Monday, February 28, 2011

Virgin Mary statue ordered removed!

Virgin Mary, Holy Mother of God, pray for us!

HILLIARD, Ohio -- A statue of the Virgin Mary is causing rifts in a local neighborhood. Someone complained to the Hilliard Village Condo Association. The homeowner was told to get rid of the statue.

However, the homeowner is saying no. This statue has been in their yard for over a decade and they don't understand why it's an issue now.

The Condo Association said it's a violation of the rules and regulations handbook. A neighbor says this family is the only one being held accountable. They face a fifty dollar fine.

(This story is from last week, but I just found out about it! I don't know what the current situation is.)

Regina coeli laetare,
Alleluia,
Quia quem meruisti portare.
Alleluia,
Resurrexit,
Sicut dixit,
Alleluia.
Ora pro nobis Deum.
Alleluia.


Queen of Heaven rejoice,
Alleluia,
For He whom you merited to bear,
Alleluia,
Has risen,
as He said,
Alleluia.
Pray for us to God.
Alleluia.

"What is Truth?"

INRI – "Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum"
"Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews"
Pilate entered the praetorium again and called Jesus, and said to him, "Are you the King of the Jews?"

Jesus answered, "Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?"

Pilate answered, "Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me; what have you done?"

Jesus answered, "My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world."

Pilate said to him, "So you are a king?"

Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice."

Pilate said to him, "What is truth?"

After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again, and told them, "I find no crime in him."
[...]
Pilate also wrote a title and put it on the cross; it read, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews."

John 18:33-38, 19:19
Pope Benedict XVI gave us a new mode of thinking about the struggles facing the Church of Christ in the 21st millennium when he coined the phrase "dictatorship of relativism" in a homily on the day before he became the Pope.
"Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be 'tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine', seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires."
This is not a new trivial slogan, but instead embodies a profound truth. He clearly states that there is a threat by the use of the word "dictatorship". And he defines the source of that threat which is "relativism".

In fact he exposes a truth which normally remains hidden just underneath of the surface of the cultural changes sweeping the globe. And he not only uncovers it, but he also simultaneously strips away its pleasant mask and reveals its grotesquely horrible face.

Relativism is not so much a new philosophy or religion that competes with the teachings of Christianity as it is a tactic or a strategy used in attacking Christianity. It does not directly deny Christian teachings, it simply smothers them by denying the absolute truth of those teaching. It is a subtle strategy of undermining Christianity which does not directly force individuals to abandon their faith, but instead gently guides them along a path which ultimately leads to either agnosticism or atheism.

Relativism simply states that there are no absolute truths when it comes to matters of religion which is contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Relativism deflects this criticism by saying that it is unopposed to the individual clinging to his or her own personal beliefs, but that no group should be allowed to impose its beliefs on others.

While relativism hides behind a mask of tolerance, the purpose of this strategy is to weaken and undermine the religious beliefs of people. Tolerance is normally a virtue, but in this case tolerance is used to mask intolerance.

If relativism is not a philosophy but rather a strategy, then there must be a philosophy that is directing this strategy. Once one becomes aware of the way in which this strategy is employed to attack religion – and in particular Christianity – then it is not too hard to discern the group that most benefits from this strategy.

That group refers to itself as Humanists. They are sometimes referred to as "secular humanists". Of course "humanist" is a deceptive term which is designed to create in the mind a benevolent image. But like communism, humanism in practice is very different from humanism in theory.

Humanism is nothing other than a modern day invocation of the "cult of reason" that attempted to destroy Christianity during the French Revolution.
The Cult of Reason was explicitly humanocentric. Its goal was the perfection of mankind through the attainment of truth and liberty, made possible only by the exercise of the human faculty of reason. Though atheism was at the core of the cult, it defined itself as more than a mere rejection of gods: in the manner of conventional religion, it encouraged acts of congregational worship, with frequent and rigorous displays of devotion to Reason as an ideal.
This "cult of reason" which pretended to base itself on "truth and liberty" did not itself rely on reason to convince the people of France in the 1790s of its political correctness – instead it resorted to violence.
By the end of the decade, approximately thirty thousand priests had been forced to leave France, and others who did not leave were executed. Most French parishes were left without the services of a priest and deprived of the sacraments. Any non-juring priest faced the guillotine or deportation to French Guiana. By Easter 1794, few of France's forty thousand churches remained open; many had been closed, sold, destroyed, or converted to other uses.
Today's "cult of reason" replaces "congregational worship" with the political rally. Instead of a direct "devotion of Reason", humanism worships reason through the intercession of "human rights".

In fact you could say that people receive a sort of "daily communion" within the modern cult of reason through political talk shows and the "liturgy of the hours" of this cult is the hourly newscast, while the Sunday talk shows are a sort of "weekly mass".

What we are beginning to see now is a new phase in the strategy of the humanists. Having accomplished their goal of deceiving Christians into relinquishing power through their strategy of relativism, the humanist forces no longer feel the need to be "tolerant". Instead they have begun to impose their humanist monofaith on society and have openly declared their disdain for Christianity.

