Friday, December 31, 2010

Preparing for spiritual battle

Have nothing to do with godless and silly myths. Train yourself in godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance.
 – 1 Timothy 4:7-9
For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 6:12

St. Catherine of Bologna

St. Catherine of Bologna lived in the 15th century. She was a nun and was assigned to prepare the novitiates (new nuns in training). As part of her task she wrote a short book titled "Seven Spiritual Weapons". In it she shares what she has learned about the spiritual battle and how she went about her personal "training in godliness." (Here are some excerpts.)
Besides this, it is fitting that the faithful servant of Christ dispose herself to wish to walk the way of the cross, for it befits all those who serve God to engage in battle against the adversaries of God and from them to receive various painful wounds. And above all, it is necessary to have good and even the best arms, especially those which follow below, to fight against those adversaries vigorously....
  • The first weapon I call zeal, that is solicitude in doing good, since the Holy Scripture condemns those who are negligent and lukewarm in the way of God (Apoc 3.15-16)....
    ["I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth."]
  • The second weapon is mistrust of self, that is, to believe firmly and without doubt that one could never do anything good by oneself, as Christ Jesus said: “Without me you can do nothing” (Jo 15.5)....
    ["I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing."]
  • The third weapon is to put one’s trust in God and for love of him to fiercely wage battle with great readiness of spirit against the devil and against the world and one’s own flesh which is given one in order that it might serve the spirit....
  • The fourth is the memory of the glorious pilgrimage of that immaculate lamb, Christ Jesus, and especially his most holy death and passion, keeping always before the eyes of our minds the presence of his most chaste and virginal humanity. This is the best means for winning each battle, and without it, we will not achieve victory over our enemies. Every other weapon will achieve little without this one which surpasses all the rest....
  • The fifth weapon is to remind oneself that we must die. This time is called the time of mercy in which God looks down day after day so that we can amend our lives from good to better. If we do not do this, we will have to render account, not only of the evils we have done, but also of the goods left undone by our negligence. And so Paul the glorious apostle spoke well: “Let us do good while we have time” (Gal 6.10)....
    ["So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith."]
  • The sixth weapon is the memory of the goods of paradise which are prepared for those who lawfully struggle by abandoning all the vain pleasures of the present life in accord with the saying of the most holy doctor Saint Augustine that it is impossible to enjoy present goods and future ones too....
  • The seventh weapon with which we can conquer our enemies is the memory of Holy Scripture which we must carry in our hearts and from which, as from a most devoted mother, we must take counsel in the things we have to do. Thus we read of the most prudent and consecrated virgin St. Cecilia where it says: “She always bore the gospel of Christ hidden in her heart.” And with this weapon, our savior Christ Jesus conquered and confounded the devil in the desert saying: “It is written” (Lk 4.1-13)....
    [And Jesus answered him, "It is said [in the Scriptures], `You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'"]

Three spiritual exercises

I want to share three spiritual exercises which have come to me through prayer and contemplation, which have helped me to grow stronger in my faith. I share them in the hope that they will be of use to some of you, my dear readers, in your spiritual battles in the coming year.

1. Confronting childhood demons

I realized that some of the demons that afflicted me had become attached to me as a child and adolescent. And as an adult I had never confronted them.

Now that I examined them as an adult I realized that the demons themselves were childlike creatures. I imagined that they had grown and matured along with me, but they hadn't. They were very immature creatures that just wanted to play. Perhaps they did not realize the harm that they were doing.

As an adult, I had to confront them. And I told them when they appeared that I did not want to play with them. I did not want to make them angry, but I wanted to make sure to let them know that they were not welcome, so I said "Go away. I don't want to play with you anymore." And when I felt I had built up enough courage, I finally said "Go away. I don't want to be your friend anymore."

This worked to some degree – especially initially. But at times I did not have the strength to resist their constant presence. And then there is always the danger that by expelling one demon, you leave your soul open to the presence of another.
"When the unclean spirit has gone out of a man, he passes through waterless places seeking rest; and finding none he says, `I will return to my house from which I came.' And when he comes he finds it swept and put in order. Then he goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first."
Luke 11:24-26
2. Offering up a sacrifice

This is an exercise I learned from reading the diary of St. Therese, the little flower. While she – a true Saint – offered up her whole life as a sacrifice, I merely offer up a small piece of myself.
I am but a weak and helpless child, yet it is my very weakness which makes me dare to offer myself, O Jesus, as victim to Thy Love.

In olden days pure and spotless holocausts alone were acceptable to the Omnipotent God. Nor could His Justice be appeased, save by the most perfect sacrifices. But the law of fear has given place to the law of love, and Love has chosen me, a weak and imperfect creature, as its victim. Is not such a choice worthy of God's Love?
– From "The Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of Saint Therese of Lisieux"
This spiritual exercise is useful for when we leave the door open to an evil spirit that enters through our own negative emotions – for example anger. Now when I feel angry, I offer up the anger as a sacrifice. I think of it as a holocaust in which the anger is burned on a fire. And the smoke from the fire goes up into Heaven and pleases God.

This is very simple and very effective. It does require a willingness to give up the anger and not hold on to it. It's especially effective in situations like driving where many small annoying events can happen that can gradually build up. By offering each one up as a sacrifice as it happens the effect is dissipated. And you are able to channel your energy into the positive things that will make for a better life for you and those who you love.

In this way you channel your emotional energy away from thoughts of hatred and revenge, which in addition to being evil thoughts are actions which you know will never happen. This just causes added frustration because the desired revenge can never be achieved. On a spiritual level, this exercise keeps the soul pure and clean from the sin which would otherwise horribly stain it.

3. Inviting Christ in to expel the demons

The third exercise is one which I described in a recent article. It consists of asking Christ to enter into the temple of your body to expel the demons that are there.

This is by far the most powerful and effective of the three exercises, but it requires the most faith. For Catholics, we are greatly assisted in this by receiving Holy Communion. I described previously how the act of receiving Communion is a physical manifestation of a spiritual reality. As we accept the Host, Christ enters into the temple of our bodies.

And as Christ expelled the money-changers from the temple, he can also expel the demons from the temples of our bodies.

[NOTE: Reflecting on the three spiritual exercises that I just described, I realize that there is a progression from attempting to cure myself on my own, to trusting Jesus to be my Saviour. In the first exercise I tried to confront my demons on my own. In the second I attempted to recognize my demons on my own and then ask for God's assistance in expelling them. Finally, in the third I trusted completely in Jesus and allowed Him to enter into the temple of my body and become my Lord and my Master.

The path of my spiritual journey took me from a simple realization of being in a spiritual battle with my personal demons to a much more profound realization of the necessity of asking for Divine Assistance in combatting those demons.

