Thursday, May 26, 2011

Purgatory

Mother Teresa
"O, my Jesus. Forgive us our sins. Save us from the fires of Hell. Lead all souls to Heaven – especially those in most need of Thy Mercy."
– Prayer of Our Lady of Fatima
We would all like to think that upon our deaths we will immediately enter into Heaven. We all imagine ourselves to be "good" persons and deserving of a place in God's Kingdom. Very few people these days even believe in Hell.

If there were only a Heaven and a Hell, then very very few of us would make it into Heaven. Only the saints would be invited to sit at the table and share in the Supper of the Lamb.

But, Holy Mother Church tells us that there is another way for us to enter into Heaven. It is not an easy way. It is through Purgatory.

Purgatory is a place of fire and burning, but unlike in Hell the souls there are full of hope. They are going through a purification by fire, where their sins are being burned away; leaving them eventually in a state of pure white holiness so that they can be received by the saints into Heaven.

I imagine that Purgatory must be a very busy place these days. The false teachings of the past few decades have led astray Christians by the boatload. There have never been so many deceased souls who led their lives full of good intentions, but which were deceived into turning away from the face of God.

This is bad news for them, but can be good news for us. All those souls in Purgatory are still part of the body of the Church. They are called either the Church Suffering, or more fittingly the Church Penitent. If they are to progress in their journey towards Heaven they must spend their time in prayer asking for forgiveness.

And they are assisted by our prayers for them. We – the living here on earth – are the Church Militant.

I just learned something interesting, that at the same time we are praying for them and guiding them towards Heaven, they in turn are praying for us so that we won't imitate them in the error of their ways.

Just think of the multitude of souls praying in Purgatory for us right now so that we can avoid the sins of the "sexual revolution". This is a cause of great hope for us, even as the clouds gather and the skies darken.

I imagine though that there are some stubborn souls in Purgatory who refuse to recognize their sins and to pray for forgiveness. How long will it be before they find themselves – instead of on the path to Heaven – on the path to Hell; not through the condemnation of God, but through their own choosing.

We can pray for those souls and ask the angels and saints looking over them to apply the fires of salvation in such a way so as to melt their hardened hearts. Then it is up to those souls to realize that the piercing pain that they are experiencing is a loving, healing pain and not the cruel pain of torture. It is a form of spiritual surgery which requires time to heal, followed by a period of spiritual rehabilitation through the exercise of prayer.

Imagine the extreme gratitude of those suffering souls, in knowing that they have allies among the Church Militant (us) who are praying for them. In turn they will pray for us from their privileged position in the afterworld. And they can show us the error of their ways so that we don't fall into the same snares and traps of the devil.

We all have loved ones who have passed away that we sometimes wonder about with regards to their fate in the afterlife. They may be relatives or friends; or perhaps it was some famous person that we admired.

We can comfort and console them in their spiritual sickness through our prayers. And give them the strength to bear the pains of redemption; and to never lose hope in God's promise of an eternal life in Heaven.

Mother Mary, comforter of souls in Purgatory, pray for us.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pray for Church in China

[God] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
1 Timothy 2:4
Today, in an unusually blunt and straightforward message, Pope Benedict XVI criticized the persecution of Catholics by the government of China, and asked all Catholics worldwide to pray for the Church in China.



The Vatican's response to increased persecution of Catholics by the Chinese authorities has been to become increasingly vocal in its support of the Church in China. For example, this month's missionary prayer intentions are: "That the Lord may help the Church in China persevere in fidelity to the Gospel and grow in unity."



China has created its own "official Catholic Church" which is called the Catholic Patriotic Association. This state sanctioned institution does not recognize the authority of the Pope. It claims authority to ordain its own bishops who inevitably have strong ties to the Chinese Communist Party. The true Catholic Church in China which remains loyal to the Pope and to the Catholic Church worldwide, is forced to live an underground existence.

May 24th is the feast day of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians which is celebrated throughout China. It has traditionally been a day of pilgrimage to the Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai. But since 2008, the Chinese government has forbidden members of the underground Chinese Church from celebrating pilgrimages to the Shrine of Sheshan.

Our Lady of Sheshan

Following is the complete statement from the Pope on the Church in China at the conclusion of his general audience on Wednesday, May 18.

