loved by God.

Even his more formal visitors get a similar, more subtle, message as they enter the apostolic palace where the pope receives bishops and heads of state and holds other important gatherings.

Near the elevators people take to reach the papal study or meeting halls, the pope hung a copy of the icon of Our Lady of Silence — an image of Mary with her index finger poised gently in front of her closed lips.

“Just think how many Marian icons he gets (as gifts) and he decides to put this one there” as well as a smaller copy of one on his desk, said Capuchin Father Emiliano Antenucci, who commissioned the icon and gave a copy to the pope.

The preferential treatment, the priest told Catholic News Service, shows the pope’s deep understanding of the importance of holy and humble silence.

Father Antenucci has spent the past 10 years developing and offering special courses on silence, which is an important part of Christian spirituality and mental wellbeing, but, he said, is increasingly scarce in a busy, noisy, media-saturated world.

Together with a number of books he has authored, Father Antenucci’s three-day weekend retreats teach people how to carve out a moment each day of inner peace and outer quiet in order to better perceive and embrace God’s presence.

“Silence is a revolution,” he said. Silence “is the womb where words that are true are born.”

While his books and courses are currently available only in Italian and Spanish, he said he has been getting the materials translated into English and finding a publisher for North America.

Father Antenucci said Pope Francis was quite moved when he saw the icon of Our Lady of Silence the priest had first brought with him to be blessed in 2016.

The pope even wrote on the back of the wooden panel in gold pen, “Do not bad-mouth others!” which ended up being the title and cover picture of Father Antenucci’s most recent booklet, which the Vatican newspaper reviewed in late July.

The booklet is not a scolding lecture, he said, but explains what drives people to cut others down and offers techniques for “a conversion of heart.” It lists pertinent quotes from the pope and suggests a 12-step remedial program for kicking the habit of gossip, “a sport practiced all over the world,” the priest said.

The pope’s appeal for people to stop, think and not “drop bombs with their tongues” reflects the Christian understanding that people are created by God in his image, Father Antenucci said, so smearing a person’s reputation also “sullies the face of God” and makes the world a more polluted place.

Father Antenucci explained that silence asks people to suspend their judgment and be more merciful, “because we don’t know what is going on with the other person, what wounds they carry,” and that ignorance can lead to criticism.

However, not every critique or accusation is calumny or a hit job and biting one’s tongue is not an absolute rule of thumb.

Silence, like words, can be weaponized, Father Antenucci said, like the Mafia’s restrictive code of “omerta'” or the corrosive, manipulative silence among families, friends and coworkers, when needs, problems or concerns are shunned, denied or ignored.

Speaking up and out against injustice, illegality and sin comes from “Christ the liberator,” said the priest who ministers to Mafiosi in maximum security prisons and encourages young adults to fight against such evil.

Because both words and silence can be used as “medicine or poison,” he said, it comes down to properly discerning when it is best to speak and when it is best to be silent.

Make sure love is the motive, he said, as St. Augustine taught, be “silent out of love” and “speak out of love” always.

Another tip comes from Socrates, he said, who advised “If what you want to say is neither true, nor good or kind, nor useful or necessary, please don’t say anything at all.”

Backstabbing, envy and slander are all rooted in the same philosophy: “Mors tua vita mea,” (“Your death, my life”) which means, “we want to put down the other in order to glorify ourselves,” he said.

That is why speaking up about something to someone requires “it not be about judgment but be about correction,” he said.

“If we judge the person, we abandon them. Whoever corrects, loves. You do it together, saying, ‘I will support you. I am here.’ This is mercy. This is the Christian way,” said the priest, who served as a papal Missionary of Mercy during the Year of Mercy.

“Condemn the sin, save the sinner,” he added.

Father Antenucci said, “in a world bombarded by noise,” everyone should experience at least 30 minutes of silence each day. “It’s good for your head, clearing your mind, and purifies your heart.”

“Christian silence” is not about seeking a sense of emptiness or nothingness, but “is about presence. It is an encounter with Jesus,” he said.