One very important thing you have to understand is that those demons are not an integral part of you. Yes, they have attached themselves to you through your permission and invitation. Yes, you were deceived, but nevertheless you assented to their presence within your temple. Having invited them in, you do not have the power to expel them on your own. But with the help of God and through his Divine Mercy, all of us are able to overcome those demons – no matter how deeply entrenched in our souls they may seem to be.]

When our demons prevail

Just don't give up. Most of us are not saints. We can expect to spend some time in Purgatory rather than going straight to Heaven; but we can keep trying to become more saintly.

We can go to confession to ask and receive forgiveness for our sins; and we can go to Mass to strengthen ourselves through Holy Communion.

Also, pray for the intercession of the communion of saints; where we are weak, others in the Church are strong.

A final warning from St. Catherine of Bologna

In her closing remarks St. Catherine warns her novitiates to always be en garde against the deceptions of the enemy.
And here I put an end to the aforesaid weapons. But in this regard I beg you, dear sisters, that you learn to use them wisely and never be found without them so that you can better obtain the triumph of victory against your adversaries. And be on guard that you are not deceived by the mere appearance of good, for the devil sometimes appears in the appearance of Christ or of the virgin Mary or in the shape of an angel of a saint. Therefore, in every apparition that occurs, take up the weapon of Scripture which shows how the mother of Christ comported herself when the angel Gabriel appeared to her. She said to him: “What is this greeting?” (Lk 1.29). Follow her example in every appearance and feeling, and you will want to test much better whether it is a good or a wicked spirit before you listen to him. Blessed is whoever does this. Also, it is not less necessary to keep a close guard on thoughts of the mind, since the devil sometimes puts good and holy thoughts in the mind to deceive it under the appearance of virtue, and after that, in order to show what it is, tries and assaults one strongly with the vice which is contrary to this virtue. This the enemy does in order to be able to entice the person into the ditch of desperation.

[NOTE: I began writing this post in order to share the three spiritual exercises that I had found personally useful. Then I read about the talk that Pope Benedict XVI gave on St. Catherine of Bologna during his last audience of 2010 on December 29. (I believe that this was part of a series of talks on women religious.) And I was inspired to incorporate the teachings of St. Catherine into this article.]

Reference
  • The full text of "The Seven Spiritual Weapons" by St. Catherine is here. (However, I don't recommend the rather long and torturous introduction that is provided.)
Related articles

As the old year of 2010 comes to a close, I wish everyone a Happy and Blessed New Year in 2011!

Peace be with you.
Michael

TRON: another gnostic fairy tale


I just saw TRON. This is another gnostic fairy tale from Hollywood. A combination between Star Wars and the Matrix. That's all you really need to know.

The story involves the typical gnostic yin-yang universe, where good and bad battle each other and eventually cancel out. Nothing new or original here.

Too bad because the computer operating system world of Tron has potential for an interesting story. And the graphics are innovative.

It's interesting to compare Tron to Avatar – James Cameron's version of a gnostic fairy tale. Both are imaginary worlds brought to life on screen. While Avatar is organic, Tron's world is synthetic; Avatar is realistic, Tron is abstract.

Tron also incorporates elements of the movie Metropolis – a gnostic classic. You'll just have to take my word on that because I don't feel like going to the trouble of making the detailed comparisons, but trust me they are there.

It seems that Hollywood, and in this case Disney, never gets tired of the old gnostic theme. It's their answer to the spiritual void left by the anti-Christian culture that we live in.

Instead of peace be with you, it's...
The force be with you. And with you also.

There is even a laser sword in one scene. And then there is the father-son, creator-savior theme.

The whole Campbell hero myth formula is strictly adhered to.

Quorra - Princess Leia - Trinity
Sam Flynn - Luke Skywalker - Neo

Yeah, we've seen this film before. I don't encourage people to delve too deep into gnosticism. It is a truly poisonous belief system. I have only looked into it deeply enough to recognize it when I see it.

"Old heresies never die."

If only Hollywood would apply it's highly impressive technology to making truly Christian movies instead of anti-Christian movies. Imagine how the apparitions of the Virgin Mary could come to life on the screen. But perhaps it is for the better that they don't. I would not want these miraculous visions to be subjected to the full Hollywood commercialization treatment.

P.S. I think the word TRON has something to do with the Tetragrammaton. That is the four letters that spell out the name of God in Hebrew – YHWH. This is just a hunch, but a strong one. Note that the 'W' is a placeholder for 'O' or 'U'. It's not too hard to imagine a 'T' transforming into a 'Y'; 'R' to 'H'; 'N' to 'H'.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Divine Mercy and the Papacy


Divine Mercy and Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II canonized Saint Maria Faustina Kowalaska on April 30, 2000. At that time he also recognized Divine Mercy Sunday as revealed to Saint Faustina.
It is important then that we accept the whole message that comes to us from the word of God on this Second Sunday of Easter, which from now on throughout the Church, will be called "Divine Mercy Sunday".

[...]

From that Heart, Sr. Faustina Kowalska, the blessed whom from now on we will call a saint, will see two rays of light shining from that Heart and illuminating the world: ‘The two rays,' Jesus Himself explained to her one day, ‘represent blood and water' (Diary, 299).

Blood and water! We immediately think of the testimony given by the Evangelist John, who, when a soldier on Calvary pierced Christ's side with his spear, sees blood and water flowing from it (see Jn 19:34). Moreover, if the blood recalls the sacrifice of the cross and the gift of the Eucharist, the water, in Johannine symbolism, represents not only Baptism but also the gift of the Holy Spirit (see Jn 3:5; 4:14; 7:37-39).

Divine Mercy and Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI makes reference to Saint Faustina and the Divine Mercy in two separate statements in his new book, "Light of the World".
SEEWALD: About eighty years ago, Faustina Kowalska, the Polish nun canonized by John Paul II, heard Jesus say in a vision, "You will prepare the world for my definitive return." Are we obliged to believe that?

THE POPE: If one took this statement in a chronological sense, as an injunction to get ready, as it were, immediately for the Second Coming, it would be false. But it is correct if one understands it in the spiritual sense that was just explained, as meaning that the Lord is always the One who comes and that we are always preparing ourselves for His definitive coming, precisely when we go out to meet His mercy and allow ourselves to be formed by Him. By letting ourselves be formed by God's gift of mercy as a force to counteract the mercilessness of the world, then we prepare, as it were, for His own coming in person and for His mercy.