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

During the Easter season, the liturgy sings to Christ risen from the dead, conqueror of death and sin, living and present in the life of the Church and in the affairs of the world. The Good news of God’s Love made manifest in Christ, the Lamb that was slain, the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep, is constantly spreading until it reaches the ends of the earth, and at the same time it encounters rejection and obstacles in every part of the world. Now, as then, the Cross leads to the Resurrection.

Tuesday, 24 May, is dedicated to the liturgical memorial of Our Lady, Help of Christians, who is venerated with great devotion at the Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai: the whole Church joins in prayer with the Church in China. There, as elsewhere, Christ is living out his passion. While the number of those who accept him as their Lord is increasing, there are others who reject Christ, who ignore him or persecute him: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4). The Church in China, especially at this time, needs the prayers of the universal Church. In the first place, therefore, I invite all Chinese Catholics to continue and to deepen their own prayers, especially to Mary, the powerful Virgin. At the same time all Catholics throughout the world have a duty to pray for the Church in China: those members of the faithful have a right to our prayers, they need our prayers.

We know from the Acts of the Apostles that when Peter was in prison, everyone prayed fervently, and as a result, an angel came to free him. Let us do likewise: let us all pray together intensely for this Church, trusting that by our prayers we can do something very real for her.

Chinese Catholics, as they have said many times, want unity with the universal Church, with the Supreme Pastor, with the Successor of Peter. By our prayers we can obtain for the Church in China that it remain one, holy and Catholic, faithful and steadfast in doctrine and in ecclesial discipline. She deserves all our affection.

We know that among our brother Bishops there are some who suffer and find themselves under pressure in the exercise of their episcopal ministry. To them, to the priests and to all the Catholics who encounter difficulties in the free profession of faith, we express our closeness. By our prayers we can help them to find the path to keep their faith alive, to keep their hope strong, to keep their love for all people ardent, and to maintain in its integrity the ecclesiology that we have received from the Lord and the Apostles, which has been faithfully transmitted to us right down to the present day. By our prayers we can obtain that their wish to remain in the one universal Church will prove stronger than the temptation to follow a path independent of Peter. Prayer can obtain, for them and for us, the joy and the strength to proclaim and to bear witness, with complete candour and without impediment, Jesus Christ crucified and risen, the New Man, the conqueror of sin and death.

With all of you I ask Mary to intercede that all of them may be ever more closely conformed to Christ and may give themselves ever more generously to their brethren. I ask Mary to enlighten those who are in doubt, to call back the straying, to console the afflicted, to strengthen those who are ensnared by the allure of opportunism. Virgin Mary, Help of Christians, Our Lady of Sheshan, pray for us!

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Truth

"I am the way, and the truth, and the life."
 – John 14:6
Oldest known icon of Christ Pantokrator
The one thing that distinguishes Christianity from all other religions is that it uncompromisingly seeks the truth.

It is from within Christian society that the scientific method developed. Why didn't this develop in other cultures that held other religious beliefs?

It certainly wasn't because of a lack of technical sophistication. It wasn't out of a lack of understanding of mathematics or physics. Many ancient societies had very sophisticated understandings of those basic sciences.

It is because those religious belief systems were not based on the divine truth. Ultimately, those religions were philosophical systems which required that the facts be twisted in order to fit into a humanly created concept of truth.

But because Christianity is born of the truth revealed by the Son of God, it was able to transcend human truth and gave birth to the modern sciences. It is not by denying God that man finds the truth, but by seeking the face of God.

The modern sciences have revealed physical truths that were hidden from the greatest intellects of the ancient world. They were unable to progress in their pursuit of the sciences not because of a lack of technology, but because of a form of intellectual and spiritual blindness.

Jesus, who restored the sight to a man blind from birth, opened the eyes of Christian scientists so that they could see the truth that was always present. When Jesus healed the sick it was not in order to bring fame to himself, but so that the people of his time would come to believe in the one true God.

And so perhaps when Jesus through the Holy Spirit revealed to Christian scientists truths that had remained undiscovered throughout the history of man, it may have been as a sign so that the people of the world would come to see Christianity as the one true religion.

Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the "Spirit of truth". There is one truth that rules the universe which is God. When God created man, He created us in His own image. And the universe is also created in way that reflects His truth. If we find beauty in the universe, it is because there is beauty in the fundamental truth which is God.

Physics teaches us that the universe is both simple and profound. No matter how much we learn about the basic building blocks of nature, there is much more to be learned. When we think we are approaching a fundamental understanding of physics, suddenly a whole new door opens which reveals new secrets but also reveals new unexplained mysteries.