Their "holy trinity" is something like Science, Evolution and Human Rights – where Science is "the father", Evolution is "the son", and Human Rights is "the holy spirit".

Back in the Old Testament days of the French Revolution, they only had "the father" – Science aka Reason. Then in the mid 1800's "the prophet" Charles Darwin gave birth to "the son" – Evolution. And finally their version of "the holy spirit" descended in the late 1900's in the form of the "human rights" movement.

Anyone who "blasphemes" this unholy humanist trinity is subject to being ritually "stoned to death" in the public media.

And while it would seem that conservative Republicans are not part of this cult, I am not convinced that most of them are doing anything more than giving lip service to their opposition to the humanist movement. In contrast the Vatican fully identified this enemy long ago and has been uncompromisingly waging war against it.

In the meantime we have a President who while he claims to be a Christian, is openly championing every one of the dogmas of the humanist agenda. He is what I would call a "closet humanist". There is nothing to suggest that Obama is a Christian other than his public statements. And even though he keeps repeating this assertion, the majority of the US population is not convinced.


One thing that is known for certain is that Obama's mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, was a humanist. We know this from Obama's own book "Dreams from My Father" where he says, "she was a lonely witness for secular humanism [in Muslim Indonesia]". She has been described by her own daughter as an agnostic, and by her best friend in high school as an atheist.

Obama's own religious tendencies seem to be determined more by political expediency than by any deeply held belief. Even a fundamental Christian belief like the sanctity of marriage is given a humanist interpretation by the "Christian" Obama.

The genius of the Obama presidential campaign was not in what he said, but what he did not say. He left a lot of blank spaces in his statements and let the listener fill in those spaces with what he or she wanted to hear. So Christians could hear Obama speaking on marriage and come out believing that what he said was in agreement with their beliefs, while a humanist who was more in tune with the Obama message would understand the full meaning of his statements.

Here for example is Obama's reply when asked during the presidential campaign to define marriage.


WARREN: Define marriage.

OBAMA: I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian — for me — for me as a Christian, it is also a sacred union. God’s in the mix. But –

WARREN: Would you support a Constitutional Amendment with that definition?

OBAMA: No, I would not.

WARREN: Why not?

OBAMA: Because historically — because historically, we have not defined marriage in our constitution. It’s been a matter of state law. That has been our tradition. I mean, let’s break it down. The reason that people think there needs to be a constitutional amendment, some people believe, is because of the concern that — about same-sex marriage. I am not somebody who promotes same-sex marriage, but I do believe in civil unions. I do believe that we should not — that for gay partners to want to visit each other in the hospital for the state to say, you know what, that’s all right, I don’t think in any way inhibits my core beliefs about what marriage are. I think my faith is strong enough and my marriage is strong enough that I can afford those civil rights to others, even if I have a different perspective or different view.
Anyone, who believes the issue of "gay marriage" is going to end at "civil unions" has not been paying attention to the news lately. That is just the bait.

Notice how Obama introduces "civil rights" into the argument. It is through the ever widening definition of "human rights" (aka "civil rights") that the humanists advance their agenda. Obama uses the tactic of portraying the non-Christian minority as victims that are unjustly persecuted by Christians for their beliefs.

What Obama does not say is that "civil unions" is just a step in a larger gay agenda which demands that Christians abandon their beliefs that homosexual sex (and any other sex outside of marriage) is immoral.

And not coincidentally the name of the leading group that is fighting to impose "gay marriage" on America is the HRC – the Human Rights Campaign – which describes itself as the nations largest "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization". Confused? You probably thought that "human rights" was about justice for poor people in developing nations.

Finally, here is a sample of President Obama's enthusiastic speech at a "Human Rights Campaign" dinner in 2009. I haven't listened to the whole speech but somehow, I don't think that during this speech he threw in the line, "I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian, it is also a sacred union. God’s in the mix."



-----

[UPDATE]

Just after I finished writing this article, I did a search in the news for "humanist" and found this interesting (and somewhat funny, but vulgar) video in which Bill Maher says that President Obama is only pretending to be a Christian but is really a secular humanist. And Bill Maher should know because he is a certifiable secular humanist himself. It's strange how uncomfortable people seem to be with that label. At one point the conversation strays to the belief by some that Obama is a Muslim. This draws the reaction, "do they know what a Muslim is?" (laughter follows) Oh, but these panelist do not seem to have any idea what a secular humanist is. "You mean like agnostic?" Well, sort of. Along with Maher, it's likely that everyone in that panel would find that they are more in tune with humanist philosophy than the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Abortion and eugenics

But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter. I did not know it was against me they devised schemes, saying:

"Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name be remembered no more."

 – Jeremiah 11:19

"The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb."

This is the billboard that caused so much controversy in New York City – not a sexist depiction of women used in a sales pitch; not a gratuitous depiction of violence; it does not contain obscene language.

All of those are commonplace in billboard advertising – as if that makes such practices excusable. But this pro-life billboard contained none of those images or messages. So why were some New Yorkers so offended by the message of this billboard? What explains the intensity of the reactions by pro-abortion advocates?