 -----

THE POPE: If you look at the history of the Church, women — from Mary to Monica and all the way down to Mother Teresa — have so eminent a significance that in many respects they shape the image of the Church more than men do. Just think of major feast days such as Corpus Christ or Mercy Sunday, which originated with women. In Rome, for example, there is even a church where not a single man can be seen in any of the altarpieces.
The popes can declare and announce and pronounce, but it is up to the Church as a whole to accept and to celebrate and commemorate. It is the role of the bishops and the priests and the laity to fulfill these declarations and to make them become a real physical and spiritual force in the world.

For more information on Saint Faustina and Divine Mercy please visit the site of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception devoted to spreading the news of this wonderful revelation:
http://thedivinemercy.org/index.php

Monday, December 27, 2010

Signs

[Please read the previous post, Marriage and the Mass, before reading this one.]


The arms of the Church as represented in St. Peter's Square

The signs of bread and wine

At the heart of the Eucharistic celebration are the bread and wine that, by the words of Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, become Christ's Body and Blood. Faithful to the Lord's command the Church continues to do, in his memory and until his glorious return, what he did on the eve of his Passion: "He took bread...." "He took the cup filled with wine...." the signs of bread and wine become, in a way surpassing understanding, the Body and Blood of Christ; they continue also to signify the goodness of creation.

 – Catechism of the Catholic Church (par. 1333)

If you read my previous post, it should have left you with a question.

"What is a sign?"

The Bible is full of signs, so this should not be a new question. But then many times we don't think too deeply about what we are reading. Or at least we don't question it.

But the Bible is meant to be questioned. Not in the sense of a disbeliever; not even in the sense of doubting.

But in the sense of the believer searching for the truth.

The New Testament begins with a series of signs.

And from there it reveals their meanings.

"But, what is a sign?"
And the angel said to them, "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger."
 – Luke 2:10-12
The angel gave the shepherds a sign: "a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger."

Yes, we all know what a sign is in our everyday world. It is a symbol. It points us towards something. It reveals a greater meaning.

The ruins of the Roman Colosseum
A sign is a bridge between one world and another. In common usage, it connects the world of words and images with the world of thoughts and ideas; it is a bridge between the physical reality that we experience through our senses and the interior reality of the mind.

The signs in scripture are meant to communicate not to our minds, but to our hearts and souls. They connect the physical world to the spiritual world.

The Biblical signs are outward physical manifestations of an inward spiritual reality.

And so the angel gave the shepherds a sign. It is a sign that reflects a spiritual reality.

The Book of John reveals that "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us". This is the meaning of the angel's sign given to the shepherds.

But John does more than just explain the meaning of this sign to us; he also uncovers and reveals the spiritual reality hidden behind the sign. This is an example of a revelation. A message from God.
The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
 – John 1:9-13
The Eucharist is a sign.

It is an outward physical manifestation of an inward spiritual reality.

Marriage is a sign.

It is an outward physical manifestation of an inward spiritual reality.

The New Testament begins with a multitude of signs.

An angel appears to Zechari'ah; a child is born to the aging and barren Elizabeth; an angel appears to the Virgin Mary; a child is born in a manger; an angel warns Joseph in a dream; John baptizes in the Jordan river.

And suddenly the meaning of all these signs becomes clear when Jesus is baptized by John and the Holy Spirit appears and the voice of the Father is heard by all.

"This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."

Another sign from Heaven. But this one is unmistakeable.

And then more signs as Jesus performs miracles – the water becomes wine, the blind see, the crippled walk, lepers are healed.

Miracles are outward physical manifestations of an inward spiritual reality.

And still the Pharisees asked Jesus to provide them with a sign.

"Rabbi, give us a sign."

And Jesus replied, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah."

And this in itself is a sign.

When the Devil tempted Jesus in the desert, He replied: "You shall not tempt [test] the Lord your God."

And yet we all keep asking for a sign – another sign from God.

The Church is a sign.

It is an outward physical manifestation of an inward spiritual reality.

Over the past two thousand years, the Church has persevered. It has weathered the storms. And it has emerged alive and vibrant, with renewed vigor; ready to fight the new and powerful demons and dragons that challenge its authority and its existence.

I'm sure that there is no one that understands better the importance of signs to the life of the Church than our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. When he celebrates the Mass every word, every action becomes an outward sign and expression of a hidden spiritual reality, which is the real presence of Jesus Christ.

He is at the helm of the ship which is the Catholic Church. He has guided us through these dark and turbulent times by the light of the Holy Spirit. God bless the Pope!

The Pope is also a sign. He is the Pontifex Maximus. A Latin term that literally means "the greatest bridge-maker". He is the Vicar of Christ. Like the father is to the family, the Holy Father is to the Church. He is the greatest authority and as such has responsibility for the well-being of the Church. His authority flows from God. And so he is for the Catholic Church a sign; a bridge between the Kingdoms of Heaven and Earth.

Marriage and the Mass

"Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure" -- for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And the angel said to me, "Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb." And he said to me, "These are true words of God."

 – Revelation 19:7-9

The Last Communion of St. Jerome by Botticelli

There has been a lot of focus on the institution of marriage lately. What is marriage? From a legal perspective it is one thing, but from a Catholic perspective it is something else completely.

Marriage is a sign.

Anyone who has been to a Catholic wedding knows that it is quite different from a Protestant wedding. A Catholic wedding is a Mass.

Every wedding is a Mass.

The Mass is centered around the act of Holy Communion with God. Receiving the Blessed Eucharist is a sign.

That's not to say the act of Communion is symbolic for Catholics. No, it is a real physical acceptance of the body and the blood of Christ.

Usually we talk about the physical world and the spiritual world as if they were completely separate and unrelated. But these two Kingdoms are actually closely joined.

The two Kingdoms come together in the act of Communion, when the physical reality perfectly reflects the spiritual reality.

As we open our mouths to accept the Eucharist, we also open the temple doors of our bodies to accept Christ in our soul.

This sign is given to us by Jesus.

It is a sign of the joining together of our body and soul with that of Jesus.

Is this not a union? Is this not a marriage?

Then every Mass is a wedding. It is a wedding between you and Christ. At the same time it is a wedding between you and the Church, which is the body of Christ.

Every wedding is a Mass; every Mass is a wedding.

We promise to be faithful and loyal to our spouse, Jesus Christ. We promise to respect Him and follow His commands. And we promise to love Him and cherish Him for the rest of our lives. And we look forward to the day when we will be joined with Him in the holiest of unions in Heaven.

This is not a decision to enter into lightly. When you accept Communion, you are saying "I do".

When you recite the Creed, you are saying "I do". I do believe in the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit; I do accept.

And every week, we renew our vows. I do. I do. I do.... For the rest of our lives. Amen.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Holy Days!