At any time in our past, man's knowledge of the universe was only a sliver of what we know now; and our present scientific knowledge is only an infinitesimally small sliver of God's truth.

You would think that scientists would be the first to appreciate this. But once again, Stephen Hawking has come out with a statement denying the existence of God.
"There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark."
How sad that Hawking can not come up with a better vision of a human brain than a computer. In so doing he attempts to convert mankind – the ultimate creation of God – into simply a machine. Hawking's vision lacks a soul.

Christianity is primarily concerned about the spiritual truths, because these truths transcend the physical truths. The scientific truths which we discover in the laboratory are mere physical manifestations of God's truth. They can never refute the eternal spiritual truths which Jesus taught us in His short time here on earth.

Without knowledge of the afterlife, life here on earth is without meaning. It is only when we realize that our earthly life is a pilgrimage towards Heaven that we can truly come to understand God's purpose for our lives.

Our lives are meant to be a preparation for our meeting with the God who created us. Our earthly lives are short, but our heavenly afterlife lasts forever. It is better to sacrifice for a short while than to suffer for all of eternity.

Is Hawking trying to tell us that rather than be "afraid of the dark" that we should embrace "the dark"? And what do you make of this cryptic answer from Hawking to the question "Why are we here?"
"The universe is governed by science. But science tells us that we can't solve the equations, directly in the abstract. We need to use the effective theory of Darwinian natural selection of those societies most likely to survive. We assign them higher value."
It seems to me that there is more than a hint of eugenics (and possibly transhumanism?) in the strange phrase "Darwinian natural selection of those societies most likely to survive". It's odd that it doesn't seem to occur to Hawking that an unborn child that was found to be genetically susceptible to "motor neuron disease" might very will be the victim of "selection". He would not be assigned "higher value" but instead be "selected" for an early death based on "scientific" Darwinian principles.

It is only through God's mercy that such a child would be allowed to live a full life. Hawking was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) at the age of 21. MND is typically fatal within 2–5 years.

I'm sure there are many people praying for a conversion of the heart for Stephen Hawking. In the past he has been more open to the idea of God the creator. And I suppose it is no coincidence that the secular media plays up the atheistic comments of a well-known scientist. Most likely if he were to speak of his profound belief in God, then the mass media would pay no attention. It just would not fit the secular humanist agenda which the popular media has totally bought into.

It is sad because Hawking statements are an example of a disturbing trend towards a militant atheism that is not just satisfied with expressing doubt in the existence of God, but demands a total denial of God.

I am reminded of the readings from Sunday's Mass. If you think of sin as turning away from the truth of God, then you can see how seeking the truth leads us to God. And conversely how seeking God leads us to the truth. They are one and the same.
"Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.... Save yourselves from this crooked generation."
Acts 2:36,40

Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips.
 – 1 Peter 21-22

"All who came before me are thieves and robbers... I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved.... I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."
 – John 10:8,9,10

Friday, May 13, 2011

Our Lady of Fatima

I will grant my two witnesses power to prophesy.
 – Revelation 11:3
Today, May 13, is the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima. It marks the 94th anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady to the three shepherd children – Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta – in 1917.

Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta
Today also marks the 30th anniversary of the tragic shooting of Pope John Paul II in 1981. Blessed Pope John Paul attributed his survival and full recovery from the injuries caused by the assassin's bullets to the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima.



Here is historic footage of the first Papal visit to Fatima by Pope Paul VI on May 13,1967 – the 50th anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady of Fatima.



Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass at the Shrine of Fatima just one year ago on May 13, 2010. The Mass was attended by more than 500,000 pilgrims.



As I was recently reading the encyclical Spe Salvi by Pope Benedict XVI, I came across a quote by the Vietnamese martyr Paul Le-Bao-Tinh about the "three children [who were freed from] the fiery furnace". I immediately thought of the three children of Fatima and how they were shown a terrifying vision of Hell by the Virgin Mary.
"We saw as it were a sea of fire. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now following back on every side like sparks in huge fires, without weight or equilibrium, amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear. (it must have been this sight which caused me to cry out, as people say they heard me do). The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying nad repellant likeness to frightful and unknown animals, black and transparent like burning coals."
But St. Paul Le-Bao-Tinh was not referring to the children of Fatima. How could he have been since he died long before they were born. He was referring to the children (or young men) of the book of Daniel who were saved by an Angel.