The spirituality of silence, Father Antenucci added, can be summed up best by “a very wise girl,” appropriately named Sofia, who told her mother, “who then told me, ‘If Our Lady asks us to be quiet, it’s because her son has something to tell us.'”

SILENCE IS CHRIST’S RESPONSE TO LIES, DIVISIVENESS, POPE SAYS AT MASS

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Jesus himself showed that the best way to respond to scandal and divisiveness is to stay silent and pray, Pope Francis said Sept. 3 as he resumed his early morning Masses with invited guests.

 

 

“With people lacking goodwill, with people who seek only scandal, with those who look only for division, who want only destruction,” he said, the best response is “silence. And prayer.”

The pope’s Mass and homily came just over a week after Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the former papal nuncio to the United States, called on Pope Francis to resign for allegedly ignoring sanctions Pope Benedict XVI had placed on then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick for sexual misconduct.

Asked about the archbishop’s 11-page document, which included allegations of a “homosexual current” at the highest levels of the church, Pope Francis told reporters Aug. 26 to read the document for themselves and make their own judgments. The Vatican press office and most officials named in the archbishop’s document also refused to comment.

The Gospel for Sept. 3 recounted Jesus’ return to Nazareth and the fury of the townspeople when he refused to perform miracles for them. The reading from St. Luke ends: “They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But he passed through the midst of them and went away.”

In his homily, Pope Francis said the reading should help Christians “reflect on how to act in daily life when there are misunderstandings,” but also to understand “how the father of lies, the accuser, the devil acts to destroy the unity of a family, of a people.”

According to a Vatican News report on the homily, Pope Francis said that it was with his silence that Jesus defeated the “wild dogs,” the devil, who “had sown lies in the hearts.”

“It wasn’t people, it was a pack of wild dogs that chased him out of the city,” the pope said. But Jesus is silent. “It is the dignity of Jesus. With his silence he defeats that wild pack and walks away because it was not yet his hour.’

“This teaches us that when there is this way of acting, of not seeing the truth, silence remains,” he said.

Even in a family, he said, there are times when a discussion of politics or sports or money escalates into a truly destructive argument; “in these discussions in which you see the devil is there and wants to destroy — silence. Have your say, then keep quiet.”

“Because the truth is meek. The truth is silent. The truth is not noisy,” he said.

Remaining silent and refusing to fight back is not always easy, he said, but it is what Jesus did and it is “anchored in the strength of God.”

“May the Lord grant us the grace to discern when we must speak and when we must remain silence,” he prayed.

 

A SPIRITUAL UNDERTAKING

Actor Andrew Garfield underwent the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, as part of his preparation for playing a Jesuit priest in Martin Scorsese’s new film, “Silence.”

Garfield’s spiritual adviser for this Jesuit journey was Jesuit Father James Martin, editor at large of America magazine, a Jesuit journal, the author of several books, and who has some measure of television fame for being the chaplain of the old “Colbert Report.”

“I studied with Father Martin all things Jesuit and attempted to crack what it means to be a soldier for Christ. The basis of that was the exercises for me,” Garfield told Catholic News Service in a Jan. 11 telephone interview from New York.

Garfield, whose ancestry is Jewish but who was raised in a nonreligious household, did the 30-day retreat, although not in the customary way. He spent the third week of the retreat at a retreat house in Wales. “It was a silent week, and intense,” he recalled. The actor, who has dual British-American citizenship, said he returned to the United States for the conclusion of the retreat near his Los Angeles home.

“Yeah, it was remarkable, really. I was so grateful for the sacred time,” he said.

Garfield was also given a small mountain of books and films by Scorsese to prepare him for the role of Father Sebastian Rodrigues, a 17th-century Portuguese Jesuit who goes to Japan in hopes of refuting a report that a favorite priest who once taught him in the seminary had renounced the faith during his missionary work there. Despite Garfield’s box-office success in two “Amazing Spider-Man” films, he had to audition for the role.