Los Tres Reyes Magos - Puerto Rico

The Christmas season

A quick reminder that the Christmas season for Catholics is just beginning. We are still awaiting the arrival of the Three Wise Men on the Feast of the Epiphany – celebrated this year on Sunday, January 2, 2011. Actually, the real date of the Epiphany is January 6, but in the US the date is always celebrated on a Sunday. And the Christmas season doesn't officially end until January 9. (I'm not sure if that is inclusive.) And then there is the whole thing about the 12 days of Christmas, but then it gets a bit confusing. The way it is celebrated in the current Catholic liturgical calendar, there are a full two weeks of Christmas season.

Traditionally, in Spain and other Spanish speaking countries like Puerto Rico, the Christmas presents don't arrive until January 6 with the Three Wise Men. I'm not sure how many countries still celebrate this tradition. It's called El Día de los Reyes, and although it may sound similar to Christmas, the gift giving is usually limited to one per child. So it does not lend itself to being commercialized in the same way as the Santa Claus tradition. And there is a definite Biblical basis for the tradition of the Three Wise Men giving gifts to the children.

You would think that the Protestants that believe so strongly in sola scriptura would have picked up on this tradition instead of the very un-biblical Santa and his reindeer. Sorry for the grumbling, I just watched one of those Santa "Clause" movies on TV on Christmas Eve and I couldn't imagine anything more out of harmony with the true spirit of Christmas. This was a classic case in point of how the secular humanists have redefined Christmas, and stripped Jesus totally out of the picture. They use those movies to promote all the usual anti-family humanist values. And then they throw in lots of "magical" moments to fill in the spiritual void that this creates.

If people really feel such a deep desire for spiritual fulfillment, then why do they so quickly dismiss the most profound and mysterious spiritual truth in the world which is embodied in Christianity?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Christmas poem: "For unto us is born"

And the angel said to them, "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger."
 – Luke 2:10-12
Below are the lyrics to a song I'm working on. The words come almost directly from the Gospel of Luke. I know it doesn't rhyme and even the rhythmic scheme is inconsistent. Still, I think it has a poetic quality.

I became inspired to write it when I was listening to the Gospel reading for the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass which was Luke 2:1-14. I happened to be watching the celebration at the National Basilica in Washington on TV while I had my guitar in my hands and was doodling out a melody.

I paused the video recording of the Mass and began to work out the melody and the lyrics, using my Revised Standard Version (Catholic Edition) Bible as a reference. I searched for words in Luke and would sort of pray and meditate and try them out against a melody I had in mind. Gradually the song emerged. Then I made a rough music recording on my computer and edited a few lines here and there. And here are the resulting lyrics.

I hope you enjoy. And even though I am holding on exclusively to the copyright, I have to give full credit to my co-author, the Holy Spirit. Until I can work out the music and record it, here is a recitation of the lyrics.



For unto us is born
© 2010 PublicVigil

For unto us this day is born
A mighty King to reign among men
In Bethlehem, the city of David
Who is Christ, our Savior
The Lord of Lords

Wrapped in swaddling clothes, inside a manger
Because there was no room, for them in the inn
Oh what great joy, will come to the people
Glory to God in Heaven
On Earth peace among men

And all who heard, of the angel’s appearance
Wondered at the meaning, of what the shepherds saw
But Mary kept these things within her heart
Pondering the message
And the child, her son

On the day that they took him to the Temple
To present the baby to the Lord
Simeon, a devout and righteous man
Blessed their family
And said to Mary

“Behold this child will cause the fall and the rising
Of many souls in Israel
And a sword will pierce through your soul also
And the thoughts of many
Hearts will be revealed”

Joseph and Mary, having completed the sacrifice
Of two young doves, returned to Galilee
To the town of Nazareth, and the child grew in favor
And He became strong
And was filled with the wisdom of God

For unto us this day is born
A mighty King to reign among men
In Bethlehem, the city of David
And His name is Jesus
The Son of the Most High

Friday, December 24, 2010

Give Her Life

Here is another Christmas present for my readers. Merry Christmas! I hope you enjoy this original pro-Life song which I composed. (Yes, that's me on vocals and guitar.)

The Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou among women.

Ave Maria, gratia plena,
Dominus tecum.
Benedicta tu in mulieribus,
et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus.
Sancta Maria, Mater Dei,
ora pro nobis peccatoribus,
nunc, et in hora mortis nostrae.
Amen




Give Her Life
© 2010 PublicVigil

Baby Jesus
Joy of the World
Bringing gifts
To boys and girls

Holy Infant
So tender and mild
Holy Madonna
Mother and child

------
(Refrain)
Once we all
Were small and frail
Tiny bodies
Lost in prayer

Mary, Mary
Woman blessed
Santa María
To God she said “Yes!”

With this Rosary
On bended knee
We humbly beg
Forgiveness from Thee
------

God has brought
Into this world
A new creation
Boy or girl

You can choose
To give her life
She can’t speak
And she can’t fight

(Refrain)

You believe
In this life
Do what you
Know is right

You can choose
To defend
God will bless you
With a friend

(Refrain)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Choice. At what price?

Pro-abortion rally
Shall I give my first-born for my transgression; the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
 – Micah 6:7
What is the price that we pay for the "freedom to choose"? Because all freedom comes at a cost. We must sacrifice something. We are, after all, finite beings. And we can't have it all.

Ultimately, is sexual liberation (or freedom) worth the price? Is it worth sacrificing an unborn child – through the practices of contraception and abortion – in exchange for sexual pleasures? Is chastity an unbearable burden?

We certainly can muster the necessary self control if society demands it of us. We don't go around thinking that we should be allowed to hit anyone that we are angry with. Why do we think having sex with anyone we feel attracted to is any more acceptable?

Is it because this is the message that is imparted to us daily by society? Not just through laws, but also through the images that our culture surrounds us with – on TV, in the movies, on the internet, in the lyrics of songs, in magazines and newspapers.
Save me, O God!
For the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire,
where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
and the flood sweeps over me.

 – Psalm 69:1-2
When Jesus saw the filth that filled the Temple in Jerusalem, he fashioned a whip from cords and drove out the money-changers. Our bodies are a temple. In fact, they are the true temples. In each of us resides the Holy Spirit – whether we acknowledge its presence or not.

"Zeal for thy house has consumed me"

Shouldn't we protect the temple of our bodies? Shouldn't we only open the door to what is good and pure? And shouldn't we lock and bar the door against all that is unholy?

We've all seen a typical horror movie scene in which a group of people are locked in a house and there are some monstrous creatures that are trying to penetrate that house and prey on those inside.

That house represents your body. And those monsters are Satan's demons which are trying to destroy your soul – in this case in the form of fornication, adultery and pornography.

