November 30, 2015

November 30, 2015 – Feast of Saint Andrew, Apostle

St. Andrew was a native of Bethsaida in Galilee, a fisherman by trade, and a former disciple of John the Baptist. He was the one who introduced his brother Peter to Jesus, saying, "We have found the Messiah." Overshadowed thereafter by his brother, Andrew appears again in the Gospels introducing souls to Christ. After Pentecost, Andrew evangelized on a wider scale, and was martyred at Patras in southern Greece on a cross in the form of an "X". This type of cross is known as "St. Andrew's cross."

St. Andrew the Apostle

Andrew, Peter's brother, and John were the first disciples to follow the Lord. The Gospel of John [1:35-42] describes their initial meeting with Jesus. Andrew did not belong to the inner circle of the apostles, Peter, James and John, and the evangelists narrate nothing extraordinary about him [John 6:8]; but tradition extols his great love for the Cross and for the Savior. The Church distinguishes him in the Mass [his name occurs in the Canon and in the Libera since the time of Pope St. Gregory I] and in the Breviary.

The story of his martyrdom comes to us from popular piety. The pagan judge exhorted him to sacrifice to the gods. Andrew replied: "I sacrifice daily to almighty God, the one, true God. Not the flesh of oxen and the blood of goats, but the unspotted Lamb upon the altar. All the faithful partake of His flesh, yet the Lamb remains unharmed and living." Angered by this reply, Aegeas commanded him to be thrown into prison. The people would have freed him, but Andrew calmed the mob and implored them not to do so.

When Andrew was led to the place of martyrdom, on seeing the cross from a distance he cried: "O good Cross, so long desired and now set up for my longing soul I confident and rejoicing come to you; exultingly receive me, a disciple of Him who hung on you." After being tied to the cross Andrew hung there for two days, unceasingly proclaiming the doctrine of Christ until his death.

Adapted Excerpt from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch.

He is the patron saint of: Scotland; Russia; Barbados; Ukraine; Sicily; Greece; Cyprus; Romania; fishermen; textile workers; singers; miners; pregnant women; butchers; farm workers.

Prayer for the Feast of Saint Andrew

We humbly entreat Thy majesty, O Lord, that as the blessed Apostle Andrew was once a teacher and ruler of Thy Church: so he may be a constant advocate for us before Thee. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

St. Andrew Prayer

O Christ, our Lord,
Who didst beautify the most blessed Andrew
with the grace of apostleship,
and the crown of martyrdom,
by granting to him this special gift,
that by preaching the mystery of the cross,
he should merit death on the cross;
grant us to become most true lovers of Thy holy cross,
and denying ourselves,
to take up our cross
and follow Thee;
that by sharing Thy sufferings in this life,
we may deserve the happiness
of obtaining life everlasting. Amen.


The Holy Father's Prayer Intentions for December 2015

Please remember the Holy Father Pope Francis' intentions in prayer through the month of December:
General Intention: That all may experience the mercy of God, who never tires of forgiving.
*** 
Missionary Intention: That families, especially those who suffer, may find in the birth of Jesus a sign of certain hope.

November 29, 2015

Seven Saints Who Remind Us of Christ's Incarnation and His Second Coming in Glory During Advent

Below are seven saints whose various commemorations occur during the liturgical season of Advent — the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, St. Francis Xavier, St. John Damascene, St. Nicholas, St. Ambrose, St. Lucy and St. John of the Cross.


MARY

We call the Blessed Virgin the "Theotokos," ["Mother of God" or "God-bearer"] to reaffirm the central truth of what occurred in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. Our Lady's Fiat, her "Yes" to God exhibits her total trust and devotion to the Father's Will. We must live our lives for God by emulating Mary's example. Two Marian feasts occur during this season of Advent: the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception [Dec. 8] and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe [Dec. 12]. From Mary we learn: love, humility, justice, openness to God's grace and the willingness to act.


ST. FRANCIS XAVIER (DEC. 3) 

St. Francis Xavier [1506-1552] tirelessly evangelized the Far East. He converted more people during his life than anyone since the Apostle Paul — personally baptizing some 50,000 Catholics in ten years [including the entire city of Goa, India]. St. Francis spread the faith in India, China, Japan and the Philippines. He was instrumental in founding the Jesuit Order and was a close friend of St. Ignatius of Loyola. He is the patron saint of missionaries, and the dioceses of; Green Bay, Wisconsin, Joiliet, Illinois and the archdiocese of Indianapolis, as well as, Borneo, China, the East Indies, Goa, India, Navarre, Spain, Australia and New Zealand. The effects of St. Francis's evangelization has lasted for centuries. Ask for St. Francis Xavier's intercession if you desire your time spent in Advent to bear fruit long afterwards.


ST. JOHN DAMASCENE (DEC. 4)
The one who seeks God continually will find him, for God is in everything.
— St. John Damascene 

In the early 8th century AD, iconoclasm, a movement opposed to the veneration of icons, gained acceptance in the Byzantine court. In 726, despite the protests of St. Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople, Emperor Leo III issued his first edict against the veneration of images and their exhibition in public places.

St. John Damascene [676-749] undertook a spirited defense of holy images. His "Apologetic Treatises against those Decrying the Holy Images", supported religious art. He not only disputed the Byzantine emperor, but adopted a simplified style that allowed the controversy to be followed by the common people. Decades after his death, St. John's writings would play an important role during the Second Council of Nicaea [787] which settled the icon dispute [sanctioning the veneration of religious images].


ST. NICHOLAS (DEC. 6)
The giver of every good and perfect gift has called upon us to mimic Gods giving, by grace, through faith, and this is not of ourselves.
— St. Nicholas of Myra

St. Nicholas, also called Nikolaos of Myra, [270-343] was a 4th-century Greek Bishop of Myra, in Asia Minor [present day Turkey]. The great veneration with which St. Nicholas has been honored for many ages and the number of altars and churches that are dedicated in his memory testify to his holiness. Nicholas was chosen bishop and achieved notoriety by his extraordinary piety, zeal for the Gospel and for his many miracles. He suffered imprisonment in the persecution waged under Dioletian. He was present at the Council of Nicaea where he condemned Arianism. St. Nicholas died in Myra, and was buried in his cathedral.


ST. AMBROSE (DEC. 7)

St. Ambrose of Milan [340-397] spent much of his life listening. He listened to St. Monica as she wept about her sinful son – the future St. Augustine. In 374 the bishop of Milan, Auxentius, an Arian, died, and the Arians challenged the succession. Ambrose went to the church where the election was to take place, to prevent an uproar, which was probable in this crisis. His address was interrupted by a call "Ambrose, bishop!", which was taken up by the whole assembly.

Ambrose ranks with Augustine, Jerome, and Gregory the Great, as one of the Latin Doctors of the Church. Theologians compare him with Hilary, who they claim fell short of Ambrose's administrative excellence but demonstrated greater theological ability. St. Ambrose succeeded as a theologian despite his judicial training and his comparatively late handling of Biblical and doctrinal subjects.


ST. LUCY (DEC. 13) 

Lucia of Syracuse, also known as St. Lucy, or St. Lucia, [283-304] was a Christian martyr who died during the Diocletianic Persecution. St. Lucy chose to be a Christian at a time when Christianity was illegal. She gave up her riches and devote her life to the poor After resisting the advances of a Roman soldier, St. Lucy was denounced as a Christian and brutally executed. She is one of eight women, who along with the Blessed Virgin Mary, are commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass.