“I was sent the script by my agent,” he told CNS. “He said Marty’s (Scorsese) been trying to make this film for 28 years, and it’s looking good this time.” Upon reading the script, Garfield added, “I really connected to the material. I was really interested in the themes and the journey the character goes on.”

Another key aspect of his preparation for the role was fasting so Garfield’s frame would look believable on screen. “The physical rigor of losing weight was very, very, very painful and tricky, and created a tremendous kind of psychosis, but it was also very useful and was the only appropriate thing. … It was a spiritual process as well. It was a very immersive thing that I’m grateful for,” he said. Filming in Taiwan with his newly gaunt body, though, was another thing: “My goodness, it was hot.”

Garfield said his takeaway from “Silence” is “endless. What I’ve been given by playing this role and being with Marty, being with Father Martin, doing the exercises, it’s impossible to sum up. I’ve been given so many different graces for the whole experience. By the end of the it, of filming, I don’t even need the film to come out or for people to like it. The year of preparation, those months making the film were worth it.”

He added he doesn’t like to watch himself on screen, but “I do have to say when I was watching ‘Silence,’ I forgot that I was in the film because the film is so overwhelming and transportive. … It’s a great film.

Garfield’s assessment is shared, at least in part, by John Mulderig, CNS’ associate director for media reviews. “Silence” is “dramatically powerful but theologically complex work best suited to viewers who come to the multiplex prepared to engage with serious issues,” Mulderig said. “Those willing to make such an intellectual investment, however, will find themselves richly rewarded.”

Mulderig called the film “an often visually striking drama that’s also deeply thought-provoking and emotionally gripping. And the performances are remarkable all around. But the paradoxes of the narrative demand careful sifting by mature moviegoers well-grounded in their beliefs.”

It received a classification of L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling — for religious themes requiring mature discernment, much violence, including scenes of gruesome torture and a brutal, gory execution, as well as rear and partial nudity.

SCORSESE’S “SILENCE” AND THE SEASIDE MARTYRS

I have long been an ardent fan of Martin Scorsese’s films. Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, The Aviator, Gangs of New York, The Last Waltz, Casino, etc. are among the defining movies of the last forty years. And The Departed, Scorsese’s 2007 crime drama, was the subject matter of the first YouTube commentary that I ever did. It is certainly the case, furthermore, that the director’s Catholicism, however mitigated and conflicted, comes through in most of his work. His most recent offering, the much-anticipated Silence, based upon the Shusaku Endo novel of the same name, is a worthy addition to the Scorsese oeuvre. Like so many of his other films, it is marked by gorgeous cinematography, outstanding performances from both lead and supporting actors, a gripping narrative, and enough thematic complexity to keep you thinking for the foreseeable future.

The story is set in mid-seventeenth century Japan, where a fierce persecution of the Catholic faith is underway. To this dangerous country come two young Jesuit priests (played by Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield), spiritual descendants of St. Francis Xavier, sent to find Fr. Ferreira, their mentor and seminary professor who, rumor has it, had apostatized under torture and actually gone over to the other side. Immediately upon arriving onshore, they are met by a small group of Japanese Christians who had been maintaining their faith underground for many years. Due to the extreme danger, the young priests are forced into hiding during the day, but they are able to engage in clandestine ministry at night: baptizing, catechizing, confessing, celebrating the Mass. In rather short order, however, the authorities get wind of their presence, and suspected Christians are rounded up and tortured in the hopes of luring the priests out into the open. The single most memorable scene in the film, at least for me, was the sea-side crucifixion of four of these courageous lay believers. Tied to crosses by the shore, they are, in the course of several days, buffeted by the incoming tide until they drown. Afterwards, their bodies are placed on pyres of straw and they are burned to ashes, appearing for all the world like holocausts offered to the Lord.