We have allowed Satan to enter into our bodies and take control of our souls. We need Jesus' help to expel the demons from our holy temples; our bodies.

In the time of the "sexual revolution" there was a very popular and influential book titled "Our bodies, ourselves". The message was very seductive. You should have complete freedom to do whatever you want with your body, because it belongs to you. (It must have been something similar to this that Satan whispered into Eve's ear in the Garden of Eden.)

But our bodies do not belong only to ourselves. They are a gift from God; and are meant to be a temple dedicated to His worship.

Once we lose sight of this, we begin to wander through our lives; like lost souls in search of some meaning that isn't there. We seek satisfaction in physical pleasure, but this is like an addiction that requires ever increasing doses of drugs to achieve the same high. And ultimately we end up like the addict; who shoots up without experiencing any pleasure, but only to satisfy a physical craving for the drug that enslaves him.
You shall eat, but not be satisfied...
You shall sow, but not reap...

 – Micah 6:14-15
In contrast, Jesus promises us the gift of living water.
"Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
John 4:14
Jesus told his disciples: "Do not worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and what you will wear. For life is more than food and the body more than clothing." [Luke 12:22-23] He did not need to speak to them about the dangers of sexual pleasures, because they were already very familiar with these teachings from Moses and the prophets. His message was that the spiritual life is much more important than the physical life.

In the book "Light of the World: The Pope, The Church and The Signs Of The Times", Pope Benedict XVI echoes Christ's message (p. 61).
You see, man strives for eternal joy; he would like pleasure in the extreme, would like what is eternal. But when there is no God, it is not granted to him and it cannot be. Then he himself must now create something that is fictitious, a false eternity.

This is a sign of the times that should be an urgent challenge to us, especially as Christians. We have to show – and also live this accordingly – that the eternity man needs can come only from God.
As a society we have conducted an experiment spanning multiple generations to determine whether it is better to live with God or without God. The results have shown that life without God is a total failure. We must respect this fact and make changes on a personal level – and as a society – to welcome God back into our lives.

We must welcome Jesus into the temple of our bodies. And let him drive out the filth that has found an abode there. After Jesus had driven the money-changers from the Temple, his disciples recalled this verse from scripture.
For zeal for thy house has consumed me,
and the insults of those who insult thee have fallen on me.

 – Psalm 69:9
These words could apply equally well today to Pope Benedict XVI. He has demonstrated his zeal for defending the Church from its detractors. And as a result he has been the victim of insults from those who seek to destroy Christianity.

Recommended Bible readings:

Monday, December 20, 2010

Celebrating the birth of Christ

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."
 – Matthew 5:14-16
Christmas is only a few days away. For Catholics, the Christmas season of celebration begins on December 25th. The season leading up to Christmas is Advent.

Christmas is the day that Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Christ. It is a celebration rich in tradition. In the United States it is an official national holiday. It is also officially recognized as a holiday by each of the fifty states. And yet you wouldn't know that from the way that Christmas is treated by the popular media.

In a 2007 survey, 78.4% of Americans identified themselves as Christians. In comparison 1.7% identified themselves as Jewish; 0.7% as Buddhist; 0.6% as Muslim; 1.6% as atheists. About 13% claimed no religious affiliation or refused to answer.

It's true that we live in a multi-cultural society. But American society is not nearly as religiously diverse as one would be led to believe by the more militant secularists. Christians are still a resounding majority of the population. Why shouldn't we be allowed to publicly express our religious beliefs? To do otherwise is to deny reality.

How can a public display of the nativity scene possibly harm others? Why shouldn't Christian citizens be allowed to use public funds to erect such a display?

The intent of the writers of the Constitution is quite clear, which is that there should be no official state religion. This is very different from the barring of any government funds from any religious related purposes, which is the re-interpretation being pushed by the secularists. Religion is a fundamental part of human life. It cannot be completely separated from government without invoking a total ban on religion. And of course, this is the ultimate goal of the militant secularists.

Christ calls us to be "the light of the world". We cannot do this by hiding our faith; rather by sharing it with others.

[Coincidentally, I have begun reading the latest book by Pope Benedict XVI which is titled "Light of the World". We can see how the campaign by the secular media to create a controversy over this book is another attempt to extinguish the light of Christianity.]

Epilogue

Here is an official explanation of the Christmas Day holiday on a US State Dept. website titled "America.gov".
Most Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth on December 25. Before the 19th century, many Americans worked on Christmas, but in the industrial era the holiday also began to honor universal values such as home, children and family life, and to incorporate secular customs like exchanging gifts and cards, and the decoration of evergreen trees. Congress proclaimed Christmas a federal holiday in 1870. In 1999, a federal court acknowledged the secular aspects of Christmas in rejecting a claim that the holiday impermissibly endorsed and furthered a particular religious belief.

To some extent, non-Christian holidays celebrated at roughly the same time of year — most prominently the African-American Kwanzaa and the Jewish Hanukkah — blend into a broader “holiday season.”
First notice that Jesus is identified as "Jesus of Nazareth". While this is biblically correct, this term is used  here as a thinly disguised attempt to refuse to recognize the divine nature of Christ and to identify Jesus as a mere historical figure.

Then there is a sort of secular fairy tale about how Americans used to work on Christmas before it was officially declared a holiday by the federal government in 1870. More likely, it was already a state holiday in all the states and the rising centralization of government following the Civil War caused it to be adopted as a federal holiday as well.

There is an overemphasis in the description of Christmas as a secular holiday. Notice that there is no real explanation of the religious significance of Christmas. Finally, there is the attempt to redefine Christmas as the "holiday season" as in "Happy Holidays!"

Aren't there any Christians working at the State Department that can fix this deliberate misinterpretation of Christmas? Even the highly secular Wikipedia manages to come up with this description: "Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus to the Virgin Mary as a fulfillment of the Old Testament's Messianic prophecy."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Texting vs. Talking


I'm doing something I don't usually do which is to reproduce a whole article from another source. I am so impressed with this statement from Bishop Arthur Serratelli about the nature of communicating through texting and the internet that I am making an exception of my usual self-imposed rule.

The original article is titled "The digital continent: a theological perspective" and I found it at the CNA (Catholic News Agency) website. I can only wish that this article was distributed to every classroom in the United States and that it was the subject of a serious conversation among the students and teachers.

The article points out the good and the bad about texting and internet communications. Much of this is information that has been pointed out many times before. But I think what makes this article unique is the way that Bishop Serratelli effectively relates this to the teachings of the Church. And I also think that this is an especially succinct statement that captures so much information and wisdom in such few words.