A New York Daily News called it a "racial anti-abortion billboard", and quoted the Rev. Al Sharpton as saying, "The billboard was offensive, especially during Black History Month, and I had intended to hold a press conference Friday in front of the billboard to protest the message of racial profiling and against a woman's right to choose."

Under intense political pressure the sign came down.


Symbolically, the message was "aborted"; the child was silenced.

The message which the sign attempted to communicate is that there is a strong link between abortion and eugenics. This has been true historically and it is still true today.

No woman wants to think that her individual "choice" of abortion is somehow linked to a broader eugenic campaign. Perhaps this explains the reaction of some women to this image. The intention is not to point fingers at individuals and to cast blame. We are all victims of the culture of death in which we live.

Whether through the use of contraception or through our promiscuous sexual behavior, we all contribute to the spread of this culture and the resulting loss of morality and of innocent life. Who shall cast the first stone?

“It is an outrageous act of censorship that this billboard was taken down,” said Dr. Alveda King in a press release Friday.  “This billboard should be posted in every city of the country. And it should provoke outrage in the African-American community-not because it is racist, but because of the truth it reveals; the truth that is being kept from the African-American community.”

“Black people in New York and all over the country should be outraged at the numbers of black babies we lose every single day to abortion. An astonishing 60 percent of African-American pregnancies in the five boroughs of New York City end in abortion. That’s unfathomable!”

Many are not aware of the history of Planned Parenthood. Its founder, Margaret Sanger, was clear about her pro-eugenic views. She strongly believed in "population control" and held racist views which led to her creating "women's health clinics" to provide contraception in areas which were poor and non-white.

Along with eugenicists Clarence Gamble she started the "Negro Project" in 1939.
According to the project proposal, widely believed to have been written by Gamble, “The mass of Negroes, particularly in the South, still breed carelessly and disastrously, with the result that the [population] increase among Negroes…is from that portion…least intelligent and fit, and least able to rear children properly.”

The project was to hire three or four “colored Ministers, preferably with social service backgrounds, and with engaging personalities” to travel through the South and propagandize for birth control. As the project proposal stated, “The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal.”

In a remarkably frank letter to Gamble, Sanger wrote that “We do not want Word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”

Gamble in turn proposed that the ministers enlist the aid of black physicians and attempt to organize a “Negro Birth Control Committee” in each community. In a private memo concerning the “Colored Steering Committee,” Gamble wrote that “There is great danger that [the project] will fail because the Negroes think it a plan for extermination. Hence let’s appear to let the colored run it.…”

Despite Gamble’s professed concern for the health and well-being of the indigent Negroes he was targeting, he clashed with South Carolina’s Public Health Director who wanted to provide general health services along with the contraceptive agenda being pushed by Sanger and Gamble. Gamble wrote Sanger that he did not want his funds to be “diluted with a lot of general health work.”
Then as now Planned Parenthood targets minority neighborhoods. And then as now they don't allow their funds to be "diluted" by providing general health services.

In order to get the general public to buy into their agenda, PP presents themselves as helping the poor. They use sex to sell their message by encouraging a promiscuous lifestyle. They claim that the contraceptives – that they peddle like snake oil – will allow all of us to lead a carefree promiscuous lifestyle, and that this will bring us happiness. What this lifestyle really leads to is an increase in sexually transmitted diseases and a spiritual emptiness.

And when contraception fails, as it does over one million times a year in the United States, then Planned Parenthood stands ready to provide the ultimate in contraceptive "choice". The "choice" to terminate the life of an unborn child.

We are being lied to and deceived. The sexual "freedom" which we are sold is not freedom at all – instead it is a slavery to our baser instincts. This depravity gnaws away at our closest personal relationships and weakens our marriages.

True freedom lies in surrendering our lives to God. The Apostle St. Paul says, "for when I am weak, then I am strong." It is when we stop trying to run our lives in opposition to God and finally surrender and become servants of God that He will give us true strength to lead our lives according to His will.

Chastity is a virtue. And abstinence strengthens the body and soul. It requires no pharmacist prescription to abstain; only earnest prayer to God. Nothing could be more natural or more healthy. Being a virgin is not something to be ashamed of, but something to be proud of. Marriage is not simply a legal contract, but a God given sacrament.

Every child is a gift from God.

 ---------

Related articles:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Slaying the abortion dragon

Then she [Judith] took the head out of the bag and showed it to them, and said, "See, here is the head of Holofernes, the commander of the Assyrian army, and here is the canopy beneath which he lay in his drunken stupor. The Lord has struck him down by the hand of a woman. As the Lord lives, who has protected me in the way I went, it was my face that tricked him to his destruction, and yet he committed no act of sin with me, to defile and shame me."

All the people were greatly astonished, and bowed down and worshiped God, and said with one accord, "Blessed art thou, our God, who hast brought into contempt this day the enemies of thy people." And Uzziah said to her, "O daughter, you are blessed by the Most High God above all women on earth; and blessed be the Lord God, who created the heavens and the earth, who has guided you to strike the head of the leader of our enemies.