Lucy's Latin name Lucia shares a root [luc-] with the Latin word for light, lux. Hence St. Lucy is the patron saint of the blind and those with eye-trouble. [Popular piety depicts Lucia as tortured by eye-gouging prior to her martyrdom.]


ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS (DEC. 14) 

St. John of the Cross, [1542-1591] priest, mystic and founder of the Discalced Carmelites, figured prominently in the Counter-Reformation. He is known also for his writings. St. John's poetry and his studies on the growth of the soul are considered the height of mystical literature. His Spiritual Canticle and the Dark Night of the Soul are seminal masterpieces of Spanish poetry. In contrast to his lofty verse, St. John took for himself the most menial of jobs. Before entering religious life he worked in a hospital for people afflicted with leprosy. Even when holding high administrative posts he assumed the lowliest tasks. His life reminds us that no matter how soaring our spirituality, Christians are called to humility and selfless service in the imitation of Christ.

Homily for the 1st Sunday in Advent, November 29, 2015, Year C

The Last Judgement

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

(Click here for today’s readings)

We spend enormous amounts of our resources, time, and energy on things that give us a sense of security. We buy expensive insurance policies to protect ourselves from any and every sort of disaster. We have high-tech alarm systems in our businesses, homes, and automobiles. Some of us work and even live in buildings surrounded with security fences. Closed circuit television eyes balefully stare at every living thing from the nooks and crannies of our habitats continually recording every movement.

And still we are not secure. Moreover, no amount of money, protection systems, medical effort, or bodyguards can protect us from the ultimate confrontation we each will individually face. For each one of us, you along with me, will one day stand face to face before Christ at the end of our earthly existence. Yet we live our lives awash in distractions, busily engaged in a whole lot that’s seemingly very important to us now. Our eyes are torn away from what lies ahead down the road at the end of our time here on earth.

Thus it is that Jesus gives us fair warning at the end of today’s Gospel account. Allow me to repeat the last part:
Be on guard lest your spirits become bloated with indulgence and drunkenness and worldly care. The great day will suddenly close in on you like a trap. The day I speak of will come upon all who dwell on the face of the earth, so be on the watch. Pray constantly for the strength to escape whatever is in prospect and to stand secure before the Son of Man. 
Stand secure before the Son of Man? How can we stand secure? We will be standing there before Him without our bank accounts, our 401-k retirement accounts, our statements of net worth, our alarm systems, and with no security fences surrounding us. And we will not be looking into the eyes of closed circuit television monitors. No. We will instead be looking into the eyes of the Son of God. His judgment of what we did with our lives will be upon us.

What securities will we have? What securities should we have? All you and I will have at that moment when we face the Son of God will be our memories. It is from them that we will draw up our accounts; it is in them that we will find the records of our lives.

I want to share with you here what I’d like to have in my own account of memories when I die. You might want to use these hopes as a basis for constructing your own set.

I’d like my life’s record to include:

1 – A lot of love for a lot of people, particularly the hurting, the rejected, those without privilege and those who have experienced pain and loss. I’d like, too, to have a record revealing that I didn’t have much anger toward others. I’d like the record to show what I wasn’t haughty toward others, or arrogant, and that I didn’t seek to manipulate others. I’d like to have a record revealing an absence of taking advantage of others. I’d feel a whole lot more secure standing before the Son of God without those debits in my accounts.

2 – I’d like a record of my life showing sensitivity, respect, tender loving care, and humility in my relationships with others. I’d like to be known as someone who always had something to learn from those with whom I conversed. I would feel some security with those line-item credits in my final account.

3 – Reliance on the power of God would be an important series of memories that I would like to have in my portfolio of securities as I face Christ when my time on earth comes to an end. I hope there will be a lot of entries revealing times when I let God be God, when I relinquished my lust to control outcomes, to control other people’s decisions, to control the events of my life. I’d like my life’s history to reveal many times when I simply and humbly let God take care of people, places and events in my life. I’d like it recorded that I frequently asked God to show me just how He wanted me to act, asked Him to tell me just what He wanted me to say to others, shaped me to be the man that He dreamed I could be.

4 – Finally I would stand a whole lot more secure before the Son of Man if I faced Him in the beginning of my next life and simply continued on with the conversation we had already been having for a good portion of my life here on earth. Wouldn’t it be lovely to meet Christ face to face and discover that He was always near to me and was my dear Friend all along throughout my life here on earth… that we could begin to live eternal life together with each other simply by continuing on with the relationship we had already established while I was yet living here in the life He gave me? Yes, I think I would stand a whole lot more secure before the Son of Man if that were the case.

The season of Thanksgiving and Christmas is a season of reflection, a time of examination, a time when we look ahead with expectant hope for the Son of God’s coming to us. When we meet Him face to face at the end of our own personal lives, and when we all meet Him collectively at the end of the world, we will be filled with awe, that’s for sure.

But will we be filled with terror or will we be filled with love and the sense of security that undergirds love? The answer, of course, depends upon the fabric of our lives, the contents of our relating to others, and the memories that we bring with us to that event.

The judgment we receive at the end, you see, will not so much be God’s judgment of us, but our own. It is WE, not God, who are forging our image, our persona, our character, our personality, and our personhood, all that we take to God at the end of the lives we have fashioned here on earth. The content depends not so much upon God as it does upon us.
Be on guard lest your spirits become bloated with indulgence and drunkenness and worldly care. The great day will suddenly close in on you like a trap. The day I speak of will come upon all who dwell on the face of the earth, so be on the watch. Pray constantly for the strength to escape whatever is in prospect and to stand secure before the Son of Man.
Advent brings with it the theme of darkness and light. Darkness envelopes so many of us; the darkness of our physical world, but the even more deadly a spiritual darkness of souls living in narcosis. For the addiction of being too busy can blind us, leaving us unwilling to be bothered with the effort of seeing, of paying attention, of gazing into the surrounding loveliness that is there for all who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

Also, for many of us perhaps it is the narcosis of overwhelming resentments that darken our souls so that we can no longer see the light of love, of kindness, compassion, forgiveness and acceptance.

Finally there is the darkness of being blinded by the glitz of this world’s offerings, offerings that can blind us from paying attention to our souls and to the presence of God in our lives.

Advent calls us to ask the question: What are we looking for?

God now calls us to see what He is offering us. That is what Christmas is all about. Come, let us join the wise men, journeying with them under the light of heaven’s mysterious star in their search… and joining them in the answer to their quest.

November 28, 2015

November 28, 2015 — Feast of St. Catherine Labouré

St. Catherine Labouré
Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Catherine Labouré. She was a member of the Daughters of Charity. The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to her three times in 1830 and commissioned her to have the Miraculous Medal made and to spread its devotion. She humbly dispensed her duties, devoting herself especially to the care of the elderly men in the poor Paris suburb where the Daughters ministered. The discovery that her earthly remains were intact spurred calls for her sainthood. St. Catherine Labouré was canonized in 1947 by Pope Pius XII. Her incorrupt body is encased in glass beneath the side altar in the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Paris, France.

The Life of St. Catherine Labouré

St Catherine Labouré was born May 2, 1806 in Fainles-Moutiers, a village of Burgundy, France. She was the ninth of eleven children. God made known the choice of this soul by marking her at an early age with the seal of suffering. She was only nine years-old she lost her mother.

St. Catherine responded to the divine call by entering the Community of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul in Paris. Here, during the first months of her novitiate, she was favored with several apparitions of the Blessed Virgin, who confided to her the mission of having the Miraculous Medal made.

St. Catherine Labouré and the Miraculous Medal

St. Catherine maintained a strict silence concerning these apparitions, speaking of them only to her confessor, according to the instructions of Our Lady.
One must see God in everyone.
— St. Catherine Labouré

Over forty-six years St. Catherine witnessed the wonders and miracles brought about through the Medal. During all this time, carefully guarding her secret of the apparitions, she humbly performed her commonplace duties, devoting herself especially to the care of the infirmed, destitute men of Enghien, a suburb of Paris. For this she is called the patroness of seniors.

On December 31, 1876, St. Catherine left this earth for Heaven, to contemplate there her Immaculate Queen whose love and beauty had captured her heart on earth.

Her body was exhumed fifty-seven years later and found in perfect condition. Even death respected her who had enjoyed the extraordinary privilege of resting her hands on the knees of the Blessed Virgin for more than two hours during one of the apparitions. St. Catherine was canonized by Pope Pius XII on July 27, 1947.

The simplicity of St. Catherine's life endears her to everyone. She became a saint by doing her commonplace duties well, for God. This "Saint of Ordinary People" has the secret of sanctity for us all.

Excerpted from The Central Association of the Miraculous Medal.

St. Catherine is the patroness of the elderly.

Collect Prayer

Stir up the will of your faithful, we pray, O Lord, that striving more eagerly to bring your divine work to fruitful completion, they may receive in greater measure the healing remedies your kindness bestows. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Prayer to Saint Catherine Labouré 

St. Catherine Labouré, you were the chosen confidant of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She revealed to you her desire that her children wear the Miraculous Medal as a mark of their love for her and in honor of her Immaculate Conception.

Intercede for us, that we may follow our heavenly mother's desires. Ask that we may receive those special graces which flow from her motherly hands like rays of light. Amen.

St. Catherine Labouré: Her Life and Mission

November 27, 2015

This is Why Faithful Catholics Must be Prepared for Persecution and Martyrdom

The 21 Coptic-Christian martyrs of Egypt.

We have observed in recent years increasing attacks on Christianity and public expressions of Christian belief by militant atheists, academia and secular authorities in the United States. Today’s climate of government intrusion on the Church, fueled by political correctness, means Catholics must prepare to be mocked, ridiculed and even jailed for living their faith. Yet, as bad as things seem, we must remember that in other parts of the world Christians are fairing even worse:

I received the following from a reader in Canada [where the currents of secularism and radicalization are stronger] which I submit for your consideration:
_____________

A man, whose family was German aristocracy prior to World War II, owned a number of large industries and estates. When asked how many German people were true Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our attitude toward fanaticism.
Very few people were true Nazis, but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come.
My family lost everything. I ended up in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories.
We are told again and again by 'experts' and 'talking heads' that Islam is a religion of peace and that the vast majority of Muslims just want to live in peace. Although this unqualified assertion may be true, it is entirely irrelevant. It is meaningless fluff meant to make us feel better, and meant to somehow diminish the spectre of fanatics rampaging across the globe in the name of Islam.

The fact is that the fanatics rule Islam at this moment in history. It is the fanatics who march. It is the fanatics who wage any one of 50 shooting wars worldwide. It is the fanatics who systematically slaughter Christian or tribal groups throughout Africa and are gradually taking over the entire continent in an Islamic wave. It is the fanatics who bomb, behead, murder, or honour-kill. It is the fanatics who take over mosque after mosque. It is the fanatics who zealously spread the stoning and hanging of rape victims and homosexuals. It is the fanatics who teach their young to kill and to become suicide bombers.

The hard, quantifiable fact is that the peaceful majority, the 'silent majority,' is cowed and extraneous.  Communist Russia was comprised of Russians who just wanted to live in peace, yet the Russian Communists were responsible for the murder of about 20 million people. The peaceful majority were irrelevant. China's huge population was peaceful as well, but Chinese Communists managed to kill a staggering 70 million people.

The average Japanese individual prior to World War II was not a warmongering sadist. Yet, Japan murdered and slaughtered its way across South East Asia in an orgy of killing that included the systematic murder of 12 million Chinese civilians; most killed  by sword, shovel, and bayonet. And who can forget Rwanda, which collapsed into butchery? Could it not be said that the majority of Rwandans were 'peace loving'?

History lessons are often incredibly simple and blunt, yet for all our powers of reason, we often miss the most basic and uncomplicated of points: peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by their silence. Peace-loving Muslims will become our enemy if they don't speak up, because like my friend from Germany, they will awaken one day and find that the fanatics own them, and the end of their world will have begun.

Peace-loving Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians, Rwandans, Serbs, Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Somalis, Nigerians, Algerians, and many others have died because the peaceful majority did not speak up until it was too late.

Now Islamic prayers have been introduced in Toronto and other public schools in Ontario, and, yes, in Ottawa, too, while the Lord's Prayer was removed (due to being offensive?). The Islamic way may be peaceful for the time being in our country until the fanatics move in.

In Australia, and indeed in many countries around the world, many of the most commonly consumed food items have the halal emblem on them. Just look at the back of some of the most popular chocolate bars, and at other food items in your local supermarket.  Food on aircraft have the halal emblem just to appease the privileged minority who are now rapidly expanding within the nation's shores.

In the U.K, the Muslim communities refuse to integrate and there are now dozens of "no-go" zones within major cities across the country that the police force dare not intrude upon. Sharia law prevails there, because the Muslim community in those areas refuse to acknowledge British law.

Don't think "It can't happen here." It can.
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015 — A Prayer of Gratitude


O God, the beginning and the end of all things,
Who are always the same, and Whose promises fail not.
We kneel in adoration before You,
and offer You our deepest thanks for the fatherly care
with which You have watched over us during the past year,
for the many times You have protected us from evils of body and soul,
and for the numerous blessings, both temporal and spiritual,
which You have showered upon us.
Please accept the homage of our grateful hearts,
which we offer You in union with Your divine Son,
our Lord Jesus Christ, Who lives and reigns with You
forever and ever. Amen.

Interview with an Exorcist: How the Devil Harms the Living And What We Can Do to Defend Ourselves

In preparing to celebrate the liturgical season of Advent, consider former Vatican Chief Exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth’s articulation of the reasons for Christ’s Incarnation. Fr. Amorth asserts Jesus became man to: destroy the works of the devil, free man from Satan's slavery, and establish the kingdom of God. This is part 2 of "An Exorcist Tells His Story: Fr. Gabriele Amorth on the Power of Satan." I have put excerpts in, "The Power of Satan,"(pages 25-36) from An Exorcist Tells His Story  into the following "interview" format:

What harm can the devil cause to the living?

Ordinary activity. This is "temptation", which is the most common activity of the demons, and it is directed against all men. When Jesus allowed Satan to tempt him, he accepted our human condition. I will not talk about this common diabolical endeavor, because the purpose of this book is to highlight Satan's "extraordinary activity", which can take place only if God so allows.

This second category can take six different forms:

1. External physical pain caused by Satan. We know of this from many lives of the saints. We know that Saint Paul of the Cross, the Curé of Ars, Padre Pio, and many others were beaten, flogged, and pummeled by demons. This external form of persecution does riot affect the soul; therefore with this type there has never been the need for an exorcism, only for prayers. Here I will dwell only on the other types of actions that directly affect exorcists.

2. Demonic possession. This occurs when Satan takes full possession of the body (not the soul); he speaks and acts without the knowledge or consent of the victim, who therefore is morally blameless. It is the gravest and most spectacular form of demonic afflictions, and it attracts the attention of producers of movies such as The Exorcist. According to the Ritual for exorcisms, some of the signs of possession include: speaking in tongues, extraordinary strength, and revealing the unknown. The man of Gerasa is a clear Gospel example of possession. To fix a set "model" for demonic possession would be a serious mistake; the affliction runs the gamut of symptoms and severity. For instance, I have exercised two totally possessed persons who remained perfectly still and silent during the exorcism. I could cite many other examples and as many different symptoms.

3. Diabolical oppression. Symptoms vary from a very serious to a mild illness. There is no possession, loss of consciousness, or involuntary action and word. The Bible gives us many examples of oppression; one of them is job, He was not possessed, but he lost his children, his goods, and his health. The bent woman and the deaf and dumb man who were cured by Jesus were not subject to total possession, but there was a demonic presence that caused physical discomfort. Saint Paul was most certainly not possessed by a demon, but he had a demonic oppression that caused an evil affliction: "And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me" (2 Cor 12:7). There is no doubting the evil origin of the affliction.

While possessions are still relatively rare today, we exorcists run into a great number of people who have been struck by the devil in their health, jobs, or relationships. We must make it clear that to diagnose and heal an oppression-related illness is not any easier than to diagnose and cure a person afflicted by full possession. The degree of gravity may be different, but the difficulty of the diagnosis and the amount of time involved in healing are the same.

4. Diabolic obsession. Symptoms include sudden attacks, at times ongoing, of obsessive thoughts, sometimes even rationally absurd, but of such nature that the victim is unable to free himself Therefore the obsessed person lives in a perpetual state of prostration, desperation, and attempts at suicide. Almost always obsession influences dreams. Some people will say that this is evidence of mental illness, requiring the services of a psychiatrist or a psychologist. The same could be said of all other forms of demonic phenomena. Some symptoms, however, are so inconsistent with known illnesses that they point with certainty to their evil origins. Only an expert and well-trained eye can identify the crucial differences.

5. Diabolic infestation. Infestations affect houses, things, or animals. This book will only mention the topic. I merely want to state that I will never use this term when I refer to persons. I will always talk about possession, oppression, and obsession.

6. Diabolical subjugation, or dependence. People fall into this form of evil when they voluntarily submit to Satan. The two most common forms of dependence are the blood pact with the devil and the consecration to Satan.

How can we defend ourselves from these demonic afflictions?

A strict interpretation of the Ritual confines the use of exorcisms only to instances of true possession. However, as I stated before, the current Ritual fails to address many occasions in which an exorcist diagnoses an evil influence. In all cases when there is no possession, the usual means to obtain grace should be sufficient. These means are prayer; the sacraments; almsgiving; leading a Christian life; pardoning offenses; and soliciting the aid of our Lord, Mary, the saints, and the angels. I will now say a few words about the angels. I gladly end this chapter on the devil, Christ's adversary, by speaking about the angels. They are our great allies. We owe them a great debt, and it is a mistake to mention them as rarely as we do. Every one of us has a guardian angel, most faithful of friends twenty-four hours a day, from conception to death. He unceasingly protects us, body and soul, while we, for the most part, never think about him. We also know that each nation has its particular guardian angel and, probably, every community and family, although we are not certain on the two last points. We know, however, that the angels are a multitude, and their desire to help us is much greater than Satan's desire to destroy us.

Given that, are there specific angels we may invoke?

Sacred Scripture often tells us about the missions that God entrusted to his angels. We know the name of the prince of the angels, Saint Michael. There is a hierarchy among the angels based on love, which is guided by the divine intellect "in whose Will we find our peace", as Dante says. We also know the names of two other archangels:

Gabriel and Raphael. The Apocrypha add a fourth name, Uriel. Sacred Scripture divides the angels into nine choirs: dominions, powers, thrones, principalities, virtues, angels, archangels, cherubim, and seraphim. The believer who lives in the presence of the Trinity and is certain of its life within himself knows that he also has a mother, God's own Mother, who ceaselessly helps him. He knows that he can always count on the help of the angels and of the saints; therefore, how can he feel alone, abandoned, or oppressed by evil? In the life of the believer there is pain, because it is the way of the Cross that saves us, but there is no room for sadness. He who believes is always ready to give witness, to those who ask him, about the hope that sustains him (see I Pet 3: 15).

It is also clear that the believer must be faithful to God and must fear sin. This is the basis of our strength, as Saint John tells us: "We know that any one born of God does not sin, but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him"(I Jn 5:18). If sometimes our weakness leads us to fall, we must immediately pick ourselves up with that great gift of God's mercy: repentance and confession.

November 24, 2015

Pope Francis: Like Blessed Oscar Romero, Every Christian Must Be Prepared for Martyrdom

On February 3, 2015, Pope Francis asked Cardinal Angelo Amato to officially authorize Archbishop Oscar Romero's decree of martyrdom, a major step toward his beatification. (A miracle is not required for beatification candidates who the Pope decrees as martyrs to be beatified.)

Romero’s beatification was held in San Salvador on May 23, 2015.

CNA/EWTN News reports that: 

On Oct. 30th, Pope Francis reflected on the life and death of Blessed Oscar Romero, who was recognized as a martyr earlier this year, stressing that each Christian ought to be ready to give their life for the faith.

"A martyr is not born. It's a grace that the Lord allows, and that in a way concerns every baptized person," Pope Francis told a group pilgrims from El Salvador.

Bl. Oscar Romero was Archbishop of San Salvador from 1977 until his March 24, 1980 martyrdom.

Quoting a phrase of Bl. Romero, the Pope said that "We must be willing to die for our faith, even if the Lord does not give us this honor."

[ ... ]

Because of [Romero's] advocacy for the poor, many accused the archbishop of supporting Marxist interpretations of liberation theology. However, theologians who worked closely with the archbishop have found no proof of the accusations, but rather argue that his love of the poor was rooted in Church teaching and the Gospel.

The Pope stressed that the rumors aren’t mere hearsay, but are things that he himself heard, adding that Bl. Oscar Romero is a man who continues to be a martyr even today.
_____________

Archbishop Oscar Romero Prayer: A Step Along The Way

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.

No prayer fully expresses our faith.

No confession brings perfection.

No pastoral visit brings wholeness.

No program accomplishes the Church's mission.

No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.

We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.

We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.

This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.
_____________

This prayer was composed by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, drafted for a homily by Card. John Dearden in Nov. 1979 for a celebration of departed priests. As a reflection on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Bishop Romero, Bishop Untener included in a reflection book a passage titled "The mystery of the Romero Prayer." The mystery is that the words of the prayer are attributed to Oscar Romero, but they were never spoken by him.

November 23, 2015

An Exorcist Tells His Story: Fr. Gabriele Amorth on the Power of Satan

Satan
As we prepare to celebrate the liturgical season of Advent, it is appropriate that we consider the threefold reason for Christ’s Incarnation: 1.) to destroy the works of the devil, 2.) to free man from Satan's slavery and 3.) to establish the kingdom of God.

Fr. Gabriele Amorth was the Vatican's Chief Exorcist. In that capacity he performed thousands of exorcisms through which he has garnered innumerable insights into the works and slavery of the devil. I recently read Fr. Amorth's An Exorcist Tells His Story. To highlight his wisdom, I have reframed excerpts from, "The Power of Satan,"(pages 25-36) in An Exorcist Tells His Story into a Q & A or "interview" format:

Some priests rarely mention Hell and the power of Satan, preferring instead to focus on the love and forgiveness of Christ. Why is that bad?

Christ is the center of the universe. Everything was created for him and in view of his Coming, in the heavens (angels) and on earth (the tangible world, man first of all). It would be wonderful to speak only of Christ, but it would not be according to his every teaching and action, and we would never be able to understand him. Scripture talks to us about the kingdom of God but also of the kingdom of Satan. It tells us about the power of God, the Creator and Lord of the universe, but also of the power of darkness. It speaks of the sons of God and of the sons of Satan. It is impossible to understand the salvific action of Christ if we ignore the destructive action of Satan.

Why doesn't God just crush Satan right now?

God never rejects his creatures. Therefore, even though they broke with God, Satan and his angels maintain their power and rank (thrones, dominions, principalities, powers, and so on) even if they use them for evil purposes. Saint Augustine does not exaggerate when he claims that, if God gave Satan a free hand, "no man would be left alive." Since Satan cannot kill us, he tries to "make us into his followers in opposition to God, just as he is in opposition to God".

Many modern theologians identify Satan with the abstract idea of evil. They deny the existence of Satan as an actual being. What about this?

Scripture tells us that angels and demons (I want particularly to mention Satan) are spiritual creatures but also that they are individuals gifted with intelligence, will, freedom, and initiative. Those modern theologians who identify Satan with the abstract idea of evil are completely mistaken. Theirs is true heresy; that is, it is openly in contrast with the Bible, the Fathers, and the Magisterium of the Church. The truth about Satan was never doubted in the past; therefore, there are no dogmatic definitions in this respect with the exception of the following statement of the Fourth Lateran Council: "The devil [that is, Satan] and the other demons were created good by God; but they became evil through their own fault." Whoever denies Satan also denies sin and no longer understands the actions of Christ.

There are those who say [i.e. The Jesus Seminar] that Christ's exorcisms are fanciful embellishments that didn't happen. They argue demonic possessions are nothing more than psychological disturbances and as such, exorcisms are play acting hocus pocus.

Let us be clear about this: Jesus defeated Satan through his sacrifice. However, Jesus also defeated Satan before his death, through his teachings: "If it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Lk 11:20). Jesus is the strongest one, who tied up Satan (Mk 3:27), despoiled him, and pillaged his kingdom, which is at an end (Mk 3:26). Jesus first gave the power to cast out demons to his apostles; then he extended the power to the seventy-two disciples, and in the end he granted it to all those who would believe in him.

The Acts of the Apostles tell us that after the descent of the Holy Spirit the apostles continued to expel demons, and all Christians have done so after them. Already, the earliest Fathers of the Church, such as Justin and Irenaeus, clearly express Christian thought about the devil and about the power to cast him out. Other Fathers, in particular Tertullian and Origen, concur. These four authors alone can refute many modern theologians, who, for all purposes, either do not believe in the devil or completely ignore him.

Is Satan ascendant in our time? Has he grown more powerful of late?

Even if this battle against Satan concerns all men and all times, there is no doubt that Satan's power is felt more keenly in periods of history when the sinfulness of the community is more evident. For example, when I view the decadence of the Roman Empire, I can see the moral disintegration of that period in history. Now we are at the same level of decadence, partly as a result of the misuse of the mass media (which are not evil in themselves) and partly because of Western consumerism and materialism, which have poisoned our society.

Is there any truth to the notion of "wandering souls" or the idea that some souls who have died are condemned to walk the earth and are afraid, or not allowed, to "crossover" into eternity?

Just as it would be wrong to deny the existence of Satan, it is also wrong to accept the prevalent opinion that there are spiritual beings that are not mentioned in the Bible. These are the invention of spiritists, of followers of the occult, of those who espouse reincarnation, or of those who believe in "wandering souls". There are no good spirits other than angels; there are no evil spirits other than demons. Two Councils of the Church (Lyons and Florence) tell us that the souls of those who die go immediately to heaven or to hell or to purgatory. The souls of the dead who are present during seances or the souls of the dead who are present in living bodies to torture them are none other than demons. God allows a soul to return to earth only in very rare, exceptional cases, but we recognize that this subject is still full of unknowns.

What harm can the devil cause to the living? 

Ordinary activity. This is "temptation", which is the most common activity of the demons, and it is directed against all men. When Jesus allowed Satan to tempt him, he accepted our human condition. I will not talk about this common diabolical endeavor, because the purpose of this book is to highlight Satan's "extraordinary activity", which can take place only if God so allows.

This second category can take six different forms:

[We will consider all six in part 2.]

November 22, 2015

Homily for the Solemnity of Christ the King, November 22, 2015, Year B


Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

(Click here for today’s readings)

It is no secret that there is widespread distrust of authority these days, a distrust of our basic institutions and their leaders that, in many cases, arises from understandable reasons. In reaction, personal individualism has been advocated to such an extreme that for many people the only acceptable authority is the individual self. The only authority that I will allow to tell me what is right and what is wrong is myself. Many are therefore uncomfortable with idea of Christ as ruler. With the exception of a fascination with England’s royal family we balk at the idea of kings and queens, believing them to be either oppressive or no longer relevant. The titles of “lord” and “king” for Christ are unsettling for some folks because they believe that such titles are borrowed from oppressive and irrelevant systems of government.

I am troubled by all of this hesitancy because it casts Christ as being a threat. But Jesus is hardly a threatening figure. He is quite the opposite! This hesitancy about Christ the King causes many to miss the point that Christ’s kingship is one of humility, service, and compassionate care. He is not a king who imposes; rather He invites. He is not a king who coerces; rather He is a king who leads. He is not a king who issues directives from afar; rather He speaks from within our hearts and souls. He is not an imperial king; rather He is a shepherd king. He is not a king filled with anger and wrath; rather He has a heart filled with compassion and mercy. What He asks of us He has done Himself. Thanks be to God, Pope Francis clearly understands that and is acting accordingly.

In St. Mark’s Gospel we find Jesus telling us:
You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to become great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:42-45).
In St. John’s Gospel we read:
Pilate said to Jesus, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered, "My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here." So Pilate said to him, "Then you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth" (John 18:33b, 36-37).
Jesus knew the oppressive nature of secular rulers. After all, He was put to death by one of them. In contrast to secular kings He defined His role as king to be that of humble service and commanded His followers to be servants as well.

In the New Testament we find that Christ’s kingdom is connected to His suffering and death. Even though Christ is coming at the end of the ages to judge the nations His teachings spell out a kingdom of justice and judgment that are balanced with having radical love, mercy, peace, and forgiveness. So when we celebrate Christ as King, we are not celebrating an oppressive ruler, but rather one willing to die for you and for me and whose “loving-kindness endures forever.” Christ is the king that gives us true freedom, freedom in Him. We must never forget that Christ radically redefined and transformed the concept of kingship.

Into all of this comes Christ, claiming to be our King. Oh, not in terms of political or governmental dominance, power and control, but rather in terms of what really matters, in terms of where we find our hearts and souls.

I once heard of a little boy who was being disciplined by his mother. She had just told him to sit down and stay in his chair and not move. Said the little boy: “I may be sitting in this chair but inside I’m standing up!” Not bad, for a little boy! That’s exactly the freedom that has given many prisoners of war the power to make it through their torturous ordeals.

What Christ came to give us is what the tyrants of this world fear the most, namely power and freedom, power and freedom to be in possession of our inner selves. That’s the power the thought police of any totalitarian system want to have over us and they never can have over us because Christ is our King.

There are other tyrants lurking around today that also want to own and control us, spiritual and inner tyrants. Fear is one, fear that fills us with timidity along with a lack of initiative, procrastination and lethargy. It causes us to withdraw into defensive isolation.

Guilt is another of the tyrants that wants to control us. Often it is accompanied with a sense that everything is ruined and nothing is good. It leads us to play the blame game, finding fault in everyone else around us and demeaning everyone around us. Guild is the weapon of the politically correct thought police who seek to control us.

Hurt and resentment are other tyrants. They cause us to avoid others, to bury of our care and concern for others, to have our own little pity-parties, along with a sense of self-entitlement leading to various forms of sensual gratification.

Christ would be King of your soul but in order to let Him be that you must dethrone the false gods that seek to own you and manipulate you. But you must be the actor, you must take the initiative. Christ will not do it all for you, but He will do everything with you. He tells us that with men, dethroning these tyrants is impossible. But with God, all things are possible, even moving the mountains, both external and internal, that seek to crush us.

We would do well to consider that we don’t know what it really means to be a king. Not living under the authority of a king we have no way to access the meaning found in seeing Christ as our king. History, however, has given us examples of good kings. They are kings who care, kings who have governed their people with compassion, with love, and who have protected their people from enemies that were intent on hurting them, or subjugating them and of robbing them of their human dignity. Allow me to suggest that you need to see Christ as our Deliverer, as our Protector, as one who liberates us from all that would hold us in bondage.

Who or what are our captors holding us in bondage?  Are those captors the words and actions of other human beings or demons that oppress our hearts and souls? What are our addictions? What has a hold on our hearts and souls such that in moments of honest reality we want to be released from their grips? Resentments? Guilt? Envy? Jealousy? Shame? The treatment we receive from others? When we become aware of the things that hold us in their grip we need to turn to Christ our King because He is a king of compassion, forgiveness, and freedom. Christ is not a King bent on enslaving us, rather He is a King bent on liberating us, freeing us to be all that God our Father created us to be.

St. Paul in writing his letter to the Christians of Rome, people who knew a lot about the oppressive power of kings and emperors, encouraged them in his eighth chapter with these words: For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”…because creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God

Our Ancient Enemy, the Father of Lies, would have us believe that faith in Jesus Christ enslaves us. The truth is that Evil enslaves us. The truth is that Christ our King frees us, a truth that we celebrate here today realizing that Christ died on His Cross to set us free.

What a blessing we have in Christ our King! What a blessing to be able, with Christ, to walk in the glorious freedom of the sons and daughters of God.

November 20, 2015

A Christian's Duty

St. Alphonsus Liguori.
 Death does not herald the end of personal existence but rather a new triumphal beginning. Although we are faced with the certainty of death, we are at the same time consoled by the promise of a glorious bodily immortality. What Christ, the Head of the Mystical Body, did for Himself He will also do for His members. The same divine power is always operative within Him.

As we continue to pray especially for the souls of the faithful departed in November, I present to you this reflection by Saint Alphonsus Liguori (pictured).

Praying for the Poor Souls in Purgatory

The practice of recommending to God the souls in Purgatory, that He might mitigate the great pains which they suffer, and that He may soon bring them to His glory, is most pleasing to the Lord and most profitable to us. For these blessed souls are His eternal spouses, and most grateful are they to those who obtain their deliverance from prison, or even a mitigation of their torments. When, therefore, they arrive in Heaven, they will be sure to remember all who have prayed for them. It is a pious belief that God manifests to them our prayers in their behalf, that they may also pray for us. It is true that these blessed souls are not in a state to pray for themselves, because they are atoning for their faults. However, because they are very dear to God, they can pray for us, and obtain for us the divine graces. Saint Catherine of Bologna, when she wished to obtain any grace, had recourse to the souls in Purgatory, and her prayers were heard immediately. She declared that, by praying to those holy souls, she obtained many favours which she had sought through the intercession of the saints without obtaining them. The graces which devout persons are said to have received through these holy souls are innumerable.

But, if we wish for the aid of their prayers, it is just, it is even a duty, to relieve them by our suffrages. I say, it is even a duty: for Christian charity commands us to relieve our neighbors who stand in need of our assistance. But who among all our neighbors have so great need of our help as those holy prisoners? They are continually in that fire which torments more severely than any earthly fire. They are deprived of the sight of God, a torment far more excruciating than all other pains. Let us reflect that among these suffering souls are parents, or brothers, or relations and friends, who look to us for succour.

Let us remember, moreover, that being in the condition of debtors for their sins, they cannot assist themselves. This thought should urge us forward to relieve them to the best of our ability. By assisting them we shall not only give great pleasure to God, but will acquire also great merit for ourselves. And, in return for our suffrages, these blessed souls will not neglect to obtain for us many graces from God, but particularly the grace of eternal life. I hold for certain that when a soul delivered from Purgatory by the suffrages of a Christian enters paradise, she will not fail to say to God: “Lord, do not suffer that person to be lost who has liberated me from the prison of Purgatory, and has brought me to the enjoyment of Thy glory sooner than I had deserved.”

November 18, 2015

To the Martyrs: A Reflection on the Supreme Christian Witness by Cardinal Donald Wuerl

To the Martyrs: A Reflection on the Supreme Christian Witness In many societies today, the utterance of a simple phrase, "I am a Christian," is a crime punishable by death. So widespread is this persecution that Pope Francis called it a "third world war, waged piecemeal... a form of genocide." In To the Martyrs: A Reflection on the Supreme Christian Witness, Cardinal Donald Wuerl urges solidarity with today’s persecuted Christians and recounts the recurrence of martyrdom throughout Church history. His Eminence’s poignant insight into the spirituality of martyrdom will challenge all Christians to courageously emulate the steadfast commitment of those who have followed Christ—even unto death.

Order To the Martyrs: A Reflection on the Supreme Christian Witness on Amazon or through Emmaus Road Publishing.

If they persecuted me, they will persecute you. 

— John 15: 20

About the Author

His Eminence Cardinal Donald Wuerl is the Archbishop of Washington, DC. He serves on the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Congregation for Bishops, the Congregation for Clergy, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Pontifical Council for Culture, and the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See. During his decades-long ministry as a priest, bishop, and cardinal, His Eminence has had the privilege of working with refugees and other Christians who suffer religious persecution.

Praise for To The Martyrs:

"Yes, sometimes ‘silence is golden,’ but not when it comes to the widespread vicious persecution of our brother and sister Christians around the world. It’s time to shout in defense of these innocent people who are tempted to wonder why their co-religionists around the world — us! — are so quiet."

— His Eminence Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan
Archbishop of New York

"Let your heart be deeply moved as you read these pages. Cardinal Wuerl exercises an admirable form of pastoral care that brings together a depth of insight and a richness of historical witness to educate and inspire."

— Carl Anderson
Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus

"Anyone interested in the future of the Church and in the enduring power of Christian witness ought to read this book."

— Most Rev. Robert Barron
Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles

"Read this book, talk about this book, then write to your congressmen and senators. It is time that we took action on behalf of persecuted Christians."

— Matthew Kelly
Author of Rediscover Jesus and Founder of the Dynamic Catholic Institute

"We should all take Cardinal Wuerl’s conclusion very much to heart: Christians must always be prepared to be faithful to the very end."

— Robert Royal
Author of The Catholic Martyrs of the Twentieth Century

November 17, 2015

Planned Parenthood's Racist Origins


Slavs, Latin, and Hebrew immigrants are human weeds... a dead weight of human waste... Blacks, soldiers, and Jews are a menace to the race.
— Margaret Sanger
[We should] apply a stern and rigid policy of sterilization and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is tainted, or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring.
Margaret Sanger, "Plan for Peace" from Birth Control Review (April 1932, pp. 107-108) 
The following video was brought to my attention recently. I do not endorse said video's proprietor, however, the information contained therein is accurate. It underscores the racist, inhumane and truly diabolical origins of America's largest abortion provider.

November 16, 2015

JFK Revisited: The Man, the Myth, the Mythology

Statue of Liberty crying

This Sunday, the Solemnity of Christ the King according to the Church's liturgical calendar, marks the 52nd anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The recollection of that fateful day by family members, teachers and others, all of whom were young men and women on November 22, 1963, created a kind of "Arthurian legend" nostalgia surrounding JFK in my youth. As one historian put it: With Kennedy's death, America lost its innocence - and the rebellious, violent, war-torn 1960's began. Kennedy's serial adultery, known to a lesser degree, and misogynistic attitude towards women did not detract from the lionizing of the man and the incessant burnishing of the Kennedy presidency each November. George Weigel's "Camelot Revisited" [November 2007] and "JFK After 50 Years" [November 2013] consider Kennedy's legacy, and the mythology surrounding it, without tears or sentimentality. In "Camelot Revisited", Weigel writes:
Why did John F. Kennedy die? According to the interpretation advanced by admiring biographers (and former Kennedy aides) Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., and Theodore Sorensen, JFK’s assassination was the by-product of a culture of violence that had infected the extreme American right-wing: thus right-wing paranoia about communism and civil rights activism had turned the city of Dallas into a seething political madhouse where something awful was very likely to happen.
[ ... ]
The Schlesinger/Sorensen interpretation was also congenial to Jacqueline Kennedy. After Oswald had been arrested and identified, Mrs. Kennedy lamented that her husband hadn’t even had the satisfaction of being killed for civil rights; his murderer had been a “silly little communist,” a fact Mrs. Kennedy thought had robbed JFK’s death of “any meaning.” So meaning would be created.
And thus was born the familiar imagery of the Kennedy White House as an Arthurian Camelot, a “brief shining moment” that must "never be forgot." ...
Fawning eulogies and larger than life tributes are understandable, if not expected, in the immediate aftermath of such a shocking, cataclysmic event in the life of the nation. Still, Kennedy's murder has, in numerous instances, prevented clear-eyed, objective analysis of his impact as President in the face of pressing domestic issues and during a critical period of the Cold War. Not to be glossed over is Kennedy's Catholicism. During the 1960 campaign, in a country that was largely mainline Protestant, Kennedy's faith had the potential to derail his candidacy. His speech on church-and-state, before the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, is now hailed as a masterstroke in political rhetoric. In it, Kennedy neutralized fears his religion would override his Constitutional responsibilities. But, as Weigel points out, the speech had other consequences:
... a close reading of the Houston speech suggests that Kennedy neutralized that bigotry, not only by deft rhetorical moves that put bigots on the defensive, but by dramatically privatizing religious conviction and marginalizing its role in orienting a public official’s moral compass. Thus Kennedy became, in effect, a precursor of what Richard John Neuhaus later called the “naked public square”: an American public space in which not merely clerical authoritarianism, but religiously-informed moral conviction, is deemed out-of-bounds.
Last but not least, Weigel observes that the dichotomy between one's religious beliefs and their public application in policy and political debates that Kennedy instituted has given rise to "Kennedy Catholics", who are increasingly "... de facto opponents of the Church’s mission in the postmodern world, not protagonists of the culture-reforming Catholicism of the New Evangelization."

November 15, 2015

Five, First-Century, Non-Biblical, Historical References to Jesus of Nazareth


One assertion detractors of Christianity make to sow seeds of doubt about Jesus is the alleged lack of historical evidence for Christ's existence – outside of Sacred Scripture. Such pronouncements are laughable of course. Below are five, first-century, non-biblical, historical references to Jesus of Nazareth.

Publius Cornelius Tacitus (55-120 c. AD) was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. His two major works, the Annals and the Histories, record the reigns of seven Roman Emperors: Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who ruled in the Year of the Four Emperors (69 AD). These works span the history of the Roman Empire from the death of Augustus in 14 AD to the 1st Jewish – Roman War in 70 AD.

In the Annals, [XV,44] Tacitus mentions the death of Christ and the existence of Christians in Rome at the time of the great fire:
But not all the relief that could come from man, not all the bounties that the prince could bestow nor all the atonements which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve Nero from the infamy of being believed to have ordered the conflagration, the fire of Rome. Hence to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished with most exquisite tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities.  Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time, broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also. 
The misspelling of Christ as "Christus" (from the Latin) was common among pagan writers. Moreover, Tacitus writes that Christ was "put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius", corroborating the Gospel accounts.

Pliny the Younger – Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus (61-113 c. AD) was a lawyer, writer and magistrate of Ancient Rome. As governor of Bithynia, (112 AD) he wrote to Emperor Trajan seeking guidance in dealing with the Christian population. He recounts that in killing Christian men, women and children – many choose death over bowing down to an image of the emperor or being forced to "curse Christ, which a genuine Christian cannot be induced to do." [Epistles X, 96]

Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (69-122 c. AD) was a Roman historian (belonging to the equestrian order) and court official during the reign of Emperor Hadrian. His most notable surviving work De vita Caesarum, (The Twelve Caesars) chronicles the reigns of the first twelve emperors of the Roman Empire beginning with Julius Caesar.

In his Life of Claudius, [25.4] Suetonius wrote: "As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome." Here, "Chrestus" is a misspelling of "Christus". (Acts 18:2 discusses Claudius' expulsion of Christians form Rome.) In Lives of the Caesars, Suetonius portrays Christians being persecuted for their belief in Christ less than twenty years after the Crucifixion. He writes: "Punishment by Nero was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition."

Titus Flavius Josephus (37-100 c. AD) was a first-century Roman-Jewish scholar and historian. He mentions Jesus twice in his Jewish Antiquities. In one, Josephus notes the condemnation of James by the Sanhedrin. Josephus identifies James as "the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ." (Paul describes James in Galatians 1:19 similarly.) The second reference to Jesus is the subject of much debate. Josephus is alleged to have written:
Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ, and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians so named from him are not extinct at this day.
Most scholars agree the bulk of the passage is from Josephus. The references to Christ, however, were most likely redacted by a later Christian editor.

The Babylonian Talmud (70-500 AD)

The Babylonian Talmud, a collection of Jewish rabbinical writings between the first and sixth centuries, references Jesus briefly:
On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald... cried, 'He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy.'
Jesus' name in Hebrew is "Yeshu". The reference to his being "hanged" is a colloquial euphemism for Crucifixion.
No serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non-historicity of Jesus.  
— Otto Betz

There are more mentions of Jesus by writers of this period verifying the historicity of Christ. Additionally, a number of first-century works have been lost to antiquity. We know of their references to Jesus thanks to later commentators who mention them.

A Prayer for Paris

Grieving statue
A grieving statue, (detail)
Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris

Father of mercy,
You invite all who are burdened to come to You.
Embrace the victims in Paris;
bring them comfort and hope.
Most loving Jesus,
we know that in the fullness of time
You will wipe away every tear.
Restore those who suffer and grieve to wholeness;
let them know Your gentle compassion.
Bless those You have called to Yourself,
lead them into the light of Your love.
May we never forget that every knee will bend at Your name.
On that day, an occasion of unrivaled joy,
sin and death will be no more,
and we shall see You face to face. Amen.

Homily for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, November 15, 2015, Year B

The Last Judgement
Orthodox Icon - The Last Judgement

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

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"My world has come crashing down." You’ve heard those words spoken by others around you who have faced calamities, real or imagined. Many of you have, I am sure, in the midst of your own tears uttered those words.

Every year at this time the Church has us deal with the apocalyptic, those terrible endings we face in our own personal lives, as well as cataclysmic endings of our collective civilizations and our human epochs and eras. History is replete with them. Questions and concerns about the end of the world abound in our day as they have throughout past. Is there an asteroid headed directly at us? Will the sun burn out? Will we all be destroyed in a nuclear holocaust?

Concern about the end of the world and the coming of God’s Messiah was very intense when Jesus of Nazareth came on the scene. The wise men who came from the east following the star were concerned with that question. Many thought John the Baptist was the Messiah. He was forced to repeatedly deny that he was.

In today’s Gospel account we find Jesus sharing with the disciples His vision about world-ending events. He was about to enter into the days of His suffering and death in Jerusalem. The disciples probably wondered if their world was about to come crashing down around them and so we find Jesus preparing them for those days. He prepared them by speaking in apocalyptic language, “end of the world” language, and He opens with the phrase “in those days.”

Measuring and denoting time by days is a human measurement. Days for humans are a concept that differs from “days” in God’s timelessness. Human time differs from God’s time. For God, everything exists in a timeless “now”. God is always doing whatever He is doing. Thus we need to see that God is forever coming to us in endings that are in His plans really beginnings. “Behold,” He tells us, “I am making all things new.”

Human eras come and go, followed by new eras. Human cultures have arisen and fallen. In our history lessons we have all given attention, for instance, to the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. The Dark Ages came and went, followed by feudalism, followed by monarchies, followed by the Enlightenment. Communism and Fascism have come and gone. Human days and times are simply our human ways of measuring and denoting change.

There are moments, periods and events in which God’s time intersects with human time. This is true not only socially and historically but individually and personally as well. Jesus and His disciples are about to experience such an interfacing between God’s time and human time.

What is our Christian response to these events, be they apocalyptic or personal, when it seems that our world is crashing down around us?

Standing back and looking at the big picture let me first call your attention to the fact that life goes on. A teenage girl may feel life for her is over because the boy she’s infatuated with has found another girl and is no longer totally interested in her. Still, life goes on. A college student may find that he is not as intelligent as he once thought himself to be. Others, he discovers, are smarter and more intelligent, getting better grades than he has scored. Still, life goes on. An entrepreneur may face the fact that his or her company will fail. A scientist may learn that what was discovered for the benefit of humankind is now being employed for its destruction. A president may find that a war entered upon for good reasons has ended in disaster at the cost of numberless lives and countless human miseries. Efforts to end gun ownership, illegal immigration, the drug trade, and all manner of vices can result in terrible unintended consequences. The list of failed human endeavors, nobly conceived and ignobly ended, is seemingly endless. And still, life goes on.

That, it seems to me, is the first response of a Christian to all that appears to be apocalyptic in our lives. Christians have an advantage in dealing with these questions, the advantage of hope. We can have hope based on what Jesus Christ has done for us, and not only done in the distant past but also what He has done for us in our own personal lives.

Another advantage we have is vision. We have a vision of reality that transcends the here and now, that looks over the horizon, and that sees beyond recorded human history. When you stand back and look at the big picture and see human life Christ’s way of seeing things you cannot help but see that God is continually bringing good out of evil, meaning out of absurdity, order out of chaos, and life out of death. If the meaning and purpose of the life of Jesus Christ is otherwise, then please tell me what it is.

The Book of Revelation, the Apocalypse of St. John the Apostle, is not a book of doom and gloom – it is a book of hope and a vision of final victory of good over evil. The Book of Genesis, the first book of the bible, depicts God bringing light out of darkness, creating the sun, the moon and the stars, followed by a beautiful world into which He places wondrous creatures, man and woman being God’s superlative creation made in His own image and likeness. The last book of the bible, the Apocalypse, has the lights going out, the sun, moon, and stars falling from heaven, and God’s beautiful world in agony. It ends with yet another creation, God’s New Creation. The pattern is that of Christ, from His birth under the light of a heavenly star, through His passion, death and resurrection in a new dawn of creation. Men and women who were doomed are now men and women redeemed.

The Christian response to all of life’s losses and tragedies is to see that hidden in every crisis there is opportunity. We need not feel like helpless victims who must surrender to doubt and despair. Why do we let fear overwhelm and bury us? Have not our greatest artists given us their best creations in the midst of terrible loss, in time when their worlds have come crashing down around them? Has not history demonstrated that great cultures have risen from the ashes of previous collapsed cultures? Have we not seen greatness in human beings who found themselves in the most terrible of straits? Think of Socrates, Plato, Michelangelo, Joan of Arc, Abraham Lincoln, Helen Keller, to mention only a few.

The third Christian response I want to suggest to you is to ask the question: Are we purpose made? If we answer in the affirmative then the questions that must necessarily follow are: “For what purpose?” What finality awaits us?” For what purpose is there intelligent design in all things?”

There are scientists who are talking these days about Intelligent Design. They see the universe as only appearing to be nothing but chaos – but in reality it is not. There is evidence of intelligent design out there in the cosmos and in our own existence. What fascinates me is that such a discussion could well take place between scientists and theologians. Maybe such discussions are in fact now occurring. They once did in medieval universities.

As we approach the end of the Church’s yearly liturgical cycle the question is put before us. It is one that we must face collectively. More importantly, however, is the fact that each one of us must face the question personally. What is the meaning of my life? What is the purpose of my life? When and how will my life end?

Today, as the saying goes, is the first day of the rest of your life. Tomorrow is yet another day of opportunity. Beginnings can be endings and endings can be beginnings. Beginning to live differently today ends the ways we lived yesterday and in the days of our past.

Maybe, then, it’s a good thing we don’t know what the future holds in store for us. Maybe it’s a great gift God is giving us, the gift of forming and shaping our destiny with His love here and now, rather than in some possible future. God has given us here and now realities, not just future possibilities. That, it seems to me, is something wonderful.

November 14, 2015

Vatican Statement on Paris Terrorist Attack. Pope: "There is no religious or human rational for this."

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Holy See press office director Fr. Federico Lombardi issued the following statement regarding the terrorist attacks Friday evening in Paris:
Here in the Vatican we are following the terrible news from Paris. We are shocked by this new manifestation of maddening, terrorist violence and hatred which we condemn in the most radical way together with the Pope and all those who love peace. We pray for the victims and the wounded, and for all the French people. This is an attack on peace for all humanity, and it requires a decisive, supportive response on the part of all of us as we counter the spread of homicidal hatred in all of its forms.
Saturday, in a telephone interview with the Italian Bishops Conference’s television network, Pope Francis was asked about the tragedy:

Your Holiness, what are your thoughts concerning the carnage in Paris?

I do not understand. Such things are hard to comprehend when they are perpetrated by human beings. I am moved and I am saddened. I pray for the victims. I am close to the people of France, to the families of the victims, and I am praying for all of them.

You have spoken often [in the past] of a "Third World War." Is this part of a piecemeal Third World War? 

This is a piece of it. There are no justifications for these things. There is no religious or human rational for this. This is not human.
___________

Below is the telegram that Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, sent to Cardinal Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris, on behalf of Pope Francis:
Informed of the horrific terrorist attacks that occurred in Paris and at the Stade de France, killing a great number of people and wounding many others, His Holiness Pope Francis joins in prayer with the suffering of families affected by the drama and the pain of the French people. He invokes God, Father of mercy, asking that He welcome the victims into the peace of His light and bring comfort and hope to the injured and their families. He assures them, and all personnel participating in aid efforts, of his spiritual closeness. Once again, the Holy Father vigorously condemns violence, which cannot solve anything, and he asks God to inspire thoughts of peace and solidarity in all and to impart on families in this trial and on all of the French people, the abundance of His Blessings.
Vive la France! Cradle of saints. May God Bless her, now and always.