In this key passage, the Bishop clearly points out the danger of the anonymity and remoteness of communication via texting or the internet.
With all its advantages and misuses, the new means of communication are now radically altering the very way we relate to each other socially. Without face to face conversation, we can distance ourselves from the immediate impact of our words on the other. We can hurt another and be detached at the same time. The other is affected and we remain immune from their feelings. This is a true loss in the quality of interpersonal relationships.
It is this disconnect from the feelings of others that is the real danger. People can become mere virtual objects in cyberspace as the rules of polite society are totally ignored and abandoned. And as the Bishop says this ultimately results in "a true loss in the quality of interpersonal relationships".

Below is the full article with a link back to the original found on the website of the Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey. (And in case you're wondering "prurient" means "having or encouraging an excessive interest in sexual matters"; so it has nothing to do with "prudish", "pure" or "puritanical" as you might expect.)

-------------


The Internet, email, Twitter, Facebook, mobile phones and iPods are creating a major cultural phenomenon in society. And this is happening almost overnight. Black and white television broadcasting began in the United States on July 1, 1941. It took 10 years for 4 million TV sets to be sold and 13 years for television to reach 50 million users. After the iPod was introduced, it took only nine months for 1 billion applications to be downloaded.

There are many advantages to the digital continent on which we now live. We can learn the news, seek information and do research at the touch of our fingers. Businesses and universities can conduct their work interactively. And, we can stay in touch with family and friends instantly even at great distances.

Yet, there are disadvantages as well. Information is not edited. Anyone can post anything on the internet. Opinions can appear as truth. False information can masquerade as fact.  And, personal identities can be hidden. Furthermore, the Internet can be co-opted for prurient interests. Every second, 28,258 Internet users view pornography. In 47% percent of families, this has become a problem. Nine out of ten children between the ages of eight and sixteen are unwillingly exposed to pornography on the Internet. One in five U.S. teenagers who regularly log on to the Internet encounters unwanted sexual solicitation.  Predators employ the Internet to contact the young, to engage them in sexually explicit conversations and sometimes to set up meetings to abuse them.

With all its advantages and misuses, the new means of communication are now radically altering the very way we relate to each other socially. Without face to face conversation, we can distance ourselves from the immediate impact of our words on the other. We can hurt another and be detached at the same time. The other is affected and we remain immune from their feelings. This is a true loss in the quality of interpersonal relationships.

The thrill of virtual connectedness with so many individuals at great ease disguises the challenges inherent in forming good relationships. It creates a false sense of connectedness. In fact, an immersion in social networking through digital communication takes away from interacting with those close at hand. 

Text-messaging someone at a distance removes the individual from actual quality face time with family, classmates or coworkers right before them. The young person using an iPod during dinner may be very well in tune with his or her favorite pop singer and, at the same time, be totally out of touch with the family at the table. If this practice of communicating with those at a distance and ignoring those close at hand becomes a habit, the individual effectively can withdraw from the real world.

Nonetheless, it is important to note that the thrill that lifts up so many who experience connectedness on the digital continent is actually rooted in the fundamental structure of the human person. We are made to communicate with each other.  As Pope Benedict XVI has said, “When we find ourselves drawn towards other people, when we want to know more about them and make ourselves known to them, we are responding to God’s call -- a call that is imprinted in our nature as beings created in the image and likeness of God, the God of communication and communion” (Pope Benedict XVI, Message for 2009 World Day of Communication).  

We have been created in the image and likeness of God. And, God is communio. God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three persons, equal, distinct, in eternal relatedness to each other. To make best use of the new technology, our communication itself should mirror God in whose image we have been made.

Thus, every communication should be marked by at least three basic qualities. First, there must be a generous giving of self to the other. Just as the Father does not hold back all he is, but gives all that he is to the Son, we should be open and generous to the other, not using the other for our own self-gratification. Second, just as the Son is the Word uttered by the Father and is, therefore, Truth itself, all our words need to be truthful. We should not spread misinformation or disseminate falsehood. Third, just as the Holy Spirit is the bond of unity between the Father and the Son, our communication with the other should draw us closer together. It should never isolate us from others. Rather, it should connect us in mutual care and concern for each other.

When our use of the new means of social networking is self-giving, truthful and loving, it then becomes “ a reflection of our participation in the communicative and unifying Love of God, who desires to make of all humanity one family” (Pope Benedict XVI, Message for 2009 World Day of Communication). And, then our migration to the digital continent moves us closer to our true home in heaven. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Christmas gift


And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.

And the angel said to them, "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger."

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!"
 – Luke 2:4-14

-------

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him."
[…]
and lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
[…]
Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men.
 – Matthew 2:1-16

Season of giving

Merry Christmas to you
And to your family too
In this season of giving
May God’s peace be with you

Christ was born to be our Savior
And to be the King of Kings
That is what the Angels told
The shepherds in the fields that night

Wise Men came to see the baby
Born in little Bethlehem
Wrapped in swaddling clothes inside a manger
To María and José

Frankincense and myrrh and gold
Were the gifts the Wise Men brought
From the orient they came
Following a wondrous star

Jesus, little baby Jesus
Herod sought to vanquish thee
Many innocents were slaughtered
May their souls eternally rest in peace

Hear our prayers, O baby Jesus
Lying in your manger crib
Please protect us from our demons
Give us strength to battle sin

Merry Christmas to you
And to your family too
In this season of giving
May God’s peace be with you

This is a small Christmas gift for my readers. It is a poem I wrote, which I dedicate to all of you. (Granted it is a little early, but I'm not good at hiding presents.) I hope you will enjoy and that these seasons of Advent and Christmas will bring many blessings upon you.

[This poem is an original work and is copyrighted 2010. Please let me know if you would like to share it by leaving a comment. Thanks, Michael.]

Friday, December 10, 2010

The aim of the Christian life

"Acquire the Holy Spirit and thousands around you will be saved"

The fool says in his heart, "There is no God."
 – Psalms 14:1

I would like to share with you some of the teachings of St. Seraphim of Sarov, a Russian Orthodox monk who was born in 1759 in the city of Kursk and died and went to Heaven on January 2, 1833, while kneeling before an icon of the Theotokos (Mary, the Mother of God).
(Excerpts from a conversation of St. Seraphim with N. A. Motovilov)

Prayer, fasting, vigil and all other Christian activities, however good they may be in themselves, do not constitute the aim of our Christian life, although they serve as the indispensable means of reaching this end. The true aim of our Christian life consists in the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God. As for fasts, and vigils, and prayer, and almsgiving, and every good deed done for Christ's sake, they are only means of acquiring the Holy Spirit of God.
[...]
At the present time, owing to our almost universal coldness to our holy faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and our inattention to the working of His Divine Providence in us, and to the communion of man with God, we have gone so far that, one may say, we have almost abandoned the true Christian life.
[...]
More than once in other passages of Holy Scripture the appearance of God to men is mentioned. That is why some people say: "These passages are incomprehensible. Is it really possible for people to see God so openly?"