After the Fatima children saw the vision of souls suffering in Hell, they did all they could to try to save others from sharing the same fate by "making sacrifices for sinners" as Our Lady had instructed them. They performed the strictest penances they could come up with to try to offer their suffering in exchange for those who would otherwise be condemned.

And they were given the prayer of Fatima which we now recite after every decade of the Rosary:
"O, my Jesus. Forgive us our sins. Save us from the fires of Hell. Lead all souls to Heaven. Especially, those in most need of Thy Mercy. Amen."
There is more information about the penances of blessed Jacinta and Francisco Marto here. Francisco died at age 10 and Jacinta at age 9.
At the end of October 1918, Francisco and Jacinta fell ill, almost at the same time. When Lucia visited them, she found Jacinta elated she said;"Our Lady came to see us and said that she is coming to take Francisco to heaven very soon. She asked me if I still wanted to convert more sinners. I told her I did. She told me I would be taken to a hospital and that I would suffer greatly there, but that I should suffer for the conversion of sinners, in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and for the love of Jesus."
[...]
Jacinta often separated from the others and alone by herself would fall to her knees to pray for sinners. Then calling Lucia and Francisco she would ask: "Are you praying with me? It is necessary to pray much to save souls from hell!... How sorry I am for sinners! If I could only show them hell!" Even after she was taken sick, which eventually led to her death, she would get out of bed to bow her head to the floor, and pray as the Angel had taught for the glory of God, Jesus in the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference by which God is offended and to beg for the conversion of poor sinners. A priest finally had to tell her, as she would fall over at times doing this, that she should say the prayer in bed.
[...]
What Francisco wanted most was to console Our Lord offended by the sins of men. For this reason, on the eve of his death, he said to Lucy: "Look! I am very sick; in a little while I will go to heaven. "Then, when you are there, make sure not to forget to pray for sinners, for the Holy Father, for me and Jacinta," said Lucia.  "Yes, I will. replied Francisco but look, you had better ask Jacinta to do these things, because I fear I will forget when I see Our Lord!  I want to console Him first."
Lucia lived to be 97 years old. She became a Discalced Carmelite nun and took the name Sister Maria Lucia of Jesus. She died on February 13, 2005.

On May 11 at the weekly General Audience the Pope reminded us to pray the Rosary during the month of May which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Finally, I address young people, the sick and newlyweds, exhorting all to intensify the pious practice of the holy rosary, especially in this month of May dedicated to the Mother of God. I invite you, dear young people, to value this traditional Marian prayer, which helps to understand better and to assimilate the central moments of the salvation realized by Christ. I exhort you, dear sick, to turn with confidence to the Virgin Mary through this pious exercise, entrusting all your needs to her. I exhort you, dear newlyweds, to make the praying of the rosary in the family, a moment of spiritual growth under the gaze of the Virgin Mary.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Joy

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the lands!
    Serve the LORD with gladness!
    Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the LORD is God!
    It is he that made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
    and his courts with praise!
    Give thanks to him, bless his name!
For the LORD is good;
    his steadfast love endures for ever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations.

– Psalm 100
 Vietnamese martyr and saint, Paul Le-Bao-Tinh (1793-1857)
Our society places a great emphasis on "happiness". We are told to constantly ask ourselves "Are you happy?" And are then counseled to make life decisions based on the answer to that question.

If the answer is "Yes, I am happy" then we are told to continue doing what we are doing. But if the answer is "No, I'm not very happy" then we are advised to find a way to change our situation. The goal seems to be to attain a permanent state of happiness.

The problem with this approach to life is that it just does not work. It doesn't work because it bears no relationship to reality. It suggests that if we are not continually happy, then there is something wrong with our lives.

Corporations actively promote this false philosophy because it allows them to easily sell their products with the promise that they will make you "happy". They may not say this explicitly, but it is always implied by the smiling faces of those who have just purchased their products. See the man with the new iPad; see how happy he is? See the family on their vacation cruise; see how happy they are? See the woman using the latest form of contraception/abortifacient; see how happy she is?

Whatever it is they're selling, it's going to fix your problem and make you happy.

But life inherently involves suffering. We all get sick; we all die. We all have loved ones who suffer through hardships. And nothing is going to "fix" that.

I think that parents have totally bought into this phony philosophy and make the mistake of trying to keep their children constantly "happy". The modern parents motto is "I just want my child to be happy." So they plop them in front of the TV to watch happy shows. And take them to McDonald's to get their "Happy Meal". (At least McD doesn't beat around the bush. They claim right up front that their meal is going to make you "happy". )

This happiness mindset creates an expectation in young people that life is just one big party. And if they are not all smiles and upbeat all the time, well then there is something wrong with them. In fact someone will probably step up to them and ask them directly to their face, "What's wrong with you?" In other words, "why aren't you smiling?" Maybe their dog just died. Should they still be happy? The trained response from the "happy crowd" is always the same. "Oh, I'm so sorry. But don't worry. You'll get over it." And then you can quickly rejoin the "happy crowd".

Is there anything wrong with being happy? No, not at all. And in fact God wants us to be happy – just not all the time. Life is a series of happy moments and sad moments. That's what life is. And without the sad moments, the happy moments would lose their meaning.

But is there something else besides happiness that we should be seeking? Yes. Joy.

Joy is knowing that God loves you and unlike happiness, this is a constant. It is something that you can count on come rain or shine. In the deepest darkest night the light of God's love continues to shine on us.

Joy is expressed by loving God and loving our neighbor. Joy is true happiness. It is the happiness that we are truly seeking, not the one that corporations try to sell to us. And it costs us nothing in terms of money.

Joy comes not through receiving, but through giving.

In Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical letter Spe Salvi, he tells us about the Vietnamese martyr St. Paul Le-Bao-Tinh who was beheaded in 1857. He suffered terrible tortures and yet he writes...
"In the midst of these torments, which usually terrify others, I am, by the grace of God, full of joy and gladness, because I am not alone – Christ is with me."
He is "full of joy and gladness". Was he "happy" that he was imprisoned and tortured? No, but that did not diminish his joy. And he has more to say...
"Beloved brothers, as you hear all these things may you give endless thanks in joy to God, from whom every good proceeds; bless the Lord with me, for his mercy is for ever ... I write these things to you in order that your faith and mine may be united."
He says "give endless thanks in joy to God". The saints do not fear suffering.

Most of us will never be faced with torture, but we may have to suffer through a terminal illness. Let us pray that this suffering will serve to increase our faith in God by placing us at the foot of the Cross alongside the Virgin Mary. "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners; now, and at the hour of our death. Amen."

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Angry at God

"But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him."
 – Luke 15:20
When things go terribly, tragically wrong? Who is to blame? When life is unfair and we are punished for no reason at all, who should we be angry at?

Well, the boss; the man in charge. That's God, right? After all, he's the one with the big plan. He's the all-seeing, all-knowing eternal one. He's supposed to care about each and everyone of us.

Our usual response to personal suffering is "I don't believe in God". Why? Because if there is a God then why does he allow these bad things to happen? Or even worse, why does he make these bad things happen?

Fine then. If you don't believe in God, then why are you angry at God? How can you be angry at something that according to you doesn't even exist?

And then to get back at God our usual response is to do things to make God angry. God doesn't like cursing; fine, I'll be foul-mouthed. God doesn't like sex outside of marriage; fine, I'll be promiscuous. God likes us to pray to him; fine, I won't pray. How do you like that God? How does it make you feel? What? You started it, remember? You were the one that punished me for no reason. Are you angry at me? Fine, then I'm angry right back at you.

But, who are you talking to? Remember? You don't believe in God. He doesn't exist.

And who are you punishing? Are you punishing God, or are you punishing yourself? God does not stop loving you just because you are angry at him. God does not love you any less just because you argue that you don't believe in him.

But we are human after all and when we suffer a great loss or great pain, we feel empty; we feel lost. We feel alone. Where is God?

God is there at our moment of greatest pain. At times he may be the only one we have left. God's infinite love and mercy are always there to forgive us and embrace us.

What we need – what we often lack at times like these – is a deep faith in God.

The saints are our role models. They welcome hardship. It only deepens their faith.

Most of us with our immature and undeveloped faith, lose our faith in God at the first real hardship. As children we are given the grace of an innocent faith that never questions God. But as we grow older if this faith has not been nurtured and has not matured, then when our faith is tested it quickly withers.

It is like a young seedling that sprouts quickly. It has all the nutrition it needs to begin life in the very seed from which it sprung. But if the young plant is not given the right amounts  of water and fertilizer and sunlight, then it will never reach maturity.

Our culture is the environment in which we grow – in which we are "cultivated". It is a barren and poisonous environment which threatens the very existence of our faith.

Don't be angry at God. He is doing everything he can to combat the evil one. It is up to us to do our part to create a Kingdom of Heaven here on earth. We can start inside our own selves. We can obtain God's nourishment for our souls by praying to God and allowing him to establish his kingdom inside of us.

Our job is to love God. God's job is to love us. You can be sure that God is doing his job, but are you doing your job?

Don't be angry at God. You are just punishing yourself, by turning away from him. Turn and face God. Convert. Ask him to forgive you. Repent. Feel the joy of God's love. Worship God.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Hope


Pope Benedict XVI's second encyclical letter is titled "Spe Salvi" or "Saved in Hope". It is a beautiful and profound piece. I had purchased a copy sometime ago, but never read it fully. I picked it up today because of a reference to it in an article I was reading.

It begins...
“SPE SALVI facti sumus”—in hope we were saved, says Saint Paul to the Romans, and likewise to us (Rom 8:24).
"In hope we are saved" is the topic of the rest of this wonderful gift from the Pope to the Church and the world. His writing is very profound and at times even mystical. It can be challenging to decipher his thoughts, but the rewards in following him along a journey through the historical teachings of the Church, and the philosophical elements that are embodied in those teachings are well worth the cost of wrestling with the myriad of facts and ideas that he presents.

After reading one of the Pope's many writings on Christianity, the writings of his Protestant contemporaries seem so trivial and pedestrian in comparison. Pope Benedict is like a deep well of knowledge of the Christian faith. Or even I dare say, like a vast and deep reservoir of knowledge of Church history and teachings. And that is combined with a profound analysis and the divine inspiration coming from the Holy Spirit which is so essential to understanding the true meaning of Scripture and the writings of the Saints.

From his German cultural background he has inherited a deep love and understanding of various schools of philosophy. This can be a benefit for understanding Christian teaching, but it can also be a handicap because divine revelation teaches us so much more than philosophy which is after all just the product of human thought.

In one section, the Holy Father asks the question "Eternal life -- what is it?" And then attempts to give an answer. He begins with "the classical form of the dialogue with which the rite of Baptism expressed the reception of an infant into the community of believers"...
“What do you ask of the Church?” Answer: “Faith”. “And what does faith give you?” “Eternal life”.
"Faith" is what the parents of the child ask of the Church. What more could any Christian parent ask for than that their child be given the grace of "faith"? "Faith" is that essential element of Christianity which is so elusive for those who have not received this gift of the Holy Spirit. How does one convert from the pathetic form of life of the unbeliever to the joyful state of one who truly believes in God and his Love and Mercy?

From faith flows "eternal life". But Pope Benedict wants us to realize that we need to be fully aware of the true meaning of the words "eternal life". He warns us that this is a concept which we can never fully understand while we are attached to our earthly bodies. He suggests that what we really mean by "eternal life" is a longing for true happiness, but that the form of this happiness is a mystery. And we call that mystery "eternal life" just in order to give it a name so that we can speak about it...
This unknown “thing” is the true “hope” which drives us.... The term “eternal life” is intended to give a name to this known “unknown”. Inevitably it is an inadequate term that creates confusion. “Eternal”, in fact, suggests to us the idea of something interminable, and this frightens us; “life” makes us think of the life that we know and love and do not want to lose, even though very often it brings more toil than satisfaction...
Ultimately, the Pope is teaching us here something about the nature of Heaven. A little earlier in this encyclical he says that modern man has a problem with "eternal life", because it seems to confront him with a choice. Should he sacrifice the pleasures of his present life in exchange for an "eternal life" in the hereafter?
But then the question arises: do we really want this—to live eternally? Perhaps many people reject the faith today simply because they do not find the prospect of eternal life attractive. What they desire is not eternal life at all, but this present life, for which faith in eternal life seems something of an impediment.
The solution of the modern world to this dilemma is to reject God completely. Life becomes a pursuit of worldly pleasures. But then life loses its meaning and purpose. A human being is reduced to a collection of atoms and molecules and the dignity of man is lost. We try to fill this vacuum with gadgets and toys and vacations and thrill seeking, but at the end of the day it is all empty and meaningless.

Pope Benedict in the conclusion of this section of the encyclical letter attempts to give us a taste of what "eternal life" would really be like. He asks us to...
... imagine ourselves outside the temporality that imprisons us and in some way to sense that eternity is ... something more like the supreme moment of satisfaction, in which totality embraces us and we embrace totality .... It would be like plunging into the ocean of infinite love, a moment in which time ... no longer exists. We can only attempt to grasp the idea that such a moment is life in the full sense, a plunging ever anew into the vastness of being, in which we are simply overwhelmed with joy.
Following this mystical vision of Heaven, the Pope quotes from Jesus at the Last Supper ...
"I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you" (John 16:22).
Clearly, Pope Benedict believes that Jesus is speaking here not just of his appearance after the Resurrection to the Apostles, but also to his welcoming them into the "eternal life" of Heaven.

And this is the ultimate source of "hope" for Christians. It is this promise from God of "eternal life". This then is the purpose and goal of a Christian life which is rooted in faith in God's infinite love and mercy. In the words of Pope Benedict...
God is the foundation of hope: not any god, but the God who has a human face and who has loved us to the end, each one of us and humanity in its entirety. His Kingdom is not an imaginary hereafter, situated in a future that will never arrive; his Kingdom is present wherever he is loved and wherever his love reaches us. His love alone gives us the possibility of soberly persevering day by day, without ceasing to be spurred on by hope, in a world which by its very nature is imperfect. His love is at the same time our guarantee of the existence of what we only vaguely sense and which nevertheless, in our deepest self, we await: a life that is “truly” life.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Regina Coeli -- Queen of Heaven

And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
 – Revelation 12:1
The Regina Coeli is sung or recited in place of the Angelus during the Easter season, from Holy Saturday through Pentecost Sunday.



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 did merit to bear, alleluia.
Has risen, as He said, alleluia.
Pray for us to God, alleluia.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day María!

"All generations will call me blessed."
 – Luke 1:48

Mother Mary -- Queen of Heaven
Happy Mother's Day greetings to all mothers and all future mothers! And a very special Mother's Day greeting to the Theotokos, Mother of God, the blessed Virgin Mary! Remember that May is traditionally the month of Mary and give special devotion to Our Lady during this month.

On a more somber note, we can dedicate the month of May to pray for the Church in China. Catholics and other Christians suffer under constant persecution by the communist government of China. May is a special month for Chinese Catholics. The Church in China is consecrated to the Virgin Mary under her title "Help of Christians". The feast day of Our Lady, Help of Christians, is celebrated May 24. The Sheshan Basilica is a favorite pilgrimage site for Chinese Catholics at this time of year.

In 2008 Pope Benedict XVI dedicated the following prayer to the Catholic Church in China and declared May 24 to be an annual world day of prayer for the Church in China. The reaction of the Chinese authorities in 2008 was to ban pilgrimages to the Sheshan Basilica.
Virgin Most Holy, Mother of the Incarnate Word and our Mother,
venerated in the Shrine of Sheshan under the title "Help of Christians",
the entire Church in China looks to you with devout affection.
We come before you today to implore your protection.
Look upon the People of God and, with a mother’s care, guide them
along the paths of truth and love, so that they may always be
a leaven of harmonious coexistence among all citizens.

When you obediently said "yes" in the house of Nazareth,
you allowed God’s eternal Son to take flesh in your virginal womb
and thus to begin in history the work of our redemption.
You willingly and generously cooperated in that work,
allowing the sword of pain to pierce your soul,
until the supreme hour of the Cross, when you kept watch on Calvary,
standing beside your Son, who died that we might live.

From that moment, you became, in a new way,
the Mother of all those who receive your Son Jesus in faith
and choose to follow in his footsteps by taking up his Cross.
Mother of hope, in the darkness of Holy Saturday you journeyed
with unfailing trust towards the dawn of Easter.
Grant that your children may discern at all times,
even those that are darkest, the signs of God’s loving presence.

Our Lady of Sheshan, sustain all those in China,
who, amid their daily trials, continue to believe, to hope, to love.
May they never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world,
and of the world to Jesus.
In the statue overlooking the Shrine you lift your Son on high,
offering him to the world with open arms in a gesture of love.
Help Catholics always to be credible witnesses to this love,
ever clinging to the rock of Peter on which the Church is built.
Mother of China and all Asia, pray for us, now and for ever. Amen!

Our Lady of Sheshan

Our Lady of China

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Can I Live?

Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."
 – John 6:67-68
I'm not one to fawn over popular artists. I view their work with great suspicion because I realize that if they consistently speak the truth as revealed by Christ that they will not be popular for long. They will be quickly cut off by their corporate benefactors. No longer will they be promoted on talk shows and through the press. No longer will they be granted appearances on top rated TV shows like American Idol and Dancing With the Stars. They will be treated like pariahs by the corporate media and they will be erased from the cultural memory just as surely as Stalin's Soviet bureaucracy rubbed out the images of those former communist heroes that were reclassified as enemies of the state.

And yet despite all that, once in a while a brief glimpse of the truth does manage to appear in the corporate media. Such was the case in 2005 when Nick Cannon released the song "Can I live?" which describes his own mother's decision not to abort her child in 1979. Nick was born October 8, 1980.

(Notice that the dates of the video account and Nick's birthdate do not line up since October is the 10th month of the year. In real life Nick's mother, Beth Gardner, was about 21 years old when she gave birth to him. His father was James Cannon, a televangelist. I don't know for sure, but I assume that they were married at the time.)

That song was part of an album titled "Stages" which was never released.
In 2005, Cannon formed his own record label, Can I Ball Records, with plans to release his second studio album, entitled Stages, later that year. The album's first single, "Can I Live?", a pro-life song, was released in July 2005 followed by the second single "Dime Piece" in March 2006. But it was never released because of Nick Cannon's acting career.
Nick is best known these days as the husband of Mariah Carey. They were married on April 30, 2008. On April 30, 2011, the couple's third wedding anniversary, Mariah gave birth to twins – a boy and a girl. There is some controversy as to whether Carey became pregnant naturally or through in vitro fertilization. My guess is that it was an artificially produced pregnancy. The fact that the children are fraternal twins points towards that, along with Carey's age of 41 at the time of pregnancy.

Being pro-Life is more than just being against abortion. In vitro fertilization kills many embryos in the process of producing a viable pregnancy. And to be fully in keeping with the Catholic Church's teachings on the dignity of human life requires forgoing sex outside of marriage; and even within marriage requires a rejection of artificial contraception. It is a hard teaching; it is a counter-cultural teaching. Jesus never promised us an easy road when we choose to follow Him.




Can I Live?
by Nick Cannon

I'm talking, mom, I know the situation is personal
But it's something that has to be told
As I was making this beat
You was all I could think about
You heard my voice

Just think, just think...
What if you could just, just blink yourself away?
Just, just wait, just pause for a second
Let me plead my case

It's the late seventies, you seventeen
And having me, that will ruin everything
It's a lot of angels waiting on their wings
You see me in your sleep, so you can't kill your dreams

Three hundred dollars, that's the price of living?
Mommy, I don't like this clinic
Hopefully you'll make the right decision
And don't go though with the knife decision

But it's hard to make the right move when you in high school
Now you gotta work all day and take night school
Hopping on the bus and the rain is pouring
What you want, morning sickness or the sickness of mourning?
Can I live?

I'll always be a part of you
Trust your soul, know it's always true
If I could talk I'd say to you
Can I live?
Can I live?

I'll always be a part of you
Trust your soul, know it's always true
If I could talk I'd say to you
Can I live?
Can I live?

I'm a child of the King, ain't no need to go fear me
And I see the flowing tears, so I know that you hear me
When I move in your womb that's me being scary
'Cuz who knows what my future holds?

The truth be told you ain't told a soul
You ain't even showing, I'm just two months old
Through your clothes try to hide me, deny me
Went up three sizes

Your pride got you lying, saying ain't nothing but a migraine
It ain't surprising you not trying to be in WIC food lines
Your friends look at you funny, but look at you mommy
That's a life inside, take a look at your tummy

What is becoming, Ma? I'm Oprah bound
You can tell he's a star from the ultrasound
Our spirits connected, doors open now,
Nothing but love and respect, thanks for holding it down
She let me live

I'll always be a part of you
Trust your soul, know it's always true
If I could talk I'd say to you
Can I live?
Can I live?

I'll always be a part of you
Trust your soul, know it's always true
If I could talk I'd say to you
Can I live?
Can I live?

It's uplifting for real, y'all
I ain't passing no judgement
Ain't making no decisions
I'm just telling y'all my story

I love life, I love my mother for giving me life
We all need to appreciate life
And a strong woman who had to make a sacrifice

Thanks for listening...
Thanks for listening...
Momma, thanks for listening