 – Judith 13:15-18

The Virgin Mary crushing the Serpent

I was thinking more about Lila Rose and the controversy over the tactics of her Live Action organization in attacking the abortion industry giant, Planned Parenthood.

I happened to read the story of Judith from the Bible and immediately saw a connection there. Judith used deception to destroy the enemy of the Hebrew people that was threatening their very existence as a people. She killed the captain of the army that was besieging her town and cut off his head. While this is certainly a grotesque image, it is celebrated by the Hebrews because it leads to the ultimate victory of their people. (See the biblical quote at the top of this article.)

Traditionally, the Virgin Mary is depicted as crushing the head of the serpent. This arises from an interpretation of Genesis 3:15 but is also seen in the apparition of Our Lady of Graces. This vision appeared to St. Catherine Labouré in 1830. Her visions are also the source of the Miraculous Medal.

The Miraculous Medal

The Old Testament heroine Judith is associated with the Virgin Mary because she is called "blessed among women" and because she beheads the enemy of God's chosen people. She also is chaste and never remarries after her husband dies.

The comparison of Lila Rose to Judith is pretty obvious in that Lila has chosen to use a form of deception to defeat the enemy – in this case Planned Parenthood. I'm not trying to turn Lila into a saint, but I think the attacks on her from the likes of Mark Shea at the National Catholic Register are a bit excessive.

We should definitely be praying for Lila and Live Action, because they have taken a path which is fraught with danger. There is temptation lying in wait all around them. So far, they have done an admirable job of resisting those temptations and staying true to their intended mission.

Father Frank Pavone has written a timely article titled "Let the youth teach us about pro-life" which seems to be a discreet endorsement of Live Action. He never mentions Lila Rose or her organization by name, but speaks of the courage and straight forward approach of young pro-lifers.
But most important for us as adults is to understand what will happen when we recruit more youth into the pro-life effort. They will challenge us. They will remind us of things that we have perhaps forgotten, and will even be able to teach us a new way of activism, and even a new way of thinking.
[...]
Is there not truth in this “straight-line thinking?” Sure, we can teach our youth about the “how-to,” which is not always so simple. But we can also learn to re-focus our attention and energy on fundamental things which, in the end, simply have to be said and done. Maybe we’ve become too complicated; maybe we’re making the “it’s not so simple” lines into easy excuses for cowardice or a lack of confidence.
As I mentioned in a previous article, Lila Rose has converted to Catholicism. It's interesting to contemplate how her name relates to the Catholic symbolism for the Virgin Mary. Roses are very closely associated with our Blessed Mother. And the lily [Lila] is a symbol of purity and virginity. So let us have faith that Lila will be guided by of the light of the Stella Maris – Star of the Sea.

Stella Maris – Star of the Sea

Related articles:

The end of "one man, one woman"?

So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.

Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man."

Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Genesis 2:21-24

Amongst all the slogans of "hope" in the Obama campaign, I don't recall any campaign pledges to redefine marriage. Do you?

Here is this shocking breaking news story as reported by MSNBC.
In a major reversal, the Obama administration has notified Congress that it will no longer defend the federal law that says marriage can exist only between a man and a woman.

Attorney General Eric Holder says he has recommended, and the president has agreed, that the law unconstitutionally discriminates against same-sex couples who are legally married but whose status is not recognized by the federal government.

"Given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination," Holder wrote in a statement, the administration has concluded that classifications based on sexual orientation must be subject to a higher constitutional standard than ordinary laws. And the federal Defense of Marriage Act does not meet that test, he says.

Read the full statement here.

Here's the immediate practical effect of this change:

-The Defense of Marriage Act remains in effect unless a federal court strikes it down or Congress repeals it.

-The government will stop defending the law in two court cases, in New York and Connecticut, where the law has been challenged, and in any other cases challenging the law.

-If the law is to be defended, members of Congress would have to step up and join those lawsuits.

In the statement, Holder argued that the legal landscape has changed since the Defense of Marriage Act was passed 15 years ago and signed into law by President Clinton. He mentioned the Supreme Court's ruling striking down criminal laws against homosexuality, the repeal of the military's Don't Ask/Don't Tell policy, and the fact that several lower courts have found the DOMA law unconstitutional.
The repeal of Don't Ask/Don't Tell was couched as a minor change in the way that the military treated homosexuals. We were told Don't Worry/Be Happy.

Christians who warned of the repercussions of such a decision were called alarmist. This is the way that the Humanist agenda is imposed on society – by small incremental steps. At each step if we look further ahead down the road to the logical conclusion we are ridiculed as being reactionary.

I wonder how many people that voted for Obama are right now wishing that they could reverse the clock and undo that gross error? Whether you are Christian or not, you can not help but realize the profound change that this signifies for the American culture.

It is quite amazing to me that while any number of serious political and economic issues that face the United States remain in an unresolved state of stalemate, the Humanist agenda continues its death march forward.

Related articles:

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Lila Rose and the Crusade for Life

What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him?

If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?

So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

But some one will say, "You have faith and I have works."

Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.

 – James 2:14-18

Lila Rose
Last night I found myself praying for Lila Rose. She is the founder of Live Action which has so effectively targeted Planned Parenthood's abortion clinics.

Lila has come under attack – not just from the supporters of abortion, but also from those who are in support of Life. Why? Because her organization has used "sting" tactics to target PP.

The big controversy in the Catholic media is whether it is a sin to use lies as a way to reveal the truth about Planned Parenthood.

I have to confess to being one of those that found this type of sting tactic distasteful. And I have to be honest and say that if it wasn't for the fact that Live Action has been effective in exposing PP that I could easily dismiss her group as an immature and amateurish lot.

But consider the fruits of her work. Didn't Jesus say that "you will know them by their fruits"? Planned Parenthood is writhing in pain like a great and wounded dragon. It is bellowing smoke and fire, as its supporters rush in to save the wounded monster.
"You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit."
 – Matthew 7:16-18
And as you are reading this, you can be sure that the pro-abortion forces are plotting the demise of Lila Rose. They are looking through every detail of her past life searching for a chink in her armor, because a large part of the success of Live Action is Lila Rose herself.

She is a young, beautiful and articulate woman. She should be wholeheartedly embracing the promiscuous lifestyle afforded by the contraceptive culture. In the eyes of her enemies, there is something wrong with her. Why hasn't she been seduced by the earthly temptations of pleasure, wealth and success that have been offered to her, like most of the previous generation?

So I'm praying for Lila Rose. She has found a way to bring to national attention the fact that Planned Parenthood clinics performs more than 300,000 of the one million abortions in the United States annually. A fact which had been previously hidden from public scrutiny.

It is when we are successful that we are most subject to temptation. The times when we are desperate and downcast are usually the times that we turn to help from God.

Lila will find herself in these days being presented with many opportunities. There will also be financial rewards offered to her and I pray that God will help her to discern and choose what is best.

As Christians, let's not be Pharisees and look only at the letter of the law. Let us look instead to God and try to understand his Divine Plan.

Was it right for Jesus to heal on the Sabbath? Were Joseph and Mary correct in concealing the true nature of their Son's birth?

Let's support this Children's Crusade. Lila's generation are the survivors of the contraceptive culture. They have a personal stake in this fight. Their unborn brothers and sisters are the victims of this war.

I leave you with an interview of Lila Rose from "One Billion Stories" about her conversion to Catholicism.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The mystery of the Holy Family


Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.

When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.

But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."

All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel" (which means, God with us).

When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus.

 – Matthew 1:18-25

I don't think that most of us often spend the time to really contemplate the full mystery of the Holy Family. First there is the mystery of the Virgin birth of Jesus Christ. This is a matter of faith which challenges our intellect to bend to the authority of God. From this mystery arises the even greater mystery of the Holy Trinity.

The full mystery of the Holy Family cannot begin to be appreciated until we contemplate the role of St. Joseph. The Bible does not tell us very much about this "just man", but what it does say hints at a much greater truth.

Recently I found myself praying to St. Joseph for courage and strength. I don't know how that happened. But when I turned to him, it seemed that he lifted me up and took me in his arms – just as he must have done many times with the infant Jesus.

Joseph – the man to whom angels appeared in dreams – is the earthly father of Our Lord. He is the spouse of the Virgin Mary. Theirs is a heavenly matrimony, unencumbered by earthly desires. In Mary and in Joseph we see holiness manifested. Their love of God is so absolute and so complete that they both were willing to sacrifice everything in order to fulfill the destinies that God had planned for them.

St. Joseph, pray for us.

Pope Pius IX (Pio Nono) declared St. Joseph to be the Patron of the Universal Church in 1870. March is the month that the Catholic Church dedicates to St. Joseph. This was established officially in an encyclical about St. Joseph written by Pope Leo XIII in 1889 titled "Quamquam Pluries". One hundred years later, Pope John Paul II wrote another encyclical on St. Joseph titled "Redemptoris Custos" in honor of the earlier one by Pope Leo XIII.

The 19th of March, which is just one month away, is the Feast of St. Joseph. According to Canon Law, this is a Holy Day of Obligation. But it is up to the bishops of a country as to how these days are observed. Sadly, the feast of St. Joseph has been given a secondary status and is not celebrated as a day of obligation in the United States.

Nonetheless, Pope Leo XIII had this recommendation in 1889, which I think is as valid today as it was then...
It is a salutary practice and very praiseworthy, already established in some countries, to consecrate the month of March to the honour of the holy Patriarch by daily exercises of piety. Where this custom cannot be easily established, it is as least desirable, that before the feast-day, in the principal church of each parish, a triduo of prayer be celebrated. In those lands where the 19th of March - the Feast of St. Joseph - is not a Festival of Obligation, We exhort the faithful to sanctify it as far as possible by private pious practices, in honour of their heavenly patron, as though it were a day of Obligation.

-------

[I found these prayers to St. Joseph which I liked in a comment section. They are apparently written by Susan E. Stone, since I found them on her Catholic Meditations blog. The blog hasn't been updated in a few years. The last entry I could find from Susan anywhere online was around 2007.]

Saint Joseph,
gentle protector of our Lady,
guardian and teacher of Jesus in his youth,
patron of fathers everywhere,
guardian of families,
helper of all those who work,
thank you for being who you are,
gentle,
kind,
understanding,
and oh so patient.

Saint Joseph,
how often we take you for granted,
and you sit there, in the shadows,
doing the work
that God has asked you to do,
with the skilled hands of a patient craftsman.

On this day,
I wish to honor you for who you are,
and what you have done,
and let me say thank you
for being willing to answer the call of God,
for loving and caring for our Lady,
for loving and caring for our Lord,
for loving and caring for us, your foster children.

Amen.

O Saint Joseph,
Patron of the family,
protector of women and children,
guardian of the church,
how often I turn to you in times of need,
You, who God chose to be the foster father of our Lord,
You, of the kind and merciful heart,
who, when learning the news about our Lady being with child,
and not knowing the Father,
would not make her a spectacle, either,
You, of the faithful heart,
who stood beside her all the way to Bethlehem,
and guarded Jesus and Mary
on the road to Egypt,
who searched diligently for him
when the child Jesus stayed behind at the temple,
who raised our Lord as a good father,
caring for him, teaching him,
guiding him in the ways of being a man,
O Saint Joseph,
I love you for the example you set,
for the way you are so willing to help,
for your willingness to follow God's requests,
for having been there with our Lord when he was a child.

Saint Joseph,
in this my time of need,
pray for me.
Be thou my foster father as well,
and guide me always in the paths of righteousness
that lead me to your foster son, Jesus.

Saint Joseph, pray for me
Now, and at the hour of my death, Amen.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why I wanted to be Catholic?

Meet Brandee! A young girl who has been called by God to the Catholic faith.



She is what I think of as part of the youth movement in the Catholic Church. "Why Catholic? Why not Protestant or Baptist?"

As Brandee says in this video she wanted a deeper relationship with God than what she had found in other Christian denominations. She describes her love for the saints and how she wanted to be like them.

I love her enthusiasm for the Church. I think many "cradle Catholics" take for granted the beauty of the Church. They have been Catholic all their lives and have lost the thrill of the faith. Or they have not explored their faith deeply enough to realize all the treasures that are available within the Church.

Learning about the saints is a wonderful way to discover how God wants us to worship him. In another video Brandee mentions that the EWTN show "Super Saints" by Bob and Penny Lord is one of her favorite shows. It seems like a miracle that the stories of saints that lived hundreds of years ago could have an impact on a young girl that is – like all of us – surrounded by the clutter of messages that emanate from our modern culture. (BTW, I'm also a fan of "Super Saints". And I was thrilled the other day when I found out that Bob and Penny are followers of PublicVigil on Twitter.)

To me the Catholic Church is the fullness of the Christian faith. Protestants tend to emphasize one aspect or another of Christianity. This is very good as far as it goes, but it is like watching a cartoon version of the Gospel. In contrast, the Catholic Church has the intellectual depth of 2000 years of exploring the faith. It has the deep spirituality of the mystical saints like Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross.  It has the ultimate sacrifice of the martyrs through the ages, and across the globe.

All of this is reflected in the mystery of the Mass and in the splendor of the Vatican. It is also a part of the heritage of the various orders of priests and nuns. Brandee reveals to us at the end of the video that she hears God calling her to become a Carmelite nun. She is very fortunate to hear this calling at so young an age. She reminds me a little of Saint Faustina – a simple young girl with a deep spirituality and a great love for the Church who gave the world the devotion to the Divine Mercy. Brandee, if you read this, I highly recommend the Diary of Saint Faustina.
At that moment, the light of God penetrated my being, and I felt that I was Gods’ exclusive property; and I experienced the greatest spiritual freedom, of which I had had no previous idea. And at the same time, I saw the glory of the Divine Mercy and an infinite multitude of souls who were praising His goodness. My soul was completely drowned in God, and I heard the words, You are My well-beloved daughter. The vivid presence of God continued throughout the whole day.
 – From the Diary of St. Faustina (section 1681)
God bless you, beloved Brandee.

Here is another video that Brandee made titled "6 Reasons to Become a Carmelite, According to St. Teresa of the Andes".

St. Teresa of the Andes

Monday, February 14, 2011

Juliet and I

Now this I affirm and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds; they are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart; they have become callous and have given themselves up to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of uncleanness.

You did not so learn Christ! -- assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus. Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

 – Ephesians 4:17-24

This song is a Valentine's day present for all my loyal readers.

Olivia Hussey as Juliet – 1968. (Notice the cross.)

I just want to say that romance is a beautiful thing. And I hope that each of you is able to find someone to share your life with in the spirit of true love. Romantic love is a reflection of the love that God has for each of us. It fills us with feelings that give us a small inkling of the profound depth of the Divine Love.

But I want to warn you that we are being fed a distorted image of romantic love by the modern culture. Love has been conflated with sex with the malicious intent of undermining the religious beliefs of Christians. Sex is intended by God to be a beautiful expression of love within a marriage. But the power of this intensely human experience is abused by society like a narcotic drug.

Human love is degraded to serve the purposes of corporations to sell their goods through "sexy" marketing campaigns. Sex is portrayed by the culture as an end in itself for egotistical self-gratification. This is called hedonism.

What began somewhat innocently in the 1960s as an experiment among the young generation, has been co-opted by the anti-religious forces to form one of the cornerstones of their attack on the Church. I want to tell you to not settle for sex as a form of recreation, because in the process your heart will become hardened and you will lose your capacity to love.

Romeo and Juliet is not a story of "free love" as some would like to depict it. In Shakespeare's play the young lovers are faithful to their Catholic religion and sanctify their love through the sacrament of marriage, through which two become one flesh forever.



Juliet and I
by Public Vigil © 2010
(Video is © 1968 from the film "Romeo and Juliet" by Director Franco Zeffirelli )

Juliet you know
I’m no Romeo
But no matter what you say
I’ll always feel this way
Juliet for you

Juliet for you
Anything I’d do
I’d climb the mountain high
Cross the ocean wide
Juliet it’s true

Juliet it’s true
Everything you do
Fills me through and through
And I only think of you
Juliet do you?

(instrumental break)

Juliet when I
Sleep and close my eyes
Your face is in my dreams
And I’m in Heaven it seems
Juliet with you

Juliet let’s fly
Like two birds up high
Together you and I
Soaring in the sky
Juliet be mine

Juliet be mine
And I’ll always be thine
It had to be this way
I heard the angels say
Juliet and I

(instrumental break)

Juliet believe
In everything you’ll see
Your eyes will see the signs
Your ears will hear the cries
Juliet I do

Juliet I do
I do believe in you
Do you believe in me?
Together can we be
Juliet and I?

Juliet and I
Like fire in the sky
A love that never ends
A river that never bends
Juliet be strong

Juliet be strong
And I will hold you long
Through days and endless nights
In darkness and in light
Juliet it’s true

(instrumental break)

Juliet and then
Kiss me once again
And when our dance is done
In the setting sun

Juliet be true
And I will promise you
A thousand moons and junes
A crown with many jewels
Juliet for you

Juliet you know
I’m no Romeo
But no matter what you say
I’ll always feel this way
Juliet for you!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Heaven again

"But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."
 – John 4:23-24
Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the highest Heaven

The song "Heaven again" is sort of an experiment. I had written out these lyrics and wasn't able to come up with a suitable melody. So I decided to turn it into a sort of hip-hop tune.

The topic is Heaven. The lyrics arose out of a conversation I had with my daughter. She made a comment to the effect that she thought that Heaven would be a kind of place to chill and party after all the hard times that we experience here on Earth. (At least that's how I interpreted what she said.)



Part of the thinking behind her comments I think is this popular idea that everyone is going to gain free access to Heaven after this life is over. This kind of goes hand in hand with another popular notion that sin is an obsolete and old-fashioned idea just to make everyone feel guilty, and scare little kids into doing what their parents say.

There is nothing to support these ideas in the teachings of Jesus. It is popular these days to emphasize the forgiving side of Jesus' teachings, while ignoring his warnings about sin and damnation and the difficulty in attaining entry into Heaven in the afterlife.

One easy cop-out is to say that we don't know what happens after death and that we don't know if Heaven and Hell even exist. These statements are only partially true. It's true that we have no direct physical evidence of Heaven and Hell, or of life after death. But we do have some knowledge of the afterworld from Jesus Christ Himself. We can choose to ignore those teachings, but we to do so at our own peril.

The belief in life after death is essential to Christianity. It is a fundamental part of our faith. It is Christ's conquering of death through His Resurrection that ultimately gives hope to all Christians. All of this revolves around the existence of Heaven and Hell, and our eventual destinies once we leave this life. And while we don't have a definitive picture of Heaven, we do have insights into the nature of God's Kingdom.

I hope that this short song is entertaining, but that it also stimulates some thinking about the nature of Heaven and what it will take to enter into it in the afterlife. I don't think that there is anything in the lyrics of this song that contradicts the teachings of the Catholic Church on Heaven.

In case you're wondering, the title "Heaven again" was simply an alternative I came up with to naming a second version of this song Heaven II. The original title of the song was "Heaven's not a party". When I came up with the title  "Heaven again", I realized that it had a poetic rhyming quality and liked it. So I decided to just keep it – even though it lacks true meaning.

The only person that can talk about being in "Heaven again" is Jesus. For the rest of us, it is what we are striving for as our ultimate goal – at least that should be the goal of all Christians. And that is a good and worthy goal on every level – morally, ethically, spiritually, philosophically. But it is a goal that many people have lost sight of in modern society, and the consequences of that are visible all around us.


Heaven again
© Public Vigil 2010

I don’t know what you believe
But, Heaven’s not a big party
No people flying to and fro
With lots to eat and lots of shows

Neither is it a paradise
Where we go to find delight
No honey flowing rivers here
No gardens full of swans and deer

Heaven is much more than this
Where we can live in holy bliss
God is a spirit and so are we
We live beyond time and earth and dreams

Beyond the sun, beyond the stars
Not very near or very far
In clouds of glory we are dressed
Our very essence is to be blessed

And then there is the Mighty One
And along with Him, His only Son
The Holy Spirit with them resides
The Three are One, are One, are One

All the mysteries are now revealed
The things that Jesus spoke of are real
Reach out and touch his pierced side
And praise him for His sacrifice

God's gift through prayer

He was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples."

And he said to them, "When you pray, say:"

"Father, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread;
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive every one who is indebted to us;
and lead us not into temptation."

And he said to them, "Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, `Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; and he will answer from within, `Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything'? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him whatever he needs.

And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

 – Luke 11:1-13
I had read this passage before and was not able to make sense of it. It begins with the disciples of Jesus asking for instruction in prayer and Jesus responding with the Our Father. The version is slightly different from the one in Matthew, but essentially the same.

But then there is a rather odd parable about asking a friend for bread in the middle of the night. At first the friend refuses, but finally he relinquishes and gets up from his bed and offers the bread that is requested of him.

As I was contemplating this passage this morning I had an insight into its meaning. The parable is speaking of a man praying to God and at first God does not respond. But the man continues praying (he is importune) and after a time God does respond.

This fits a pattern of how Jesus Himself usually responds to those who ask Him for a miracle. At first He does not respond to the request, as if to test the faith of the person. But once there is a true show of faith that is when Jesus offers His help. And at the same time He is very clear in recognizing and holding up as an example the depth of faith of that person.

He seems to be saying through this parable that we must be persistent in prayer. We should not expect God to answer us on the first or second try. But he also promises that if we continue to ask and are sincere in our faith, then an answer will be given.

The gift that we should expect will come in the form of bread, but not physical bread – this  refers to spiritual nourishment. It is our souls that are hungry for nourishment and God will not leave us to starve. Jesus promises us that our souls will be provided spiritual food even in the darkest night, if we only ask for it.

To further emphasize this point, in John 6:35 Jesus says: "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst."

If we have faith; if we are ready to follow him without conditions, then he will receive us and take care of our every need.
"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.  He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him."
 – John 6:53-56

Thursday, February 10, 2011

O Trinity that I adore

"Lord, teach us to pray."
 – Luke 11:1


O Trinity that I adore
© Public Vigil 2011
(Lyrics based on Prayer to the Holy Trinity by Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity)

O my God
Trinity that I adore
Let me forget myself
That I might abide in you
Be still and peaceful my soul
We are in eternity
Let nothing disturb my peace
Nor keep me apart from you
O God, let each moment take me
Deeper into your mystery!

Pacify my soul!
Make it your heaven
Your beloved home
And I’ll never leave you alone

O my Christ
Crucified for love
Would that I might be
The spouse of your heart!
I would anoint you with glory
I would love you unto death!
Yet I sense my frailty
And I ask you to adorn me with yourself

Submerge me, overwhelm me
Substitute yourself in me
That my life may become
A reflection of your life

O Eternal Word
Word of my God
Would that I might spend my life
Listening to you
Would that I might be receptive
And learn all from you
In darkness and in loneliness
May I ever keep my eyes fixed on your great light

O my Beloved Star
Fascinate me
So that I may never leave your radiance

O Father, bestow yourself
Bend down to your little creature
Seeing in her
Only your beloved Son
O my ‘Three’
My All, my Beatitude
Infinite Solitude,
In whom I lose myself
Enclose yourself in me
That I may be absorbed in you
So as to contemplate
In your light the abyss of your greatness!

O Consuming Fire
Spirit of Love
Descend into my soul
And make all in me an incarnation of the Word




Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity
Prayer to the Holy Trinity


“O my God, Trinity whom I adore, let me entirely forget myself that I may abide in you, still and peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity; let nothing disturb my peace nor separate me from you, O my unchanging God, but that each moment may take me further into the depths of your mystery ! Pacify my soul! Make it your heaven, your beloved home and place of your repose; let me never leave you there alone, but may I be ever attentive, ever alert in my faith, ever adoring and all given up to your creative action.

O my beloved Christ, crucified for love, would that I might be for you a spouse of your heart! I would anoint you with glory, I would love you – even unto death! Yet I sense my frailty and ask you to adorn me with yourself; identify my soul with all the movements of your soul, submerge me, overwhelm. me, substitute yourself in me that my life may become but a reflection of your life. Come into me as Adorer, Redeemer and Saviour.

O Eternal Word, Word of my God, would that I might spend my life listening to you, would that I might be fully receptive to learn all from you; in all darkness, all loneliness, all weakness, may I ever keep my eyes fixed on you and abide under your great light; O my Beloved Star, fascinate me so that I may never be able to leave your radiance.

O Consuming Fire, Spirit of Love, descend into my soul and make all in me as an incarnation of the Word, that I may be to him a super-added humanity wherein he renews his mystery; and you O Father, bestow yourself and bend down to your little creature, seeing in her only your beloved Son in whom you are well pleased.

O my `Three’, my All, my Beatitude, infinite Solitude, Immensity in whom I lose myself, I give myself to you as a prey to be consumed; enclose yourself in me that I may be absorbed in you so as to contemplate in your light the abyss of your greatness!”