But there is nothing incomprehensible here. This failure to understand has come about because we have departed from the simplicity of the original Christian knowledge. Under the pretext of education, we have reached such a darkness of ignorance that what the ancients understood so clearly seems to us almost inconceivable.
It is fashionable to say that God does not exist, or God is not necessary. And it is especially fashionable to say that organized religion is not necessary. And even that organized religion is a force of evil.

Those who believe these things may be disappointed to know that these ideas are not particularly new or modern. The quotes above from St. Seraphim are from 1831. And the passage from the Psalms is obviously much more ancient than that.

Those seeking novelty, or revolutionary thinking, or profound spirituality have no further to look than the Christian faith. Its message is still new and refreshing, profound and life-changing, deep and mysterious two thousand years after the birth, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

The message of Christianity is still relevant in an age of scientific idolatry. In fact even more relevant as science challenges the very essence of man's humanity. No better basis for a moral system has ever been discovered than the teachings of Our Lord Jesus Christ. But as St. Seraphim emphasizes, doing good deeds alone is not sufficient.
But mark, my son, only the good deed done for Christ's sake brings us the fruits of the Holy Spirit. All that is not done for Christ's sake, even though it be good, brings neither reward in the future life nor the grace of God in this.
Here is what is missing in the common morality of this generation. Without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, "good intentions" turn the gifts of God into forces for destruction. Science reverts to paganism.

The utilitarian mindset of the modern world – that seeks to quantify goodness – indoctrinates us into thinking that God does not exist. The "fruits" of this thinking are now in clear evidence. The solutions to the problems facing modern man do not lie in a deeper application of scientific principles in order to "engineer" society. This approach only leads to eugenic solutions.

The most glaring example of this is the "choice" of destroying life in the womb in order to give a woman a better life, or spare a child a life of suffering, or to lessen the burden on the earth's resources. All of which are selfish reasons. This is akin to a modern practice of human sacrifice. The thinking seems to be that if we sacrifice the unborn on the altar of scientific rationalism, then the rest of us may be saved from destruction by an unseen Malthusian population bomb. The parallels to the ancient pagan practice of sacrificing infants in order to appease their gods and avert disaster are striking.

The only solution is to truly trust in Jesus. Christianity has been battling barbarism since its inception. Nothing has changed.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Immaculate Conception


Today, December 8, is the celebration of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. It is a holy day of obligation within the Church, which means that Catholics are required to attend Mass on this day.

I think there is a large amount of confusion among non-Catholics with regard to the doctrine of Immaculate Conception. Many probably assume that this refers to the conception of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. While this is one of the great mysteries of Christianity, it is not what is referred to here.

The Immaculate Conception refers specifically to the birth of the Virgin Mary. This Catholic doctrine affirms that Mary was born without sin. She is the new Eve. She was conceived by God with an immaculate soul so that she could become the vessel through which Jesus would be born into the world.

"Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!" This is the greeting of the Archangel Gabriel to Mary when he appeared before her. The Archangel treats Mary with royal respect when he addresses her with the word "Hail". Like Eve, Mary is "full of grace". Gabriel adds the words, "The Lord is with you." The word "angel" comes from the Greek word for messenger. Thus, the words of Gabriel to Mary are a message from God.

Mary is startled by these words and silently wonders "what sort of greeting this might be." To which the Angel replies, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God."

Mary is the favored one of God, or perhaps the favorite. Although there is no mention of the parents of Mary in the Bible, tradition says that her parents were St. Joachim and St. Anna.

The Virgin Mary under her title of the Immaculate Conception is the patron saint of the United States, although this seems to go unnoticed among American Catholics. The national basilica in Washington, D.C. is named the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.

And he came to her and said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!"

But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be.

And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end."

And Mary said to the angel, "How shall this be, since I have no husband?"

And the angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible."

And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word."

And the angel departed from her.
 – Luke 1:26-38

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

On marriage


While watching the institution of marriage being assaulted on live national TV yesterday by three federal judges, it became eminently clear that American society is in the death grip of the secular humanists.

What stuck out for me was the question, "what is the rational basis for traditional marriage?" This question is indeed the product of a humanist mind. One could rephrase the question as "what is the scientific basis for traditional marriage?"

Yesterday's hearing picked up where the radical secularist court decision of Judge Walker left off. God was not allowed to step into the courtroom. No religious arguments were allowed in favor of marriage.

As a result the proceeding took on an absurd, almost comical character. The arguments seemed to come directly from Alice's trip through the looking glass (mirror). Tweedledum and Tweedledee could have been the lawyers arguing the pros and cons of marriage before the judges. And the Mad Hatter and the Hare could have been the presiding judges.

"Absurd" does not begin to describe the proceedings. In the background one could almost hear the Red Queen admonishing, "Off with their heads!" Indeed.

Once placed under the secular humanist microscope, the meaning of marriage seemed to vanish in thin air like the Cheshire Cat. There was nothing left but a thin smile which once detached from its body lost all its true significance.

To hear the attorney arguing against traditional marriage point out the fact that the Supreme Court in all its history has never defined marriage as between a man and a woman; and then to hear him argue that this was somehow proof that this definition was never intended was the absolute height of ridiculousness.

This was only matched by the feeble arguments of the attorney defending marriage. The best he could come up with was an argument revolving around the procreative aspect of marriage. Such a flimsy argument was easily countered by the judges through the glaringly obvious observation that there are couples that are married and are infertile. Somehow the attorney seemed unprepared to counter this argument; as if it had never occurred to him.

But all this just points out that religion when placed under a scientific microscope does not stand a chance. Yes, once you deny the existence of God then religion has not a leg to stand on. And Christianity cannot withstand any logical argument once the divine nature of Christ is denied.

I know there are apologists that claim to be able to defend Christianity under these terms. But as demonstrated by the case of Proposition 8, once the humanists are allowed to set the ground rules then a fair fight is not possible; rather the court proceedings resembled that of the Roman Colosseum under Emperor Nero when the defenseless Christians were thrown to the lions.

The time has come for America to decide whether it wishes to continue to be a Christian nation, or whether it wishes to become an atheistic nation. We have flirted long enough with the idea of a religiously neutral nation and we have seen where that leads us – a religiously neutered nation. If the Christian majority is not willing to defend itself and re-establish the nation on Christian principles, then the long slide towards secular humanism will continue.

This is sometimes called "progress". But how is it that "progress" abandons all the accumulated wisdom of humanity embodied in tradition in order to institutionalize the latest fashion? True progress would maintain the Christian principles of the majority while at the same time respecting those who do not share our views. But this does not mean that Christianity must be totally rejected in order to accommodate those few who are actively seeking to destroy it. Christianity is an inherently tolerant and forgiving religion. It is much more humane than those who call themselves "humanists".

In this season of Advent when we anticipate not only the birth of the baby Jesus at Christmas, but also the Second Coming of Jesus in triumph over the world; it is fitting to remember these closing words of the Book of Revelation, "Come, Lord Jesus!"

Monday, December 6, 2010

Prop 8 Round 3

Round 1 was won by the voters

Proposition 8 is an amendment to California’s Constitution that limits marriage to a man and a woman which was passed by a majority of California voters. Today, Monday, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals hearing on Proposition 8 begins. Even before the hearing has begun, there is already a controversy. (The hearing will be televised live on CSPAN.)

There are three judges from the 9th Circuit Court that have been assigned to the case by a "random" process. I use "air quotes" around the word "random" because the only description of the computer selection process that I have found says that it involves an "elaborate formula weighing case complexity and each judge's workload". The words "random" and "weighted" together mean that the process is less a matter of chance than one would otherwise be led to believe. Throw in the phrase "elaborate formula" and you get a selection process that is inscrutable to the outside observer.

One of the names chosen from this elaborately distorted hat is Stephen Reinhardt. If you are a supporter of same-sex "marriage" this is an enormous stroke of luck. Jude Reinhardt is "known as perhaps the 9th Circuit's most liberal jurist". His wife, Ramona Ripston, has been the head of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California for the past 38 years. The ACLU is actively involved in this case on the side of the proponents of same-sex "marriage" as you would expect. Judge Reinhardt was asked to recuse himself from the case, but refused saying that he can be "impartial".

All told, two out of three of the judges that were picked were appointed by Democrats. Supporters of Proposition 8, which would have effectively banned same-sex marriages in California, now say that they expect to lose this appeal. This leaves the prospect of going before the U.S. Supreme Court.

And it cannot be left unmentioned that Judge Walker who first ruled against Proposition 8 is openly homosexual. Prior to Walker's radically biased decision against Proposition 8 we had this reassuring statement from the National Center for Lesbian Rights, "There is nothing about Walker as a judge to indicate that his sexual orientation, other than being an interesting factor, will in any way bias his view." Lady Luck seems to be shining down on the LGBT parade through the California court system.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky (the new vice president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) has warned that if the courts are allowed to overturn Proposition 8 the impact will be “akin to Roe v. Wade.”  “In a sense, today is like 1970 for marriage,” he said. “If, in 1970, you knew that Roe v. Wade were coming in two or three years, what would you have done differently?”

As I discussed in a previous article once the "right" of gay "marriage" is established, the freedom of religion of Christians will find itself under a growing attack. Already some Christian organizations have been declared "hate groups" because they uphold Christian teachings regarding homosexuality. Isn't it just a bit odd that the same groups that normally ridicule marriage as an obsolete religious tradition, are now adamantly fighting to expand the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples? This is just a cynical legalistic attempt to re-define marriage in a way that strips it of all of its religious significance.

Essentially this is another campaign by the secular humanists to impose their thinking on the rest of us. They are always looking for ways to push Christianity further and further out of the mainstream of American life; until Christians are effectively banned from practicing religion in public.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Divine Mercy Devotion

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy."
 – Matthew 5:7
Vision of St M. Faustina Kowalska as depicted by Vilnius

Do you exercise regularly? We all know that we need to do physical exercise on a regular basis to maintain good health. In the same way, we also need to do regular spiritual exercises. These consist mostly of prayer.

A good way to begin is to say the Lord's Prayer before every meal. In this simple way we give thanks to God for his many gifts. For many centuries Catholics have been praying the rosary as a form of meditation that deepens the spiritual devotion to Jesus and His Mother Mary. Another popular devotion that has been shown to be an effective spiritual exercise is the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy.

Background of the Divine Mercy Devotion

From the diary of a young Polish nun, a special devotion
began spreading throughout the world in the 1930s. The
message is nothing new, but is a reminder of what the
Church has always taught through scripture and tradition:
that God is merciful and forgiving and that we, too, must
show mercy and forgiveness. But in the Divine Mercy
devotion, the message takes on a powerful new focus,
calling people to a deeper understanding that God’s love is
unlimited and available to everyone — especially the
greatest sinners.

The message and devotion to Jesus as The Divine Mercy
is based on the writings of Saint Faustina Kowalska, an
uneducated Polish nun who, in obedience to her spiritual
director, wrote a diary of about 600 pages recording the
revelations she received about God’s mercy. Even before
her death in 1938, the devotion to The Divine Mercy had
begun to spread.

The message of mercy is that God loves us — all of us —
no matter how great our sins. He wants us to recognize that
His mercy is greater than our sins, so that we will call upon
Him with trust, receive His mercy, and let it flow through us to
others. Thus, all will come to share His joy. It is a message
we can call to mind simply by remembering ABC.

A — Ask for His Mercy. God wants us to approach
Him in prayer constantly, repenting of our sins and
asking Him to pour His mercy out upon us and upon
the whole world.

B — Be merciful. God wants us to receive His mercy
and let it flow through us to others. He wants us to
extend love and forgiveness to others just as He does
to us.

C — Completely trust in Jesus. God wants us to know
that the graces of His mercy are dependent upon our
trust. The more we trust in Jesus, the more we will
receive.
(read more here)


Use a rosary to pray The Chaplet of The Divine Mercy
  • Begin with the Sign of the Cross, 
  • say Our Father, 
Our Father, Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Amen.
  • say Hail Mary 
Hail Mary,
Full of Grace,
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit
of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary,
Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now,
and at the hour of death.
Amen.
  • say The Apostles Creed.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth;
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son Our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into Hell; the third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.
Amen.
  • Then on the Our Father Beads say the following:
Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.
  • On the 10 Hail Mary Beads say the following:
For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
  • (Repeat the last two prayers for all five decades).
  • Conclude with (three times):
Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Here is a portion of the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy which has been set to music. An audio CD is available. I suggest purchasing it directly from the Marian Helpers here.


This version of the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy was recorded live at the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy located in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. There is a website for the Shrine here.

I also recommend the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska. It is available online here, and can be purchased from the Marian Helpers here.

From the Diary St. M. Faustina Kowalska (378).
"There will come a time when this work, which God is demanding so very much, will be as though utterly undone. And then God will act with great power, which will give evidence of its authenticity. It will be a new splendor for the Church, although it has been dormant in it from long ago. That God is infinitely merciful, no one can deny. He desires everyone to know this before He comes again as Judge."
Jesus, I trust in You!