In time, the priests are captured and subjected to a unique and terrible form of psychological torture. The film focuses on the struggles of Fr. Rodrigues. As Japanese Christians, men and women who had risked their lives to protect him, are tortured in his presence, he is invited to renounce his faith and thereby put an end to their torment. If only he would trample on a Christian image, even as a mere external sign, an empty formality, he would free his colleagues from their pain. A good warrior, he refuses. Even when a Japanese Christian is beheaded, he doesn’t give in. Finally, and it is the most devastating scene in the movie, he is brought to Fr. Ferreira, the mentor whom he had been seeking since his arrival in Japan. All the rumors are true: this former master of the Christian life, this Jesuit hero, has renounced his faith, taken a Japanese wife, and is living as a sort of philosopher under the protection of the state. Using a variety of arguments, the disgraced priest tries to convince his former student to give up the quest to evangelize Japan, which he characterized as a “swamp” where the seed of Christianity can never take root.

The next day, in the presence of Christians being horrifically tortured, hung upside down inside a pit filled with excrement, he is given the opportunity, once more, to step on a depiction of the face of Christ. At the height of his anguish, resisting from the depth of his heart, Rodrigues hears what he takes to be the voice of Jesus himself, finally breaking the divine silence, telling him to trample on the image. When he does so, a cock crows in the distance. In the wake of his apostasy, he follows in the footsteps of Ferreira, becoming a ward of the state, a well-fed, well-provided for philosopher, regularly called upon to step on a Christian image and formally renounce his Christian faith. He takes a Japanese name and a Japanese wife and lives out many long years in Japan before his death at the age of 64 and his burial in a Buddhist ceremony.

What in the world do we make of this strange and disturbing story? Like any great film or novel, Silence obviously resists a univocal or one-sided interpretation. In fact, almost all of the commentaries that I have read, especially from religious people, emphasize how Silence beautifully brings forward the complex, layered, ambiguous nature of faith. Fully acknowledging the profound psychological and spiritual truth of that claim, I wonder whether I might add a somewhat dissenting voice to the conversation? I would like to propose a comparison, altogether warranted by the instincts of a one-time soldier named Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the Jesuit order to which all the Silence missionaries belonged. Suppose a small team of highly-trained American special ops was smuggled behind enemy lines for a dangerous mission. Suppose furthermore that they were aided by loyal civilians on the ground, who were eventually captured and proved willing to die rather than betray the mission. Suppose finally that the troops themselves were eventually detained and, under torture, renounced their loyalty to the United States, joined their opponents and lived comfortable lives under the aegis of their former enemies. Would anyone be eager to celebrate the layered complexity and rich ambiguity of their patriotism? Wouldn’t we see them rather straightforwardly as cowards and traitors?

My worry is that all of the stress on complexity and multivalence and ambiguity is in service of the cultural elite today, which is not that different from the Japanese cultural elite depicted in the film. What I mean is that the secular establishment always prefers Christians who are vacillating, unsure, divided, and altogether eager to privatize their religion. And it is all too willing to dismiss passionately religious people as dangerous, violent, and let’s face it, not that bright. Revisit Ferreira’s speech to Rodrigues about the supposedly simplistic Christianity of the Japanese laity if you doubt me on this score. I wonder whether Shusaku Endo (and perhaps Scorsese) was actually inviting us to look away from the priests and toward that wonderful group of courageous, pious, dedicated, long-suffering lay people who kept the Christian faith alive under the most inhospitable conditions imaginable and who, at the decisive moment, witnessed to Christ with their lives. Whereas the specially trained Ferreira and Rodrigues became paid lackeys of a tyrannical government, those simple folk remained a thorn in the side of the tyranny.

I know, I know, Scorsese shows the corpse of Rodrigues inside his coffin clutching a small crucifix, which proves, I suppose, that the priest remained in some sense Christian. But again, that’s just the kind of Christianity the regnant culture likes: utterly privatized, hidden away, harmless. So okay, perhaps a half-cheer for Rodrigues, but a full-throated three cheers for the martyrs, crucified by the seaside.

 

Bishop Robert Barron is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries.